A couple weeks ago I shared some thoughts on owning an ultrabook
trying to answer the question of whether these thinner, lighter
laptops are worth the money.
See, I'd just purchased a Lenovo IdeaPad U310, which at the
time seemed like a great bargain. But having spent some additional
hours with not only that model, but also a Samsung Series 9, I
wanted to hit this topic one more time.
As I noted previously, "ultrabook" is neither a
brand nor a generic classification, but rather an Intel-created
marketing term. It's used to describe a laptop with an
ultra-low-voltage processor, a thickness of no more than 0.7 inches
(for a model with a 13.3-inch screen), battery life of at least
five hours, and so on.
(The exact specs are rather vague, which is why you'll see a
lot of manufacturers touting "ultrabooks" that are really just
laptops that without optical drives.)
Anyway, if you're still in the market for such a system,
consider these additional thoughts:
- Ultrabook prices are plummeting. I'm now seeing models as
low as $500, though certainly not the razor-thin, super-light
screamers that still cost around $1,000 and up. The longer you
wait, the better the deal you'll get.
- That said, I just scored a killer bargain on a Samsung Series 9 13.3-inch ultrabook
, which was marked
down from $1,199.99 to $649. (It quickly sold out, alas, but
hopefully a similar deal will emerge in the future.) It measures
just 0.5 inches thick and weighs only 2.5 pounds. That's thinner
and lighter than even the MacBook Air, and I found it dazzling to
- Not all ultrabooks offer the amazing battery life promised
by Intel's specifications and manufacturer's claims. The IdeaPad
U310, for instance, turned out to have terrible battery life--only
around three hours. I thought perhaps the hard drive was to blame,
but after swapping in a power-sipping solid-state drive (SSD),
battery life improved only to around 4.5 hours.
- A touchscreen, in my humble opinion, is a waste of
money--unless you're considering a convertible ultrabook like the
Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga, which pulls double duty as a tablet. But I
found zero value in having a touchscreen-enabled laptop. There's
simply no point.
- A backlit keyboard, on the other hand, is a must-have
feature. It seems minor, but when you're working in even a slightly
darkened environment (coffee shop, den, etc.), it's great being
able to see those keys.
- If you can afford it, choose a model with a straight-up SSD
rather than a hybrid. My U310 used the latter, and although it
booted and shut down fairly quickly, the Samsung blew it out of the
water. It's remarkable to see a Windows PC go from power-off to
ready-to-work in under 10 seconds. Remarkable.
- Also crazy-amazing: a 9-hour battery life. That's what
BatteryBar (one of my all-time favorite utilities) reports on the
Samsung, and while it will certainly vary depending on usage, it's
incredible to know I can fly coast-to-coast on a single charge. How
is it the thicker, heavier U310 barely lasts one-third as
In case I haven't made it abundantly clear, the Samsung Series
9 (specifically, the NP900X3C-A05US) is one seriously
incredible PC. Indeed, in short order it's become my favorite
computer ever. So thin, so light, so fast, and so long-lasting.
, my friends, is how an ultrabook should be.Veteran technology writer Rick Broida
is the author of numerous books, blogs, and features. He lends his
money-saving expertise to CNET and Savings.com, and also writes for PC
World and Wired.