What is an Ultrabook?

Ultrabooks versus Tablets, Laptops & Netbooks

To understand what an Ultrabook is, first we have to quickly get to grips with what a netbook is...

Netbooks are laptops but they're smaller and thinner. Instead of a 15 inch screen (or bigger) they generally have 10.1 inch screens. They don't have a built-in CD/DVD drive. And whilst they have great battery life, they have basic hardware which means they're not very powerful. Almost all netbooks come with a single core 1.6 GHz CPU and 1 GB of RAM. More info here.

So What's an Ultrabook?!

An Ultrabook is a netbook with some guts! It's a netbook that finally has a decent CPU and more than 1 GB of RAM. Plus, instead of a 10.1 inch screen they tend to have 13 inch screens. But, just as with netbooks, ultrabooks do not have a built in CD drive.

Put another way, it's a typical laptop (hardware-wise) put into smaller, thinner and more beautiful casing. In other words, it's the PC-equivalent of a 13 inch Macbook Air!

asus ultrabook

Netbooks Had to Evolve

A netbook's hardware is so basic that, these days, even browsing the web will push one to its limits. Why? Because the Internet continues to evolve and make greater demands on your hardware. The same goes for software - new versions usually require better hardware.

But netbook hardware hasn't changed since 2008. So while they were once perfectly adequate, now they're pretty slow. Ultrabooks are a great step in the right direction. But it's a pity they cost so much...

Ultrabooks are Expensive

The thing about netbooks is that you'd never buy one to play games on. Or to do anything that requires decent hardware. They're great for surfing the web, checking your email and using Microsoft Office - either on the sofa, in a coffee shop or on a train. Until quite recently, many still shipped with Windows XP!

But that also means they're extremely affordable. Cheap, in fact. A big part of the netbook's success is the low price.

As I've said, netbooks had to improve because they couldn't keep up with the modern world. But it's tough to justify paying £650 ($1000+) for an Ultrabook. Why?

Because you could get the same hardware from a £300 laptop. Or, for the same price - £650 - you could get a super powerful laptop. Is it worth paying that much for a laptop, just because it looks sexy?

Ultrabooks versus Tablets

The essentials:

  • Ultrabooks cost a similar amount to the best tablets.
  • Neither has a CD/DVD drive.
  • Tablets have a touchscreen whereas Ultrabooks do not.
  • Both devices have great battery life and you can watch films and listen to music on either.

If you want a mini entertainment system, that has Internet access, you're better off with a tablet. They're like the best Gameboy ever made, plus they have web connectivity!

If you want a computer that comes with a keyboard, and something you're able to do some work on, get an Ultrabook.

acer ultrabook

Ultrabooks versus Laptops

The differences between a laptop and Ultrabook are down to size, weight, looks, battery life and cost.

  • Ultrabooks are smaller and weigh less. They're also more sleek and handsome.
  • Ultrabooks have better battery life than laptops.

On the other hand:

  • Laptops have bigger screens.
  • Laptops have built-in CD/DVD drives.
  • Laptop's battery life is much shorter.
  • Laptops are heavy and uglier.
  • Laptops cost less and they're generally more powerful.

For the same money that it costs to buy an Ultrabook, you could buy a much more powerful laptop. Or you could just spend far less by buying a cheaper laptop, which will probably still have better hardware than the Ultrabook!

It comes down to what's important to you. Light weight, sleekness, battery life? Or bulkier, but lower cost and more powerful hardware?

Ultrabooks versus Netbooks

The essentials:

  • Ultrabooks have slightly bigger screens.
  • Neither a netbook or Ultrabook has a built-in CD/DVD drive.
  • Ultrabooks are far more powerful but they also cost a lot more.

Traditional netbooks (1.6GHz CPU + 1GB RAM) are being phased out by more powerful machines. Some of these will continue to be called netbooks. While some others will be branded "Ultrabook".

samsung netbook

Difference Between Netbooks & Ultrabooks

The term "Ultrabook" is just branding - a trademark owned by Intel. For a PC to be a genuine Ultrabook, that term must be on the packaging.

When you buy an Ultrabook, you know you're getting a powerful version of a netbook. Put another way, you know you're getting a small, pretty laptop with some decent hardware in it.

All Ultrabooks are powerful netbooks - but not all powerful netbooks are branded with "Ultrabook".

But you can also buy a powerful netbook that isn't branded as an Ultrabook! A new wave of netbooks, which contain a more powerful CPU, are also coming to market. (Too many of these still come with a measly 1 GB of RAM! But that's easy to upgrade.)


If you want a PC that's prettier and more portable than a laptop - but that's not as expensive as an Ultrabook - and has more power than a netbook - look for the new wave of netbooks hitting the market.

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