Editorial

TechSpot: Building the perfect ultrabook - and where PC makers are wrong

Ultraportables, thin and light laptops, ultrabooks, no matter what the name, arguably they represent the future of the form factor. It appears as though we're just now arriving to that sweet spot where fewer compromises can be made to build fast and svelte machines that are budget-friendly, all at the same time. Intel has recognized this trend and is investing heavily to make sure they become the platform of choice to build 'ultrabooks' (they own that trademark).

However, it's easy to miss what a true next-generation ultraportable notebook should be. Manufacturers are short-sighted if they only focus on building fast machines that weigh 3 pounds or less, without putting design and user experience at the core of their future developments.

Here are some key aspects where I believe PC makers should focus and where some are already failing on their first try to deliver a killer ultrabook.

Read: Editorial: Building the perfect ultrabook – and where PC makers are wrong

These articles are brought to you in partnership with TechSpot.

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these taiwanese manufacturers are simply saturating the pc market with inferior also-runs. so desperate are they that asus' ceo even imitate steve jobs presentation style when unveiling the zenbook.

apple invested millions of dollars buying _tens of thousands_ of c.n.c. machines for its suppliers to produce enough unibody parts for them. these taiwanese nincompoops are having casing shortages now simply because they did not see or think ahead far enough.

no wonder apple is giving these idiots a long, thick middle finger.

These all just seem to ape the Macbook Air and don't do anything else. The problem I have with PC laptop makers is that they don't even try to make a better computer. They simply take the latest parts, cram them inside a chassis and that's it. It has taken Apple to give us better trackpads, thinner machines and better phones.

I also really like the Mini-Displayport connector. It's small, easy to connect and can support resolutions up to 2560x1600 unlike HDMI (yes, HDMI 1.4 can support that res too but there are no displays that support it).

Wow, what a relevent picture; a macbook of some kind for an Intel Windows-Shipped ONLY device. Great work guys </s>

Unfortunately this is hardly seen from most PC makers who try to redo their products from scratch every year, failing to understand what their most loyal customers want updated, and on occasion completely losing the formula of what made the original product appealing in the first place.

SO true. I would kill for a new logitech g7 with more side buttons. Sadly Logitech killed it and made the good but not so great g700 instead.

For traveling thin and light is absolutely essential. But that is about it. I will take a heavy portable with a big fat screen and a big fat processor any day. But I am traveling this winter and I WILL be getting an Ultra Book. So sad that the hardware makers need to have Apple shoved down their throats and still dont' get it. All they need to do is make the right hardware at the right price. I already have Windows the OS I want.

LaP said,
You can install Windows on new mac computer.

I couldn't stand Apple back when I preferred TRS80's in 1980, and I can't stand them today. It's an attitude thing. Oh yeah, MAC OS drives me insane.

I own a Thinkpad that has everything I need, Ultrabooks are nothing more but expensive netbooks, not a lot ports not a lot of graphic options, no optical drives I assume not very sturdy either. Aluminum not very durable, those Ultrabooks IMHO should be made out of composite materials.

shadodemon said,
I own a Thinkpad that has everything I need, Ultrabooks are nothing more but expensive netbooks, not a lot ports not a lot of graphic options, no optical drives I assume not very sturdy either. Aluminum not very durable, those Ultrabooks IMHO should be made out of composite materials.

lol I was just thinking. Why dont they beef up the specs in most other netbooks instead of this gimmick?

Can anyone explain to me an advantage of a thinner laptop over a lighter thicker laptop?

My thoughts are:-
Thin doesn't mean it's any easier to carry, in fact sometimes harder than something which is book thickness like an average laptop.

It also makes me smile when I see someone bringing out a ultra thin laptop, from a leather case making it 10 times thicker ... doesn't that defeat the purpose of buying it?

If it was a phone that lives in your pocket, I'd agree thin is better.
The way I see it, thicker laptops have more advantages.

As a proud owner of a Thinkpad, I like to think I'm above being accused of being some sort of fanboy for thin gadgets, so for what it's worth:

Thin laptops are easier to lug around. Bag space can be precious, and while I can appreciate exaggeration, no laptop sleeve increases a device's thickness ten-fold. Even with a good sleeve, a thin laptop is still an easier load than a thicker one.

Heck, anyone who's ever packed a bag for an overnighter somewhere and needed room for a change of clothes and some chargers knows exactly how nice it is to have that extra space.

Other than that, thin form factors should always be welcome, since they push tech toward compactness, allowing for room for newer (generally fatter) tech to be tried out. There's no way we'd fit all the stuff we do today inside a laptop if things didn't shrink a bit, and the desire for portability is what pushes that shrink. So while you may look down your nose at people who drool over slim hardware, at least appreciate the doors that are opened by the money they're spending.

Exosphere said,
Can anyone explain to me an advantage of a thinner laptop over a lighter thicker laptop?

I'd look at extreme cases.
Imagine what it feels like to hold 18 inch, bold, huge and relatively very light notebook? (like those AMD E-350 ones with those funny 30W power supplies)
I imagine it must feel CHEAP!
What follows cheap feeling and what is the cause?
The cause is bad engineering(let's make it fast) or lack of technology (let's make it cheap, as in not pricey).
What follows? Loss in durability, a weak plastic frame with points of weigh in random spots makes for an easy thing to break. Same hardware nicely laid out in slick unibody metal frame, all while maintaining cooling capabilities makes for a much better experience.

And when we're on the topic of ultraportables (device you want to take anywhere and feel emotional connection with that thing) I guess it's pretty important for it to be durable.

Exosphere said,
Can anyone explain to me an advantage of a thinner laptop over a lighter thicker laptop?

My thoughts are:-
Thin doesn't mean it's any easier to carry, in fact sometimes harder than something which is book thickness like an average laptop.

It also makes me smile when I see someone bringing out a ultra thin laptop, from a leather case making it 10 times thicker ... doesn't that defeat the purpose of buying it?

If it was a phone that lives in your pocket, I'd agree thin is better.
The way I see it, thicker laptops have more advantages.

In my opinion, honestly there aren't really any advanatges per se. If you are a businessman and you want to carry the thinnest briefcase you can find, then yea if you plan to carry a laptop in it, you need to go with the thinniest one you can find.

However for the rest of us, a thinner laptop offers no benefit. If a really thin laptop weights in that 2.5lbs and my 15 inch 1 inch think laptop weights 3.5lbs....that one pound doesn't make any difference. And I get to have a bigger screen, bigger keys, an optical drive and lots of ports.

Againt its what you need that picks what is best. Consumers in large numbers aren't going to buy ultrabook because for one, no one wants a screen that small, unless they travel a lot. For a person who will only carry a laptop on occasion, thinner isn't better.

It is not only about thinner feature when people are looking at the ultrabook. As for me, I will prefer something balance. Instant-on feature and long standby time are more beneficial to me. Thin and light laptop is bonus so that it is easy to carry around. HP folio 13 and toshiba z830 are example of good ultrabooks that do not sacrifice much on the ports

The Air is the benchmark because it is just so good, especially the keyboard and multitouch trackpad.

But the real potential is its Thunderbolt port; speeds faster than USB 3? I just hope there are more peripherals for that port soon!

AnthoWin said,
The Air is the benchmark because it is just so good, especially the keyboard and multitouch trackpad.

But the real potential is its Thunderbolt port; speeds faster than USB 3? I just hope there are more peripherals for that port soon!

The Apple MacBook Air has been outclassed by the Asus Zenbook. Sure the trackpad might be better on the Apple MacBook Air but its so boring and sterile next to the Asus Zenbook.

People only say the Apple MacBook Air is better because it has a shiny fruit logo on it.

sam232 said,

The Apple MacBook Air has been outclassed by the Asus Zenbook. Sure the trackpad might be better on the Apple MacBook Air but its so boring and sterile next to the Asus Zenbook.

People only say the Apple MacBook Air is better because it has a shiny fruit logo on it.

That would be true if the Zenbook didnt have wifi issues, no backlit keyboard and a keyboard that doesn't register a key press unless you hit the key dead on. The Zenbook only is a clear winner in the 1600x900 display.

I have both in my house. I would know. :-)

Epic0range said,

I have both in my house. I would know. :-)

I have too (well I look after both) and the Apple Macbook Air had WiFi issues as well. I also had slight problem with the Esc key not working all of the time on the Asus Zenbook. I went back to the respective companies for a fix and this is where the two companies couldn't be more far apart for customer service.
Went to Apple, (had to actually go to one of their "genius" bar) and the "genius" basically mocked me and told me that it was an Apple and it was designed that way = one unhappy client.
Went to Asus, dropped it off and within 3 days I had a fixed Zenbook on my client's desk.= one happy client.

So in the end, Asus wins for both product and quality.

AnthoWin said,
The Air is the benchmark because it is just so good, especially the keyboard and multitouch trackpad.

But the real potential is its Thunderbolt port; speeds faster than USB 3? I just hope there are more peripherals for that port soon!

Like what? See, you don't even understand what Thunderbolt is for, and you're expecting more devices for it?

Low level devices like scanners, printers, keyboards and mice; don't benefit from TB. The only other devices that will use it will be expensive to buy, and useless for typical consumers. Thats why its going to fail and USB 3 is going to win.

Speed isn't everything. Its flexibility in usage. USB period has reign supreme, not because it is fast, but because it offers more flexibility.

Its the same reason SCSI failed against EIDE, the same reason FW has failed against USB.

Cost is the other issue. TB is so low on the totum pole, that the cost to implement the port is to high. It just isn't worth it.

TechieXP said,

FW has failed against USB.

FW did not "fail" it is heavily used in its intended market. The Professional market. Anyone that has a RAID storage wants it to use Firewire, or input form their HD Camera, or transferring files between two machines.

After using a RAID via FW800 its painful to have to use USB2 again.

sam232 said,

The Apple MacBook Air has been outclassed by the Asus Zenbook. Sure the trackpad might be better on the Apple MacBook Air but its so boring and sterile next to the Asus Zenbook.

People only say the Apple MacBook Air is better because it has a shiny fruit logo on it.

IMO the trackpad makes a BIG difference. I haven't tried the one on the ASUS yet, but Apple's trackpad design is the finest I've come across. This is so essential for the UI (especially in Lion) that I would give it a lot more credit than you.

I think that windows laptops makers in general skimp out on the trackpad because it isn't worth it to them, there is no spec that they can write down and gloat is 2x better than their competition. The interest is more focussed on gloating specs than overall user experience.

Epic0range said,

FW did not "fail" it is heavily used in its intended market. The Professional market. Anyone that has a RAID storage wants it to use Firewire, or input form their HD Camera, or transferring files between two machines.

After using a RAID via FW800 its painful to have to use USB2 again.

So..how big is this professional market? Macbook air is targetted for normal consumer..same with ultrabook...because of the flexibility in usage...TB going to fail...usb3 wins here

Shadrack said,

IMO the trackpad makes a BIG difference. I haven't tried the one on the ASUS yet, but Apple's trackpad design is the finest I've come across. This is so essential for the UI (especially in Lion) that I would give it a lot more credit than you.

I think that windows laptops makers in general skimp out on the trackpad because it isn't worth it to them, there is no spec that they can write down and gloat is 2x better than their competition. The interest is more focussed on gloating specs than overall user experience.

Id love to see this "user experience" people keep taking about on macs. ALL the macs Ive used (and quite a few) keep locking up with spinning beachballs regular app crashes, the odd kernel panic and sometimes weird characters on the screen. With Windows 7 it runs smooth as butter for me and IF an app crashes it doesn't stuff up the whole system like on a mac.

My old eyes have problems reading the small fonts on the ultrabooks. So I guest I'll be sticking with my 17.3" laptop (in this case laptop = oxymoron).

sam232 said,
What a load of rubbish, the Asus Zenbook is the best looking notebook out there.

And has the most horrible trackpad, which is pretty much a deal killer.

migo said,

And has the most horrible trackpad, which is pretty much a deal killer.

won't those problems be corrected with a software update ?

migo said,

And has the most horrible trackpad, which is pretty much a deal killer.

I used one for a few hours and didn't find a problem with it. This is a usual tactic by Apple fanboys, highlight one and only strength of their product and pretend its some huge deal and huge flaw in the competitor's product.

The reality is, the Zenbook's trackpad is fine for 99.9% of people. I suspect that Arstechnica reviewer was heavily Apple biased.