By Harry McCracken | Monday, January 9, 2012 at 2:34 pm
When Intel started talking about the concept of Ultrabooks last year, I thought the definition was pretty simple: Ultrabooks were MacBook Air knockoffs that had Intel processors and ran Windows 7.
It turned out to be more complicated than that. Ultrabooks do use Intel CPUs–they’re Intel’s idea, after all–and they do run Windows. But not all of them bear much resemblance at all to the Air. Really, as long as PC makers design Ultrabooks to be fairly thin, they have lots of latitude to build different sorts of portable computers at different price points.
Case in point: Samsung’s Series 5 Ultra systems, the company’s first official Ultrabooks, which it’s announcing here at CES. There’s a Series 5 Ultra with a 14″ display. (Most Ultrabooks to date have been 13-inchers.) There are ones with 500GB hard disks. (Most Ultrabooks use pricey flash storage and max out at 256GB.) There’s even an optical drive option. (I’d assumed that every Ultrabook would ditch the drive in order to achieve the maximum possible razor-thinness.) And while there’s certainly a dash of Air-like look-and-feel to the industrial design, they’re not clones.
The Ultra comes in two sizes: The aforementioned 14″ one (starting at $949.99) and a 13.3″ version (starting at $899.99). Both have Intel Core i7 CPUs, and lots of ports, including USB 3.0 and 2.0, Ethernet. HDMI, and SD slots. The 14″ model is 3.94 pounds; the 13.3″ one is 3.24 pounds. Samsung claims up to seven hours of battery life for both versions.
Both models bear a familial resemblance to Samsung’s Series 9 from last year–a higher-end machine that was much more of an Air archrival. Samsung is also announcing new versions of the Series 9 here in Vegas; it’s still not calling them Ultrabooks, but they come off as a high-end take on the same notion–Super-Duper-Ultrabooks, if you will. The 13.3″ model ($1399) is 2.5 pounds and a half-inch thick. There’s also a new 15″ model–that’s an unusually big screen for a notebook that emphasizes thin, light design–that weighs 3.5 pounds and is also a half-inch thick.
Both of the new Series 9 models have black aluminum cases, 128GB solid-state drives, and 1600-by-900 displays. Samsung says that 15″ one has up to ten hours of battery life and the 13.3″ one gets up to seven hours. While the Series 5 Ultra systems look pretty slick, the Series 9 ones look really slick.
The Series 5 Ultra models will be available starting on January 30th; the Series 9 ones are due on February 27th,