The Ultrabooks Of CES 2012

Posted on 18 January 2012 by

Samsung Series 9 2012

We were told that 30-50 ultrabooks would appear at CES last week and while there was indeed a lot of buzz and news, there really are only two truly new models to consider today. Everything else was either already reported, a future, demonstrator or prototype Ultrabook. Some will make it to the shelves, most won’t. In total we added 9 devices to the database (along with a ton of links, images and videos) and there are a few more that may appear later in the year but let’s go over the important devices to be considered over the next month and mention a few brands that still aren’t in the game. After you’ve read the article, let us know what your Ultrabook shortlist looks like.

You can view all the current Ultrabooks and many Ultrabook  alternatives in our comprehensive Ultrabook product database.

The CES Ultrabooks for ‘Today’

 

dell_xps_13_ultrabook_1.jpgDell XPS 13

The Dell XPS 13 Ultrabook looks great but like many others, there’s a restricted range of ports and a screen resolution of only 1366×768. A full-glass facia, Smart Connect, Wireless-Display and the claim that the size is equivalent to that of an 11.6 laptop will be things to check out at the earliest opportunity but don’t expect anything ultra-light. It weighs as much as the Asus UX31 at 1.4KG. After a quick play with the keyboard it felt different, but good. The keyboard backlight is very welcome. It’s a full SSD-based Ultrabook and comes with Smart Connect (periodic wake-up and sleep.) The 47Wh battery won’t give it any major battery life advantages over other devices in the category. At $999 with Core i5 it’s going to be a good option in the Ultrabook space. I just wish it had an SD card reader!

Dell XPS 13 Specifications, Links, Images, Videos available here.

 

envy14_spectre_lr

HP Envy 14 Spectre

If you want something with a bit more style than the XPS 13 then maybe the Envy 14 is one for you although before you order, take a close look at the Samsung Series 9 2012 which looks to be in the same class. The HP Envy 14 is a $1400 device with a full set of ports, Gorilla Glass screen, 1600×900 resolution, Wi-Di and keyboard backlight. The only issue, apart from the price, is the weight. At 1.7KG it’s a lot heavier than other devices. I can’t find the battery capacity but I’m hoping that HP have squeezed something big in there.

HP Envy 14 Spectre Specifications, Links, Images, Videos available here.

 

The CES Ultrabooks that we already knew about

Leaked before CES although available for hands-on for the first time for many tech journalists were devices from Samsuing and LG. The Series 5 represents an interesting move by Samsung because they also launched a thinner and lighter device that isn’t an Ultrabook. See below for more information on the 2012 Series 9.

Samsung Series 5 13.3 and 14”

It was admittedly a shock to hear about a 1.8KG two-spindle (DVD + Hard Drive) laptop being labelled as an Ultrabook. The 14” Samsung Series 5 Ultrabook just doesn’t seem to fit although if you try looking for a 1.8KG 14” laptop with a DVD drive the choice is limited and the Samsung Series 5 14” is the only one with a ULV CPU which is likely to return better battery life than most of the competition. The 13” Samsung Series 5, on the other hand, is quite a nice device. Known as the NP530U3 it’s available with a hybrid hard drive for just €799 in Europe which makes it just about the most competitive ‘budget’ Ultrabook there is. I had a chance to spend hours with the Series 5 over a couple of days as I worked in the Samsung Media Lounge where access to the Series 5’s was unrestricted and I’ve put enough information together to cover a full review.

Samsung Series 5 13 Specifications and Information available here.

Samsung Series 5 14 Specifications and Information available here.

 

LG Z330, Z340

LG-Xnote-Z330The LG Z330 is due in February (in USA and Europe at least) and is a fine looking device. (Hands-on here) Port selection is OK if you’re happy with microSD and an Ethernet adaptor cable, there’s a nice thin screen bezel and the overall dimensions are competitive. The keyboard appeared fine in our brief test but a longer term test will be necessary before it’s deemed error-free. You’ve got an Intel Wireless module with Wireless Display support but no keyboard backlight which is something the Dell XPS 13 offers. In fact the Dell XPS 13 and LG Z330 are likely to be very lose on peoples shortlists. Availability is Feb 2012 so we’re likely to see the first retail hands-on and reviews very soon. The Xnote Z430, a 14” Ultrabook remains untested for us at present but obviously it’s going to be up against the HP Envy 14 Spectre. Our feeling is that it will be lower priced than the Spectre. The 1366×768 screen may disappoint some though. 1600×900 on a 14” screen is a more sensible and productive choice.

LG Xnote Z330 Specifications and Information available here.

LG Xnote Z430 Specifications and Information available here.

 

The ‘Uber’ Ultrabook

Samsung Series 9 (8)

Samsung Series 9 13” 2012

Here we come to my favorite device of CES 2012. The previous generation Samsung Series 9 was a gem, apart from a weak Wifi set-up. The new, redesigned Series 9 should fix that with an Intel Centrino WiFi module. It has a keyboard backlight, 1600×900 display even on the 13.3” model, a starting weight of just 1.13KG. Pricing will be around $1400. I can’t wait to test this but the fact that Ivy Bridge will follow-up in Q3 means many will hold back for the better processor. There’s a 15” model too.

Samsung Series 9 2012 (900X3B) Specifications and information in the database here.

 

Ultrabooks for Q2 and beyond

A number of Ultrabooks were announced with launch dates that could tie in with Ivy Bridge availability. Certainly Lenovo were open about the fact that if Ivy Bridge is ready, the U310 and U410 may use it. The Acer S5 ould be an Ivy Bridge device too along with the next generation Toshiba Satellite and the Lenovo Yoga although that one might have some question marks over it due to the complex design.

Acer Aspire S5

The first new Ultrabook of CES 2012, the first with Thunderbolt and the first with a hidden motorised port bay. The Acer S5 is unfortunately short on confirmed specs and pricing so there’s little to say about it right now. A ‘Q2’ launch date could also mean an Ivy Bridge target which would fit well with new low-cost thunderbolt controllers – Cactus Bridge – that are launching with ivy Bridge. The CPU ID was hidden on the Acer S5 that we had hands-on which also indicates that the device may run Ivy Bridge.

Acer S5 Specifications and information in our database here.

 

Lenovo U310 U410

With the lowest price of the show, these two ‘back to school’ Ultrabooks will be aimed at a more mainstream market. They will have rotating hard drives (possibly SSD only configurations too.) The target price of $699 is challenging and could set the bar although by Q2/Q3 when these are released, first-generation Ultrabooks should also be reaching the $700 mark. Lenovo say that if Ivy Bridge is available, it may go inside although if they are building to a price, a low-cost Sandy Bridge CPU may make better sense. No real confirmed specs but we’ve got as much as we can find in the database.

Specifications and information: U310 here. U410 here.

 

Toshiba next-gen Satellite Ultrabook

There’s nothing much to day about this one at this stage. It was held up at a press event in terrible lighting conditions but we managed to get some idea of the set-up in some photos here. Toshiba are working with Windows 8 on this one so we’ll have to wait for more information. Hybrid hard drive and ‘under 4lb’ were the only specs given. We’ll get this in the database when there’s more information.

Lenovo Yoga

Lenovo-Yoga-5Showing Windows 8 and a touchscreen the Lenovo Yoga is a totally different take on the Ultrabook. The screen folds back 180 degrees to lay flat on the back of the unit allowing the user to use the touchscreen as a tablet. The size and weight could be a problem for many users though and we feel that the design is a risky and expensive one meaning there’s a risk that this won’t reach the market. We went hands-on with the Yoga in this video.

 

That just about rounds up the Ultrabooks of CES 2012. There were others though. A prototype detachable tablet was surprisingly light and there were also prototypes shown in press events. The slider ultrabook is shown here and there was also an ‘nikiski’ Ultrabook with a see-through wrist panel.

P1010826  P1010822

 

We didn’t get to see Vizio who, apparently, are launching a low-cost Ultrabook-like device but we suspect it’s not an official Ultrabook. We’ll certainly track it though because if they break through a new price barrier with a thin and light Sandy Bridge/SSD device, it will be interesting to see what sort of quality and features they’ve got on board.

Sony had a prototype Ultrabook under glass and Fujitsu had their SH771 but, along with MSI, these three companies still have to talk in earnest about Ultrabooks. Maybe we’ll hear more at CeBIT in March. Yes, we’ll be there!

How was CES for you? Given the new options, what are on your shortlist now?

  • N Sang

    I am in the market for replacement of my aged HP NC6440. The ‘Ultrabook’ scene got me excited enough to consider them seriously. However after doing some research over the past few weeks, I have decided against one. To me Ultrabook is a fashion statement. Manufacturers are trying to squeeze a notebook into a slim chassis for the sake of ‘fashion’. We all knows fashion comes and goes. I am now considering the Fujitsu SH771, Thinkpad X220 (semi-Ultrabooks?). I want it light but not necessarily ultra-slim. Other must-have specs are to do with input/output devices; anti-glare matt screen, great keyboard and accurate touch-pad. I think hybrid drive, 7200RPM HDD with some SSD for OS is ideal. Upgradability is also important; therefore sealed bottom doesn’t fit the bill. If I were to change notebook every year, I’ll probably get a Ultrabook; but I’m not. It takes me 6-12 month to get a new notebook to where I want it to be. But every time I look at one of those ‘sexy’ frame, I got swayed. I know I’ll have to pay more for a ‘real’ light weight notebook than an ultrabook. I’m budgeting up to USD3,000; so even Sony Z21 series is a possibility (yuk! back to ultrabook again). However, Ultrabooks are safe; there are lots of people after fashions out there. What’s in a name anyway? Another name will come up next year: Sutrabook ‘Super Ultrabook’.

    • Michael

      Don’t bother with all these ultrabook crap. It looks like ultrabooks are becoming more expensive and heavier in weight. Already with the first generation, it was hard to sell due to their high prices, now, with even higher prices, it is doomed for failure. Ultrabooks fail to realise one thing, they are not Apple and they do not have a cult following that would purchase any Apple product at any price.

      • Chippy

        The Ultrabook market is changing rapidly. With Lenovo announcing a $699 price point and more competition in the market the prices will drop rapidly. Like all ‘new’ products there’s an initial price premium.

      • Michael

        That is what I thought too Chippy but if you see the new wave of ultrabooks, prices and weight have gone up a lot. Look at the $1400 Samsung for example. Weight should be improving too but its not. The last wave of ultrabooks champion was the Toshiba Z835 at 1.1KG. By now weight should improve to 1kg or below but instead of that its even gone up to 1.7Kgs (HP Envy 14 Spectre). There is nothing special about ultrabooks from the older super light notebooks other than aesthetics and weight. That was their ONLY main selling point. Even that theu have messed up.

      • James

        Seems you’re confusing the expansion of available models with Ultrabooks getting more expensive.

        Like any other laptop series, they’re just producing a range from basic to premium model offerings, the later of course will cost more.

        There’s also a move towards making all laptops as thin and as light as possible. Whether they actually qualify as Ultrabooks remains to be determined by how specific they want to make the category or whether it just becomes the generic term for all thin & light laptops.

        While 2nd gen models won’t start coming out to probably around the end of Q2 and final pricing may change on how world market is handling things like hard drive supply shortages by then.

  • Robert

    Chippy,

    thanks for all your work at CES and squeezing out every ultrabook news you could for us. I hope you did not exhaust yourself and dont let the flu get you which has been running around lately.
    baring news on the sony ultrabook i am looking forward to buy either the HP sepctre or the samsung series 9. The latter is not technically an ultrabook but it weighs considerably less than the HP. I dont think i should wait for the next generation chips for the samsung in a 6 months time (next i know i keep waiting for the haswell and waiting and never buying) my birthday is up in february it be nice to buy myself something but it looks like it will be a delayed present as the new samsung series will probably be out in march.

    • Chippy

      Given the weight difference between the Spectre and new Series 9, I’m sure a lot of mobile fans will have the Samsung higher up on their list!

  • Dan

    Awesome writeup and summary. Agree about the new Samsung series 9… And I (for one) think the Yoga looks awesome!

  • Thank you for this really interesting summary. Semms like the HP Envy 14 Spectre got a lot of buzz these days. I’m relly looking forward to take a closer look at it!

    • Chippy

      The Envy and XPS seem to have created the most buzz at CES. The XPS is likely to be the bigger seller though.

  • lasso

    I assume people here want an ultrabook for portability so maybe you guys have found something that would be good. What’s the fastest notebook with an 11.6″ screen. I’m planning on running virtual machines (at most 2 simultaneously) using VMware Workstation. So, I guess, the chipset requires the virtualization of the CPU and IO (VT-x and VT-d for Intel). Thanks.

    • Chippy

      ASUS ux21core i7 version.

      • lasso

        That seems great. Looks like I’ll be getting that. Thanks Chippy.

  • jeeuhj

    I didn’t expect it to happen. Well, the last generation Samsung series 9 looked great, however, its design got wasted by the use of plastic.

    En this new series 9 of Samsung. Well, its design finnaly overthrows Apple’s design.

    • Chippy

      I agree. Its the winner in my eyes too. Just need to save some money now!

      • Michael

        I agree its a winner too but I am pretty sure it would be a big failure at $1400. Nobody in todays day and age would pay that much for an ultrabook.

      • Dan

        Michael :
        I agree its a winner too but I am pretty sure it would be a big failure at $1400. Nobody in todays day and age would pay that much for an ultrabook.

        I bought one for $1450. There are a lot of people willing to spend cash on premium Windows laptops.

  • Thanks for all the work Chippy.
    Do you know if the Dell XP13 will come with an USB to ethernet adapter like the UX31?

    My shortlist:
    LG Xnote Z330
    Dell XP13 ( 256GB )
    Asus UX31

    • Chippy

      I don’t know about that but as its a $15 part, it’s not going to be a major worry.

      • Robert

        Chippy can you explain to me why dell didnt think of and SD card slot or at least asured consumers that the final version will have one? I mean what a thing to miss out on ! lol

      • Dan

        Robert :
        Chippy can you explain to me why dell didnt think of and SD card slot or at least asured consumers that the final version will have one? I mean what a thing to miss out on ! lol

        A lot of people are upset about so many Ultrabooks with a lack of SD card slot. I understand, it is a nice convenience. IMHO, Dell is targeting business people and professionals who are tempted to buy he Macbook Air and unlikely to be using SD slots. I work with many of these targeted people every day, and I think Dell is right on target and will do well.

  • Nelson

    We can only admire the exterior of the ultrabook for so long; sooner or later we need to use it like a notebook PC. We all seem to forgive those highly reflective glossy screens for their looks (when they are not displaying anything). Are the Gorilla Glass screens fitted with AR (Anti Reflective) coating? Slim chassis means shallow keyboard; another important feature that we have to put up with. Which models have anti-glare (matt) screen and decent keyboard for real-world typing? And which one has accurate touch-pad? These 3 features over-rule a few mm of overall thickness for me.

  • You are forgetting about one thing: Portability. Many of my colleages use the MBA. I have been waiting for a windows competitor for a long time now.

    • Nelson

      Yes, you are absolutely right about portability. My criterion in this order: weight <1.5kg, performance (speed i7 and graphic), usability (anti-glare screen, great keyboard, accurate touchpad-buttons), solid-built, storage (hybrid HDD+SSD), size (13in screen in 12in form factor), thickness, price up to $2.5k. To put things in perspective about pricing; for something you use daily for 4 years (that's how long I've used my current one), $2+K is a reasonable investment. You can blow that in something with lot less usefulness.

  • vjachi

    1. The slidet prototype: D or the yoga.
    2. Acer S5
    3. Asus ux 31

    PS: if the samsung 9 serries 13″ make it to the market under 1100$ it will be my favorite model.

  • John Marken

    It seems to me that the ultrabooks are going to be an accurate answer to the MacBook Air remains to be seen whether they have the style of these. One thing is for sure the price is much lower with the same capabilities. A brand that has always known class creating computers is Asus. I found the analysis to two new books in http://mixandbrowse.tk/ultrabooks-the-new-hype/ that seem to explain well with what we can hope level of equipment.

  • wn

    Touch is a must for me. Yoga could be an option.

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