Intel already gave us a heads up that several touch-enabled Ultrabooks were in store for 2012, and here they are, becoming real before our eyes. Here at Computex 2012, Acer just announced the Aspire S7 series, which includes a 13.3-inch model and an 11.6-incher, the first in the company’s Ultrabook lineup. The S7 series will no doubt be the first of many touch-enabled Ultrabooks we see in Taipei this week, and these in particular have screens that fold back 180 degrees, allowing the system to lie flat. Unlike the original S3, which caught flack for its chintzy design, these two are made of 12.5mm-thick unibody aluminum and sport backlit keyboards and “full HD” displays, making these the most premium Ultrabooks Acer has attempted so far. In the case of the 13-inch version, too, you’ll get a glass lid — something previously seen only on the HP Envy 14 Spectre.
It was only a matter of time before ASUS refreshed its line of Ultrabooks with Intel’s new Ivy Bridge chips, but the truth is, the company needed to improve a little more than just the CPU model number. If you recall, the Zenbook UX31 ushered in a modern metal design and unbeatable speed, but our enthusiasm waned after spending a week with the flat keyboard and temperamental touchpad.
Well, friends, it looks like Chairman Jonney Shih and co. were listening: the outfit is about to bring four of its leaked Zenbook Prime laptops to the US. These include the 11-inch UX21A, which you see up there, along with the 13-inch UX31A, UX32A and the UX32VD — essentially, the UX31A with discrete graphics. Though different configurations are bound to vary, they all bring retooled, backlit keyboards, refined trackpads and, of course, Intel’s third-generation Core processors. And while the lower-end UX32A is stuck with 1366 x 768 resolution, every other model — yes, even the tiny UX21A — will be offered with a 1080p IPS display.
Lenovo’s IdeaPad U310 and U410 Ultrabooks start at an inexpensive $699, weigh a little more than the competition
If there’s one thing we don’t like about the Lenovo IdeaPad U300s, it’s that it’s missing an SD slot, and starts at $1,200 — a steep price when you can find many an Ultrabook for under $1,000. (Okay, that’s two things.) And while the company isn’t ready for a complete do-over just yet, it’s clearly trying to fill some gaps in its lineup: the outfit just introduced the 13-inch IdeaPad U310 and the 14-inch U410, which will start at a relatively inexpensive $699. On paper, the IdeaPad U310 bears a strong resemblance to the U300s we reviewed two months ago, with 4GB of RAM, 1366 x 768 resolution, an eight-hour battery, Intel Wireless Display and a choice of Intel Core processors. But, it adds an extra USB 3.0 port, along with that all-important memory card slot. In exchange, you’ll have to make some tougher choices regarding storage: you can opt for a 500GB hard drive or an SSD that tops out at 64GB of space.
The 14-inch IdeaPad U410 offers more of the same, though instead of Intel’s integrated graphics offering, it packs an NVIDIA GeForce 610M card with 1GB of video memory — unsurprising, given that the new ThinkPad T430u Ultrabook also has discrete graphics at a similar price. All in all, not too shabby for $700, though the trade-off for the extra ports and lower price is some extra padding: the 13-inch version tips the scales at 3.7 pounds, versus 2.95 for the U300s. (The U410 weights 4.2.) Then again, when these go on sale in May, we suspect they’ll be plenty light for students looking to get a jump on back-to-school shopping. For now, we’ve got hands-on shots below and some impressions after the break.
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Hybrid official: instant-on OS based on Android doubles battery life, arrives in Q2 for $1,599
Well, look at what we have here. Though it didn’t arrive as early as rumored, the ThinkPad X1 Hybrid running Android is, in fact, a real, whirring product. Lenovo just unveiled the laptop, which has a fanless “Instant Media Mode” promising to double the original X1′s (rather skimpy) battery life to as much as ten hours. And while we’ve seen notebooks with instant-on operating systems, Lenovo’s done something unique by installing a dual-core Qualcomm CPU on the motherboard and building a custom OS based on the Android kernel. In fact, that launcher you see up there should look awfully familiar to the customization we’ve seen on the IdeaPad K1 and other Lenovo tablets. Here, too, you can check email, surf the web, organize photos, listen to music, play videos, change the wallpaper and add widgets to the three home screens, though access to Android Market is a no-go.
We got to spend a few minutes with the X1 Hybrid a few weeks ago, and if first impressions are to be believed, the battery-saving prowess works as advertised: immediately after switching modes, the estimated remaining runtime jumped from an hour and 16 minutes to four hours and 19 minutes. The OS also booted in about two seconds, as Lenovo says it should. We were also relieved to learn that there’s no back-door way of accessing the OS: if the laptop goes to sleep while you’re in Instant Media Mode, you’ll have to return to Windows to log in again.
In every other respect, this is the X1 we reviewed last spring: it has a durable, 3.7-pound chassis, integrated Intel graphics and a glossy, 13-inch (1366 x 768) Gorilla Glass display with brightness rated at 350 nits. It’ll be offered with Core i3, i5 and i7 processors, a 3G radio and a slice battery that adds up to five more hours of juice. It’ll be available sometime in the second quarter for $1,599 and up — about a $300 premium over the original. And no, current X1 owners can’t download Instant Media Mode as an update — as you’d imagine, the whole “SoC on a motherboard” requirement makes that impossible. Hey, no one ever said being an early adopter was easy.
And just like that, HP joined the Ultrabook party. After announcing the Folio in Australia yesterday, the company went and made it official here in the states too. And man, do we get the feeling the outfit’s been watching the competition very closely: this guy starts at $900 and comes standard with a 128GB mSATA SSD and a backlit keyboard. Provided it comes close to matching its promise of nine hours of battery life, it could give the identically priced Toshiba Portege Z830 a run for its money. Not to mention, it undercuts the MacBook Air ($1,299 and up), along with the ASUS Zenbook UX31 and Lenovo IdeaPad U300s, both of which start at $1,100 with a 128GB SSD and no backlit keyboard. Good on ya, HP.
What’s that, you say? You want more specs? Rounding out the list, the Folio has a 13.3-inch (1366 x 768) display, optional TPM circuitry and comes standard with a Core i5-2467M processor, 4GB of RAM, a six-cell battery and HP’s CoolSense technology. Additionally, it offers a fairly robust selection of ports, including HDMI, Ethernet, USB 2.0 and 3.0, a memory card reader and a combined headphone / mic socket. The trade-off, though, is a slightly thicker chassis than what other Ultrabooks are offering: 3.3 pounds and 18mm (0.7 inches) thick. It’ll be available in the US starting December 7th, but we’ve already managed to snag a few minutes with it, which means we’ve got photos, video and impressions for you to peek now. So what are you waiting for? Meet us after the break for our hands-on preview.
Review enough Ultrabooks and you’ll start to wrestle with this idea of value. We’ve seen cheap ones that don’t perform well and expensive ones that do. Things get really dicey when you throw in machines that cost a bit less, look good and perform well, but are nonetheless flawed in some key way — like having a sticky keyboard or a trackpad with a mind of its own.
For more than a week now we’ve been testing the Lenovo IdeaPad U300s and, at the risk of spoiling this review altogether, it’s made it even tougher for us to stack up one imperfect Ultrabook against another. What to do with a well-made, speed demon of a machine that boots in less than 20 seconds but starts at $1,095 without an SD slot, high-res display or backlit keyboard? Are the U300s’ stately looks, brisk performance and sound ergonomics enough to make up for a handful of absent features? Find the answers to that and more in our full review after the break.
It was just last week that we got to take home the Acer Aspire S3, the first Ultrabook to go on sale here in the States. Unfortunately, it doesn’t live up to the pillars laid out by Intel: its performance trails similar machines, its battery craps out early and the design, while portable, is too chintzy to make it a bellwether for skinny Windows laptops. Our verdict, in a sentence, was that you’d be better off getting a MacBook Air, or at least considering other Ultrabooks — namely, ASUS’ line of Zenbooks.
As it turns out, one showed up on our doorstep just a few days later. In many ways, the UX31 is everything the S3 is not: it has a gorgeous all-metal design and comes standard with an SSD and 1600 x 900 display (not to mention, a case and two bundled adapters). And with a starting price of $1,099, it undercuts the entry-level (and similarly configured) MacBook Air by two hundred bucks. So is this the Ultrabook we’ve all been waiting for? We suggest pouring yourself a large beverage, settling into a comfy chair and meeting us past the break. We’ve got a lot to say on the subject.
Until now, Windows fans have had precious few alternatives to the MacBook Air. Sure, there’s Samsung’s Series 9, but just like the original Air, it’s far from cheap. Since then, of course, Apple has cut the Air’s starting price to $999, while the Windows options — now marketed as Ultrabooks — are about to mushroom in number. And so far, they’re all starting in the (more reasonable) neighborhood of a thousand bucks, making these pinch-thin, long-lasting laptops accessible to the budget-conscious masses.
Acer’s Aspire S3 was the first to hit the market here in the States, and with an entry price of $899, it’s currently the least expensive. That it’s skinny (just 13mm thick, to be exact), should be a given, but it also claims to wake from sleep in two seconds flat and reconnect to known networks in two and a half. But, as the least pricey Ultrabook on the shelf, it also forgoes some specs you might have liked to see — namely, all-flash storage and USB 3.0. But does that matter much when you’re potentially saving hundreds of dollars? Let’s find out.
They say Apple updates its products like clockwork, releasing something new at the same time in the same place every year. Not so with MacBook Airs anyway. The outfit’s gone and freshened up its 13-inch and 11-inch ultraportables — the second such update in nine months. Although the industrial design hasn’t changed much since the last generation, both models step up to Sandy Bridge Core i5 and i7 processors, Thunderbolt ports, backlit keyboards, and, of course, OS X Lion.
The 11.6-inch flavor starts at $999 with 64GB of solid-state storage, 2GB of memory and a 1.6GHz Core i5 processor. The higher-end of the two configurations costs $1,199, with the extra two hundred dollars doubling your RAM and storage. The 13-inch Air, meanwhile, starts at $1,299, with a 128GB SSD, 4GB of RAM, and a 1.7GHz Core i5 CPU. Step up to the $1,599 model and you’ll get a 256GB SSD instead. Regardless, you’re looking at Intel HD 3000 graphics across the board, along with FaceTime webcams, two USB ports (plus an SD slot on the 13-inch version), 802.11n WiFi, and Bluetooth 4.0. The two differ when it comes to resolution and battery life: the 11-incher has a 1366 x 768 panel and is rated for up to five hours of battery life, whereas the 13-inch model has a 1440 x 900 screen and promises up to seven hours of juice. As for that 1.8GHz Core i7 CPU, it’ll set you back an extra $100 on the 13-inch version, and $150 for the 11-inch version. Whichever size you choose, it’s only an option for the higher-end configuration. Hit the source link to peep the specs and buy one, if you’re so inclined.
After announcing a trio of consumer laptops, you didn’t think HP had forgotten about its business line, did you? The company also trotted out three lightweight models for the corporate set, including the 12.1-inch EliteBook 2760p convertible tablet, which has been rearing its head around the FCC as of late. Although it’s an update to the current-generation 2740p, it sticks with its tried-and-true metal design. But — surprise, surprise — it steps up to Sandy Bridge Core i5 and Core i7 CPU options, promises 5.5 hours of battery life with the standard six-cell, and will be one of several models compatible with HP’s newly minted (optional) prepaid data service, DataPass. Is this the Windows 7 tablet you’ve been looking for? It’s on sale now starting at $1,500 — stylus included.
Next up is the EliteBook 2560p laptop, an update to the 12.1-inch 2540p. This one, too, has a tough aluminum-and-magnesium-alloy build, but it gets the good ol’ Sandy Bridge treatment and also shifts to a 12.5-inch display — a screen size that’s rarely stretched to 16:9 proportions. And, HP claims it’s the only laptop of its size with a built-in optical drive, if sacrificing optical discs isn’t a compromise you’re willing to make. Look for it on May 23 with a starting price of $1,100.
Lastly, there’s the ProBook 5330m, a 13.3-incher that’s trying hard to win over Generation Y-types just dipping their toes into the workforce… and who will call in sick if their work machines aren’t trendy, or something. In addition to a dual-tone aluminum chassis, it plays cool with a backlit keyboard, Sandy Bridge Core i3 and i5 CPU options, and Beats Audio — a first for an HP business system. On the inside, meanwhile, it offers TPM circuitry and optional Intel vPro processors — perks for the IT managers likely to buy these in bulk. These are on sale now, starting at $800.
Our story about MSI’s X370 ultraportable getting a dose of AMD Fusion ended on a cliffhanger — the company stopped short of revealing just how much the thing would cost. Well, now we have our answer: this 13.4-incher comes with a $599 price tag and is up for grabs on Newegg. (Amazon already cut the price to $579, but isn’t shipping it just yet.) For the money, that sub-$600 sticker includes AMD’s new Zacate E-350 APU, 4GB of RAM, integrated Radeon HD 6310 graphics, a 500GB hard drive, a 4-in-1 memory card reader, HDMI and VGA output, a 1.3 megapixel webcam, and an 8-cell battery that MSI claims can last up to ten hours. While it earlier seemed that consumers would get their pick of hard drives and batteries, it’s available in just one configuration for now — not that you would have been tempted to downgrade to a 4-cell, anyway.