Haswell – Intel SDP Unit (Software Developer Preview) – The Keyboard fights back
Well, since my initial review of the Ultrabook, I’ve been using it for pretty much all my computing needs. From writing C++ and C# code, through standard surfing and the likes, through to heavier duty 3D work, and the Haswell just keeps on going.
First of all, let me just say that the keyboard on this generation of Intel SDP is a whole lot better than the one that shipped with last years SDP. This one actually feels solid and responsive, and it features a nice little backlight. Intel really has upped the game for what are effectively demo units here. My only, admittedly minor, niggle is the fact that the keyboard is designed for the US market. When I change it to the UK settings, the \ key is missing.
Writing code using this Ultrabook is a pleasant experience. The screen resolution is good, and the screen itself is bright and very pleasant to use. Unfortunately, the 4GB memory means that there’s sometimes a slow down when compiling a C++ application from scratch using Visual Studio 2012. Once you’re past the first compilation though, the compile process is responsive enough, so this isn’t a huge issue. As I’m a heavy user of Visual Studio and WPF, I’m pleased to see that the responsiveness of the WPF designer window is nice and snappy – there’s no hold up in the system making me wish I was using a different machine. Even the dodgy upper case menus in Visual Studio don’t distract me while I’m looking at this glorious screen.
One thing I’ve tried to do is keep the settings of the machine as default as possible (except for the keyboard layout – that’s’ a compromise too far). This has allowed me to test the claims that the Haswell gives me long battery life. Well, it’s true – using it for a mixture of DirectX development, 3D work and WPF development has allowed me to get just over 7 hours on a single charge. It’s not quite the potential 12 hours, but my day to day usage is pretty atypical, so I wouldn’t be unduly worried about the battery life if I were looking to use this on a really long journey. The reason that I mentioned the defaults is because Windows 8 suddenly tells me that I’ve got about 5% battery life left, and then it shuts down – there’s not enough time for me to get the unit plugged in then.
Now Pete – surely it can’t be all sweetness and light, can it? Where are the niggles that must exist here, or are you playing nicey-nice with Intel here? Well, there is one thing that really gets me annoyed and that’s the Trackpad. If I click on the left hand side of the Trackpad (anywhere on the left), I can trigger a click – and that’s exactly what I’d expect. Clicking or tapping on the right hand side doesn’t trigger anything. This has caused me quite a bit of frustration. It’s my issue to deal with though, as the Trackpad is a multi touch unit so it’s something I’m going to have to work on.
You may wonder what applications I typically have running on the Ultrabook, to see how this compares to what you would use. Well, on a day to day basis, I typically have up to 4 instances of Visual Studio 2012 running simultaneously. I also have a couple of instances of Expression Blend running, as well as Chrome, with a minimum of 10 to 12 fairly heavy web pages in them (if you’re really interested, these pages are Facebook, Code Project – several instances covering different forums and articles,, GMail, Twitter, The Daily Telegraph and nufcblog.org). I also usually have Word, Excel, Photoshop, Huda and Cinema 4D running, along with Intel’s Perceptual Computing SDK and Creative Gesture camera. As you can see, that’s a lot of heavy duty processing going on there, and this machine copes with them admirably.
Okay, to whet your appetite – I’ve been using the Ultrabook, off the charger, just editing documents and web pages for the last two hours, and I still have 91% battery life left. That’s absolutely incredible.