Need to buy a gift for somebody who loves technology but you can’t afford the big ticket items?
LG UltraPC (Model 13Z940) laptop
LG's UltraPC 13Z940 laptop is one of the thinnest and lightest on the market, yet sports a Core i7 CPU and a beautiful Full HD screen
- Weighs only 971g
- IPS, Full HD screen
- Very thin and easy to carry
- Keys are a little too shallow
- No keyboard backlight
- Some might long for a touchscreen
LG's UltraPC 13Z940 is a great laptop if your main needs are a Full HD, IPS screen, a sub-1kg weight, and a good, all-round configuration. Furthermore, the styling and overall vibe of this laptop are possibly as good as it gets on this side of the Apple fence.
Price$ 1,898.00 (AUD)
If thin and light is what you're looking for in a laptop, then you can't go past LG's 13.3in Ultra PC 13Z940. This thing tipped our scales at 971g, and even had Sony VAIO Z enthusiasts commenting on how light and mobile it feels. It's not let down in the speed department either, with LG offering this featherweight in both Core i5 and Core i7 versions. We looked at the Core i7 version for this review.
In addition to its thin-and-light characteristics (it's about 17mm thick with the lid closed, including the rear rubber stops), the UltraPC brings a clean, white styling that is refreshing. The finish is of the matte variety, and the only glossiness you will find is on the screen. The chassis' frame is made of magnesium alloy, which is what helps the unit maintain its rigidity while keeping the weight down to a minimum.
The unit doesn't creak or bend excessively, but perhaps the best part of the build quality is the balance. You can use one hand to lift the lid on this unit without the base lifting up off its resting place — the rear rubber stops kick in to grip the notebook to the surface it's resting on. This is great for the times you want to open your laptop but just can't put down that much needed cup of coffee.
The other impressive aspect of this laptop is the screen, which is an IPS-based panel that is vibrant and welcoming to the eyes. It's well suited to displaying and editing photos and videos, and it has a Full HD resolution that allows you to also line up a couple of windows side by side for effective multitasking. What we really like about the screen, though, is the thin (3mm) bezel that adorns the left and right sides. It just gives the UltraPC an extra hit of elegance.
It's worth noting that this LG notebook, unlike last year's Z360, is not classed as an Ultrabook, and that is because it doesn't have a touchscreen. Intel stipulates that all fourth generation Core-based laptops that want to be called Ultrabooks, must also have a touchscreen installed. We can take or leave touchscreen functionality on a laptop, but since we've become so used to tapping and swiping on screens over the last year or so, especially when the Windows 8 Modern UI is on the screen, we did sometimes wish the LG's screen was touch enabled.
That said, this is a great laptop for those of you who don't want or need a touchscreen and are hoping Microsoft's next Windows 8 update will be more keyboard and mouse friendly. You could say the UltraPC 13Z940 is one of the best Ultrabooks on the market that isn't an Ultrabook.
In front of the colourful screen is a keyboard with full-sized keys that feels mostly good to type on. The keys are soft to hit, though their response is a little hard, and that's because of the shallow travel they possess due to the very thin chassis. There are limited Windows 8 shortcuts on the Function keys that you can use while pressing the Fn modifier to enable them. Our biggest gripe with the keyboard is that it's not backlit, which means you'll have to resort to external lighting if you want to type at night.
The touchpad on this laptop is one of those 'clickpads' where the buttons reside under the pad, and it was mostly accurate in our tests. The previous LG notebook that we saw, the Z360, had a fixed touchpad with software buttons that wasn't very good, but the one on this UltraPC is a big improvement. It feels soft to the touch and it's a large size (102x68mm), which leaves plenty of room for performing gestures such as two-finger scrolling, two-finger taps to bring up the right-click menu, three-finger flicks to go back and forth in a Web browser, and swiping in from the sides in order to make use of Windows 8's built-in features. The physical left- and right-click buttons under the pad make a relatively loud clicking noise.
Performance is more than solid thanks to the inclusion of an Intel Core i7-4500U CPU, which has two cores, Hyper-Threading, and a standard clock speed of 1.8GHz. It's joined by 8GB of DDR3 SDRAM, and a 256GB solid state drive (SSD). These are impressive components for a laptop that's approximately double the weight of an 8in Windows 8 tablet. The CPU is managed in a chassis that is perhaps the most sealed we've seen for the Core i7 class. There are no air vents at the bottom, nor along the sides; the warm air generated by the CPU, SSD, and memory, is funneled by a fan through the heat sink and vent that resides along the spine of the base. The air escapes up in front of the screen, which is a ventilation method used on many other thin laptops these days.
This means that after a prolonged period of usage while running tasks such as Flash-based video streaming (we use NBA League Pass for our tests), the base has a tendency to get noticeably warm, and this can be bothersome while using the notebook on your lap. Furthermore, the fan kicks in when the system is working, so expect to hear some low whirring from time to time. (There is a silent mode that can be enabled from LG's Control Centre software, which also slows down the CPU).
It's a fast and responsive laptop, though, and this was shown in our Blender 3D rendering test, in which the CPU put up a barely-better-than-expected result of 42sec. Its storage performance was also solid, with the SSD recording a read rate of 496.9 megabytes per second (MBps) in CrystalDiskMark, and a write rate of 334.8MBps. Furthermore, from a cold boot, the LG took only 5sec to load the Windows login screen. Its 3DMark Ice Storm and Cloud Gate results were 30341 and 4001, respectively, and these are solid numbers.
Despite having an absurdly thin and light chassis, a good selection of ports and slots is present. Mainly, you get a couple of USB 3.0 ports (one either side, which is handy), a micro-USB port (essentially giving you an extra USB 2.0 port if you use a breakout cable), a full-sized HDMI port (so you don't have to go hunting for adapters and different-headed cables), and there is also a microSD card slot.
It's a USB 2.0-based microSD card reader that can transfer movie-sized files at a rate just over 20MBps to the laptop, and it supports SDXC cards up to 64GB. The previous 13in LG laptop had two microSD slots, which we thought was a great feature, while this latest model only has one. We'll live with it, but wish that LG had continued to offer the dual slots, which we felt was a great differentiation point. As it stands, the differentiation points on this model are thinness, lightness, and the lack of a touchscreen.
Wi-Fi is by way of an Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 3160 module that supports 802.11a/b/g/n and dual-band, and speeds up to 433 megabits per second (Mbps). When transferring data from a NAS device through a Belkin AC1800 router, the fastest transfer rate we achieved from a 2m distance was 21MBps. You also get Bluetooth 4.0, which worked well to stream music to our Bluetooth-enabled stereo, and there is a dongle for 100Mbps Ethernet that connects to the micro-USB port.
Speakers are located either side of the chassis, and they are decent if you need to hear something in a pinch, but if you run them at full blast while you type, you'll feel good vibrations coming up through the palm rest, and this could possibly be annoying. You can use headphones or transmit sound to a Bluetooth speaker such as the Polk Woodbourne instead.
Battery life on this unit is, understandably, not one of its strong points. In fact, it's a downright non-competitive unit when pit against some of the heavier and thicker 13in laptops we've seen recently. It managed a time of only 3hr 34min in our rundown test, in which we disable power management, enable Wi-Fi, maximise screen brightness, and loop a video file. The screen is very bright, though, so you can gain battery life by reducing it when you're in a dimly lit environment, and also if you use a balanced power profile.
What it all boils down to is this: the LG UltraPC 13Z940 is a great laptop if your main needs are a Full HD, IPS screen, a sub-1kg weight, and a good, all-round configuration. We like the keyboard (despite its lack of a backlight), and the touchpad is a big improvement over the previous generation of this laptop. Above all, the styling and overall vibe of this laptop are possibly as good as it gets on this side of the Apple fence.
The Core i5 version of the UltraPC is available with 4GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD, and it costs $1298 (at the time of publication). Different colours are also available. Apart from white (Powder White), you can also get Misty Rose, Baby Blue, and Glam Metal (which is a grey colour).
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