Ultrabook™ and Windows 8: A Multi-Touch Experience

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In the past, consumers shopping for a portable computing solution were forced to choose between either a tablet with a touchscreen interface and a virtual keyboard or a more traditional clamshell notebook computer with a tactile keyboard. The tablet provided better portability and touchscreen capabilities, while the notebook computer afforded the higher performance needed for CPU and graphics-intensive applications. Recently however, Intel has asked the question, why should the consumer have to choose?

This dilemma has been solved through the introduction of the Ultrabook, which is designed to promote both portability and performance without sacrificing either. And with the release of Windows 8, Ultrabooks are now starting to become available with capacitive touchscreens that allow the user to take full advantage of the redesigned Start screen and a plethora of multi-touch gestures incorporated into the Windows 8 operating system.

Windows 8 provides a unique user experience that vastly differs from previous versions of Windows. The first thing you’ll notice when you turn on your Windows 8-equipped Ultrabook is the Start screen. Windows 8 greets you with a user-friendly, tiles-based interface. Tiles are not just enlarged desktop icons; they contain content, such as email headers, news headlines, weather forecasts, sports scores, social network notifications and more. All tiles are updated in real time as well, so you’ll be able to see notifications the second they arrive. Plus, you won’t have to open each app to find out what the notifications are since they are displayed in the tiles themselves. The tiles can also be resized and customized to fit your exact specifications, which is made even easier with the touchscreen interface of an Ultrabook.

In fact, these new touchscreen interfaces are the foundation of the successful marriage between Ultrabooks and the Windows 8 operating system. If the Ultrabook you purchased, or are thinking of purchasing, has a touchscreen, you will be able to utilize Windows 8 to its full potential. This is because Microsoft has integrated a plethora of multi-touch gestures into Windows 8 that are designed to work in conjunction with your Ultrabook keyboard and touchpad or mouse. Pushing for a more hands-on approach, you will be able to use your mouse, keyboard and multi-touch gestures to transition and navigate through the intuitive Windows 8 interface quickly and efficiently. For example, you can use the traditional tactile keyboard to type out long, worded documents such as emails. You can use the mouse or integrated touchpad to select large photos or images. And, you can use the multi-touch gestures to quickly switch between applications for improved workflow and seamless navigation.

The new Windows 8 workflow also focuses on the introduction of iOS- and Android-style apps, many of which require a fast Internet connection. Luckily, most Ultrabooks provide a fast wireless Wi-Fi connection, so you can enjoy a mobile workflow without sacrificing connection speed. As for hard drive storage capacity and data transfer rates, the Ultrabook utilizes the solid-state drive, or SSD. A solid-state drive employs no moving parts, which allows it to last longer than its mechanical hard disk drive counterparts. An SSD also moves much faster than a more traditional hard drive, allowing you to reap the benefits of faster boot times and speedier transitions as you switch from one app to the next. Many Ultrabooks with solid-state drives can also resume/wake from sleep mode or hibernation mode quicker than their predecessors—usually for a duration of somewhere between 2 and 10 seconds. This allows you to get back to Windows 8 and your work or current project without any unnecessary load times.

Lenovo is one manufacturer that decided to bridge the tablet/notebook gap and make an Ultrabook that could also double as a mobile tablet. They succeeded with the Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 13 Ultrabook. The Yoga 13 has a 13.3-inch HD+ IPS capacitive touchscreen display with 10-point multi-touch support. The multi-touch display features LED backlighting and in-plane switching technology (IPS), which provides a wide 178-degree viewing angle and uniform color. It also has a 16:9 aspect ratio and a HD+ 1600 x 900 native resolution. The HD+ resolution will allow you to play high-definition 720p content natively. What’s also unique about the Yoga 13 is its 360-degree multi-mode hinge design, which lets you transition the Yoga 13 into different modes.

Thanks to its unique 360-degree multi-mode hinge design, the Lenovo Yoga 13 can toggle between four different mobile computing options. This provides a variety of interactive tablet or notebook setups. The Yoga 13’s Laptop mode is the traditional notebook layout in which you use the tactile keyboard and mouse to navigate through the Windows 8 operating system.

If you want to view photos and movies, you can switch to the Stand mode. Stand mode is achieved by pushing the screen past 180° so it comes up on the other side—but not all the way to 360°. In Stand mode, the screen looks more like a TV screen or a digital picture frame. This setup allows you to watch the media of your choice with little to no touch interactions or interruptions.

The Yoga 13’s Tent mode is exactly what it sounds like. This setup is achieved by standing the Yoga 13 on its two edges with its hinge at the highest point. Tent mode is best utilized for presentations using graphs or PowerPoint slides.

The fourth mode available with the Yoga 13 is Tablet mode, which can be achieved when you push the screen all the way back to 360° so it rests against the backside of the keyboard. This mode transforms the Yoga 13 from a traditional notebook-style Ultrabook into a true multi-touch tablet. In this mode, you’ll be able to take full advantage of the 13.3-inch capacitive touchscreen, as well as the touch-friendly tiles and apps employed by the Windows 8 operating system.

The Lenovo Yoga 13 is available in two variants. The Yoga 13 can either come with a dual-core Ivy Bridge 1.8 GHz Intel Core i5-3337U processor or a dual-core Ivy Bridge 2.0 GHz Intel Core i7-3537U processor. The Yoga 13 can also have either 4GB or 8GB of 1600 MHz DDR3 RAM. For media, data and file storage, the Yoga 13 affords a choice of either a 128GB solid-state drive or a 256GB solid-state drive. Both variants use integrated Intel HD Graphics 4000. They both also have built-in 2-in-1 media card readers, 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi connectivity, Bluetooth 4.0 wireless technology, an integrated webcam and a built-in microphone. There are also stereo speakers with Dolby Home Theater v4 technology built right into the unit. For wired connectivity, the Yoga 13 offers a USB 3.0 port, a USB 2.0 port and an HDMI port for outputting high-definition video to another display, such as an HDTV or an external LCD monitor. Of course, both variants of the Yoga 13 come installed with Microsoft’s innovative Windows 8 (64-bit) operating system.

While Lenovo decided to make it work with a single display, ASUS took a different approach; they simply added a second screen to their new Ultrabook. The ASUS TAICHI 21 Series 11.6-inch Ultrabook has dual 11.6-inch displays. That’s right, two screens on a single Ultrabook. The TAICHI 21 has a traditional 11.6-inch laptop screen located in its normal position. However, ASUS added an additional 11.6-inch capacitive multi-touch display on the outside where the lid is. This way, you can use the TAICHI 21 as a regular notebook computer and then simply close the lid to transform it into a true tablet form factor, using the outer screen as the tablet’s capacitive touchscreen. By the way, you can also use both screens independently from each other… at the same time. That means that one person can use the TAICHI 21 as a regular Ultrabook while the another person sits on the opposite side and utilizes the tablet style touchscreen.

The inner screen is an 11.6-inch widescreen LED-backlit display—it doesn’t have touch capabilities, but it does have a 16:9 aspect ratio and Full HD 1920 x 1080 native resolution. The outer screen is also an 11.6-inch widescreen LED-backlit display, but this screen is a capacitive touchscreen with 10-finger, touch-gesture support. The outer touchscreen also provides 256 levels of pressure sensitivity as well as handwriting recognition, which you can take full advantage of, thanks to the included stylus.

As mentioned before, the two screens can be used independently of each other. They can also be used in conjunction with a variety of applications. For example, if you’re giving a presentation, you can use the outer screen to display your PowerPoint slide, while the inner screen simultaneously allows the presenter to switch between slides. Both of the TAICHI 21 displays feature a 16:9 aspect ratio with a Full HD 1920 x 1080 native resolution. Both are also IPS (in-plane switching) displays that are powered by integrated Intel HD Graphics 4000.

The TAICHI 21 is available in two variants. You can get it with a dual-core Ivy Bridge 1.7 GHz Intel Core i5-3317U processor or with a dual-core Ivy Bridge 1.9 GHz Intel Core i7-3517U processor. For your storage needs, the TAICHI 21 comes with either a 128GB solid-state drive or a 256GB solid-state drive. Both TAICHI 21 variants come with 4GB of onboard DDR3 RAM, 10/100 Mb/s Fast Ethernet, 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi connectivity, Bluetooth 4.0 wireless technology, an integrated webcam and a built-in microphone. The TAICHI 21 also features stereo speakers with ASUS SonicMaster technology. For flexible wired connectivity options, the TAICHI 21 offers dual USB 3.0 ports, a VGA port and an HDMI port, which allows you to output Full HD1080p video to an external display, such as an HDTV or a separate computer monitor. Both TAICHI 21 Ultrabooks come outfitted with a Windows 8 (64-bit) operating system.

If you’re looking for a touch-capable Ultrabook that has a resolution larger than 1080p, Toshiba can help. The Toshiba KIRAbook 13.3-inch Ultrabook has a WQHD 13.3-inch PixelPure LED-backlit display with a 16:9 aspect ratio and enormous 2560 x 1440 native resolution, powered by integrated Intel HD Graphics 4000. And, thanks to an impressive 221 pixels per inch (ppi), the KIRAbook’s display provides up to 90% more pixel density than traditional high-definition resolutions. The higher-than-1080p resolution provides sharp text, detailed picture quality and vibrant color.

The KIRAbook’s 13.3-inch PixelPure display also supports capacitive-touchscreen capabilities with 10-point touch support. This multi-touch, high-resolution screen technology will allow you to take full advantage of the Windows 8 touch-based tiles and apps—both in terms of visuals and interactivity. Plus, since this Ultrabook is designed for portability and its multi-touch display is bound to come into contact with your fingers and possibly an optional stylus (sold separately), it is fully protected by a scratch-resistant Corning Concore Glass panel for added durability. Corning Concore Glass features an ultra-thin sheet of ion-exchanged glass that affords optimal damage resistance, while retaining both strength and accurate touch sensitivity.

The Toshiba KIRAbook is available in two variants. You’ll be able to get one with either a dual-core Ivy Bridge 1.8 GHz Intel Core i5-3337U processor or a dual-core Ivy Bridge 2.0 GHz Intel Core i7-3537U processor. Both have 8GB of 1600 MHz DDR3 RAM, a 256GB solid-state drive, a multi-format digital media card reader, 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi connectivity, Bluetooth 4.0 wireless technology, an integrated webcam and a microphone. There are also built-in Harman/Kardon stereo speakers with DTS Studio Surround technology. Plus, like the other touch-enabled Ultrabooks in this article, both variants of the Toshiba KIRAbook are equipped with the touch-friendly Windows 8 (64-bit) operating system as well.

If you would rather just have a simple Ultrabook without any fancy, switchable form-factor modes or unique hinges, the Acer Aspire S7 Series 13.3-inch Ultrabook may fit your needs. The 13.3-inch LED-backlit display of the Acer Aspire S7 provides a 16:9 aspect ratio and Full HD 1920 x 1080 native resolution. The display also provides capacitive multi-touch control with 10-point touch support and it’s powered by integrated Intel® HD Graphics 4000.

The Acer Aspire S7 Ultrabooks are available with a dual-core 1.7 GHz Intel Core i5-3317U processor, a dual-core 1.8 GHz Intel Core i5-3337U processor or a 2.0 GHz Intel Core i7-3537U processor. For storage, you can choose from a 128GB solid-state drive and a 256GB solid-state drive. All four variants of the Acer Aspire S7 Ultrabook have 4GB of onboard DDR3 RAM, a 2-in-1 digital media card reader, 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0 wireless technology, an integrated webcam and a microphone. There are also built-in stereo speakers. Each of the Aspire S7 Ultrabook configurations comes with the touch-friendly Windows 8 (64-bit) operating system installed.

Have you purchased an Ultrabook with Windows 8 recently? Let us know about your experience in the Comments section, below! For more information on these configurable computers, speak with a B&H sales professional, in our New Yiork SuperStore, over the phone at 1-800-606-6969 or online via Live Chat.

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Warning: Windows 8 is the most frustrating OS with the poorest UX I could imagine without a touch-screen...  I wouldn't go near it with a 10 foot pole.