Skip to: Content
Skip to: Site Navigation
Skip to: Search


Ultrabooks: Thin and light, but not harbingers of a 'New Era'

REVIEW: Intel touts Ultrabooks as 'A New Era in Computing.' The thin, swift laptops are probably the best thing right now for getting work done on the go, but they'll be eclipsed by the iPad and other tablets before too long.

(Page 2 of 2)



If we return to the present, we can see Ultrabook makers like ASUS, Samsung, and Dell trying to make inroads in the areas where tablets excel. Take touch, for example -- the Zenbook I'm typing on contains a spacious, reasonably capable multitouch trackpad. I can scroll through documents easily with two fingers, swipe back and forth between Web sites with three, and even zoom in and out or bring up an application switcher with other gestures. And some forthcoming Ultrabooks, most notably the Lenovo Yoga, will include touchscreens in addition to traditional pad-and-keyboard inputs.

Skip to next paragraph

These features shouldn't be overlooked, since they certainly make the computer easy to use. But a multitouch trackpad is weak tea when compared with a touch screen like the iPad's. I can actually interact directly with my media that way, flipping through songs or pictures, zipping through documents, or dragging e-mails away with a contemptuous flick of the wrist. This Zenbook's trackpad approximates that tactile experience, but a tablet is that experience.

I still need a physical keyboard for content creation, but I recognize that not everyone shares that view. And here's the thing: with a tablet, if you want a physical keyboard, you just add a physical keyboard. With a laptop, thin and light though it may be, you're stuck with that accessory at all times -- even if you're not Photoshopping or writing a report right at that moment. It's inextricably part of the device itself.

If someone asked me right now to choose between the Zenbook sitting on my lap and the new iPad just released, I'd pick the Zenbook in a heartbeat. I made a similar choice six months ago, when I sold the iPad 2 and bought a MacBook Pro with the proceeds. I can do way more stuff here and now with a laptop than with a tablet, and the fact that most Ultrabooks are so thin and stylish is just icing on the cake. In that sense, Intel's reps were correct when they said that those interested in real work would be foolish to choose a tablet over an Ultrabook. But a year from now the iPad will be way more capable than it is today (especially if its software keeps maturing the way it has), while the Ultrabook will still be just a laptop, albeit a particularly svelte one.

The experience of using this review unit kind of makes me long for an Ultrabook of my own. I'd consider buying one: for the foreseeable future, it would be a useful machine that could accompany me everywhere and do just about everything I need. But I can't shake the feeling that the Ultrabook concept itself is obsolete. I suspect that the “New Era in Computing” is here already, or at least already coming into its own. The future is shaped like a tablet.

For more on how technology intersects with daily life, follow us on Twitter @venturenaut.

Permissions

Read Comments

View reader comments | Comment on this story

  • Weekly review of global news and ideas
  • Balanced, insightful and trustworthy
  • Subscribe in print or digital

Special Offer

 

Editors' picks

Doing Good

 

What happens when ordinary people decide to pay it forward? Extraordinary change...

Danny Bent poses at the starting line of the Boston Marathon in Hopkinton, Mass.

After the Boston Marathon bombings, Danny Bent took on a cross-country challenge

The athlete-adventurer co-founded a relay run called One Run for Boston that started in Los Angeles and ended at the marathon finish line to raise funds for victims.

 
 
Become a fan! Follow us! Google+ YouTube See our feeds!