Now that Intel’s Haswell processors are about to hit the streets, we’re going to start seeing laptops, tablets, and other devices featuring those chips. Many of those devices will be the thin and portable notebooks and hybrid tablets that Intel likes to call ultrabooks.
This year’s models should offer longer battery life, quicker wake from sleep, and new forms of input. That’s because Intel says so — and since Intel create the term “ultrabook,” the company gets to decide what qualifies.
Here are some of the new features that a computer will need to have to qualify as an ultrabook in 2013.
Touchscreens and Voice Control
Next-generation ultrabooks will need to have touchscreens and voice controls built-in. That’s true whether you’re talking about a traditional notebook-style computer or a model with a detachable display which you can use as a tablet.
Since Intel is pushing the detachable form factor though, the company is allowing this year’s ultrabooks to be a hair thicker than earlier models. Up until recently anything over 21mm (0.82 inches) didn’t quality as an ultrabook. Now Intel is letting PC makers build models that are up to 23mm (0.9 inches) thick — assuming they’re convertible devices that can be used as a tablet by rotating or removing the display.
Interestingly Intel still doesn’t place any limits on weight. So while ultrabooks are thinner than most traditional laptops, I’ve seen models that weigh anywhere from 2.4 to nearly 6 pounds.
Next-generation ultrabooks will be based on Intel’s Haswell processor, which uses less power than earlier Core chips. So it should be pretty simple for device makers to offer models with better battery life.
But Intel wants to make sure ultrabooks offer long battery life, so the company’s providing stricter guidelines:
- 9 hours or more of battery life while idle in Windows 8
- 6 hours of battery life or better when playing HD video
- 7 days or more of standby
Up until now, Intel simply told PC makers to build systems that offered 5 hours of battery life or more in the MobileMark 2007 benchmark.
Haswell chips offer better overall performance and significantly better graphics performance than Ivy Bridge chips — so Intel isn’t so much dictating a requirement as outlining a fact when the company says new ultrabooks with 4th-gen Core chips will offer up to 40 percent better graphics performance and up to 11 percent more overall performance while using 25 percent less power.
But the company does insist that ultrabooks should now be able to resume from sleep in less than 3 seconds instead of the 7 seconds allowed for earlier models.
Intel is also recommending additional features such as facial recognition which lets you login to a PC by gazing into a camera, convertible tablet/notebook designs, and more.
Ultimately, an ultrabook is Intel’s vision of what a premium laptop experience should look like in 2013. That’s a thin computer with long battery life, speedy performance, solid state storage, and the ability to interact with a PC using more than just touchpad and keyboard input.
We’ll likely continue to see plenty of computers that are almost ultrabooks, but which lack a few of the defining features, such as a touchscreen, voice control, an SSD, or even an Intel processor. It turns out you can make portable notebooks with AMD chips (or even ARM-based processors) too.
But with its new ultrabook guidelines and Haswell chips, Intel has sort of set a roadmap for where it thinks the PC market is going — and many PC makers will likely be following that map for the coming year.