Hybrid junction

A new breed of devices marries the best of both tablets and laptops. We list some of the options
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First Published: Tue, Oct 23 2012. 08 59 PM IST
Acer Aspire S7
Acer Aspire S7
While Microsoft Windows has flirted with touch input for several years, it has never been an easy, steady or even comfortable relationship. Microsoft’s Next Big Thing, Windows 8, which launches worldwide on Friday, is now finally all set to marry touch. And in anticipation, a brave new breed of laptop hybrids is waiting at the starting lines to boot up.
Half-laptop, half-tablet, each of these ultrabook convertibles, as Intel terms them, is betting its silicon on innovative product design to make the most of Windows 8’s revitalized touch screen-cum-keyboard prowess and potential.
Here’s a peek at some of the more exciting offerings that straddle two hitherto distinctly diverse computing form factors: laptop and tablet.
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Asus Taichi 21
An object of geeky desire these past months for its eye-popping design, the Asus Taichi is a laptop that boasts not one but two IPS/FHD 1,920x1,080-pixel resolution displays. The outer lid of the device features an 11.6-inch screen that works as a multitouch tablet when the laptop is shut. And the inner display functions as a regular laptop display. Each screen even has its own webcam associated with it. Both screens are LED-backlit, offer a 1,080p resolution and can operate independently of each other. So, in fact, two people can create and consume content on the device at the same time. Two screens may mean double the fun, but on the downside, it also translates into a doubly-delicate device.
A base version of the 1.27kg Taichi that is slated to launch globally in conjunction with Windows 8 has an 1.7 GHz Intel Ivy Bridge Core i5 processor, 4 GB of RAM and a 128 GB SSD and will cost $1,300. A 1.9 GHz Core i7 model with a 256 GB SSD could set early adopters back by $1,600. Other specifications include two USB 3.0 ports, micro-HDMI, mini DisplayPort, Bluetooth and dual-band 802.11n Wi-Fi. The expected battery life is up to 5 hours.
Price: $1,300 (Rs.69,654)
Available from: Last week of October
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Toshiba Satellite U925t
Here’s another one that straddles the laptop and tablet worlds using avant-garde techniques. Instead of flipping over the screen like the Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga or swivelling its neck like the Lenovo ThinkPad Edge Twist, this Satellite employs a nifty slider design. So to go from laptop mode to tablet mode, all you need to do is give the upper bezel of the open laptop a gentle push downwards. The 12.5-inch capacitive Corning Gorilla Glass touch-screen display slides down at an angle and locks into place to convert into a tablet. The hinge is robust and unyielding, with no evidence of loose “play” or tackiness.
The U925t has an Intel Core i5 processor, 128 GB SSD, DDR3 RAM, two USB 3.0 ports, HDMI, NFC, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. There’s an auto-focus 3-megapixel camera at the rear in addition to a front camera. Strangely, there’s no Ethernet here. While it is solidly built, at 1.45kg the laptop does feel a mite heavy for a 12.5-incher. The hybrid is scheduled to launch on the heels of Windows 8.
Price: Over $1,150
Available from: Last week of October
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Sony Vaio Duo 11 Ultrabook
Aiming to take full advantage of the Windows 8 operating system’s proclivity to touch, the Sony Vaio Duo 11 comes with a Surf Slider mechanism that will allow you to slip between tablet mode and keyboard mode and vice-versa. Elegant-looking and versatile though the gadget may be, intuitive its sliding operation is not. Not for newbies at least. It takes a bit of wondering and gingerly working the fingers to figure out how to turn the tablet back into a laptop. Unfortunately, the Duo 11 also lacks a trackpad. So you need to use a ThinkPad-like optical trackpoint sensor to mouse around.
The full HD 11.6-inch screen offers a 1,920x1,080 resolution IPS display with capacitive touch and 10-finger tracking. Its lightweight magnesium-alloy frame and a plastic chassis ensure that the overall weight of the hybrid is as little as 1.3kg. The Duo 11 will also come with a pressure-sensitive digitizer stylus to write directly on screen. A backlit keyboard, two USB 3.0 ports, an SD/MS card slot, compact Ethernet, a 3.5mm headphone jack, Bluetooth 4.0, Wi-Fi, HDMI and VGA port, and WiDi streaming are its significant specs. Additionally, this Viao brings along integrated Trusted Platform Module (TPM), Symantec Validation and ID Protection Service (VIP), Intel Anti-Theft Technology, and a connection for a desktop port replicator.
Price: $1,100
Available from: Last week of October
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HP Envy x2
The Envy x2 is an 11-inch tablet-laptop hybrid. It deploys a very clever combination of a mechanical latch and magnets to keep the two—slate and keyboard—conjoined. Reminiscent of the Asus Transformer-like tablet with a keyboard dock? Ah, yes! Yet it does boast of high-end features like Beats Audio Dual speakers, 8MP rear camera, 1,080p HD front cam with an integrated microphone, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, NFC, HDMI output and two USB ports, SD card reader, and stylus support.
Encased in a well-built and sturdy aluminium casing, at the heart of the tablet ticks an 1.8 GHz Intel dual core Atom-based Clover Trail processor—giving the device netbookesque nuances. The IPS display offers 400-nits of brightness and a resolution of 1,366x768 pixels. Built-in storage, however, will be cramping in 64 GB. The combo together is 0.66-inches thick and weighs 1.41kg. No word about the battery and price tag for this one has escaped out of HP yet.
Price: Not announced
Available from: December
Acer Aspire S7
Also waiting in the wings for Windows 8 to launch is this ultrabook hybrid from Acer, part of its Aspire series. Rigged with 11.6-inch or 13.3-inch touch screens, the S7 has slim unibody bases made of solid but lightweight aluminium. The sui generis of the S7 ultrabook is that its screen can open all the way to 180 degrees till it is lying totally flat, level with the laptop’s keyboard. This makes touch-screen use much easier. The 11.6-inch variant is 0.48-inches thick and weighs in at just over a kilogram, while the 13.3-incher weighs 1.29kg and stands 0.47-inches thick. Its bantamweight allows you to hold it aloft comfortably even while playing touch-screen games. Acer is promising 1,920x1,080 native full HD resolution, with IPS displays for capacitive, multitouch screens, an Intel Ivy Bridge Core CPU, 128 GB SSD and 4 GB of DDR3 RAM.
Price: $1,200*
Available from: Last week of October
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Dell XPS 12
Known as the XPS Duo 12 till fairly recently, the pivotal peculiarity of this convertible is the utterly unique swivel and hinge mechanism of its screen. What appears to be a run of the mill ultrabook (albeit, touch screen) converts into a full-functional 12-inch Windows tablet in a trice by simply rotating the display outwards in its hinged frame and closing the lid of the laptop. Elegant in appearance and efficient in its metamorphosis from ultrabook to tablet and back, it has a 1,080p resolution, and a 12-inch screen that is protected by Corning Gorilla Glass. The 12-incher will weigh 1.5kg.
An entry-level XPS 12 will come with a third-generation Intel Core i5 processor (3M cache, up to 2.6 GHz), 4 GB dual channel DDR3, 128 GB solid state hard drive, an Intel HD 4000 video card and a 6-cell lithium ion 47WHr battery.
Price: $1,200 onwards
Available from: Last week of October
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Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 13
As the moniker suggests, this is the Baba Ramdev in this crop of convertibles. The contortionist extraordinaire comprises a 13.3-inch ultrabook and the display can literally bend over backwards, a complete 360 degrees, to flatten the laptop into a tablet via a special hinge design. The keyboard shuts off automatically when the screen folds past 180 degrees. Once completely flipped back, it becomes a tablet. Running Windows 8 Pro on an Intel Core i7 at the top end, it touts a battery life of up to 8 hours. Memory can be upped to 4 GB and the SSD bumped up to 256 GB. The ultrabook weighs around 1.5-1.7 kg. The HD plus IPS screen supports 10-finger multi-touch.
The integrated 720p HD webcam on this “flip-the-lid” convertible supports Lenovo Motion Control. This allows you to use hand gestures with the webcam as an input device to flip pages, rewind/forward music, change the volume, and use for other straightforward commands. The ultrabook has an HDMI output, USB 3.0 Superspeed, USB 2.0, and a 3-in-1 card reader. A smaller sibling, the Yoga 11, based on an Nvidia Tegra 3 and running Windows RT, is also in the offing.
Price: $999
Available from: December
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First Published: Tue, Oct 23 2012. 08 59 PM IST
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