Hewlett-Packard, Lenovo and Acer have taken the wraps off new ultra-thin notebooks that promise to give Apple's successful MacBook Air product lineup a run for the money beginning later this year. Launched by Intel last May, the new Ultrabook PC category encompasses devices that feature a super-thin form factor with no optical drives, and are designed around Intel mobile processors and chipsets.
The major emphasis at the 2012 international Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas seems to be on new products in the Ultrabook category, noted InStat Senior Analyst Stephanie Ethier. "However, they're all shaping up to be Apple MacBook Air clones in terms of design and usage," Ethier wrote in a Tuesday blog.
Many business professionals will find plenty of things to like about the latest Ultrabooks coming to market, such as their svelte, lightweight designs, powerful multimedia capabilities and elegant appearance.
For example, Lenovo's new IdeaPad Yoga is a mere 0.67 inches in thickness and tips the scales at 3.1 lbs. When the user folds the screen all the way back, the 13.1-inch high-definition (1600x900 pixel) display morphs into a media tablet that is responsive to 10-point capacitive touch commands.
With its IdeaPad Yoga, Lenovo has combined the Ultrabook and tablet form factors to create a market crossover, Ethier noted. "The IdeaPad Yoga has a 13.1-inch display with a 360-degree flip-and-fold design, allowing the consumer to convert the Ultrabook into a touch-screen tablet using a hinged case," she said.
Ultrabook Eye Candy
Offering 8 GB RAM and up to 256GB of solid-state drive (SSD) storage, Lenovo's IdeaPad Yoga also promises to deliver up to eight hours of battery life. However, prospective buyers will have to wait until the second half of this year to buy Lenovo's new crossover product, which will be priced at $1,200.
By contrast, HP's latest Ultrabook, which begins shipping Feb. 8 for $1,400, is dedicated to dazzling the eye. Among other things, the HP Envy 14 Spectre has lightweight, scratch-resistant glass on the lid, an HD display, palm rest and HP ImagePad.
"Sleek, midnight-black glass on the outside and stark contrast silver glass on the inside make Spectre extraordinary, defying conventional notebook design," said HP Senior Vice President Eric Keshin.
HP also has taken pains to ensure that the Spectre's backlit keyboard dazzles the eye, with each key cap illuminated by an individual LED. What's more, the proximity sensor aboard HP's new Ultrabook lights up the keyboard automatically whenever users approach the device and dims the key caps after they leave.
A Razor's Edge Design
Delivering up to nine hours of battery life, HP's Envy 14 Spectre offers prospective buyers their choice of Core i5 or i7 processors. The new Ultrabook, which weighs less than 4 pounds, also integrates HDMI and Mini DisplayPort video outputs as well as an advanced Beats Audio sound system.
"We packed it with the best in entertainment technology to satisfy those who expect the unexpected," Keshin said.
By contrast, Acer's magnesium-alloy design for its new Aspire S5 is all about taking Ultrabook design's to the razor's edge. Measuring a mere 0.59 inches in thickness and weighing less than 3 pounds, the Aspire S5 also features instant-on technology for fast boot as well as a 1.5-second resume mode.
Expected to begin shipping in the second quarter, the Aspire S5 also has an always-connect mode that will enable users to manage their multimedia and data on all their devices. Users equipped with smartphones, for example, will be able to remotely access all their documents and multimedia files stored on the Aspire S5 from anywhere, anytime.