Ultrabooks are great. They’re light, sleek, and fast, ideal for traveling or commuting. But for gamers, there is an important question to consider. Is a computer like that really going to have the capability to get your game on, though?
The answer, surprisingly, is yes. If you get the right one.
Since they’re primarily designed to be portable, Ultrabooks were always going to have to cut down on some of the features desktops and larger laptops could provide. Since they’re pretty fast and powerful, the major issue that’s going to ruin your gaming experience is the lack of dedicated graphic chips.
Most Ultrabooks currently come with integrated chips, usually the Intel HD 3000 or, if you’re lucky, 4000. For what these are, they aren’t bad at all. They handle day-to-day tasks and all kinds of video beautifully, and if your needs are light and you aren’t planning on playing the most recent or high-end games (and maybe don’t mind turning the detail settings down) they should be perfectly ok. At the end of the day, though, it’s not specialised equipment and wasn’t made to give the best gaming experience – or for that matter video manipulation or other graphic-intensive tasks. They’re good for the basics, but beyond that they’ll hold you back.
That’s because Ultrabooks haven’t been designed for this sort of specialised use – they’ve been seen as essentially portable computers, highly powered, but made for relatively light use by the user on the move. But the manufacturers are realising that increasingly, Ultrabooks aren’t like netbooks or tablets – Ultrabooks are likely to be the owner’s only computer, and that means they have to be able to handle everything a high-end laptop can.
So although it’s still rare, we’re starting to see more and more Ultrabooks coming out with dedicated graphics chips. There are options with both Nvidia and ADM chips that make them capable of handling Skyrim or Crysis in smooth high quality – a surprise in a computer hardly bigger than a tablet!
Most options come with the AMD 7670M or the Nvidia 630M, which are both good chips capable of running most games. For the best gaming experience on the market at the moment, though, you should be looking for the Nvidia 640M; it’s built on new, energy-saving architecture and leaves the earlier models in the dust.
Most of the chips come in the larger 15.5-inch models, which understandably have a little more room for extra features. If you want to game without sacrificing the sleek portability that made you go for a Lenovo Ultrabook in the first place, though, the Lenovo IdeaPad Y480 is a 13.5 inch model with the high-end 640M chip. In terms of portability, it weighs in at 2.2.kg, and has a battery life upwards of 4 hours, meaning it can offer the best gaming available while keeping the Ultrabook practicality and aesthetic.
There are still comparatively few models that offer high end gaming, then, but it’s becoming more and more possible to make your portable travel laptop a great gaming rig.