ULV laptops have been around for a while, and recently, they've gained immense popularity. These machines came about as a new category of ultra-portables that are very light in weight, hence easy to carry, and they offer the same size and usability that standard laptops do. What makes all this possible is the use of ultra-low voltage processors such as those belonging to Intel’s CULV (Consumer Ultra-low Voltage) platform and AMD’s Turion series of processors. These processors need very little power, which helps to conserve battery resources. Also, since they emit less heat, they require less-intensive cooling solutions. Now, some buyers confuse ULV laptops with netbooks, perhaps because both are light in weight, easy to carry and offer excellent battery life.

Netbook or ULV laptop?
Well here are the major differences, netbooks use Intel Atom processors, which are different from ULV processors. Now, it’s nice to see this new category; as it has gotten rid of the fine line (and perhaps also the confusion) between a netbook and an ultra-portable laptop. Here’s what we’d say: if a machine measures less than 11.6-inch and has an Intel Atom processor, it’s a netbook, period! Though some manufactures tout their slick, light, stylish and Atom-powered machines as ‘Notebooks’. If an Atom-powered portable measures 13-inch (that’s pushing the netbook category actually) and weighs merely a kilogram or so, it’s a netbook. This is where the netbook category ends and ULV laptop category starts, except that there are smaller ULV laptops too.

Coming back to our main subject, ULV laptops are mainly intended for students and professionals, who want a computer that is super-convenient to carry, offers excellent battery backup and performs almost as well as a standard entry-level laptop. This might seem too much to expect, but ULV laptops are capable of offering just that, which is why they are slightly more expensive than standard laptops. So if you want a feather-weight machine that lets you run office applications seamlessly, playback stutter-free videos, work with spreadsheets, surf the Internet, and such, choose one of the ULVs. When it comes to their overall size, they are not vastly different from the standard 2 kg laptops. Even in terms of other hardware, they feature roomy hard drives, 14-inch screens, three USB ports (some have four), common options for display and connectivity, and so on. The only differences are in weight, thickness, and overall aesthetics. Some ULV laptops weigh as little as 1.4 kg, and some even measure less than an inch in thickness.

Although they are well-equipped for daily computing tasks, one major point you want to consider is the absence of an optical drive. So the slickness and light weight aren’t the only obvious traits of a ULV laptop. There are good reasons as to why optical drives are uncommon in these portables. They involve moving parts that need significant power, and this causes them to drain battery resources, which defeats the major purpose of laptops in this category. Secondly, optical drives require the unit to be of certain thickness, which usually spoils the slimness. Lastly, manufacturers try their best to keep the weight of these machines to the minimum, and adding an optical drive would do the opposite. One might argue that even hard drives have moving parts, so they should be replaced with SSDs (Solid State Drives). True. That’s a good way to conserve power and get superb read/write speed, but there’s one major hitch. SSDs are expensive and so are ULV processors, so the former would add to the cost, making these laptops almost unaffordable. However, similar to the case of processors, the price of SSDs will eventually drop, which will make their use in these laptops more common, hence making these laptops even more power efficient and affordable.

In terms of performance, these laptops can’t be compared to the portable workhorses that are capable of intensive number crunching. They aren’t meant for running high-end applications or performing intensive computing tasks such as video-editing, high-end graphics or gaming. However, the use of discrete graphics, which lets you enjoy light entertainment such as watching high-quality movies, is becoming increasingly common in these machines.

What’s your take?
What’s most obvious to me is that, these machines are meant for people who prefer slickness, light-weightiness and sexy looks of a laptop over powerful number-crunching capability. Also, people wouldn’t mind spending a few thousand rupees extra

Publish date: May 31, 2010 6:15 pm| Modified date: December 18, 2013 6:21 pm

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