Gadgets and Gizmos (India) - - COVER STORY - BY NANDAGOPAL RA­JAN

We now have a new breed of de­vices to choose from, the Win­dows 8 con­vert­ibles and hy­brids. With Mi­crosoft’s new op­er­at­ing sys­tem be­ing op­ti­mised for touch, th­ese de­vices try and bring the touch­screen closer to the user. So there are hy­brids, which are es­sen­tially tablets that have ex­tra key­boards, or con­vert­ibles that can trans­form them­selves from Ul­tra­books to tablets.

With pric­ing be­ing what it is, most of th­ese de­vices will con­tinue to be niche prod­ucts for some months to come. The hy­brids are cheaper, but they are also In­tel Atom-based de­vices which might not be able to per­form many high-end tasks. How­ever, th­ese are more por­ta­ble and handy, mak­ing them the ideal de­vice for those who will need a tablet that can do a bit more.

The Ul­tra­book con­vert­ibles, on the other hand, will be able to do most tasks that you as­sign to it. But they are costly and a bit too heavy and large to use as proper tablets. They should be pre­ferred by peo­ple who es­sen­tially need an Ul­tra­book, but would like to have the ease- of-use of a tablet when re­quired.

How­ever, in the New Year you will see a lot of con­ver­sa­tion re­volv­ing around the con­vert­ible and hy­brids, which will be the show­case de­vices for Win­dows 8. At least for now, this form fac­tor is also unique to this OS as you don’t have hy­brids and con­vert­ibles in OS X or An­droid, ex­cept for maybe the Asus Trans­former se­ries.

But this is just the be­gin­ning, even as you see touch be­com­ing an es­sen­tial fea­ture in com­put­ers in coming months you will also see th­ese con­vert­ibles and hy­brids evolv­ing in de­sign, and, hopefully, be­com­ing cheaper. They are be­ing pro­jected as the ideal so­lu­tion for in­di­vid­u­als who are now de­pen­dant on two or more de­vices for their daily fix. So, the sug­ges­tion is to choose a con­vert­ible or hy­brid over cart­ing around both a lap­top and tablet. No doubt, there will be tak­ers for this con­cept.

We can see a lot of de­sign in­no­va­tion tak­ing place in the seg­ment – there are said to be around a hun­dred new de­signs in var­i­ous stages of pro­duc­tion. There are also at­tempts to bring the prices down by mak­ing touch­screens cheaper. In­tel, mean­while, is promis­ing all- day power with its new fourth gen­er­a­tion Core pro­ces­sors. They are also ex­pected to make the hy­brids more en­ter­prise­friendly with added power and lap­top-like se­cu­rity features.

The ad­vent of the con­vert­ibles don’t mean the tra­di­tional tablet or lap­top is dead on the Win­dows plat­form. In fact, the tra­di­tional de­vices will con­tinue to be made and sold. They will co-ex­ist with the new pre­mium seg­ment for some time. The older de­vices will need to bring in touch into their de­vices though. Thank­fully, touch­screens have al­ready be­come af­ford­able with de­vices like the Asus Vivo­book F202E. For the bud­get con­scious, you will see track­pads and mouse be­com­ing touch en­abled so that Win­dows 8 com­mands can be ex­e­cuted even if you don’t have a touch­screen. This will be cru­cial, for us­ing Win­dows 8 with­out any form of touch to ex­ploit the full po­ten­tial of the OS could be quite frus­trat­ing.

The fifty-fifty

Sony claims its Vaio Duo 11 is the eas­i­est Ul­tra­book con­vert­ible to use with a sin­gle mo­tion to do the ac­tual con­ver­sion. So we though this was the first thing we should test with the Duo 11. Yes, it is quite easy to pull the dis­play up to re­veal the key­board in one sim­ple mo­tion. But, no, you can­not do it with one hand.

The Duo 11 is a screen-first kind of de­sign and you can use it as a tablet if you are com­fort­able with the weight. But then all Ul­tra­book con­vert­ibles make heavy tablets. At the top of the dis­play is a small groove, pulling on which makes the screen stand up, re­veal­ing a neat lit­tle key­board be­low. But it is not a full-size key­board and there is a no place to rest your wrists while typ­ing. So you will have to ad­just a bit while us­ing it. How­ever, you will get used to it in a few hours and this is a good key­board to use, if you will need to use it.

This de­sign also shows that track­pads are be­com­ing re­dun­dant in a touch­screen world. In fact, even the track­point, which has been nes­tled be­tween the keys, is un­nec­es­sary with an 11.6-inch touch­screen just in front of you. There are also three keys be­low that work like the keys on a mouse.

The touch­screen is very re­spon­sive and the pic­tures are really crisp, that is be­cause this is a 1080p Ful­lHD es­peci cause be­low lock on the sm

Like er­a­tio troubl starts from U those w Duo 1 for peo well. B sort of ume b

Sony vice an as wel fact th hind, a de­vice need p will us an ult

D dis­play. The sound qual­ity is also very good, ally when you are us­ing the tablet. That is bethe speak­ers are fac­ing down and are placed the key­board. Sim­i­larly, keep the ori­en­ta­tion n when us­ing the de­vice as a Ul­tra­book, for mallest move­ment flips the screen over. all Ul­tra­books, the Duo 11 too runs 3rd genn In­tel Core i5 pro­ces­sor and won’t have any e munch­ing through even heavy tasks. It also up in a jiffy, but we have come to ex­pect that Ul­tra­books. While other con­vert­ibles are for who will use the Ul­tra­book part more, the 1 is good in both modes and can be sug­gested ople who will have a sub­stan­tial tablet use as Be­ing a Vaio, there is an As­sist but­ton, but it is f hid­den un­der the front edge near the vol­but­tons. y is pitch­ing this as an en­ter­prise-ready dend so there are two USB drives, a card reader, l as HDMI and VGA ports. We also loved the at the Eth­er­net port and power jacks are beand this will add to its us­abil­ity as a desk­top e. Over­all, this a good buy for peo­ple who power in their con­vert­ible, which they se equally as a tablet and ra­book.

Push to ro­tate

It is a Win­dows 8 con­vert­ible, but there is lit­tle doubt that the Dell XPS 12 is an Ul­tra­book in real life. But yes, this slim, sleek lap­top can trans­forms into a tablet, though a bulky one for reg­u­lar use.

As with other XPS de­vices, this one too is strongly built with a stylish alu­minum and car­bon fin­ish. It is hard to miss the ma­chined alu­minum frame that runs around both sides of the de­vice. Around the 12.5-inch Ful­lHD WLED screen, it acts as a hinge for the dis­play to ro­tate around. Do a 360-de­gree turn of the dis­play and close the Ul­tra­book to find your­self star­ing at a tablet.

It would be a bit dif­fi­cult to hold and use this tablet like you would an iPad or An­droid de­vice, but you can def­i­nitely use it to work on a sur­face de­vice or to col­lab­o­rate on work over a cof­fee ta­ble. Still, the XPS 12 has a touch­screen that is really sprightly and re­spon­sive. Plus, be­ing a Ful­lHD screen it is much eas­ier to flip through the Win­dows mo­saic. And the Corn­ing Go­rilla Glass makes ev­ery­thing look real solid.

We guess most peo­ple would con­tinue us­ing the de­vice as an Ul­tra­book, one with Win­dows 8 and touch. At that, there are few equals for this de­vice. With a third gen­er­a­tion In­tel Core 15 pro­ces­sor in­side, this de­vice is up to most pro­duc­tiv­ity tasks. It passed our reg­u­lar pro­cess­ing tests with fly­ing colours. We were a bit dis­ap­pointed that our re­view unit had a 128GB SSD. There is an­other ver­sion with 256GB and a Core i7 pro­ces­sor.

The key­board is im­pres­sive and has a good curved feel about it along with com­fort­able travel. The track­pad is good too, though you won’t have to use it much with the touch­screen. Don’t be sur­prised if you see touch de­vices like this drop the track in a year or so. The sound is really im­pres­sive thanks to the two strip-like speak­ers on the sides.

A ma­jor de­sign change we no­ticed was the tog­gle power switch on the left edge, just above the vol­ume con­trols. There are two USB 3.0 port on the left, plus a mini-dis­play port. We think they should have put an HDMI there too.

Buy the XPS 12 if you need an Ul­tra­book that is ver­sa­tile enough to be up to the de­mands of this era of con­ver­gence. We sus­pect it is among the first few of many pow­er­ful Ul­tra­books that will bring you touch in in­no­va­tive ways. Yes, it is a bit pricey, but then it is doesn’t sac­ri­fice power at the al­tar of de­sign.

Sony Vaio Duo 11

` 89,990


Win­dows 8, 11.6-inch Ful­lHD touch­screen, In­tel Core i53317U, 6GB RAM, 128GB SSD, In­tel HD graph­ics 4000, 12.60” (W) .71” (H) 7.84" (D), 1.3kg

Sam­sung Ativ Smart PC

` 53,990


Win­dows 8, 11.6-inch touch dis­play, In­tel Atom Z2760, 2GB RAM, 64GB flash, In­tel graph­ics, Wi-Fi, SD card, 8MP cam­era, 744g (1.45 kg with clamshell)

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