In-Depth

Windows 8.1 Hybrid Laptop-Tablet Roundup

With new processors and Windows 8.1 now available, PC makers are offering the widest assortment of systems to date.

If the Microsoft Surface Pro 2 isn't for you, but you're in the market for a new portable PC that runs Windows 8.1 Pro or Enterprise, the choices from several of the leading traditional suppliers are more staggering than ever. So are the sizes and shapes.

Many are mini-Ultrabooks based on Intel's new fourth-generation Core processor, code-named Haswell. Others are smaller and inexpensive options that offer the complete Windows and Office experience but run on low-power Atom processors and will compete with iPads, Kindle Fires and Galaxies as holiday gifts. Here's a small sampling of some of the latest new hybrid tablet-laptops designed to take advantage of the new Windows 8.1:

Dell Inc. Venue 8 Pro
Dell's new small form-factor tablet has an 8-inch IPS display powered with an Intel Atom Z3740D processor, 2 GB of RAM and available with 32 or 64 GB SSDs. In addition to standard 802.11 a/b/g/n/ Wi-Fi , options include 4G LTE or EVDO connectivity. The Venue 8 Pro has a 1.2 MP HD Webcam in front and a rear 5 MB camera. It weighs just .87 pounds. Loaded with Office Home and Student, an optional keyboard is available. Pricing starts at $299.

Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet 2
Targeted at business users, this 10.1-inch tablet has an Intel Atom Processor Z2760, a 64 GB SSD and 2 GB of RAM. It has a 2MB front-facing camera and an 8 MB rear camera. To provide enterprise security, it has a TPM chip, Computrace mobile and Absolute Manage support. Weighing 1.25 pounds, the company claims it gets 10 hours on a single charge. Available with optional integrated 4G communications, pricing starts at $566.

Hewlett Packard Co. Spectre 13 Ultrabook
HP's newest hybrid laptop-tablet is also based on Intel's new i5 Haswell processor. It's available with 128 or 256 SSDs, up to 8 GB of RAM and has a claimed battery life of nine hours. It has two USB 3.0 ports, an HDMI output, and a 13.3-inch LED-backlit display (2560x1440). The 3.2-pound device starts at $999.99.

ASUSTek Computer Inc.
Transformer Book T300 One of Asus' latest hybrids has a 13.3-inch HD IPS (1920x1080) display with a detachable keyboard. Powered by Intel's new Haswell processor, the Transformer Book T300 is available with Core i3, i5 or i7 CPUs. This 2.4-pound device averages eight hours of battery life. A fully loaded system with an i7 processor, 500 GB hard disk drive and 128 SSD costs approximately $1,300.

Dell Inc. Updates XPS Line
Dell's new XPS 11 hybrid Ultrabook is thin and compact and designed to convert from a tablet to laptop via a 360-degree rotating keyboard and a 2560x1440 HD display. Loaded with an Intel Haswell i5 processor, this 2.5-pound unit surely will be a viable alternative to the Surface Pro 2. Dell updated its larger 13.3-inch XPS 13, which weighs three pounds and is available with a Haswell i7 processor. Both start at $999.99. The largest in the group, the XPS 15, is the fastest in the XPS line to date with an i7 CPU and the new NVidia GeForce GT 750M 2GB graphics adapter. It starts at $1,499.99.

Sony Corp. of America VAIO Flip PCs
Sony has added the new Flip PC portfolio of tablet PCs to its VAIO line of PCs. Available with 13.3-inch, 14-inch and 15.5-inch HD (1920 x 1080) IPS 10-point touchscreen displays, multiple processor options are available including Intel Core i3-4005U, Core i5-4200U and Core i7-4500U. The VAIO Flip PC, Tap 11 Tablet PC is priced at $1,099, and various other larger systems are priced in the $799 range.

Acer Inc. Upgrades Iconia Tablet
Acer Inc. earlier this year introduced one of the first small form-factor Windows 8 tablets, the Iconia W3. Now the company is offering an upgrade, the Iconia W4, powered by Intel's new fourth-generation Atom 1.8 Ghz processor. In addition to improved performance, its battery is rated at 10 hours compared to the eight-hour-limit of its predecessor. The .91-pound device is available with 32 and 64 GB SSDs, priced at $329.99 and $379.99, respectively. An optional keyboard is available.

About the Author

Jeffrey Schwartz is editor of Redmond magazine and also covers cloud computing for Virtualization Review's Cloud Report. In addition, he writes the Channeling the Cloud column for Redmond Channel Partner. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreySchwartz.

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