Top 10 Ultrabook

Our list of the best ultrabooks, with a good blend of sleekness, performance and features. Click on each of the Top 10 ultrabook winners

Samsung Series 9 (NP-900X3C)

Samsung Series 9 ultrabook-2-336.jpg   MRP: 102990                       The Samsung Series 9 is one of the most amazing laptops that we have tested recently. It has everything to be called an ultrabook, yet it has been branded as a notebook by Samsung. Nevertheless, the blazing performance, the ultra slim form factor and the exquisite build quality are truly awesome. It costs a lot of money, but then again, this is the best option for a Windows ultrabook which actually competes with and beats the MacBook Air, overall. Add up your savings, or beg, borrow and steal to get this one!

Very rarely do we get a laptop that is completely unique and leaves us awe-struck. Quite frankly, we cannot remember when it last happened, till we got my hands on the Samsung Series 9 laptop. Samsung insist on calling this a laptop, but this machine surely matches all the criteria you need for an ultrabook. And then some!
Build & Design
Ultrabooks are meant to be slim and sleek, as much as possible, keeping the dimensions in check and the weight down. There are a lot of devices running around that aren’t the slimmest by any means, but do get classified as ultrabooks. The Samsung Series 9 deserves that tag more than anything.
Straight out of its very premium packaging, and you literally have to rub your eyes to be doubly sure of what you are seeing. The Samsung Series 9 is slimmer than even the MacBook Air! The Series 9, at its thickest point is 12.9mm thick, while the MacBook Air tips 17.2mm at its thickest point. That didn’t stop Samsung from fitting in 2 USB ports, mini HDMI out, the 3.5mm jack and a memory card reader. You get adapter options for LAN and VGA out, with the LAN adapter a part of the package. Even the power adapter is a thing of brilliance, with its compact design small enough to fit in the palm of your hand.
It looks so good we could keep this as a mantlepiece. If only it weren't this expensive.

The Series 9 has corresponding chunky portions on the sides close to the display hinge side, and that is where the ports are fit in. From there, a flowing design seamlessly slims down the machine without any fuss. The curves carry on where the lid meets the hinge, and is very much appreciated when the Series 9 is placed on a table with the lid closed.
The Samsung Series 9’s 100% aluminum chassis mostly consists of Duralumin. This is used to create what the company calls a “slim and aerodynamic design”, and is usually used in aircrafts. The result is a solidly built laptop that is very light to pick up and move around.
The Series 9’s brilliance doesn’t end there. The mineral ash black colour is rather rare. Materials used are premium, and critically, the display hinge tautness is among the best, if not the very best. The overall design has a dollop of sharpness about it, something that gives the aura that this is an attentive ultrabook. Open it up and you will notice the slim bezel. The keyboard layout has not been compromised in any way, and as if to give out a lesson to other ultrabook manufacturers, Samsung’s keyboard responds with the same brilliance as the one on the MacBook Air. For others who claim that key travel and response is slightly impacted by the slim form factor, this ultrabook rubbishes that theory. It is the best built ultrabook by far, and priced appropriately.
The display hinge is quite strong, and a whiplash doesn't send the lid scurrying all the way back.

Features & Specifications

No shortage of power on the Series 9. This is powered by an Intel Ivy Bridge Core i7-3517U processor and paired with 4GB of RAM. This processor clocks at 1.9GHz and Turbo Boost takes it up to 2.4GHz.
For your data storage, the Series 9 comes with a 256GB SSD. This drive is one of the fastest ones around, something that we will explain in greater detail in the performance section.
The display is not reflective, and that helps the Series 9 score well in the display tests.

The Series 9’s 13.3-inch display has a resolution of 1600 x 900 pixels, which is much higher than the fairly common 1366 x 768 pixels. This difference shows up clearly, with absolutely amazing clarity of text. Readability on this screen is by far the best among all ultrabooks we have tested, helped immensely by the sharpness and the largely non-reflective nature of the display. Black level depth and white saturation levels are slightly on the lower side, but the display does very well in the pixel stability tests.
Excellent keyboard and a generous sized touchpad add a lot of functionality to this brilliant design.

People have often claimed that keyboard usage experience on an ultrabook is more of a compromise since the dimensions dictate that the keyboard not spread out too much and the key travel is not adequate. However, with the Series 9, Samsung would beg to differ. The keyboard on the Series 9 is like a tasty dish served up by a five-star chef! The key layout, despite a smallish real estate, is perfect with good key spacing. And the most critical bit, the key travel, is perfect. There is a distinct feel of precision and sharpness to it, very much like the MacBook Air. Shifting from the Air to the keyboard on the Series 9 was a breeze, and didn’t take much acclimatizing. And that cannot be said for a lot of ultrabooks out there.
Without a shadow of a doubt, the Series 9 powered by the Core i7 processor is the fastest among all ultrabooks that we tested. The PC Mark Vantage score of 12972 is the only one breaching the 10000 mark, with the second highest being the 9966 scored by the HP Envy 4. The PC Mark 07 score of 4647 is again the highest, with the Fujitsu Lifebook U772 quite some way behind in second place clocking 4221. If you remember reading a bit earlier about the fast SSD on this machine, the drive test score of 41503 is pipped only by the 128GB SSD on the Lifebook U772, with a score of 42453. All other SSDs are considerably slower.
Despite being razor thin, there are still a lot of connectivity options.

All the scores are mentioned here to give you an idea of how good the performance of this machine is. In any usage scenario, the Series 9 will not struggle or get bogged down, no matter what you load it with. The overall snappiness of the system is seriously boosted by the excellent drive performance. We used this machine quite a bit, and this one fit almost all usage scenarios perfectly – home and office work, multimedia viewing and the road warrior.
The battery life offered by the Series 9 is a delight. Quite frankly, we were surprised to see this clock 246 minutes in the stressful battery test. But the surprise element was that this is by far the best battery backup time clocked by any ultrabook, including the less powerful Core i3 and Core i5-bearing machines! In a typical day at work, this should give you around 6.5-7 hours of battery backup.
One of the best built laptops out there.

Graphics capabilities are rather toned down on this package, particularly because the idea was to make this the slimmest ultrabook in the market. The integrated Intel HD 4000 graphics will offer the barebones basic, but then again, no one is buying the Series 9 for gaming surely. Admittedly, there will be some who will argue that for so much, you should be able to get an all-rounder laptop, but that would just be nitpicking!
Bottom Line
As we said earlier, not many laptops and ultrabooks make us jump out of our seats. But the Series 9 seems to have done that quite successfully, doing everything right. Right out of the box, the exquisite build quality justifies the money you have just spent. Switch it on and the performance is a delight. Battery life ensures you can almost last one full day of usage at work without reaching for the sleek power adapter. All in all, the Series 9 does it all. You can flaunt your bank account’s strength without compromising on functionality and performance. This is the closest a Windows machine has come to a MacBook Air overall, and that is a compliment in itself.
Ultra thin chassis, thinner than the MacBook Air.                                                               

HP Envy Spectre XT

HP Spectre XT-1-336-1.jpg   MRP: 64990                                                                                          


The Spectre XT's resemblance to the MacBook is uncanny, and for someone who doesn't look closely the first time around, this confusion is more than acceptable. Featuring exquisite build quality and sophisticated design, the Spectre XT is very close to the Samsung Series 9's amazing overall package - for almost half the price. An amazing ultrabook, the Spectre XT provides very good performance, lifting it to a solid second place in our ultrabook Top 10.
We have tested some very well built ultrabooks, and the Dell XPS 14 and the Samsung Series 9 are prime examples. The HP Spectre XT needed to be on the top of its game if it has to come even close to the other two, and we happily report that it has done exactly that! 
Build & Design
The HP Spectre XT’s magnesium alloy frame lends it a whole lot of solidity, despite maintaining very slim form factor. The lid has the brushed metal finish, much like the Envy 4 (read our review), but in a lighter silver colour. This colour theme carries on throughout the ultrabook, as is. While those little curves and hues are very similar to the HP Envy 4, the brighter colour makes the Spectre XT feel bigger than it actually is. The finish does not catch any fingerprints, and any dust settled on it doesn’t show up immediately.
The lid hinge design is very similar too, but in the Spectre XT, the screen sits slightly higher with a distinct gap between bottom of the lid and the keyboard deck. Parallel layers of cooling vents on the underside helps with the ventilation. Ports are distributed on both side spines. No optical drive, as you would have imagined. Build quality is pretty much on par with the best of the ultrabooks out there. And do keep in mind that the Dell PS 14 (read our review) and the Samsung Series 9 are considerably more expensive than the Spectre XT. The Samsung Series 9 is the slimmest, but the Spectre XT compromises a bit of that for additional ports.
I was actually amused when I asked my wife to pass me the HP Spectre XT which was sitting on the table next to her, and she remarked (genuinely aghast), “Oh, I thought this was the MacBook Air”. If I were in HP’s shoes, I would take that as a compliment!
Features & Performance
The Intel Core i5-3317U processor clocking at 1.7GHz and 4GB of RAM powers the Spectre XT that we received for review. This is pretty much in line with the ultrabook specifications in this price bracket.
The interesting bit is the 128GB SSD that the HP Spectre XT packs in. This gives it a huge performance advantage over the rivals who mostly have an HDD along with an mSATA SSD for caching tasks.
Where the Spectre XT compromises a bit is with the graphics. There is no dedicated graphics card, with just the Intel HD 4000 taking charge of the very limited gaming capabilities.
The 13.3-inch display has a 1366 x 768 pixel resolution. As against its sibling’s display, the Envy 4 ultrabook, the Spectre XT is brighter and slightly sharper in terms of text reproduction. That being said, the same reflective nature is prevalent here as well, which will somewhat ruin the experience of using it in any brightly lit environment. But there are the good things still - the black level test results pegged the scores in the top half. Also, watching videos on this screen is a lot of fun, since the colour vividness is quite good.
When we saw the Beats Audio branding on the HP Spectre XT, a grimace was in order! Not again, we said! But the fact is simple - the speakers are rather good. Maybe the reason is that there are four speakers – two upward firing and two down firing. And when we say the speakers are good, we mean the Spectre XT bears among the better laptop speakers out there in terms of clarity and holding its solidity as you go higher up the volume graph.
HP has preloaded the Spectre XT with Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit), after inexplicably sending out the Envy 4 with Windows 7 Home Basic.
The performance of the Spectre XT is truly astonishing, considering it is keeping up with the much more powerful Series 9 rather easily. In the PC Mark Vantage test, the Spectre XT scores 12176 while the Series 9 scores 12972. With the same processor, the second closest machine to the Spectre XT is the HP Envy 4 with a score of 9966. Clearly, the Core i5-3317U processor with 4GB of RAM is matching up rather well to the Core i7-3517U on the Series 9!
Till now, the SSD on the Series 9 had the best performance, but the Samsung PM830 series 128GB SSD on the Spectre XT trounces that rather easily. This ultrabook now has the fastest SSD, at least among the ones sold in the Indian market.
The lack of a dedicated graphics chip ensures that the lesser-priced sibling, the Envy 4-1002tx, ends up with better overall performance scores. So much so that the Radeon HD7670M on the Envy scores the best in the graphics test among all ultrabooks we have tested. But we would not read much into that considering the major demographic considering an ultrabook would look for performance, slim form factor and specs that should ideally include a full-fledged SSD, with the graphics card being a secondary concern.
The tested battery life is 187 minutes on the Spectre XT, and there is no running away from the fact that it is lesser than the best out there – Samsung Series 9 (246 min), HP Envy 4 (223 min) and the Dell XPS 14 (210 min). But, in a typical real world usage scenario, the backup times are very similar to the best ultrabooks out there. We used this machine for our regular office work, and it managed 5.5 hours from full charge to full discharge, with Wi-Fi connected throughout and brightness down to 50%.
The Spectre XT’s keyboard is excellent to work on, with precise feedback perfect for quick typing. The key size is very similar to MacBook Air’s keyboard, and so is the overall layout. Unlike the concave keys (inward dip in the middle) that have become a fashion, this keyboard has flat key design. It provides very sharp response with adequate key travel – very much the experience as offered by the MacBook Air, and that is a huge compliment.
Bottom Line
Why we keep comparing this to the Series 9 is largely because 1) The Series 9 is the best overall performing ultrabook, and 2) We want to establish that for a lot less, you can get almost similar performance in a largely identical form factor. The HP Spectre XT is possibly the best affordable ultrabook you can buy at the moment, if slimness, exquisite build quality and a speedy SSD out of the box are critical aspects for you. 

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon-2-336-3.jpg      MRP: 126400                    


The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon brings with it the history and the brand recollection of the ThinkPad laptops. It costs a fair amount of money. But the purists out there, this is the machine you were waiting for.
Ideally, ultrabooks make the most sense in the business world. Which is why it is most surprising that the business ultrabook range took so long to come along. But better late than never, and who better to lead the charge than the most businesslike of all business machines – the ThinkPad branding says it all.
The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon’s price tag is rather surprising, which is why the performance scores that we would get from the benchmark tests would be rather important. Does the extra green get justified? Or are you paying for just the brand name?
Build & Design
The X1 Carbon is not short on exotic materials at all! That doesn’t take anything away from the fact that this machine has a very matter to fact look. The minimalistic design and layout may appear boring, but then again, ThinkPad machines have always appealed to the serious looking crowd!
What impresses us a lot is the rigidity and the solid feeling the build quality offers. At 1.36kg, this machine is only slightly heavier than the likes of the Samsung Series 9 and the HP Spectre XT. However, the carbon fibre chassis with the additional layer of a roll-cage does mean that the Carbon X1 will take some amount of punishment without flinching. The lid, will only flex if you try too hard, which is something that users will not do on a daily basis. No flex on the keyboard deck, or on the underside when you pick it up with one hand. Press down in the middle of the keyboard, and it doesn’t dip, something that quite a few ultrabooks cannot claim.
The design is very thin and slim, and the matte black finish means the X1 Carbon will not be maintenance hungry, and neither will it pinch anyone’s OCD with visible scratches, scuffs, dust and fingerprints. The soft touch (rubberized finish – another way of explaining it) feels premium, but more than that, its utility is profound. You can keep the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon in your lap and not really feel the heat unlike ultrabooks with metal chassis. Secondly, using it in warm weather will not make the palmrest slippery once your palms and hands become slightly moist.
Lenovo ThinkPad notebooks have always had very edgy designs – sharp edges and borders. In this case, the same look is carried through, but slightly more rounded.
The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon’s port placement is shared between the right and the left sides. The back has been left alone, purely because it is just inconvenient to reach for connectors behind the display. On the right side is the USB 3.0 port, Display port, card reader and the 3.5mm headphone jack. On the left is another USB port, a newly designed rectangle power plug and a generous vent to keep the machine cool. The fan is not noisy for the most part. But really stress it, and the fan does let you know that it is slightly tortured.
Features & Specifications
The Intel Core i5-3427U processor clocking at 1.8GHz powers the X1 Carbon. Turbo Boost takes it to 2.3GHz. Incidentally, this is the same processor we had tested in the Fujitsu LifeBook U772. The idea behind using this processor is because the remote access features can be deployed via vPro and BIOS encryption can be deployed as well. The processor is paired with 4GB of RAM.
Where performance will really get a boost is with the 128GB SSD that the X1 Carbon packs in. No conventional HDD with an mSATA SSD for caching – plain and simple SSD and off you go.
The 14-inch display with a resolution of 1600 x 900 pixels fits in a rather thin lid, and the bezel is rather thin on the left and the right side, but surprisingly thick towards the bottom though, till the display hinge. What impresses is that the ThinkPad way of always offering non-reflective ways has not been forgotten. You can use the X1 Carbon in a brightly lit office environment or outside in the sunlight, and this one will hardly reflect 1% of the ambient lighting.
The native brightness is quite good, to the extent that prolonged use at anything more than 50% might give you serious eyestrain and a splitting headache. But, that good work is somewhat undone by the rather bad display quality. Despite the high resolution, you can clearly see the reduction in clarity as you bump up the brightness levels. Text has noise framing each single alphabet, and colour depth doesn’t look very vivid as well.
Despite a shift from the traditional wide keys on the older ThinkPad machines, the new island styled layout on the X1 Carbon is rather brilliant in terms of the overall usage experience. The spacing between the keys is excellent, but the curved design on each key makes a bit of a groove for the fingers to kind of fit in, making finger detection for each key slightly easier. There is excellent travel and feedback, and the precision are marvelous. The track point is still pretty much around, in addition to the touchpad!
Lenovo preloads the machine with Windows 7 Professional 64-bit, and thankfully, there is not too much clutter preloaded in the garb of trials or freebies. Well, it does come with a 128GB SSD, so there is not much space to waste anyway!
This is the most expensive ultrabook we have tested so far. In terms of performance, we had a fair idea beforehand since we have tested other ultrabooks with the same hardware specs. But with SSDs, you can get a real fluctuation in performance, and that can change the complexion of the benchmark scores quite comfortably. In the tests, it is a bit of a mixed bag. The PC Mark Vantage score of 9641 is considerably lesser than the 12972 scored by the Samsung Series 9 and 12176 scored by the HP Spectre XT. The score of 9651 of the Fujitsu LifeBook U772 is pretty much ensuring that the performance is the max this processor can offer.
The SSD on the X1 Carbon is fairly quick as the test showed, but is still slightly behind the Series 9 and the Spectre XT. But that doesn’t take anything away from the performance it can and will offer. Windows boot up times, once you have cleared away the unnecessary startup items is well inside 12 seconds. And that is fantastic, and pretty much at par with the Series 9 and the Spectre XT in the same condition.
Battery life is the real crowing moment for the X1 Carbon. The tested battery life of 246 minutes is, co-incidentally, exactly the same as the Samsung Series 9, and these two are by far the best among all ultrabooks available in the market. All set for almost one full day of computing on a single charge.
Bottom Line
The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon is a very expensive ultrabook. But for what it offers as a whole, we think that is partly justified. The remaining percentage is taken up by apprehension. But the antidote for that is the ThinkPad badge, which brings with it a history of reliable, solid business-centric machines and an undoubted sense of familiarity. If this doesn’t convince you for some reason, the HP Spectre XT could be a good option for around Rs. 65,000. Or the Samsung Series 9, that is available for around Rs. 1,00,000.

Dell XPS 14

default           MRP: 85229                        


The Dell XPS 14 is the latest arrival in the Dell XPS ultrabook family, and its desirability factor is more powerful than ever. The updates (over the XPS 13) include a bigger display and the latest Ivy Bridge power package. The build and the materials used are still as brilliant as before - aluminum lid, magnesium palmrest with soft touch and a heat absorbing silicon base. It feels slightly heavier than what you would expect though, and is definitely on the pricier side.
Till now, the Dell XPS 13 ultrabook had, by far, been the perfect all rounder – with excellent looks, a very premium finish and impressive performance scores. However, the new kid on the block, the XPS 14, is looking to take over that mantle. Can it do that? From what we have seen, it surely does!
Build & Design
We were more than impressed (and considerably surprised, admittedly) with the Dell XPS 13 (read ourreview). The efforts Dell put in on making that ultrabook are more than acknowledged and appreciated. Even more surprising was the fact that the desired effect was achieved with possibly the most humble and minimalist ultrabook. Quite expected then, that the next generation from the same line of ultrabooks, would follow the same path.
The XPS 14, right out of the box, looks like one solid slab of aluminum, with a very matter to fact look. That however, doesn’t take away the fact that a lot of exotic materials have been slapped on to this ultrabook, to give it the real high-end feel. Gone is the carbon fibre that was quite predominant on the chassis of the XPS 13, and has been replaced with the triple team of aluminum, magnesium and silicon. The XPS 14’s lid has the grey aluminum finish, with the Dell logo in the middle. Open it up, and a black matte finish greets you around the keypad, and the keypad itself. The material used here is the magnesium, given a soft touch finish. Popularly known as the “rubberized” feel, we would prefer something like this any given day on our laptops over a glossy or even the remotely shiny enamel finish.
A similar finish extends to the touchpad as well, which has integrated right and left click keys. There are absolutely no quick access keys spread around the XPS 14 to ruin the looks.
On the base, the carbon fibre from the XPS 13 has given way to silicon. This is a heat absorbing material, and there is a pretty thick layer of it. Essentially, if you are using the XPS 14 on your lap for long periods, the chances of it becoming uncomfortable have been reduced to a large extent. On the near and the far sides are two channels of vents that really blow out the warm air. You should be very careful to not block any of these.
The left side of the XPS 14 has a couple of USB ports, HDMI out and the Ethernet port. The right side has just the 3.5mm jack. With the dimensions of the laptop, particularly the thickness, exactly the same at the front and at the back, this does give the resemblance similar to a MacBook Pro.
A strip of silver runs around the entire machine, as a wraparound. Quite a nice add-on, and contrasts well with the black magnesium that is predominant once you have opened the lid of the XPS 14.
We really did not find any shortcomings in terms of the design, the build and the way the machine was put together. It resembles a MacBook Pro, but that is where any similarity stops. The XPS 14 has a very premium finish, and the materials used do lend it that extra classy touch. Absolutely no rough edges, so much so that we could not find any flex on any part of the chassis, including the lid! Now that does say something about the efforts that have been put into making this look and feel worthy of the price tag it commands.
Features & Specifications
As expected, the Dell XPS 14 has the latest Intel Ivy Bridge processors. The model we received is powered by a Core i5-3317U, the same as we saw on the HP Envy 4, the Samsung Series 5 and theSony Vaio T. The review unit is essentially the mid-range model with 4GB of RAM and a 500GB hard drive that has a box price of Rs. 85,299.
Beyond the excellent build and design, the XPS 14 continues to impress. The 14-inch display has a resolution of 1600 x 900 pixels. This is more than the 1366 x 768 pixel resolution that most ultrabooks in this price range tend to offer. The results are rather impressive – the display is a lot crisper than what most ultrabook displays offer. There is a lot of goodness in terms of the specs here as well – the Gorilla Glass with the edge-to-edge deployment doing away the need for a plastic bezel. This is brighter than the HP Envy 4-1002TX and the Samsung Series 5, but just like the XPS 13, handles colours very well. The sharpness, added to the excellent colour handling, makes this the perfect companion for watching a movie on the move. The only negative we can find with this display is that it is slightly reflective, and slightly more than the HP Envy and even the predecessor. You will have to turn up the brightness to compensate for the reflections from the environment, but that does not wash out the colours!
As with most keyboards, it is more of a personal matter of preference and comfort. The keyboard on the XPS 14 is the type that will feel a tad flat in the beginning. The key size is slightly wider than the usual, but once you get used to the layout, this keyboard does offer a very precise feel. The travel is adequate, and the keys have a nice sounding thud. The backlighting is quite good, with the keys as well as rows illuminated in a white cool colour. The touchpad also has the soft feel, with the integrated right and left click keys. In terms of response, it is quite consistent and assured, and even slightly moist fingers don’t make it jump around.
The area around the keyboard is completely uncluttered, thanks to no quick access keys cluttering up the look. The power key also blends in very well with the black coloured finish.
Our review unit has a 500GB hard drive, with 32GB flash storage dedicated for caching tasks. This has become a regular feature in most of the newer ultrabooks, and the real world usage performance boost is immense. However, this is something we had mentioned in the review of the HP Envy 4 as well – Neither HP nor Dell offer a nifty little software like Samsung, that lets you manually enable or disable the flash storage, and manually clean it up if you want to.
With the same processor as the HP Envy 4 and the Samsung Series 5, we did not expect the performance to be very different. While the Dell and the HP get 4GB of RAM as standard, Samsung offers 6GB with the Series 5. As far as benchmarks were concerned, all three machines did pretty similar scores, thanks to the relatively similar hardware.
In the PC Mark 07 test, the XPS 14 scores 3159 while the Envy 4 isn’t far behind with 3150 clocked. The Samsung Series 5 did score a bit less with 2371, but that shouldn’t take away anything from the fact that the performance is still rather good. Samsung gets its own back in the PC Mark Vantage test with a score of 7465, which is higher than the 7383 the XPS 14 scored. The HP Envy 4, incidentally, had a whopping score of 9966 in the same test.
In terms of real life usability, all three machines offer a relatively similar experience – quick startup, zippy application response, no slowdowns while multi-tasking and a generally smooth Windows experience. The critical bit is the additional flash storage for the caching tasks, and while Samsung has 24GB of that, HP and Dell offer 32GB each. This is over and above the conventional HDD that will be the primary storage device.
Gaming is where the HP Envy takes the advantage, thanks to the more powerful AMD Radeon HD7670M (2GB) graphics solution. While the Nvidia GeForce GT630M (1GB) on the XPS does stand up to the 7670M on the Envy for quite a while, it does lose out in the frame rate stakes. In the Unigene benchmark test, the GT630M scores 17.8 while the Radeon HD 7670M on the Envy scores an impressive 25.9 FPS. The performance is verified by the CineBench OpenGL test – 30.26 for the XPS 14 and 33.78 for the HP Envy 4.
In our full stress load battery tests, the XPS 14’s battery lasted 210 minutes on a single charge – that is 3 hours and 30 minutes. Translate that into a traditional daily usage routine at work or at home checking mails and browsing the web with the brightness slightly less than 50%, we got a backup very similar to the HP Envy 4 – around 7 hours easily.
Bottom Line
You must be wondering why we are comparing the Dell XPS 14 to ultrabooks that are considerably lesser priced. There is a reason for that! The idea being simple – the hardware you get with the XPS 14 is very similar to what you get with the HP Envy 4 and the Samsung Series 5, but you are paying about Rs. 30,000 more for the Dell and the exotic materials used on the finished product. Currently, none of the other similarly priced, but slightly better-specced ultrabooks – such as the new Samsung Series 9 ultrabook or HP Envy Spectre, have been made available to test.
Having said that, if the XPS 14 is well within your budget, then the admittedly superb build quality is something that will be a delight. The use of different materials across the same chassis lends it a very premium feel. Not a surprise then that the XPS 14 will be equally comfortable in a teenager’s college dorm room as well as in the executive board room of a Fortune 500 company.

Lenovo IdeaPad U410 (59-342788)

Lenovo IdeaPad U410-3-336.jpg    MRP: 58990                                    


The Core i5 (Ivy Bridge) version of the Lenovo IdeaPad U410 is a real steal deal, with a market price of Rs. 52,000. The build quality is something that would comfortably do justice to even an ultrabook with a much higher price tag. The thickness is somewhere between that of a MacBook Air and a MacBook Pro 13, which panders very efficiently to its appeal. Brilliant battery life and very good performance are essentially two cherries on the top of the cake!
It has been a rather busy time for ultrabook manufacturers, ever since the middle of summer this year, with one Ivy Bridge ultrabooks after the other being launched. The consumer now has a lot of options to choose from, and interestingly, the sub Rs. 55,000 price bracket has been well populated as well. Ultrabooks aren’t the forbidden computing device anymore!
Build & Design
“This looks very similar to a MacBook Pro”, is a comment you may get to hear quite often. To be boring and pedantic, yes, there are some clear influences, but the IdeaPad U410 has the Lenovo Loop design method, which creates some rounded edges and some subtle contours. This ultrabook is available in three colours – Graphite Grey, Metallic Red and Sapphire Blue. But the colour theme only applies to the lid, while the rest of the chassis is a non-shiny version of silver colour. The thickness is uniform throughout. The display hinge is the most solid across all ultrabooks, and doesn’t vibrate or move around when subjected to sudden jerks.
The dimensions are like those of a MacBook Air, but we don't find anything wrong with that.

The IdeaPad U410’s lid has the Lenovo logo on one side, while the rest of it is completely clean. No imprint finish or any design, which accentuates the colour even more. The ports are placed on the two sides, while there is a generous cooling vent on the left side. Open up the lid, and the huge touchpad will immediately grab your attention. The keyboard layout and design is admittedly similar to that of a MacBook Pro – the slightly depressed placement, the key size and the spacing, but then again, that is a good thing. The MacBook Pro has possibly the best keyboard in the computing device ecosystem, and if this can replicate even a percentage of that, you are in for a delight. More on the keyboard in the features section! Above all this, to one side, is the power key with the spun metal look. No quick access hardware keys, and that keeps the deck totally clean.
The ports on one side.

Flip the IdeaPad U410 over, and there is a fairly generous channel of cooling vents that connect up to the outlet on the left side. The central-ish placement of the intake vent on the underside means it will most likely never be blocked by the thighs when used on the lap. Secondly, if using a cooling pad, the fan will most probably be directly under this vent. We used the Belkin cooling pad with this machine, and it was quite unbelievable to find the fan blowing out rather tepid air even after two hours of continuous use.
All in all, it has excellent build quality, which would do justice to an ultrabook that, may have sported a much higher price tag. No surprised then, because the IdeaPad U410’s Core i7 version is indeed priced higher, but is using the exact same chassis and design. There seems to be a distinct preference to using premium materials to put the package together, and all that comes together very well at the end.
The keyboard deck does tend to get smudges after a while of using the U410.

Features & Specifications

The IdeaPad U410 version we are reviewing here is the 59-342-778 version with an Ivy Bridge Intel Core i5-3317U processor clocking at 1.7GHz with Turbo Boost taking it to 2.5GHz. There is 4GB of RAM to help it along.
Lenovo loads this with a 500GB hard drive and a 24GB mSATA for caching tasks. Unfortunately, this is too less for both Rapid Boot and Rapid Storage to work simultaneously, reason being, Rapid Boot needs 8GB of space minimum, while Rapid Storage will not work on less than 18.6GB. We deployed the mSATA for Rapid Storage, and the performance boost while opening and switching between apps was quite immense. Turn that off, and you can easily see the difference.
The lighter colour theme on the keyboard deck cheers up an otherwise very consistently understated look.

Among all the ultrabooks in this price band, this keyboard has the best feel and usage experience, slightly ahead of the Envy 4. The layout is just perfect, and has adequate amount to travel to make this easy to quickly get used to. Key size is pretty uniform across the alphabet and number keys. Some ultrabooks that have come with slightly modded key size and layout to either fit it in comfortably or to make it look unique, but that just doesn’t work well, we believe.
The IdeaPad U410 comes preloaded with Windows 7 Home Basic, and a bunch of trial software. However, we happily report that the machine is not at all cluttered by preloaded apps, like some rivals. This does help with performance straight out of the box, and cleaning the few trial and full version software preloaded only improves the performance even further.
The performance of the Intel Core i5 version of the IdeaPad U410 is absolutely amazing. We felt this the moment we switched it on, but to verify our observation, we ran a series of benchmarks on the machine. The PC Mark Vantage score of 9086 is only pipped by the 9966 that the HP Envy 4 scored, in ultrabooks below Rs. 60,000. The PC Mark 7 score of 17422 is only beaten by the Dell Inspiron 14z, which scored 18527. Even beyond the benchmarks, the IdeaPad U410 performs very well in most usage scenarios. We used it as a primary machine for a few days, and the experience was delightful. Set it up to Fast Boot, and the boot times come down to within a handful of seconds. However, for the benefit of better performance, we used the Rapid Storage on the mSATA SSD partition. Throughout, the performance was rather zippy, with background apps not hindering or slowing down the opening of more apps.
Some more ports and a generous cooling vent on the other side.

The tested battery life of the IdeaPad U410 is 209 minutes, which is third only behind 229 minutes of the Series 5 and the 223 minutes of the HP Envy. All in all, you are looking coolly at anywhere between 4.5 hours and 5 hours of battery backup under a typical office usage scenario.
The display has its good points and the bad too. The good first – the IdeaPad U410’s display offers the second best black levels, bettered only by the Samsung Series 5. The white levels are the highest without doubt, shared by the Asus S56CA. The pixel stability was also the best on this display, compared among all ultrabooks. Essentially, the display is the best in terms of being sharp, vivid and handles moving text and visuals very well. Brightness levels are on the lower side. At the same interval points, the likes of the Samsung Series 5, the Inspiron 14z and the Toshiba Satellite U840 look brighter. The IdeaPad U410’s display is also quite reflective, and that doesn’t help if you happen to prefer to set the brightness low while gearing up for a long day at work.
While you surely are not buying the IdeaPad U410 for gaming, but the Nvidia GeForce GT610M (1GB) offers the additional capability of some bit of gaming. This is not the fastest graphics chip around – the Samsung Series 5 and the HP Envy 4 offer much better graphics chips, but you can game without stutter on this machine at medium frame rates.
Bottom Line
Lenovo shared the price of this ultrabook as Rs. 58,990, but this is available in the markets for around Rs. 52,000. Keeping that in mind, this seems to be quite the all-rounder. The performance is very good, and competes for the most part with the more expensive HP Envy 4. The battery life on offer is very good as well. The U410 is built with classiness, sophistication and good quality in mind, and that shows. You would do well to consider this, if within your budget.

HP Envy 4-1002TX

HP Envy 4-1002TX-2-336.jpg  MRP: 58325                                   


The HP Envy 4 is possibly the best ultrabook money can buy this side of Rs. 60,000. The Samsung Series 5 will rightly have something to say about it - neck and neck in terms of system performance, but the HP steals the march with much better looks and a slightly more compact form factor. Where the HP has a clear advantage is gaming, with the Radeon HD 7670M consistently scoring more than the Series 5's Nvidia GeForce GT 620M.

After the recent update, the Samsung Series 5 had become a cracker of an ultrabook, particularly when you consider the price tag. For quite a while now, we have been recommending the Ivy Bridge version of the Samsung ultrabook to anyone who has been asking for what to buy! But, there us a new challenger on the block, and is taking the battle / providing an alternative, whichever way you look at it, to the Samsung. Yes, we are talking about the HP Envy 4-1002TX ultrabook.
Build & Design
Ultrabooks, quite simply had just one task to accomplish on the looks front – look sexy. Laptop designs and form factors had gone out of hand quite a long time back, and Intel wanted to retain some good elements, as far as possible, in this new category. The HP Envy 4 does tick most of the check boxes on the design checklist.
There is a generous amount of aluminum used on the HP Envy 4, which gives it a “looks more expensive than it actually is” look. The illuminated logo idea that HP had dabbled with till recently, has now given way to the neat looking logo on one edge of the lid. The lid has a very subtle brushed metal finish, and that carries forward to the areas around the keyboard. While this is completely matte and not glossy at all (there really is a God!), this finish has a very annoying habit of accumulating smudges! The very tip of the lid – near side, if you may, when the lid is closed and ready for opening, correct side on – is plastic. We cannot really understand for this little dash of plastic on what feels very premium otherwise.
The ports are on the sides of the HP Envy 4, as they conventionally are for most laptops, with no testing the idea of placing them behind the display. Also, the muscular display hinge wouldn’t allow for that. What you cannot miss is that the side spines as well as the base are in the soft finish crimson red colour, with a matte finish. Yes, for those who have a more conventional thought process, there is the complete black finish option as well, but we believe this one looks absolutely fantastic. Flip the laptop over, and you will see a very well thought out channel of vents – sucking air, blowing it out as well as for passive cooling.
The only real negative that we can see in the otherwise excellent build of the HP Envy 4 is the glossy bezel around the display, and quite frankly we don’t understand the logic for that at all. When you have the most excellent brushed metal finish for the laptop, why ruin it with this dollop of scratch, dust and fingerprint magnet.
Features & Specifications
The Envy 4-1002TX is powered by the Ivy Bridge series of processors – the Core i5 - 3317U clocked at 1.7GHz, with Turbo Boost taking it to 2.6GHz. There is 4GB of RAM to help it along. On the spec sheet, the Samsung Series 5 (read our review) has 6GB of RAM - however, this maybe an example of how the spec sheet doesn’t really show the whole picture, as we will explain in the Performance section.
The Envy has a 14-inch display, with a resolution of 1366 x 768 pixels. It starts on the correct foot – natively quite bright, but not as much as the Series 5. However, the Envy’s display is very comfortable to use for long periods of time, because it has a slightly softer colour handling. Also, adequate crispness allows you to read text clearly with no visible edge noise. However, the display is rather reflective, and that is something we have deducted points for, in the corresponding ratings. Also, the colours may feel softer and very comfortable if you aren’t using this for multimedia viewing, but the display does feel a tad washed out when you are watching a movie on it.
For your storage needs, there is a 500GB hard drive on the HP Envy 4. However, to speed things along, there is a 32GB flash storage for the caching tasks. Incidentally, the Samsung Series 5 has a 24GB flash storage, but unlike them, HP doesn’t have nifty software that allows you to enable or disable this feature, or to clean up the flash drive periodically.
The island keyboard is extremely confortable to get used to, and switching from a MacBook to test the Envy, it didn’t take too long to get used to it, and rediscover my typing mojo! Adequate key travel and the response is consistent across the keys. The keyboard deck is pretty clean, except for the red Beats Audio key giving it a bit of colour. The HP Envy 4’s touchpad has a brushed metal circular imprint, and is like it is sitting on a raised platform with a trench dug all around it! The left and right click keys are integrated, and some who used this did complain that the keys actually kick in a little too close to the bottom left and bottom right edge. But then again, it is all about getting used to it. Multi-touch gestures work well on this touchpad, and upgrading to Windows 8 should be on your radar.
What we fail to understand is why does this ultrabook come with Windows 7 Basic preloaded on the machine. Considering the price of this machine, and the fact that an ultrabook is considered a “premium” device, at least a Home Premium edition was expected. Just like how almost all other ultrabook manufacturers are doing it! Thankfully, this time around, there is slightly less amount of preinstalled software on the ultrabook. HP has also streamlined its own utilities, features of which can now be accessed via the Support Assistant software. This ultrabook is compatible with the CoolSense feature, but since this is version 2.0 of the software, you can only switch it on or off. It is surprising, considering the older 1.0 version allowed you to choose between multiple settings for fan assisted cooling, and how the processor was clocked down.

Samsung Series 5 (NP-530U4C) (Ivy Bridge) Ultrabook

A different looking power key does blend in well with the overall grey look-336.jpg         MRP: 56990                    


The Samsung Series 5 Ultrabook has been updated with Ivy Bridge, and is better than ever! When we had reviewed the previous generation version, the overall package vs. the price made us slap the "Best Value" tag in the ultrabook comparison test. In a nutshell, it was excellent. With Ivy Bridge, it just moves that extra step towards outstanding, made even more relevant by the affordable price tag.
To the casual viewer and observer, it may seem that we have been tricked into re-reviewing the same product, which we had tested a few months back! However, trust us when we say this – these aren’t the same products at all.
This is the Samsung Series 5 ultrabook alright, which looks same as the earlier Sandy Bridge-based one(read our review) on the outside, but the power package is completely updated.
Build & Design
We have said it time and again, the Samsung Series 5 is an ultrabook, but offers a lot more. Expected then, that it looks slightly thicker than the ultrabooks usually do. But we don’t mind! It looks extremely classy, and the largely understated visual elements probably help it blend in well. The grey matte aluminum finish doesn’t catch fingerprints, dust and scratches like glossy surfaces do. We have made it very clear over and over again that glossy finish to any gadget is a pain in the long run – scratches, dust, fingerprints, maintenance hungry etc. Samsung’s idea of using the brushed metal finish is appreciated.
A different looking power key does blend in well with the overall grey look.

The same colour theme is carried throughout the ultrabook. Open it up and the power key blends in with the same colour, and the touchpad and the right and left click keys have the same treatment. It would have been even more interesting had all the little stickers been monochrome-ised as well, just like Acer did with the Aspire S3 (read our review)!
The Series 5 Ultrabook is essentially bigger than most conventional 13-inch ultrabooks, thanks to its 14-inch display. The optical drive is placed on the right spine, and even that has a dual layered design along the way. There is a USB port and the card reader accompanying the drive. We had criticized the card reader cover, and the material and opening mechanism of it all. Unfortunately, that has been carried forward as before. There are two USB 3.0 ports, the HDMI out as well as a USB 2.0 port on the opposite spine. The dual layered design gives this ultrabook a bit more visual presence. There is no port at the back, and that really makes plugging in and removing devices more convenient than some rival ultrabooks.
Absolutely no sign of any hateful glossy finish!

We like the overall build quality of the Samsung Series 5 ultrabook, and despite the affordable price tag, there is no apparent cost cutting in terms of the materials used and way it is put together. One of the solidest ultrabooks around, and we can safely say that it actually feels a lot more expensive than it actually is. And we cannot say this very often for most gadgets!
Features & Specifications
This is where all the action is happening. Out of the window goes the Intel Core i5 – 2467M (Sandy Bridge) and in comes the Intel Core i5 – 3317U (Ivy Bridge). Same as earlier, the 6GB of RAM is carried forward. With Ivy Bridge on board, the integrated graphics also get a boost with Intel HD 4000. Samsung insist on giving us the goodness of a dedicated graphics chip as well, with the Nvidia GeForce GT 620M graphics. Just to refresh your memory, the previous version had the AMD Radeon HD 7550M graphics.
The Series 5 has made it a point to walk a line that distinguishes it from the rest of the pack, and the 14-inch display does offer a bigger window than the conventional 13-inch ones! The native resolution is 1366 x 768 pixels, which makes us wonder when we will see the Full HD resolution of 1920 x 1080 become more popular in ultrabooks. That is the next logical step, and we were hoping that the second generation of ultrabooks would usher that in.
Clearly, the Samsung Series 5 isn't aiming to win any "which is the slimmest ultrabook" competitions.

Looking at what is on offer, we were impressed with the non-reflective nature of the Samsung Series 5’s display, making it infinitely more comfortable to use in the long run. This is a very bright display, natively, and even at 20% brightness, this was more than usable in a typical office environment. Its adequate crispness makes this equally capable of handling multimedia and for your web browsing and document read and write requirements, with no visible noise around text. Colour vividness of display is slightly on the lower side, partly because the black levels aren’t very dark. But then again, this display does make up for that little drawback with an overall strong show elsewhere.
The primary storage drive isn’t an SSD in the review unit that we received, but there is a 1TB HDD that you can utilize for your storage requirements. Interestingly, just like the Acer Aspire S3, the Samsung Series 5 also has a flash storage that is used for the caching tasks – quick resume etc. And that really makes a difference. You can turn this feature off completely via Samsung’s preloaded utility – Easy Settings. But then again, why would you want to! Additionally, Samsung has preloaded this machine with a utility called Samsung Fast Boot. This does make a considerably difference once turned on, cutting down the boot time by up to 30 percent, depending on how many apps you have lined up for start at boot. All this really makes a difference, making the ultrabook feel very responsive and quick, no matter if you may have a bunch of apps open in the background.
It has something that most ultrabooks don't - an optical drive!

Unlike most other ultrabooks, this one has an optical drive, giving you the full laptop feel. Two USB 3.0 ports and one USB 2.0 port, spread on either spine. And yes, the HDMI output is not missed out on!
The keyboard is very nicely spaced out, and the keys are slightly bigger than what we see on a MacBook, for example. Adequate spacing between the keys is conducive for a quick typing session. The only little thing missing is the chunky feel that a keypress should ideally offer – this one sounds a bit hollow. There is a good-sized touchpad, something critical for multi-touch gestures to work well. Considering the scenario that you may get an upgrade to Windows 8, this one should be an element you should look out for in any laptop that you buy. Separate keys for left and right click are appreciated, and are a lot more comfortable than the integrated keys.
Samsung preloads the Series 5 Ultrabook with Windows 7 (64-bit), and we assume that this machine will come under the umbrella of eligibility for an upgrade to Windows 8. Yes, there are trialwares preloaded on the laptop, but thankfully are lesser than what the likes of Sony do, for example. And some of Samsung’s own utilities – like the Easy Settings one we mentioned earlier, are actually very important.

Acer Aspire S3

Acer Aspire S3-2-336.jpg    MRP: 66949                                


The new Acer Aspire S3 ultrabook features an updated Ivy Bridge Core i7 processor, and a new price tag. On paper, this has impressive specs, but that doesn't take away the fact that it is charging a premium for just the Macbook Air form factor.
There have been multiple ultrabooks that have been likened to the MacBook Air. However, the Acer Aspire S3 comes the closest to it, at least in terms of being designed like a real ultrabook. But all that does come with potential, at least on the spec sheet. Let us see if it actually is as good as we hope it is.
Build & Design
Out of the box, and this one is the second closest we have seen an ultrabook come to the form factor of a Macbook Air, after the efforts of the Dell XPS 13. Just to compare, the Aspire S3 is 17.5mm thick at its thickest point, while the XPS 13 tips the scales at 18mm!
Nevertheless, extremely classy to look at and has a very premium finish to it. The lid is made of aluminum, while the rest of the chassis is mostly plastic with a dash of magnesium alloy. Being a tad colour blind, it is difficult to actually identify what the exact colour is, but it does lean towards grey, with a mixture of mauve, golden and light brown. Pinpointing to an exact colour, hence, is not going to be possible! The brushed metal on the lid is a helpful contrast to the glossy laptops we have been reviewing for many years now. This one will not attract scratches, dust and fingerprints like the other hateful finish, but still does retain that craved shine which has become an indicator classy gadgets. While we don’t agree with that at all, the consumers demand that, we are told again and again by the manufacturers.
A very slim form factor - even pipping the Dell XPS 13, only just!

The Acer Aspire S3’s slimness ensures all ports have been shifted to the rear spine, which personally we aren’t huge fans of. The right side has the 3.5mm jack, while the right side has the memory card slot. On the back are the power input, two USB 3.0 ports and an HDMI out. The Aspire S3 remains very matter to fact with the amount of options it offers, with regards to ports.
We like the monochromatic treatment done to the Windows and Intel Core i7 stickers placed near the keyboard is appreciated, allowing the usually gaudy elements to blend in very well with the rest of the colour theme. It is neck and neck with the Dell XPS 13 in terms of weight – 1.35kg against the Dell’s 1.36kg. Very well put together, and does have a very premium finish to it. It has a price tag close to Rs 67000, and mercifully feels every much worth that price tag.
Features & Specifications
Yes, the Acer Aspire S3 has the updated Ivy Bridge processor range – Intel Core i7 – 3517U clocking at 1.9GHz, with the Turbo Boost taking it up to 2.5GHz. There is 4GB of RAM to help it along. While this is technically a Core i7 processor, this will be the ULV one, and the power delivery will not be as punchy as the less battery friendly version. Just like its siblings from the M and V series, this one also has the Intel HM77 chipset.
All ports on the rear spine - two USB 3_0 and one HDMI out.

With Ivy Bridge comes the upgraded version of the integrated graphics – Intel HD 4000. No dedicated chip, but then again, we didn’t expect this machine to have it either.
The 13.3-inch display brings some order back to the proceedings, after the 15.6-inch ultrabooks – the Acer Aspire V5 and the Acer Aspire M3 seemed to have sparked off a new trend. The native resolution is 1366 x 768 pixels, but the real impressive bit is the dual goodness of adequate colour depth and crispness!
Acer Aspire S3 features a hybrid drive - there is a 500GB hard drive for all your data, but critically, a 20GB flash storage that is used for the bits like caching data and for quick resume. In this slim form factor selling at this price, we would have actually appreciated a SSD, which would have acted as an antidote to the slightly lesser power grunt of the processor.
More metal goodness on the underside.

It is becoming common with laptops and ultrabooks to completely do away with USB 2.0, and the same continues with this Ivy Bridge based ultrabook – two USB 3.0 ports. There is the HDMI out on the Acer Aspire S3 as well, along with a memory card reader and a 3.5mm jack.
The machine comes preloaded with Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit, and the usual gamut of preloaded software, which we do not like one bit. Cleaning out the software you don’t need, running something like a CCleaner and defragmenting the drive – the ultrabooks felt much slicker than it was out of the box.
With the Acer Aspire S3’s spec sheet reading Intel Core i7-3517U clocking at 1.9GHz, everyone would be forgiven for expecting blazing performance. And for the most part, you do get decent amount of grunt.
We like this kind of a finish - isn't gonna catch scratches and fingerprints easily.

The PC Mark Vantage score of 7098, points straight at performance that will not disappoint. The more stressful PC Mark 07 score of 2383 is also amidst the upper mid-range scores. All this is put into perspective when Cinebench tags this processor with a score very close to 3. We will not compare this to the older gen ultrabooks that were on the Sandy Bridge platform – because it doesn’t make any sense. However, from our knowledge and ability to read benchmark scores, this is definitely a notch above mid-range performance. And for an ultrabook in this price range, this one does offer a proposition usually expected from more expensive ones. Compared against the very competent Samsung Series 5, both these ultrabooks will appeal to a different demographic.
The aluminum on the lid gives this ultrabook a very classy feel.

Gaming is not this ultrabook’s domain at all, and the low scores on all the gaming tests prove that. The slightly older 3D Mark 06 clocked this with 4054, while the stressier 3D Mark 11 refused to complete any of the three tests on this machine, no matter how hard we tried. Unigene logged this with 11.5 FPS average frames, and that kind of puts things in perspective.
Surprisingly good battery life though! In our battery tests run on high performance mode completely stressing the machine, this one lasted 153 minutes from full charge to full discharge. That is a good two and a half hours at full load, and could easily translate into 4 hours and above under normal usage scenarios. While this isn’t close to what the sibling, the Timelime Ultra M3 offers (198 minutes in the tests), but for a smaller battery, it is a job well done.
Seeing the specs on paper, you would have expected a faster ultrabook. However, what the Aspire S3 offers is stable performance along with the most critical element – good battery life. It has been put together well, and feels worth the price you pay for. But then again, you can get a lot more with theSamsung Series 5 Ultrabook, also updated with Ivy Bridge, for a bit less – if you want an optical drive and a slightly bigger display, that is.
The Aspire S3 has a lot of poise.                                                                                                      

Dell XPS 13

default  MRP: 79900                        


The Dell XPS 13 is probably the smallest 13-inch ultrabook out there. And despite its slim-trim dimensions, Dell packs the XPS 13 with a lot of hardware firepower and features an excellent look, feel and design to propel it amongst the best ultrabooks available in the market.
The XPS 13 marks the first Dell ultrabook in the market, and it’s one that deserves our attention. It has standard innards like most of the ultrabooks out there, but where it differs is with its feature offerings and a build and design that’s quite noteworthy. If you prefer Dell as a brand and you’ve been waiting for them to launch a worthwhile ultrabook, your wait is over. Read on.
Design & Build
Just like the Asus Zenbook UX31E, the Dell XPS 13 is yet another ultrabook that steps very close to mimicking the Apple MacBook Air’s look and design. The Dell XPS 13 has a plush silver-grey metal screen lid that complements its dark coloured base. The Dell ultrabook features rounded edges and minimalistic design to heighten its overall elegance and appeal. It’s a premium laptop through and through. It may not be as thin or light as the 11-inch MacBook Air or the Toshiba Portege Z830 (which weighs 1.11 kg), still the Dell XPS 13 is quite thin and its 1.35 kg frame is very easy to carry around.
Another interesting highlight of the Dell XPS 13 is its petite frame. The ultrabook’s dimensions, in terms of its width and depth, are smaller than a conventional 13.3-inch frame laptop -- e.g. the MacBook Air or any other 13-inch ultrabook we’ve reviewed. This gives the Dell XPS 13 the impression of being a 13-inch laptop in a smaller 12-inch frame. It’s a noteworthy achievement and Dell’s right to make a big deal out of it. The Dell XPS 13 ultrabook has a Corning Gorilla Glass display; not only this, but the XPS 13's bottom panel is made of carbon fibre -- even the finishing and texture on the bottom panel feels rich and premium. This combination of metal and carbon fibre lends the Dell XPS 13's frame a degree of robustness that defies its super-slim profile. From its hinge design to the overall finish of the ultrabook, the Dell XPS 13 blends attractive looks extremely well with dependable build quality which is simply a cut above the rest.
Screen, keyboard, touchpad
The Dell XPS 13 ultrabook’s 13-inch screen is glossy and bright in nature, with a 1366x768 pixel resolution. It has edge-to-edge Gorilla Glass layer, but average viewing angles. Having said that, the Dell ultrabook’s performance is good whether it’s watching movies and video clips for personal entertainment or reading text. There’s a 1.3 MP webcam grooved into the screen’s top bezel which is great for video chats, and Dell also throws in a webcam utility that promises to add a bit of fun to your video chat sessions.
The Dell XPS 13’s keyboard is almost exactly similar to the Dell Adamo XPS 13, which had a very good keyboard. Likewise, the Dell XPS 13 features wide chiclet-styled backlit keys that are very well laid out and just a treat to type on. All the alphanumeric keys and frequently used keys like Space, Enter, Shift, Alt, etc, are accurately placed. Overall, we’re very impressed with the Dell XPS 13’s keyboard, it’s as great as any Lenovo ThinkPad laptop launched last year.
                            As great as its keyboard is, the Dell XPS 13 ultrabook’s trackpad leaves a lot to be desired. The XPS 13 has a roomy palmrest but its trackpad, like every other ultrabook out there, is a work in progress -- it’s good to use but we aren’t great fans of the combined mouse buttons. They’re difficult to press and deserve to be re-looked. This is a common complaint with most ultrabooks launched and available in India right now.
The Dell XPS 13 comes with a powerful hardware feature set that can rival any ultrabook currently available in the market. Like the HP Folio 13, the Dell ultrabook has an Intel Core i5-2467M 1.6 GHz processor, 4 GB of DDR3 RAM, 128 GB SSD, and onboard Intel HD 3000 graphics. This is slightly less extravagant than the Asus Zenbook UX31E ultrabook which has a faster Intel Core i7-2677M, 4 GB of DDR3 RAM, 256 GB SSD, and onboard Intel HD 3000 graphics. Be that as it may, the Dell XPS 13 is still more powerful than any other mainstream 14 or 15-inch laptop out there.
The Dell XPS 13 has a healthy mix of connectivity ports sprinkled on both sides of its base frame. You’ll find two USB ports (one of which is a USB 3.0 port), a 3.5mm combined headphone and mic jack, a mini DisplayPort. It comes with a bundled USB-to-Ethernet cable, but lacks an onboard SD card slot. Its battery compartment is sealed, and there’s no way to upgrade it -- a common feature on every other ultrabook. Wireless communication includes Wi-Fi 802.11n and Bluetooth 3.0. On its right edge, the XPS 13 has a MacBook Pro-style battery indicator which tells you how much charge is left -- very handy.
The Dell XPS 13 comes with a 64-bit Windows 7 Home Premium operating system, and an online backup feature called Dell DataSafe. Not only that, the Dell ultrabook supports face recognition to login to your system and substitute it for passwords. The feature works well. And, perhaps the most important feature of the Dell XPS 13, from an Indian viewpoint, is the 3-year complete cover (hardware + software) that it offers -- something we haven’t seen on any other ultrabook vendor. This is extremely useful as it helps safeguard your investment longer compared to any other brand.
The Dell XPS 13 is the fastest ultrabook we’ve reviewed so far, it steamrolled past every other ultrabook we’ve reviewed in our synthetic benchmarks. In our PC Mark Vantage tests, the Dell ultrabook posted the highest numbers, better than the HP Folio 13, Lenovo IdeaPad U300s and Asus Zenbook UX31E. It also had the fastest cold boot times among all other ultrabooks we’ve reviewed -- a consistent 11 to 12 seconds. This is impressive and enough to assure that the Dell XPS 13 ultrabook has a power-packed CPU, RAM, SSD combo that’s unrivalled. Multitasking isn’t a problem for this ultrabook.
Watching HD 1080p and 720p movies is a good experience on the Dell XPS 13’s screen -- it’s not the best, though -- and its onboard speakers are surprisingly good for personal entertainment, by thin laptop standards -- definitely one of the best onboard audio for an ultrabook. Gaming isn’t recommended, but the onboard Intel HD 3000 graphics can get away with 2 to 3 year old games played on low-settings.
The Dell XPS 13 ultrabook’s battery lasted for 2 hours 20 minutes in our battery test conducted on high performance preset -- this is the third best score after HP Folio 13 and Lenovo IdeaPad U300s. Expect the XPS 13’s battery to last just over 5 hours on a single charge while browsing the Web over Wi-Fi on a conservative power plan. Not too bad, not too great either, the XPS 13 ultrabook’s battery life is just about right.
The Dell XPS 13 is certainly the most attractive Dell laptop to buy right now. It retails for a price of Rs. 79,900 and is certainly expensive than a bunch of other ultrabooks out there. It also has features like Gorilla Glass display and facial recognition software, not to mention online data backup feature. Sure it may not have the best feature set for the price, but when you take into account its excellent aesthetics, premium look, feel and design, impressive performance and an unmatched 3-year warranty cover, the Dell XPS 13 is probably a much better deal than any other ultrabook out there.                            
Check out the Dell XPS 13's test scores, specifications, and other details, below:

XPS 13
Price (Rs)
Intel Core i5-2467M
Speed (MHz)
4 GB
Intel HD Graphics 3000
128 SSD
Windows 7 HP 64-bit
Screen Size (Inches)
Type of Panel
LED backlit
Screen Resolution (Pixels)
Weight (kg)
1.35 kg
No of Ports (USB/Firewire)
No of USB 3.0 (Y/N)
Connectivity (LAN / Bluetooth / Wi-Fi)
E-Sata / Thunderbolt (Y/Y)
Display (VGA/DVI/HDMI/Display Port)
Memory Card Reader (Y/N)
Fingerprint scanner?
Optical Drive (Y/N)
Inbuilt Webcam (Y/N)
PCMark Vantage Score
Memory Score
TV and Movies Score
Gaming Score
Music Score
Communications Score
Productivity Score
HDD Score
3D Mark 06 Score
Maxxon Cinebench R11.5 (CPU Score)
Battery Meter (in mins)
Speaker volume (at 50%)
Speaker clarity (at 100%)
HD video playback test (So 10)
4GB single file copy (secs)
4GB folder files copy (sec)
100 MB File Conversion (VOB-to-DivX) (secs)

Dell Inspiron 14z

Dell Inspiron 14z-1-336-2.jpg      MRP: 45990                      


With the Inspiron 14z ultrabook, Dell's attempt at walking the tightrope has worked well. They have managed to give it an enticing price tag, while bestowing it with decent amount of power and a fairly sophisticated finish. It is recommended to those who will be buying their first ultrabook on a budget.
When the first generation of ultrabooks was around, affordable was not a word that well described them. Now however, things have changed. The second-generation ultrabooks with Intel Ivy Bridge processors have arrived, clearly aimed at specific demographics across multiple price points. The Dell Inspiron 14z is one such ultrabook, undeniably aimed at the budget segment.
Build & Design
Straightaway, the family resemblance with the Inspiron laptops is evident. The lid has the dual tone grey and silver finish. No Snap-on cover features here, however. The Inspiron 14z is an affordable ultrabook from Dell, offered alongside the premium XPS range. The design and the materials used are very similar to the Inspiron R Special Edition laptops. That’s a good thing, because that takes out any apprehensions of “budget-ness”. The grey colour looks quite sophisticated.
Open the Inspiron 4z up, and the dark grey brushed metal tone continues around the keyboard. Similar silver finish on the bezel, but that is plain matte. On the left spine is a full-fledged Ethernet port, HDMI and USB. All three have very classy covers that do the job of hiding the ports well. On the right side is the optical drive, one of the few ultrabooks that actually offer this, another USB port and the card reader.
Voila! An optical drive! Laptop who?

The Inspiron 4z’s keyboard is well spaced out, but when typing briskly, you will see a bit of downward flex towards the middle of the keyboard. However, that only happens when you press down too hard. There is no flex on the rest of the deck though. Apart from that, the key size, travel and response are very satisfactory.
All in all, we do appreciate the price tag of the Inspiron 14z and respect the fact that it is targeting a specific demographic of users with a specific ceiling to the spending budget. Within those boundaries, the Inspiron 14z has done a superb job making this feel rather well built. The looks don’t betray the price tag, and that is the cherry on the cake.
Features & Specifications
The spec sheet of the Inspiron 14z is all set for a good reading. This has the Ivy Bridge series Intel Core i5 – 3317U processor paired with 4GB of RAM. This processor clocks at 1.7GHz, with Turbo Boost taking it to 2.5GHz.
The side cooling vent is better placed for cooling, and it actually makes a lot of difference.

For the data storage needs, there is a 500GB hard drive on the Inspiron 14z, with a 32GB mSATA SSD for Rapid Boot and Fast Storage. We noticed that these features were not activated by default on the machine. Once turned on, there was a considerable performance boost visible even in basic tasks like opening a web browser.
The Inspiron 14z’s 14-inch (1366 x 768 pixels) display is fairly decent in terms of the quality, but the non-reflective nature makes it very comfortable for usage. The display quality is quite okay, with enough crispness to make the text readable. With text on certain coloured backgrounds, edge noise would creep in though. Black colour depth and white saturation are average, while pixel stability score is the lowest among all ultrabooks. Despite these apparent shortcomings in the display tests, the HD video playback quality was very good. Admittedly, this screen doesn’t have very good viewing angles, but clearly handled the fast motion scenes smoothly.
The slightly reflective nature of this display is a tad annoying, but good brightness levels take care of it.

The Inspiron 14z’s keyboard deserves applause, because it is one of the better ones among affordable ultrabooks. There is no modification to the layout to fit in possible customized keys. Key size is quite appropriate as well. The keyboard response noise is a bit on the soft side, but in no way does that have any impact on the quality of usage and experience. The touchpad is fairly big, and thankfully has separate right and left click keys. Integrated keys tend to be uncomfortable to use for most people. However, the Inspiron 14z’s touchpad is not of the quality we had expected it to be. We found that it was rather inconsistent in terms of response, and updating the drivers did not help. However, this could be a one off hardware issue, probably because this review unit would have been roughly used prior to it arriving in our test centre!

The Inspiron 14z has does leave some more expensive rivals behind in certain tests. Let us give you an idea of some of the benchmark scores. In PC Mark Vantage, the Inspiron 14z scored 7404. Compare this to the 7465 scored by the Samsung Series 5. Coming so close to one of the quickest ultrabooks in our tests is quite creditable. This machine is also quicker than the likes of the Toshiba Satellite U840 and the Sony Vaio T11. Incidentally, with a PC Mark 7 score of 2966, the Inspiron 14z is quicker than the Samsung Series 5 that scores 2371 in the same test!
The brushed look of the keyboard deck looks classy, and the keyboard is equally good to use as well.

Switch over to real world usage scenario, and the plethora of apps and trials preloaded on the Inspiron 14z ultrabook slow down performance considerably. Cleaning that up solves the issue for the most part, but then again, most users may not realize the issue. We used a couple of methods to clean the clutter, and did a hard drive defrag, the performance boost was significant. Apps open up swiftly, but surprisingly, it will feel a bit of a load if you open too many applications simultaneously. For example, we had Firefox open in the background downloading some driver files, playing back an HD video and this is when we wanted to open up Microsoft Word. Opening Word in this scenario did take visibly more time than otherwise. The solution for this is to actually reload Windows on the machine, with a clean image. You could ask one of your friends to lend you a copy, and use the serial key that came with your machine.
The Inspiron 14z’s AMD Radeon HD7570M graphics are decidedly mid-range in terms of performance. It scores better than the GeForce GT610M seen on the Lenovo IdeaPad U410, but the GT620M and the Radeon HD7670M are much further ahead. In a nutshell, the Inspiron 14z is capable of handling most of the latest games, but you will have to keep the game resolution settings around on the medium mark.
The port covers are a very classy touch.

Battery life, surprisingly, is not as good as we would have assumed this to be. The Inspiron 14z’s tested battery life was just 149 minutes, which is the lowest among all the ultrabook tested. This should be out of juice just before 4 hours under a typical “day at work” usage scenario.
Bottom Line
The Dell Inspiron 14z is a praiseworthy attempt to make an affordable ultrabook. It has fairly good performance, doesn’t miss out on the connectivity options including an optical drive and is built fairly well. The only disappointment is the battery life, which is on the lower side. But then again, for this much money, we can’t be too picky. It is perfect for the college going crowd, and for anyone who wants to experience ultrabooks without spending a bomb.

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