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.