Holiday 2012: Windows 8 Tablets, Computers and Accessories
In October of 2012, Microsoft released Windows 8, their latest operating system. Banking on a new touch-based, user-friendly interface, Windows 8 is vastly different from its Windows 7 predecessor. The first thing you’ll notice is that the traditional Start menu that Microsoft has had for the longest time was replaced with a new Start screen using “live tiles.” The tiles are more than just icons. They’re little windows that contain information, such as incoming mail, weather forecasts and social media notifications, which update in real time. This means you don’t have to click on each tile just to see the latest news, but you can see everything right from the main Start screen.
The redesigned Start screen isn’t the only thing Windows 8 offers. Microsoft has taken notice of the popularity of devices with touch screens. Whether it’s smart phones, all-in-one computers or the increasingly popular tablet, Windows 8 has fully embraced touch-based controls. Multi-touch gestures can now be used to navigate through the menus and tiles on touch-supported Windows 8 computers. The integration between keyboard, mouse and touch input in Windows 8 makes for an immersive and seamless user experience.
Other new features in Windows 8 include cloud-connected access using a Microsoft account and the Windows Store for downloading apps. With a Microsoft account, you'll be able to take all your personalized settings with you to another Windows 8 device. All you need to do is sign in to the Windows 8 device of your choice with your Microsoft account and all your preferences will instantly load via the cloud.
You can also use your Microsoft account to sign in to the Windows Store and browse thousands of apps. You can download your apps on more than one Windows 8 device so there’s no need to purchase an app twice. After you install an app from the Windows Store, you can sign in with your Microsoft account on up to five other Windows 8 computers and see a list of all the apps you own. From there, you can pick and choose which apps you want to install on the other computers without having to search for and install them individually. Windows 8 has all the functionality of previous Windows generations, while at the same time, providing a new user experience with many unique features.
Tablets and Convertible Ultrabooks
When the iPad first came out, people thought it was just an oversized iPod touch. Now, it is one of the most successful portable tablets to date. Many companies followed suit, opting for the only other operating system capable of competing against Apple’s iOS, the Android OS. Now, with the release of Windows 8 and Windows RT, Microsoft finally joins the touch screen tablet market, providing a viable alternative to both iOS and Android with Windows 8.
First up is the Sony VAIO Duo 11 SVD11213CXB 11.6” Ultrabook Computer. This Sony VAIO Ultrabook has a unique gun metallic slider design with a keyboard, which allows for smooth transitions between tablet and Ultrabook modes. This means you can use this Sony VAIO Ultrabook as a traditional notebook and then slide it into a tablet to use its touch screen for a more mobile approach. The 11.6” widescreen LED-backlit capacitive touch screen features stylus and 10-point multi-touch support. The screen has a 16:9 aspect ratio and a Full HD 1920 x 1080 resolution, powered by integrated Intel HD Graphics 4000. This Sony VAIO Ultrabook houses a dual-core Ivy Bridge 1.7 GHz Intel Core i5-3317U processor with 6GB of DDR3 RAM, a 128GB solid-state drive, a Memory Stick and Secure Digital (SD) card slot, 10/100/1000 Mbps Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0 + HS, an integrated 2.4-megapixel webcam and microphone. There are also built-in stereo speakers. There is an HDMI port so you can connect to an external display as well as two USB 3.0 ports, one of which supports charging. Windows 8 (64-bit) is the installed operating system.
For a more traditional tablet experience, try the Acer 64GB Iconia W700 11.6” Tablet. While it doesn’t have a built-in keyboard like the Sony, it comes with a cradle and a Bluetooth keyboard so you can use it as a mobile desktop computer when needed. Pop it out of the cradle and you have a silver tablet with an 11.6” widescreen LED-backlit capacitive touch screen. The screen has 10-finger input support as well as a 16:9 aspect ratio and a Full HD 1920 x 1080 native resolution, powered by integrated Intel HD Graphics 4000. The W700 houses a dual-core Ivy Bridge 1.8 GHz Intel Core i3-3217U processor with 4GB of DDR3 RAM, 64GB of flash storage, 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, a 5-megapixel rear camera and a 2-megapixel front camera. There is an integrated microphone and built-in stereo speakers. Plus, the tablet also features a micro-HDMI port for outputting video to an external display as well as a USB 3.0 port for connecting the W700 to a computer. Windows 8 (64-bit) is the installed operating system.
If you’d rather have a tactile keyboard and touchpad, Windows 8 is also available in notebook computers. While these notebook computers have the traditional notebook setup, they also all feature displays with capacitive touch screen support. This allows you to navigate seamlessly by using the keyboard, touchpad and touch screen together in harmony.
The Sony VAIO T Series SVT13124CXS 13.3” Ultrabook Computer measures approximately 0.7” thin and weighs slightly more than 3.5 pounds. It features a full-flat design and sports a silver-mist finish. The 13.3” widescreen LED-backlit display features capacitive touch screen capabilities. You’ll be able to tap on tiles, pinch to zoom and rearrange icons using just your fingers. The screen has a 16:9 aspect ratio and a 1366 x 768 native resolution, powered by integrated Intel HD Graphics 4000. The Sony VAIO T Series Ultrabook houses a 1.8 GHz Intel Core i3-3217U processor, 4GB of DDR3 RAM with room for up to 8GB, a 500GB 5400 rpm hard drive with a 32GB MLC hybrid solid state drive cache, 10/100/1000 Mbps Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0 + HS, an integrated webcam and microphone. There are also built-in stereo speakers. There is an HDMI port so you can connect to an external display as well as one USB 3.0 port, which supports charging, and one USB 2.0 port. Windows 8 (64-bit) is the installed operating system.
If you’re looking for a more “MacBook Air inspired” look, the Acer Aspire S7 S7-391-6810 13.3” Ultrabook Computer may be a better fit for you. It features a traditional notebook computer design with a clean white finish. It also has a 13.3” capacitive touch screen, which supports multi-touch gestures in Windows 8. The screen has a 16:9 aspect ratio and a Full HD 1920 x 1080 native resolution, powered by integrated Intel HD Graphics 4000. The Acer Aspire S7 has a 1.7 GHz Intel Core i5-3317U processor with 4GB of onboard DDR3 RAM, a 128GB solid state drive, a 2-in-1 media card reader, 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, an integrated webcam and microphone. There are also built-in stereo speakers. There is an HDMI port so you can output video to an external video display, as well as two USB 3.0 ports for connecting to peripherals. Windows 8 (64-bit) is the installed operating system.
ASUS offers two VivoBook notebook computers in different screen sizes, processors and hard drives. The first one is the ASUS VivoBook X202E-DH31T 11.6” Notebook Computer. It has a traditional notebook design, but it features a 11.6” widescreen LED-backlit capacitive touch screen, which supports multi-touch gestures in Windows 8. The screen has a 16:9 aspect ratio and a 1366 x 768 native resolution, powered by integrated Intel HD Graphics 4000. The ASUS VivoBook X202E houses a dual-core Ivy Bridge 1.8 GHz Intel Core i3-3217U processor with 4GB of DDR3 RAM, a 500GB 5400 rpm hard drive, 3-in-1 media card reader, 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0 and an integrated 0.3-megapixel webcam. There is also an HDMI port for outputting video to an external display while the USB 3.0 port and two USB 2.0 ports allow you to connect various peripherals. Windows 8 (64-bit) is the installed operating system.
ASUS also offers a larger variant of the VivoBook. The ASUS VivoBook S400CA-DH51T 14.1” Notebook Computer shares the same look and design as the 11.6” VivoBook, but it has a larger 14.1” widescreen capacitive touch screen. The screen has a 16:9 aspect ratio and a 1366 x 768 native resolution, powered by integrated Intel HD Graphics 4000. The ASUS VivoBook S400CA houses a dual-core Ivy Bridge 1.7 GHz Intel Core i5-3317U processor with 4GB of DDR3 RAM, a 500GB 5400 rpm hard drive with a 24GB solid state drive cache, a Secure Digital media card reader, 10/100/1000 Mbps Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi and a front-facing HD webcam. There is also an HDMI port for outputting video to an external display as well as a USB 3.0 and two USB 2.0 ports for connecting compatible accessories. Windows 8 (64-bit) is the installed operating system.
All-in-One Desktop Computers
Perhaps the main benefactors of touch integration in Windows 8 (besides tablets) are all-in-one (AIO) desktop computers. While not as mobile as tablets or notebooks, AIO desktop computers can easily be moved from one room to another because they’re not tethered to big, bulky towers like traditional desktop computers. They also have larger screens than tablets and notebooks, which allow for better use of Windows 8 multi-touch gestures.
The ASUS ET2300INTI 23” All-in-One Desktop Computer may look like just a monitor, but it’s a high-performance desktop computer. It has a 23” widescreen LED-backlit display with IPS technology and 10-point multi-touch support. The capacitive touch screen has a 16:9 aspect ratio and a Full HD 1920 x 1080 native resolution, powered by an nVIDIA GeForce 630M graphics card with 1GB of discrete memory. This ASUS AIO desktop computer houses a quad-core 3.0 GHz Intel Core i5-3330 processor with 8GB of DDR3 RAM, a 1TB 7200 rpm hard drive, a slot-loading SuperMulti DVD burner, 3-in-1 media card reader, 10/100/1000 Mbps Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, an integrated webcam and microphone. There are also built-in stereo speakers. This ASUS AIO desktop computer has both HDMI-in and HDMI-out ports, which means it can output to a larger external display as well as receive a video signal and be used as a monitor. With four USB 3.0 ports, three Thunderbolt ports and an eSATA port, you’ll be able to connect to a variety of compatible devices. A wireless keyboard and mouse come included. Windows 8 is the installed operating system.
The HP ENVY 20-d030 TouchSmart All-in-One Desktop Computer is another high-performance desktop computer that utilizes the full potential of Windows 8. Since this HP ENVY AIO desktop computer has a smaller footprint than the aforementioned ASUS AIO desktop computer, it also has a smaller screen. This HP ENVY AIO desktop computer has a 20” widescreen LED-backlit capacitive touch screen with a 16:9 aspect ratio and a 1600 x 900 native resolution, powered by integrated Intel HD Graphics 2500. Housed inside the chassis of this HP AIO desktop computer is a 3.3 GHz Intel Core i3-3220 processor with 6GB of DDR3 RAM, a 1TB 7200 rpm hard drive, a slim-tray SuperMulti DVD burner, a 6-in-1 media card reader, 10/100/1000 Mbps Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, an integrated webcam and microphone. There are also built-in stereo speakers that support Beats Audio. For ports, it has two USB 3.0 ports and four USB 2.0 ports. A wireless keyboard and mouse are included. Windows 8 is the installed operating system.
The screens of computers are not the only things that have been integrated with Windows 8 touch support. Many peripherals and accessories now incorporate the multi-touch gestures found in Windows 8. From mice to touchpads, Microsoft’s new operating system has brought a wave of touch-enabled peripherals, which allow you to take advantage of the full Windows 8 experience.
If you want to keep it in the Microsoft family, you can purchase the Microsoft Sculpt Touch Mouse. It is a unique Bluetooth wireless mouse with a touch strip in place of the middle scroll wheel. The touch strip allows for four-way scrolling. Flick up and down as well as side to side to navigate with ease. Using Microsoft’s BlueTrack technology, this mouse has a blue laser instead of a red one, which allows it to be used on virtually any surface. Plus, the two AAA batteries can last up to nine months.
If you’re looking for a mouse with full touch support, the Microsoft Touch Mouse is better suited to your needs. This wireless 2.4-GHz mouse features a sleek black finish with a touch-sensitive surface that accepts all of the multi-touch gestures featured in Windows 8. Whether you’re using one, two or three fingers, you’ll be able to navigate through Windows 8 with ease. Like most Microsoft mice, the Touch Mouse also has Microsoft’s BlueTrack technology for better tracking. It runs on two AA batteries.
For a more portable option, the Microsoft Wedge Touch Mouse works well. Designed to be used with a tablet, this wireless mouse uses Bluetooth technology to connect to the device. It has a distinctive wedge shape with a touch surface for four-way scrolling. This mouse also uses Microsoft’s BlueTrack technology. It works with Windows 8 tablets, but it also plays nice with Android devices as well. It runs on a single AA battery.
If you want to venture into third-party territory, the Logitech Zone Touch Mouse T400 is a solid choice. It is a unique wireless 2.4-GHz mouse with a glass touch zone for smooth scrolling and navigation, using the simple intuitive motions of your finger. Plus, it can have up to an 18-month battery life, depending on usage, from just two AA batteries.
For a mouse with full touch support, the Logitech Touch Mouse T620 may be a better fit for you. It has a graphite finish with a full touch surface that allows you to swipe, scroll, tap and click. It uses 2.4 GHz wireless technology and can last up to 3 months on a single AA battery.
If you’re not feeling the mouse, you can opt for the Logitech Wireless Touchpad. This wireless 2.4-GHz touchpad features a large, smooth glass surface with embedded precision sensors, which is also resistant to fingerprints and scratches. It’s compatible with Windows 8 and allows up to 13 different multi-touch gestures that access different apps, including the Windows 8 Start screen. This touchpad can be charged via USB and can last up to a month on a single charge.
The Microsoft Sculpt Comfort Keyboard for Business is a 2.4 GHz wireless keyboard with Windows 8 shortcut keys. The contoured key set has a removable padded palm rest as well as a palm lift for a neutral wrist position. The space bar is split with a backspace function and there is a numeric keypad for date entry. This keyboard runs on two AAA batteries.
If you’re looking for a more mobile keyboard, the Microsoft Sculpt Mobile Keyboard might be a better choice for you. It uses Bluetooth wireless technology to connect to the device of your choice. Even though it’s compact in size, it’s still contoured for comfortable typing. It also has dedicated Windows 8 shortcut keys for easy navigation. This keyboard can get up to 10 months of battery life on two AAA batteries.
Tablets are great, but it can sometimes be a pain to type on their virtual keyboards. If you prefer a more tactile feel, the Microsoft Wedge Mobile Keyboard is a great choice. Using Bluetooth wireless technology, this compact keyboard is designed to be used with Windows 8 tablets and has full sized, soft-touch keys. There are dedicated media and Windows 8 hot keys. Also, it comes with a cover that can be converted into a stand for a more comfortable typing experience on your Windows 8 tablet. This compact keyboard runs on 2 AAA batteries.
Another great tablet keyboard is the Logitech Tablet Keyboard for Windows 8/RT and Android. This compact keyboard also uses Bluetooth wireless technology and allows you to use it up to 30 feet away from your tablet. There are several Windows 8 shortcut keys and one-touch media controls for easy navigation. This compact keyboard also comes with a carrying case that can double as a stand so you can type with ease while using your tablet. While ideal for use with a Windows 8 tablet, this compact keyboard can also be used with an Android tablet as well. It requires four AAA batteries.
Have you purchased a Windows 8 tablet, notebook or AIO desktop computer with a touch screen yet? How about the new touch-enabled mice and touchpads? How would you rate the overall multi-touch functionality of Windows 8? Do you feel the integration between the mouse, keyboard and touch are seamless in Windows 8? Let us know in the comments below!