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Gadgets & Home Improvement

Upsizing downsized laptops

Shoppers eager for brawn and screen real estate from ultrabooks should check out the latest models as long as weight isn't an issue.
The Business Times - July 21, 2012
By: Christopher Lim
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Upsizing downsized laptops - SONY

Lenovo IdeaPad U410, $1,299

Colour options are sorely lacking in the ultrabook market, which is where Lenovo's IdeaPad U410 shines. It's available in sapphire blue and ruby red, though graphite grey is also available for those who want to stay low-key. Its looks are backed up by Intel Ivy Bridge processors and a battery life that lasts up to nine hours without making the U410 cross the 1.8kg weight threshold.

Dell XPS 14, starts at $1,399

Gaining an inch of screen real estate might not seem like a huge upgrade from Dell's XPS 13 to the latest XPS 14, but there's more to the new model than that. It's got better connectivity, with two USB 3.0 ports instead of one, and the addition of HDMI and Ethernet ports, along with a three-in-one memory card reader.

And there's a dedicated Nvidia graphics card for gamers and video buffs. Best of all, its battery is good for up to a massive 11 hours on a single charge - two hours longer than the XPS 13 and probably the best among the competition. That's better battery life than most full-sized laptops, and should be supremely handy on long flights or in full-day conferences. Bearing in mind that the XPS 13 - which the XPS 14 doesn't replace - hasn't been upgraded to Intel Ivy Bridge processors yet, the XPS 14 is definitely a better buy than its smaller sibling. The main downside is the substantial 2.1kg weight, which can be blamed on the large 8-cell battery.

HO Envy4, starts at $1,299

Batteries are one of the main parts that weigh down laptops, which is why many ultrabook makers have lightened their products at the expense of running time. But the HP Envy4 can slog for up to eight hours on a single charge, in spite of sporting a dedicated AMD Radeon graphics card and Intel Ivy Bridge processors. The graphics card makes a big difference for gamers, but even those who want to edit photos or videos on the go will appreciate being able to make the most of the 14-inch screen.

A hybrid solid-state hard drive contributes to the 1.8kg weight, which stretches the definition of an ultrabook, but power always comes with a cost. As with all HP models worthy of the Envy badge, the Envy4 is distinctively styled in a choice of either black with red accents, or silver with black accents. The former is prettier. Best of all, it doesn't look at all like an Apple MacBook Air clone.

Sony Vaio T (price not available)

Line the Sony Vaio T up against its competitors and the first thing that stands out is its looks. Its blocky edges, wide-screen bezel and matte silver finish come across as a blend of 80s Japanese TVs and early 90s laptops. This is easily the most retro-looking ultrabook on the market. Its specifications, however, are solidly rooted in 2012. Intel Ivy Bridge processors lurk beneath a 13.3-inch screen. And the battery lasts for up to seven-and-a-half hours.

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