The Apple MacBook Air revolutionized the landscape of laptop computing. Sleek, extremely light, incredibly thin, no drive for DVDs, minimal peripheral ports and extremely fast due to its flash based hard drive – the MacBook Air created a new level of portability that was unheard of in mainstream laptops at the time. But despite its incredible dimensions, the trade-off was that the MacBook air was significantly more expensive than regular-sized laptops.
The Windows answer to the MacBook Air was the Ultrabook – a term created and patented by Intel. Unlike the MacBook Air, the Ultrabook is not a single model produced by one company, but rather by any company that is willing to produce a device that meets Intel’s exacting specifications in terms of size and components. Ultrabooks cannot be more than 0.8 inches thick and must use an SSD drive either as the primary hard drive or to enable quick boot-up Ultrabooks must also use an Intel chip-set (current requirement is the Ivy Bridge micro-architecture Intel Core models), have a storage transfer rate of at least 80 megabytes/s, and possess a minimum of 5 hours of battery life.
While the MacBook Air has already had tremendous success, the fate of the Ultrabook is still up in the air. Intel has invested significantly in the Ultrabook, touting it as the future of laptop computing but thus far Ultrabook sales have fallen well below Intel’s lofty initial projections. Still, there is much to be determined in the MacBook Air vs. Ultrabook wars, and both product lines have their advantages and disadvantages.
COMPARING THE ULTRABOOK VS. MACBOOK AIR
It can be difficult to compare Ultrabooks as a whole to the MacBook Air. As mentioned previously, laptops bearing the Ultrabook moniker span dozens of different models. Recently released Ultrabooks include the Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 13, the Lenovo Thinkpad X1 Carbon, the Acer Aspire S5, the Dell XPS 13, the Fujitsu Lifebook U572 and 772, and many more. On the other hand, the MacBook air is a single laptop model – available in 11” and 13” configurations – designed and manufactured by Apple.
ADVANTAGES OF PURCHASING AN INTEL ULTRABOOK
While the MacBook Air is available in a couple of different configurations and specification levels, the Ultrabook line truly shines when it comes to selection and options. The latest generation of Ultrabooks features over a dozen different models produced by the world’s top laptop manufacturers, with pricing ranging from $700-$1500. If you’re looking to pick and choose features and specifications, you’re much more likely to find what you’re looking for by going with an Ultrabook than by sticking with the bare bones selections available with the MacBook Air.
For example, if you needed an ultra light laptop with a large screen, you could go with the Samsung Series 9 15” model. Or if you don’t want to spend the money on a full solid state hard drive, you can choose that option with an Ultrabook.
While Ultrabooks can range in price from $700-$1500, the majority of available Ultrabooks are quite a bit cheaper than the lowest priced MacBook Air. While the 13” MacBook Air starts at a price of approximately $1,199, a current generation Lenovo Ideapad U410 can be had for as low as $700 – albeit with lower specs. But even with higher end Ultrabooks that boast similar specs, the Ultrabook line is significantly cheaper than a comparable MacBook Air.
ADVANTAGES OF PURCHASING A MACBOOK AIR
The first thing one notices about the MacBook Air is that it is simply gorgeous to look at. Although Ultrabook manufacturers have also produced some very nice designs (the Dell XPS 14 for example), most will agree that Apple’s sleek, minimalist Macbook Air new design is number one. For buyers enamored with the MacBook aesthetic, the MacBook Air is the only option.
Superior Display Quality
Although the MacBook Air hasn’t been blessed with the gorgeous high resolution retina display that’s found in the newest generation iPad and MacBook Pro, Apple’s display still trumps most of the Ultrabook screens. The MacBook Air display boasts brilliant viewing angles, super sharp colors and minimal glare.
Friendly Operating System
Obviously the Windows versus Mac debate is still as hotly contested as ever, but the reality is that – for those who may not be that tech-savvy – the OS X Mountain Lion is generally considered more user-friendly than Windows 7. For the hundreds of millions of iPad and iPhone users, the fact that OS X is designed to integrate seamlessly with other Apple products is also a bonus.
On the other hand, perhaps Microsoft’s impending release of Windows 8 will cause some to lean towards a Windows OS. However, those who favor the Mac operating system are usually willing to pay a premium for the comfort and familiarity.
CHOOSING BETWEEN INTEL’S ULTRABOOK AND APPLE’S MACBOOK AIR
So at the end of the day which should you choose? The flexibility, selection and low-cost options offered by the Ultrabook, or the sleek, gorgeous offering from Apple? Ultimately, it comes down to a question of need – if you’re a fan of Apple products and love their beautiful designs, reputation for quality, top-end specifications, and you’re willing to pay a premium for the Apple brand’s benefits – then the MacBook Air is certainly a reasonable choice.
But for those who would like a bit more flexibility in choosing their laptops features and specifications and who want to get the most bang for their buck, choosing one of the many available Ultrabooks is probably the best bet.