Intel’s ODM partners including Pegatron and Inventec showed their first builds of Ivy Bridge microarchitecture (22nm) Ultrabooks at IDF 2011, held last week in San Francisco. There were five samples of various sizes. Our friend Sascha Pallenberg @ netbook news was checking one for flexibility. It lived through his gentle handling [Sascha is gentle? Ed].

Sascha taking a look at Intel Ivy Bridge-powered Ultrabook concept. Unlike others, this prototype also featured LG's Shuriken display, which promises more power saving thanks to its own auto-refresh functionality
Sascha taking a look at Intel Ivy Bridge-powered Ultrabook concept. Unlike others, this prototype also featured LG’s Shuriken display.

Ultrabooks are really just very thin notebooks [similar to Apple’s MacBook Air, inspired by their designer Jonathan Ive which debuted in 2008, Ed.] with a tight set of Intel specifications. For 13-inch or smaller screens they must be 18 mm or less in thickness. Laptops with larger screens must be 21 mm or less in thickness. Any Ultrabook has to be powered only by Intel processors to qualify for the Ultrabook brand i.e. no discrete graphics.

Ultrabooks can have either USB 3.0 or Thunderbolt ports, but neither are required. WiFi connectivity is required to carry the Ultrabook designation. WiMAX, Intel’s old communications standard which they stepped away from, and 3G connectivity are allowed, but not required. Optical drives are not required.

Below is a reference design for an ultra-wide screen.

Intel Ivy Bridge-powered Ultrabook concept featuring Ultra-Wide display by LG. Shuriken display technology promises more power saving thanks to its own auto-refresh functionality which does not wake GPU from C3 state until the content is refreshed
Ultra-Wide display by LG. Shuriken display technology promises more power saving thanks to its own auto-refresh functionality which does not wake GPU from C3 state until the content is refreshed

Intel’s Mooly Eden said during his keynote speech on day two of IDF, that Ivy Bridge will also support another power-saving feature – low-powered DDR3 RAM – that is not supported on its predecessor, Sandy Bridge.

Interestingly, Tom’s Hardware tested Kingston’s HyperX LoVo-series DDR3 memory which allows users to reduce voltage to 1.35 V or 1.25 V. The differences found on the Intel P55 platform with XMP support were up to 1 W during idle and up to 4 W at peak over standard memory. The Intel P55 Express chipset uses the LGA 1156 socket. Compatible CPUs include the Core i3, i5, and i7 processor line along with a Pentium Processor G6950.

Eden also said it will have a greater graphical capability than Sandy Bridge to create a truly balanced processor. Oh my, is that a slight tip of his black cap to AMD?

At IDF, Acer was showing their Aspire S3 with Sandy Bridge and 4GB of memory, Core i5 and 320MB hard drive which will be about $1,150. Switching to a 240GB SSD raises the price to nearly $1,600.

Acer Aspire S3 Ultrabook: Starting at $1,150
Acer Aspire S3 Ultrabook: Starting at $1,150

Ultrabooks must have Intel’s Rapid Start technology that uses flash storage embedded on the motherboard to enable quick starts. Before everyone runs to their local computer store, Ultrabooks with 22nm Ivy Bridge are not in volume production. Thus, any performance and usability claims for Ivy Bridge Ultrabooks are just that, claims.

As indicated above Ultrabook is an Intel based technology specification which leaves AMD without the use of the Ultrabook designation. However, AMD will be showing their versions of the thinner notebook specifications by CES-2012 in January with product shipping during the first quarter 2012.