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Windows 8 Developers, This is Your Ultrabook. Introducing Harris Beach.

, 31 Jul 2013 CPOL
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Harris Beach Developer Ultrabook unboxing and first impressions

Harris Beach is the name of the latest developer edition of the Intel Ultrabook. You can’t buy this in the shops because it has been designed by Intel for software developments and experimentation. It contains some of the newest technologies you’ll find in any laptop (or even PC) and is packed with as many features as possible. NGFF SSD, NFC, GNSS, HSPA+ 3G modem (21Mbps), Panel Self Refresh, HD 5000 graphics, Full HD IPS screen and of course a Haswell U-Series processor which is incredibly efficient.

Unlike the last developer-edition Ultrabook, created for the launch of Ivy Bridge, this product is in a different league. It’s slicker, it feels like it uses higher quality components and materials and it looks great. I think the casing is plastic but it’s incredibly solid and feels good to the touch. I wonder if this is Intel’s new low-cost plastic casing. If it is, it gets my thumbs-up.

Not only is Harris Beach a product that looks and acts like a great Ultrabook, it’s got the packaging to match. Here’s the unboxing. Watch out for the surprise as the lid is lifted!

I’ve had a few days to familiarize myself with Mr Harris Beach and I’ve also had a chance to run some performance tests. I’m not going to go into those before I’ve determined the status of the drivers and Windows 8 build on the device but I can tell you that it’s very, very impressive so far. In terms of battery life there’s nothing more that needs to be done because 9hrs web working is possible. (53Wh battery inside.) I’m also impressed with the 21Mbps HSPA+ (GSM 3G) performance and the screen is a stunner. [Note: I’ve already tested two Haswell-based Ultrabooks so I have a good baseline.]

Here are a few specs for you ...

  • CPU Core i5 4th generation. 1.4Ghz (Turbo max to 2.9Ghz) VPro capable.
  • GPU HD5000 graphics with max clock 1.1Ghz.
  • Intel 530 series NGFF SSD (Max transfer rates seen so far: 400MBps read. 256MBps sequential. 28MBps / 73MBps r/w 4K block size.)
  • Huawei HSPA+ / GNSS
  • Windows 8 Pro (requires MSDN key to enable.)

Other features:

  • Keyboard backlight
  • TPM 2.0
  • HID Sensor set
  • Dual array mic as per Haswell Ultrabook standard.
  • WiDi

WiFi performance isn’t up to what I expect from a business-class device but the focus here is to enable developers to do their stuff, not for enabling business. The 2.4Ghz WiFi is adequate and Connected-Standby approved. CS {AKA InstantGo, AOAC) works. This is a unique and important feature for devs (who can find out more here.)

Harris Beach Developer Ultrabook (12)Harris Beach Developer Ultrabook (9)Harris Beach Developer Ultrabook (8)Harris Beach Developer Ultrabook (5)
Full gallery of Harris Beach developer Ultrabook.

The fans aren’t the quietest either but there’s the challenge for devs – build an app that doesn’t trigger the fans!

Drivers, Code and Dongles

In the box you’ll find important notes and, behind those, a set of cables. Micro HDMI to VGA, Micro HDMI to HDMI and USB3.0 to RJ45 (Gigabit Ethernet.) It’s a shame there’s no DisplayPort though as that’s an enhanced feature of Haswell and it’s 4K / DP1.2 capability. You’ll also find a slick and light power adaptor. I wish manufacturers would all follow this lead. (No pun intended.)

All the drivers (for the pre-installed build) are provided on a USB stick and it looks like a recovery partition is also available. The status of that build, however, is unknown. The latest drivers are available to developers that are registered for Intel Premier Support.

In addition to providing documentation, drivers and support, Intel has taken the chance to include, on the desktop, links to code samples that demonstrate various Ultrabook features. I haven’t had time to install these apps yet but here’s the list of what’s included:

  • Touch Terrain – Using touch to deform terrain.
  • Real-Time Strategy – A Game demo that uses multiple input methods.
  • Windows 8 Touch Coding Demo – Windows 8 desktop code.
  • Sensors Demo – Accessing Windows 8 (dekstop) sensors
  • Windows 8 desktop rotation – Detect screen orientation changes in desktop applications.
  • Sensor Explorer – How to register and receive sensor information from a Windows 8 desktop app.
  • Light Scattering – GPU capability demo.
  • Software Occlusion Culling – This probably means something to graphics people; Not me though!
  • Head-Coupled Perpective – Head tracking using the webcam and perceptual computing SDK.
  • Intel Power Gadget – Shows real-time Haswell package power usage, TDP and other information.
  • Intel Smart Connect Monitor – Detect and respond to power transitions in an application.
  • SIMD Instructions in Windows 8 Store apps – SIMD can boost performance in Windows 8 apps. SIMD library.

That’s a great set of demos for developers.

Other notes

  • Speakers: Stereo and good quality.
  • Keyboard: Good to very good (still under test.)
  • Mousepad: Good to very good. NFC integrated. (still under test)
  • Harris Beach Developer Ultrabook (6)Screen brightness very good. (see image right which is a good likeness of what my eyes were seeing in very bright daylight.)
  • Weight: 1466 grams. (3.23 pounds.)
  • No battery life indication. (Connected Standby devices do not give an indication of battery life, only of battery capacity remaining like a smartphone would. The range of battery life for a Haswell Ultrabook ranges between weeks and hours (gaming being the most demanding scenario) depending on usage so that’s understandable but there’s scope for projected battery life based on current usage and past Windows 8 usage battery life and it would be nice to see that. (App opportunity?) There is also no concept of power profiles. These are controlled and instigated by the system when needed. (In different heat scenarios, usage scenarios or, in the case of detachables and convertibles, usage scenarios.)

Summary

Developers need stimulation and Harris Beach is perfect for that. There’s so much power here, so much dynamic range, so many features and a lot of great software and support. The whole package even looks great which is rare for a development kit. Sure, a detachable Ultrabook based on Y-series Haswell processors would have been nice but it’s too early for that. Harris Beach is good as it is. In fact, the whole product, including packaging, looks so good that I wonder if Intel are planning more than just ‘behind-the-scenes’ usage. It looks to me like Harris Beach could be a very public development product and by that I mean look out for appearances at the Intel Developers Forum in Sept. Dare I say, free for attendees? That would a great step. (IDF 2013 San Francisco registration here if you believe my speculation.)

Full gallery of Harris Beach developer Ultrabook.

How to get Harris Beach. We’ll bring you contact information as soon as we can. Please be aware that this is a development kit and its use will require contracts with Intel.

Our Ultrabook developer resources, with more code samples, demos and lots more information can be found here: Ultrabook Software Development Resources.

See all our Harris Beach articles, including the latest articles when posted.

Full disclosure – The hardware for content related to Harris Beach has been provide by Intel. We have agreed to write a set of three articles on the product. All posts are 100% written and edited by Ultrabooknews.

License

This article, along with any associated source code and files, is licensed under The Code Project Open License (CPOL)

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Steve Chippy Paine

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