Living with an Ultrabook – life on the lighter side

By Rob Enderle

The Ultrabook can basically be described as a Mac Book Air for the non-Apple user. However, the form factor does take a bit of getting used to.



However, given that the Ultrabook is being pushed hard by both Microsoft and Intel, I figured I’d give three different models a test drive and see what happens.

I soon discovered the average user probably won’t see much benefit with an Ultrabook – unless he or she is willing to reconsider certain notions. An OMG moment will likely follow.

The Ultrabook Advantage

The three devices I’ve been switching between illustrates some of the critical differences in the Ultrabook class. Each offers distinct advantages and disadvantages, while showcasing the importance of selecting a product based on the criterion that are most important to you.

One initial impression? Frankly, I didn’t really see that much difference in weight. Then again, this could be because, like a lot of folks, my backpack has become a gadget black hole and it contains plug adapters, extra cables, wall wart charges and a bunch of other crap I rarely need or use except on long trips.

So I started with a fresh backpack for a day, and all I really wanted was an Ultrabook and my Kindle Fire. After that, well, the transformation was truly amazing. With an old laptop and charger I typically start out at around 6 pounds. With an Ultrabook? Say approximately half of that, while the Kindle only adds a bit over a pound more. The end result? A backpack that typically was close to 25 pounds (loaded) dropped down to below 10 pounds without all of the crap I no longer needed. In fact, with just the laptop and charger the thing practically felt empty.

My first suggestion: if you really want to feel an amazing difference, start with an empty backpack and don’t put in anything you don’t absolutely need. The difference in weight is truly amazing, as suddenly, I no longer feel like Quasimodo.

Also: kiss off optical drives – this class doesn’t have them and most come with SSDs, which makes for amazingly fast boot up and shut down times. Going in and out of suspend is way faster than opening up the screen. You typically can get them with I3, I5, or I7 processors with I5s being the most common and typically what I’d recommend. However the one i3 product I tested was fine, and if price is a concern, well then, it really isn’t a bad option.

The Ultrabook Differences

The three Ultrabooks I tested were the Dell XPS 13, Toshiba Z830, and Asus Zenbook UX31. All were in the preferred 13.3” configuration, with approximately 8 hours of battery life in normal use. The two products from Toshiba and Asus are already shipping, while the Dell was a production prototype (firmware wasn’t final and the power supply was not yet optimized for this configuration – it was heavy, this’ll be fixed when it ships).

The Asus is the best looking but it also had the least durable finish. Nevertheless, it is the most consumer-centric product. Plus, both the Asus and Dell were loaded with facial recognition software for security purposes and the software seemed to work just fine. More info and photos