Still Waiting for the Perfect Windows 8 Hybrid

It feels like I'm playing a game of PC hybrid bingo, and losing every time.

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Despite my early optimism for Windows 8 and its potential for interesting laptop-tablet hybrids, I must make a confession: I haven’t gotten around to buying one yet.

It’s not because I lack the funds or the knowledge of what’s available. For the right machine, I’d be willing to spend $1,000 or more –it would serve the purpose of two devices, after all–and I’ve tested a handful of PCs that fall roughly within that range. But so far, none of them have hit all the right notes, and judging from what we’ve seen so far at the Computex trade show in Taiwan, it’s going to be a while until the perfect Windows 8 PC comes along.

In theory, a good hybrid can be held like a tablet for casual uses such as web browsing and reading, but can also transform into a laptop for productivity. Although I mainly use my Nexus 7 for tablet computing now, it’d be nice to have a laptop that could double as a larger tablet as needed, so the hybrid concept is a good fit for me.

Hybrids generally fall into two categories: Detachables like the Acer Iconia W510 let you separate the screen from the body, while convertibles like the Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga allow the keyboard and trackpad to fold out of the way.

I’m open to either approach, but I’ve yet to see one of these machines meet all of the following criteria:

  • 11-inch to 13-inch display
  • Less than 0.8 inches thick (as a laptop)
  • Weight around 3 pounds or less (as a laptop)
  • At least 7 hours of real world battery life in tablet setting
  • At least 4 GB of RAM
  • Better screen resolution than 1366-by-768
  • Keyboard and trackpad that aren’t terrible.

While these criteria were impossible to achieve together in the first generation of Windows 8 hybrids–with battery life being the biggest roadblock–new processors from Intel and AMD aim to bring major improvements to these devices. Intel’s Haswell processor, in particular, promises up to 50 percent more battery life with slightly better performance than current Intel Ivy Bridge chips.

Computex is supposed to be Haswell’s big debut, with Taiwanese companies like Acer and Asus announcing new PCs based on the latest Intel processors. Unfortunately, neither company has announced anything that checks all the right boxes. Here’s a rundown of what’s happened so far at the big trade show:

  • Acer revealed several touchscreen laptops and a small Windows 8 tablet, but no detachables or convertibles. The Aspire S7 might be perfect if only its keyboard folded all the way around, instead of stopping at 180 degrees.
  • Asus announced the Transformer Book Trio, a detachable hybrid that can switch between Windows 8 and Android, but there’s one big catch: When the tablet is detached, it can only run Android. That’s a dealbreaker if you want to run Windows 8 in all its tablet-friendly glory.
  • Dell revealed the XPS 11, a convertible with a 360-degree hinge, similar to the Lenovo Yoga. However, the company is opting for a Surface-like touch keyboard, which will make the device feel slicker as a tablet but less practical for lengthy typing sessions.
  • Just ahead of Computex, HP announced the Split x2, a 13-inch detachable Windows 8 PC. But with an already-outdated Ivy Bridge processor, a mere 2 GB of RAM and a total weight of 4.85 pounds, it’s not the hybrid I’m after.

It feels like I’m playing a game of PC hybrid bingo, and losing every time.

Not all hope is lost. Lenovo could get the job done with a thinner, lighter, Haswell-powered Yoga, or Microsoft could refresh its Surface Pro tablet to improve battery life (though I’d like to see a larger-screen version to replace my laptop). Perhaps the companies that announced products at Computex will have more hybrids in the pipeline for this year. Until then, I’ll still be waiting for something better to come along.

21 comments
tjstrato
tjstrato

The tablet setup I would desire for work environment would be

i5-i7 performance

1920x1080res And possibly a discrete GPU

min of 128 SSD 

min of 4 GB of RAM

10ish hour battery life

removable battery

A dock with dual monitor output, Ethernet, USB3.0 (at least 3 ports), Speaker output...

keyboard case for note taking.


ialpek
ialpek

I have the same desire and still loking around.... Any new hybrid Haswell coming out in October?


Xtr3mor
Xtr3mor

go get a Dell xps 12 or a Lenovo Helix. Beware that the latest xps 12 does not have TPM.

FelixFriskiePreuss
FelixFriskiePreuss

I know I'm alittle late to the game, but I've had one of these in my hands acouple of days ago:
Kupa x15 http://www.kupaworld.com/Products.html 
It features 8 gigs of ram, i7 (no Haswell though), 10'1" 1920x1200  ips screen, mechanical keyboard dock, and my personal favourite: an active digitizer.
Battery life sucks at 4 hours, but hot swappable batteries at 80$ a pop do reduce that problem.

JimSlimbo
JimSlimbo

I completely agree.  Lenovo's Thinkpad Helix is as close as I've gotten to buying a hybrid but Lenovo delayed and delayed until finally Intel released their Haswell chip and now I want a system that reaps all the battery gains!  Arg.  Unfortunately I can't stand to wait much longer because I'm burdened with a Dell Mini 1010 that is exhausted just by logging into gmail.

bryswe
bryswe

I agree.  I'm in the same boat waiting for the right combination.  Ideally, I want at least a 14" screen, thin like the Yoga, lighted keyboard, 500gb SSD, Windows 8 Pro, pretty much the Yogo, but with the ability to remove the screen and use as a tablet or reverse.  The Thinkpad Helix is close, but it's too small and I just never liked the little nipple pointer...it's just gets in the way.

AsokSmith
AsokSmith

Link for SX2:

ftp://ftp.panasonic.com/pub/Panasonic/toughbook/specsheets/SX2_Spec_Sheet.pdf


AsokSmith
AsokSmith

Looks to me like the Panasonic Toughbook SX2 meets all of your criteria. Of course it runs Windows 7 Pro, not Windows 8, but that's a  plus in my book.

SteveChanyi
SteveChanyi

Sorry, have you not seen Microsoft's Surface Pro?!

luscus111
luscus111

I have not a clue how many and how good the apps for win8 rt are in a tablet, but if I have to judge from my desktop with a 6 core 2.8 AMD 16 gigs of ram and a dedicated Nvidia 550 video card, at how slow the apps load and the mediocrity of the apps, I do not think I will be purchasing an rt tablet just yet. Specially in the $700 to $1000+ range, Just yesterday I saw a Quad Core refurbished Acer 10" Tablet for $180, Now that is a great price for a great Tablet with great Apps. Can't say that about win 8, can you?

DalVI
DalVI

I mostly agree with this article. Most of the desired specs for a perferct Win8 tablet listed here are quite similar to my requirements too - an 11.6" maximum screen size, ideally an 8GB RAM. Maybe if Sony comes up with a Win8 version of their very nice Xperia Tablet Z, that just might be the perfect tablet. I'm willing to wait out . . than buy any of the current ones.

ibenzawla
ibenzawla

Microsoft probably has to emulate Google this time. Let them build it show them how to. They really have to get involved. The Nexus line easily comes to mind. Google had to set the benchmark for them and now they are coming up with something better.

Bermbeard
Bermbeard

@JimSlimbo 

 I'm in the exact same boat, as I imagine many are,  except with an  Ideapad U300 with an i3 that I was forced to get after my T61p accidentally got a taste for Gatorade. I wanted to pick up the Yoga, but since it was a delayed released I could not wait any longer. And yet, here I am, again. I would imagine this is where quite a number of people find themselves if they are looking for this form factor. 

 I drew up a weighted analysis table for my own feature necessities and I'm caught between some high-priced or yet-to-be-released slider style (not optimal for me) ultrabooks, such as the Sony Duo 13 or Samsung AtivQ, or the minor inadequacies (but worthwhile features) of the too-late-to-the-party Thinkpad Helix. My biggest reasons for hesitating are Haswell, wacom driver support, heat issues and the single-channel memory (restricts gpu perf, for some light CAD).

My rough deadline for having to get buy something is right around September, so let's hope Lenovo (or someone) meets the obvious market demand. At the very least, at least some early adopters are ironing out the kinks for us. ;)

newmanjb
newmanjb moderator

@learn2google It's funny you mention it. The Yoga is probably my favorite Windows 8 hybrid. I reviewed it here and have recommended it to people who need a laptop right now:

http://techland.time.com/2012/11/27/lenovo-ideapad-yoga-review-a-great-windows-8-laptop-with-a-side-of-tablet/

BUT ... I never got more than five or six hours of real world battery life out of it (just word processing and web browsing). PC makers have a long history of overstating the battery life of their products, and Lenovo is no exception. The 13-inch model was also a little heavy for my taste, especially as a tablet, which is why 3 pounds or less is what I'm shooting for. The 11s is lighter, but it only has 6 hours of advertised battery life. I haven't tried that one yet.

Would a Haswell-powered Yoga alleviate those issues? Maybe! I even said as much in the article, but I guess you were didn't want to waste more than 30 seconds reading the whole thing.

Bermbeard
Bermbeard

@DalVI How about the Sonu Duo 13? Although it is a slider, weight is near 3 lbs. with an 11" and 13" option, haswell, and 10+ hours of battery life. 

newmanjb
newmanjb moderator

@learn2google To clarify, while word processing and web browsing I never got more than 5-6 hours of real world battery life. As written above it may suggest I got longer life from those uses. Not the case.

DalVI
DalVI

@Bermbeard @DalVI  Performance-wise, the Sony Duo 11" and 13" are both good. I've had my hands on both of them in a Sony Shop. I'm sure the newer ones with the Haswell processors are even better. But their form factor is still not quite my idea of a perfect Win8 tablet. I've held the Sony Xperia Tablet Z in hands, and for me, if only it's got Windows 8, a Surface-like keyboard, and a Haswell processor, that would be the tablet i'd go for. =)