If there was ever any doubt about Intel's commitment to its Ultrabook platform, then Computex has swept that away for good, as just about everything the company talked about during its presentations at the show were somehow Ultrabook related. Regardless of feeling slightly brainwashed, the crowds applauded at every demo and were often awed by the products displayed, but hardened journo's like us weren't as easily impressed.
The Ultrabook is something of a natural evolution of the notebook, but Intel is pushing it as the next Holy Grail in the computing market. It's almost as if Intel is starting to get worried about ARM, but that's a discussion for another time. Intel had brought over Tom Kilroy, Senior Vice President and General Manager of the Sales and Marketing as well as Kirk Skaugen, Corporate Vice President and General Manager, PC Client Group to Taiwan to show off the latest and greatest Ultrabook products and some did at least impress.
However, Intel was also in Taiwan to try and drum up support for added functionality to Ultrabooks in the shape of touch screens, sensors, voice recognition and of course facial and gesture recognition. The company has in fact invested in four touch screen manufacturers and wants them to focus on making touch solution for panels larger than 13in. The near instant voice to text demos were pretty impressive though, especially as they managed to handle both English and Mandarin Chinese without a hitch. Some of the other demos like facial recognition to unlock your device were less impressive, although the theft protection motion sensor is likely something that people are going to want and we can see it becoming a standard feature in many notebooks.
Intel also officially unveiled its new Ultrabook CPUs which the company claims offer 22 per cent better performance, 15 per cent lower power consumption and twice the 3D graphics power compared to their Sandy Bridge predecessors. Sadly it looks like new Ultrabook models with Intel's latest processors won't start to arrive for at least another month or two, as next to none of the new models announced at the show were ready for retail.
That said, the wait should be worth it, as most, if not all of the new models have vastly improved designs over the first generation of Ultrabooks. Not only are they slimmer, cooler running and featuring higher resolution displays, but with focus on Windows 8, many models will come with touch screens. Acer announced two new Aspire S7 Ultrabooks with touch screens and Asus will be offering a SKU of its UX21A with a touch screen.
Models arriving later this year should start to use what Intel refers to as innovative form factors and we've already seen Lenovo's Yoga concept. Samsung was showing off its Series 5 Ultra Convertible that's based on the same idea of a near 360 degree hinge, although the build quality of the Samsung felt far superior to that of the Lenovo. Other devices on display included a model from Foxconn with a screen that could rotate 360 degrees, but it could also be tilted down and forward, making it useful for watching videos on a plane. Speaking of the keyboard, Foxconn also implemented an almost completely flat keyboard that somehow still provided a small amount of travel and feedback in the keys.
There were plenty of other designs such as a more traditional convertible design from Inventec and of course NEC's upcoming super-light 999g LaVie Z which will launch in Japan later this summer. Samsung was also showing off a new 15in model, which should be one of the first "true" large screen Ultrabooks when it arrives later this year. Fujitsu had a working sample of an upcoming business friendly Ultrabook, whereas HP showed off a mock-up of its new Pro Book.
Beyond Ultrabooks, Intel was also talking up the all-in-one market and was demoing a concept system with a 29in 21:9 aspect ratio display. As a second system in your bedroom this might be great for watching some late night movies, but it would be hard to take advantage of the screen, since there is still no home content encoded in a 21:9 aspect ratio.
A nice touch is the fact that the wireless keyboard also charges wirelessly. The motherboard is oddly interesting too - normally motherboards are pretty dull things, but the concept AiO used a tiny motherboard module with the CPU, chipset, memory slots and an mSATA slot. The module could be easily replaced by the manufacturer when a new CPU architecture launches and potentially could even be fitted in a user replaceable module for easy upgrading.
To sum things up, Windows 8 seems to be the driving factor of just about every new computer this year, of which most apparently will be Ultrabooks. That said we've seen quite a few regular Ivy Bridge based notebooks around the show floor, but also some "budget" Ultrabooks by the likes of Asus and Gigabyte. There's no doubt that this generation of Ultrabooks are going to wow consumers, but we're not sure if it's enough for business users, as a lot of basic features such as support for a VGA port is lacking from the Ultrabook spec. As far as functionality goes though, there's very little that you can't do on an Ultrabook these days.