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Could a few hundred bucks tacked on the top end make a difference between a vanilla ultrabook and something truly special? That's something Acer is willing to gamble on with its latest flagship ultrabook.
The Aspire S5 comes with a beefy Core i7-3517U clocked at 1.9GHz, 4GB of RAM and 256GB of flash storage -- no hybrid caching system here. In most instances, an SSD is the best component upgrade for any modern system, but Acer took things one step further as the S5 is equipped with two 128GB SSDs in a RAID0 configuration. It goes without saying that the storage subsystem should be blazing fast.
More than last year, 2012's ultrabooks have been and will continue to be about tradeoffs: low-res screens vs. high-res, TN panels vs. IPS, snappy SSDs vs. capacious HDDs, dual-core CPUs vs. quad-core, 2GB vs. 8GB, power-sipping IGPs vs. muscle-bound GPUs, mainstream vs. premium pricing, and so on.
Acer's new TimelineU makes its own compromises. Our review unit touts a full-size backlit keyboard, 500GB of storage, a GeForce GT 640M LE GPU, an optical drive, an eight-hour battery life and an attractive $830 price tag. Naturally, the question is: what's the catch? Let's get to the bottom of that.
When choosing the right laptop it all comes down to what you are willing to spend and what you plan to use it for. This guide will help you navigate through the countless options out there. As usual, we've narrowed down our favorite notebooks and grouped them into five different categories: ultraportables, business and workstations, desktop replacements, gaming, and budget-oriented machines.
|Ultraportables Thin and light laptops balance portability, performance and battery life.||Business Mid to high end components with an emphasis on durability, security and battery life.|
|Desktop Replacements The most complete set of features, often forgo battery life and portability for extra horsepower.||Gaming If mobility is a priority, there are some solid choices for gaming on the go.|
|Budget-oriented A good blend of price and features, but slim form factors are not necessarily a priority.|
Steve Jobs unveiled the first MacBook Air in early 2008 to mixed reviews, but a series of redesigns and hardware refreshes through the years have resulted in a product line that has had a huge impact on the industry. PC makers have struggled to match the Air’s extremely thin and simplistic design, prompting Intel to announce the ultrabook initiative at Computex in 2011.
New for the 2012 MacBook Air is the Intel Ivy Bridge processor sporting Intel HD 4000 graphics, higher capacity storage and memory options, as well as an improved 720p Facetime HD camera, and support for USB 3.0. The 13-inch system also received a $100 price cut, now starting at $1,199.
Earlier this week Apple announced updates to its entire notebook lineup, bringing it up to date with Ivy Bridge processors and a few other goodies. Like them, many other computer manufacturers have been showcasing new and updated laptops over the past few days and weeks.
Ultrabooks in particular received quite a bit of attention, and we’re not surprised. Intel is putting a lot of weight behind the concept and expects it to be the main driver of PC market growth in the short term. With that in mind, we’re taking a couple of Wintel alternatives to check how well they stack up next to the new 13-inch MacBook Air.
Instead of breaking new ground in performance, Ivy Bridge improves efficiency, marking the arrival of Intel's 22nm design process which uses new 3D transistors. This allows the flagship quad-core 3.5GHz Core i7-3770K to consume less power than the more modest Sandy Bridge i5-2500K.
Granted, the 19-watt power savings we recorded in our tests probably won't excite desktop users, but it does present a tangible benefit for battery-bound mobile machines. Ivy Bridge's improved fuel efficiency should grant laptops a little more mileage away from wall chargers.
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