What to look for in an ultrabook

Light, sleek and super-fast, ultrabooks are the future of laptops and netbooks. However, they are also more expensive than the traditional notebooks, so before you make a sizeable financial investment in one, here’s a look at the features you need to focus on.

Sleek, well-designed and utterly fast, ultrabooks are rapidly redefining the traditional concept of notebooks. The name was coined by Intel in 2011 when it introduced the concept and laid down the parameters-ultrabooks had to be less than an inch thick and weigh less than 1.5 kg, had to boot up in seconds rather than minutes as well as have a long battery life. The result has been a flood of sleek and speedy laptops that are a far cry from the clunky ones of not too long ago. But with so many options in the market, with prices ranging from `45,000 to well over six figures, how do you choose the one that works best for you? Here are a few features that you should consider before investing in an ultrabook.

Build quality

It may seem obvious, but build quality is very important in an ultrabook. Some manufacturers try to cut corners, and weight, by adding more plastic to the device, while others go for aluminum and fibre-inspired builds. The rule of thumb in these cases is-the lesser the plastic, the longer the ultrabook is likely to last. Also, pay attention to the weight. Anything that weighs over 1.75 kg is getting dangerously close to the traditional notebook territory.

Screen size and resolution

The jury is out on what the ideal screen size of an ultrabook should be. Some insist on thirteen inches but there are ultrabooks with larger as well as smaller displays. Our advice would be to opt for the display that affects portability the least (the bigger the display, the bigger the notebook) while offering good readability. Most ultrabooks come with displays that have 1366 x 768 resolution. Anything above that is a bonus, anything less, unacceptable.

Processor speed

Ultrabooks are designed for very fast operations but are not meant for heavy duty gaming or multimedia. So don’t be impressed if the sales person quotes high figures or opt for the fastest processor you see. In most cases you will find that for a good performance, an Intel Core i5 processor running at a speed of 1.6 GHz will more than suffice for most of your browsing and basic computing requirements.

Storage

This is one of the biggest decisions you will have to take when buying an ultrabook. You will often have to choose between hybrid storage, which is a combination of the conventional hard disk drive (HDD) and a solid state drive (SSD), and a single solid state drive. While the hybrid drives will provide more storage, SSDs perform much faster. Though the latter have less capacity and are more expensive than HDDs, they utilise less power, take half the time to boot up and produce no noise. Also, keeping an HDD too close to a powerful magnet may erase the data but this isn’t a problem with SSDs.

Connectivity and ports

The slimness that is the trademark of most ultrabooks often comes at the cost of ports and connectivity. So, check the number of ports it has (USB, HDMI, etc) and the connectivity options (Wi-Fi, 3G, Ethernet, et al) that are on board. Also, check the versions of the connectivity options, that is, what version of Wi-Fi does it use-802.11 a/b/g/n, or which variant of Bluetooth-1.0 or 2.0? The more and newer the options, the better your experience is likely to be.

Keyboards and touchpads

This is a bit of a tricky call, as each ultrabook comes with its own keyboard and touchpad combo. But as these are going to be your primary way of interacting with the device, we suggest that you physically try out the models you like before making your final choice. You will need to see if the keys are well-spaced out and if the trackpad is big enough for your fingers to move comfortably (it often gets squeezed in an attempt to shrink the size of the device) and comes with buttons or support for gestures (to zoom in and out of pages, etc).

Battery

Good battery life is one of the cornerstones of the ultrabook concept. But ‘good’ is comparative and depends on what you need. Most ultrabooks come with about six hours of battery life but in many cases, this cannot be extended by using a supplementary battery as in traditional notebooks. So, choose wisely as you are likely to be stuck with what you buy.

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