Metal enclosures are in high demand these days, and it's no secret why. PC laptops are shedding their flimsy plastic shells and replacing them with unibody aluminum cases, taking cues from Apple's MacBook lineup. There's just one little problem: according to DigiTimes, Apple is hogging metal chassis supply and causing shortages.
Quoting "sources from upstream supply chain," DigiTimes says Apple "currently has booked up most of the capacity from makers." The site adds that the two biggest suppliers—Catcher Technology and Foxconn—are "aggressively" ramping up capacity by installing new CNC milling machines. However, DigiTimes claims supply isn't going to catch up to demand until the end of this year.
That's probably bad news for ultrabook makers, since metal seems to be an especially popular construction material among the new wave of ultra-thin, ultra-light MacBook Air lookalikes. But it's probably good news for Apple, which seems to be once again throwing its weight around to secure aggressive supply agreements. Considering the Mac maker's soaring revenues, ever-growing market share, and preposterous cash balance, I wouldn't be surprised if even large PC makers were having trouble getting the same royal treatment from suppliers.
PC ultrabooks don't have to be made out of aluminum, though. As we learned earlier this year, Intel is pushing fiberglass-reinforced plastic enclosures that are purportedly just as tough as metal ones. The reference Ivy Bridge ultrabook we reviewed back in May was apparently made from some kind of souped-up plastic, too, and it felt surprisingly solid and resilient despite lacking a metal exterior. However, the system didn't feel as slick or as refined as a MacBook Air—or even Asus' Zenbook UX31.