If you’ve been following along the last few days, you saw us highlight plenty of Ultrabook deals for those looking to snag a machine on the cheap for Black Friday or Cyber Monday. The deals came in many shapes and sizes and often spanned the gap between first generation (Sandy Bride) and second generation (Ivy Bridge) Ultrabooks. If you haven’t been following the Ultrabook space closely, as we have, you might be confused about the difference. This article aims to clear that up and tell you how to identify one from the other.
Intel has launched the latest driver update for their integrated graphics. This update brings full support for Windows 8. HD 3000 graphics are found on Ultrabooks with second generation (aka Sandy Bridge) processors while HD 4000 graphics are found on newer Ultrabooks that use Intel’s third generation (aka Ivy Bridge) processors. In addition to some game-specific performance updates, Intel has also enabled 4k Ultra HD video output and OpenGL 4.0 for Ivy Bridge / HD 4000, as well as OpenCL 1.1 for Sandy Bridge / HD 3000. All Ultrabook users should update, even if your Ultrabook has discrete graphics!
Ultrabooks might not be able to play the latest blockbuster titles at max settings like a full blown liquid-cooled gaming desktop, but there’s still a heck of a lot of great titles that they can play. I’ve been using the Asus UX31E (Core i5 Sandy Bridge with Integrated HD3000 graphics) to happily play Minecraft, Tribes Ascend, Half-Life 2, Day of Defeat Source, Bit Trip Runner, League of Legends, Team Fortress 2, and plenty more. Having my Ultrabook running at peak performance means I get a competitive advantage and the most enjoyment thanks to my games running smoothly and responsively. This guide will tune up your Ultrabook to run at maximum performance and will benefit your graphical applications even if you aren’t a gamer!
Continuing my Ultrabook game-testing, I wanted to highlight a game that’s free-to-play and worth a shot if you’re a fan of strategy-based games rather than twitch-based first-person shooters. The game in question is League of Legends  which is a standalone game based on the immensely popular Defense of the Ancients mod which ran within Warcraft III  and began its rise to fame in 2003. This is a multiplayer action-RPG which is highly strategic and can take some time to master. In my testing on the UX31 with Core i5 CPU, HD 3000 graphics, and 4GB of RAM, League of Legends runs flawlessly.
Lately we’ve been getting asked, “should I buy an Ultrabook now or wait for Ivy Bridge?”. Here I’d like to give my recommendation to help out those who might be ready to pull the trigger on an Ultrabook purchase.
Genuine Ultrabooks use integrated graphics which, while not as powerful as a ‘discrete’ GPU, allow the systems to be slim and power efficient. Even though the graphical capabilities of current Ultrabooks won’t satisfy those looking to play the latest blockbuster titles at full settings, there are still plenty of excellent games that will run perfectly on an Ultrabook. I’ve got six great games to share with you that will run great on your Ultrabook and offer hours of entertainment (all together hardly more expensive than a single blockbuster title!) For now, my recommendations and performance-evaluations are based on an Ultrabook using the current-gen HD3000 ‘GPU’ and Core i5 processor. Also note that your experience may vary depending upon the processor that your Ultrabook is equipped with (Core i3, i5, or i7), amount of RAM, whether or not you have up-to-date drivers, and your power settings (check back with us at UltrabookNews for a guide to optimizing your Ultrabook’s power configuration).