Apple’s MacBook Air was the first mainstream laptop of its kind – super light, ridiculously thin, no dvd drive, light on peripheral ports and ultra speedy thanks to its SSD hard drive. It was also expensive and priced well-above the market value of a regular sized laptop with similar specs and greater functionality. That was the price of ultra portability.
Enter the Ultrabook – the term coined and patented by Intel to describe an ultraportable laptop that meets Intel’s strict specifications. Some of these specifications include being less than .8 inches thick, using a solid state drive as either the primary storage medium or for quick startup, having at least 5 hours of battery life, and of course using one of Intel’s chipsets.
Ultrabook is the Windows users’ answer to the MacBook Air, and according to Intel – is the future of the laptop. But while the MacBook Air has had strong consistent sales, sales of the Intel’s Ultrabooks have been relatively disappointing. Still, there’s still plenty of time left in the Ultrabook vs. MacBook Air battles, and the winner has yet to be determined.
Comparing Ultrabooks with the MacBook Air can be tricky. While the MacBook Air is a single laptop model produced by Apple (available in 11” and 13” configurations), Ultrabooks are actually a variety of different ultraportable laptops produced by various manufacturers under the Ultrabook name. Some of the most popular Ultrabook models include the Asus Zenbook, the HP Envy, and the Samsung Series 5.
Advantages Of The Ultrabook
Because the Ultrabook is a set of specifications, rather than a single model produced by a single manufacturer, there is significantly more room for customization and selection. If you’re looking for something specific than the bare bones selection you can find with the MacBook air, you’re more likely to find the feature set you’re looking for with an Ultrabook.
If you want a lightweight laptop with a larger screen for example, the Samsung Series 9 can cram a 15 inch, high resolution screen into a lightweight chassis (under 4 pounds). The HP Envy 141 Spectre offers a lid/palm rest constructed out of scratch-resistant glass. Don’t need a solid state drive? You have that option with an Ultrabook, but not with the MacBook Air.
Most Ultrabooks are significantly cheaper than the MacBook Air. A 2.4 pound, 13” Toshiba Portege Z835 for example can be had for as little as $799, compared to the 13” MacBook Air which starts at around $1,299. While the specs aren’t quite as good as the Air, it costs just a little over half the price of the Air. Even the higher end Ultrabooks can be had in the low $1000s, still hundreds of dollars cheaper than the pricey MacBook Air.
Advantages Of The MacBook Air
Better Display Quality
While the MacBook Air hasn’t yet been outfitted with the famous retina display found in the newest generation MacBook Pro and iPad, they are still superior to the majority of Ultrabook screens. The Macbook Air has great viewing angles, brilliant colors and does a great job of minimizing glare. Other than perhaps the Samsung Series 9, the Macbook Air is in a league of its own compared with most Ultrabook displays.
While the Ultrabook makers have produced some pretty slick designs (see the Asus Zenbook), the general consensus is that Apple’s gorgeous, sleek design of the Air still trumps all comers. Obviously design and visual appeal are subjective, but the fact remains that many buyers are still willing to pay a premium for the sleek elegance of Apple’s design.
User-Friendly Operating System
While the Mac vs Windows debate will probably never end, many of those who are less tech-savvy and haven’t been raised on the Windows OS prefer OS X Mountain Lion to Windows 7. OS X is also designed to integrate with other Apple products, which is a plus for the millions of iPhone and iPad owners around the world. In our experience, the Mac OS is significantly more stable than Windows as well.
Should You Buy An Ultrabook Or A MacBook Air?
This question ultimately comes down to your own needs. If you like Apple products, want great design, reliable quality, great specs, and have plenty of room in your budget, than the MacBook Air is for you. If you want more flexibility in your choices and would prefer to minimize the expense of purchasing a new ultraportable laptop, than you’ll want to choose from the wide range of Ultrabook laptops currently available on the market.
Nate Ryerson is passionate about consumer electronics and the internet. He writes and blogs about technology over at Whoishostingthis.com. You can find more of his work at their company site.
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