Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Ultrabook Trade-Offs & Ultrabook Alternatives

Intel had a pretty good idea when it came up with a development fund and specification for the new Ultrabook PC Computer class. The idea was pretty well received by most of the PC notebook manufacturers as they are still recovering from the Netbook sales shortfall. They watched as Apple cleaned up with the Mac Book Air and took copious notes. Thin, sexy designed notebook computers like thin fashion models never seem to go out of style. The thinner the better is now the mantra and battle cry. The commoditization of notebook PCs has now established $1,000.00 as the magic price point for which consumers are budgeting their well earned dollars on spending for a brand new latest and greatest notebook. As we rapidly approach Black Friday and the 2011 holiday gift giving season approaches, I felt it would be important to explain the trade-offs of buying an Ultrabook versus buying a less expensive notebook PC.

Form Factor
It's all about the form factor of the notebook chassis in terms of figuring out what feature set you can include or exclude. The majority of notebooks measure at least and inch 1/2 thick and follow the usual 8.5" x 11 " form factor for a 13.3 inch screen. The solidity of the chassis and construction materials ultimately determines what the chassis of the notebook is made of. Is it plastic, metal, a combination of both, or some form of aluminum, titanium or even carbon fiber?. All of these materials or combinations of them go into the construction of the notebook chassis, covers and LCD frames. To design and engineer a notebook for mass production you need to take into account: power consumption, heat generation by the CPU, cooling requirements, ergonomics, and durability requirements. Making the notebook thin introduces many more challenges from the design perspective.  How do you keep the notebook cool when you cannot have a huge honkin fan? How do you design a keyboard and touch pad that allows you to touch type error free at a decent clip? Is 2 USB ports enough? How about a built in HDMI port and a SD-HC-XC card reader writer? Forget about including an optical drive as the real estate on a.5-.75 inch thick notebook is extremely limited and fitting a battery that will offer 5 or more continuous hours of run time becomes even more of a challenge.

In summary, buying a new Ultrabook will leave the buyer with the following trade-offs or feature shortcomings:

1) Limited to just 2 USB ports
2) No Dedicated ATI or Nvidia Graphics Cards - You are limited to the latest Intel HD internal Graphics chip that limits game play to less than 30 frames per second at 800 x 600 resolution for games like Halo and Call of Duty.
3) No user removeable battery - Battery is integrated and can only be swapped out by a trained PC technician
4) No HD LCD display. Most right now is 720i or 1600 x 900 resolution.
5) Proprietary connectors that require conversion dongles for modems, ethernet and standard monitor and projector connections.
6) Price- Most Ultrabooks are well over $1,000.00 in price, more like $1299.00 with a 128 GB SSD drive.
7) No internal optical drive - but you can pack a portable external drive for those times when you need to read or write an optical disk when on the road.
8) Good fitted cases (that actually fit the new Ultrabooks) are hard to find. You need to settle for MacBook Air Apple Notebook cases and bags which surprise cost twice as much as the cases and bags made for PC notebooks. I guess that Apple tax has really caught on with the accessory maaufacturers (InCase, Kensington, etc.)

If you are looking for a good thin notebook computer that is not as thin as an Ultrabook but is much thinner than the average notebook, we're talking any notebook that is thinner than 1.25 inches....and will not break the bank; then you will find a bunch of computers out there that can be had for well under $800.00. Lots of models from Lenovo, HP, Sony, Acer, Asus and Samsung. Samsung has a value line of notebooks that start at around $599 called the Princeton Series 3. These notebooks are all less than an inch and 1/4" thick and have the latest Intel Core i3 Sandy Bridge Processors.

The market for used, refurbished or last year's models notebooks is more robust than ever.You can find many deals on Ebay, at Office Depot, Office Max or your local Staples Fry's or Best Buy Store, and mail order companies like Newegg, B&H Photo, J&R, Buydig, and Amazon are all blowing out notebooks at up to 50% off the original retail prices. There are so many options now for a consumer to purchase notebooks. One thing is for certain. The rapid acceleration of new models like the Ultrabooks brought into the market will ultimately lower the cost of buying a really good used, refurbished or older model new PC notebook computers for everyone.

 It's a great time to snag that notebook you've always wanted but couldn't quite afford.

1 comment:

  1. I am considering to purchase a new laptop and this article helped me a lot. Thank you so much.