When I ordered the UltraPro, I knew it was a thin laptop, but that didn't seem to keep me from being partially shocked and excited about how thin it actually looked when I pulled it out of the box (seriously, pictures make this thing look thicker than it is). I spent the first few minutes with the laptop in my hands just looking the computer over; it's a very cool and unique design.
The top deck looks like brushed aluminum, but is actually plastic. I prefer this; every time I make the first scratch or dent in an aluminum device, I die a little inside... The plastic is quite a bit more resilient while still looks very nice (and will save me the agony of scratches and dents). The bottom, back (around the vents), and keyboard deck appear to be magnesium alloy. I love
the look (and function) of the vents in the rear, but I found myself a little nervous for their well-being. This will probably be the first laptop I will buy a sleeve for, and that's just because I want to limit the potential for something in my backpack smashing in the mesh.
I was really pleasantly surprised with the rigidity of the chassis. I was able to hold the computer with one paw on the corner and I didn't sense any flex whatsoever. The screen is also very surprisingly strong on the top edge, which I suppose it makes sense; you'll be handling the top edge of the screen to open and close the device. That said, the lower corners don't feel as reinforced. Not really a big deal, as I can't recall a time I handled the base of a laptop screen, just something to note.Keyboard, Trackpad, and Screen
The keyboard deck keeps pace with the rest of the chassis and shows very little-to-no flex. There are no soft spots in the center of the keyboard, which means that all the keys feel and respond similarly. Many reviews state that the keyboard is the primary weakness of this laptop. While I agree it's not the best keyboard I've ever used, I certainly won't be shipping it back because of it. The key stroke is relatively short and you have to strike pretty centered on the key for it to register. However, over the few hours I used the laptop last night, I became very proficient at typing on it as I navigated the terminal tweaking the Ubuntu installation to suit my liking.
The trackpad is awesome.
I was really, really surprised; I had never used this quality of a trackpad on a non-Mac device before. It's a similar style to the Macs in the sense that there is one click button where clicking with one finger left clicks and clicking with two fingers right clicks. It's very intuitive and accurate, and while it took me a little bit to get used to, I found myself really happy with it's performance.
If there was one gripe to be had, it's that attempting to click too far up the track pad will yield nothing but sadness... It appears that the hinge is at the top, and the button is at the bottom. This is by no means a deal breaker; the only reason I discovered this was because I was clicking around trying to discover how it worked. During my normal use of the trackpad I didn't find myself clicking anywhere near the hinge naturally.
The screen is absolutely gorgeous... I'm not sure there is much more to be said! The colors appear accurate and the resolution makes for some very clear viewing. The screen resolution in particular is very
nice for productivity; I found that I could have several windows up at once and not sacrifice readability in the slightest.
The one downside is that in super dark scenes, I noticed that my laptop's screen gets a little lighter in the top-left corner. I was a little bummed to see this, but it's really not noticeable at all unless I'm on an all-black screen.Sound
A lot of reviews really seem to focus on the lack of bass in these laptop speakers. I'm not really sure what they were expecting from a 0.75" laptop with two little speakers, but I think they sound fantastic for what they are. I had no complaints playing YouTube, Netflix, and Half-Life 2. Their placement on the keyboard deck to the left and right of the keyboard really allow them to be sufficiently loud to the user while offering great stereo separation. I wouldn't expect to keep a party happy with this laptop full-blast, however.
The sound quality appears to be great. I threw my Bose Tri-Ports (I know, boo and hiss, but I like them!
) into the headphone jack and checked out some music, games, and movies and everything was very satisfactory. I noticed no hissing or buzzing when nothing was playing, and sound seemed crisp and clear.
Something I noticed, and I'm not sure if it really means anything, but when the laptop is powered off, you get a slight "pop" from the speakers.Cooling
The cooling design of this laptop is flipping awesome.
All of the heat is ejected out of the center left and right of the vents in the rear. The fan intakes can be found on the bottom, back, left, and right of the laptop. This set-up ejects heat from the device with astounding efficiency, and placing the laptop on a bed, even while gaming, doesn't seem to phase it. This laptop runs very, very cool.
The fans are turning at all times, but at a very low speed. The fans are not audible while doing normal web browsing and other light work. Netflix and YouTube didn't seem to push it into the next fan speed either, which is very nice.
The higher fan speed settings seem to be a bit louder, but by no means is it too loud. I was playing Half-Life 2 with the laptop on my bed and I didn't even notice the fans were on high until a loading scene came and silenced the game. While the game was loading, it only took 2 or 3 seconds for the processor to cool down enough for the fans to go back to their low-speed setting.
During gameplay, I kept picking up the laptop to feel it's underside to see if putting it on the bed was a bad idea. At no point did the underside get hot, except for in the very, very back edge of the case, and that is only because the hot air being pushed out the back is being partially absorbed by the chassis.
Did I say I liked this cooling design?Performance
I opted for the 500GB spinning drive since I plan on adding a mSATA SSD at a later date, so boot and loading times are a little slower. That said, Ubuntu boots very quickly, considering, and once everything is loaded, this computer absolutely flies. I can't wait to order that SSD drive.
I only had the pleasure of playing Half-Life 2 last night. At 1920x1080 with everything cranked up all the way except for AA, I was able to cruise around as Gordon Freeman smoothly. I'll actually probably bump down
the resolution next time I play though; the crosshairs were tiny and hard to see (sure looked great, though!).
I was seeing framerates up to 85FPS and saw dips as low as 45FPS. I'll be doing some more testing with the graphics tonight, but I think the assertion that Iris Pro struggles in games at the higher resolutions is true. Even so, this chipset performs very well for an integrated solution.
I haven't done any benchmarking yet, I was having to much fun dinking around with the laptop.
After I get some more hands-on time tonight after work, I'll be sure to post an update!
If you have any questions, feel free to ask!