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Introduction to Ultrabooks

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Acer Aspire S3 Ultrabook

Acer Aspire S3 Ultrabook

Acer

Ultrabooks: New Ultrathin and Light Laptops Like the MacBook Air:

Ultrabooks are a new class of ultraportable laptops with a few key features: Intel processors, thickness under 0.8 inches, screen sizes between 11- and 13-inches, and long battery life ratings (7 hours or more). Intel created the Ultrabook specification for laptop manufacturers like Acer and Asus to produce these sleek laptops, ideally at prices under $1,000. In other words, the Ultrabook promises the whole laptop package: portability, power, and affordable price.

Ultrabooks are Windows laptops much like the Apple MacBook Air, king of ultrathin laptops so far. In fact, most Ultrabooks mimic the MacBook's look and feel in their appearance and base features.

Ultrabook Examples:

  • The Acer Aspire S3 was the first Ultrabook to market to break the $1,000 price barrier. This 13-inch laptop features an Intel Core i5 processor, 4GB of memory, and a hybrid hard drive (20GB SSD and 320GB SATA HDD). There's a second model of the Aspire S3 available for about $1,200 that upgrades the processor and swaps the hybrid drive for a 256GB SSD. Both models weigh just 3 pounds and measure half an inch thick. About's Guide to PC Hardware/Reviews took the Aspire S3 for a spin but thought too many sacrifices were made to make the laptop more affordable.
  • Next up is the Asus Zenbook UX21 and UX31. The UX21 (MSRP $999) is a 2.4-pound laptop with a 11.6-inch display and an Intel Core i7 processor; the higher-end UX21 (MSRP $1099) adds more SSD capacity (256GB) and a 13-inch display with the highest resolution available so far for Ultrabooks or other laptops of this size: 1600 x 900 pixels. See About's PC Hardware/Reviews take on the Asus Zenbook UX31.
  • The Toshiba Portege Z830 launched as the world's lightest 13-inch laptop, with a weight just under 2.5 pounds. So it should feel like practically nothing in your laptop bag. A Best Buy exclusive model of Toshiba's Ultrabook, the Portege Z835, cost just $799. This got you an Intel Core i3 processor, 4GB of RAM, and a 128GB SSD. Additional, higher-end configurations are available as well.

These are by no means the only Ultrabook laptops available. Destined to market in the fall of 2011 are the IdeaPad U300s from Lenovo and an HP Folio 13. A flood (okay, maybe 50 or more) of Ultrabooks are expected in 2012.

Ultrabooks in 2012 and Beyond:

These attractive, thin laptops should get even better in their next generation versions--with swiveling touchscreens that will take advantage of Windows 8's touch-friendly interface, Intel's Ivy Bridge processor for better battery life and performance, and higher resolution displays predicted on the horizon.

Why Get an Ultrabook

If you've been tempted by the MacBook Air's slimness but want more options for your laptop, Ultrabooks give you them. HP's Folio 13 is a more business-centric Ultrabook, with features like TPM embedded security chip for email and hard drive protection and a very long 9 hours of battery life. The Toshiba Portege Z830 offers all the full-size ports you need for easy connectivity. And, price-wise, you can save a couple of hundred dollars with a Windows Ultrabook.

Ultrabooks are designed for mobility. They last almost all day without needing to be plugged in, are easy to carry, and resume from sleep in just a couple of seconds. Prices right now range from about $800 to just over $1,400, however, depending on your configuration, so there's still room to make these laptops more affordable. This is something we'll hopefully see in the next waves of these ultrathin laptops.

More: See top Ultrabooks that cost less than $1,000

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