Ultrabooks taking 1/4 of the mobile market? That's a lot of kool-aid to swallow

Subject: General Tech | October 28, 2011 - 10:39 AM |
Tagged: ultrabook, Intel, market share

Everyone's current favourite kicking horse, the ultrabook, is poised to take over almost half of all consumer notebook sales by the end of 2012 ... at least according to what DigiTimes heard from Intel.  Even stranger is that instead of breaking out into laughter, the manufactures peg the likely market penetration at about 25%.   Currently there are models from Acer and ASUS which you can purchase for your very own, but don't go out looking for reviews of them.  You can find some quick previews and overviews but as far as performance testing you are not going to find the same information as is available for every other mobile form factor; take that as you will.

The Ultrabook is expensive, as SemiAccurate recently pointed out you can get better performance from a notebook half the price and almost the same size.  It also seems odd that a form factor specifically limited to only 50,000 units produced in the first run is going to take over the market.  Even with broader adoption from companies like Lenovo or Dell, the math does not seem to support a 25% share of the market, let alone 40% and requires you to completely ignore the willingness of the consumer to pay $1000+ for a mediocre laptop.  It is small and shiny though; never underestimate the draw of shinies!

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"While Intel aims to increase the proportion of ultrabooks among global shipments of consumer notebooks to 40% by fourth-quarter 2012, the proportion is estimated to only reach 20-25% based on current market conditions, according to sources from Taiwan-based notebook supply chain makers.

The sources pointed out that most suppliers are aggressively developing components for ultrabooks, but actual order volumes have so far been below their expectations. Although the suppliers all understand that ultrabook are still testing the water, weakening growth of the traditional notebook market and dropping profits have prompted them to put great hopes on the success of ultrabooks.

As for Intel's 40% goal, the sources pointed out that Apple's MacBook Air will become a strong threshold for ultrabooks since there is not yet a single product can outmatch the MacBook Air in terms of performance and price."

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Source: DigiTimes

Ultrabook Prime; they're here

Subject: Mobile | October 24, 2011 - 09:32 PM |
Tagged: Zenbook UX311, Zenbook UX21, acer, ultrabook, asus, Aspire S Series

 Those of you who are strangers to the PC Perspective Podcast, or who do not remember the CULV may be disappointed by the retail release of the Ultrabook form factor from Intel.  Those of you who have watched us describe the woes of the manufacturers who needed to design and retail the Ultrabook for under $1000 probably already know the ending of this tale.  There are Acer models available at $900 and though they lack an ethernet port they certainly carry a citrus aura. ASUS seems to have put together a slightly better version with a fair choice of ports available, though with more dongles required than necessary (>0),  but still too many sacrifices have been made for an aluminium clad ultra-thin form factor.  Both companies produce better notebooks at a much lower price if you are willing to squeeze in a few extra milimetres.

 

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"You know a product is a dog when it is available widely in stores long before reviewers get sent some. Ultrabooks are no exception, the only thing they have is hype and consumer ignorance."

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Source: SemiAccurate

Don't worry AMD fans, there's an ultrabook clone coming soon

Subject: General Tech | October 24, 2011 - 03:43 PM |
Tagged: amd, ultrabook, Deccan, Kerala

Not to be deterred by the issues that Intel has run into trying to out Macbook Apple, AMD will also be jumping on a notebook similar to the Ultrabook.  The successors to Brazos will be competing against Ivy Bridge and Haswell, so hopefully the statement that DigiTimes makes about vastly improved performance and power usage reduction are true.  AMD is also lookign to refresh the chips they've designed for use in tablets which you should be able to get your hands on before the end of the year, if GLOBALFOUNDRIES can produce enough chips.

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"AMD has made plans for ultrabook-like products for the next two years – in 2012, AMD will launch the Deccan platform to replace Brazos and will launch Kerala in 2013.

Since AMD's share in the global CPU market has been around 20% in recent years while the company has about 10% share in the global notebook CPU market, AMD is preparing plans for ultra-thin notebooks hoping to raise its share in the notebook CPU market.

In June 2012, AMD is set to launch Deccan, featuring Krishna and Wichita-based APUs and will upgrade to Kerala featuring Kabini-based APUs. With the upgrades, the overall performance and power consumption of AMD's platforms are expected to see an extraordinary improvement, allowing AMD to compete against Intel's Ivy Bridge platform in 2012 and Haswell platform in 2013.

For the traditional notebook market, AMD has already launched its Llano-based Sabine platform to replace Danube, but due to Globalfoundries' weak 32nm yield rates and production issues, supplies of Llano APUs has been limited, which should impact AMD's future plans for the notebook market. However, within AMD's latest plans, the company is set to launch the Comal platform, featuring Trinity-based APUs, for 2012 and will upgrade to the Indus platform in 2013 using Kaveri-based APUs.

As for the tablet PC market, AMD will push the Brazos platform with Windows operating system to target the enterprise market in 2011. In the second quarter of 2012, AMD will launch the Brazos T platform that features Hondo APUs and in 2013 will release the Samara platform, which features a similar architecture as its ultra-thin platform."

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Source: DigiTimes

IDF 2011: ASUS UX21 Ultrabook Still Sexy, I Still Want It

Subject: General Tech, Processors, Mobile | September 14, 2011 - 08:48 AM |
Tagged: idf, idf 2011, asus, ultrabook, ux21

Yes, I realize the ASUS UX21 was first shown at Computex in June, but this was my first chance to get my hands on it and I have to say after using it for just a few minutes and comparing it to the aging Lenovo X201 that I am typing this on, I am in love with the form factor.

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I don't have anything else to report yet - no performance metrics, no real-world testing, but I couldn't pass posting these few pictures of it.  Enjoy!

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Source: PCPer

Podcast #169 - SSD Decoder Update, Antec SOLO II, ASUS Eee Pad Transformer, Ultrabook news and a Drobo contest!!

Subject: Editorial, General Tech, Graphics Cards, Processors, Storage, Mobile | September 8, 2011 - 12:23 PM |
Tagged: ultrabook, ssd, podcast, eee pad transformer, drobo, decoder, asus, antec

PC Perspective Podcast #169 - 9/08/2011

Join us this week as we discuss the MARS II combo on Newegg, an update to the SSD Decoder, the new Antec SOLO II chassis, our review of the ASUS Eee Pad Transformer tablet, news on Ultrabook development and even announce a new contest partnership with Drobo!

You can subscribe to us through iTunes and you can still access it directly through the RSS page HERE.

The URL for the podcast is: http://pcper.com/podcast - Share with your friends!

  • iTunes - Subscribe to the podcast directly through the iTunes Store
  • RSS - Subscribe through your regular RSS reader
  • MP3 - Direct download link to the MP3 file

Hosts: Ryan Shrout, Josh Walrath, Jeremy Hellstrom, Allyn Malventano

This Podcast is brought to you by MSI Computer, and their all new Sandy Bridge Motherboards!

Program length: 1:23:36

Program Schedule:

  1. Introduction
  2. 1-888-38-PCPER or podcast@pcper.com
  3. http://pcper.com/podcast
  4. http://twitter.com/ryanshrout and http://twitter.com/pcper
  5. MARS II Combo  for $4000!
  6. SSD Decoder Update
  7. Kingwin Stryker 500W Fanless Power Supply Review
  8. Video Perspective: Antec SOLO II Chassis Review
  9. ASUS Eee Pad Transformer TF101 Review: Assemble!
  10. This Podcast is brought to you by MSI Computer, and their all new Sandy Bridge Motherboards!
  11. Zotac Releases New ZBOX Nano AD10 Series Mini PCs
  12. Toshiba Unveils Portege Z830 Ultrabook Series
    1. Acer Unveils Super Thin Aspire S3 Ultrabook at IFA in Berlin
    2. Silly Intel, the high price and limited availability were the parts your Ultrabook was supposed to drop
  13. Bulldozer Infused Trinity APU Specifications Confirmed
  14. Intel Unveils 16 New 32nm Processors
  15. AMD Ships Bulldozer for Revenue- Interlagos though- will write up after the podcast and post on front page.
  16. Magma Unveils the First Three-Slot Thunderbolt Expansion Chassis
  17. Drobo contest
  18. Email from Wes about GPU selection
  19. Email from Chris about GPU whine
  20. Email from Lee about SSD security
  21. Email from a mystery writer about GPU stuttering
  22. Finally, a VIDEO QUESTION from David!
  23. Hardware / Software Pick of the Week
    1. Ryan: Blackmagic Intensity Pro
    2. Jeremy: Coil gun revolver with laser sty ((sight?) so there)
    3. Josh: Thermaltake eSports Shock Spin Diamond Black
    4. Allyn: Surefire LED flashlights
  24. 1-888-38-PCPER or podcast@pcper.com
  25. http://pcper.com/podcast   
  26. http://twitter.com/ryanshrout and http://twitter.com/pcper
  27. Closing

Source: PCPer

Intel's plastic position on ultrabook chassis

Subject: General Tech | September 8, 2011 - 09:03 AM |
Tagged: ultrabook, plastic and fibreglass, MiTAC Technology, Intel

A metal chassis, such as the magnesium- aluminium alloy we have seen on various Ultrabooks, is not actually in the specifications Intel set for manufacturers.  It has been used because the incredible thinness that is specified would make a plastic chassis far too flexible and could cause the internal components to deform to the point they become damaged.  The problem with the metal chassis is the expense, they do add to the cost of the Ultrabook and it seems that Intel is targeting that expense as the next price cut to the Ultrabook in an attempt to drop it below $1000.

They are working with a company called MiTAC Technology to develop a fibreglass and plastic material that will be much less expensive than a metal alloy case but still have enough rigidity for ease of use and to protect the internals.  DigiTimes points out that fibreglass is much easier to colour than metal which could result in a case that is as attractive as brushed aluminium.  The all-in-one PCs that they sell do include a touch screen so there must be some firmness to MiTAC's materials.

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One of MiTAC's AIOs

"Intel has recently been aggressively cooperating with notebook chassis suppliers hoping to achieve the goal of dropping Ultrabook prices to below US$1,000, and Intel is currently focusing on pushing plastic and fiberglass hybrid chassis for the new machines, according to sources from the PC supply chain.

The sources pointed out that magnesium-aluminum alloy chassis are still the top choice for Ultrabooks, but limited by capacity and price, most of brand vendors are unable to offer an end price below the targeted US$1,000, and the three already-launched Ultrabooks from Acer, Lenovo and Toshiba are all estimated to have end price higher.

The sources also revealed that at one of Intel's recent supply chain conferences, Intel invited fiberglass chassis supplier Mitac Technology to participate and even had personnel from Mitac on stage to explain the technology which most of the attending suppliers believe is an indication for brand vendors to adopt the chassis."

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Source: DigiTimes

Silly Intel, the high price and limited availability were the parts your Ultrabook was supposed to drop

Subject: General Tech | September 6, 2011 - 11:17 AM |
Tagged: ultrabook, Intel

The Ultrabook gambit is receiving a lot of attention and has been since before there was even a single model available for review.  In this particular case the interest is not because of the hardware but because of the gamble Intel is taking trying to muscle in on Apple's ultramobile territory, especially since the memory of the UMPC is still fresh in the minds of many.  Two benchmarks for success have pretty much been agreed upon by the tech wonks; it must cost less than the equivalent MacBook Air and people have to be able to buy one easily. 

As we have seen, the price point is not great as the top tier manufacturers warned us it would be.  By just barely matching Apple's prices on a new technology it gives Apple the chance to show off the maturity of their ultra-thin notebook lineup.  If Intel had managed to better the pricing then there was a chance of some price conscious consumers at least giving the Ultrabook a try.  Since all things are essentially equal between the two products, Apple users are probably just going to stick with what they know.

That price point also raised some reg flags, if manufactures are just barely able to match the competitors market prices it seems likely that their profit margin is taking a hit and the Ultrabooks are being sold on a thin margin just to ensure some will sell.  If that were the case then you would expect to see limited initial runs of Ultrabooks from the major players in the industry and as of today we know that to be the reality.  According to DigiTimes every single Intel Ultrabook partner is limiting their initial runs to under 50,000 units worldwide. That speaks volumes towards the confidence, or lack thereof, that these companies have in the financial success of the Ultrabook. 

That leads directly to the second hurdle Intel faces; availability.  No matter how fantastically paradigm breaking your product might be, if no one can buy one to find out for themselves then it won't survive in the marketplace.  With under 50K available fom the four major top-tier vendors, it will be very hard to find an Ultrabook for sale or being demonstrated.  That will kill the interest of consumers very quickly and could even trigger enough resentment to ensure that the Macbook Air remains the ultraportable of choice even if Intel's product might better the Apple product in certain ways.

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"First-tier notebook brand vendors Acer, Lenovo, Toshiba and Asustek Computer, understanding that demand for notebooks is unlikely to recover in the fourth quarter, while Apple's products are taking up all the glory in the market, will limit their initial Ultrabook shipment volume to below 50,000 units for testing the water, according to sources from notebook makers.

To encourage its notebook brand partners, Intel will host a conference for Ultrabooks on September 14 in the hopes to resolve some technology bottlenecks and attract more notebook players to join the Ultrabook industry.

Acer, Toshiba, Lenovo and Asustek's new Ultrabook models will all start shipping in September and products will appear in the global retail channels in October. Acer's Ultrabook is manufactured by both Compal Electronics and Quanta Computer, while Toshiba's machine is outsourced to Compal with Lenovo's device handled by Wistron and Asustek's model by Pegatron Technology."

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Source: DigiTimes

Acer Unveils Super Thin Aspire S3 Ultrabook at IFA in Berlin

Subject: Mobile | September 3, 2011 - 05:03 AM |
Tagged: ultrabook, ssd, Intel, acer

Hot on the heels of the Toshiba and Lenovo ultrabook announcements comes a new ultrabook from Acer. Engadget recently got their hands on the new Acer Aspire S3 ultrabook at the IFA (Internationale Funkausstellung Berlin) technology showcase in Berlin. The 13.3” computer carries some impressive specifications, including a 7 hour long battery life, metal chassis, and the latest Intel processors.

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To be more specific, the Acer computer is a 13.3” ultrabook composed of a magnesium alloy chassis measuring 13mm thick. Inside the metal frame lies an ultra low voltage Core i3, i5, or i7 Sandy Bridge processor, DDR3 RAM, and an interesting storage solution made of a 20GB SSD and 320GB mechanical hard drive combination. Acer is promising a 7 hour battery life, and a 1.5 second resume from sleep time. Further, the ultrabook features a glossy 1366 x 768 resolution display, and a chicklet keyboard whose keys Engadget notes feels like plastic.

While their is no word on US pricing, Acer has released the European starting price at €799. Compromises have been made to reach the price point (mainly in the keyboard); however, if the specifications and design hold up it looks to be a solid competitor in the ultrabook market.  More photos as well as a video tour of the ultrabook can be found here.

Source: Engadget

Toshiba Unveils Portege Z830 Ultrabook Series

Subject: Mobile | September 1, 2011 - 10:08 PM |
Tagged: z830, ultrabook, toshiba, sandy bridge, portege, Intel

There has been quite the buzz over ultrabooks for the past few weeks, and it seems as though Toshiba is ready to grab their slice of the news pie (actually, can we have cake?) with the announcement of their Portege Z830 series of, you guessed it, ultrabooks.

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Powered by Intel Sandy Bridge processors, the ultra (slim) book is housed in a magnesium alloy chassis measuring 15.9mm (0.63 inches) thick. Slated to be 20% lighter and 40% thinner than their previous ultraportable Portege R830 series, the company has reinforced the chassis with a honeycomb ribbing (I’m sure Josh is making a joke out of that right now) and some new internal shock dampening structures.  The company stated that the Z830 would weigh less than 2.5 lbs, though the number may vary depending on the specific configuration.  Because the notebook is so thin, they needed to go metal for the chassis to prevent serious warping and bending of the computer (and is coincidentally one of the items that caused manufacturers to complain about the sub-$1,000 requirement). Other chassis features include a full size LED backlit and spill resistant keyboard.

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Other hardware details about the computer are scarce in that Toshiba has not released much. The ultrabook will contain a 128 GB solid state drive and DDR3 memory. From photos of the ultrabook, the computer supports (likely Gigabit) Ethernet, USB, and HDMI ports. Stereo speakers by Waves Audio, Toshiba’s High Speed Start and USB Sleep and Charge technologies are also featured.

The Protege Z830 ultrabook series will be available in November 2011, and will carry a MSRP of less than $1,000 USD. Stay tuned to PC Perspective for more ultrabook coverage.

Source: Toshiba

Don't say we didn't warn you ... the Ultrabook is arriving in just over a month

Subject: General Tech | September 1, 2011 - 09:00 AM |
Tagged: ultrabook

Lenovo will be the first to release an Ultrabook and the least of the bad news is that it doesn't seem to have a brushed aluminium exterior.  The specs look great, a 13.3" screen gives enough size for most eyes to comfortably view movies and the web and the 14.9mm thick body will see it slip into even the tightest of spaces.  A total reported weight of 1.32kg (2.9lbs) is also very attractive, making it both lighter and slimmer than a popular portable fruit-based alternative.

The technical specs also measure up to the promise of the ultrabook, with a Core i7 and 4GB of DDR3 providing rather decent processing and graphics power for such a small note net portable computer.  The promise of 'instant on' is met with either a 128 or 256GB SSD of indeterminate origin as the storage medium as well as something known as Rapiddrive SSD which will boot to you to the desktop in just 10 seconds, presumably from a cold start.

With all this good news you might wonder what the warning was for?  As has been mentioned by the manufacturers and as Intel attempted to refute, price is the key for this form factor.  The Ultrabook is attempting to enter a market that has already been totally wrapped up by a well loved and mature product.  The Macbook Air has been selling to those who want a full fledged laptop in an ultramobile form factor for quite a while now, and those in this target market probably already own a Macbook Air.  In order to pull people away from Apple you need to at least match them in everything they do and better them in some way. 

How does the Ultrabook do on those accounts?  Apple will sell you an Air for $1299 which sports an SSD and a Core i5 processor, while Lenovo's new U300s will have the same specifications and according to The Inquirer it will cost around $1200, which is likely to actually be $1299.  That puts the two machines on almost equal footing with a slight CPU benefit to be claimed in the Intel camp, which brings us to maturity.  The Air works, we know this to be true as it has been on the market for long enough to work out any bugs.  The Ultrabook is an unknown; the first generation of any new form factor will go through teething issues which might be serious or perhaps be negligible but you will see them.

So, with the price being equal as well as the hardware, at least for most actual usage; would you pick up the new guy or go with the incumbent?

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"CHINESE LAPTOP MAKER Lenovo has announced its super thin and high performance U300s Ultrabook laptop.

The U300s will come with a 13.3in screen and Intel's second generation Core i5 or Core i7 processor. Lenovo gave a general availability of mid October and a price of around $1,200."

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Source: The Inquirer