Ultrabooks – what are they and why do I want one?

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Electronic Theatre ImageUltrabooks seem to be the hot topic in tech circles at the moment – but what are they, exactly? Put simply, an ultrabook is a type of high-end portable computer that aims to deliver the processing power and drive space of a laptop in something as lightweight and portable as a netbook – along with other handy features, such as a touchscreen interface and long battery life, that are usually found on tablet devices.

In other words, an ultrabook combines all the best features of a number of portable devices in one package. There are a several technical specs a device needs to have to qualify as an ultrabook – at least according to Intel, theElectronic Theatre Image chipmaker who’s applied to trademark the word. For a netbook to be considered an ultrabook, it needs to have:

·         An Intel processor – most current ultrabooks are powered by Ivy Bridge, Intel’s third-generation processor that offers speedy performance without sapping battery life.

·         Less than 7 seconds ‘wake-up’ time – this means it needs to go from a sleep state to fully powered in less than seven seconds – something that’s helped by the use of a solid-state drive.

·         Slimline design – ultrabooks with displays smaller than 35.5cm must be 18mm thick or less, which those with larger displays must be 21mm thick or less. While there’s no guidance on weight, most are naturally lightweight due to their components.

·         Built-in security – ultrabooks must come with anti-theft and identity protection security built into the hardware, as well as coming with pre-installed security software.

·         Five hours (or more) of battery life – to be truly portable, an ultrabook must be able to survive for at least five hours without
connecting to an external power source – although some can last eight hours or more.

·         USB 3.0/Thunderbolt parts – USB 3.0 ports support super-fast data transfer rates, which is very useful for anyone beefing up their storage space with an external hard drive.

So, having defined what an ultrabook is, what are the advantages? One big one is compatibility with what looks set to be the next big operating system – Windows 8. Many current-generation netbooks and laptops don’t have touch-screenElectronic Theatre Image capabilities: ultrabooks, however, are designed to play very well with Microsoft’s new OS, which is modelled on the intuitive and easy-to-use interfaces used on smartphones.

Another major plus in the ultrabook’s favour is that they pack so much high-end technology – solid-state drives, USB 3.0, Ivy Bridge processors – into one package that they’re future-proofed to a greater degree than many of the alternatives out there. However, the downside to this is that they are on the pricey end, although if you do a bit of digging you can find some affordable options (these ultrabooks from Ebuyer are some of the most reasonably-priced we’ve seen).

Ultimately, ultrabooks could be viewed as the Windows version of the Macbook Air – so if you want something that does what the Air does, but you’re not an Apple fan, an ultrabook is the closest thing on the market.

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About the Author: Gavin Johnson is a technology enthusiast and writer. He covers all Technology topics including components, computing and gaming.

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