Ultrabooks were the undisputed star at last week's Consumer Electronics Show, or CES, with most computer manufacturers offering their own take on the super light and thin laptop trend. So now, with the floodgates blown wide, it's time to see which (if any) of these newly-minted ultraportable laptops are worth your hard-earned cash. We stacked three of last week's major headliners against each other to see if 2012's ultrabook lineup is worth the hype.
w/ SSD option
Battle of the Thin
At 0.5" thick, the Acer Aspire S5 lives up to its "thinnest ultrabook in the world" moniker. Design-wise, this laptop sits in a class by itself with its black, magnesium-alloy and brushed metal chassis — a far cry from the pedestrian design of its predecessor, the Aspire S3.
So far, little information about the S5 is provided, but what few details we found left us wanting more. For instance, we know the S5 will launch in Q2 and feature a built-in Thunderbolt port, which means there's a big chance that it'll be running Intel's next-gen Ivy Bridge processor. That's already enough to set the S5 apart from the Dell XPS 13 and Lenovo IdeaPad U310, both of which will run Intel's current Sandy Bridge Core series CPUs. But did Acer learn from its mistakes with the S3 (which suffered from a poor build quality and mediocre performance) or is the S5 just a better-looking S3?
The Mainstream Ultrabook
Not one to sit on its laurels, Dell launched its first ultrabook — the XPS 13 — at CES. The company managed to squeeze the specs of a 13" laptop into the body of a 12" machine, which will make other 13" machines (like the MacBook Air) look like space hogs in comparison. The XPS 13 will also feature a Gorilla Glass screen giving this ultrabook an extra layer of protection. Otherwise, the XPS 13 falls in line with most other ultrabooks on the market today.
The Budget Ultrabook
One would think Dell would've claimed the "budget ultrabook" title, but it's actually Lenovo that's bringing ultrabooks to the masses with its $699 Lenovo IdeaPad U310. Unfortunately, this portly machine tips the ultrabook scales at a whopping 3.7 lbs, and it comes with a standard hard drive instead of an SSD (although you can select this as an upgrade). Nevertheless, it packs two USB 3.0 ports, an SD card reader, and built-in WiDi, which lets you connect your laptop to a flat-screen HDTV wirelessly, though an adapter is required for your HDTV.
And the Winner Is...
On paper, and with the limited specs that are available to us, the S5 appears to be the most promising ultrabook to come out of CES. Unfortunately, there's also a big chance this notebook will be one of the pricier models we'll see. For that reason we're supportive of the $699 budget-friendly Lenovo U310, which delivers everything you'd want in an ultrabook, if you don't mind the extra ounces of weight.
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