Don’t Buy a New Laptop Until Fall

July 24, 2013

If you are thinking of buying a new lightweight PC laptop this summer, hold off. We are at the cusp of a big technology shift. Two things are about to happen.

Windows 8.1: the First Major Upgrade

First, Windows 8.1 rolls out this fall. It’s the first major upgrade to Windows 8 since it came out a year ago, and some say it fixes all that is wrong with its first Windows 8 release. While existing 8 users can always upgrade (and the upgrade process is supposedly very easy), there are some hardware–dependent aspects (like screen resolution) that may make it worthwhile to wait for the new PCs that have it pre-installed.

Intel Haswell Chip

Second, and more important, is the new Intel Haswell chip line that is due to finally show up in Windows Ultrabook laptops this fall. Some varieties of Haswell increase battery longevity by 50% and allow even thinner and lighter laptops. The long anticipated release of that line has been delayed for some reason; there are only a few well-known laptops using the longer-battery-life version now (like the Aspire M5). Others are out now that don’t seem to be using the long-battery version yet (example: Lenovo Y410p only has 5 hours of life). And the Sony Pro seems to have opted for a lighter unit and 6 hours of battery. The best combination of lightness and battery life in a new Haswell laptop seems to be the new MacBook Air. But if you are waiting for more popular Windows hybrid in-lap touchscreen devices like the Lenovo Yoga or Helix or others to upgrade, you’ll have to wait a little longer—to Q4. A ton of new Haswell laptops should come out by then in time for Christmas shoppers. That’s when I’d shop for my next laptop.

By the way, how you identify if you are getting a Haswell chip is a bit tricky. The processors will still be named i5 and i7, like they are now. And you probably won’t see the word Haswell there. The key is to look for the phrase “4th Generation Intel Core” in the manufacturer description. That’s the new chip.

What about iPad-Sized Windows Tablets? Wait till End of 2013 or early  2014

As you may know, I am a fan of iPad-sized tablets. That’s what I call a true tablet, one you can hold with one hand. And I am a big fan of pen-input. That combination is currently hard to find in a full Windows 8 Pro line. The only one I like is the Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet 2. It’s a nice machine, but I always want more power.

So if you are waiting for an upgrade to tablets like this, you’ll need to wait longer—to end of this year or early next year. That’s because the Haswell line described above will not help these. It’s still a laptop chip, and so requires a fan, which means it’s not going to drive an iPad-sized device for a while. No, the best you will see from the fall Haswell line are new laptops like the Surface Pro, which are pretty thin but still not a true tablet.

Two things happen at the end of the this year or early 2014 that will get us closer to a high-power, iPad-sized Windows tablet. First, an even lower-voltage Haswell chip comes out end of year or early next that will allow fanless laptops. Second, the Atom processor line (currently in the Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet 2 ) launches its new Bay Trail line; it will be in new tablets by end of year or early next. Intel claims this new Bay Trail processor has power nearly equal to the current Core i5 chips. So a Bay Trail device is what I would wait for if you want to buy a next-generation iPad-sized Windows tablet.


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16 Responses to Don’t Buy a New Laptop Until Fall

  1. Nell218 says:

    Hi Michael, Do you think we should hold off on getting a (new) smartphone? I have a 5 year old phone but I’d like to get a smart phone. I am on a T-Mobile contract until Sept. 2014. I want Outlook, Word, etc., preferably the latest versions, but don’t do games or watch movies (b/c they are too addictive!). Wouldn’t mind great sound and a good camera/video. What do you or others suggest? Thanks, Nell

    • Michael Linenberger says:

      Nell, I’d wait till this fall on smartphones too since Apple is due out with some major changes this fall, and it would be interesting to see what they’ve got. But if you know you don’t want an Apple, lots of good phones out there now.

  2. Dan says:

    @Nell218 – I would think if you are looking for productivity apps, but don’t need entertainment – then you couldn’t do better than a Windows Phone such as the Nokia Lumia 1020 ( ) great camera too!

    I personally have a BlackBerry 10 – and it works for me 🙂

  3. Cristian says:

    Hi, I think there is a mistake in the title line of this post, because it says July 24, 2011, when it should be July 24, 2013 ? I was a bit confused about this.

  4. THOMAS says:

    hay could u help me, i want a laptop 13-15 inch screen, windows 8 (preferable lightweight) with haswell processor
    Im into a little bit of gaming but too much
    So what i am looking for is an entertainment unit
    The battery and the screen resolution should be good enough like the one in a macbook pro
    (And btw i would have gone with a mac only problem is i prefer using windows)
    the price is not a problem and im willing to wait till Jan 2014

  5. Muhammad says:

    Hi Michael,

    I am based in UK, today i bought Total Workday Control 4th Edition book. I was specifically looking for whole one year calender view in outlook 2013. Any idea about this, as i can’t find solution to this issue in your book.
    Kind Regards

    • Michael Linenberger says:

      Muhammad, you an do it in the To-Do Bar. Turn on date navigator in To-Do Bar, widen To-Do-Bar to show 3 months. Then open the Options window and set the number of rows to 4. That should do it. Michael

  6. Erik says:

    Is there any update on when we can expect new haswell laptops comming out? Q4 is almost over and all I see is Macbooks having this new technology.

  7. Daan says:

    Hi Michael,

    I have a 2.5Ghz 8GB Acer Aspire v3 now ‘15.6

    I would like to change to something a bit smaller like a 13 or 14 inch, but I want a upgrade in Ram too… When do you think we will see a change in Ram to at least 10 or 12GB for hybrid models (combining tablet function with laptop like the Vaio flip)?

    though about getting the flip, but it would not be a improvement on what I have now I think.

    Hope you can advise. Thank you.

    • Michael Linenberger says:

      Daan, that’s anybodies guess, but probably a ways off. The hybrid models tend to use power-saving versions of Intel’s Core processors, which keeps the battery smaller and so keeps the units lighter. But it means these are not the choice for power users (the trade off is a slower processor), and so they don’t bother offering large RAM footprints. But who know, someone may do it. Michael

  8. peter says:

    Hi Michael, I suppose now is the time to buy an ultra book? do you suggest go with Dell m3800? the purpose is mainly for office word, PDF etc. not really do modelling things. Why choose Dell m3800 is its been designed nice, and fast, the most important!
    Thanks for your help!

    • Michael Linenberger says:

      Peter, I did a lot of research on the M3800 (I am also looking for a 15″ ultrabook) and ultimately decided against it. Reasons: even though its spec claims long battery life, all the forum users reported short life: 3.5 to 4 hours. Maybe 5 or 6 if you get the bigger battery. The whole point of Haswell is longer battery life; you should be able to find 10+ hours. Also, because the M3800 is designed for workstation work (like modelling), it uses a higher voltage version of the Haswell chipset. That’s probably why the battery life is shorter, and it’s why it ships with a relatively large/heavy external power adapter–has to pump out more amps. So you have to add that weight to your briefcase weight.
      I am going to wait and get the Samsung Ativ Book 9 (2014 Edition) which was just announced at CES.
      It is listed for up to 14 hours battery life, so I bet you can get 10 hours easy. About the same weight as the M3800 (4 lbs). Same price ($1800+). And Samsung usually uses a very small battery pack. Downside, not the huge resolution option that M3800 has, but I do not believe in ultra-high resolution screens on Windows laptops (good on Mac laptops, but not Windows) because I am not happy with the scaling features in Windows: it’s not consistent, has negative side effects, and some software (e.g. some Adobe titles) do not support it, so you end up with tiny tiny controls. Question is, can you wait? Not due out till April. Michael

    • Michael Linenberger says:

      Peter, I thought I’d add to this discussion by noting that, unfortunately, a lot of laptop manufacturers are not opting for the long battery life that Haswell can provide. Why? Either they are choosing to skimp on battery size, or choosing a variety of Haswell that requires more power, or both. Another example, in the 15 inch size group like what we were just talking about, is the new Lenovo ThinkPad W540. Touted as thinnest in its class, it weighs a heavy 5.5 pounds (should be around 4 to 4.5 these days), and specs out at only 6 hours of battery life (so real world is probably 4 or 5). That’s not the value of Haswell! Michael

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