Why you can't have the world's lightest ultrabook

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About The Author

CNET Editor

Seamus Byrne is the Editor of CNET Australia. At other times he'll be found messing with apps, watching TV, building LEGO, and rolling dice. Usually at the same time.

Wonder why the coolest new tech often never makes it to Australia? Blame our collective lack of interest in paying extra for truly premium products.

The NEC LaVie Z. The world's lightest ultrabook.
(Credit: CNET)

The NEC LaVie Z ultrabook is the lightest ultrabook in the world. Weighing in at just 875 grams, it is half a kilogram lighter than many of the other models that consider themselves "very light". The LaVie Z has been available in Japan since July, with no plans to bring it to any other country. But why not?

The LaVie Z was designed and manufactured as part of a new joint venture between Lenovo and NEC. NEC is a very Japan-focused company in the laptop scene, but the partnership means that if Lenovo wanted to, they could release the same device into any territory they choose. So it's not a lack of global presence stopping this from wider release.

The LaVie Z, itself, is eerily light. In the hand, it feels fake, as though there couldn't possibly be any internal parts hidden underneath the keyboard. Like one of those pretend computers sitting on the furniture at IKEA. But it is real, and it's spectacular. Its chassis is a magnesium lithium alloy which allows the amazing lightness, and they have used special screen glass to also take weight out of that area of the device. Available in both Core i5 and Core i7 configurations, this is a true ultrabook. Perhaps its only trade-off, compared to other Lenovo ultrabooks, is a choice of a lighter battery type that delivers an eight hour performance, but doesn't have advanced features like rapid charge. While it is definitely not Mil-spec tough, like Lenovo's ThinkPad X1 Carbon, it is no fragile snowflake, either. Even if its lightness makes it feel that way.

(Credit: CNET)

All up, it's an impressive machine on paper and in the hand. So why no Western release?

"The average sell price for a PC in Japan is the highest in the world," says Roderick Lappin, executive chairman of Lenovo NEC Holdings. "Premium products succeed here, because people are willing to pay for premium technology."

"If there's ever a chance for a premium play outside Japan, then maybe."

It seems sad that cutting-edge notebook designs are deemed unsellable in Western markets. In this case, the Japanese price for a third generation Core i5 model, with 128GB SSD, USB 3.0 and HDMI output, is ¥135,000, the third generation Core i7 version, with 256GB SSD, is ¥165,000. Adding 30 per cent, for argument sake, to get a somewhat typical local price conversion, is $2199 fundamentally too much to pay for something a cut above?

The answer is an obvious "Yes" for most people. If it doesn't deliver tangible features and benefits over and above products that are $500 (or more) less than this price tag, it isn't going to be on the radar. Those who are willing to pay are in such a minority today, it simply costs too much to add such a product to the local line-ups.

Pragmatism is understandable for the majority. We want a system that gets it done, and while a few bells and whistles are nice, we only want to pay for features that really matter to our daily routine. There are lots of rational reasons why most people do not want to choose a LaVie Z over various other options in the market.

Maybe one day we'll see special order offers as part of global online ordering and shipping programs. But products still require local service and support to some degree, so even then, certain products may still be seen as too difficult to support, due to very low volumes.

For now, we resume our regularly scheduled program — looking at beautiful technology from afar, and hoping that, one day, we'll get a piece of the action.

Click through below for a closer look at the NEC LaVie Z ultrabook.

Seamus Byrne attended a facility tour in Japan as a guest of Lenovo.

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thesorehead posted a comment   

Freight forwarding. If you really want the product, it's not too hard to get it. :D


DamienC1 posted a comment   

I can only imagine that such a light laptop would only be of benefit to someone who has to travel and carry it most days, all day. The performance would probably be as important or maybe just below that.


trebor83 posted a comment   

I'm just hoping that we'll get to see the Acer S7 here at some stage.

Never thought I'd say that of an Acer product...


LeifAlbor posted a comment   

I'm in love with it simply for the fact it has full-size D-pad keys. I can't think of an ultrabook yet where I've seen that happen.


troyhulm posted a comment   

But then again who really cares about paying premium dollar to get a product that weighs 500 grams less? Perhaps we are just more intelligent with how we spend our money.


Seamus Byrne posted a reply   

Half a kilo is pretty significant. More than 35% of the weight of any other very light Ultrabook (typically around 1.3kg).

Your point is valid, but it speaks directly to the idea that we value performance specs over use of new materials or better engineering that doesn't necessarily translate to a direct 'work' benefit.


SamO posted a reply   

What about the Gigabyte X11, which admittedly I haven't heard a peep about in a long time, that supposedly weighed 979g


Seamus Byrne posted a reply   

It was actually made by someone else, weirdly enough, so two companies were showing it off at Computex.


It'd be nice to hear more about that one, too! Anyone? Anyone? ;-)


Freezer posted a reply   

Funny that the iPhone is so insanely popular in Australia then :)


Pining posted a reply   

I couldn't agree more.

And to Seamus (Good Irish name, by the way!) I DO value performance over materials and engineering.

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