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Computers

Time to Pick an Ultrabook

I’m in the market for a new laptop. I want an Ultrabrook as I feel like my 2011 Macbook Pro is just too heavy. I’d like to park that machine and start using a super lightweight laptop as my daily driver. I want a good screen, solid battery, and I don’t want to pay a ton. My new startup is paying for this machine, so it can’t be too expensive.

So Many Choices

I looked at product specs from Engadget to determine how I want to proceed. I’ve picked a few options to limit the scope of my search as the Ultrabook options are vast. Some specs that are facts are listed (Screen, RAM, SSD, Price), but the Windows 7 battery life results are from Engadget (i.e., not manufacturer provided).

 

Macbook Air

This is an obvious choice and it’s hard to say no. I use a 2011 Macbook Pro right now that’s issued from my day job, so I have some experience with this product line. I like the keyboard a lot and the battery does last. The looks are appealing, but it comes at a price. Given that I want to run Windows 7 or Windows 8, if I run BootCamp, I’d also be on the hook for a license to run Windows, which is not included with the Mac.

Screen: 13.3″, 1440 x 900
RAM: 4 GB
SSD: 128 GB
Price: $1,299 (not including Windows 7 license, newegg.com)
Battery Life: 4:12

 

Asus Zenbook UX31

Sure does look like a Macbook Air, doesn’t it? Meh. I’m not so interested about that super tapered edge, but this machine does look sharp. It’s got some advantages that are clear. It’s $250 less than a Macbook Air and that’s significant. $50 wouldn’t have been so bad, but $250 on a budget is a lot. There’s been some talk about the keyboard and the trackpad. It sounds like the trackpad has been fixed, but that some people don’t like the keyboard. I tried this keyboard out at a retail store and I didn’t seem to have any trouble with it in my tests.

Also, look at the battery life. These are Engadget’s numbers running Windows 7. The Zenbook lasts 89 minutes longer. Again, that’s significant. 5 or 10 minutes wouldn’t have made a dent in my decision, but 89? Cra-a-a-zy.

Screen: 13.3″, 1600 x 900
RAM: 4 GB
SSD: 128 GB
Price: $1,049 (newegg.com)
Battery Life: 5:41

Lenovo Ideapad U300s

I like the looks of this machine and I’ve always known Lenovo machines to be solid, well built products. Their current offering also comes in a silver finish, but unlike the other two, it is the same thickness all the way across the body. This machine has the lowest resolution of the three and that’s a problem. I’m using this machine for Visual Studio, light Photoshop and Illustrator, and writing. Those are some beefy programs that like to take up room, so the widest resolution possible is necessary. The Lenovo comes in last place in this spec.

Screen: 13.3″, 1366 x 768
RAM: 4 GB
SSD:
Price: $1,049 (newegg.com)
Battery Life: 5:08

So What’s it Gonna Be?

From this perspective, it seems clear. The Asus Zenbook UX31 is the winner. The only thing holding me up right now is that the next revision of the machine is about to be released. So do I wait? Or just go for it? Hopefully this won’t be a decision I need to make, but time is running out until I need to make the purchase as my decision will be forced. If I was doing iOS development, perhaps the Air would have won, but with that extra $250, I can buy a printer that is so badly needed and some other startup necessities. What would your decision be?

Be sure to follow me on twitter @kenstone

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I'm Ken Stone. I'm an indie developer with a focus on .NET and Windows Phone development. I have a day job, but everything I say is mine alone.

TechEd 2012July 11th, 2012
Let the learning begin.
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