Upgrade Your Life

Why Your Next Laptop Won’t Be Just a Laptop

Becky Worley
Upgrade Your Life

Your next laptop is probably going to be a lot more than just a laptop. Touch screens are spurring wild new designs in a category called convertibles. So will your next notebook flip, rip, double or roll?

Let’s think of this historically; your old laptop opens and closes. Or maybe you have a tablet with a single, standard touchscreen.  But the introduction of touchscreen recognition in the Windows 8 operating system has computer manufacturers trying to combine those two devices in inventive new ways.

Lenovo Yoga 11S

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We saw the start of this innovation last year with the Lenovo Yoga, and now they’ve just announced a more sophisticated little sister – the Yoga 11S. It’s an 11-inch laptop running a full version of Windows 8, but its double-jointed hinge lets you open it all the way up and flip it over into a tablet. Retail price: $799.

Lenovo Helix
From the flip, we move to the rip. Also from Lenovo – the Helix. It flips over like the Yoga, but you have the option to rip the screen out into a stand-alone tablet. It is fully touch capable and has a built in Wacom stylus. Lenovo says it will run for 5 hours in stand-alone tablet mode or 10 hours if docked. Bonus: when docked, a fan system can cool the CPU, allowing the device to overclock itself and run a little faster – that’s awesome.  Available in February; $1499.

MSI Slider
MSI presents a totally different design: the MSI Slider.  It runs a full version of Windows 8 on an Intel Core i5 processor, but it seems like it’s primarily designed to be used as a touch tablet. When you want a keyboard, you slide the screen back and up. The keyboard is at the front of the underlying dock, so there’s no place to rest your palms and wrists, but if you only want a keyboard occasionally, this might be the design choice for you. Available by March, 2013; $1,099.

ASUS Transformer All-In-One
ASUS is going in a totally different direction with one of its convertibles. The Transformer All-In-One looks like a desktop PC running Windows 8. But the 18-inch screen can be pulled from its stand to function as a massive Android tablet. Imagine putting it on your lap to play Plants vs. Zombies or stream a movie. Whoa! ASUS says that in this tablet mode, the battery will last 4-5 hours. Price TBD.

Lenovo Horizon 27
Another big statement in convertibles is the Lenovo Horizon 27. This 27-inch touchscreen tablet runs Windows 8 with a wireless keyboard and mouse. You can prop it up on your desk for a 16:9 display or put it on a rolling stand so it lays flat. As my colleague Joanna Stern says, it’s a tablet that turns into a table. Sure, you could prop a bowl of cheerios on it while streaming your favorite videos, but the more practical idea is for meetings where people would stand around the tablet and collaborate. $1699.

ASUS Taichi
ASUS announced the Taichi hybrid earlier, but we’re seeing it for the first time here at CES. It’s a dual screen notebook. So you can use it as a notebook when open, a touch tablet when closed, or two people could use it at the same time when open, one on the notebook side and one on the tablet side – it would look a little like a game of battleship.  I can’t completely imagine this being useful in the home setting, but I could absolutely see this being a tool in some retail or professional environments, for presentations or as a tutoring tool.  Price TBD.

Intel Haswell Chips
One development for convertibles and ultrabooks alike is the announcement Monday of a new family of chips from Intel. Code-named Haswell, these new 4th generation Intel Core processors are all about reducing power consumption to improve battery life. Their aim is to double existing battery life up to 13 hours in some devices. An Intel spokesperson told us they expect to see a dozen new devices with these processors starting to roll out by March of 2013.

Android Devices And Tablets
Finally, this year will provide a boom in Android tablets. The theme so far has been lifestyle and budget.  NVIDIA shook things up early when they announced their entry into gaming devices, called Project Shield, which plays Android games. It has a console-quality controller complete with D-pad, face buttons, and triggers. It packs powerful speakers and can stream video over Wi-Fi.

Appliance maker Dacor has a $7500 oven that has an Android tablet “baked in.” They say it adds a ton of connected features to the oven – and about $1000 to the price tag.

On the other end of the spectrum, Coby has a $149 Android tablet. Alcatel has two Android tablets for less than $200.  And Acer has confirmed a $99 Android tablet called the Iconia B1 that’s aimed pretty squarely at newbies and kids. Polaroid has gone whole hog for the under-12 set, releasing a $149 “Kids Tablet” loaded with goodies for the aspiring digital photographer or videographer.

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[Related: Transparent TVs and Bendable Phones: CES Rumor Roundup]

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