Ultrabooks have had their difficulties gaining respect, but the latest generation might change that.
Even though they’re faster, more powerful, and undeniably sexier, these ultra-portable PCs still have their limitations.
Ultrabooks: A notebook class defined by Intel
Ultra-portables have always had a relatively small market share, mostly due to the sacrifices imposed by their small size. Facing competition from smartphones and, most recently, tablets, the entire class might have gone extinct if not for Intel. Today, the label “Ultrabook” is effectively interchangeable with “ultra-portable,” and Intel defines the specifications for the Ultrabook class. (“Ultrabook” is an Intel trademark.)
If an OEM wants to design a light and thin laptop, it’s almost a given that it will be an Ultrabook. (The exception is, of course, Apple’s successful Air. Whether a case of convergent evolution or going with success, the Ultrabook shown on Intel’s site looks remarkably like the Air.)
Intel doesn’t just define the Ultrabook specs: it also manufactures the chipsets used in these machines. Current models are equipped with Intel’s third-generation Intel Core processors, giving these portables the horsepower needed for business applications. They also have up to seven hours of battery life — another Intel requirement.
The latest chipset includes Intel’s Rapid Start Technology, which can boot the computer to its fully operational state within 30 seconds — or restart from sleep mode in under five seconds. There’s also Smart Connect Technology, which lets e-mail clients, social-networking services, and other applications update their content, even with the system in sleep mode.
If the next generation of Ultrabooks combines Windows 8 with touch screens, they could give tablets some serious competition.