At the Microsoft Windows 8 press launch yesterday, Microsoft’s biggest hardware partners came out in full force to showcase a rich buffet of new products, powered by the new, modern operating system. Notebooks, touchscreen Ultrabooks, all-in-one (AIO) desktops, convertibles, hybrids and tablet devices from the likes of ASUS, Acer, Dell, Fujitsu, HP, Lenovo, LG, Samsung, Sony and Toshiba impressed and left an impression on us.
Windows’ re-imagined touch-centric user experience has spurred much innovation in terms of fluidity, performance and intuitiveness. Working closely with its partners, the showcased devices demonstrated the potential of Windows 8 and its revolutionary tile-based UI. And it’s only just begun.
There were some 30 different products laid out across the four Experience Zones at the launch and we had a chance to play with them first hand. Some notables include the Acer Iconia W510 (which we played with at the media preview session in KL), ASUS Vivo Tab, Dell XPS 12, Dell XPS One27 AIO desktop PC, HP ENVY x2, Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga, Samsung ATIV Tab, Samsung Series 5 Ultra Touch, Sony VAIO Duo 11, Toshiba Satellite U920t (U840W no touch), Acer Aspire 7600U AIO desktop PC and Samsung Series 7 AIO desktop.
Acer Iconia W510
This wasn’t the first time we’ve played with Acer’s clever little hybrid device – the Acer Iconia W510 tablet PC. Recently, we had an opportunity to play with the tablet including 7 other new Windows 8-powered devices by Acer in a special media preview session. This is a ASUS Transformer Pad-influenced idea, but much improved, and then some. The talented 0.35-inches thin tablet has three different modes, built for touch, typing and viewing. The high-def 10.1-inch display with Gorilla Glass 2 provides 10-point touch and vibrant visuals. Battery life is rated at 18 hours with the keyboard dock battery.
ASUS Vivo Tab
One of my personal favourites previewed during the launch was the ASUS Vivo Tab. The sexy tab features the Next Generation Intel Atom processor and has 2GB RAM with 64GB eMMC (embedded multimedia card) storage. The Vivo Tab is very well built, slim and light. Comes with support for 1024-level Wacom digitiser for precise work and navigation. ASUS, it seems, is getting better and better at building this form factor, and that level of refinement shows on the Vivo Tab. Thumbs up.
Dell XPS 12
The Dell XPS 12 is a attractive-looking 12-inch device with a flip hinge touchscreen offering a Full HD (1920×1080) display experience. Convert from Ultrabook to tablet at any time. Crafted from premium machined aluminium, carbon fiber and Corning Gorilla Glass, the Dell XPS is as good-looking and durable as they come.
HP ENVY x2
To be honest I was pleasantly surprised at the HP ENVY X2 hybrid PC. The notebook doubles as a tablet, with a detachable screen that becomes a full tablet when separated from the keyboard. The mechanism is simple and effective, using a seamless magnetic latch. The fit and finish was top notch. The particular unit was a prototype, and some things didn’t work as well as it should and the trackpad didn’t work. However, the spokesperson informed me that these would certainly be corrected in the final version. According to him, HP will be announcing the launch of this looker very, very soon.
Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga
At first knowledge of the IdeaPad Yoga, my first reaction was, “What a ridiculous name for a device”. But of course that’s what people said when the iPad first emerged. So Lenovo named it after the ancient Indian artform, but with good reason. The IdeaPad Yoga features a revolutionary hinge that allows it to uniquely fold 360° from laptop to tablet in one simple motion. It can lie flat with screen facing up, or work as a tablet with the keyboard tucked underneath. An interesting idea although I have reservations about having the keyboard being folded underneath and meeting the table top. The IdeaPad Yoga comes in two sizes – 13-inch and 11-inch. The 11-inch has the distinction of being the world’s slimmest multi-mode PC, measuring just 15.6mm. Innovative work by Lenovo. And oh, pick the orange.
Samsung ATIV Tab
Samsung’s hardware prowess should never be question. The ATIV Tab is nicely designed, and does not look like any of its Android tablets (thankfully). Coming in sleek black, the ATIV Tab delivers a full Windows 8-based PC experience with tablet mobility. It weighs only 570g, features a 10.1-inch display and measures only 8.9mm thick. Nice one, Samsung.
Sony VAIO Duo 11
I didn’t get to play with this sexy device, and missed the Malaysian launch last week, but this slider hybrid Ultrabook exudes the sexy, premium feel always associated with Sony products, and synonymous with the VAIO brand.
Toshiba Satellite U920t
Another talented ultra-slim slider, the Satellite U920t Premier Series Convertible, transforms from tablet to Ultrabook and back in seconds, thanks to its unique sliding hinge. I felt it was a little clunky, but an interesting concept nonetheless.
Samsung Series 7 AIO
The Samsung Series 7 AIO is a sleek 23.6-inch, i7-powered all-in-one desktop PC offering a full touch experience. It takes design cues from the award-winning Samsung line of SMART TVs. Like its SMART TV range, the AIO also supports hand gestures.
My personal picks include the ASUS Vivo Tab, Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga, Samsung AIO PC, Acer Iconia W510, HP ENVY x2.
Because of its touch-based interface, it makes absolute sense for devices to have touchscreens. However, notebooks like the Toshiba U840W does not. While that isn’t a huge deal-breaker per se, as Windows 8 also works well with keyboard and mouse, it’s the fact that quality of trackpad experience on some notebooks leave much to be desired.
The Big Miss
The absence of the Microsoft Surface was glaringly missed. While our American counterparts in New York enjoyed their hands-on with Microsoft’s first ever computer product (and subsequently made available for sale in the US), we went home sorely disappointed.
The Exciting Road Ahead
This is just the beginning of the flood of Windows 8 devices rolling out into the market. Over the next couple of months, and especially before the end year holidays, expect to see even more interesting hardware in stores. Powered by Windows 8 of course.
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