New laptops with Intel's speedier and more powerfully efficient Sandy Bridge processors are finally arriving. As expected, these laptops come equipped with superior battery performance while also offering newer peripheral interconnects such as USB 3.0. Predictably, the prices for non-Sandy Bridge laptops have also dipped, a fact that bargain-hunters will probably relish.
Based on the second-generation core processors from Intel, two particular models caught my attention: the Lenovo X220 and the refreshed Vaio S Series from Sony.
The X220 from Lenovo adopts a non-standard, 12.5-inch LED display with a better-than-average 1366 x 768 resolution. Available with five different processor options ranging from the lower-end Intel Core i3-2310M to the 2.7GHz Core i7-2620M, it supports up to a maximum of 8GB of DDR3 RAM. In addition, the X220 incorporates a DisplayPort, VGA output, 54mm ExpressCard slot, SD card reader and three USB 2.0 ports with the option to upgrade one port to USB 3.0 (only available with the Core i7-2620M model). Users can choose between a hard disk drive (HDD) or solid-state drive (SSD) for storage, which are available in storage capacities of between 160GB to 320GB for the HDD and a maximum of 160GB for SSD. And like previous models in the X2xx family, the laptop has no built-in optical drive. According to the official datasheet (pdf), the X220 weighs less than 3.0lbs or about 1.3kg.
Sony VAIO S
Sony's new VAIO S Series has a 13.3-inch screen that also sports the by-now familiar 1366 x 768 display resolution. In addition to support for Sandy Bridge, the new family comes with switchable hybrid graphics that let power users (or gamers) select between the more powerful AMD Radeon HD6630M GPU or Intel's more power-efficient one. According to eWeek, it has two USB 2.0 ports and a USB 3.0 port, a VGA output and HDMI output (no DisplayPort). Unlike the X220, the VAIO S comes with a CD/DVD burner as standard. For the first time, the S Series family has the option of using dual-256GB SSDs configured in RAID 0 for even faster performance. Another frill inherited from the higher-end Z Series includes a backlit keyboard.
All-day Battery Life and Sheet Batteries
What is truly exciting about the two models though, is their greatly enhanced battery life. The X220 for example, can last up to 15 hours on the standard 9-cell battery. This can be further increased to 25 hours with the use of a 6-cell external "sheet" battery pack that is attached onto the base of the laptop. The VAIO S can operate for 7.5 hours on default settings, which is bolstered up to 15 hours when used in tandem with an extended sheet battery.
With operational times of these new laptops pegged at between 7.5 hours to 15 hours, it would appear that the dream of all-day computing is finally upon us-the time of scrambling for the power sockets in meeting rooms or angling for the seat next to the power point at the local cafe might just be over. In fact, slap on a sheet battery and one can even run the rig on full brightness without fear of running out of juice. For though the battery packs do contribute to the weight of the laptops, the use of sheet battery packs makes the additional heft a far more manageable affair.