If you’ve played around with Windows 8 a bit, you know it’s one of those things that needs to be touched. A mouse is fine, a trackpad comes along, but don’t call it that—the subway begs to be touched. Live Tiles and the long Start screen are designed for just that, and nothing really satisfies.
While manufacturers haven’t exactly flooded the market with touch-enabled laptops, there are already some good options out there. A crush of touchable Windows 8 machines are expected at CES early next year, but for those shopping this holiday, we’ve cherry-picked the best touch-enabled, Windows 8 laptops around.
Since the market is not yet saturated, it seems that each manufacturer has chosen a specific type of consumer to pursue. This means, for the manufacturer agnostic, it is likely a solid choice for your use case. Whether you need something basic to poke and prod, or need a sleek and distinctive Ultrabook, someone’s got you covered.
Asus is aiming to be dollar-conscious this holiday season with its new family of VivoBooks. Their Q200, S400 and S500 ultrabooks start at $499, $599 and $649. Individually, those touchable screens are 11.6, 14.1 and 15.6 inches. Those starting prices get users an i3 processor that’s upgradeable to the i5 and i7. The VivoBook family takes its cues from Asus’s successful ZenBook, but forgets to bring along a 1080p screen and SSD. These omissions are forgivable considering the price of these ultrabooks.
Sony’s T13 ultrabook starts at $769 at 13.3 and 14.1 inches. The T13 has a concise aesthetic that is only accentuated by the sharp corners on the palm and lid. While the jury is out on how comfortable those corners are, they help the machine cut a flamboyant figure.
Reasonable opening price can quickly jump north of $1000. The T13 is a very upgradeable machine. The aluminum-clad ultrabook can be paired with an i7 processor, a half-terabyte SSD, 8GB of RAM, and a Microsoft signature-like clean install of Windows 8 that Sony calls Fresh Start. This raises the price slightly, up to $2069. It is an expensive laptop with 1366×768 display.
That’s where the HP Specter XT TouchSmart comes in. This 15.6-inch machine will launch in December for a whopping $1399, but its spec sheet is mighty impressive. Screen resolution is 1920×1080. HP’s pre-order site for the computer indicates that the base model will be equipped with an i7.
The Specter XT includes a 2-year warranty and all of HP’s goodies for its prized line of top-end computers like Photoshop Elements and a full copy of Premiere Elements. It will also be HP’s first machine with a Thunderbolt port.
Speaking of ports, the Specter XT 3.0 comes with a pair of USB ports, backed by a 2.0. Like many HP products these days, the Ultrabook comes equipped with Beats Audio. The machine’s all-aluminum and magnesium body is also dangerously attractive.
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The Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 13 is a fairly standard ultrabook by specs alone. Two things set this PC apart, its name and the reason it is named. The Yoga’s hinge allows the screen to fold all the way back, enabling a variety of form factors that weren’t possible (or useful) before. It’s easy to see that tilting the hinge back and using the Yoga as a tablet would have drawbacks.
The user will finally hold the keyboard as the ‘back’ of the tablet. Not to mention that a 13-inch tablet might not be that easy on the wrist. The other use case, the T-P Case, leaves the 1600×900 screen in a stable spot that would be perfectly angled for watching a movie or playing Fruit Ninja.
The IdeaPad Yoga 13 with an i3 processor, 4GB of RAM, and a 128GB SSD starts at $999. It’s worth upgrading to the i7 for the hungry. An 11-inch model is coming soon, but will run Windows RT, except outside the criteria for this list.
Dell XPS 12 is expensive. It starts at $1199, but packs specs to match. The i5 processor inside is backed by 4GB of RAM, 128GB of SSD, and a 12.5-inch 1080p panel. The real trick of the XPS 12 dates back to Dell’s Inspiron Duo from 2010. The screen flips inside the hinge, turning the PC into an actual tablet on demand. In what was a neat trick for the Atom-powered and Windows 7-equipped Duo, it’s a real asset to the XPS 12 and Windows 8. Seriously, it was closer to your reporter’s next laptop. The deal breaker was the lack of an SD card reader.
Hewlett-Packard has a third take on how to get extra utility out of a laptop form factor. Their Envy x2 is an 11.6-inch laptop that looks like a classed-up netbook. Indeed, it runs the latest Intel’s Atom processor, so the similarities are much more than skin deep. Screens are a mixed bag. It’s IPS quality, but only clocks in at 1366×768. The real appeal of the screen is that it falls apart. This laptop actually turns into a tablet, so you can leave the keyboard behind.