Last year I won an Intel Ultrabook prototype that was armed with a variety of sensors and a touchscreen. The specification included even more than that - a SIM card slot for 3G access and Intel Ivy Bridge processors.
Now Intel is again giving out prototypes of their latest design specification: the 4th generation Intel processors named Haswell. Their promise is nothing less than saving a whole lot energy i.e. battery life and introducing some interesting new instructions.
This time the Ultrabook is not send to some contest winners, but to selected members of the community. I was lucky enough to get one. Let's look at some of the details of this fantastic piece of hardware.
The first feeling is really important. The box and the Ultrabook have been designed with ambition. While the former prototype had a quite bad keyboard and a really prototypish touchpad, this one comes with superior peripherals.
Additionally important hardware aspects like the SIM card slot and the µHDMI port are much better integrated. The case feels very valuable, giving the impression that Intel is capable of producing Apple quality like products.
A funny and memorable moment is guaranteed to everyone who opens the box that contains the Ultrabook. Intel integrated a small chip to play the Intel company jingle. Additionally Intel attached some really useful utilities like several adapters for the µHDMI port, an USB stick or an USB to Ethernet converter.
The only drawback was that obviously the battery has never been charged. The first 1 hour I did not have any battery and I was worried that the battery is actually broken. Then the battery was alive and greeted me with the usual loading symbol.
Weight and startup
The weight seems to be just right with about 1.7 kg. The size is also very portable and perfectly adjusted with cases that come for 13" laptops. Installing everything did not take too long since Office, Visual Studio or other tools have pretty much self-contained installation files. The rest is actually handled by Chocalatey, which makes installations very easy script-able.
Touchpad and keyboard
The previous model had severe problems with the keyboard and touchpad. The keyboard stopped working correctly once the battery was below 10% and the touchpad suddenly didn't want me to press the left click button when I was sitting on a plane from Seattle to San Francisco (and it never started working again). I cannot speak for the second problem with the reliability of the touchpad (at least it makes a much better first impression), but the keyboard is certainly improved.
The prototype has an Intel i5 4th generation (Haswell) processor. This is a little bit worse than the previous Ultrabook which featurd an Intel i7 3rd generation (Ivy Bridge) processor. Nevertheless the computing power seems to be equivalent. At first I was disappointed due to only 4 GB of RAM and an i5 processor, but since my first experiments do not show any significant disadvantage compared to my old Ultrabook, I will rest my case.
Additionally to the new processor a better webcam and the previously integrated sensors are available as well. A cool feature is the freshly integrated NFC device. Additionally SIM cards can now be read as well! As previously 2 USB 3.0 ports have been made available.
The battery life was one of the best arguments for the previous prototype. Even when doing lots of work I usually had between 4 and 7 hours of battery life. Now this seems to be even better. My first run managed to take the Ultrabook on a wild ride for approximately 13 hours (combined - since I did not do it in one run). I was mostly installing software on this run.
Since then I experience runs between 7 and 11 hours depending on the workload and settings (like screen brightness). I would say this is fairly good.
A few images
So thanks again Intel for this very nice device. I enjoy it and it is certainly another great update to an already fantastic product!