Ultrabooks are the Buzz: Part 1 of 3—The Basics

Anyone who spends any time surfing around the technology news sites, like I do, will probably, as I am, be getting a little tired of all the articles about Ultrabooks—which everybody seems to write with a capital ‘U’ so I suppose I might as well too (although we don’t write notebook with a capital ‘N’ or laptop with a capital ‘L”; but anyway).

It seems that 2012 is the year of the Ultrabook. This is certainly Intel’s view and these are the people who have engineered and made (much of) the technology that is making Ultrabooks possible.

So, not to be left out, I thought I might as well join in and post up something about Ultrabooks.

Firstly, for anyone who has no idea what an Ultrabook is, basically the ‘ultra’ bit is the first part of ‘ultra thin’. The ‘book’ part is the second half of ‘notebook’ (which refers to notebook personal computers). So, now that you know that you can probably work out that an Ultrabook is a thinner version of notebook personal computer—in some cases a much thinner version.

To make a notebook smaller some things just have to go, so typically you are not going to find too many Ultrabooks with 1TB hard disks, or optical drives (i.e., CD/DVD drives), or eight USB ports, etc.

One of the primary objectives with Utlrabooks, unlike netbooks, is for them to retain high performance and a ‘useful’ screen size and resolution. In other words, by and large, you should be able to replace your bulky (by comparison) standard notebook with a super-light Ultrabook without sacrificing processor or graphics performance or quality. In fact in many cases anyone ‘upgrading’ to an Ultrabook will find the processor and graphics performance superior to the notebook—assuming they bought their notebook two or three years ago. This is because all Ultrabooks have a minimum of 4GB of RAM and run 64-bit Windows 7 (soon to be 64-bit Windows 8, but that is a whole other article).

I don’t have an Ultrabook and at this point I am not planning on getting one although I will admit the lightness combined with the awesome performance (due partially to the SSD, more about that later) and the longer battery life is somewhat interesting.

This brings me to the second objective with Ultrabooks—longer battery life. In specifying the base design for Ultrabooks battery life was a key concern. In the Ultrabook design they wanted to extend battery life by at least 50 percent over notebooks. This is part of the reason there is no optical drive (although reducing weight is also a factor here). But one of the big drains on battery life if the hard disk.

Most Ultrabooks do not have a regular hard disk. Instead they have a solid-state disk or SSD. SSDs work like hard disks but—depending on the make and internal memory used—are effectively about five times faster than a hard disk, and, most importantly, at most they use about a third of the power that a hard disk consumes. This helps Ultrabooks get longer battery life with some Ultrabook manufacturers claiming up to nine hours of battery life; although personally I would have to see this to believe it.

In my next post on Ultrabooks I plan to cover one of my favourite topics: the screen. As with almost all other personal computers you need to be aware of some facts about the screens used with Ultrabooks. In my final part three post I will cover two or three of the more exciting Ultrabooks that have been released.

In the meantime, for a bit of fun, you could watch this Intel sponsored advert about Ultrabooks.

Ultrabooks—Fastest in the West