With the release of their latest incarnation, Microsoft's Windows 8 has prompted a flurry of new laptops, tablets and hybrids in-between. Some of these are completely new to the mobile computing market where others are simply upgrades of older models. Today we are going to show you how the new operating system has heralded a range of new technology advances.
It was once the case that you only had desktop computers; slow, cumbersome, allowing you to make dinner while Windows booted into the MB's of RAM. Laptop computers came along and let you do your computing on the train, in the café, anywhere. Tablet computers came along and let you type on a touch screen and carry a tiny computer in your handbag.
October 26, 2012 though means a whole new range of devices; hybrids if you want to define them, many are quasi-tablets, some of them are quasi-laptops.... some - and I am looking at you Microsoft Surface - are just strange.
The pure tablets are actually getting better and I don't mean in terms of getting a new CPU or more RAM. Let's start with an example of the traditional laptop that has made minimal changes such as the Sony VAIO E series.
|credit : Amazon.com|
The VAIO is coming up to 17 inches of screen but strangely this range has not included some of the newest features that are exploited by Windows 8, notably a touch screen! Something which is a bit cute in the laptop market is the backlit keyboard.
There are other pure tablet that have included a touchscreen as part of their arsenal of features such as the Sony VAIO T Series, the Acer Aspire S series ultrabook, all offering touch screen ability.
The first feature that is good for tablets is the touch-screen. This has led to some manufacturers giving the chance for users to turn the lid of their laptop to close the clam and the screen being on the outside of the lid.
|credit : Lenovo Press Centre|
The Lenovo ThinkPad® Twist is a perfect example of this although to be honest I would not trust myself on it based on the press picture. If you look at the bottom centre of the screen bezel you will find that this new ThinkPad® has its hinges as part of a rotating pedestal, allowing you to rotate the screen 180 degrees and fold it flat.
In the case of this particular laptop the team at Lenovo have also developed a way to let you use the laptop in a form of an A-Frame, like a tent.
The big benefit is of-course that the laptop-cum-tablet range of devices will need a touchscreen otherwise their tablet features would be a waste of time.
Instead of having laptops that become tablets, we could have a tablet that becomes a laptop. It has not even been two years since the launch of the Asus Eee Pad Transformer and this was one of the earlier experiments in the tablet computer market (albeit on Android Honeycomb rather than Windows,) but the launch of Windows 8 has led to more manufacturers entering this market.
So what are we talking about? Well the idea of a tablet-cum-laptop is that your main device is actually a tablet computer, but this comes with a detachable keyboard. Some offer the keyboard as standard where others offer it as an optional extra. The Asus Vivo Tab (left) shows the detachable keyboard and how the common bluetooth keyboard will be unnecessary.
The idea of having a detachable keyboard is going to enthuse those that will only use the tablet for typing at length occasionally. The portability of the tablet will keep them interested but there will be that time that instead of watching a movie on the commute home, it will be time to finish off that urgent report.
There are downsides to this idea though. Some detachable docks won't come with it's own battery which will be an extra drain on the tablet power source. The Asus Vivo Tab is one of the exceptions that do come with a separate battery for each section. There will also be more tablet-cum-laptops that will carry Windows RT; I am not convinced that manufacturers have realised the difference between the two yet and Windows 8 will certainly be a better option to Windows "8-lite" RT.
The Microsoft Surface
One of the "odd-one out" products on the market for Windows RT and Windows 8 is the Microsoft Surface. This is a rare venture into hardware for the software giant and they have possibly the most unusual offering of the new Windows 8 range.
|credit : Microsoft|
Firstly let's make something clear. The Microsoft Surface (pictured left) is only releasing the Windows RT on the same day as the new operating system, to be followed by a ful product around Christmas or the New Year. This is slightly confusing at least to me as you would think that a new product would want a launch at the same time.
The Surface for Windows RT is going to be released with a Tegra 3 ARM processor, so we are looking at around a 1.5Ghz offering and starting at $499 for the 32GB model. The problem I have is that Windows RT is heading very much towards an Apple software mentality, you will only be able to (officially) install applications that are downloaded from the new Windows Store; one suspects however that it would not be long for either a workaround or jailbreaking to change that.
The later Windows 8 Surface will be running on an Intel Ivy Bridge CPU and we will be looking at a Laptop (or Intel Ultrabook) level of speed and specification. The more powerful tablet will also allow installation by downloads from the Internet like a normal Windows device.
The big difference here is the keyboard. For the release of the Surface for Windows RT there will be an option for a keyboard that is basically not tactile. It will form part of the tablets protective casing and be flat to the extent that you can not recognise pressing the keys. Microsoft point out that the device is first a tablet and that it is not designed to be a tablet-cum-laptop; but that there will also be an option for audible clicking from the tablet to register the key presses and aid the user.
The launch of the Windows 8 version of the Surface however will offer a slightly more tactile keyboard, although the exact style of it is not yet known.
What Would I Buy?
Personally I am a laptop fan and not a tablet. If I was to buy something I would be looking at finding a laptop-cum-tablet like the Lenovo Twist Ultrabook as long as it could prove that it was strong enough to cope with the strains of me turning it, and turning it.
But we have shown you how the laptop and tablet computers have changed with the introduction of Microsoft Windows 8. If you are going to buy a new Windows 8 device, tell us about it below and tell us how you managed to navigate laptops in the new Windows 8 world.