Dell announces XPS 13, its first ultrabook

Dell's ultrabook has a 13-inch screen in an 11-inch laptop frame, and is priced starting at $999

Dell on Tuesday announced its first ultrabook, the XPS 13, making some noise amid a smaller presence at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas compared to previous years.

The laptop looks much like Apple's MacBook Air, has a 13-inch screen and weighs 2.99 pounds (1.35 kilograms). The laptop is 0.2 inches (6 mm) thick. It can run up to eight hours on a battery charge.

The XPS 13 comes as Dell moves away from consumer products to focus on the more profitable segments of business computers and mobile devices. The company has already killed its Mini netbooks and some Streak tablets, which have not done well with consumers. Dell's consumer PCs now revolve around laptops and desktops branded Inspiron and XPS, some of which are also targeted at businesses.

The XPS 13 is "squarely aimed" at the professional community, but will be offered for sale through consumer channels, a Dell spokesman said.

The XPS 13, though thinner, provides the full functionality of a standard-sized laptop, the spokesman said. The 13-inch laptop is designed to fit in the frame of an 11-inch laptop, so users get a full-sized keyboard and larger screen in a smaller package.

The laptop's starting price is US$999 and it will be available in late February or early March. But ultrabooks have been criticized for their high prices and Intel hopes to bring down the starting price of ultrabooks to $699 by the end of the year.

The XPS 13 has specific mobility features unique to ultrabooks such as Smart Connect technology, in which email and social network feeds are updated even when the laptop is in sleep mode. Dell said XPS 13 also boots in a matter of seconds.

The laptop has Intel dual-core Core i3, i5 or i7 processors based on the Sandy Bridge microarchitecture, up to 256GB of solid-state drive storage and 4GB of RAM. The laptop has a USB 3.0 port and a webcam. The laptop will initially be available in the U.S. and some parts of the world, though specific country details were not provided.

Ultrabooks are backed heavily by Intel as a way to rejuvenate a slumping PC market, which has taken a beating from tablets. Intel said future ultrabooks will include tablet-like features such as touchscreens and always-on connectivity.

Ultrabooks have dominated the CES show floor, with PC makers like Lenovo, Hewlett-Packard and Acer announcing products. Ultrabooks based on Intel's new Ivy Bridge microarchitecture, which will bring faster performance and graphics, are due later this year.

Compared to previous shows, Dell has a comparatively mellow presence at CES. Last year Dell announced many tablets and laptops at the event.

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