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Published on July 13th, 2012 | by Rich Bishop


Are “Ultrabooks” really that “Ultra”? And why they mean Rich doesn’t need to show you his boxers!

OK, so I’ll admit this review is a little behind the trend, Ultrabooks aren’t “new” anymore, they’ve become part of every laptop buying decision now. But, when looking for a new laptop what makes an “Ultrabook” worth it? Is the word “Ultra” really worth the extra £400+?

Well I say yes, and for many many reasons, all of which I’ll address in a moment, but my main reason is it makes me feel like a super geek! Now to some people that would be a negative, but for me, that’s the closest I’ll ever be to becoming a superhero, and I don’t even have to wear my underwear on the outside of my trousers!

Picture the scene… you turn up to a friends house, a meeting, school, college, university, work, wherever, and everyone is either pulling out their iPads, big hefty laptops, or even worse a notepad and pen (Hi Yaz!). Instead you open your bag, casually lift out this discrete, thin, light, silvery “Ultrabook”, open the lid, wait a couple of seconds, and start typing. Meanwhile your friends/colleagues etc, are hitting their fingers against hard glass and missing the keys, waiting for their laptop to boot, or smudging ink all over their page – but you’re already on it, already ahead of the game – feeling like a geeky superhero.

(I may have blown that a little out of proportion, but you get the idea…)

So, it’s major plus sides – every Ultrabook on the market is already thiner and lighter than the “Super-thin” MacBook Air, the majority, and I mean the far majority, of them have all the connections you expect – need to plug into a TV, a Monitor, a wired network…? Well, just do! “No reaching for your dongle, and matching up the connectors”, ironically, unlike the Mac equivialant, “it just works”.

Now to look at the speed of these things. My personal Ultrabook- the Toshiba Satellite Z830-10T is one of the lowest spec you can get, it’s only got a 1.4GHz Intel i3 Processor, it’s only got 4GB of RAM, and it’s only got a 125GB SSD Hard Drive – so no PC World salesman will recommend it as all those figures are just “too small for what you need” – well you know what… they’re wrong.

I’ll admit I don’t “max out” the capabilities, and I’m not going to run benchmark tests on it, mainly because I can’t be bothered, but here’s a good idea for you… let’s measure it’s “0-60” figure. But instead of launching it down a racetrack at 60mph (which I’ll add at this point, becuase of how much I have fallen in love with this laptop, that would make me cry – a lot!), we’ll measure from a complete cold start, no hibernate, or “super-sleep” mode (more on that in a bit), we’ll press the power button, and edit a photograph in Adobe Photoshop. Why Photoshop? Well, as anyone who uses it on a standard laptop or desktop (i3, 4GB RAM etc, without the fine-tuning and SSD of an Ultrabook) knows – if you want to run Photoshop, you need to coincide it with a tea break to give you something to do as it loads.

So heres it’s “0-60” time… a staggering 93 seconds. Just to reiterate, that is from a complete cold start to using the heal tool. The kettle didn’t even finish boiling!

.. and if a 15 second cold-start time is still too much for you, as an alternative, you can just keep the laptop “on” all the time, but allow it a “nap” between uses. Intel have developed what they call their “Super Sleep” which is really quite smart – basically, close the lid of the laptop, and it’ll go to sleep as normal. Open it up and a couple of seconds later you’re back where you were – no biggy! But… with the “Super Sleep”, close the lid, then put it in your bag and forget about it, most laptop batteries will have died when you pull it back out your bag because they leave the hardware running to keep the RAM going so you don’t lose where you are. Intel have a new plan, for 20 minutes, that’s exactly how it works, but then, 20 minutes into it’s sleep, your laptop will perform and automatic hardware hibernation – this isn’t loading into Windows and running through the OS,this is the hardware making a clone of your RAM to your SSD Hard Disk, and then cutting the power within a few seconds. Comeback upto 10 days later, open the laptop, give it about 6 seconds more to think about it, then you’re back where you left off 10 days ago, you’re batter is still alive, and it just had a “10 day nap”.

So, now it sounds like an “Ultrabook” right? Well how about adding into the equation that the designers have also taken a leaf out of Apple’s book and made it look “sexy” as well. These things looks great. Whether it’s the smooth brushed metal finish of the Toshiba, or the concentric circles of the Asus, they all look the part as well as feel them.

Now I know what you’re thinking, especially the ladies out there… “it may be good looking, sexy, strong, and powerful, doesn’t forget things after a few days, and all round seems perfect but… I’ve fallen for that one before and been really disappointed with one thing… so… how long does it last?”

Well, as with all laptops, that depends on what you’re doing – photo editing with the screen on full brightness, BBC iPlayer in the background, with WiFi and Bluetooth on, whilst connecting to an external hard disk through the built in USB3 port (oh, did I not mention that?), and charging your phone off the continually powered USB socket on the back which is even powered when the laptop isn’t on (again, may have forgotten that, sorry!), it’ll last you about 3 hours – so average for a laptop these days. But, take it on a train, switch off your wireless connections, lower your screen brightness and keep to low processor speed activities like, I don’t know editing an article for a review website about Ultrabooks, and all of a sudden you get 8 hours out of a single charge – that’s iPad territory! Not only that – it’s also really smart with it’s power consumption. Pop it into “Balanced mode” and it will dynamically under-clock itself to give you the most it can out of the power – making it last longer and longer.

So there we have it… why is an “Ultrabook” so “Ultra”? Because it’s thin, light, powerful, well connected, won’t forget things after a few hours, sexy, quick to get you “where you need to be”, lasts as long as you need it to, and makes you feel like a geeky superhero – and unlike the alternative, you can keep your pants under your trousers!

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