One of the key things that makes an ultrabook an ultrabook is the thin and light case design. Ultrabooks weigh less than 4 pounds and measure less than 0.7 (18mm) inches thick — whether they have 11.6 inch or 15.6 inch displays.
But it’s tough to make a laptop that thin using the same components PC makers have been using to build notebooks in the past. So in order to promote its ultrabook platform, Intel is encouraging computer manufacturers to use thinner screens, hard drives, batteries, and even keyboards.
For instance, a typical notebook display panel could be about 5 millimeters. Intel says they can be 3mm. Most laptop hard drives are 9.5mm thick. There are 7mm hard drives and solid state disks available today, but Intel wants to go even smaller and is hoping to see 5mm models soon.
The company is even pushing for slimmer optical disc drives. While most smaller ultrabooks don’t even have DVD or Blu-ray drives, some of the models with 14 inch and larger screens do have disc drives, and Intel is encouraging PC makers to use models that are 7mm or 8.5mm high instead of 9mm or larger.
Most of today’s ultrabooks are made of metal, since it’s sturdier than plastic and allows you to build a strong notebook with a very thin case. But Intel says future ultrabooks could be made of plastic that has been structurally optimized to be as strong as metal, enabling PC makers to offer plastic ultrabooks that are just as thin as metal ones, but at lower prices.
It could be a year or two before we start to see 7mm optical disc drives or 5mm hard drives. But what that means is that next year’s ultrabooks could be thin enough to make this year’s models look chunky.
Although honestly, once you get down to 0.5 or 0.7 inches, do you really need a laptop to be much thinner?