This year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) saw the announcement of a flood of new ultrabooks, many of which won’t be released until later this year, alongside Intel’s new Ivy Bridge processors.
We’ve rounded up the pick of the new ultrabooks to give you an insight into what you can expect to see later this year.
HP Envy 14 Spectre
The Envy 14 is the first ultrabook we’ve seen to make the MacBook Air look faintly utilitarian. The lid is solid, piano-black glass – bar the HP logo, which uses the screen’s backlight to create an elegant glow near the bottom-left hinge.
The theme continues inside, with the wristrest and touchpad also hewn out of glass. However, HP’s product manager was keeping a cloth close at hand at CES for good reason: the Envy picks up smudges like a coffee table in a crèche.
The attention to detail on the Spectre is magnificent. The keyboard isn’t only backlit: each key has its own LED, so individual function keys can be lit up when needed; a proximity sensor dims the lights when you sit back from the screen.
The Ethernet port, meanwhile, is fitted with a small, flip-down drawer, allowing it to remain perfectly flush with the rest of the ports when not in use.HP doesn’t appear to have cut corners elsewhere, either.
The Spectre can be specified with either a Core i5 or Core i7 processor (initially, the second-generation Sandy Bridge variety, rather than the third-generation Ivy Bridge). It can be fitted with up to 256GB of SSD storage and either 4GB or 6GB of RAM.
What’s more, the 14in display is a thing of beauty: deep, rich colours in a 1600 x 900 glossy screen that boasts the sharpness of a butcher’s knife and near-perfect viewing angles.
At $1899, it’s at the top end of the ultrabook price spectrum, but we can’t wait to get our hands on it.
Acer Aspire S5
Acer got in early by holding a pre-CES press conference to unveil “the world’s thinnest ultrabook”. Given that all ultrabooks are (by definition) slender and we’re dealing with the odd millimetre, we weren’t bowled over by the claim. We were impressed, however, by the manner in which it shaved off those millimetres.
Press a button on the Aspire S5’s keyboard and the previously hidden ports emerge from the rear. To some extent it’s a Star Trek-esque gimmick, but it keeps the laptop looking exceedingly trim while you’re out and about.
The 20Gbits/sec Thunderbolt port is more newsworthy: it’s something you won’t find on any of the ultrabooks in this Labs. The Thunderbolt port snuggles alongside HDMI and USB 3 ports to give the S5 market-leading connectivity.
The 13.3in Aspire S5 weighs only 1.35kg, and resumes from standby in less than 1.5 seconds, according to Acer. Its price hadn’t been announced at the time of going to press, with Acer presumably waiting for Ivy Bridge processors to arrive before confirming the exact specification.
Samsung Series 9 13.3in
The updated version of the Samsung Series 9 promises several improvements. Even by ultrabook standards, it’s stupidly thin and light: it measures 12.9mm and weighs only 1.16kg. The payback comes with the ports: there’s only one USB 3 port, one USB 2 port and a full-sized SD slot neatly tucked at the side.
Aside from those, you’re slipping into the world of micro sockets and adapters: there’s a micro-HDMI port on the left, an adapter for Ethernet and VGA, plus one 3.5mm socket that doubles as a microphone or headphone jack.
Samsung packs a 1600 x 900 resolution into the 13.3in screen, but the custom-made Samsung LED panel we saw at CES suffered from a very slight grain and, if you go a little off-centre, it also develops a slight yellow hue.
Samsung is making bold claims about wake times, too: 1.8 seconds from sleep, 9.8 seconds from off. Our rough-and-ready tests didn’t bear this out, with the pre-production sample on show taking around 13 seconds. But Samsung has time to sort that out before the full release.
Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga
The aptly named Yoga is proof that ultrabooks can look beyond the traditional clamshell laptop design. This Windows 8 device offers a multitouch display and a 360-degree hinge that allows it to be used in several configurations.
It can be folded flat and used like a normal touchscreen tablet, with the keyboard and touchpad disabled to prevent accidental key strokes. It can be folded over to form a desktop stand for touchscreen operation.
And it can be used in regular laptop format. Lenovo claims eight hours of battery life and a chassis that weighs only 1.40kg, measuring 16.7mm thick. Given the Yoga has to wait for Windows 8’s arrival at the tail end of this year, Ivy Bridge is definitely on the cards. It’s already on our Christmas wishlist.