Tag: ultrabook

Samsung snatches bag maker Intel's fashion tiara

Not to be outdone by fashion bag maker Intel, South Korea’s Samsung is making a dramatic appearance at London Fashion Week, teaming up with designer Nicholas Kirkwood to show off some Galaxy Gear and Note 3 accessories as well as some considerable marketing spend to get its brand all over the place.

Samsung, which is a sponsor of LFW, boasted that Nicholas Kirkwood’s Chevron Pattern design will be made available for the Gear and Note 3 in black on white or white on black, and will be available to buy online and in the high street.

The company is a top sponsor at London’s Somerset House, having wrangled a deal to display its brand everywhere, as well as planting its Note 8.0 and S4 Zoom throughout the show.

Fashion week staff will be using the devices on the site and at the concierge desk, while journalists and bloggers will be able to have a go in press lounges.

There’s also a “Samsung Galaxy VIP” lounge which is decorated with a geometric graphic carpet, mirrored bars, and diamond back lit optical displays. This space will be used for events and as a space for press coverage and live camera pieces.

Samsung boldly declared the Galaxy Gear as set to become the “ultimate fashion icon” as the “world’s first truly wearable technology”.

The company also collaborated with London Fashion Week last year, as well as being involved in Fashion Fringe and Vogue’s Fashion Night Out.

Compared to Intel’s efforts it certainly seems more confident in its couture credentials. Cebit 2012’s main announcement from the corporation saw it launch a large leather bag which was designed to put Ultrabooks in. But no one has really bought any Ultrabooks and we suspect even less bought the matching bag.

It’s possible more companies will get involved in posturing for the fashion industry: as wearable electronics are touted, at least by the tech giants, as the next Big Thing, they’re going to want as many product placements as possible. Consumer interest will measure just how successful the devices are. 

Intel moves to save 2-in-1Ultrabooks

Intel is hosting a symposium in Taipei attempting to get its supply chain partners to help reduce the costs of its 2-in-1 Ultrabook laptops.

Ultrabook take up has been as fast as a complete orbit around the galatic rim, and part of that has been because people are short of readies to by anything more expensive than a tablet or a smartphone.

Intel has set up an ecosystem symposium which is expected to draw hundreds of participants from local suppliers.

The idea is to discuss designs for 2-in-1 devices that can help switch between laptop and tablet modes, as well as how to reduce the power consumption of processors and the weight of components used in the devices.

Zane Ball, Intel vice president and general manager of global ecosystem development, said at a briefing that he expects the prices of 2-in-1 lightweight laptops to fall in the coming year because of lower component costs.

Most companies in the ecosystem can currently deliver a price point of US$399 for 2-in-1 Ultrabooks, but added that it will be a challenge to get the price down to US$299.

Of course this will mean giving Intel OEMs and other assorted riff-raff a Chinese burn until they say “uncle”.

Intel is still pinning its hopes on the Ultrabook as a way out of its troubles. It hopes the 2-in-1 idea could prevent the whole concept from dying completely.

Chromebooks could be Google's ultrabook

Once touted as Google’s great white hope, it appears that Chromebooks are becoming a great white shark to the company’s bottom line.

Chromebooks first appeared two years ago and it was believed that low-cost devices running cloud-centric Chrome OS could kill off Windows.

For a couple of years we have not known how well Chromebooks had been selling, but now figures out from NetMarketShare indicate the numbers are so low that they make Ultrabook use look impressive by comparison.

NetMarketShare reported that the percentage of web traffic from Chromebooks was roughly two percent of a single percent.

Some dubbed the Chromebook a “Windows killer” when it first came out.

How that was likely when the first batch did not sell more than 5,000 is anyone’s guess. But to be fair, the Chromebook could have done a lot better.

Lenovo and HP have added low-cost Chromebooks to their lineup and last year Samsung introduced a $249 ARM-powered Chromebook which looked a bit like a MacBook Air, or an Intel Ultrabook. Google even had a crack at selling its own model – an expensive Chromebook Pixel, with a high-resolution touchscreen.

The Samsung model topped Amazon’s list of best-selling laptops last winter, but hardly any Chromebooks have appeared at all on the list of operating systems monitored by Net Applications. 

Intel electrocutes David Blaine

Intel has found a truly compelling use for its Ultrabooks – electrocuting TV wizard David Blaine.

The latest stunt from the self-styled ‘master magician’ sees Blaine surrounded by a tesla coil sending a million volts running through his chainmail suit, as he stands on top of a 72 foot podium in New York.   

Intel says that a number of Ultrabook users were able to crank up the volts pulsing through the bizarre sorcerer, allowing fans to control the intensity and direction of the surrounding tesla coils.   

Whether Blaine’s latest PR stunt will be able to work some magic with Ultrabook sales, which have so far fallen short of Intel’s initial targets, is another thing.   The most real and present jeopardy Blaine appears to have been in was whether his perspex box would hold out against the barrage of golf balls and beer cans thrown at him by UK fans as he dangled above the River Thames during his 2003 Above the Below shows.

The ‘Electrified: An Intel Ultrabook Experience’ stunt is the latest attempt by Intel to grab attention for its Ultrabook platform, with a number of ad campaigns aimed at raising awareness among consumers.  Intel told ChannelBiz UK earlier this year that its advertising push for the devices would be the biggest “in a long, long time”, as the firm fights back against the rise of other mobile devices.  

As well as a ‘smash and grab’ themed advert, which we imagine would have boosted uptake in the UK circa August 2011, Intel has also roped in big name directors and actors such as Roman Coppola and Chloe Sevigny as it seeks alterative methods for its marketing push.

Intel's 2013 Haswell Ultrabook configurations revealed

Intel’s new line of Haswell Ultrabooks which will not see the light of day until 2013, will ship with added features on the basic model in response to a savaging from the tech press this year.

According to documents seen by TechEye, there is a serious difference in price and performance between the standard products and the top samples, .

For standard models, the baseline Bill of Materials must not exceed $699. Intel is insisting these machines must include: all day battery life at nine hours, voice command, HD video chat with a 720p resolution camera, as well as a wireless display, robust wi-fi, bundled anti virus protection in the consumer model, and a multi touchpad. 

There will be a minimum capacity of 16GB NAND for While Using functions, and it sohuld be a storage product that can get a PCMark Vantage HDD Sub Score of more than 16000 and a PCMark Vantage video editing score of more than 80MB/s. Intel recommends an SSD. 

For security, Intel is enabling anti-theft in the platform BIOS and it will be opt-out. There will also be identity protection technology bundled into the OS. Intel recommends that the Shark Bay line ships with its own McAfee security bundle, though concedes that Windows defender for Windows 8 does meet the antivirus and antimalware requirements of Shark Bay for OEMs. 

The recommended sample OEM configurations for a 13 inch Ultrabook in 2013 on connected standby are a <18mm clamshell/<20mm hybrid metal chassis weighing in under 3 lb. The CPU should be an HSW 2+3, while memory is 2x2GB x32LPDDR3 (1600), and a 128 GB SSD for storage. There is a 1080p USB camera and a 13″ display with 1920×1080 resolution.

The machine ships with WWAN, as well as multi-touch screen and multi-touch touchpad,  and will have NFC capabilities. The battery life will be 9+ hours and media playback battery life will be 6+ hours. The recommended spec ships with Windows 8 Connected Standby.

Baseline samples ship without Windows 8 Connected Standby. They will not require touch interfaces or ship with WWAN, or ship with NFC capabilities. Baseline display resolution is 1366×768. The chassis will be plastic and will weigh in at 3 lb +. Baseline memory is 2×2 GB x 16 DDR3L (1600), storage is 320GB HDD and a 32GB SSD. The camera is 720p USB.

However, running with the recommended features, the 2013 Haswell Ultrabooks could fetch as high as $999 in the B.O.M. It is recommended that Haswell Ultrabooks should sport hybrid form factors, Microsoft Windows 8 connected standby, a full HD display, standalone SSD, always connected WWAN features, facial recognition, and for the corporate market, and the vPro platform. 

Right now, Intel isn’t certain if the Intel Core vPro platform should be a standard requirement for all business Ultrabooks. 

Report notes Intel's ultrabook woes

A roadmap, seen by TechEye. has revealed that Intel is having huge problems getting its Ultrabook form factor out in the way it wants.

While Chipzilla has been claiming to the world plus its dog that the Ultrabook is good to go, it would appear that anyone who buys one in the next year is asking for trouble.

Intel has been selling the idea that Ultrabooks are super-sexy, respond with a wave of your hand, allow you into Facebook in a second, know you and your data, gives safe and easy access to apps content and never keeps the user waiting. All this is supposed to be done to fit a baseline BOM of $699.

The Ultrabook is going to be in a holding pattern before the Haswell chip appears in 2013.

Intel notes that while there is support out there for Ultrabooks, reviewers are not happy with the way the Ultrabook design has turned out so far.

Negative media assessment centred on problems like unwieldy size and weight, poor display resolution and quality, chassis stability, attractiveness and trackpad responsiveness.

In other words, Intel appears to be adding stuff on the hoof to match its chip development, rather than what else is going on in the mobile computing industry.

The report suggests that next year will see an Ultrabook which is still a bare bones project – “ultra thin, Instant on, have responsive applications, multi tasking PC performance, great graphics and anti-theft devices”.

The report lists all the costs for all the bells and whistles that an Ultrabook needs. It says that for the Ultrabook to succeed they need thin designs, all day battery life, responsive voice functions, HD camera and screen, always fresh data, robust wi-fi, wireless display and multi-touch pad.

However, none of these are on the Ultrabook roadmap until 2013 with the arrival of Haswell.

Users will see that many of these features are on the Windows reference tablet, which will have a keyboard. This means that the Ultrabook concept will be two years behind tablet development.

While the Ultrabook will have a much faster chip, many analysts think that this particular battle will be won on battery life, applications and add on gizmos.

All in ones set for double digit growth

The traditional desktop PC may be taking a battering from the rise of the mini-machines such as tablets and Ultrabooks, but shipments of all-in-ones are growing rapidly.

An iSuppli report shows that all-in-one shipments are expected to reach 16.4 million units this year, climbing 20 percent from 2011.  Shipments are predicted to eventually climb to 24.8 million units by 2016, a compound annual growth rate of around 13 percent.

This is unlikely to make up for the often abysmal wider PC market as the total figure for growth in traditional PC shipments is set for a meagre 0.2 percent increase.  

While analysts appear confident that the all-in-one market will help support the ailing desktop, even by 2016 it will only make up a small portion of the total 132.3 million units shipped this year.

The situation is markedly worse in the mature markets of  Western Europe, with emerging markets likely the main reason for keeping the overall market afloat.

While it was Apple which was initially responsible for the all in one form factor, many vendors are keen to throw their weight behind the more modern take on the archaic grey box desktops over the decades.

HP launched a range of business and consumer all-in-ones yesterday, while Acer and Lenovo have also released machines recently.

It is likely that the products will also benefit from the touch screen capabilities of Windows 8 too.

Intel to drop i3 prices

Intel may already be looking to drop the price on one of its new Ivy Bridge Core i3 mobile processors as a push to make its Ultrabook platform more enticing.

Partners have been muttering to Chipzilla that the price on the chips for the ultra-thin laptops are too high

They moan that it is impossible for them to drop prices well under the $1,000 price point without sacrificing profitability. Intel’s answer has been to suggest using plastic cases instead of the metal chassis it originally demanded.

Now according to Xbit labs it appears that Intel could finally budge.

A Williams Financial Group research analyst Cody Acree claims Intel is lowering the price of its new Core i3-3217U processor,. The analyst says the price cut would be between $25 to $27, or roughly 11 percent off the original $225 price.

If Intel is going through with this it is a little ironic as it comes when pricier Ultrabooks are actually gaining traction with consumers.

But more Ultrabooks will need to get closer to the $500 mainstream price point if they are to meet Intel’s heady sales goals so that would explain the price cut. 

Intel Ultrabook head-to-head: HP Folio 13 vs Lenovo U300s

As Intel’s Ultrabook kick into full throttle as partners gear up for the release of a new wave of Ivy Bridge based devices TechEye took the time to have a look at how some of the initial wave of ultraportables have fared.

Intel set itself a mammoth task in attempting to keep up as the PC market moves at breakneck speed towards a greater emphasis on mobile devices.
 
With tablets knocking the established order of desktop and laptop dominance, traditional notebooks ran the risk of looking almost archaic in the face of shiny new mobile devices.  Vendors had largely tried and failed with the lightweight but underpowered netbooks, and there had been little to rival the rise of the mobile device.

The reaction from Intel to the various threats of ARM chip designs (and Apple‘s iPad and Macbook Air) was to offer up its own take, the Ultrabook.

$300 million dollars, a raft of specifications, and some dodgy handbags later and the initial influx of devices from a range of manufacturers have now properly arrived.  

Most of the major PC vendors have released their own take on the Ultrabook, and although Intel is likely a good way off the 40 percent penetration target that it set itself for the PC market in 2012, the Ultrabooks appear to have been largely well received and expectations remain high.

Price has been one of the main quibbles among consumers, though these are now dropping for the first wave of Sandy Bridge devices.  

Thanks to endeavours with hybrid SDDs, as well as potentially replacing metal casings with tough plastics and even roping in airplane designers, Ultrabooks are approaching more mainstream price points to meet Intel’s desired mainstream appeal.

As AMD’s own ultrathings hit shops later this year with a mission to beat Intel on price, there are plenty of challenges ahead. Apple’s own MacBook Air, generally accepted as the blue-print for Ultrabooks, though a razor thin Sony Vaio laptop did appear some time before, still presents a threat in the ultrapotable market.

The battle to gain dominance with mainstream adoption is still ongoing.

To find out what the fuss is about, TechEye got to grips with HP’s Folio 13 and Lenovo U300s.

 

HP Folio 13

The Folio 13 looks to us like it is aimed squarely at the business market but HP has delivered in a visually appealing, if somewhat heavy, device. Ultimately we think HP nailed it: considering it is part of the first wave, expectations were high, and considering the pressure to keep the price point low while delivering an ultra-thin, instant-on machine, we came away impressed. £649, we think, is not a bad price and the machine felt like, to us, bang for our buck.

 

Lenovo IdeaPad U300s

This machine has an eye catching design and is a pleasure to look at. Lenovo got it right with its vital statistics, keeping the machine thin and light: this is a very portable machine. However, it does feel a little flimsy at times. We missed an SD card which can prove very useful depending on the profession. Wireless connectivity and the advent of a world with its head in the cloud does offer an alternative down the line but we are not quite there yet. Lenovo’s IdeaPad U300s costs a little more, at £749, but is still a good, media laptop that offers instant-on working productivity with attractive looks to boot. 

 

The Result

Overall both laptops were mighty impressive and go a long way to achieving Intel’s goal of turning the consumer’s head away from tablets.

Both are lightweight, highly portable, powerful and, perhaps crucially, both score highly in the looks department.

They might not quite be as easy to brandish on the bus as a tablet, but they are not too far off, and more than make up for this is in productivity and versatility, and, well, all round usefulness.

As Ivy Bridge Ultrabooks crop up they will offer even better battery life and power than these devices.

Already, though, Intel and its vendor partners appear to have gone some way to cracking the Ultrabook standard in the first wave of Sandy Bridge based devices, and we would certainly recommend either device.

The real question for Intel and the big PC brands is whether or not they can continue to replicate the high quality level of products that has been set by the initial flock of Ultrabooks.

As device types proliferate and form factors begin to differ more substantially to accommodate Windows 8 touch features, The challenge in keeping the standard high is at least as tricky as ensuring a good standard in the first place. There will be more device types – as Microsoft’sSurface has shown us – and there will be more form factors on the way.

But, we reckon, Lenovo and HP have both managed to bring out very good devices at reasonable price points with the U300s and Folio 13 both representing good value.

However, the Folio 13 is marginally the victor. It was a close call, but we’d give it the advantage thanks to its battery life, strong build and versatility. Our winner? It’d be HP’s Folio 13. 

Lenovo IdeaPad U300s review

Lenovo’s IdeaPad U300s is seemingly positioned somewhere between appealing to the consumer and businesses, with an attractive tapered front edge and metal lip running around the side of the chassis giving it a slimline ‘book’ appearance.

At a skinny 16mm the U300s has the razor-thin appeal of an ultrathin laptop, and the two tone dark metal chassis hits high in the prettiness stakes. It is eye-catching without being overly stylised like some Ultrabooks, and when shown to non-techy friends it received considerable praise for its initial looks, a prime requisite for a spot of Mac Book Air bashing.

At 1.32kg it is also a very light machine, though we found it hard to feel any substantial difference with the Folio 13, and Lenovo even provides a miniscule battery brick that is a thoughtful, and useful, touch.

Despite its weight, or lack of, the majority of the aluminium chassis feels strong, and holding it one-handed results in no problematic bending at the edge of the main body. The thin metal surrounding the screen is slightly flexible, however, and has an unnerving tendency to bounce back and forth for a second or two when opened and positioned into place.

Nevertheless it is sturdy overall, and users will be more than confident to throw it in a bag to bring outside without fretting that it will be crushed in by whatever is lurking around it.

As with the Folio 13, the 1366×768 screen is not remarkable, and we found that the brightness left a fair bit to be desired, sometimes making it slightly difficult to use in well-lit environments.   This appears to be a feature of many Ultrabooks, and the inconvenience was minimal.

The audio is decent enough for a laptop of this size, if slightly tinny and obscured by the main body.

The glass trackpad is spacious and a joy to use.  The left and right click buttons both have just enough resistance, as does the satisfying one touch click. The two finger scroll and pinch zoom were as good as any we have used, with even our clunky and uncoordinated digits moving around with ease and precision.  

The keyboard is generally easy to use, with enough give in the well-spaced keys to make for speedy typing. The positioning of the shrunken ‘enter’ and ‘backspace’ keys meant that mistakes were made occasionally when typing fast, though most will adjust to this, and did not present any significant problems.

The rounded keys suit the lines of machine, but the lack of backlighting on the keyboard is a missed trick both in terms of functionality and general aesthetics.

One drawback with the U300s is perhaps in terms of connectivity, as it is far from generous in this department.  While a full sized HDMI on an ultrathin device rather than a mini port saves on faffing around with adaptors, with two USBs (one being the newer USB 3.0) and no Ethernet, connectivity is basic. What is even more glaringly absent is the space for an SD card. While external hard drives and cloud storage offer some alternatives to the 128GB SSD, many will find an SD card upgrade essential.

The SSD itself is fantastic, and the boot up times are as speedy as Intel has claimed the Ultrabooks would be, switching from sleep mode to full use in a flash, and zooming through a restart.

This is one of the main benefits of Ultrabooks aside from their portability, and go a long way to rivalling tablets for carrying around and instant use.

In terms of performance, the spec varies little from the Folio 13 – and indeed many other Ultrabooks – with 4GB DDR3 RAM and a 1.6GHz i5-2478 Sandy Bridge Intel chip, meaning that the U300s rumbled through most tasks without blinking.  For a small and light device this is impressive, and makes netbooks look almost laughable.

Of course an Ultrabook is not the place to play newer games with graphics at full tilt HD 3000 or no, but gaming on reasonably new titles without major tweaks was possible, and there is little the average user will require that the U300s cannot provide without stuttering. HD video playback through an LCD TV caused no hiccups either.

Similarly, multitasking was a cinch, with the U300s not batting an eyelid even battling a ridiculous amount of web tabs open at once, as well as a number of programs open simultaneously. One slight problem that was evident at times was a tendency to start overheating when the processor is working harder, though this was relatively rare.   

Battery life on the machine was again impressive, and we managed to eke out close to six hours with moderate day to day usage and even more with the settings turned down and minimal usage.

The benefits of such longer battery on a device this small and powerful are hard to understate.