Microsoft launches Windows 8 on 26 October, next week (along with a flurry of other stuff – it’s going to be a busy one). Windows 8 represents a dramatic shift from past operating systems, and Microsoft has said that the interface previously known as Metro, with its bold, modern look and feel, and emphasis on side-scrolling, has been designed for the tablet and mobile computing market.
Naturally, Microsoft's hardware partners are poised to take advantage of the new OS. Initially, the design consensus seemed to focused on taking advantage of the ultrabook form factor, thin and light, with a foldable screen that allowed the machine to be operated in a tablet mode as well as take advantage of the keyboard.
Of late, however, the pendulum seems to have swung to convertible tablets that can be detached, with the keyboard serving as both an I/O hub as well as an extension of the battery to allow true all-day computing. Note that this represents a distinct divergence in design from Microsoft, which has used its Touch Cover as the equivalent of the iPad's Smart Cover (but without the keyboard). Microsoft sees its Surface tablet as just that, while the traditional notebook manufacturers are moving from their position of strength.
ITProPortal will have a review of the Surface at a later date, but for now we've focused on five devices that you'll probably want to explore when evaluating your own Windows 8 purchasing decisions. Obviously, Windows 8 will run fine on most PCs, but the touch interface, widgets, and side-scrolling UI may encourage upgrades to new devices. (That's the hope, anyway – Microsoft isn't talking much about Windows 8, at least to Wall Street).
With that said, which form factor do you prefer? Which design has caught your eye? Check out these five models we’ve highlighted, then tell us in the comments section below which device has you reaching for your credit card.
Maybe the neatest thing about this product is that Hewlett-Packard has cleverly used magnets to make docking the slate into its base that much easier. HP has also fixed it so the keyboard section's battery drains first, which means the Envy X2 tablet will stay fully powered up more of the time.
The device’s specs include an 11.6in, 1,366 x 768 capacitive touchscreen, Wi-Fi, 2GB standard memory, and up to 64GB on-board storage. The X2 is driven by an Intel Atom Clover Trail processor.
Despite the impressive amount of screen real estate (equal to the Envy X2), the Vivo Tab is one of the slimmest (8.7 mm) of the upcoming Windows 8 slates we've seen. With its Android-based Transformer series of products, Asus pioneered the hybrid form factor that looks poised to take off over the next several quarters, so it certainly has more experience than most in building such devices.
The core specs are identical to the above HP device, with an 11.6in, 1,366 x 768 capacitive touchscreen, Wi-Fi, 2GB of memory, and up to 64GB storage. Again, it’s powered by an Intel Atom Clover Trail CPU.
The IdeaPad Yoga 13 (pictured right) is a convertible Windows 8 ultrabook that uses a "multi-mode" hinge to open up into a laptop, and then open further, with the screen moving 360 degrees to become a tablet-style device. The 13.6in screen offers 10 point touch-tracking on a 1,600 x 900 resolution IPS display.
The Yoga 13 is priced at $1,099 in the US, around £700 in terms of a direct currency conversion, but likely to be more than this in the UK sadly. The device’s 256GB solid-state drive (SSD) and an estimated seven hour battery life are par for the course among ultrabooks, but the Yoga brings plenty of meat to the table, with an Intel Ivy Bridge processor and a whopping 8GB of RAM.
An update to the Samsung Series 7 Slate seen in late 2011, the new Series 7 Slate with Windows 8 keeps the flexibility of a Windows tablet built around laptop components, and replaces the accessory desktop dock with a docking keyboard. This attachable keyboard provides a laptop-style form factor for traditional productivity tasks, while still delivering the convenience of a tablet with the press of a button.
The new Series 7 Slate is equipped with a third-generation Intel Core i5 processor, paired with 4GB of RAM, and a 128GB SSD. The 11in tablet features a 1920 x 1080 display, with capacitive touch.
Another convertible tablet/laptop hybrid, the ThinkPad Tablet 2 will be outfitted with an Intel Atom processor, 2GB of RAM, a 64GB SSD and a 10.1in display with a 1,366 x 768 resolution and touch support for fingers and stylus.
Front and rear-facing cameras can be used for Skype and taking photos, and integrated storage for the stylus means you'll never have to remember where you left the darn thing. The ThinkPad Tablet 2 won't be available until November, however. It will be priced starting at $649 in the US (that’s around £400 our money, but as ever, likely to pitch higher than that in reality).
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