Tablets may be in vogue and very cool but don’t count the Windows laptop out just yet. As a Gadget Guy, I am always looking out for bleeding edge technology (and often get stuck with a dud – see my blog on the curse of the early adopter) Because of this, I have been so preoccupied with smart phones and tablets that I have overlooked what was going on with the old, boring, not-sexy Windows-based laptops. The death of the laptop is highly exaggerated I think. While we have all been enamoured with iPads and Androids and Transformers and Zooms, we haven’t been paying a lot of attention to what 95% of us still use every day at work – Windows. Now this isn’t a review on Windows 8 – that will come later – it’s a review on the new Ultrabook I just bought, the Asus Zenbook 13.3 Ultrabook – and wow – what a performer.
After using tablets for over a year now, I have come to the conclusion that they aren’t quite there yet when it comes to everyday business use. I have a PlayBook (ugh), an iPad2 (for Angry Birds and Scrabble) and an Android Tablet. I have been using Outlook-wanna-be android apps and apps that say they are just as good as Word but I realised that at the end of the day, I was way more productive siting in my office using my laptop connected to a 24” widescreen monitor running Windows 7. I could almost feel myself breathe a sigh of relief as I sat down and clicked that familiar START button. Ok, so what about this new Ultrabook?
Blame it on Apple.
The Macbook Air was introduced way back in 2005 and people fell in love with its slim design and light weight. I remember seeing Steve Jobs come on stage at MacWorld – he had it in a manila shipping envelope – and felt the world gasp when he reached inside and pulled it out. BUT – it was a Mac. I wanted it but it was not compatible with anything I knew – I actually like Windows. I hated the fact that my trusty HP Pavilion laptop, which weighed 10 times more than the Airbook was like an albatross around my neck – I wanted to be free but didn’t want any performance issues. Well, in the midst of all the tablet and smartphone hype, Intel was quietly developing new chip sets to breathe new life back into the slumping PC market. We are just now starting to see the results.
The Ultrabook is an Intel trademark which defines a subnotebook designed to feature reduced size and weight and have an extended battery life without slowing the machine down to a crawl. They say it’s ultra-thin, ultra-light and ultra-fast”. Basically, Intel wanted to make a chip set that manufacturers could use to compete against the MacBook Air. Why they had to wait for Apple to reinvent this market is beyond me. The first real batch of contenders were released and hit the shelves in Q1 of this year – and I bought the best one – The Asus Ux31 Zenbook.
Asus is a relative newcomer to the quality laptop club. Headquarted in Taipai, Taiwan, Asus was founded in 1989 by four engineers that used to work as computer engineers for Acer – another PC brand. The company explains the name ASUS as originating from Pegasus, the winged horse of Greek mythology. Funny that they picked the back half of the horse for their name. The new organization used only the last four letters of the word in order to give the resulting name a high position in alphabetical listings – one of the oldest tricks in the (phone)book. But it worked! Over the years, ASUS has been building a name for itself, but they caught my eye when they released the Asus Transformer Android Tablet. It was a winner – and it’s still the only tablet that I use. But then I saw the Zenbook three weeks ago.
The Zenbbook, like the Macbook Air – is like a piece of art – it’s something to behold, but unlike the Air, can run all my Windows programs natively that I love to use every day. And with an i7 Intel processor it’s really fast too. It resumes active mode in just 2 seconds thanks to its 160 GB solid state hard drive. That’s not a lot of storage but it suffices when you combine it with Microsoft’s SkyDrive or DropBox. It has a beautiful 1600×900 display and is a few hundred bucks cheaper than the Mac Air. Sound is provided by Bang & Olufsen ICEpower SonicMaster for pretty decent sound.
I have now successfully transferred everything from my old clunky laptop to this beauty that I carry in thin sleeve that fits easily in my briefcase. All in all, it was quite a Zen experience.