We can make it cheaper! Intel's new Ultrabook SSD

Subject: General Tech | August 3, 2012 - 05:26 PM |
Tagged: ultrabook, Intel, ssd, msata

Many avenues have been explored in an attempt to reduce the price of Ultrabooks, from lower cost CPUs to changes in the materials used in the construction of the chassis and Intel is now attempting to lower the cost of the SSD required to meet Ultrabook standards.  DigiTimes reports that Intel is partnering with Micron, Samsung and other flash memory manufacturers to create a new mSATA specification that they are calling the Next Generation Form Factor.  Hopefully with a new unified standard, the production costs of these mSATA SSDs will drop in price over time, as standards do tend to lower manufacturing costs.  That is not the only reason that they are looking for a new standard, they are also looking towards the future storage needs of users that want more than 512GB of storage space.  The current standard can have a maximum of 5 flash chips, which makes scaling to larger sized SSDs very difficult.  Keep your eye out for more discussions on this new standard as they finalize the new specifications.

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"Intel is looking to unify specifications for mSATA SSDs targeted at ultrabook applications, and is seeking cooperation with PC vendors and NAND flash companies. Details regarding the new SSD specs for ultrabooks will likely be finalized in September, according to sources at memory makers.

The new SSD specification is expected to be fully adopted into ultrabooks in 2013, but whether it will become a standard specification for traditional notebooks will depend on PC brand vendors' attitudes."

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Source: DigiTimes
Author:
Subject: Mobile
Manufacturer: HP

Introduction and Design

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One of the most impressive laptops at CES 2012 was the HP Envy Spectre. It was a sleek, attractive laptop that seemed to indicate that HP was really starting to understand what the Envy brand could be about. It’s been a long time since a PC OEM was able to challenge Apple in the arena of design. The Spectre indicated that might change.
 
There more to any laptop than design, however. What had made Apple’s products popular is combination of design and functionality. Connectivity aside, the MacBooks are useful tools with big touchpads, nice keyboards and beautiful displays. Any PC alternative needs to compete on the same level.
 
And the HP Envy 14 Spectre is certainly a competitor. Its $1400 base price tag puts it well into MacBook territory. So what does that wad of dough buy you?
 

Just when you thought that books would stop being ultra

Subject: General Tech | June 26, 2012 - 02:31 PM |
Tagged: ultrabook, Ivy Bridge, hp, dell

About the only nice thing to be said about the Ultrabook is that it is doing better than the previous CULV form factor Intel tried.  While there are a group of consumers who praise the Ultrabook, the machines never actually lived up to the specifications Intel used to define an Ultrabook.  Battery life and size have for the most part lived up to the design specifications but boot time and price certainly have not ... at least at the same time.  The inclusion of an SSD capable of quickly resuming from sleep tends to move the price north of the $1000 price limit, as do the materials used in the chassis to keep the size and weight down. 

Ivy Bridge is helping, as the price of the processor comes down as does the thermals but DigiTimes suggests that this may be overshadowed by a shortage of both thin screens and metal chassis which will offset any reduction in processor expense.  That hasn't stopped Dell who have announced two new Ultrabook models, the XPS 14 base model has an i5-3317U, 4GB DDR3-1333 and a 500GB HDD for about $1200 or the larger XPS 16 whose base model has an i5-3210M and a GT 630M as well as a HDD which will go for roughly $750-800USD.  Both models are over 2kg and neither truly fits the definition of an Ultrabook nor does The Inquirer find anything more attractive about them than a Macbook.  They are better than the HP Envy which was recently released at $600 which is inexpensive but as Matt Smith pointed out, that AMD A-Series in that Envy sleekbook is going to disappoint a lot of buyers when it comes to performance. 

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"Dell's range of XPS laptops, which are now labeled as ultrabooks in order to keep in step with Intel's latest branding, has been headed by the well received XPS 13, however the company has significantly updated its XPS 14 and introduced the XPS 15. According to the firm the XPS 14 is all about battery life while the XPS 15 is pitched at those who want to do content creation and video playback."

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Source: The Inquirer

ASUS new Zenbook UX31 shows some promise

Subject: Mobile | June 20, 2012 - 04:19 PM |
Tagged: asus, Zenbook UX31, ultrabook

ASUS has been paying attention to the complaints many people have about the resolution of ultrabooks and with the UX31 have provided an 11.6" 1600 x 900 LCD.  The aluminium clad Ultrabook uses the Core i5-2557M and HD3000 graphics, 4GB DDR3 and a 256GB SSD in its thin and lightweight frame.  Unfortunately Hardware Canucks ended up less than impressed with the chicklet style keyboard nor the track pad and they found issues with the WiFi as well. On the positive side the battery life was impressive as was the audio so do not dismiss this Ultrabook because of a few small issues.

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"Mobile computing is quickly evolving with thinner, more versatile designs and no product better defines this focus than ASUS' new Zenbook series of Ultrabooks. The UX31 has been around for a while but it still represents the pinnacle of industrial design with a sleek body and even better looking specifications. But in an environment that's cluttered with lower priced competitors, this Ultrabook will be fighting an uphill battle for recognition. "

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The Surface Tablet should be cheaper than an Ultrabook, but not by much

Subject: General Tech | June 20, 2012 - 01:34 PM |
Tagged: surface, ultrabook, Pegatron, windows rt, windows 8, tablet, microsoft, arm, tegra 3

You've met Microsoft's two new Surface Tablet by now, either in Scott's write up or elsewhere on the net and are aware that there is a less expensive ARM and Tegra 3 version and a more expensive Ivy Bridge model.  What you might not have known is the expected pricing, a lack that DigiTimes remedies this morning with the prediction the WinRT model will cost at least $600 and the Win8 model more than $800.  Both are being assembled by Pegatron Technology but the amount being assembled is still unknown.  The Surface Tablet is certainly attention grabbing but it costs significantly more than other tablets and many full notebooks, but it likely to be lower priced than either Intel or Apple's ultraportable devices which puts it in an odd spot in the market.  How many will be willing to pay that much for a multi-touch tablet with dock?

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"Sources from notebook players have revealed that Microsoft's 10.6-inch Surface tablet PCs will be outsourced to Pegatron Technology for assembly; however, there is still not a firm estimate for order volumes.

The sources also estimated the end-market price of the Windows 8 Pro-based Surface tablet PC with Ivy Bridge processor to be at least above US$799, while the Windows RT-based model, featuring Nvidia's Tegra 3, will be priced above US$599."

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Source: DigiTimes

New GeForce Equipped Ultrabooks Announced At Computex

Subject: Mobile | June 5, 2012 - 04:04 PM |
Tagged: ultrabook, nvidia, news, laptop, gpu

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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.

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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. 

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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. 

Source: Nvidia

This morning at Computex it is ASUS in the spotlight

Subject: General Tech, Shows and Expos | June 4, 2012 - 01:02 PM |
Tagged: windows 8, ultrabook, taichi, tablet, computex, asus, transformer book, Transformer

ASUS has been showing off its new mobile products at Computex, as you can see from Ryan's pictures below this post.  You can catch all the PC Perspective coverage by checking this page, as all Computex related content will show up there.   With all the fancy new products, the more pictures the better which is why you should also check out the coverage The Tech Report put up.  They snapped a few photos of the dual display Taichi which doesn't have a lid, instead there is a second independent touch screen display on the back which takes the idea behind ASUS' Transformer series to a whole new level.  That doesn't mean they abandoned the Transformer though as they also showed off three brand new Ivy Bridge powered Transformer Books and two separate tablets, the 600 and the 810 with the Tegra powered 600 running WinRT for ARM and the 810 running Windows 8 thanks to its Atom processor.

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"We're rarely surprised at trade shows these days, but Asus CEO Johnny Shih saved something special for the end of his press conference today. After discussing everything from cloud storage to all-in-ones to notebooks and tablets, he pulled out one more thing: the Taichi. It looked like any other notebook, and Shih took great pleasure in showing off the "beautiful black mirror finish" on the top panel. I couldn't help but shake my head and sigh; the glossy finish was covered in fingerprints and smudges."

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ASUS shows TAICHI convertible notebook and tablet with dual displays

Subject: Mobile | June 4, 2012 - 11:13 AM |
Tagged: windows 8, ultrabook, taichi, tablet, computex, asus

ASUS always does a good job of showcasing unique devices at its Computex press conference and apparently this year is really no different.  One of the biggest announcements was for the TAICHI device, a dual-display Ultrabook that is actually a convertible notebook and tablet device running Windows 8.

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Image source: Engadget.com

Available in both an 11-in and 13.3-in version, the ASUS TAICHI products will both include a 1920x1080 screen resolution (on both back and front displays actually).  When open, the TAICHI works like any other notebook with an Ivy Bridge Core i7 processor, 4GB of memory, an SSD, 802.11n and dual cameras.  However, when you close the screen and activate the BACK display, you then operating with the Windows 8 operating system in a classic tablet form.

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Image source: Engadget.com

Engadget is reporting that both displays can even be used at the same time if you wanted to share the device with a friend across the table.  Connectivity is there in abundance with mini-VGA, USB 3.0 and more. 

Source: Engadget

Computex: Acer announces Aspire S7 touchscreen 11-in and 13.3-in Ultrabooks

Subject: Mobile | June 4, 2012 - 12:49 AM |
Tagged: ultrabook, computex, touchscreen, s7, aspire, acer

In what will likely be the first of dozens of such exposes this week, Acer has just announced a pair of Ultrabooks that will fall under the new Aspire S7 brand in both 11-in and 13.3-in screen sizes.  According to a post at Engadget, the new Ultrabooks are actually touch enabled and will support being laid completely flat with a 180 degree hinge. 

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While other details on the specifications seem to be missing from the Computex announcement, we can assume these are going to be Intel Ivy Bridge based designs.  The screens are being called "full HD" which indicates a 1080p resolution that would really help the S7 stand out from other current Ultrabooks (as well as raise the price). 

Battery life is claimed at 9 hours on the 11-in model and 12 hours on the 13.3-in model, though all such claims should be tested before you plop down cash on a preorder. 

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Can someone please explain how laying down a notebook flat is helpful?

The Ultrabook is less than 13mm thick and the chassis is built with a unibody aluminum design which should immediately draw comparisons to the Apple Macbook Pro.  A backlit keyboard and a glass lid on the 13-in model round out our known information on the Aspire S7 but don't expect availability until we see Windows 8 ship sometime this fall.

Source: Engadget

Gigabyte Launches Ultra Portable Notebook Lineup

Subject: General Tech, Mobile | June 1, 2012 - 10:24 AM |
Tagged: x11, ultrabook, u2442, u2440, notebook, gigabyte

Gigabyte, a company mostly known for its motherboard manufacturing, has announced a new lineup of small and lightweight notebooks. Among the new systems are the X11, U2442, and U2440 notebooks. Running Windows 7 and powered by Intel’s latest Ivy Bridge processors, the ultra-portables pack plenty of power.

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The X11 is an ultra-lightweight 11.6” notebook at 975 grams and .3cm at it’s thinnest point (1.65cm at its thickest point). Constructed of carbon fiber, it was built using a woven diamond technique that resulted in it being lightweight while maintaining rigidity. It is powered by an Intel Ivy Bridge processor and 128GB SSD. It further comes with USB 3.0 and Bluethooth 4.0 connections. A 16:9 LED backlit display connected via an aluminum hinge is another feature of this laptop. Intel’s Rapid Start and Anti-Theft technologies and a Smart Recovery system are also built in.

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For those that require dedicated graphics, Gigabyte has also launched a 14” notebook with NVIDIA GeForce GT 650M or GT 640M graphics cards. The U2442 weighs in at 1.57kg and ranges in thickness from 18.5-21mm. The computer also uses Intel’s Ivy Bridge processors, but the larger form factor has allowed Gigabyte to give the notebook a dual vent design for the GPU and CPU respectively. It also comes with a 1600x900 LED backlit display, backlit keyboard, and THX TruStudio Pro audio technology. The U2442 notebook further has a 128GB mSATA SSD paired with a 750GB hard drive as well as WiFi, USB 3.0, Bluetooth 4.0, and HDMI 1.4 connectivity. The “Champagne Gold” colored cover has a brushed aluminum texture that looks nice as well. No carbon fiber here, but it does look to be all aluminum.

Gigabyte U2440.jpg

Finally, the U2440 is designed to be less powerful–but more portable–than the U2442. This 14” notebook comes with an Intel Ivy Bridge processor, NVIDIA GeForce 630M graphics card, optical disc drive, 1TB mechanical hard drive, and a mSATA slot for SSD upgrades. The system has taken a downgrade on display resolution versus the U2442 with only 1366x768 pixels. It supports up to 8GB of DDR3 memory, 802.11n WiFi, and a 1.3 megapixel webcam. Further, the U2440 has 1 USB 3.0 port, two USB 2.0 ports, VGA, HDMI, RJ45, microphone input, and headphone output ports. The U2440 comes in a dark gray colored chassis with a brushed aluminum texture on the notebook lid.

As far as pricing and availability, the X11 carbon fiber notebook will be available in July with street prices ranging from $999 to $1299 USD. The U2442 will also retail for between $999 and $1299 USD, but it will be available sooner–towards the middle of June. The U2440 isn’t as light as the X11, or as powerful as the U2442 but it has both of those systems beat on price. The U2440 will have street pricing that starts at $699 USD before tax and will be available for purchase at the end of June.

They seem like interesting systems, and they look nice as well. What do you guys think of the Gigabyte notebooks?

Source: Gigabyte