13″ Haswell Ultrabook Showdown

I recently decided it’s time to pickup a better machine for traveling and working unplugged. As a frequent conference speaker and remote worker, I need a machine that’s geared toward flying the friendly skies and working from hotels and coffee shops. While I enjoy my 17″ desktop replacement Dell Precision at home, I’ve decided it’s the wrong tool for travel.

My hunt took me through a variety of options. The first obvious decision was screen size. I quickly zeroed in on 13” models since the 11” screen size feels too small for comfortable typing with my large hamhocks and the 15” models felt a bit too large to be a clear improvement in portability over my current 17”.

After a little fiddling on various touch-screen machines it was clear to me that touch is here to stay. I believe all laptops will soon offer touch. It’s just too handy not to. I also found the striking clarity of the latest batch of ultra high resolution screens drool-worthy. After reading on a high DPI screen you’ll never want to go back. With these baseline requirements, I narrowed my options to the following models:

All of these machines offer i7 processors, 8GB of RAM, and HD or higher resolution.

Sony offers a lot of power in a small and ultra-light package. Due to it’s carbon fiber body, it’s easily the lightest option at only 2.6 pounds. And while it offers the lowest resolution of the pack with a mere HD screen, the display is bright and rich in person. However, a quick read of reviews convinced me to steer clear due to many complaints around fan noise and Wifi reliability.

The Samsung ATIV Book 9 is a beautiful machine with a slick all metal build that has the same QHD+ 3200×1800 screen as the Yoga 2 Pro. I ultimately ruled it out after finding the keys slightly too shallow for my taste. And while I loved the look, I noticed the case is a finger print magnet. My friends Dave Ward and Julie Lerman both really love their ATIV’s, so if these two very minor downsides don’t bother you, this is an excellent choice.

I’ve never owned a Mac, but the new lighter and thinner MacBook Pro seriously tempted me as well. It’s an undeniably clean and elegant design. And, at least with OS X, offers battery life that leads this pack at a whopping nine hours. However, I’m currently primarily a .NET developer and have no need for OS X and the overhead that comes with having two operating systems. And as Jeff Atwood recently lamented, the glorious battery life the MBP offers mostly falls apart when run with Windows. Combined with a keyboard that is geared to Apple instead of windows and a lack of touchscreen, I decided to rule it out.

The Asus UX301 series offers arguably the most compelling option of the bunch with a sleek gorilla glass case and eye-popping specs throughout. And while the machine offers the fastest processor of the bunch at 2.7 ghZ, the price is as eye-popping as its looks at around 2k. It’s hard to justify dropping nearly twice as much as the Yoga 2 Pro for what basically amounts to a faster processor and sleeker looks. I might have jumped anyway, but I could find none in person locally and no online retailers offer a decent return policy for the unit. Various reviewers have also complained about the oddly noisy spacebar as well. So these issues ultimately added up to me passing on what is clearly an impressive machine.

Decision Made: Lenovo Yoga Pro 2

I ultimately decided the Yoga 2 Pro was a no-brainer to at least try. It’s significantly cheaper than similarly configured alternatives at only $1199 and so far the Yoga has been nothing short of impressive. I review the Yoga 2 Pro in detail in a separate post, Haswell Ultrabook vs Desktop Replacement Laptop: David and Goliath.

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3 thoughts on “13″ Haswell Ultrabook Showdown

  1. I also have the Yoga Pro 2 and its a great machine, my main frustration is lack of TPM module which makes life harder with Bitlocker. Like Scott Hanselman I’ve also noticed many apps don’t cope so well with the insane screen resolution. Otherwise a great machine. Lenovo just released a Thinkpad version for business with a lower screen res.