Thin and Light


As much as I have written about Windows 8 from a larger perspective, I’ve failed to really give an actual review of the OS. I’m going to sort off rectify it with this post.

Small confession before now my main computer has been a Windows XP laptop (which is currently in need of repair) along with both an XP era desktop and a Dell laptop running Vista (which honestly gets a bad rap). As of now I don’t own a tablet so my experiences with Windows 8 has been on a non-touch device ( a Toshiba Satellite which has one of those ridge track pads which I dislike).

Having used Windows 8 now for about two months I have to say I like it. Windows 8 is miles better than XP and Vista and for me the new Metro layer is neither terribly jarring nor is the lack of the Start button (and menu) an issue. Now maybe its me (I looked at enough information to know what I was buying) but a lot of the issue around the Start Screen and the desktop is a non-issue. For one the majority of the functions people miss from the Start menu is in the Charms bar. To me the big things search, devices, and settings are there.

(And that is my brief review of Windows 8; I actually wanted to talk about hardware)

I don’t know when it happened, but at some point recently I decided that I was one of those computer users that could exist comfortably with tablets and Ultrabooks. An Ultrabook for those that don’t know is the term coined by chip maker Intel to describe laptops that were built with Solid state drives (SSDs), had screen sizes of around 10-13 inches, and abandoned things like DVD drives. Some consider these devices as toys; better designed Netbooks for casual users.

The benefit of these devices is unlike regular laptops they are lighter, thinner, and in cases have longer battery life. Ultrabooks have less issues with heat because they use less or no movable parts. Ultrabooks, including the MacBook Air line, are much more portable and smaller than average laptops.

Now when I first saw these devices I really didn’t have a use for them. I preferred a bigger screen and the perceived benefits of a more powerful machine. Fast forward to now and to be honest I may not be able to hang with an 11 inch (unless its a tablet), but I can get behind 13 and above.

Looking at how I use a computer I learning that for me a smaller lighter option with better battery life is more my style. The only hindrance for me is price; the nicer Ultra lights are pricier.

Ultrabooks are an interesting turn for PCs. For a long time PC computing has been around adding more power, more ram, and memory to systems. This didn’t stop when the market moved to laptops (think desktop replacements); but it did start to shift with the introduction of Netbooks. Netbooks were cheap and long lasting devices with smaller screens but they were also clunky and honestly the ugly children of the PC space.

They sold well because they were CHEAP. Apple came along and “invented” the market with the first Air but even it had issues. A lot of the issues were around the fact the chips made at the time were not built to handle what either the Air or the Netbook did.

Now a days Intel and AMD are building chips with both power, efficiency, and mobility in mind. Intel will especially interesting to watch with its Haswell chipset which is purported to offer almost 10 or more hours of battery life. AMD is focusing on bring desktop level graphics to fore with its Temash chips. Both will power systems that will be Thinner and lighter than any laptops made before.

And that’s speaking about the chips that will power tablets running on the x86 platform.

Another factor in all this is Windows 8.

One of the things overlooked in the uproar over the Start Screen is Microsoft has been doing a lot of work shrinking the Kernel; projects Like MinWin are about reducing the amount processes and things Windows runs in memory opening up more space. Microsoft has also worked on getting Windows to run faster and longer as witnesses by the 10 hours of Atom and ARM based devices. Add to this the shift in storing the majority of your stuff on cloud services like SkyDrive and Dropbox and you open up the possibility of buying a system that achieve tablet like use hours.

For me I’d like to see how weird these devices will get. I envision an Intel Bay Trail based 13 inch device running Windows 8 with LTE and a touch screen that is so thin people will think it’ll snap for like $400.

On a more realistic note, expect devices like the above Toshiba KiraBook with 1080p screen and touch.


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