Are Current-Gen Ultrabooks Worth it?

Today I want to propose a question that might spark some minor controversy in both directions, are ultrabooks really worth it?

Intel has put a lot of resources behind its new ultrabook strategy, and it seems they are banking on this new move to really go after Apple’s Macbook Air, while also making the laptop something edgy and new.

As they progress, the minimum specifications to get a vendor’s laptop certified as an Intel ‘ultrabook’ will continue to change. For now, they must meet the following though:

  • Thin – less than 21 mm (0.8 inch) thickness
  • Lightweight – less than 1.4 kg (3.1 pounds)
  • Long battery life – 5 to 8+ hours
  • Mainstream pricing – around $1,000 USD
  • May use flash-based SSDs
  • Use CULV Intel Sandy Bridge mobile processors
  • Core i5-2467M (1.6 GHz)
  • Core i5-2557M (1.7 GHz)
  • Core i7-2637M (1.7 GHz)
  • Core i7-2677M (1.8 GHz)
  • Use Intel’s graphics sub-system HD Graphics 3000

The specs aren’t bad, but they aren’t exactly epic either, especially on the graphics end. My biggest problem with the “Ultrabook” program right now is that it just seems too expensive to be worth it, at least for a user like me. So what defines a ‘user like me’?

To give you an idea of how I use my time on my laptop, 75% of it is done for the desk. About 20% is done from a couch, bed, or reclining chair. The remaining 5% is done outside of the home, requiring a true mobile experience.

What kind of machine do I have? It is a thin-in-light that still manages a sliding-DVD tray. It isn’t heavy but it isn’t uber-mobile. Still, it only cost around $500 and has a similar processor but a better video card built in.

The point is that a $800-$1000, the ultrabook isn’t probably worth it unless you are a traveling professional that really needs constant mobility. The most annoying part of this is that most users are buying these for their trendy-looks and to show off, not because they really need the mobility.

If you have the money to spend and like the trendy-side, I understand and am not lecturing you or saying you shouldn’t buy one. I am just wondering if it is really worth it or not. I have considered one, again based (honestly) a bit on looks.

The thing though is that current thin-and-lights are about the same size and factor of these ultrabooks but they don’t have to adhere to the same specifications and so they often cost less. Many of them also run AMD processors and so that can also save on the cost.

I like Intel processors and the ultrabook factor isn’t a bad idea, but for those who don’t need a constantly mobile experience, it might not be a bad idea to get a ‘slightly’ thicker thin-and-light that runs on an AMD processor instead. This means you save yourself a few hundred bucks and get an experience that isn’t much different.

I do suspect that the next-generation ultrabooks will change everything though. As these ultrabooks add touch-screen technology, convertible designs that work as slates, and more, they might offer an experience that is truly worth it even for those who really don’t need a highly mobile experience.

So should you pass on current ultrabooks? Not necessarily, just remember to weight the costs versus what you really need out of a machine. If you live a very mobile life, than ultrabooks might be the perfect solution.

What are your thoughts?

Are ultrabooks a great innovation and a must-have or are you waiting for the next-gen ultraboook hardware to arrive?

Share your thoughts below.

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