Lenovo Shows Off Convertible Ultrabooks
Lenovo is bending over backward to deliver convertible laptops in time for the upcoming Windows 8 launch. At this year's CES, Lenovo gave us the first peek of the Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga, the first of many touch-enabled convertible ultrabooks set to come to market this month. Well, the Oct. 26 Windows 8 launch is fast approaching, and Lenovo has announced that there are not one, but two Yoga models on the way, as well as a business-centered convertible ultrabook, the IdeaPad Edge Twist.
Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 13
The model we've glimpsed before is the Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 13, a convertible Windows 8 ultrabook that uses a "multi-mode" hinge to open up into a laptop, and then open further, with the screen moving 360 degrees to become a tablet-style device. The 13.6-inch screen offers 10 points of touch tracking on a 1,600-by-900 resolution IPS display.
The IdeaPad Yoga 13 will be available with either Intel Core i5 or i7 processors, paired with 8GB of RAM, and up to a 256GB solid-state drive. The laptop is equipped with USB 3.0 and 2.0 ports, a 3-in-1 card reader, and a full-size HDMI output port. Measuring 17 millimeters thick and weighing a mere 3.6 pounds, it meets ultrabook specs, including seven-hour battery life.
The Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 13 is available in Silver Grey or Clementine Orange, and is now available for pre-order. The IdeaPad Yoga 13 will be available starting at $1,099, and begins shipping on Oct. 26.
Acer Unveils Aspire S7 Ultrabooks
Acer is keeping the Aspire lineup fresh with three new ultrabooks, announced today in advance of the Oct. 26 launch of Windows 8. The new laptops feature Windows 8 and a slew of features optimized for the new operating system, with capacitive touch screens, true HD (1080p) displays, and super-slim profiles as thin as 0.48 inch.
The first in the lineup are the Acer Aspire S7-391-6810 and Acer Aspire S7-391-9886, two 13-inch ultrabooks featuring 1,920-by-1,080 resolution displays, with 10-finger capacitive touch capability. The laptops share a distinctive look thanks to single piece of construction that combines the hinge and lid frame, and a white sheet of Gorilla Glass 2 set into the lid, similar to what we saw on the HP Envy Spectre. The combination of single-piece design and Gorilla Glass backing provides lightweight sturdiness, slimming down the weight to 2.83 pounds. Designed to have the screen touched and prodded in day-to-day use, Acer has developed a dual torque hinge that tightens once opened. The hinge also allows the laptop to open flat to 108 degrees for table top use.
Both systems feature Dolby Home Theater Audio and built-in stereo speakers, two USB 3.0 ports, and micro-HDMI output. While the laptops don't have VGA or Ethernet ports on the system, adapters are included with the system to allow further connectivity. The keyboards offer automatic backlight, which adjusts automatically thanks to ambient light sensing.
The Acer Aspire S7-391-6810 offers up to five hours of battery life, while the Acer Aspire S7-391-9886 stretches it to six hours. Available for both laptops is an extended battery pack said to extend total battery life to 10 and 12 hours, respectively.
Few Consumers Rushing to Buy Ultrabooks
Ultrabooks are failing to heat up the PC market, according to Monday stats from IHS iSuppli.
The firm estimates that PC makers will ship about 10.3 million ultrabooks worldwide in 2012, but that's down significantly from the 22 million that IHS predicted earlier this year. As a result, IHS has dropped its 2013 ultrabook forecast from 61 million to 44 million.
"There once was a time when everyone knew the 'Dude you're getting a Dell' slogan. Nowadays no one can remember a tag line for a new PC product, including for any single ultrabook," Craig Stice, senior principal analyst for compute platforms at IHS, said in a statement. "So far, the PC industry has failed to create the kind of buzz and excitement among consumers that is required to propel ultrabooks into the mainstream. This is especially a problem amid all the hype surrounding media tablets and smartphones."
Still, it's not all doom and gloom for ultrabooks. The slim PCs just need to move past "nebulous marketing and unappealing price," according to IHS, which could help boost sales to 95 million by 2016.
Ultrabooks - which are basically thin and battery-efficient Intel-based laptops - need to be priced in the $600 range, according to IHS. At this point, they're closer to $1,000.
Next-Gen Intel Ultrabooks to Get Voice, Gesture Recognition
A "massive, massive amount of innovation is coming" in the next generation of thin-and-light ultrabooks, Intel executive Kirk Skaugen said at the Intel Developer Conference here on Tuesday.
The chip giant is preparing its fourth-generation Core chips, code-named Haswell, for a new rush of ultrabooks in 2013 that will feature smartphone-like voice recognition, touch, finger tracking, augmented reality, and gesture-based interfaces courtesy of clip-on sensors that will eventually be integrated into laptops, and more.
Intel has teamed up with some key partners to begin rolling out some of those interface capabilities. Later this year, it will release an introductory software developer package it's calling Intel Perceptual Computing SDK Beta.
Early developments on this front include a voice-recognition tool by Nuance called Dragon Assistant that will start appearing in Dell ultrabooks later this year. Skaugen also showed off a Kinect-like ultrabook accessory built by SoftKinetics and Creative that combines an infrared close-range gesture tracking camera and dual-microphone—that unit will start shipping in 2013 and be priced at $149, he said.
Some of the new interface technologies, like voice recognition, will start appearing in ultrabooks built around Intel's current-generation Ivy Bridge-based chips, said Skaugen, an Intel corporate vice president and general manager of its PC Client Group. But Haswell will be the first processor architecture that Intel built from the start with ultrabooks in mind, he added. That will open the door to what Skaugen promised would be "the most innovation over the next 20 months" from Intel than at any other point in the company's storied history.
New Toshiba Laptops, Ultrabooks for Windows 8 Unveiled
In addition to its new touch screen units designed with Windows 8 in mind, Toshiba has also unveiled at IFA today four new systems of varying sizes and features optimized for Microsoft's upcoming Windows 8 operating system. All systems will include Toshiba Desktop Assist, which provides the familiar control panel and shortcuts seen in Windows 7, as well as Toshiba Central, which is Toshiba's proprietary assistance software that's arranged in a tiled-style layout similar to that of the new Windows platform.
Toshiba Satellite P845t
Designed to be Toshiba's mainstream Windows 8 system, the Satellite P845t is a souped-up, Windows 8-ready version of the Satellite P845. The first thing you'll notice about the P845t is its absence of a bezel, as it sports an edge-to-edge 14-inch display. Notwithstanding its good looks, the primary ingredient in the display is its capacitive touch capability, which in turn makes navigating the tiled interface of Windows 8 a more fluid experience. An etched aluminum chassis in a champagne silver finish complements its slim-form-factor to result in an overall refined aesthetic. In addition to being kitted out with three USB 3.0 ports, the P845t is also equipped with an HDMI port as well as Intel's Wireless Display technology. On the inside, it packs a third-generation Intel Core i5 processor, 6GB DDR3 RAM, and a 750GB HDD.
Acer Offering Free Windows 8 Pro Upgrades for Ultrabook Buyers
Acer announced this week that it will provide free Windows 8 Pro upgrades to customers who purchase a Windows 7-based ultrabook now.
The deal is available to those buying the Acer Aspire M3, M5, S3, or S5 between June 2 and Jan. 31, 2013. Microsoft is offering a $14.99 Windows 8 Pro upgrade to anyone who purchases a Windows 7 PC in the same timeframe, and Acer said this week that it will refund the price of that upgrade for ultrabook buyers.
"The latest Acer Ultrabook deserves the latest operating system, so upgrade your Acer Ultrabook to Windows 8 through the Microsoft Upgrade Program and then Acer will refund the cost of your upgrade," Acer said on its Windows upgrade site. "Just our way of keeping you and your Acer ultra."
Once Microsoft releases Windows 8, which is scheduled for late October, Acer will add a link to its website where ultrabook buyers can submit refund claims with their Microsoft order number and ultrabook serial number.
For those who bought a Windows machine before the upgrade cutoff, Microsoft is offering a $39.99 Windows 8 Pro upgrade to anyone with a Windows XP, Windows Vista, or Windows 7 device.
Acer has put a lot of effort into the ultrabook category. But according to data from Gartner this week, ultrabooks had little impact on overall PC shipments during the second quarter and are still considered to be in the early adopter phase. Gartner predicted that Acer "will most likely lower the ultrabook price faster than other vendors."
In other Windows 8 news, Mary Jo Foley reported that Microsoft will probably not offer the full boxed version of Windows 8 at retail stores at launch. She cited a system builder licensing document from a contact, which said Microsoft will "only offer an upgrade version of Windows 8 through the retail channel."
This likely won't affect too many Windows users - most get their Windows upgrades by buying a new PC pre-loaded with the new OS, upgrade from a previous version, or through volume-licensing deals.
If you're doing something like building a PC from scratch and want Windows 8, though, Foley said users will likely buy a system builder license for the OS at an undetermined price.
Microsoft recently announced plans for Windows To Go, a small, bootable USB drive that will allow for the easy transport of your entire managed corporate desktop.
Report: Third-Gen Ultrabooks to Get Touch Screens, 3D Displays
The third wave of ultrabooks coming out next year will feature touch-screen capabilities, "high quality" 3D displays, and possibly a new chassis material that's 65 percent cheaper to manufacture than materials used in current designs, according to Digitimes.
The Taiwanese tech site also reported Monday that Intel's specifications for the third generation of ultrabooks include the use of unspecified "sensors," possibly a reference to motion sensors for yet another method of interface with the thin-and-light laptops.
Intel, which kicked off its global ultrabook initiative with PC makers in 2011, is shooting for the next wave of products to arrive in the second quarter of 2013. That will coincide with the chip giant's introduction of next-generation, 22-nanometer processors, codenamed Haswell, the successors to its current Ivy Bridge generation of laptop and desktop chips.
Digitimes cited unnamed sources "from the upstream supply chain" in its report.
Since introducing the first generation of ultrabooks at its Intel Developer Forum last September, the chip giant has outlined a series of stringent specifications that must be met for a laptop to win the ultrabook seal of approval—including thinness, weight, boot-up speed, security protocols, and battery life. Intel has also recommended that qualifying ultrabooks be priced below $1,000. At the start, many Intel partners initially snuck under that barrier with $999 price tags for their offerings, but prices for official ultra books have become more fluid as the category matures.
According to Digitimes, Intel is now pushing "a new chassis manufacturing method from the automobile and aerospace industries that can reduce costs by 65 percent" for ultrabook makers, which could further drive retail prices down.
Acer Unveils Aspire Timeline Ultra M5 Ultrabooks
The newest addition to Acer's Timeline series has slimmed down, weighing in at 4.3 pounds and just 0.81 inches thick, offering what Acer called the best of both worlds: "A slim, lightweight design, larger displays, all-day battery life, and powerful Intel and Nvidia technologies," the company said.
In line with the modern ultrabook designs, the ultra-thin M5 Series offers the minimalist aluminum-alloy look, while providing up to eight hours of use on a single charge, based on testing with the wireless turned on.
Customers can opt for a 14- or 15.6-inch, widescreen, 1,366-by-768 display, as well as a 1.5-GHz, second-generation Intel Core i3 or 2.6-GHz, third-generation Intel Core i5 processor.
The 14-inch i3 device includes 6GB of memory and Intel HD graphics, while the Core i5 ultrabooks boast either 4GB or 6GB of memory and Nvidia GeForce graphics.
The Timeline Ultra comes equipped with Acer's "Green Instant On" and "Always Connect" technologies, which provide a faster boot up and instant restoration of websites, emails, or documents once starting the computer. It also carries the ability to connect to the Web in less than three seconds, Acer said.
M5 Series ultrabooks also come with backlit keyboards, Dolby Home Theater speakers, a built-in optical drive, and library-managing Acer clear.fi technology. With a service subscription, users can rely on Intel Anti-Theft Technology that allows remote disabling of a lost or stolen ultrabook, rendering the computer useless to thieves.
Prices range from about $680 to $830, according to Acer. The computers will be available on Acer's website, as well as retailers across the country, by the end of June.
Vizio Debuts All-in-One Desktops, Ultrabooks
Vizio, a company long known for its HDTVs, is hoping to make an equally big splash in the PC market. Today in New York, the company finally launched the all-in-one desktops and laptops it announced at CES earlier this year.
In a presentation that included remarks from partners Intel, Microsoft, and Walmart, Vizio CEO and founder William Wang and CTO Matt McRae talked about the current PC landscape, and how there is a dearth of standout design. According to them, the new Vizio systems remedy that with sleek forms, as well as a lack of bloatware and moderate price points.
You can be forgiven for doing a double-take when you first see Vizio's new systems. The 24-inch CA24 and 27-inch CA27 all-in-one desktops bring to mind the aesthetics of the Apple iMac, circa 2002. The base holds the components, and connects to a sleek display by a single chrome hinge.
The Vizio CT14 and CT15 ultrabooks (which the company refers to as Thin + Light) and CN15 laptop share the same minimalist design as the Apple MacBook Pro and MacBook Air models, with a thin profile and light weight.
The CA24 and CA27 both come with a 1,920-by-1,080 (1080p HD) resolution screen (through the CA24's screen is 24 inches, while the CA27's screen measures 27 inches). In a nod to Vizio's expertise in the HDTV arena, the desktops come with a remote control, two HDMI ports, and a separate subwoofer (as part of a 2.1 speaker system). A wireless keyboard and trackpad are also bundled in. Like Apple did with its Mac Mini, Vizio has opted to drop the optical drive in the all-in-one desktops, as well as its laptop PCs.
Toshiba Fattens Ultrabook Lineup
Don't let the thin profiles fool you: ultrabooks inhabit an increasingly wider segment of the market. With more and more devices inflating this ballooning category, the world of ultrabooks has gotten crowded enough to the point where enticing consumers requires a bit more than a skinny chassis. Bearing this in mind, Toshiba unveiled today the latest additions to its ultrabook lineup, the Portege Z935 and the Satellite U845. The big distinction? Both come equipped with the latest in Ivy Bridge processing power.
The Portege Z935 looks a lot like its predecessor, the Toshiba Portege Z835-P370, except now there's a powerful Ivy Bridge Core i5 processor underneath the super-skinny yet durable magnesium alloy chassis. Weighing a scant 2.5 pounds, it is, in Toshiba's estimation, the lightest 13-inch ultrabook currently on the market. The Z935 eschews the clickpad favored by many manufacturers as of late, as evidenced by the shiny chome left- and right-click buttons beneath the trackpad.
In order to maintain its thin profile, Toshiba opted to crowd the majority of the Portege Z935's ports on the system's wide rear hinge. Accordingly, the rear houses a full-sized Ethernet port, VGA, and HDMI outputs as well as two USB 2.0 ports. The right side of the system sports the Z935's lone USB 3.0 port and a caselock slot, and the left side features mic and headphone jacks alongside a multicard reader. The Portege Z935 starts at $799.