Windows 8 hybrids take over IFA
August 30, 2012 // 11:14 a.m.
If there's one central theme to the IFA consumer electronics show in Berlin this week, it's Windows 8 hybrid systems with HP, Samsung, Asus, Sony and Toshiba all showing off devices which combine Intel's Ultrabook specifications with a multi-touch tablet.
First, HP: its Envy X2 device, not formally on show at IFA but unveiled at an event in San Francisco to coincide with the show, features an 11.6in screen which attaches to a keyboard and trackpad-equipped aluminium base in a manner just a little reminiscent of the Asus Transformer Android tablet. Where HP's design differs is in the physical means of connection: while the Asus Transformer relies on a sometimes fiddly mechanical latching system, the Envy X2 uses a series of magnets to automatically mate the display with the keyboard. As with the Transformer, the base includes its own rechargeable battery to boost the device's runtime.
When not connected to the Ultrabook-style base unit, the Envy X2 becomes a multi-touch tablet looking a lot like an oversized HP TouchPad. Unlike its webOS-based predecessor, however, the Envy X2 runs a fully-fledged version of Windows 8 - although, with an Intel Atom Clover Trail chip on board, a maximum of 64GB of on-board storage and just 2GB of RAM, don't expect the Envy X2 to be a suitable replacement for a full-power laptop.
As well as the Envy X2 hybrid, HP was showing off the Envy TouchSmart Ultrabook 4 and the Spectre XT TouchSmart Ultrabook, featuring 14" and 15.6" multi-touch non-detachable displays and, in the case of the Spectre, a Thunderbolt port for high-speed peripheral connectivity.
Sony, meanwhile, has used the IFA event to launch two hybrid devices in its Vaio range. The Vaio Duo 11 is, as the name suggests, an 11" tablet which uses a sliding mechanism to reveal a full chiclet-style keyboard - again, something which reminds us of the Asus Transformer Slider Android tablet - and the Vaio Tap 20 all-in-one desktop which can be folded flat for operation as a 20" touch-screen surface. Should you want to, that is.
Samsung, for its part, has confirmed the impending launch of the Series 5 and Series 7 hybrid devices, both featuring detachable Transformer-style keyboard and touch-pad docking stations. While the Series 5 is similar to the Envy X2, packing an Atom Z2760 processor just 2GB of RAM behind its 1366x768 display, the Series 7 is a very different beast: as well as boosting the display resolution to an impressive 1920x1080, the device includes a full-fat Intel Core i5-3317U processor and 4GB of RAM as well as a 128GB SSD. Both models also include Samsung's S Pen stylus, as seen on the Galaxy Note family.
Moving on to Toshiba, the company's Satellite U925t hybrid again borrows from the Asus Transformer Slider with a mechanism which hides the keyboard when not in use, but unlike most devices on show this week uses a larger 12.5in display. Additional premium touches include an Intel Core i5 processor, like the Samsung Series 7, and a 128GB SSD along with an Apple-inspired backlit keyboard.
Asus has also used IFA to show off one of its own devices, as well as providing the inspiration for many of its competitors', with the company's first Windows RT-based system. Dubbed the Vivo Tab RT, the device takes the hardware of the Android-based Transformer and swaps out the operating system for the ARM-friendly cut-down version of Windows 8. The Vivo Tab RT is being shown alongside the Taichi, a Windows 8-powered device which uses two displays on either side of the lid to create a standard folding mechanism which turns the tablet into a netbook.
Although Lenovo has not yet had its time in the sun, the company is expected to use IFA to showcase its IdeaPad Yoga hybrid device. One of the original Windows 8 launch devices, Lenovo is still cagey on release dates and pricing - and, indeed, has yet to formally state that the Yoga is anything more than a design prototype. Fingers crossed for more news following the company's press event later today.
Pricing for the multifarious hybrid devices is expected to range from around $700 to north of $1,000, with some manufacturers planning to launch alongside Microsoft's Windows 8 operating system in October and others merely aiming for a pre-Christmas release.