HP Envy 14 Spectre = Glossy Glass Executive Jewelry
HP spokesman Marc Spier says the Envy 14 Spectre is capable of carrying heavy workloads and is also a premium, no-compromise machine designed specifically for the fashionable user with a desire to make an impression.
That impression is made with a liberal amount of Gorilla Glass, more than you’ve probably ever seen on a laptop; with an all glass palm-rest, touch-pad and lid. The glass on the display extends almost to the edges. HP claims they’ve squeezed that 1600×900 pixel, 14-inch display, into a 13-inch form-factor, and that’s probably about right. Resolution that good is typically found on 15-inch and larger units. The back-lit keyboard has individual LEDs for each key.
Translation of premium: Not low priced, starting at $1,399. That does not hit the Intel price-point of less than $1,000 that defines ultrabooks. While not chubby, the Envy 14 Spectre comes in a little bit thicker than typical of the class at 20mm-thick, and weighs just under four pounds; but still a little bit thinner and lighter than others, such as the MacBook Pro.
What’s inside, as defined by Intel’s Ultrabook specifications, is Intel’s Core i-series processors; and also 128 or 256 GB SSD (Solid-state Drive), 4 or 8GB of RAM, HDMI, USB 3.0, Ethernet, Mini Display-Port, Bluetooth, KleerNet compatible wireless audio, WiDi wireless display, HP Wireless Audio, and NFC (Near-Field Communication). Expect more than 8 hours of battery life.
The Beats Audio system which is said to offer excellent sound quality from both the audio jack and the speakers is included, as well as Adobe Premiere Elements and Adobe Photoshop, and two years of anti-virus protection. Very usable features include a dedicated physical, analog volume-control wheel, and a mute button. Described by several observers as possibly the most impressive ultrabook they’ve seen, the HP Envy 14 Spectre has probably hit it’s target.
Dell XPS 13 Ultrabook = Security, Connectivity for Business, Enterprise
Enderle Group analyst Rob Enderle calls the Dell XPS 13 beautifully uncompromised, and the most balanced of the ultrabooks, addressing critical needs of business and education buyers.
Primarily designed for corporate business users and so-called ‘prosumers’, security features include BitLocker data-encryption utilizing the standard ‘Trusted Platform Module’, and optional configuration services such as asset tagging, custom imaging, and optional ProSupport. Above and beyond the limited hardware warranty, Dell is providing one year of theft protection using Computrace LoJack for Laptops Theft Recovery Service as standard. One year of Accidental Damage Service, 100GB of cloud storage for back-up through Dell DataSafe, and a 12-month Skype Premium subscription are also included.
Enterprise users and corporate IT departments may also like the included Rapid Start, and Smart Connect technology, which wakes periodically to connect to known networks to update email, calendar and other scheduled functions. Wireless connectivity is through a dual-band 802.11 Wi-Fi adapter. Ethernet will be through a USB adapter if needed.
The ultraportable XPS 13 packs a 13.3-inch display into an aluminum lid with carbon-fiber base and above-average build quality, and is similar in form-factor to that of an 11-inch unit. It comes with a large glass touchpad with integrated buttons and multi-gestural support, as well as a class-leading, full-size, back-lit keyboard, and more than 8 hours of battery life.
With a starting price of $999, Core i5 CPU, 128GB SSD, and 4GB RAM, the XPS 13 probably makes good business sense because of the security and IT features mentioned earlier.
Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga = Ultrabook + Tablet
Using a display hinge which swivels almost 360 degrees, the Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga functions as a 1600×900 high-definition 13.3-inch tablet with a capacitive,10-point multi-touch display, or as a standard ultrabook when the keyboard is used. It’s most likely use is through keyboard input with occasional use as a tablet. Tablet use is enhanced with an accelerometer and gyroscope, and the unit has GPS capabilities. The keyboard acts as a stand when used in “tent” mode.
At 3.1 lbs and 17mm thin (same thickness as the MacBook Air), with a battery life approaching 8 hours, the Lenova Yoga should function acceptably as a tablet, but could seem a bit heavy after a period of continuous use.
The IdeaPad Yoga will run Windows 8, and will be equipped with up to 8GB of RAM and 256 GB SSD. The base price will start at approximately $1,199.
Acer Aspire S5 = 15mm
Weighing less than three pounds the Acer Aspire S5 measures 15mm at its thickest point, which is 2mm thinner than the Apple MacBook Air, making it the slimmest laptop on the planet (for now).
The S5 is expected to have good shock resistance, Ivy Bridge CPU, both USB 3.0 and a Thunderbolt port, HDMI, Dolby sound, Solid State Drive (SSD), and support for DirectX 11. The powersmart battery should provide three times the duration typically associated with a battery of the same size.
Remote access to data and multimedia files, via smartphones and tablets, is supplied by Acer’s Always Connect technology. The Green-Instant-On feature provides resume from sleep response time of about 1.5 seconds.
AcerCloud computing service, to be sold with all their PCs, ties remote access features together. Files can be retrieved via Wi-Fi even when the PC is hibernating or on standby, and will be compatible with any Windows 8 or Android device. A price has not yet been released, for the Acer Aspire S5.
Vizio Notebooks = Disruption + Promise
Vizio, known for manufacturing TVs, indicates they will disrupt the computer market at a price that doesn’t seem possible,and promises a level of design detail and component quality not seen from other makers.
The real attention generator may be the overall philosophy of design for the laptops. Things that are not included may generate an immediate edge. It is expected there will be no trialware, or vendors such as antivirus annoying users with repeated reminders to register and subscribe. The software will be a clean-load with no irritating adware or bloatware. There will be no labels or stickers on the outside, about whatever is inside. The Vizio logo will be subdued and discrete.
Vizio does not refer to these as Ultrabooks, which must meet Intel-branded specifications. That leaves us asking just what CPU chip-set is inside. Observers simply assume it will be Intel. Vizio is saying the components will be the highest quality available on the planet.
One thing that will be inside the standard Vizio notebook is discrete NVidia graphics, but the ultrathins (our primary focus), will use integrated graphics. HDMI video out will be standard as well as USB 3.0 ports, and Solid State Drives (SSDs), with an optional external optical drive. The case on pre-production units is gun-metal-gray, anodized, milled, unibody aluminum. The overall perception of quality has impressed industry observers.
Intel’s Nikiski Prototype = Semi-transparent Ghost
This one fits into the same category as concept cars that automakers debut with much fanfare at big auto shows, with no intent to actually manufacture said vehicles in the exhibited form. Such is almost certainly the case with Intel’s Nikiski Prototype. In fact Intel does not manufacture PCs, only components. They leave that up to other companies that then sub-contract the work to OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturers).
The distinguishing feature of the Nikiski is a rectangular side-to-side transparent glass touch-pad that makes a portion of the display visible when the unit is closed. Because it responds to touch on both sides (including the bottom outside of the unit) it provides access to basic functions such as e-mail and limited browsing with the notebook closed.
The Nikiski as a concept product is actually designed to create industry ‘buzz’ and spur innovative ideas. Considering the instant-on resume from sleep times of about 1.5 seconds being built into almost all ultrabooks, it may be an idea that missed the bus.
The next 18 months will see the Ultrabook / Ultrathin tidal-wave covering the global landscape, driven not only by improvements, but also by pent-up demand from corporate IT departments and consumers that have delayed purchases because of world-wide economic conditions.
Intel has taken an initiative so bold and defined, with clear and workable methods of implementation, that the results in the next 18 months could electrify notebook industry sales-volume in a manner similar to jump-starting your car’s battery with a 50,000-volt power line.
Convergence may be a word we will be hearing more often, and it accounts for the mild confusion related to defining the differences between Laptops vs Notebooks vs Netbooks; and now the new Ultrabooks. The basis for that confusion is the simple fact that there are no specific and fully agreed upon industry standards which would actually be the definitions.
Ultrathin Ultrabooks using Intel’s new ULV (Ultra Low Voltage) chip-sets, and other ultrathins using AMD’s APUs (accelerated processor units) are set to be a driving force in business, enterprise laptop sales for 2012 and beyond. A convergence of features, characteristics, capabilities, hardware, and net-book-like form-factors are already creating a new normal.
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