CES 2012 focused on the ultrabook. Nearly every major consumer electronics company had one to show – including companies that don’t have much presence in the laptop market, such as LG.
Not every ultrabook was worthy of praise, but there were a few that stood out from the crowd. Some were notable for their build quality – others, for their unique design.
Dell XPS 13
Of all the ultrabooks that I was able to see and handle at CES, the Dell XPS 13 was my favorite. It is not the lightest, thinnest or quickest, but it’s the one I’d be most likely to buy with my own money.
Why? Build quality and design is one reason. Unlike many ultrabooks, the XPS 13 restricts the use of metal to the lid and some of the chassis. The underside is made of carbon fiber coated in a soft-touch material, while the interior is soft touch plastic. All of this adds up to a laptop that feels rock solid but also pleasing to handle.
Portability is another strong point. Dell’s use of high-strength materials has allowed them to reduce display bezel size and, in turn, reduce overall width and depth. Though it has a 13.3” display, the physical footprint of this laptop is closer to a 12.1” laptop. Battery life is estimated at nearly 9 hours by Dell, and while that’s likely a best-case scenario, it’s better than the life quoted by nearly every competitor.
Pricing of the XPS 13 starts at $999. Units start shipping in mid-February, but you can reserve one of the first units today.
Lenovo ThinkPad T430u
Lenovo already has an ultrabook available, but it is part of the consumer IdeaPad line. The T430u is the first ThinkPad to fit the specifications, which is news by itself in the eyes of some hardcore enthusiasts. I’m sure that some buyers will prefer the rugged, simple design of this ThinkPad to the flashier but less sturdy construction of consumer ultrabooks.
What I find most interesting, however, is inside the T430u – Nvidia discrete graphics will be optional on this laptop. This is the only ultrabook to promise a discrete graphics option so far. Ironically, the product made for work could provide better 3D gaming performance than any of its peers.
You’ll have to wait for the T430u, however. Lenovo isn’t going to offer it until Intel releases Ivy Bridge, so look for a summer release date.
HP Envy 14 Spectre
The HP Envy line has hit its stride as of late. The new Envy 15 and 17 laptops are both excellent, even when compared to the MacBook Pro, which usually stands in a class of its own. And at CES a new addition was revealed – the Envy 14 Spectre.
Besides the name, which is awesome, the Spectre offers a unique black glass lid design that sets the laptop apart from the crowd. The interior is also coated in glass, providing a slick surface for your hands to glide across. Specifications are impressive, as well – though it uses the same Core i5/i7 ULV processors as any other ultrabook, the Spectre includes a brilliant 1600×900 display, solid state drives and a battery life of up to 9.5 hours.
All of that kit is standard – but you’ll have to pay at least $1,399 for it. As with the XPS 13, retail availability is expected to be mid-February, but you can reserve one now.
Although most of the ultrabooks coming into production over the last year are conventional laptops, Intel and many laptop manufacturers were eager to show concepts that could be the future of the laptop.
One of these concepts is the Lenovo Yoga. At first glance, it’s a normal laptop – but bend back the display and it just keeps going. And going. And doesn’t stop until you’ve made your ultrabook into a 13.3” tablet. The Yoga is designed for Windows 8, so it would utilize the Metro UI when in tablet mode.
Lenovo wasn’t the only company to short a convertible tablet, but the Yoga’s design sets it apart from most convertibles, which usually use a single rotating hinge. The Yoga is also closer to production than many other concepts. Lenovo says it will be available in the second half of 2012.
One of the most outlandish concepts shown at CES 2012 was made by Intel itself. It’s called Nikiski, and it has a transparent touchpad and palmrest.
The idea is that when the laptop is closed, some of the display (the portion that shows through the transparent touchpad) will still be visible. This part of the display can be used to show notifications. Like the Yoga, it’s designed with the Windows 8 Metro UI in mind.
Of course, Intel doesn’t make laptops, so this particular concept may never see the light of day. But like any good concept, the Nikiski drops a few clues about the future. It shows that touchpad surfaces using alternative technologies are possible, that ultrabooks may be squeezed into very small physical dimensions, and that Windows 8’s Metro UI is easily able to handle a display area with an unusual size.
Although I covered several popular ultrabooks in this article, I also left some out. The Samsung Series 5 and Series 9 did not impress me, at least not in the short time I had to play with them. I also wasn’t taken by the new Lenovo U310 or the lineup from companies like Toshiba and LG.
Do you disagree? Did you see or hear of an ultrabook that could be the best thing since sliced bread? Let us know in the comments.
Image Credit : PC Perspective