2012 has been an exciting year for the Ultrabook. With the launch of Intel’s Ivy Bridge processors, and a little help from Windows 8, Ultrabooks gained massive momentum. There’s now Ultrabook offerings from every top PC manufacturer, and even many from second-tier manufacturers. Some, like Asus, have more than 10 Ultrabook models available! And there’s more to come with CES just around the corner (stay tuned January 8-11!). But before the year comes to an end, it’s time to pick our top Ultrabooks.
We’ve have been covering the Ultrabook market with intensity ever since Intel announced the Ultrabook project in 2011. With more than 90 devices in our Ultrabook database and plenty of hands-on reviews, we are uniquely positioned to chose the best Ultrabooks of 2012.
Top 2012 Ultrabook
When I tested the original Samsung Series 9 I was impressed. The follow-up version was even better but when Samsung added the Ivy Bridge CPU inside it became the best fusion of technology and style on the market. I tested the 15″ version a while back but it’s the 13″ version with the better screen and higher mobility that gets my vote as the top Ultrabook of 2012. [Info here]
Working fascia is always important and I’m really happy with the keyboard, screen, and mouse on the Series 9 (900X3C.) The SSD is fast, there’s a keyboard backlight and Samsung have done a great job on efficiency The battery may only be 44Wh but you’ll get more out of it than with other Ultrabooks. The icing on the cake is a 1.13KG weight — one of the best for a 13″ device.
The Asus UX31A is so close to number 1 that it’s almost a draw for me. I loved the original UX31E (even bought one) but hated the keyboard (so I took it back.) The UX31A fixes that and adds a Full HD screen. But I have an issue here that could have pushed my runner-up into the #1 slot; the UX31A Touch adds something I’ve been getting used to over the last months that it’s becoming a must-have feature for me — touch that is. After spending time with the Lenovo Twist, the Intel Developer Touch Ultrabook, and a a CloverTrail Windows 8 tablet, I’m really starting to get into the touch side of Windows 8. There are two things that stop me from putting the UX31A Touch at the top of the list though: 1) it’s expensive [although so is my #1 choice], 2) it’s not available just yet which means I haven’t fully tested it yet.
Best Value Ultrabook of 2012
A true Ultrabook for me means a number of things. Full SSD, light weight, quality keyboard, mouse, screen, good efficiency. In looking for the best value Ultrabook for 2012 I did some searching and took a bit of advice from Ben. (See below) My best-value Ultrabook choice for 2012 is Sony Vaio SVT-1311W1E/S (EU version with SSD and Core i5.)
Top 2012 Ultrabook
My choice for top 2012 Ultrabook is the Sony Vaio T13. Like the netbook, it took Sony a little while to warm up to the Ultrabook market. They may have been a bit late to the game, but they came out swinging with the T13. The 13″ Ultrabook is uniquely styled in a market where many devices seek to achieve the razor-thin style popularized (but not invented) by the MacBook Air. Instead of that tapered design, the T13 takes a more angled approach — and stands out because of it. The looks are borrow from Sony’s top-end laptop, the Vaio Z, which is great because you’re essentially getting a high-end design in a much less expensive package. The port set also stands out with full-VGA, full-HDMI, and even full-ethernet. I only wish there were three USB ports instead of two!
And that brings me to the #1 reason why the T13 is my top Ultrabook of 2012 — value. While the T13 was a tempting buy when it launched at $899, they are almost irresistible now with a $624 starting price! There are similarly priced Ultrabooks, but the quality of the T13 sets it apart from other options.
Sony also offers easy customization on the T13: you can choose between a Core i3, i5, or i7 processor; 4GB, 6GB, or 8GB of RAM; 320GB or 500GB HHD, 128GB or 256GB SSD; and even add a touchscreen if you’d like. This makes it easy to get the configuration that is best for you (and your wallet!). We’d recommend the Core i5 model at minimum (as Core i3 doesn’t include Turbo Boost).
Amazon has a solid deal on a Sony Vaio T13 with Core i5, 6GB of RAM, and 500GB HHD for just $736. The same configuration would cost $799 direct from Sony.
Sadly, the 11-inch T11, which launched alongside the the T13 in Europe, still hasn’t made it stateside. Instead, Sony saw fit to expand their T-series Ultrabook lineup with the T14 which has a larger 14″ screen which seems to be popular among manufacturers for the U.S. market.
My runner up is the Asus UX32A. Asus originally launched the UX31E (13.3″) with Sandy Bridge processor to much fanfare 2011. With a sleek razor-thin aluminum chassis and 1600×900 display, the UX31E was the poster-child for the Ultrabook. Unfortunately the unit only came with 2 USB ports, and both the HDMI and VGA ports were of the mini variety (meaning that they needed an adapter for an external display). The keyboard on the UX31E was also unbecoming of the quality of the rest of the Ultrabook — the keys were wobbly and sometimes unresponsive.
Asus launched the UX32A in 2012 which fixed almost every critique we had of the UX31E. They added an additional USB port. Mini-HDMI was upgraded to full-HDMI. The keyboard was greatly improved and a backlight was added. The unit also uses the latest Ivy Bridge processors from Intel. There’s another variant, the UX32VD, which has a full HD display and discrete Nvidia graphics which is a good fit for other usage scenarios.
Happy New Year to everyone from UltrabookNews.com!