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.
When I tested an Intel Menlow-based MID in July 2008 and saw the PC architecture streaming music into a browser-player running at 2.8W I knew Intel were on the right track. Two years later with their next-gen architecture, Moorestown, they tackled the standby power drain and managed to get it into a phone. I had exclusive hands-on and although the device was hot and eventually deemed uncompetitive, it was clear to see where this was heading. This week at CES I put my hand on the back of an Intel Medfield-based smartphone and felt nothing. No heat! On the front, I saw a quick user experience and when I tested Sunspider I saw an impressive result of 1290ms, with Android 2.x.
Over at AnandTech, meanwhile, Anand has been discussing more details about the performance and energy consumption figures. Not only are we seeing good performance but Intel are telling us that the efficiency is in the leading class too. The most impressive figure on the article? 1W browsing. That’s with screen-on and 3G-on. 1 WATT! Intel are now able to control a ‘PC’ to the point where everything turns off except the parts required. That doesn’t mean that Intel will be competitive in all areas though. Like Ultrabooks, the platform is likely to have a high ‘dynamic range’ and probably a higher system thermal design characteristic but if the work that Intel have done on Android is solid, that may not be a problem.
What a shame though that Meego wasn’t around to benefit from Medfield. I’m sure there are Meego devices in the Intel labs working just fine and I’m sure that Tizen is likely to re-surface too (My bet â€“ Samsung + Intel + Tizen make an announcement at MWC) but it would have been nice to see Intel’s Meego work result in a product. I wonder how Nokia are feeling at this point? With the N9 having been a success and the figures on Medfield/Android looking good, Intel may get sweet revenge!
What Intel need now are product partners and platform advantages. Being competitive isn’t going to be enough to make the best product in the market so this is where 1080p hardware encoding, hardware-based image processing, Wireless-Display, McAfee and other technologies come into play. Intel Insider (for securely streaming first-run movies) and integrated radios, hardware encryption and of course, Intel’s silicon process advantage. if you consider how far Intel have come in the last 4 years, look at their technology portfolio and think about what’s going to happen in the next two years there should be no doubt that Intel will be playing, and possibly leading in the years to come.
I won’t discount Cortex A15 and similar ARM architectures and we must not forget that ARMv8 is going to be feeding in after a few years but Intel’s position with Medfield now enables it to go and court some of its biggest customers for phones, tablets, set-top boxes and more and that partner ecosystem could be the real advantage for Intel.
Don’t expect touch to roll-out to the whole Ultrabook category but expect that Windows 8 will make manufacturers think about making touch-enabled options in their Ultrabook portfolios later in 2012. Sensors, on the other hand, could find themselves in most of the devices hitting the market. Location and context-sensitive applications in Metro apps could really boost the usefulness of an Ultrabook, especially with instant-on and smart/always connected features.
Three manufacturers have launched Ultrabook devices at CES that sit below premium version of their thin-and-light laptops and in some cases, their premium Ultrabooks I take this as an indication that the Ultrabook design and build method is spreading into wider laptop categories.
While I’ve got the chance to test the Series 5 13.3” and 14” at the Samsung Media Lounge here at CES I downloaded CrystalDiskMark, did a boot test and a few other tests.
I’ve already talked about the keyboard which is as good as the keyboard I’m using right now on the Samsung NP350. I’ve also mentioned the good selection of ports and the Wi-Di which put it ahead of devices like the Acer S3.
With such a short amount of time it’s really impossible to say anything definitive about the new Samsung Series 5 Ultrabooks but I’ve had a chance to have some uninterrupted time with the two devices at the Samsung Media Lounge here at CES and the devices do seem well-rounded. I’m especially impressed with the keyboard, ports and Wi-Di . If you’re thinking about the Acer S3, I would advise to wait for the NP530.
I finally had a chance to get a little more time with the LG Xnote Z330 this morning at Intels CES booth which, incidentally, must be 50% Ultrabook-focused. Unfortunately the LG Xnote Z330 was attached to a stand but I had a chance to look round it.
Although I missed the first showing of the Lenovo Yoga Ultrabook at CES today I bumped into it at a press event this evening. It’s an efficient implementation of an Ultrabook that converts into a tablet and with a 1600×900 IPS screen, it looked great. Pricing could be on the high-side of course but if Lenovo do managed to bring this to market with Windows 8 and Ivy Bridge in Q3/Q4 2012 it will be one amazingly unique Ultrabook. Lenovo think they can reach 7 hours of true battery life.