A number of reviews have been written already about the prototype Intel Ivy Bridge Ultrabook's. So this review is not going to even mention that Ultrabooks in general are less than 0.8" thin, run on 3rdGeneration Intel® Core™ processors, boot up from cold in less time it takes you to get a stopwatch out of your pocket and has a battery life of over 5 hours.
generation chips are already available, so make sure you get one. Read the full scoop on the list of features here
You've got to admit it's a darn impressive list of features. What I'd like to focus on, is whether an Ultrabook is a good general laptop replacement and what Windows 8 brings to the Ultrabook mix. In other words, can you make an Ultrabook your main development/ general use daily desktop killer, and on what level does it compete with a tablet - Windows 8 or not.
Just a Thin Laptop?
It is very important to note that an Ultrabook is not just a very thin and light laptop. That has been done before - this is not just Windows on a MacBook Air.
So what makes the Ultrabook different and why would it matter in my daily computer use?
I was at the Windows BUILD conference a year ago when Steve Ballmer announced that in the not too distant future all Windows devices will have touch screens. When I heard that, my first thought was why would you want to poke at a laptop screen and yet, here I am, poking at the live tiles on my desktop and flicking screens as if I've been doing it for years. Strange but true.
Just as is now common with smart phones, pads and tablets, the Ultrabooks have all sorts of sensors. I'm sure we'll put them all to good use eventually You can play with the compass, accelerometer, gyroscope, GPS, and an ambient light sensor.
I'm still waiting for laptops that harness key-presses to replenish battery power, but until then there's "Haswell" from Intel that reduces microprocessor power requirements to 10-20 watts - half of what is available today. What that translates to is basically being able to run on battery power from early until way after lunch time, because that's what I've been doing every day. Then all you need is to plug it in a bit for an hour or so and you're set free from cables for the rest of the day.
This was one piece of the puzzle that I didn't quite get until I started using this machine on a daily basis. It's pretty cool how it stays connected and keeps fetching email and other updates even after you've closed the lid.
Baked-in Theft Protection
This I haven't actually tried out myself, but by the sound of it, especially corporate users are going to free themselves from those terrible Targus laptop locks (sorry Targus). Intel Anti-Theft Technology will allow you to lock down your laptop over the internet or automatically. They even thought of a "Good Samaritan" recovery message on the screen, you know, just in case you actually forgot it somewhere (gasp) instead of it being stolen.
Daily Use Device
Before I got the Ultrabook, my daily use workhorse was a 17" Intel Core i5 behemoth with 8GB RAM. It wasn't a desktop replacement as much as it was a desktop demolisher. Then the Ultrabook happened.
I also have to tell you something else, I've been using Linux, in particular various flavors of Ubuntu, on said laptop for the last year, just to make sure that I'm squeezing out every last bit of power - and it was awesome. So I'm comparing the speed of a lean Linux laptop to the lethal combination of the Ultrabook plus Windows 8. To be honest, I thought that the Ultrabook, while nice and light, would lose.
The truth is that I'm using the Ultrabook more and more while leaving my older and heavier monster in my bag. The purpose of this review is not to compare Ubuntu to Windows 8, but I've got to say that after ridiculing Windows for the last couple of years, Windows 8 has started to change my view of Microsoft.
I've brought my previous daily use machine to its knees on a number of occasions when I've been working on multiple projects with literally dozens of applications running and multiple browser sessions. Thus far, I haven't been able to do the same to my Ultrabook running Windows 8. Even with multiple Visual Studio sessions, Inkscape, most of Microsoft Office, a string of browser windows running across IE10 (which is MUCH better than it's predecessors), Firefox and Chrome for good measure, it just kept taunting me, snappily opening up whichever application I dare open next and seamlessly switching to whatever I had running already. In short, impressive.
The Ultrabook has even edged it's way into tablet territory, as I'm finding that I'm simply closing the lid and carting it off to show my son an article on something interesting before I put him in bed, or flicking through old Tom & Jerry cartoons to pick our favorites. What has changed is that it's no longer just possible to carry a laptop around, it now comes natural.
A Tale of Two Screens
When I first saw the two-headed monster that was 'Metro' and Desktop, I though, what the !$#@^* were they thinking? On the initial release of Windows 8 it was clear that a LOT of research had gone into the tiled interface. It was also painfully obvious that the focus groups that were introduced to the new Windows 8 tile interface did not participate in any testing whatsoever with regards to switching back and forth between the two.
Since then, things have improved somewhat. For me, it has been a work/play division of labor. I'm still doing all my work on the Desktop side, but whenever I need to check my mail or devise a reason for a distraction, I find myself on the more playful tile side. Maybe Microsoft will find a way to get the conjoined twins to at least dress a bit more similarly (hint, pretty please make the desktop more like the 'Modern/Metro' interface).
The only thing that really drives me nuts is the fact that you have not one, but two versions of IE. That really throws you for a loop every now and again when the Windows Store/ Modern /Metro version flips you back to the Desktop world, leaving you with some open tabs on the one and some on the other. Really, that's got to stop, it borders on cruelty.
Despite all of the flip-flopping and finger flicking, I haven't had a single app crash on me, not one application hanging, not a single blue-screen-of-death or even a hint of hesitation from Windows 8 hitched to this powerful little Intel wonder wagon.
Ultimately, that's what I want in a laptop, and that's what the Ultrabook has delivered.
Intel sent me the Ultrabook and I get to keep it to give them feedback on it. I am
disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.