Conclusion: A Good Step Forward for Ultrabooks

All indications right now are that Ivy Bridge is far more important for Intel’s laptop division than for their desktops. Yes, we'll eventually get dual-core Ivy Bridge on the desktop as well, but many of those chips will be saddled by less than impressive HD 2500 graphics, which Anand discusses in his i5-3470 review. So why would Intel put all that die space and energy into their IGP if they’re just going to disable half of it on most desktops? Because on desktops, integrated graphics performance isn’t particularly important; you can always add a discrete GPU (unless you’ve got a really small/proprietary system). On laptops, a large percentage ship without any sort of dedicated GPU, and it’s often a bottleneck for home users.

So just what does Ivy Bridge bring to the party that you couldn’t get with Sandy Bridge Ultrabooks? In a word: more. More CPU performance—the i5-3427U we tested today is typically close to i5-2410M performance, and often 20% faster—or more—compared to Sandy Bridge Core i7 Ultrabooks. More GPU performance: HD 4000 in IVB ULV is generally faster than HD 3000 in SNB standard voltage CPUs. And you get all that with similar or slightly better battery life. You also get less: far less bulk and weight to carry around. We’re basically looking at the performance of a laptop that used to weigh six pounds in a three pound chassis. If you’re someone who carries their laptop around a lot, an Ultrabook would make for an excellent companion—whether for business, school, or some other use. They’re light, fast enough, and get great battery life, and they’re small enough to fit in a purse or a small laptop bag—no more giant laptop carry ons, thank you very much!

One of the other aspects of Ultrabooks that you can’t overlook is that they all include some form of SSD or SSD caching. While we’re not as sold on SSD caching, running an SSD on a laptop often results in an end-users experience that’s better than running an HDD on a desktop. Boot, sleep, resume, and hibernate times are all excellent: the Ivy Bridge Ultrabook takes just 11 seconds to load Windows and 10 seconds to resume from hibernate, and waking up from sleep is essentially instantaneous. Couple that with features like Intel’s Smart Connect Technology that lets your laptop periodically wake up, download email/content from the Internet, and then go back to sleep and you have a system that’s ready to go whenever you open it.

With all the good, what’s not to like? Well, there’s the price. Intel wants people to buy more expensive laptops with more expensive CPUs, and if they’re lucky they can even get an Intel SSD in there as well. Ultrabooks are a great way to do all that, but they don’t come cheap. The lowest cost Ultrabooks typically start at $800, which is good compared to, say, and Apple MacBook Air, but that $800 is still more than you’ll pay for slightly larger/heavier laptops. We’ve seen Llano A8 laptops going for $500, and even Sandy Bridge laptops with switchable graphics start at under $700 (with some currently on a fire sale for $600). Get one of those and add a decent SSD and you’ll still come out ahead, with a potentially more flexible system. It just won’t look as sleek as an Ultrabook.

We’re also still waiting to see exactly how AMD’s lower voltage Trinity parts perform. Given the 17W and 25W TDP on the A6-4455M and A10-4655M, they could easily fit in similar sized laptops (e.g. HP’s “Sleekbooks”). Of course, without an SSD you’d lose a lot of the responsiveness of an Ultrabook, and with an SSD the price point would likely be within $100 of where Ultrabooks start. Along with the lower TDPs of Trinity are lower CPU and GPU clocks, though, so while Trinity is clearly more potent for graphics applications at standard voltages, don’t expect the low voltage Trinity parts to be quite as fast—and the A6-4455M loses a large number of Radeon cores, so its performance is really hard to guess at without hardware in hand.

If you’ve been eying the various Ultrabooks and haven’t quite taken the plunge just yet, the performance improvements are certainly welcome but may not be the most important item to consider. Instead, it’s the second generation Ultrabook designs that are likely to turn heads. We liked the looks of the original ASUS Zenbook, but for all the premium materials they shipped pretty mediocre LCDs. As we discussed in our preview of the UX21A, ASUS is looking to fix that in a major way with their Ivy Bridge Ultrabooks, with 1080p IPS panels available on all three models. All I have to say is: it’s about time someone finally offered a tablet quality display in a small laptop! Anand also found the keyboard travel depth to be improved over the original Zenbook, which makes the Zenbook Prime a potentially perfect Ultrabook. We’re still waiting to see what others do with their new Ultrabook designs (not to mention Apple’s MacBook Air line), but ASUS has thrown down the gauntlet in a big way and they’ll be hard to beat this round.

Ivy Bridge Ultrabook Battery Life and Thermals
POST A COMMENT

64 Comments

View All Comments

  • mikk - Thursday, May 31, 2012 - link

    Why you don't record the frequency used in games with gpu-z? This would be interesting. And it would be also interesting to see how it performs with a disabled cpu turbo to give more headroom for the iGPU. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, May 31, 2012 - link

    GPU-Z doesn't detect HD 3000/4000 frequency; in fact, I'm not sure anyone has a utility that correctly reports HD 4000 core clocks. If I'm wrong, please let me know as I'd love to be able to do a FRAPS run and log the iGPU clocks! If you know of one, please post and/or email me. Reply
  • mikk - Thursday, May 31, 2012 - link

    JarredWalton: "GPU-Z doesn't detect HD 3000/4000 frequency; in fact, I'm not sure anyone has a utility that correctly reports HD 4000 core clocks. If I'm wrong, please let me know as I'd love to be able to do a FRAPS run and log the iGPU clocks! If you know of one, please post and/or email me"

    You are wrong, gpu-z 0.6.2 fully supports the HD4000, you can "log to file" the frequency. I have tried it myself on a Desktop HD4000. It's interesting. Due to some driver issues some games did not run with the max turbo frequency ony my Desktop 77W model. It's fixed with driver build 2752. There are several turbo steps between base 350/650 and max turbo 1150 Mhz.
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, May 31, 2012 - link

    Going to go check now... I think I might have been running an older version (6.0?) I'll update the article when I have some details. Thanks for the heads up -- GPU-Z has failed to provide any useful information on HD 3000 for so long that I never noticed anything had changed! :-) Reply
  • JarredWalton - Friday, June 01, 2012 - link

    I've posted a follow up article, in case you don't see it over in Pipeline:

    http://www.anandtech.com/show/5878/mobile-ivy-brid...
    Reply
  • vegemeister - Wednesday, June 06, 2012 - link

    CPU idle power doesn't mean much when you have to drive the backlight for a 17" screen. Smaller screens are more portable anyhow, and look better given the same resolution. Reply
  • sonofsanta - Thursday, May 31, 2012 - link

    So are stardates always one month ahead of the real date, even if that stardate doesn't technically exist on the Gregorian calendar? ;)

    (I'm guessing you meant May 31...)
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, May 31, 2012 - link

    Oh crap! And there aren't even 31 days in June! Hahahaha.... wrote that too late at night after a long day of testing/writing! But of course, actual Star Trek Stardates are never expressed with a month and year:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stardate
    Reply
  • mschira - Thursday, May 31, 2012 - link

    I am amazed how Intel professionals fail to realize that if a laptop does not have VGA out not even with a converter (note apple has VGA out with the right converter) it's useless for presentations.
    This may be different for other people but for me one of the most important jobs of a laptop is to run a presentation at conferences and this sort.

    I have yet find a conference location where you could hook up your laptop via display port. Or even DVI. They simply don't exist.

    -> no VGA = useless.
    M.
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, May 31, 2012 - link

    HDMI? I've seen plenty of HDMI projectors at least. But this is a prototype, and there will undoubtedly be Ultrabooks with VGA outputs (possibly via a converter). Anyway, Ultrabooks are a specialized market, so I don't expect most of them to target business users that need VGA outputs. Just because some people find VGA indispensable doesn't mean there aren't many others who wish the connector would just die already. It's basically just hanging around for legacy purposes, sort of like PS2 mice/keyboard connectors. In five more years I hope to be rid of all the old style connections on the majority of products (with those who absolutely need them catered to by niche products). Reply

Log in

Don't have an account? Sign up now