Seven Scintillating Ultrabooks From CES 2012

Ultrabooks Everywhere

2012 may well be remembered as the year of the Ultrabook, Intel's PC answer to Apple's MacBook Air. The world's largest chip maker had around 20 Ultrabook models in Las Vegas from various OEM partners such as HP, Lenovo and Dell. And that's just the start; Intel expects more than 75 Ultrabook models to be released this year. Here's a look at seven models that caught our eye at CES 2012.

HP Envy 14 Spectre

HP's new Ultrabook may be the best looking of the bunch. The Envy 14 Spectre sports a truly unique glass design (no, that's not a typo – the Spectre's black exterior is actually scratch-resistant glass). The case is 20-mm thin and weighs under four pounds. The 14-inch HP Radiance Display supports a 1600x900 resolution and comes with Beats Audio and full versions of Adobe Photoshop Elements and Adobe Premiere Elements. The hardware inside is also formidable: an Intel Core i5 processor, up to 8 GB of RAM and a solid-state drive (SSD) of up to 256 GB. Starting at $1,399.99, the Envy 14 Spectre is a high-end luxury Ultrabook. It's scheduled to launch in February.

Dell XPS 13

Dell Vice Chairman Jeff Clark (pictured right) joined Intel CEO Paul Otellini on stage during Intel's CES keynote earlier this week to unveil the much-rumored Dell Ultrabook, the XPS 13. The newest XPS model comes with a 13.3-inch "near frameless" HD display with a sturdy aluminum frame that measures 18 mm and weighs under three pounds. The XPS 13 comes with Intel's second generation Core processors (i5 or i7), Intel HD 3000 graphics, 4 GB of RAM and up to 256 GB of SSD storage. The XPS 13 also comes with Intel's Rapid Start and Smart Connect technologies and nine hours of battery life. The Dell XPS 13 Ultrabook will launch in March starting at $999.

Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga

Lenovo's IdeaPad Yoga puts a different spin on the Ultrabook by combining it with a tablet. The Yoga boasts a 13.1-inch that has a 360-degree flip and fold design, which allows the notebook to be converted into a fully-functional touchscreen tablet that can also be used in tent or stand mode. Lenovo says it’s the thinnest convertible Ultrabook around at just 0.67 inches thin, and it weighs just 3.1 pounds. The Yoga comes with Windows 8 and Intel's second-generation Core CPUs and can house up to 8 GB of memory and a 256 GB SSD. Lenovo expects to launch the IdeaPad Yoga sometime in the second half of this year at a starting price of $1,199.

Intel Nikiski

Intel unveiled an alluring new reference design at its Monday press conference at CES, dubbed Nikiski, which is an Ultrabook with a twist. The Nikiski featured a transparent touchpad panel that runs the length of the keyboard. The see-through panel allows users to interact with a few basic functions while the Ultrabook is closed, such as messaging, calendar items and news feeds. While the Nikiski demo unit was running Windows 7, the Ultrabook had a distinct Windows 8 tile feel to its interface. The reference design also featured Intel's forthcoming "Ivy Bridge" Core mobile processor. Beyond its 20-mm chassis, not much else is known about this mysterious Ultrabook – like which OEM partner will end up producing it. Stay tuned for more.

Samsung Series 5 Ultrabook

Samsung has made waves in the notebook space lately with its Series 9 ultra-thin laptop and its Chromebook offerings. Now the vendor has jumped into the Ultrabook market with its Series 5 family. The 13.3-inch Series 5 Ultrabook isn't as flashy as other Ultrabooks on this list, but it boasts a simple, extremely portable design; the Series 5 is less than 18-mm thick and weighs just over three pounds. It comes with an Intel Core i5 mobile processor, 4 GB of memory and up to 500 GB of hard drive capacity. The Series 5 also comes with Samsung's ExpressCache storage technology and FastStart feature for quicker boot and start times. The HD display also comes with Samsung's SuperBright technology for higher visual quality. The Series 5 Ultrabook will be available on January 30th, with the 13.3-inch model starting at an affordable $899.

Acer Aspire S5

Acer has claimed the title of world's thinnest Ultrabook with the Aspire S5; it measures just 15 mm at its thickest point and weighs under three pounds. The 13.3-inch notebook also comes with Acer's Green Instant On technology for fast boot and resume times, and Acer's Always Connect feature, which allows users to users to access media stored in the AcerCloud even when the Ultrabook is in sleep mode. The Aspire S5 also has a hidden "MagicFlip" I/O panel that boasts USB 3.0, HDMI, and Thunderbolt ports, among others. Acer's Ultrabook is powered by Intel Core processors and comes with SSD storage. The Aspire S5 will begin shipping in the second quarter, though pricing has not yet been announced.

Asus Zenbook UX21

Asus' entry for the Ultrabook market boasts longer battery life compared to most other competing models, thanks to Asu's energy-conserving Super Hybrid Engine technology. The 11.6-inch model also comes with instant-on technology that resumes the system in about two seconds, as well as a standby mode that will last up to 10 days. At 0.67 inches at its thickest point, the Zenbook UX21 is one of the thinnest models around. It also comes with Intel's Sandy Bridge Core processors (i3, i5 or i7), up to 4 GB of memory, and up to 256 GB of SSD storage. It also comes packed with plenty of I/O ports like USB 3.0 and micro-HDMI. The Zenbook also comes with Asus' SonicMaster technology for higher quality audio performance. The Zenbook UX21 is currently available for a starting price of $999.