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Pre-Computex – Ultrabooks in the second generation, a mixed lot

A year ago, at this same Computex, Ultrabooks were formally introduced to the world – and started shipping few months later. It's a year now, what tidings will the second generation bring?

A year after Sean Maloney's coveted talk introducing them – he's now the top boss of Intel Greater China, a sure-growth market for the near future – Ultrabooks are seen everywhere. Yes, MacBook Air brought out the concept first, but Intel made it popular – the multi-million funding effort covering marketing, component design, integration and such didn't go without use, either.

Besides the obvious CPU upgrade to Ivy Bridge, which should save power and improve graphics – and yes, 8 GB RAM should be standard now – there will be other interesting new features expected from the models shown at the Computex.

Better display resolution, to at least come closer to the tablets, is the first thing on the menu. The Asus Zenbook Prime UX series, with its Full HD 1920×1080 IPS – but still the unproductive 16:9 aspect ratio unfortunately – screen is a good example. Thankfully they also have improved keyboards (12% increase in key travel) over the previous generation too, which were borderline unusable. Either way, the age of useless 1366×768 resolution, similar to late last century PCs some 20 years ago, should be finally over, or at least on the premium offerings.

Fancy formats: How about convertible notebook/tablet hybrids? Dual-screen ones, as funny as it sounds? Various user preferences will be targeted by new form factors, with the touchscreen convertible being the most interesting one to watch. Again, such machine would have to have a different screen and aspect ratio though, likely a 16:10 beyond HD – say 2560×1600 – to really outclass the best .

Wider casing choices, as the plastics comes into the foray combined with lightweight, but expensive, metal enclosures. Sturdy but cheap plastic is now able to handle the Ultrabook design criteria. Finally, plethora of new interfaces, including the low latency direct PCIe external protrusion called Thunderbolt, and of course more of USB3, HDMI, DisplayPort and the mandatory Gigabit Ethernet.

The vendors will, hopefully, not forget that it's not just the innards, but also outside componentry that makes a high end laptop. So, the screen quality, keyboard usability and trackpad reliability are just as important. We'll tell you more on the actual models during the show. 

Nebojsa Novakovic
In the spare time over the past two decades, editor and writer of high-end computer hardware and design features and analysis for European and US media and analyst houses. Reviews of high end hardware are my specialty for 28 years already.

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