Dragging Windows kicking and screaming in to the future is no easy exercise, but Microsoft has a lot riding on the release of Windows 8. With full cross platform abilities Microsoft has a version of the Tile OS ready for every platform, from Smartphone and tablet to the replacement for the corporate desktop, Microsoft is about to change the computing landscape forever.
Essential to the success of the new platform is the hardware that will run Microsoft’s brand new operating system. At this week’s IFA tech conference in Germany the world has been witness to the Rise of the Transformer. Some slide, some snap together while others convert and some even flip, common to all they are capable of transforming from a tablet into a device capable of replacing your desktop computer. Far more than a common laptop and far sexier than a vanilla desktop computer Windows 8 is about to bring the gesture revolution to the desktop, especially the corporate desktop world.
The Rise of the Transformers sees manufacturers trying to get more out of the tablet form factor, taking advantage of Windows 8 gesture enabled touch screen as well as the tradition speed and convenience of a tangible keyboard, the Windows 8 transformers seem to have it all.
Del XPS Duo 12
Dell’s contribution to the Rise of the Transformers comes in the most unusual shape of the reborn Duo. Originally released in 2010 running the Windows 7 platform the Duo transforming device makes far more sense as a Windows 8 Pro transformer.
The Duo’s display is mounted in a swivel frame, hinged horizontally in the middle it is able to be flipped to cover the keyboard, or completely removed from the frame tablet style.
Dell are aiming the Duo 12 at the top end of the Transformer market with 12inch 1080p display, Intel’s latest generation Ivy Bridge i5 or i7 CPU options, 256MB SSD, USB 3 and mini DisplayPort connector.
Build quality is said to be excellent with a one piece machined aluminium case, liberal use of carbon fibre and covered in Corning’s Gorilla glass.
HP Envy x2
HP’s entry into the Windows Transformer market draws on the excellent styling of the Envy family of laptops, from a distance, with the base attached, it could easily be mistaken for the Envy 12 series of Ultrabooks, but it is far more capable than it’s brethren.
The 11.6 inch touch screen tablet includes a 1366 x 768 resolution IPS display, Beats audio, Intel Atom CPU, up to 64GB of SSD storage space, 1080p front camera and 8MP rear camera. Connectivity includes NFC as well as USB, HDMI and card reader which are housed in the keyboard dock.
The full sized keyboard comes with gesture capable touch pad that will allow gestures to be used even when working in a tradition Windows way.
Running full Intel CPU and GPU internally this is a Windows 8 Pro class tablet that combines the best of the Tile and Desktop environments.
The detachable keyboard includes a hinge allowing the tablet to snap into place, transforming into an ultra sleek laptop with proportions that would make any Ultrabook laptop jealous and continuing the styling tradition of the Envy series.
The tablet itself weighs 1.5lbs/.68kg and measures 8.5mm thin, the keyboard add-on doubles these numbers to a total weight of 3.11lbs / 1.3kg and thickness of just under 2cm. With the weight of the dock and keyboards nearly identical the HP won’t suffer the top heavy issues that many experience with the ASUS transformers, making a well balanced laptop when docked.
Sony VAIO Duo 11
Sony has put it’ best designers to work producing a stunning piece of industrial design, something not seen from Sony for a long time. While it will undoubtedly be expensive it is by far the most attractive of all of the transformers. With a similar design to Microsoft’s Surface Sony may have out done Microsoft with the design of the Duo 11.
Using a slider mechanism the Duo 11 is a split personality transformer, with the screen laid flat it operates as a Windows 8 gesture capable tablet, sliding the display back tilts the display up to reveal the keyboard.
Hardware options are provided aplenty by Sony, several CPU options are available, from the base Core i5 all the way up to the top of the range Core i7-3517U. Memory options include 4GB or 8GB of RAM and 128GB or 256GB SSD for boot and storage. The 11.6 inch display is capable of 1080p (1920 x 1080 resolution).
The base includes the many connectivity options including WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0, USB 3.0, VGA, HDMI memory card slot and audio jacks. Like many of the new transformers the Duo 11 includes a Stylus, for hand drawn sketching and control. The only obvious omission from the Duo 11 is touchpad, Sony have once again opted for the nipple.
Weighing in at a light weight 2.8lbs/ 1.3kg the Duo 11 is faster than many Ultrabooks while being the sexiest member of the Rise of the Transformers.
Lenovo Thinkpad Tablet 2
Lenovo’s Tablet 2 is their keyboard docking contribution to the Rise of the Transformers. Lenovo believe in being prepared, having already demonstrated the Tablet 2 at Computex at the beginning of the year they have been waiting patiently for the release of Windows 8.
The 10.1 inch Tablet 2 includes a 1366 x 768 resolution IPS display providing a bright and clear display no matter the angle it is viewed from. Internally an Atom CPU keeps things moving while allowing a 10 hour battery life. Connectivity includes 3G and 4G connectivity, front and rear camera’s, NFC, finger print reader and digital stylus. The optional keyboard dock includes the extra connectivity, providing 3 USB ports, HDMI and Ethernet.
The lightest of the new Transformers the Tablet 2, on its own, weighs only 600grams / 1.1lbs.
Toshiba Satellite U925t
The sliding transformer from Toshiba, the Satellite U925t, brings the proportions of an old school laptop to the Rise of the Transformers. The sliding mechanism utilized by the U925t allows the display to be pushed back, raising the display and revealing the keyboard. This does mean when slid shut the display is on the outside giving a tablet user experience, instead of tucking the screen away as with traditional laptops. This is one of the major changes that transformers are bringing to the laptop world, sadly there will be no more resting of coffee cups on a closed laptop.
12.5inch display makes the U925t one of the larger and heavier first generation Windows 8 transformers. The display has a maximum 720p (1280 x 720) resolution.
At 3.2lbs / 1.5kg and 2cm thick the U925t is a chunky transformer but it does allow for a full sized chiclet style keyboard that is back illuminated for operating in darkened rooms.
Under the hood of the Windows 8 Pro transformer is Intel’s latest Core i5, 128GB SSD for storage. Two full sized USB 3.0 ports, HDMI and card reader.
Samsung ATIV Smart PC Pro
Taking a leaf out of ASUS’s book (did I hear lawsuit potential) Samsung have prepared a range of transforming laptops ready for the Windows 8 release party. The docking transformer from Samsung promises sleek lines and an option for every price point.
The 11.6 inch tablets will be available in both RT and Pro versions, designated Smart PC and Smart PC Pro.
Both will include 3G and 4G connectivity, micro HDMI, USB along with front and rear cameras. Again Stylus is included, Samsung have even included many of the excellent Note Smartphone’s stylus applications, S Pen and S Note.
The RT version Smart PC is based on Intel’s latest Atom (Clover Trail) low power CPU instead of the usual ARM based processor that many Windows 8 RT tablets are using. This does allow for a hefty 13.5 hours of battery life however. The RT also includes 2GB of RAM, up to 128GB SSD, while the display offers 1366×768 resolution.
The Pro version, the Smart PC Pro, increases the specs to include Core i5 CPU, 4GB of RAM, up to 256GB SSD and a 1080p display capable of full high definition 1920×1080 resolution. The extra speed sacrifices battery life for number crunching power, reducing battery life to 8 hours.
The RT version is priced low to compete with Androiid tablets, at $749 for the full bundle including keyboard, the ASUS Transformers are about to have many devices to compete with. The high-end Pro version of the tablet will start at $1,119 USD.
With the Apple v Samsung (Android) court case reaching a conclusion, to the first phase in any case, manufacturers have rediscovered the copyright drama free Windows 8. With the release of Windows 8 fast approaching, October 26, the line-up of new innovative hardware is already looking impressive.
Microsoft’s Surface tablet set the stage for the rise of the Windows 8 transformers. Microsoft, in the process, put many noses out of joint with their entry into the hardware market. In the weeks after the Surfaces first appearances many of Microsoft’s hardware partners announced their displeasure, threatening to withdraw from the Windows 8 tablet market, turns out it was all bluff and bluster.
Microsoft has a single advantage over the iOS and Android tablets taking over the world, the corporate market. This one fact may allow Microsoft to quickly capture an immense market that has so far been impenetrable to the Apple and Android offerings. Replacing every corporate desktop with a transforming tablet should be Microsoft’s initial goal, if achieved the sales numbers may just be staggering, instead of anaemic as many technoratti are suggesting.
Innovation of Windows laptops has been nonexistent for decades, till now, stuck in a clam shell rut finally some radical new designs are set to shake up the tablet and laptop world, bring on the Rise of the Transformers.
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