Earlier this year I had the chance to take a look at the first ultrabook with discrete graphics, the Acer Aspire Timeline Ultra M3. My review was not particularly favorable, but the idea of placing discrete graphics in an ultrabook is both compelling and necessary. Intel’s low-voltage processors have difficulty with gaming when paired with the HD 4000 IGP and this flaw is difficult to excuse in products typically priced at $800 or above.
Four new ultrabooks with NVIDIA discrete GPUs have been unveiled to tackle the problem of gaming with a slim laptop. The list includes two laptops from Acer, two laptops from Gigabyte and one from ASUS.
The Gigabyte U2442N, which has a 14” 1600x900 display and a GeForce GT 650M GPU, is obviously the most powerful and the product that offers the most promising gaming experience on paper. Only the ASUS UX32 looks questionable. There’s no way that a GeForce GT 620M is going to handle gaming on a 1080p display.
Unfortunately, a closer look at the announcement suggests these product lines aren’t that exciting. The Gigabyte laptops have received a lot of positive attention, but Gigabyte has no meaningful presence in the North American laptop market and it’s nearly guaranteed the laptop won’t be popular on this side of the pond. The Acer M5-581TG appears to be an Ivy Bridge updated version of the Acer Aspire M3 that we reviwed – and did not like – while the M5-481TG is just a smaller version.
That leaves the ASUS UX32 and its GT 620M which, although likely quicker than Intel HD 4000, isn’t sufficient for serious gaming.
Hopefully NVIDIA will be able to bring discrete graphics to more products from larger manufacturers, but the fact so few companies have gone this route suggests there is some underlying reason. My personal guess? Heat. The Acer Aspire M3 became quite toasty during load. It’ll be interesting to see if the U244N has some design trick that makes the GT 650M manageable – or if Gigabyte, like Acer, doesn’t mind putting out a laptop with high exterior temperatures.
Subject: Mobile | May 14, 2012 - 10:23 AM | Matt Smith
Tagged: Thinkpad, news, Lenovo
Brace yourself, enthusiasts. The recent rumors that Lenovo will be ditching its traditional beveled keyboard in favor of a more modern – and some would say, inferior – chicklet-style design are true. Lenovo today announced new ThinkPad L,T, W and X series laptops. All of them ditch the old design for a keyboard similar to the one Lenovo has been using on the ThinkPad Edge since its introduction.
Lenovo’s ThinkPads have held strong for years as chicklet-style keyboards overtook the industry, causing enthusiasts looking for a great typing experience to flock in the company’s direction. Changing the design is sure to raise the ire of some enthusiasts.
The “Precision Keyboard,”as it is being called in Lenovo’s literature, is not entirely without benefits. The key surface allegedly reduces typing errors. It also finally gives ThinkPad owners a backlit keyboard option, something that couldn’t be offered on previous models because the beveled keyboard could not accommodate it.
Some rumors had suggested that the ThinkLight (a small LED used to illuminate the laptop’s interior) would perish as a result of the new backlit keyboards. This does not seem to be the case. Screenshots clearly show that the light remains.
Lenovo’s other big announcement is the new Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon. Lenovo’s previous X1, which we reviewed last year, was an ultrabook that predated the ultrabook – super slim, fast and expensive. Lenovo is now bestowing the X1 with the label and, as the new name suggests, a “roll cage” made of carbon fiber.
The changes don’t end there. The new X1 is lighter, weighing it at 3 pounds instead of the 3.73 pounds of its predecessor. It has a better display, which is now 14 inches in size and ups the resolution to 1600x900. And, as you’d expect, it receives Intel Ivy Bridge processors. That’s true of all the other ThinkPads announced today, as well.
What do you think of the new keyboard? Love it? Hate it? Or don't care?
Subject: Mobile | April 30, 2012 - 09:43 AM | Matt Smith
Tagged: news, Ivy Bridge, gaming laptop, alienware
When Alienware made some adjustments to its laptop lineup about a week before the Ivy Bridge release, many observers scratched their heads. Why update now? Was the company going to delay its introduction of Ivy Bridge laptops?
Apparently not, as they’ve now made the availability of Ivy Bridge in Alienware laptops official. The M14x, M17x and M18x can now be configured with one of several Ivy Bridge quad cores including the Core i7-3610QM, 3720QM, 3820QM, and 3920XM. The M11x, axed in the lineup change prior to Ivy Bridge's launch, remains dead.
The XM processor, which features a blazing base clock of 2.9 GHz with a maximum Turbo Boost of 3.8 GHz, is only available in the flagship M18x. If that’s still not fast enough for your tastes you can order an overclocked version that ups the Turbo Boost maximum.
While Ivy Bridge processors will be stock on the M17x and M18x, the M14x still comes standard with a Sandy Bridge dual core. This is because the new dual-cores have yet to be released into the wild. It’s all but certain that the M14x will be updated with a standard Ivy Bridge dual-core once the parts are available.
As you’d expect, Alienware is pairing the latest CPUs with the newest GPUs. The M14x now comes standard with a Kepler-based GT 650M. Buying an M17x will give you a choice between a GTX 660M, GTX 675M or a Radeon HD 7970M. And the mammoth M18x can be had with a GTX 660M, GTX 675M (single or SLI) or two Radeon HD 7970Ms in CrossFire.
If my memory is correct, none of these laptops have been slapped with a price increase. The M14x is $1099, the M17x is $1499 and the M18x is $1999 - in base form, of course.
These updates put to rest any concerns about the company’s laptop lineup. Based on our review of Ivy Bridge for mobile, we expect the new processors to provide Alienware’s products with a respectable boost in performance. They may allow the laptops to run cooler and quieter, as well.
Make the jump to read the full press release.
Subject: Mobile | January 4, 2012 - 10:00 PM | Matt Smith
Tagged: ultrabook, Thinkpad, news, Lenovo, edge, CES
Were you thinking about an ultrabook, but worried that the ones already available just weren’t tough enough? Lenovo has you covered. They’ve taken the wraps off the Lenovo ThinkPad T430u, which blends thin design with durability.
This isn’t exactly new territory for Lenovo, has the company already offered the ThinkPad X1, an extremely thin laptop that we reviewed in the summer of 2011. Lenovo has also long offered the T420s, an thin-and-light version of the already thin-and-light T series. The new 430u has a 14” display and will be starting at just $849, a surprisingly low price for a ThinkPad branded ultrabook.
Specifications include third-generation Intel Core processors, optional Nvidia discrete graphics, mechanical and SSD storage options, battery life of up to six hours and an island-style keyboard similar to the ThinkPad X1. Thickness will be no more than .8 inches and weight will be under four pounds.
Another interesting debut is the ThinkPad X1 Hybrid. Based off the current X1, it includes a feature not yet seen in consumer PC laptops - an dual-core ARM processor built by Qualcomm. Don't get too excited yet, because the ARM processor doesn't run Windows. That task is left to a typical Intel x86 processor. It does, however, run a secondary operating system called Instant Media Mode that allows users to access the web, watch videos and perform other basic tasks. Lenovo claims that using IMM instead of Windows allows for 10 hours of life on the X1's realtively small battery. Owning such an exotic piece of hardware will cost you - the X1 Hybrid starts at a lofty $1599.
Other new ThinkPad offerings include the Edge S430, a “premium” laptop stating at $749 that will offer a 14” display and Thunderbolt connectivity as well as third-gen Intel processors and optional Nvidia graphics. It also comes in a color we haven't seen yet in ThinkPads - Mocha Black. I'm not sure how this differs from regular black, but it makes me want a coffee.
Smaller still are the Edge E130 and E330, 11.6" and 13.3" laptops that fill out the small half of the new Edge line-up. Those looking for a more mainstream option will be able to consider the Edge E430/E435/E530/E535, a series of laptops starting at $549. They will be available not only in the Intel/Nvidia combination but also with AMD Fusion APUs (Lenovo designates the AMD models by ending the model number with a 5). There's also a new color to choose from, Cobalt Blue, while the old Midnight Black and Heatwave Red options remain.
If even that is too expensive, you’ll be able to grab the ThinkPad B480/B580, which start at $499 and offer “essential computing.”
The new ThinkPad ultrabook and X1 Hybrid are sure to be hot topics at CES, not only because they're ThinkPads (which always get geeks salivating) but also because they offer some interesting features are affordable prices. We'll be sure to publish any new information we learn about these products once the show begins.
PC Perspective's CES 2012 coverage is sponsored by MSI Computer