The Ultrabook platform has proved that you can get power packed productivity in a thin and light package. The high dynamic range of today’s Ultrabooks means that you can go from long life web browsing out and about, to seriously heavy work like Photoshop and video editing at your desk, all on the same device. Using a laptop as a desktop in this way means that connectivity is important — two USB ports simply doesn’t cut it.
To get you on my page, I’ve been living with the Asus Zenbook UX31E as my primary computing device for the last two years, and it’s been great. After upgrading from a 1-inch thick tablet PC, the UX31E felt like a feather in my bag — and I don’t need to carry around a spare battery or power adapter when I know I’ll be using it on-the-go for several hours. The near-instant sleep and resume times mean that I almost never need to power the unit down or even hibernate it. Gone are the days of ‘guess I’ll go make a cup of coffee while I wait’ when the unit needs to restart. The 1600×900 display is ideal at 13.3 inches, the performance feels like desktop class when the system kicks it to full power.
I do a lot of work on the computer; it benefits me massively to have a proper desktop setup (keyboard, mouse, monitor). When I plug the UX31E in and hook up my peripherals and screen, I have a combined 3040×900 desktop environment with full keyboard and mouse. I can get a lot of work done on this capable machine.
But there’s one pervasive problem with many Ultrabooks, the UX31E included. Two USB ports is crippling for the desktop experience. The first two things I plug in are the keyboard and mouse — and that’s all the room I have. If I want to plug in an external HDD (like the 1TB that sits on my desk), I have to remove the keyboard or mouse, and temporarily fall back to the trackpad or keyboard on the UX31E. If I want to charge or sync my phone, I have to do the same. Maybe I want to transfer some files from my external HDD to a flash drive? How about printing? Get ready to start plugging and unplugging. There’s a huge range of peripherals that one could reasonably expect to plug into their Ultrabook when it’s at the desk.
Yes you could get a USB hub (I have actually, and it has made life significantly easier), but that’s one more thing I have to carry around with me if I happen to need it while I’m out and about. The addition of just one more USB port would make a world of difference, and there’s really no good reason that it can’t be done. If Ultrabooks werent’ capable of such excellent desktop-class performance, none of this would be an issue. But because they can scale so well from low to higher power, it is a big mistake to cripple that capability with 2x USB ports.
While most Ultrabooks (in fact, the majority of those that I’ve reviewed) have just two USB ports, there is the occasional rule-breaker like the Gigabyte U2442, which might be one of the most port-packed Ultrabooks out there — even though it’s only 11.6-inches. The U2442 has 4x USB ports, full HDMI, full VGA, full SD, full ethernet, 3.5mm min in, and 3.5mm headphone out. That’s a long way from the UX31E which has 2x USB, micro VGA, micro HDMI, full SD, and a 3.5mm headphone/mic combo jack.
Ultrabook makers — this message is to you: we should have at least 3x USB ports on any computer — at least until someone figures out a viable universal wireless standard.
What say you Ultrabook readers… how many USB ports is best for you?