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Intel banking on convertibles

- December 4th, 2012

Intel

Ultrabooks are known to be thin, fast and powerful machines. They weigh about three pounds on average, can hybernate in seven seconds, turn back on almost immediately due to their solid-state drives and offer high-performance.

But Joe Ellis, market development manager for Intel of Canada Ltd., said they’re now getting even better.

“I think finally we’re beginning to see the Ultrabook category as it was originally envisioned.”

And he added the convertible, a form factor that combines aspects of both the tablet and notebook, is the next step in the evolution of the Ultrabook.

“We’ve always had this vision of Ultrabooks that could…be the productivity tool that we’re used to,” Ellis explained, “but (also) be these coveted style-driven ultra-thin, light and still responsive, high-performance devices that…you could only get with a PC.”

Essentially, a convertibles is a touchscreen notebook computer that can transform into a tablet. But how the manner in which it transforms varies from device to device.

Ellis presented three examples from three different manufacturers, the Dell XPS 12, the Sony Vaio Duo 11 and the Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga.

Dell XPS 12 Convertible Touch Ultrabook

Dell XPS 12 Convertible Touch Ultrabook

First, there is the Dell XPS 12, which I have written about before. Ellis said Dell took a cue from a netbook they had previous launched and brought it to the Ultrabook specification. The screen is inset in a surrounding frame, which can be flipped around. Then when you close the lid over top of the keyboard and it becomes a tablet.

“(It has) a good, sleek overall look and feel,” Ellis said.

It comes with a full-size keyboard, 12.5-inch full HD screen, 1.3 MP web cam (that takes 1,280 x 1,024 pixel pictures), Intel’s integrated HD 4000 graphics and has a starting weight of 1.54 kg. The dual-core 1.7 Ghz (2.6 GHz at turbo speed) Intel Core i5 model starts at $1,199.99 on Dell’s site. The dual-core 1.9 GHz (3 GHz at turbo speed) Core i7 model starts at $1,399.99.

Sony Vaio Duo 11

Sony VAIO Duo 11 Ultrabook

The Sony Vaio Duo 11 is a tablet-first design. To convert the Duo from tablet mode, you push the screen and it arcs up to sit at an angle on top of the keyboard in what he called a “kiosk presentation.”

“I think (for) those who are still drawn towards a tablet experience, but still want the convenience of a keyboard with them…this is a great approach,” Ellis said.

It basically looks like a tablet on a keyboard dock. But the keyboard, as with the XPS 12, is more responsive than a tablet accessory. It uses a touch sensor as opposed to a touchpad, which for myself is a little off-putting, but it’s rather easy to control.

And it’s light. At 1.3 kg, it’s the lightest of the three. But despite it’s weight, Ellis said Sony hasn’t sacrificed expandability. It still comes with a full HD 1080p 11.6-inch HD IPS  touch display with Intel HD 4000 graphics, front-and-back full HD cameras, USB 3.0 ports, a VGA output, a HDMI port and a memory card slot. The dual-core device is available with either a 1.7 GHz (2.6 GHz at turbo speed) Core i5 or 2 Ghz (3.2 GHz at turbo speed) Core i7 processors.

The price for the former starts at $1,219.99 on Sony’s site.

Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 13

Lenovo Ideapad Yoga Ultrabook

Finally, the IdeaPad Yoga is so named because it literally bends over backwards to become a tablet. Like the XPS 12, in PC form, it has the standard clam-shell design of a laptop. But the hinge allows the screen to be pushed back 360 degrees so the back of the screen touches the bottom of the keyboard, which turns off so you can safely use it as a tablet.

“When you hold it in portrait mode, it begins to feel really nice,” Ellis said, “whether it’s just to read books or browse.”

Unlike the other two, the IdeaPad 13 doesn’t offer full HD, only a 1,600×900 resolution, but on a 13.3-inch IPS display (with the same Intel graphics as the other machines), it still provides an impressive image. (If you’re looking for something a little smaller, Lenovo also offers a  model with an 11.6-inch screen.)

Personally, I found the device a little awkward to hold vertically. Although it was sturdy, it has a length of 333.4 mm and it feels a little too tall in my hands.

But you can also fold it only partially around, so as to create a stand for the screen, which is quite useful.

The 1.54 kg dual-core device is available with 1.5 GHz Core i3, 1.7 GHz (2.6 GHz turbo) Core i5 and 1.9 GHz (3.0 GHZ turbo) Core i7 processors. It comes with 1 MP web cam that shoots in 720p, USB ports and a memory card reader

The Core i5 model is available for $1,199.99 on Lenovo’s site.

Other designs

But these are only three designs for the Ultrabook convertible.

“We don’t presume to think there’s going to be one clear form factor winner,” Ellis said “We think consumers have the benefit of choice, now more than ever.”

He said that Intel has received 140 designs for Ultrabooks, many of which for convertibles, that are expected to launch over the next several months.

“I think it should be an open field as long as it can be,” Ellis said “As long as consumers want different things, there should be device manufacturers attempting different designs.”

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