Here we are. Discussing Ultrabooks, because you figured you’d give them a shot. Nothing wrong with that, Ultrabooks are great for a wide array of things. They’re fast enough. They’re light enough. They’re portable enough and just as importantly, they usually don’t pull your bank account to a poorly lit alley.
Most models go between $800 and $1300 with a couple of exceptions. High-spec models, that’s right, you’ve guessed it.
Manufacturers don’t simply release a one-size-fits-all notebook. If they go into the trouble of designing a chassis, a motherboard and a marketing campaign, chances are they won’t stop until they’ve defined –and sold, of course– two or three tiers. Rungs on the ladder of overlapping target auidences.
The cheapest one is put in the windows to bring in the masses. They can go and say, “Hey, look at our product, it retails for $799 and change”. Once you’re on the hook, they try and sell you on the stronger processor, more spacious storage or the exclusive three-years volcano damage coverage.
Fact is, you don’t need them.
What is that?
You want the decked-out setup now that you’re paying good money?
Seldom is the high-spec model the better option…
You see, the logic you’re following is spotless. When I shell out $1,000 for a laptop, I intend to use it for a good number of years, too. That requires quality. That requires longevity.
More money means more processing power and higher-quality parts; the laptop runs out of steam later, which in turn allows you to save some dough on the long-run by not upgrading every eighteen months.
The problem is that you are getting the same quality regardless of the spec. Both the premium and the Best Buy edition come with the same hinges. Same chassis, same keyboard, same trackpad.
The difference tends to be a stronger processor, more memory and a bigger hard-disk drive. Or SSD in the case of Ultrabooks.
Let’s take the best selling Ultrabook for example. Asus sells three Zenbook UX31E setups. The bare-ass (they fondly refer to it as UX31E-DH52) version has an Intel i5-2557M CPU, 4 GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD.
The first notch above base-camp is called the UX31E-DH53 and gets you the same exact setup except for 256GBs of SSD instead of 128GB. You may justify the bigger SSD by saying your apps just don’t fit 128GB no matter how you slice it. Fair enough. Most people can, on the other hand, make 128GB work and if not, there are 1TB External HDDs for mind-bogglingly low amounts of cash. (The tiny WD Passport USB 3.0 version sells for $130 give or take).
I trust you can decide whether you absolutely must have 256GB inside your Ultrabook or can get away with half the capacity and a price tag more friendly to the tune of $300.
Now, there is the premium model Asus calls UX31E-DH72. It does have an Intel i7-2667M processor and the aforementioned bump to the bigger Solid-State Drive. Again, same 4GB ram, same trackpad, same battery, same screen and very same chassis. The price difference between the nude UX31E and the GT-Turbo-Racing UX31E is somewhere between $450 and $500 depending on whom you ask.
$500 gets you 128GB extra SSD storage and an i7 CPU instead of i5. There is no small SSD + i7 setup if you were wondering.
Is the souped-up version worth the difference?
I don’t see why it would. If you take a look at what figures the two available processor options pull in terms of benchmarks, you can conclude that the two are functionally identical. As in, you can’t tell which is which if they put the two in front of you and slap you on the wrists every time you try to open System Preferences.
Which brings us to my point. If you can work around having the smaller SSD, even if by using an external HDD, do it and don’t pay 30-50% extra. A 50% premium in case of a laptop looks ugly. $500 ugly.
Instead of moving vertically — up the rungs of the upgrade ladder –, I say you might want to consider going horizontally. Why not? If the model you’re looking at doesn’t fit your needs, go see if another brand produces something that does.
The model you’re looking at meets your expectations, but fails on build quality? Don’t even think about going for the premium model. It’s bound to be the same thing, only with more power inside. Other manufacturers might have taken other features seriously.
You know, the trackpad for starters.
ASUS Zenbook UX31E sells for $999 at the time of writing and happens to be best-seller Ultrabook on Amazon.
Photo from HighTechDad. Thank You!