Here come the Ultrabooks. On Tuesday, Asus unveiled its first Ultrabook models, based on Intel's vision of a line of Windows-based products to compete with Apple's ultrathin MacBook Air.
The new models, the Zenbook UX 21 and UX31, were shown in an event in London, hosted by both Intel and Asus. The models use Intel's Sandy Bridge processors, and Intel said that coming Ultrabooks, in the second wave of Ultrabooks released in the first half of 2012, will use its Ivy Bridge processors, have touchscreens, and feature Windows 8.
The final wave of Ultrabooks is expected in 2013, featuring the new Core processor Haswell, with half the power consumption of current laptops and thus even thinner designs and longer battery lives.
Laptops 'with Tablet-Like Features'
Intel first announced its Ultrabook vision at the Computex exhibition in Taiwan in May, along with Asus. Intel said its goal was to shift 40 percent of consumer laptop purchases to the Ultrabook by the end of next year.
Key features of Ultrabooks are their hyper-slimness -- no more than 0.8 inch thick, according to Intel -- the ability to wake quickly from sleep mode, a rapid boot time using Intel's Right Start Technology, and at least five hours of charge. Models are also expected to be priced below $1,000.
At the time of the Ultrabook announcement, Intel described its vision in a statement as marrying "the performance and capabilities of today's laptops with tablet-like features," all inside a "thin and elegant design."
The new Asus models resume almost instantly when opened, have brushed aluminum alloy chassis, and run Windows 7 Home Premium. The UX21 features a 11.6-inch, 1366 x 768 screen, 4GB of memory, a 128GB solid state disk, USB 2.0 and 3.0, micro-HDMI and micro-VGA ports, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi.
'Four Key Incredible Principles'
The UX31 comes with a 13.3-inch, 1600 x 900 screen, and the same specs as the UX21, except for the addition of a SD card slot and a 256GB SSD. Either model has a choice of an Intel Core i5 or Core i7 processor. Prices are $999 for the UX21 and $1,099 for the UX31.
As other Ultrabooks roll out from competing manufacturers, Asus is positioning its intelligent battery conservation technology on its models as a key differentiator. According to the company, the UX21 can run for five hours, and the UX31 for 7.
Asus described "four key incredible principles" that guided its team in the development of the Zenbooks -- pure design, unrivaled performance, "incredibly green" in its battery management, and "transcending audio," using Asus SonicMaster technology.
In the coming weeks, Ultrabook models are also expected from Lenovo, Acer, Toshiba and others. Acer launched its Ultrabook laptop earlier this week, the Aspire S3-951. That model offers a 13.3-inch screen, a 320GB hard drive, 4GB of memory, a Core i7 processor, a 20GB SSD and Windows Home 7 Premium.