2011 was a big year in the computing industry. Tablet sales grew and the introduction of a new kind of laptop dubbed Ultrabook hit the market in quarter three. What exactly is an Ultrabook? It is a laptop that needs to meet certain Intel guidelines in order to market themselves as an Ultrabook. They must be a certain weight, have a fast resume time, SSD in the system, and be under a certain thickness to meet Intel's standard or you just have another laptop. The big crux as to why, up until this month it was hard to find a gaming Ultrabook is very simple. Dedicated graphics are heavy due to the cooling systems that need to be implemented to avoid a meltdown.
The first generation Ultrabooks have come and gone (you can pick one up cheap now). The second gen Ultrabooks utilizing Ivy Bridge processors are releasing over the next month. Thankfully Asus and Acer have been able to squeeze a dedicated graphics chip into two of their Ultrabooks. The Asus Zenbook Prime has released and is available at Amazon: Zenbook Prime for the low low price of 1299! Thats pretty hefty considering at that price you lose the full SSD that is common on most 1000$ plus Ultrabooks but at the same time get a dedicated graphics chip that will allow you to play games such as Skyrim or Battelfield 3. The Asus doesnt sacrifice much else in the Ultrabook department. It has a beautiful 1080p IPS panel that rivals the macbook air's.
1299$ is a hefty sum for a laptop that will play games just OK. Your not going to be getting 60 fps in all games either. Spending 600$ will get you a nice laptop that will play games just as well as the Asus, but you won't get that nice metal finish (it will be plastic), you won't get that brilliant screen. and you won't get that small form factor.
Don't fret, there is hope for those of us who can't grasp spending over 1000$ for a laptop. Acer and Nvidia have teamed up and introduced the Timeline M5. The Timeline M5 meets the Intel qualifications of an Ultrabook while at the same time incorporating a Nvidia 640 LE graphics processor. According to these benchmarks you'll be able to play todays games on medium settings benchmarks for 640 LE. The price for this Ultrabook is 830$ (for this particular loadout). That's a great price but you do sacrifice a couple things. This Ultrabook is made of plastic, not the aluminum or other metals. It also only has a hybrid drive just like the Asus. It's biggest downfall is the 1366x768 resolution, which seems to be a common factor in this low price range of Ultrabooks.
Hopefully companies begin to take the route of Acer and get some consumer friendly pricing Ultrabooks that can handle a game once and a while into the market. I'm excited at the prospect of owning a laptop that doesn't weigh 7 pounds that I can be a professional during the day and relax on the couch at night with an evening in Skyrim. I wouldn't be surprised if I owned the timeline M-5 in the coming months.