Anand TulianiDec 31, 2012 14:03:30 IST
Ultra-compact laptops existed before Ultrabooks appeared, albeit few in number because it was challenging for laptop manufacturers to fit everything in the compact shell. Ultrabook made things easier because it brought in standardisation. So, if a laptop is branded as Ultrabook, you can expect a certain level of performance, battery life and compactness. Soon after the announcement of the platform, numerous models by various brands appeared on the shelves. The top of the line were the ones that featured powerful configurations and unbelievably slim designs, and these are obviously the winners of 2012.
Ultrabook of the Year: Asus Zenbook UX31E
Asus has made no compromises with the Zenbook UX31E. It’s simply gorgeous—the slim profile and the shiny lid just don’t let you take your eyes off it! At 1.4 kg, it’s light and at the same time feels as solid as a block of metal—it literally is! The UX31E ranks among the top ones when it comes to the configuration and overall performance. The Core i7-2667M processor, 4GB of RAM and 256GB SSD lend this Ultrabook immense amount of power. You can rest assured it will chug happily even if you throw the most demanding task at it. The UX31E sports a 13-inch display, but with a resolution of 1600 x 900, it’s much denser than the conventional resolution of 1366 x 768 pixels. At a slightly less than two hours under heavy load, the battery life is impressive. With light to medium load, the battery should easily last for around 4 to 5 hours. Want the best in class design and stellar performance? The Zenbook UX31E will bring a smile on your face!
Gorgeous and powerful!
First Runner Up: Dell XPS 13
It doesn’t matter which angle you look at it from, the XPS 13 is definitely a head turner. This is mainly due to the choice of materials used to build the chassis. The lid and most of the base is crafted from machined aluminium and the rest of the base is carbon fibre. This makes it extremely sturdy and durable while maintaining a very slim profile. The notebook measures about 19 mm at its thickest point and weighs around 1.36 kg. The fit and finish is impeccable, and Dell has paid a lot of attention to detail. With a Core i7 CPU and a super-fast SSD under the hood, the XPS 13 is super-quick at any task you throw at it. The XPS 13 managed to clock in some of the highest scores we've seen among the Ultrabooks. Priced at nearly a lakh rupees, it’s quite expensive but you do get best-in-class performance. So, if it’s speed you’re looking for, the Dell XPS 13 is one of the best Ultrabooks money can buy.
A stellar performer
Second Runner Up: Lenovo Thinkpad X1 Carbon
Except for the 256GB SSD that can read data at a blazing 469MB/s, the core of the X1 Carbon is a notch powerful than mainstream Ultrabooks. It’s powered by the Intel Core i5-3427U processor and 4GB of RAM. At 14-inch, it’s a tad larger than its 13-inch rivals; however, it’s built like a battle tank, like most other ThinkPads are. If you have the budget, this is the one you should settle for if you want an Ultrabook that can withstand abuse. At 1.36 kg, it’s really light and easy to carry around. The ThinkPad X1 retails for around Rs 100,000, which might seem a lot to a regular laptop customer. But the price starts to make sense if you consider the X1 as a rough, daily-use notebook with powerful hardware.
Built like a tank!
The Ultrabooks listed above were the most noteworthy that we got our hands on in 2012. Then there were others that were special in some way, for instance, being good value for money or sporting a striking design. These certainly deserve a mention and we’ve listed them below.
This one’s special only because it’s super-light. Going by the looks of this slick 13-inch Ultrabook, it’s hard to tell it weighs just around a kilogram. Now, you might feel that since it’s so light, it mustn’t be as resilient to abuse. However, the magnesium alloy-crafted chassis lends solid durability and rigidity. The configuration of the Z830 is a notch higher than a mainstream Ultrabook only because of the extra amount of RAM, a 128GB solid state drive and a backlit keyboard. It’s powered by the Intel Core i5-2557M processor and 6GB of RAM. The overall performance is not extraordinary—the SSD is marginally faster than a conventional 2.5-inch hard drive. But that doesn’t restrain us from recommending it as a light-weight road warrior.
HP has got everything almost perfect with the Spectre XT. It’s priced in the range of Apple MacBook Air, and we must say it’s actually a good bang for the buck. The HP Spectre XT comes with Intel Ivy Bridge class of processors, specifically the Core i5 3317U, which is a pretty low-power line processor designed to be efficient. There’s 4GB of RAM on it along with Intel’s standard HD4000 series integrated graphics solution. You also get a 128GB solid-state drive, which should help with performance— we found read speeds to be well over 450MB/s and write speeds to be around 250MB/s. The Spectre XT is solid and quite a looker. Both the top and the insides of the notebook have brushed metal finish, lending it a very elegant look. The Spectre XT is a worthy consideration for those looking for both style and performance at a reasonable price.
Good-looker, powerful and value for money
The Acer M3-581TG from Acer’s Timeline Ultra series isn’t as thin and light as the 13-inch models, but it still conforms to the requirements of an Ultrabook—it’s sleek and promises good battery life. We included this one in the list because unlike the super-slim and extremely powerful models that command a hefty premium, this one is great value for money. It’s currently priced at around Rs 50,000, and the feature set includes third-generation Intel Core i5 processor, 4GB of RAM, 500GB hard disk and Nvidia GeForce GT640 GPU with 1GB of dedicated memory. It’s one of the few Ultrabooks that feature an optical drive (DVD-writer) and seamlessly handle games at low to medium settings.
Great bang for the buck!
That’s our G.O.T.Y 2012 for Ultrabooks. Do let us know which models in this range made it to your list. We’d love to know just which of 2012’s big launches left their impression on you.
Check out our other G.O.T.Y 2012 award lists here.
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