ASUS Taichi 21 hybrid Ultrabook (preview)

ASUS serves up a two-screen laptop that also doubles as a slate device

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ASUS Taichi 21 hybrid Ultrabook (preview)
  • ASUS Taichi 21 hybrid Ultrabook (preview)
  • ASUS Taichi 21 hybrid Ultrabook (preview)
  • ASUS Taichi 21 hybrid Ultrabook (preview)
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Pros

  • Use it as a tablet or as a notebook

Cons

  • Battery life is sure to be low

Bottom Line

The ASUS Taichi is an innovative device that can be used either as a laptop or as a tablet. It has two screens, both of which are Full HD and based on IPS technology, and it will be available in Intel Core i5 or Core i7 configurations.

Would you buy this?

Note: we have now completed a full review of the ASUS Taichi 21 Windows 8 hybrid Ultrabook.

One of the new form factors that will showcase Windows 8 is an 11.6in, dual-screen laptop from ASUS called the Taichi. The Taichi features a traditional clamshell notebook form factor, but the main difference is that its lid houses two screens: one conventional inward-facing screen, and one out-facing screen. The reason for this dual-screen setup is so the Taichi can be used both as a laptop, and as a tablet.

The Taichi's two screens are both based on IPS panel technology, so they have wide viewing angles, and they both feature a Full HD resolution. However, the inward-facing screen has a matte finish and a rather noticeable, wide bezel around it, while the out-facing screen is protected by scratch-resistant Gorilla Glass and is prone to reflecting light.

You can use the two-screen setup in different scenarios: you can duplicate the screens so they show the same content, you can have the out-facing screen show something different to the in-facing screen, you can have the out-facing screen switched off when using the laptop traditionally, or you can use the out-facing screen on its own in tablet mode with the lid closed. These modes can be invoked through a dedicated key on the keyboard — you can't miss it as it's blue rather than white — and changing modes isn't as seamless as it should be.

With two screens, the battery life of the Taichi takes a hit. How much of a hit will depend on the brightness levels of the screens and how often you use the second screen. ASUS claims that a comparable, traditional laptop could last up to five hours; the Taichi with two screens running will last only three hours. ASUS has put forth an idea that the Taichi can be used in a boardroom or any other type of scenario where a presentation can be given to colleagues sitting across from you without you having to turn the notebook around. Having experienced many of these types of meetings in which laptops are often turned around, we think this is a plausible scenario.

Two screens in the same lid allow the ASUS Taichi to be used as a laptop or as a tablet. The choice is yours.
Two screens in the same lid allow the ASUS Taichi to be used as a laptop or as a tablet. The choice is yours.

For us, the Taichi represents a decent hybrid device that can be used either as a laptop or as a tablet, without having to deal with docks or any other bits and pieces. Use the Taichi in its traditional laptop form for your document creation and productivity tasks, then close the lid to use the Taichi as a tablet for browsing the Web or viewing photos. One thing that we noticed in our brief viewing of the Taichi at its Sydney launch is that the screen did not rotate depending on how the tablet was held. We're hoping this is just a quirk with the unit we were shown because not being able to use the tablet in portrait form would be very inconvenient.

As for the touch responsiveness of the screen, we were able to easily bring up all of Windows 8's new bars and drag and close apps with the gestures that we are now used to. The only thing that is a concern is the number of fingerprints that end up being visible on the screen over time, and also the friction of the Gorilla Glass, which can sometimes make it awkward to perform gestures. But these are concerns for most touchscreen devices, not just the Taichi.

The Taichi will be available in mid-November in two configurations. The entry-level configuration will feature a third generation Intel Core i5-3317U based model with 4GB of RAM and a 128GB solid state drive, and it will cost $1599. The high-end version will have an Intel Core i7-3517U CPU, 4GB of RAM and a 256GB solid state drive, and it will cost $1899. Both will have Intel HD 4000 graphics, dual-band Wi-Fi with WiDi support, as well as two USB 3.0 ports and two cameras — an out-facing 5-megapixel autofocus camera and an in-facing 1-megapixel webcam. ASUS states a weight of 1.25kg.

The retail package, including the VGA and Ethernet dongles, and a stylus.
The retail package, including the VGA and Ethernet dongles, and a stylus.

Check out our Beginner's Guide To Windows 8 if you want to learn more about Microsoft's latest operating system.

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