A few days ago, I was wondering what it would be like to give up the luxury of a high-end PC and work on a laptop. I wanted something extremely slim and light to carry, but powerful enough to match the performance of a mainstream desktop PC I wanted neither a bulky 14-inch or 15-inch laptop nor a netbook, but a sleek Ultrabook. Out of the few we already had in our testing lab, the ones that excited me the most were the Dell XPS 13 and Asus Zenbook UX31. Weighing less than 1.5 Kg each, these machines can put a home PC or an office PC to shame. Both were powered by a Core i7 processor, a 4GB RAM, and an SSD. They are like the Formula One cars of Ultrabooks and come in at a supremely high price! The configuration is powerful, the build quality top notch, and the design flatteringly slim, but would you cough up almost a lakh rupees to own such an Ultrabook?

Nothing as sleek as an Ultrabook!

Nothing is as sleek as an Ultrabook

Let me throw in some more exciting bits of information. You can easily expect the battery to last for 5 to 7 hours, which is excellent while you are on the move. The XPS 13 and Zenbook UX31 both transfer data at blazing speeds – the read and write speeds as high as 455 MB/s and 265 MB/s respectively. It takes only 13 seconds to boot Windows 7. If you would an affordable alternative to these Ultrabooks, you may consider the Acer Aspire S3, which sports a similar form but uses less powerful hardware and a hard drive. It’s almost as powerful as a basic desktop PC, and costs about half as much as the XPS 13.

You may argue that premium Ultrabooks are ridiculously priced. That’s what I believed before unboxing the XPS 13 and Zenbook UX 31. But after using them, I feel they justify the price with what they have to offer, but not completely. I would have liked the addition of a discrete graphics processor, a full HD display and the inclusion of a Blu-ray combo drive in the package. In that case, they would have been full-fledged entertainment computers. Imagine being able to play games or watch movies in high definition. Had these features been included, I wouldn’t have shied from recommending them to those willing to pay a premium for the combination of portability and power. As for me, I would rather settle for a mid-range Ultrabook instead of a laptop.

The definition of Ultrabook is still unclear to many. Everyone knows Ultrabooks are slim and light, but finer details such as use of ultra low-voltage processors for extended battery life and height requirements (slimness) are not widely known yet. The optical drive is still a necessity for many. The ultra-slim models don’t have an optical drive but offer one as an optional accessory. On the other hand, the entry-level laptop segment is still hot. A basic laptop costs half as much as an Ultrabook (under Rs. 25,000). Laptops and Ultrabooks shouldn’t be compared because they are meant for different audiences, but then many tend to compare them owing to the significant difference in costs. Ultrabooks will be a success only if their prices fall to the range of Rs. 30,000 to Rs .40,000. However, that will only be possible if manufacturers are able to move volumes. For that to happen, people should realise how convenient these road warriors actually are.