Ultra-Light Laptops: Are They Worth the Compromise?

Includes: DELL, HPQ, INTC
by: Larry Dignan

After a few weeks of laptop window shopping I’m discovering a major hang-up—the Intel ultra-low voltage chips that scrimp on horsepower.

This hang-up of mine began to emerge as I was scoping out a Dell Vostro v13. The laptop is light, stylish and would be a nice non-work device to carry around. Enter the hang-up: An Intel ULV processor. Now I know PC buyers are supposed to have evolved past the Ghz line, but I’m a bit old school. Simply put, 1.3 GHz feels too much like a four-cylinder engine to me.

The lighter laptops at Lenovo had more of the same. Even my test drive of a Dell Latitude Z had an Intel Core 2 Duo chip running at 1.4 Ghz. The casing said Ferrari, but the chip said Ford Fiesta.

How widespread is this reticence over ULV chips? I have no idea, but I do know the latest wave of laptops from Dell (NASDAQ:DELL) and HP (NYSE:HPQ) targeted at SMBs focused on Intel’s more powerful processors, notably the i3, i5 and i7. The processor horsepower matters to me and I’m willing to sacrifice some battery time for it. I’m not willing to sacrifice more than a pound though.

Dell’s Vostro 3300 line along with HP’s ProBook S-Series went with the more powerful Intel chips.

The subtle pitch: Folks want more processing power in a lightweight package. Meanwhile, it’s increasingly clear that I can’t quite get to my laptop nirvana. All I want is everything. Specifically, that laptop will include:

  • Something around 3 pounds.
  • An i3, i5, i7 Intel processor.
  • Lots of battery life.
  • A neat color or aluminum casing.
  • 4GB to 6GB of memory.
  • A price of $1,000 or so.

As far as the drive goes, solid state is nice but I can go traditional to save money. Frankly, the drive size matters most, the type is an afterthought.

Thus far, compromise is the word of the day. The big question I’m struggling with: Should I compromise on the processor?

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