There's a new ultraportable in town—mercifully, it's not another ultrabook. Asus' B23E notebook trades the slender frames of the current crop of MacBook Air imitators for a 1.1"-thick chassis with a 12.5" screen. The whole system weighs 3.3 lbs, so it's still light enough to be easily portable.
Under the hood, the B23E is available with a range of 35W Sandy Bridge CPUs. That power envelope probably explains why the chassis is so thick; ultrabooks use 17W CPUs that generate considerably less heat. Asus hasn't gone for a discrete GPU in this business-oriented system, instead opting for Intel's integrated graphics. As one might expect, the notebook sports USB 3.0 support, loads of wireless connectivity options, and a 1366x768 display resolution. Asus mentions an anti-glare coating, but it doesn't go so far as to say the screen has a matte finish.
Although Asus doesn't reveal the system's battery life, power is provided by a three-cell unit rated for 48 Wh. The battery can purportedly be charged to 90% capacity in 90 minutes. It's supposed to be able to endure three times the number of charge cycles as a typical lithium-ion battery, too.
Asus says the B23E has been subjected to more stringent durability testing than its consumer-grade notebooks. The magnesium-aluminum alloy case should be plenty tough, and the keyboard has a built-in drainage system to help it survive beverage spills.
Despite its girth, the B23E still costs about the same as an ultrabook. The only example I can find online is an XH71 variant listed at $960. That model comes with a Core i7-2620M whose 2.7GHz base clock speed is 900MHz higher than the fastest ultrabook CPU. Not everyone will want to give up millimeters for MHz, but provided the B23E's battery life isn't too shabby, this system should be a good addition to the ultraportable landscape. I eagerly await the Ivy Bridge version.