Ultrabooks are quite a fresh breed of portable computers. They are slim, light, thin, fashionable and powerful, that’s why many, including their creators, the guys at Intel, say that they could soon become more popular than ‘’regular’’ laptops. So what would you pick these days: an ultrabook or a laptop?
The “old” classic laptops still have some aces down their sleeves when facing the new kids in town. However, with ultrabooks getting more and more popular, I’m sure many of you are at least wondering if you should pick one of these over a regular notebook or not.
That’s why, in the following lines we will discuss about the similarities and the differences between these recently released ultrabooks and the good, old-fashioned laptops. We’ll also try to find out whether these new ultraportable computers have what it takes to change, as some say, the playground in this field.
Ultrabooks and Laptops – the definitions
Laptops, as probably all of you know, are mobile personal computers and come in a wide range of forms and sizes. They can sport displays between 10 to 20 inches in diagonal, they can weigh anywhere from two to 18 pounds and pack a multitude of hardware configurations and various features.
The most popular laptops right now are probably the 15.6-inchers, which are in most cases powerful enough to replace a desktop for casual daily use (browsing, chatting, listening to music, watching movies, playing some games), but also light and portable enough to be carried from place to place when needed.
Ultrabooks, on the other hand, are more ‘’specific’’ portable computers. They are light and thin, as well as powerful and elegant. You’ll find them with screen ranging from 11.6 to 15.6 inches in diagonal, packing efficient but still snappy processors from Intel and able to run for several hours on each battery charge.
You should also see this article for more details on ultrabooks and some of the best picks on such computers right now.
Ultrabooks vs laptops – the similarities
An ultrabook is basically a laptop, or a specific laptop and therefore there are many similarities between these new ultraportable computers and ‘’regular’’ notebooks.
Practically, with a few exceptions which will be detailed later on, all the features found on ultrabooks can be found on classic laptops as well.
Thus, you should see ultrabooks as another kind of laptops, that have to meet a set of criteria imposed by the guys at Intel in order to get this “brand” stamped next to their name.
In other words, on a first look, ultrabooks are just some slimmer laptops. The things that set them more or less apart from the regular laptops lie in the details, and I’ll tell you more about those in the next section of this laptops vs ultrabooks comparison, that speaks about the differences between the two.
Ultrabooks vs laptops – the differences
From starters, ultrabooks have one thing on their side when compared to laptops: they are thinner and lighter. Let’s take the 13.3 inch class for instance, where most ultrabooks weigh around 3 pounds, while the regular portable laptops weigh about 4 and are also thicker.
The same thing goes for 14 and 15.6 inch ultrabooks as well, with the gaps even wider on the bigger segments, as you can see in the clip below.
In fact, Intel does not impose a weight limit for ultrabooks, but does impose one when it comes to their thickness. 13 inch or smaller ultrabooks have to be 18 mm (0.7 inch) or less thin, while larger 14 and 15.6 inch ultrabooks can go up to 21 mm (0.82 inch) in thickness.
Then there’s the build quality and the aesthetics, as ultrabooks tend to focus on those, producers using magnesium, aluminum, glass and other such premium materials for their cases, which are usually difficult to find on regular laptops, unless we’re talking about the business ultra-portables.
Opening the lids, you’ll notice that most ultrabooks come with rather shallow keyboards, due to their thin silhouette, and here’s where the classic laptops win, as there’s more space to accommodate a better keyboard on them. Ultrabooks tend to use backlit keyboards though, while on laptops, that’s a feature only reserved for the premium models.
And then there’s the hardware inside. While ultrabooks are built on Intel ULV platforms and usually pack integrated graphics (although there are some to feature discrete chips as well), there are way more configurations available for the classic notebooks, from older low-power platforms, to powerful quad-core processor with dedicated graphics, found in the latest gaming rigs.
Also, while ultrabooks are built on Intel ULV platforms, thus on low-power architectures meant to deliver good performances and efficiency, on laptops you can also find way more powerful configs, created merely for raw power.
As a result, ultrabooks also tend to offer plenty of battery life, with about 5+ hours of daily use for the average versions, but in order to save space, the batteries are encased and non-removable. That’s not really the case for regular laptops and once again things vary from situation to situation, with the ultra-portables capable of running for 10+ hours on a charge, or the gaming units that can barely stay alive for one hour. You can also easily replace the battery on most regular laptops, which is not the case for ultrabooks.
So, I’ve told you before that a laptop cannot be called “ultrabook” if it’s not built on an Intel ULV hardware platform. It also needs to use SSD or at least hybrid (HDD with a small caching SSD) storage, in order to ensure the snappiness required and has to be complaint with several Intel technologies, including their RapidBoost. All these because an ultrabook needs to resume from hibernation in 7 seconds or less and even faster from sleep. Such limitations are not imposed to regular laptops.
When speaking about ports, while ultrabooks feature most of the ones you get on regular laptops, in some cases there are some of them missing or replaced with miniaturized versions, as there’s just not enough space for them on those slim edges.
As for the screens, most ultrabooks available today come with 13.3 inch displays, with some models featuring 11.6, 14 and 15.6 inch displays. When it comes to regular notebooks, are on top of the bestselling lists all around the world, with only a handful of 13.3 inchers or bigger 17.3 inchers between them. And that once again shows that ultrabooks are meant to be portable, while regular laptops are more diverse, but I expect this to level down in time, as we’ll get more 14, 15 or even bigger ultrabooks in stores.
Of course, these were just some of the things you should know when comparing ultrabooks with laptops. There are other aspects that could be mentioned as well, like the fact that ultrabooks tend to lack an optical drive, although there are some exceptions that feature one.
In the end though, there’s one final important aspect: the price. While ultrabooks sell for between $600 and $1500 bucks these days (and more affordable options were released lately), you can find laptops going from $300 to $3000 or even more.
Wrap-up – ultrabook or laptop – what will it be?
Bottom point, ultrabooks are just a special type of laptops. They are designed with portability and looks in mind and they are fast enough to cope with the everyday tasks. However, a potential buyer can only choose between a limited number of such devices right now, while with laptops, there’s a wider pool to pick from.
As a result, you can get better devices suited for your various needs, as you can find budget entries, you can find multimedia or gaming machines, you can find business notebooks, etc. And that’s not the case with ultrabooks for the time being.
However, with more and more ultrabooks hitting the stores lately and with prices dropping, these computers are becoming more and more interesting. For now, ultrabooks are mostly an option if you really want something portable, beautiful and zippy during everyday activities. But they will mean a lot more in a year or two.
It’s important to know that Ultrabooks per se have to meet a special set of Intel imposed criteria, but there are other slim and light laptops on the market you should consider, although unworthy of the ultrabook brand (either powered by AMD or other types of Intel platforms, or just a bit outside the size requirements).
In the end, if you’re still undecided whether you want a classic laptop or an ultrabook, perhaps you should also take a look at these two other posts here on the site, one listing the best ultrabooks you can find in shops these days and the other listing the alternatives you could consider if you’re not really ready to jump on the ultrabook car.
And if you have any comments, questions or things you think I should add to this post, don’t hesitate to leave your replies below.