Performance ultrabook for uni

Hey Guys,

This is my first post.

I am after an ultrabook for uni. I am a student studying engineering and need a new laptop that's light, powerful and with decent battery life. Doesn't have to be a top of the line ultrabook with the best specs. Some programs that i'll be running on there are MATLAB, MPLAB and some design software.

I have a budget of $1600 max.



  • +3 votes

    Macbook Air(extra ram) or Macbook Pro, by the way I'm not an Apple fanboy.


    I forgot. I should have mentioned. I would prefer if the laptop ran windows because of all the software and design programs that i have to use. I am not too sure if they are compatible with mac.


      I think mac's are overpriced for what you get but you can install Windows on them these days.

      You don't need anything special to run things like Matlab. Indeed, you'll probably find that you don't need anything special to even run the design software for basic things you do at University. It probably won't be until your final year that you need any sort of serious computing power and even then it will probably depend on what your final project is.

      So long as its at least 3rd gen ix Intel (basically everything since 4th gen is out now) and you put a decent amount of RAM in it (I'd advise at least 16gb) it'll do everything you want.


      You can always bootcamp windows onto a mac without an issue.


        yeh this. or use parallels, although im not a mac user so I'm not exactly how they work persey. But my friends with macs use them without issue. (also while you're using OS X you're likely to get more batt life I guess, and macs are cool - can pretend to be an arts student).


          Depending on the complexity of the program, s/he can also use wine.

          If battery life is a concern, the 13 inch mac air is a great machine.

  • +6 votes

    In terms of cheapos this looks good for $500. But with your price range you can definitely get something much better, but I guess you save a few bucks.

    Runnings 4th Gen Intel (Haswell), so you'll get much better batt life (I'd imagine at least 5+ hours, probably more if you're just web browsing). But it's not too light ~2kg

    Closer to the $1k range, Sony Vaio Pro 13 is solid, also 4th Gen Intel (Haswell), reviews put this at around 8-10 hours batt life as well. Razer thin and light (1.05kg)

    Refurbished deal (careful of warranty and shoddy refurbished stuff):

    New (been cheaper before though, around 1.1k)

    • +1 vote

      the sony vaio pro would be a good choice, but a bit more RAM would probably be better for engineering


      the sony vaio pro 13 looks really nice. Also the sony rep said that the RAM is probably more then 4GB because of the technology they are using.


        what? if you have 4GB RAM installed, you can't use more than 4GB


          thats what the rep at the sony centre said. I kept asking about the RAM being upgradable or not and he said there's more then 4GB of RAM in there. Something to do with PCIE


          Sony employee here, I think he was referring to the PCIe SSD maybe which gives great performance. Doesn't mean theres extra RAM lol
          Btw, Ram is soldered on - 8GB model available though.


    Its retarded to buy a (overpriced) Mac and then use Windows most of the time. I'd pick up something like an E330, you can add an mSATA drive in for way faster day to day usage.

  • +1 vote

    X1 Carbon all the way

    • +3 votes

      No way, for me at least. My Carbon X1 has been noisy (fan), been glitchy, and a crap battery life (~ 4-5 hours at best). Multiple BSOD’s. Unless there's something I need to do first to make the laptop perform well or better?

    • +4 votes

      never again from lamenovo!

  • +3 votes

    exactly what kind of software will be using?

    Because the ulv i5/i7 processors and intelhd4xxx igpu in ultrabook aint that great for anything relating to design… i've tried with cad/gis packages.

    You may get away with it with photoshop kinda design software as the ram and ssd/msata storage will get you through.

    Though not really classified as an ultrabook, its thin enough.. if i was after powerful specs i'd get this:

    Or this as its an actual ultrabook with a dGPU:

    Or this one for a known brand especially if updated with a haswell:


      Some software that i'll probably be running MPBLAB X IDE, MATLAB, netbeans, altium designer, and other IDE and design software. Really depends on the topics next year.


      I've never actually heard of the Horize brand before. Are they a reliable brand?

      But they have great specs and are well priced. This one seems nice
      although have to wait till at least 16/10/13, by then allot of other haswell ultrabooks will be out.

      If they are reliable and with good warranty.

      • +2 votes

        As mentioned below, do searches on whirlpool.

        In fact search here as the store owner is a member.

        I personally got the W110er specced up because its a power house, easy to pack when I travel for work and everyone thinks its a worthless notebook (no risk of getting stolen while at mining camps.. or uni in your case)

        But I agree with the other comments to go for a haswell based unit purely for the battery life as most of the time your preferred uni software will be using the cpu/iGPU instead of the gaming dGPU.

        Also in saying that, i'd get an i5 dual core if available simply because the base/turbo core speeds have more grunt for an equivalent priced i7.. plus better battery life.

        Reason I say the above is that a lot of engineering programs are written in 32-bit or single core/thread and the 4 cores will be useless unless you go into bios and turn off all the other cpus and run only one so that it can turbo boost.

        IF your matlab, etc can run 64-bit or multi-core then awesome.

        I guarantee ULV i5/i7 are underpowered for your use

        All "enginnering" or heavy business grade laptops such as the Dell M4700 are almost gaming spec bar the crappy quadro k2000 dGPU. Reason I bring this up is because to keep it simple.. go for a portable gaming laptop such as the Horize units.

        If you could also be bothered, some of the horize units come with dual mSATA SSD bays… you can RAID 0 or RAID 1 this if you wanted to…


          Thats awesome thanks heaps. I had a look at the Horize units earlier but wasn't sure if they were reliable or not and if the warranty was any good since i am in Adelaide and the units are being built in Queensland.
          Normally when i buy a phone or laptop i would do it from in store for peace of mind

          I'll have to wait for the horize unit anyway, the one i was interested in isnt available till 16/10/2013 earliest date. By then lots of haswell ultrabooks will be out. Will see whats on offer then i guess.


          sorry quick correction on what i said… the i5/i7 thing i said doesnt really apply to the ULV variants as they are weak regardless.. the i7 is better than the i5 in that case as they are both only dual core.

  • +1 vote

    I know that I didn't give an actual model below, but that is because I'm expecting a whole load of Haswell ultrabooks/hybrids to come out later this year.

    Am an ex-Eng here, for my perfect ultrabook…
    - Get an active digitizer, best thing for notes ever (with OneNote).
    - Has to be Haswell (Otherwise battery life won't be good enough).
    - Ideally also detachable (for only tablet days if you can't be bothered with carrying the keyboard).
    - I would also prefer a 16:10 instead of 16:9 better in portrait tablet mode. (This seems to be quite a bit harder).

    Haven't been keeping up with all ultrabooks, but the Sony Tap 11/ Surface Pro 2(whenever it is released) is the closest to what I would want as of now (but no really there yet)

    Unless you plan to plug into external monitor whenever you can, 13" (as opposed to 11") is probably the way to go but it is heavier…

    Oh and also, MATLAB, Abaqus etc works respectably on Atom procs, its a matter of how patient you are. Uni work isn't that demanding and if it is, just run it on a uni comp. I found that it was excel that was hanging up the most (crazy long copy and paste spreadsheets with formulas).

    • +1 vote

      can you explain to me the benefits of using an active digitizer on a tablet over just using pen and paper? People keep raving about it but I don't really understand. Seems like when you're writing maths stuff/graphs etc it would be easiar to just use paper.

      But yeh I'm keeping my eyes out on Surface Pro 2 and maybe Sony Vaio Flip/Thinkpad Yoga.


    +1 for the MacBook Air 13 / Pro Retina 13 suggestions. Even if you're not a huge fan of apple, they DO make the best thin/light laptops around :)


      I agree with this, although Windows ultrabooks are catching up in terms of quality and bang for your buck. Though OS X still has better batt life it seems


    have a look at - good threads on whirlpool

  • +1 vote

    Umart Online Sydney

    Laptop on Special Asus R552JV-CK064H I7-4700HQ $1229.00

    Processor Intel Core i7 4700HQ Processor
    Operating System Windows 8 64 bit
    Chipset Intel HM86 Express Chipset
    Memory Size 8GB Memory
    Memory Type SODIMM DDR3
    Display 15.6" Touch 16:9 HD (1366x768) LED Backlight Non-Glare LCD Panel
    Graphic NVIDIA GeForce GT 750M with 4GB DDR3 VRAM
    Storage 1TB HDD 5400 RPM
    Optical Drive Blu-Ray DVD Combo
    Card Reader 2 -in-1 card reader ( SD/ SDXC/ MMC)
    Camera HD Web Camera
    Integrated 802.11 b/g/n or 802.11 a/g/n (WiDi)
    Built-in Bluetooth V4.0+HS
    10/100/1000 Base T
    BT 4.0 support (on WLAN+ BT 4.0 combo card)

    Hope this helps :)

  • +3 votes

    get one with a better resolution than x768 imo

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