What is an Ultrabook?

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What is an Ultrabook? It’s a rather simple question, yet it is one that consumers often ask to little avail. Despite Ultrabooks being introduced into the market over a year ago, very few consumers have a grasp on what this sub-genre truly is. There are a number of reasons as to why consumers remain confused. Part of the issue is that the standards for Ultrabooks continue to shift and develop along with Intel’s technology. However, a much larger portion of the problem stems from the discrepancy that lies between what the public perception of an Ultrabook is and what it is in reality.

Ultrabooks in BusinessThe Perception

Ultrabooks were defined by Intel in 2011 as a notebook sub-genre that offers thinner, longer lasting notebooks that didn’t comprise on performance. The introduction of the Ultrabook was naturally seen as Intel’s answer to the widely popular Apple MacBook Air. As a direct competitor to the MacBook Air, there’s a misconception that Ultrabooks mirror many of the MacBook Air’s notable features. Things like Solid State Drives (SSDs), 11 to 13-inch displays, and high quality metal casings are believed to be fundamental components of the Ultrabook design, but in reality, they have nothing to do with the Ultrabook branding.

Advertisements in many ways further augment consumer confusion, often focusing on the sleek, sexy design that some Ultrabooks imbue instead of highlighting their defining characteristics. The advertisement “Ultrabook: Suddenly, Everything Else Seems Old-Fashioned”, which can be viewed from the Intel Ultrabook page, is a perfect example of such an advert. The entire ad runs nearly three minutes and fails to share any meaningful information with the consumer. Sure, people who watch this will know that Ultrabooks are small machines, but they won’t know much else.

Intel argued that its ads were not developed to confuse consumers. Karen Regis, Director of Ultrabook Marketing for Intel’s PC Client Group explains that Intel’s ads show that its the “best of breed systems” and they’re not created to “mislead, but highlight some of the attributes of Ultrabooks”. While that’s fair, it still does not deter from the serious issue that many consumers continue to associate these external qualities as key features of the Ultrabook brand.

Karen also noted that Intel is currently working on a number of new avenues to further educate consumers, such as Intel’s Ultrabook Zones located in BestBuy retailers. As of now, there are 10,000 zones within the U.S., but Karen mentioned there would be a push to increase this number for the upcoming holiday season. Intel is also looking to produce more advertisements in the future that will focus more on usability for end users, stressing Intel’s desire to educate the public, she said; “building a new category takes time”.  

Ultrabooks Defined

It is best to think of the Ultrabook brand as a guarantee. When OEMs opt to include a device within the Ultrabook brand, it assures consumers that the device has met certain standards set by Intel. But this is the crux of what an Ultrabook is. Sure, devices can surpass the standards set by Intel or offer additional features (and many of them do), but those extras have nothing to do with the Ultrabook brand and are not necessarily universal to all Ultrabook devices. Instead of getting hung up on confusing imagery or distracting verbiage, such as “ultrasleek” or “ultrarepsonsive”, it is far more pertinent to look at the specific requirements that Intel sets.

Here are Intel’s requirements for the current generation (Chief River) of Ultrabooks:

  • Dimensions (maximum): 18mm or less in thickness for systems with displays less than 14-inches and 21mm or less for systems with displays larger than 14-inches
  • Minimum Battery Life: 5 hours
  • Responsiveness: fully resume from hibernation (full keyboard interaction) in 7 seconds
  • Processor: Ivy Bridge microarchitecture Intel Core Models CULV
  • Storage: 80 MB/s transfer rate (minimum)
  • I/O: 3.0 USB or Thunderbolt technology
  • Software & Firmware: Intel Management Engine 8.0 (or higher), Intel Anti-Theft Technology, Intel Identity Protection Technology

These requirements define the Ultrabook sub-genre. The portability that Intel refers to stems from the thickness restrictions it applies. Other dimensions and weight are left to the discretion of the manufacturer as long as they adhere to that single restriction. Thus, both devices like the 2.43 lbs. Samsung Series 9 13-inch and the 4.2 lbs. Lenovo Ideapad U410 fall under the description of ultraportable. In a similar sense Intel’s ultraresponsive description refers to the devices ability to resume from hibernation, not the processing power of the machine or its ability to access applications. Intel has done nothing wrong with its definitions, they are accurate. However, it is sometimes easy for consumers to misconstrue what these terms entail, which is why it is important to define the Ultrabook sub-set by its requirements, not the terms Intel uses to define it.

The Ultrabook branding is a baseline guarantee that offers a number of noteworthy features including an acceptable level of portability, the ability to resume work quickly and sizeable battery life. Of course, many (if not most) devices go well above and beyond this baseline measure, but those superlative features are not a result of the Ultrabook brand. There are a plethora of notebooks that fall under the Ultrabook umbrella, all of which range in performance, style, and price range.Yet, despite the vast array of models and makes, each device adheres to Intel’s basic standards, and that is what makes them Ultrabooks.

More Ultrabooks in Business Special Report articles:


Top Five Best Ultrabooks: Which are Better Business Buys?

The Evolving Ultrabook Definition: What Will Come As the Design Deviates?

Ultrabooks Get a Reality Check in Business Acceptance


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