On the shelves

Nandagopal Rajan        Print Edition: March 2012

ACER ASPIRE S3
Price: Rs 48,000
13.3-inch LED screen; 13 mm thick; Core i5; 4GB RAM; 128GB SSD; 1.3 MP webcam, Intel HD 3000 Graphics; USB 3.0, Wi-FI, 1.38 kg.
VERDICT: Best option if you are price conscious

 

ACER ASPIRE S3
Acer never shies away from new technology and as a result it is often the first company to launch a new type of product in the market. So it was no surprise that Acer was first off the block in the Ultrabook race in India, coming up with its Aspire S3 as early as November 2011. The S3 is one of the thinnest Ultrabook models out there and bears a striking resemblance to the MacBook Air. It weighs 1.38 kg. With a full metal unibody design that will certainly ensure some eyeballs, the S3 aspires to be right there among the frontrunners. It is not a top draw Ultrabook as is obvious by the price. But then Acer has the S5 lined up for the big fight. But that doesn't mean the S3 is weak in anyway. It has a great processing power thanks to its 1.6GHz Core i5 processor and 4GB RAM, and will certainly rise up to most tasks that you will throw at it.

The keypad, placed in a recess, is well spaced out and responsive. There is enough travel to let you know that you have pressed a key, unlike some of its competition. The touchpad is at the centre, just below the keys. Though it is quite large, there is no multi-touch here. It is even a bit clickety-clack towards the bottom. The power button is actually on the hinge just below the bezel and can even be access from outside when the flap is closed-but we are not sure this was intentional.

The 1366x768 screen is good enough to watch HD movies on and the professionally tunes Dolby Home Theater speakers ensure you have audio good enough to go with the picture. You will, however, need to get the viewing angle right for perfect picture. Similarly, the sound gets better when you plug in a good pair of headphone, though you won't need it at all times. The S3 has two USB and one HDMI port at back, on the hinge. But it also has a MicroSD slot at the side, something you won't find in all Ultrabooks. However, a drawback will be the battery life of just about five hours on full charge. Not bad when compared with laptops, but at the bottom end of the Ultrabook pile where devices boast of up to 10 hours of juice. But then this is an entry level Ultrabook and the only option if you are looking to upgrade from you old laptop without paying more than what you paid for the old model.

All Beefed Up

HP FOLIO 13
Price: Rs 69,990
13.3 LED screen; 17 mm thick; Intel Core i5; 4 GB RAM; up to 128 GB SSD; Intel HD 3000 Graphics; 1SODIMM memory slot; USB 3.0; 1.5 kg weight.
VERDICT: Thicker than the rest, but with many unique features

HP FOLIO 13
It is not always that you get a laptop delivered to you in a large envelope. But HP's Folio 13 came to us in one, and we were impressed. The package could have easily passed off for documents from a bank for a house loan-no one had an inkling that it, in fact, held an Ultrabook, a rather large one at that. Yes, the Folio 13 is slim and sleek, but not as much as some of the other Ultrabooks we have tested. That is not because this is a bulky device-at 1.5 kg it is, however, a few grams heavier than the rest. In fact, the Folio 13 tries to be true to itself by keeping its thickness constant throughout with no thinner or sleeker edges.

The slightly stocky build also means this device has something which the other Ultrabooks don't, an RJ-45 Ethernet port. To make space, the fan grill is placed beneath, unlike the others which have it on the side. The 13.3-inch diagonal LED-backlit HD BrightView is good, though something bright would have really sexed up the device. More so, because below the screen, on the hinge, is a speaker strip which really adds some oomph to this Ultrabook with the Dolby Advanced Stereo really standing out to be heard loud. The full-sized, spill-resistant, backlit chiclet keyboard comes with UV coating and is very easy to type on. Plus, the touchpad come with gestures support, a feature which we thought most of the others missed out on.

Another real good feature is the on/off key (f5) for the backlit keyboard, a good way to save power. And the Folio 13 does save some power, for it can run up to nine hours on a single charge. The Folio 13 comes with three USB ports, one of them USB 3.0, and a HDMI port. Another good touch is the LED indicator to show if the webcam is on. The Folio 13 retails abroad for around $900, but in India it carries a price tag of Rs 69,990, which might put off some buyers. But still the Folio 13 has features which can make it a good option for corporate buyers.

Keeping The Edge

ASUS UX31 ZENBOOK
Price: Rs 89,000
13.3-inch LED; 3 mm at thinnest, 17 mm at thickest; Intel Core i7, 4GB RAM; 256 GB SSD; Intel HD 3000 Graphics; Bluetooth 4.0, USB 3.0; 1.3 kg weight.
VERDICT: Superb performance, but very costly.

ASUS UX31 ZENBOOK
Metal might be associated with brawn, but it can also be stylish, in a macho sort of way. The Asus UX31 Zenbook is all about style with a metallic edge, quite literally. The edge comes from the taper towards the front, making this ultrathin Ultrabook look even thinner. The sharp features are accentuated by the taper coming in from the bottom too-the front thickness is just 3 mm, while it is 9 mm at the rear giving this device a clamshell kind of feel. Asus says it was aiming for an angular harmony with the design, and we must agree that they have been successful.

Despite the all-aluminum body, the etched concentric circles on the cover and the linear brushed deck blend into each other seamlessly. Even the keypad is embedded with the metal keys looking like they were a part of the body. There are no other buttons beyond the keypad into which even the power button has been added. The trackpad below is large and very responsive, though there is no multi-touch.

You can, however, swipe through pictures. Here too, the speakers have been blended into the hinge and still give the best sound among the Ultrabooks we have seen. For this feat we have to thank Bang & Olfusen, whose ICEpower SonicMaster powers these speakers. But the real hero of this Zenbook story is just above the speakers - the 13.3" 450 nits HD + 1600X900 screen. No doubt this is the best screen among Ultrabooks available now, but we also doubt if even regular laptops have come up with something as good.

There is hardly any glare at regular viewing angles, nor do you get the feeling that image is washed out. The unit we tested was running an Intel Core i7 2677M CPU with a Windows Home Premium 64-bit and was up to the task at all times. There was no laggardness with even high-resolution pics or HD video. The Zenbook takes just two seconds to spring back to life from sleep and really pushes the standard for its rivals. There is a Micro-SD slot and two USB ports, including a USB 3.0. The unit comes with a fabric pouch carrying HDMI and VGA adapters, which you can plug into the micro ports in the Ultrabook. Despite the superb performance the Zenbook can ensure about seven hours of juice on full performance. Sadly, the Zenbook, which is cheaper than the MacBook Air in the US, is selling in India for Rs 89,999, making it one of the costliest Ultrabooks around. It is another thing that the performance and features sort of justifies the price.

Slim Fit

LENOVO IDEAPAD U300S
Price: Rs 67,900
13.3-inch HD display; 14 mm thick; Intel Core i5; 4GB RAM; up to 256 GB SSD; Intel HD 3000 Graphics; Bluetooth 3.0, USB 3.0, Wi-Fi; 1.3 kg weight. VERDICT: Good if you don't mind paying more for better features

LENOVO IDEAPAD U300S
Lenovo Ideapad U300s is right up there as far as Ultrabooks go. One look at the grey single-piece aluminum shell of the U300s and you know that this is cutting edge stuff. The cutting edge is a bit literal if you run your hands on the sharp lines that run on both the edges. The edges merge as the back in a smooth flow, design at its best. The U300s has a maximum thickness of just 1.49 cm, and weighs just under 1.35 kg. The 13.3-inch ultraslim 16:9 widescreen HD display is crystal clear, though we found that it was reflecting far too much light at certain angles. The sound is also top notch, and the speakers with SRS Premium Surround very good for something this small. The keypad is spacious and features the unique Breathable Keyboard, an Intel advanced cooling technology that allows air to flow in through the keyboard and out of the sides and rear hinge.

Lenovo says this design removes the need for vents on the underside of the notebook, and this could be why all the U300s needs is a small vent for fan louvers on the right edge. The touchpad is big, but does not feature multi-touch. Sticking to the Ultrabook standard, this one too features Intel Core i5 with 4GB DDR3 memory and up to 128 GB of SSD storage. Do some spreadsheets or open hi-resolution pictures and you realise that this is a really mean machine. The U300s can come back to life from sleep in under five seconds thanks to Intel Turbo Boost Technology 2.0. Lenovo has also added a one-key recovery, which is usually associated with conventional laptops.

The battery life on the U300s is also better than in many of its competitors, easily giving about seven hours on a full charge. Then there is the Lenovo RapidCharge, which lets users charge the battery to 50 per cent capacity in just 30 minutes. The 1.3MP webcam can do 720p HD video and comes with an integrated YouCam software which is fun to play around with. There are two USB ports, including a Bluetooth 3.0, an HDMI port and high-speed 802.11n Wi-Fi. The U300s is also enabled with the Intel Wireless Display (WiDi) Technology which lets you play content on a larger screen wirelessly. However, the Lenovo IdeaPad U300s is not exactly cheap and comes with a Rs 67,990 price tag.

Ahead of the Pack

SONY VAIO XPCZ227CG (G&G Exclusive)
Price: Rs 1,59,900
13.1-inch Full HD display: 16 cm thick; Intel Core i7; 8GB RAM; 256 GB SSD; Intel HD Graphics 3000; docking port with Radeon HD 6650M 1GB graphics; LAN, Ethernet, Bluetooth, HDMI; 1.175 kg weight.
VERDICT: For professionals, but still very expensive

SONY VAIO XPCZ227CG
If you want to see how much Ultrabooks can push the limit, you should take a look at the Sony Vaio XPCZ227CG. To start with, this ultrathin Vaio is not meant for the average user who wants a sleeker computing device. The price tag of Rs 1,59,000 is enough to scare away most non-serious buyers.

But for those who have the capacity and willingness to pay a hefty premium for some cool features, this Vaio has more than most other Ultrabooks. Though it is not as thin as the Asus Zenbook, it does shave off over 300 gm from 1.5-kg standard set by Intel. The screen is among the best you would find in this class, with the 13.1-inch Full HD LED backlight hardly reflecting any light in most angles. Though we were not as impressed by the sound, it is decent by any standards.

The 83-key backlit keyboard has more features than anything the competition has to offer. Just above it is a Wireless on/off toggle, and touch buttons to access the Web, VAIO controls and Assist. The trackpad is smaller, but comes with gesture controls and fingerprint recognition. There are also LED indicators for caps lock and number lock.

Like in some other top-end laptops from Sony, there is a Vaio Gate Dock which drops down from above the screen if you move the cursor there. The dock gives you onetouch access to most-used programmes. To add to this features if the gesture controls enabled for browsing media files. You can move to the next song or video by just swiping you hand in front of the screen - just make sure you do it in such a way that it is obvious to the 1.3MP camera. The processing power of the i7-2640M Processor 2.80 GHz with Turbo Boost is obvious when you swish through the hi-resolution pictures by just waving your hand or clicking the cursor. The absolute absence of lag is too obvious to miss.

The XPCZ227CG comes with 8 GB DDR3 SDRAM and 256 GB SSD storage, which explains the four-second start-up time. This Ultrabook comes with a RJ-45 network connector, mini D-sub display output connector 3D supported HDMI connector and 2 USB ports. If that doesn't satisfy you, there is a Power Media Dock in the box which while being a full Optical Blu-ray DVD drive with writer can also give an assortment of five additional ports. The dock can also be used to charge the computer. There is also a SD card slot and a Magic Gate slot for Sony memory sticks. Almost all of these are features which the other Ultrabooks lack. These features also make the Vaio XPCZ227CG more of a business Ultrabook, and explains the price to an extent.

Courtesy:Gadgets and Gizmos

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