Unlike all men, ultrabooks are not created equal

Samsung Series 5 ULTRA (image courtesy Samsung, ©2012)
Samsung Series 5 ULTRA (image courtesy Samsung, ©2012)
ASUS Zenbook Prime (image courtesy ASUS, ©2012)
ASUS Zenbook Prime (image courtesy ASUS, ©2012)

I recently came across a seminar for local professionals, entitled "Ultrabook or Tablet, which is right for you?" Essentially, the presenter was equating the choice with "boxers or briefs," which is absurd. The "right" choice hinges on more than the form factor of the device.

This is particularly true with ultrabooks. As coined by Intel, the term "ultrabook" refers to extremely thin, lightweight notebook computers possessing specific hardware characteristics. Today, however, the term is loosely-applied.

Consumers shopping for a thin-and-light laptop should not assume that products labeled "ultrabook" are all the same. The Samsung and ASUS units, described below, are vastly different, despite their both being members of that category.

Rule #1 is don't be influenced by what is currently cool. Instead, focus on the "must-haves" for your computing situation (battery life, processing power, fast boot-up, lightweight, storage capacity, HD screen resolution, etc.), then choose the device that best meets those needs.

Your friends and colleagues might not be impressed with your new purchase, but your long-term satisfaction will be better assured.

Samsung Series 5 ULTRA

The Samsung Series 5 ULTRA is an extremely portable notebook in an attractive aluminum package that features near instant starts thanks to FastStart and ExpressCache storage.

Powered by an Intel Core i5 processor, the unit is also one of the few Ultrabooks to feature a built-in DVD drive and SD card slot, making it easy to access software, movies, photos and more.

The unit's 14" high-res display (1366 x 768) with Samsung's SuperBright Technology (300 nits) features an easy-to-view matte screen, so it can be easily viewed in a wide range of environments, both indoors and out.

boosts overall performance and includes the ability to boot up in under 20 seconds, wake-up in about two seconds, and launch frequently-used programs quickly.

The Series 5 weighs under 4 lbs. and provides a variety of ports, including a full-size HDMI, VGA, two USB 3.0, one USB 2.0, a 4-in-1 multi SD card slot and an Ethernet port.

The Samsung Series 5 ULTRA starts at $899. For more information, visit Samsung.com.

ASUS Zenbook Prime

Last fall, the ASUS Zenbook was one of the first ultrabooks to go on-sale, and while it was widely regarded as best-of-the-breed at the time, the unit had a few flaws, such as a lid that was difficult to open and a trackpad that left a lot of room for improvement.

ASUS, however, listens to its customers, so the new-and-improved Zenbook, dubbed the Zenbook Prime, addresses these issues and adds a full HD resolution screen and 3rd generation Intel Core i7 processors for good measure.

The Zenbook Prime's IPS 13.3" display (1928 x 1024) allows for 178-degrees of wide-angle viewing, and its SonicMaster audio technology, co-developed with Bang & Olufsen ICEpower, provides cleaner sound than its predecessor.

The unit weighs 2.87 lbs. and features powerful integrated HD 4000 graphics, a 256GB SSD, built-in HD webcam, and a backlit, Chiclet-style keyboard.

The notebook resumes from sleep mode in two seconds and can sustain extended standby periods bolstered by special safeguards to prevent data loss.

The trackpad is vastly-improved, and the lid opens easily, making the unit a worthy challenger to the benchmark by which all ultrabooks are measured, Apple's MacBook Air.

The ASUS Zenbook Prime (Model UXA31-DB71) retails for $1,499.99. For more information, visit ASUS.com.