The first wave of Ultrabooks brought sleek, sexy laptops to the masses. The second wave increased performance and power savings. And now, in the latter half of the second wave, and approaching the third wave, things are getting really interesting. Intel’s Ultrabook project has stimulated the creation of the most exciting laptops in recent memory. They’re calling them Ultrabook Convertibles — and I can’t wait to get one.
Before you light your torches and sharpen your pitchforks, hear me out. I know that Intel didn’t invent the convertible. We’ve seen swiveling and sliding screens for many years preceding the Ultrabook. We’ve even seen dockable screens in the Android world. What Intel is enabling though are convertibles without compromise.
My last computer was actually a convertible, but it wasn’t an Ultrabook. It was an HP Tablet PC with a swiveling screen and an active digitizer. It was also at least an inch thick and ran incredibly hot when it was doing heavy processing (to the point of throttling itself and running at half performance). To get the tablet+PC experience I had to compromise on weight, heat, battery life, and performance.
Thanks to Intel’s continuous quest for lower power consumption and higher performance, the current crop of Ivy Bridge convertibles are just passing the threshold into a compromise-free experience where you get a thin, powerful, light convertible that’s a joy to use. Right now it seems this is most effectively achieved in 11 – 13 inch devices, and when Haswell comes around, that sizes will likely down even further, offering a genuine tablet+PC experience in one device.
The latest convertible designs in the Ultrabook space are the most exciting PCs to hit the market in years. There are swiveling, sliding, folding and docking Ultrabooks — like the Lenovo Twist, Sony Vaio Duo 11, Lenovo Yoga 13, and Samsung Ativ Pro, respectively.
At GDC 2013 this year I finally got my hands on some of these new devices and I was genuinely excited about the array of unique options. Build quality was impressive across the board. And while I expected to see bloated devices, many of them were just as thin as you might expect from a non-convertible Ultrabook. For the first time since the UMPC era, it feels like there’s innovation happening in this space beyond the slow march of the clamshell laptop.
If Intel and partners play their cards right, that innovation will excite and delight customers who have been swooned by the smartphone and non-PC tablet category in recent years.
When I first switched to an Ultrabook, I was sad to give up my tablet PC functionality. Now I don’t have to. After getting to play with a number of new Ultrabook convertibles, I’ve decided that one of them is destined to be my next PC, but not just for the touchscreen/digitizer.
I use my current Ultrabook on the go every day. When I’m home I hook it up like a desktop which enables high levels of productivity.
I don’t own an iPad or other tablet, but I do occasionally wish I had one — whether I want to use the device standing or on the couch. With a convertible Ultrabook I won’t have to shell out for another device to enable that kind of functionality. When I head back home I’ll be able to hook my Ultrabook up to my desk setup and use it like a desktop. Having that level of ‘HDR computing’, as Chippy calls it, is something that is extremely useful to me for productivity and let’s me do the vast majority of my computing on one device. I can’t wait!