Last year, we watched as two-in-one convertible laptops battled for dominance, making 2013 the first round of the Windows hybrid wars. Laptop makers trotted out machines that twisted, turned, and bent over backwards to switch to tablet mode. Some were highly inventive and useful, while others (Acer’s Iconia W700 comes to mind) were well-intentioned but awkwardly implemented.
Over the past months, few convertibles have impressed us as much as Lenovo’s Yoga series, whose screens fold a full 360 degrees to bring the display and keyboard back to back, turning the laptop into a tablet, with handy “tent” and “stand” modes in between. Since testing the Yoga 13 in November 2012, we’ve reviewed several Yoga models, most recently giving an Editors’ Choice to the Yoga 2 Pro, with its fourth-generation “Haswell” processor and ultra-high-resolution 3,200×1,800 screen, in December 2013.
A Lenovo illustration of the Yoga series’ four operating modes.
One complaint those reviews have had in common, however, is that we haven’t been thrilled with the way the downward-facing keyboard hangs out in the breeze while using the Yoga in tablet mode. Although the keyboard’s disabled as the screen swings past 180 degrees, feeling the keys give way beneath your fingers as you hold the tablet is distracting and awkward.
Dell’s Yoga-like convertible, the XPS 11, addresses the exposed-keys issue by making the keyboard a flat surface, similar to the touch-sensitive slabs Microsoft sells for theSurface Pro. We found holding the XPS 11 in tablet mode less awkward than Lenovo’s approach, but when it came to comfortable typing, Dell’s hybrid was far from ideal.
Enter the Lenovo ThinkPad Yoga, which is not only the first Yoga to bear the Chinese computer giant’s famous business brand but the first with a so-called “lift ‘n’ lock” keyboard that elevates the keyboard deck as you open the lid past 180 degrees. The deck slowly rises until it’s flush with the (disabled) key tops, making the bottom of the tablet a flat surface—and, in our opinion, successfully and cleverly addressing the distraction caused by the keys protruding and giving way beneath our fingertips while using the device as a tablet or in stand mode.
So the question now becomes, how well does this ThinkPad hold up to the competition as a business-centric PC? In addition to the signature ThinkPad keyboard and TrackPoint and touch pad pointing devices, this Yoga is built around a powerful fourth-generation Intel Core i5 CPU, making it one of the better-performing ThinkPads to date. We also liked our review unit’s great-looking 1080p HD screen. Then, too, there’s the exceptional ThinkPad build and materials quality.
Our bottom line? We loved last year’s Yoga 2 Pro, except for the exposed keys in tablet and stand modes. The ThinkPad Yoga resolves that issue, but at a price. To get one configured similarly to our review unit, with a 1,920×1,080 display and stylus support, you’re likely to spend upwards of $1,500. Our test model rang up at $1,669, which is frankly a lot for a 12.5-inch notebook.
Still, this is one well-performing, well-built laptop. That it seconds as a tablet, with a couple of other useful positions between that and laptop mode, provides significant additional value, making this not only our new favorite ThinkPad, but also one of the better business-oriented convertible notebooks of early 2014.
Read the entire review at Computer Shopper.
It wasn’t that long ago that 8-inch Windows tablets were rare. In fact, prior to Windows 8 and its by-design touch capabilities, the few Windows tablets available in any form were inconsistent in terms of comfort and usability—and compact models just didn’t exist. (We consider tablets with screens 9 inches and under “compact” models, and between 9 and 11 inches “full-size” slates.)
In mid-2013, Acer was the first out of the 8-inch gate with its lukewarm Iconia W3 (soon to be supplanted by the Iconia W4, shown at CES 2014), and a few other major tablet makers have followed suit. Among them are Dell, with its recent release of the Venue 8 Pro, and Lenovo, with its $299-MSRP Miix 2 8, the subject of this review.
In many ways, the Miix 2 8 reminds us of the full-size (10.1-inch) Miix 10 tablet we looked at back in November of last year. However, in our tests, thanks to a much more powerful Intel Atom CPU (a member of the chip maker’s new “Bay Trail” family), this compact Miix ran circles around slates running on previous (“Clover Trail”) iterations of the Atom chip. (We’ll talk more about processors and benchmarks in the Performance section later on.)
Meanwhile, though: Yes, the latest Atom chip in this Miix (the 1.33GHz Intel Atom Z3740) is much faster. But there’s a caveat: The Miix 2 8 (and all other Windows slates built around that CPU, for that matter), still can’t execute 64-bit applications and are precluded from accessing more than 4GB of RAM. Because of that, these tablets typically ship with 2GB. Programs like Photoshop, for example, require more memory than that to execute most processes successfully.
According to Intel, 64-bit Bay Trail chips won’t be available until early 2014 (i.e., soon). So where does that leave this last round of tablets built around this Atom processor? As our charts in the Performance section attest, this Bay Trail chip is certainly faster than the “Clover Trail” Atoms we saw in a few tablets, but, alas, it still has most of the same shortcomings we discussed in our review of the Miix 10. According to several reports, support for 64-bit processing—in both Windows 8.1 and Android 4.4—on Atom processors should happen early this year. However, since you can’t update the RAM in this or most tablets, the point is somewhat moot. What you buy now is what you get.
You can buy the Miix 2 8 with either 32GB or 64GB of storage, for $299 or $339, respectively. This Miix is light, thin, and attractive—not to mention well-built and durable. Beyond the restrictions placed on it by virtue of its processor, it’s not a bad little tablet, especially considering it sells for under $300. The fact that it’s a full-Windows slate at that price and comes with a full license for the Home & Student version of the Office suite makes it an even better value.
Plus, you can accessorize this tablet pretty cheaply. For an additional $20, you can pick up Lenovo’s optional “smart” cover, which also comes with a stylus. The cover protects the tablet, of course, and it also lets you position the Miix 2 8 upright for video viewing or screen sharing…
Unlike the optional cover for the Miix 10, however, this one does not include a physical keyboard. (Our review unit did not come with the cover and stylus, so we weren’t able to review them.)
Overall, the Miix 2 8 felt good in our hands, performed reasonably well, and delivered decent battery life. Our primary concern? Bay Trail may support 64-bit code before too long, and that might be worth waiting for. Otherwise, this tab is a solid buy.
Read entire review at Computer Shopper.
With the debut of its radically thin and light XPS 11 ultrabook, Dell has taken direct aim at a couple of Lenovo’s convertible PCs, namely the IdeaPad Yoga 11S and Yoga 2 Pro. Like those two Yogas, the 2.5-pound Dell comes with a pair of articulating hinges that allow you not only to open the lid for laptop use, but to keep folding it back a full 360 degrees, until the screen and keyboard are back-to-back—thereby transforming the device into a tablet. Indeed, Dell likes to call the XPS 11 a tablet that can serve as an occasional ultrabook, while the slightly larger XPS 12 is vice versa.
While last year we lauded the Yoga’s overall design, Lenovo’s decision to include a full-sized, chiclet-style keyboard caused a couple of comfort issues. It made, first, for a very thick tablet. Second, we found that feeling the keys (even though they’re disabled) beneath our fingers as the “back” of the tablet was just plain, well, weird.
For the XPS 11, Dell addressed this issue by going with a flat, capacitive touch keyboard, similar to the thin, flat keyboard covers Microsoft sells for the Surface Pro. The upside of this approach is that you get a very thin ultrabook, but then you also get a keyboard that provides little to no feedback, not to mention a lot less comfort, during typing. In fact, the keyboard is such a drastic difference from what most laptop users are used to that it just may be this device’s Achilles’ heel. We’ll look at the keyboard in greater detail in the Features section.
Despite where you come down on the keyboard issue, the XPS 11 is otherwise one thin, light, attractive, and well-built 11.6-inch ultrabook. It comes with a nice-looking, high-resolution (2,560×1,440) screen, and it performed reasonably well on most of our benchmark tests.
Dell offers three different models of the XPS 11, starting with a fourth-generation Intel Core i3 processor, 4GB of RAM, and an 80GB solid-state drive for $999. The next model up comes with a Core i5 CPU and a 128GB SSD and sells for $1,249. Our review unit was the $1,449 flagship, which is the same as the previous except for a 256GB solid-state drive.
Mostly, we liked this laptop. Granted, the flat keyboard will undoubtedly turn off many would-be buyers, but then, this hasn’t been much of a deterrent for Surface Pro shoppers. Our opinion? It was bold of Dell to experiment like this. Whether you should buy the XPS 11 or not probably depends on whether you can live with the keyboard—so we suggest that, if you can, you give it a try before you buy.
Upon removing the XPS 11 from the box, we were impressed with its light weight and super-slim profile (0.4 inch at its thinnest point). Both the lid and the underside of the chassis are made up of a carbon fiber weave and aluminum frame that look and feel not only durable, but also quite elegant and substantial. It’s just a hair heavier than the 11-inch MacBook Air (2.4 pounds), and therefore very easy to carry.
Despite the system’s thinness, Dell managed to work in several expansion ports, including two full-size USB 3.0 ports. You’ll find one of these, the AC power jack, a mini HDMI port, the audio jack, a speaker vent, and the volume toggle located on the left edge. The other USB port, another speaker vent, a 3-in-1 memory card reader, and a security lock are all located on the right edge.
Read the entire review at Computer Shopper.
We’ve watched over the last year or two as mainstay business laptops gradually inch closer in design to their ultrabook competitors—as we saw when Lenovo bolstered the ThinkPad T430 with the thinner, lighter T430u and T431s. Now Toshiba is doing the reverse, making its ultrabook more businesslike.
Compared to its Portege Z835/Z935 predecessor, the Portege Z30 delivers more of the security and office-friendly features you’d expect to find on a business machine, such as a SmartCard slot and a docking connector for a $199 desktop port replicator shared with Toshiba’s Tecra enterprise laptops. However, since it’s an ultrabook, you also get an extra-slim profile and light body (albeit a fractionally heavier one—the Z835 was 2.4 pounds and bordered on feeling flimsy, the Z30 is 2.6 pounds and feels solid). Unlike some ultrabooks such as the Samsung ATIV Book 9 Plus that aspire to elegance and high-end looks, though, the Portege focuses more on practicality than glamour.
The Z30′s optional port replicator provides Ethernet, USB 3.0, and assorted video (VGA, HDMI, DisplayPort, DVI) ports.
You can buy the Portege Z30 in several different hardware configurations with your choice of processors, memory, and storage options. Our $1,279 review unit, the Z30-A1301, was built around a fourth-generation Intel Core i5 CPU, along with 8GB of system memory and a 128GB solid-state drive. Build-to-order options include a Core i7 processor, up to 16GB of RAM, and up to a 512GB SSD, as well as the Windows 8-suitable touch screen which our Windows 7 Professional test unit lacked.
One component you can’t change is this laptop’s mediocre, low-resolution 13.3-inch, 1,366×768 display, which frankly we found disappointing, especially considering that we liked nearly everything else about the Z30, right down to its relatively strong performance in our benchmarks and its exceptional showing in our demanding battery-rundown test.
Thinner, lighter, and faster than most competitors, the Portege Z30 is a well-built ultrabook with some nice extras and stellar battery life. Aside from its lackluster screen, we think it makes a great road companion.
Unlike high-end, consumer-grade ultrabooks, the 0.7-inch-thick Toshiba is not made of chic brushed aluminum. Instead, the Z30′s chassis is made from a very light and durable magnesium alloy that looks and feels like plastic, but it’s much lighter and tougher than that.
Furthermore, as you can see in the image at left, the new Portege appears, compared to several other ultrabooks we’ve reviewed, a little boxy, devoid of the sculptured bodies and sleek lines we see on so many consumer models. Instead of style and sex appeal, though, we say again that this laptop offers durability and business-friendly features, such as a fingerprint reader to help keep out intruders.
Any office-oriented laptop needs lots of connectivity and expansion options, and the Portege Z30 won’t let you down there. For example, it supports two types of video output, both VGA (RGB) and HDMI. You’ll find these two ports, along with the AC power jack and a USB 3.0 port with Sleep and Charge for recharging handheld gadgets, on the left edge. Meanwhile, on the right edge you’ll find an SD Card reader, another two USB 3.0 ports, a Gigabit Ethernet port, and a security lock slot.
The Z30′s left and right profiles and ports.
On the underside of the chassis, up near the front edge, are two stereo speakers. The pair, with the help of DTS Studio Sound software enhancement, played back with decent tonal quality and stereo delineation, but we weren’t able to get enough volume out of them.
A supplied software utility offers hi-fi fine tuning.
As you can see in the image above, the DTS utility provides extensive control over audio playback. When we turned DTS on, our test videos and music samples sounded full and rich.
Read the entire article at Computer Shopper.
Just as touch screens first appeared on deluxe, high-end systems after the debut of Windows 8 and rapidly moved into the mainstream, Intel’s fourth-generation “Haswell” processors have migrated from ritzy systems like Sony’s VAIO Pro 13 ultrabook to more affordable models in their six months on the market.
Notebooks don’t get more mainstream than the 15.6-inch desktop replacement class—or than Asus’ consumer VivoBook line. The VivoBook S500CA-DS51T we tested in May 2013 was a solid example, with a third-gen Core i5-3317U processor with Intel HD 4000 integrated graphics. Like the Acer Aspire R7 and other laptops with that configuration we’ve sampled, the S500CA offered ample performance for everyday computing tasks such as Web browsing, social media, office productivity, and content consumption, but fell short for high-end multimedia rendering tasks and resource-intensive gameplay.
But today, the $999-list VivoBook V551LB-DB71T flaunts not only a fast “Haswell” Core i7-4500U CPU but Nvidia GeForce GT 740M discrete graphics. While more expensive than the $679 model S500CA, the new VivoBook performs head and shoulders above its predecessor on most of our benchmarks, including the demanding battery-rundown test.
Still, we have some of the same complaints about this VivoBook as we did the last one. For example, as you’ll see below, it’s uncomfortably big and heavy to carry around with you. In addition, considering its price tag, we think it should provide a full 1080p resolution display, instead of the meager 1,366×768 pixels typically found on lower-cost or smaller-screened models.
Furthermore, while the Nvidia chip does boost performance enough to make this machine better than most for serious graphics tasks, such as working with high-resolution images in Adobe Photoshop, it does not deliver enough oomph for playing several of today’s toughest 3D gaming titles—at least not at or near their highest display quality settings, anyway. And that’s despite this laptop’s relatively low native resolution.
Overall, though, especially compared to several slightly cheaper systems, the V551LB is one of the strongest-performing mainstream touch-screen laptops we’ve seen, and the new Core i7 processor and discrete graphics definitely enhance its overall value.
With its classy-looking slim profile, single-hinge design, brushed aluminum lid and metallic texture on the keyboard and palm rest, this VivoBook reminded us of the high-end Asus Zenbook UX51VZ we looked at in February. On the other hand, at 15 inches wide, 10.2 inches from front to back, and weighing well over 5 pounds, it’s a lot clunkier than that ultrabook, or even the 4.3-pound VivoBook S500CA. Call it a cross between the company’s elegant ultrabooks and its entry-level machines.
As mentioned, the V551LB uses the same single screen hinge, spanning almost the full width of the laptop, as Asus’ Zenbook UX51, which is plenty sturdy enough for normal laptop operation. As we’ve seen a few times now, however, relying on the same hinge design for touch screens as for non-touch displays can be a bit problematic. Here, for example, when we touched the screen—especially when performing multi-finger gestures—the panel wobbled a little more than it should, which sometimes interfered with our accuracy.
Granted, it’s difficult to design a laptop hinge that doesn’t move a little when the screen is touched, and we’re not saying that this one travels unacceptably. We’ve seen worse, but we’ve also seen better—much better, such as the Ezel hinge on the Acer Aspire R7 we tested in June. The Ezel hinge allows you to position the R7′s screen so that it doesn’t wobble—period.
Read entire review at Computer Shopper.
In 2013, we’ve seen a lot of innovation in Windows-based tablets, in the form of hybrid/convertible tablets and laptops. One of the leaders in delivering new, cutting-edge devices has been Lenovo, notably in its line of Yoga convertibles, including the IdeaPad Yoga 11 and IdeaPad Yoga 11s we reviewed earlier this year, as well as the IdeaPad Yoga 13 we looked at in December of 2012. All three of these machines easily convert from laptop to tablet and back, via a 360-degree articulating hinge that lets you fold the keyboard fully behind the screen.
Now, the company has extended the Yoga brand to include two new Android devices, the $249 Yoga Tablet 8 and, the subject of this review, the $299 Yoga Tablet 10. (Our review of the Yoga Tablet 8 will go live shortly after this one.) At these prices, both models come with 16GB of storage. For a little extra ($50 for the Yoga Tablet 8, or $20 for the Yoga Tablet 10), you can get a storage bump to 32GB, which in both cases (but especially in the case of the Yoga Tablet 10), seems like a better value.
Lenovo’s Yoga approach is a little different here than in the Yoga laptops. Unlike in those, these new Android models don’t come with physical keyboards. The Yoga lineage, though, means you can still operate the tablet in various modes, or positions, here via a small kickstand that runs across the bottom rear of the chassis (when you hold the slate in wide, or landscape, orientation). We’ll look more closely at the Yoga Tablet 10’s modes on the next page.
Looking past the kickstand and the flexibility it affords in positioning the tablet, the Yoga Tablet 10 at the core is a midrange 10-inch Android tablet with a moderately strong feature set. Granted, its screen is low-resolution (1,280×800) and therefore far from the best on the market, but that’s not a surprise for the price. During our hands-on evaluation, we found that, for a 10-inch-class screen in a $299 slate, the display panel wasn’t half bad. In addition, the tablet performed reasonably well on our benchmark tests, the most impressive result being its nearly 14 hours on our demanding battery-rundown trial.
We also liked the Yoga Tablet 10’s built-in sound system. Couple the speakers with its decent display panel, and this Yoga plays movies well considering its $299 price tag. We should also add that Lenovo offers an optional, attachable Bluetooth keyboard dock (sold via its Web site for an additional $69.99) that allows you to use the slate as a sort-of Android-based laptop if you position it on a stable base.
Granted, the Yoga Tablet 10 doesn’t bring anything particularly new (aside from the kickstand and the positions it enables) to the Android-tablet market. But it’s well-built and attractive, and it performs relatively well—all for an on-target price.
Read full review at Computer Shopper.
We’ve seen so many twists in the convertible tablet market lately—literally and figuratively speaking, thanks to machines that bend, twist, and fold in every direction—that we find it a little refreshing when something a bit more straightforward and conventional, such as Samsung’s ATIV Tab 7, comes along. Then again, who would have believed just a couple of years ago that we’d be calling the ability to snap a laptop-grade tablet onto a keyboard docking station, essentially converting it to a fully functional laptop, “conventional?”
By “conventional,” we mean that this slate/keyboard hybrid device doesn’t break-dance, do screen backflips, or turn itself into a pretzel, like the Lenovo Yoga 11 or Dell XPS 12. Instead, when attached, its two parts mimic a laptop, and, when separated, you can use the screen portion as a tablet. The ATIV Tab 7 we tested is Samsung’s $1,199-list challenger to Microsoft’s comparably priced and closely configured Windows 8 tablet, the Surface Pro. (The screen on the Surface Pro is an inch smaller on the diagonal, at 10.6 inches.) Almost identical on the outside to its 11.6-inch, Atom-powered Samsung sibling (the $799-list ATIV Smart PC that the Korean electronics giant released earlier this year), this new ATIV tablet is quite different inside and is priced as a premium slate. Like its Atom brother, though, it just doesn’t look all that premium on the outside. It’s a bit too plasticky-feeling for our liking. But once we got past that, we discovered a lot more to this slate than initially meets the eye.
On the internal-component side of things, the ATIV Tab 7 runs on the same Intel Core i5 processor found not only in the Surface Pro but in several other competing hybrids, such as Lenovo’s IdeaPad Yoga and Toshiba’s Satellite U925T-S2120. Because of that, it performed nearly identically to the Surface Pro and many of its competitors.
In addition, also like on the Surface Pro, Samsung has thrown in a stylus—but not just any stylus. The ATIV Tab 7 takes advantage of the company’s highly successful Galaxy Note Android devices’ S Pen technology, which, as you’ll see in the next section, provides several helpful ways to increase productivity. S Pen just may be the best stylus technology available for tablets; we find it well surpasses the implementation of the pen on the Surface Pro.
Despite its somewhat ho-hum appearance, we liked this slate once we got it under the tips of our fingers and stylus. Though the high-resolution (1,920×1,080) screen, at 11.6 inches, was somewhat tight for manipulating some aspects of Windows with our fingers, the S Pen picked up the slack there. And the screen displayed our test videos and photographs gorgeously, while a pair of great-sounding front-facing speakers played our music and movie soundtracks better than most other tablets or even laptops. We’ll take all-around performance over sexy-looking any day.
Read entire review at Computer Shopper.
As the maker of the longtime industry standard in business laptops, Lenovo walks a fine line between the practicality expected from loyal ThinkPad users and the pressure to deliver the sexier, thinner, and more stylish products becoming increasingly popular in the consumer-centric notebook market. As we saw with the ThinkPad T431s recently, with each update, the Chinese computer giant appears to be on a mission to make the stalwart, matte-black-brick ThinkPad more fashionable.
But then, the T431s is a member of Lenovo’s higher-end T Series. The company also offers an affordable line of ThinkPads for small business, positioned between the enterprise models and its consumer IdeaPads. Starting at only $599 (before Lenovo.com’s ever-changing “eCoupon” discounts), the ThinkPad Edge Series needs to strike a balance between style and substance while meeting aggressive price points. Doing that while offering the features businesspeople need, as we saw while reviewing last year’s 15.6-inch ThinkPad Edge E530, is, well, difficult.
While we liked the E530 overall, we found its screen, sound, and Webcam quality lacking, to the point that our recommendation was tepid at best. Here, we’re looking at a refresh of last year’s 14-inch model—the ThinkPad Edge E431 ($647 after eCoupon as tested). As with the update of the T430s to the T431s, the E431 is slightly thinner and lighter than its predecessor, as well as a bit more stylish. Better yet, most of our complaints about last year’s Edge models have been addressed, making us much more enthusiastic about this ThinkPad.
The real news here, though, is the introduction of an all-new docking solution Lenovo has dubbed OneLink Dock, which, compared to previous Edge Series docking solutions, provides increased data throughput, as well as compression-free video. As discussed a little later in this review, this new system uses a proprietary data connection between the PC and docking station that Lenovo says not only increases USB, audio, video, and Ethernet transfer rates compared to USB docking, but does so with little to no impact on the laptop’s overall performance.
Speaking of performance, the E431 scored on the low side of average on several of our tests, and slightly above average on a few others. We were, however, disappointed in the Lenovo’s poor showing in our battery-rundown benchmark. The good news is that, unlike most competing models, this laptop lets you swap out the battery, which of course lets you double or triple the time between charges, depending on how many additional batteries you’re willing to buy. Lenovo also offers an optional longer-life, higher-capacity battery for the E431 on its Web site.
Slotting between the corporate ThinkPads and the IdeaPads for consumers, the ThinkPad Edge targets small offices and value hunters.
Short battery life aside, we liked this notebook. True to the ThinkPad brand, it came through where a business-centric laptop should in terms of build quality and security options. Then too, it comes with Lenovo’s AccuType keyboard, one of the best laptop keyboards available, as well as a highly accurate and easy-to-use touch pad. Granted, the Edge is not futuristic, sexy, or stylish, but as sturdy, business-ready laptops go, it provides excellent value.
Read complete review at Computer Shopper.
Lenovo’s popular business laptop line, the ThinkPad T Series, contains both a thin and light model, the ThinkPad T430s, and an ultrabook, the ThinkPad T430u. The first T Series to combine Lenovo’s high durability and business standards with Intel’s ultrabook requirements, the T430u represents an affordable alternative to Lenovo’s elegant ThinkPad X1 Carbon. Unlike the Carbon, though, the T430u is not—by ultrabook standards, anyway—all that light. In fact, it weighs slightly more than the T430s (4.1 versus 4.0 pounds).
Now Lenovo is giving slimline shoppers a third choice. Not only is the new ThinkPad T431s about half a pound lighter than the first T Series ultrabook (3.6 pounds), it has a few other features that make it more appealing, such as a 1,600×900-resolution display, up from the lowest-common-denominator 1,366×768-pixel panel of its predecessor.
In a further attempt to make the matte black brick ThinkPad more fashionable, Lenovo has also made a few cosmetic changes to the T431s. Though perhaps not as alluring as the brushed aluminum cases we’ve seen on other ultrabooks, this one’s semi-gloss lid, slender side profile, and thin display bezel make for an all-around more attractive laptop.
One change that ThinkPad loyalists may not like, however, is the new glass touch pad. Instead of three tactile buttons at the top of the pad, you now get the flat, no-button integration we see on many consumer-oriented laptops. TrackPoint pointing stick enthusiasts, we believe, will find this change a minus, because it’s now more difficult to distinguish between the left, right, and middle mouse buttons.
We were also a little disappointed with the Lenovo’s display. While the 14-inch screen displayed text, graphics, and images well enough for everyday business applications, it left something to be desired in overall brightness and vibrancy. In addition, its lack of in-plane switching (IPS) technology made for relatively narrow viewing angles—when viewing the screen at any angle other than straight on, the contents started to appear washed out and distorted.
Overall, though, the ThinkPad T431s, like most T Series models, is a strong business-class laptop. It’s built solidly, with the durability we’ve come to expect from ThinkPads, and it performed reasonably well on the majority of our benchmark tests. It’s thin, light, and comfortable to use, making it a solid travel companion. We don’t recommend it as a consumer-oriented media-consumption machine—there are a number of ultrabooks better suited for that. This ThinkPad means business, and we like it as a highly portable workstation.
See the full review at Computer Shopper.
With Windows 8, Microsoft has finally given us a truly touchable Windows, and the results have included some of the most fascinating experiments in computer design in recent memory. PC makers are bending over backwards to deliver crossover and hybrid devices that twist and turn this way and that, morphing between laptops and tablets, tablets and all-in-ones, and back again—all in an effort to achieve new levels of versatility, to accommodate the widest range of computing situations and scenarios.
One of the leaders in this march toward making our gadgets more clever and convenient has been the Taiwanese electronics giant, Acer. Back in January 2013, the company’s Iconia W700 was one of the first tablets to move away from the cookie-cutter detachable keyboard dock. A bold move, the W700 met with some skepticism—even here at Computer Shopper, we were a bit dubious at that slate’s unconventional approach to being a tablet that doubled as a desktop PC. We had to give Acer credit for trying something so unusual, though.
Well, Acer’s new notebook makes the W700 look ordinary.
The concept behind the Aspire R7—a laptop that doubles as a tablet—is nothing new. Several recent machines, such as Lenovo’s IdeaPad Yoga 13, come with screens you can manipulate into quasi-tablet positions. That’s a reasonably safe bet. The gamble Acer has taken this time hinges (pun intended) on the way the $999 Aspire’s touch screen attaches to its chassis.
The 15.6-inch screen sits on a uniquely designed hinge—Acer calls it an Ezel hinge—that permits you to move the panel into several positions or modes which change the laptop’s functionality in intriguing and useful ways. We’ll look at the Ezel hinge in some detail on the next page.
From left to right, the Ezel hinge’s four modes: easel, laptop, presentation, and tablet.
In an even bolder move, Acer has relocated the touch pad of the Aspire R7 from the usual position—in a palm rest or wrist rest below the keyboard—to a harder-to-access location above the keyboard. The company claims that, combined with the Ezel hinge’s ability to move the screen closer to the keys, repositioning the touch pad emphasizes and encourages use of the system’s touch screen and that pointing devices are no longer as necessary on touch-enabled PCs.
Perhaps. But as you’ll see in our discussion on the next page, moving the touch pad is a huge change that significantly affects the way you work. Some users, we fear, may consider this move a deal-breaker, as may serious typists who dislike the lack of a wrist rest.
The Ezel hinge hardware also makes the Aspire R7 a little thick and heavy, so it’s less than ideal for frequent travelers. Otherwise, with its third-generation Intel Core i5 processor, 1,920×1,080 display, and 500GB hard drive, this is a mid-range notebook comparable to several other 15-inch models we’ve seen lately.
The Aspire R7 does its impression of the Starship Enterprise
As laptops go, this one is well-built, has a great-looking screen, and performs as expected for a computer built around this CPU and supporting components—a bit better than expected in our battery-rundown test. Some users, especially consumers interested in media consumption, will find the innovative Ezel hinge highly useful and convenient—and the R7, in our opinion, a terrific value at $999. If, however, you type a lot, you may find the placement of the touch pad disconcerting, even a bit counterproductive.
See the entire review at Computer Shopper.