Tablets have come so far since their introduction that 3-year old models seem like nothing but glorified e-readers. The introduction of Windows 8 Pro-based tablets with a variety of Intel silicon, HD graphics, cool docking solutions, and outstanding enterprise compatibility are bringing tablets further into the mainstream and deeper into business.
However (and this is a really big however) if your budget doesn’t allow for a high-end tablet, robust docking solutions, a desktop PC for serious number crunching, and a laptop for after-hours work at home, then there’s a very reasonable solution that only involves one piece of hardware: the ultrabook. The 3-device scenario above actually isn’t that uncommon, at least for those who can afford it or have an in with corporate procurement. Desktops, laptops, and tablets all have both strengths and compromises. Most folks simply don’t have the funds or the desire to have one or more of each so they can pick precisely the right device for the job.
Ultrabooks, on the other hand, provide a solid overall compromise on computing features and meet the needs of most users, even if they have all too often been ignored. Unfortunately, ultrabooks, by virtue of the cutting edge technologies necessary to keep them very slim, very light, remarkably powerful, and rock solid in terms of battery life were fairly expensive when they were introduced. Their introduction also coincided with rapidly dropping prices on mainstream budget desktops, making them even harder to stomach, especially during a brutal economic “recovery”.
As we head into 2013, though, ultrabooks have become quite affordable, have gotten even thinner and lighter, and, with Intel’s latest chipsets and solid state drives, have shockingly good performance. They now come in a wide range of screen sizes and configurations, cost less than the average desktop replacement laptop, and often even have touch screens and convertible screens that flip around to emulate tablets.
This is all well and good, of course, but why pay even a moderate premium for an ultrabook? In a word, mobility. Ultra mobility to be specific and, for that matter, ultra productivity. For many users, ultrabooks are their first experience with solid state hard drives, and the benefits are extraordinary, both in terms of performance and durability. When a system is both snappy and genuinely portable, it becomes difficult to go back desktops or even traditional laptops. Whether trying to fit in work in a long meeting, spending a transatlantic flight writing or cutting code, or pulling up a chair in a colleague’s cubicle and hammering out a project plan side-by-side, ultrabooks enable a different kind of work.
Like tablets and netbooks before them, ultrabooks beg to be taken anywhere and simply be used. Tablets, though, without a docking solution of some sort, can never match the typing experience of a keyboard (and most ultrabooks feature full-sized keyboards and large touchpads, making them very comfortable to use for long periods). And netbooks? Well, they were portable, but small keyboards and even smaller screens don’t have many applications outside of elementary school. More importantly, though, whether it’s Microsoft Office, Adobe Creative Suite, an IDE, or even a web-based content management system, ultrabooks can hold their own with most desktops in terms of application performance.
There will always be users who need mobile and desktop workstations or for whom a tablet is an optimum device given their work and content consumption. Ultrabooks, though, have evolved into ideal combinations of performance, weight, comfort, and, of course, mobility.