Christmas round-up: the best new hybrid Ultrabooks and Windows tablets

Touchscreens are finally finding their way onto consumer Windows devices. Here are some of the best laptops and tablets to choose from this Christmas

With the gift-buying season well and truly in full swing, it's a great time to buy a new computer and, in particular, a new hybrid-type Ultrabook that runs Windows 8. The new hybrids that we've reviewed recently offer touchscreen input in addition to the keyboard and touchpad, and they provide a great way to interact with Windows 8's Start screen and full-screen, 'Modern UI' apps. Indeed, the term 'hybrid' refers to a device that can be used both as a tablet and a notebook computer. Even though a couple of the touchscreen-enabled notebooks we've reviewed can't strictly be used as tablets, we've included them anyway as they are still worth considering.

There is plenty of choice in the notebook market thanks to each vendor having a different take on what a hybrid should be and how it should work. If you get a chance, go into a store and play with the different styles that are available, this way you'll be able to find the form factor that suits you best. We have our own favourite, but it may not end up being your favourite; it's always best to try before you buy. So far, we have seen models that offer new, exciting and, for the most part, practical designs.

Dell's XPS 12 convertible Ultrabook is among our favourites. It has a screen that's mounted inside a frame and it can flip 180 degrees within this frame to turn an otherwise regular laptop into a tablet device.

Toshiba has come up with a device that shuns the clamshell form factor altogether. Its Satellite U920T is a 'slider'. The keyboard is hidden behind the out-facing screen on top of it, until you slide it up to expose it. The screen can then be tilted so that the device can be used as a regular laptop.

ASUS has created a hybrid Ultrabook with the fewest moving parts. Its Taichi21 is basically a regular laptop, but with one important distinction: it has two Full HD screens mounted in its lid. You can use this Hybrid as a regular laptop, but when you close the lid, it can turn into a very useful tablet device.

Acer's Aspire S7 Ultrabook isn't technically a hybrid because it can't be used purely as a tablet. It's a regular clamshell notebook with a touchscreen, which means it can't turn into a tablet. However, it's a beautiful little unit that's light, attractive, strong, and the touchscreen can be used efficiently to browse the Start screen and other aspects of Windows 8. It's definitely one of our favourite Windows 8 models so far.

The ASUS Vivo Book F202 is also a clamshell notebook with a touchscreen, and it's aimed at those of us who don't want to spend too much money on a new computer. In fact, at $499, it's a great value computer for anyone who wants a touchscreen laptop for the home or for the classroom. It is a bit sluggish though.

While it's not an Ultrabook, it would be remiss of us not to mention the Microsoft Surface RT. It's a well built and enjoyable tablet device to use, but it uses the version of Windows called RT. This means that it can't run all of the current applications that you are used to running on your regular laptop or desktop computer. It will only run apps that are downloaded through the Microsoft Windows store. It's strictly designed to be a tablet device for users who don't want to join the Android and iOS camps.

ASUS also has its Vivo Tab RT tablet, which runs Windows RT. It's not quite as thin or as sleek as the Surface RT, but it's a different perspective on the tablet design. It has a good screen, decent speakers (for a tablet) and it comes with a keyboard dock that allows for some long-form typing. The dock's other purpose is to give this tablet device more battery power. It has its own battery that can boost the overall longevity of the unit to a stated 15 hours!

Browse through the round-up below and click on each product to read its full review.

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Dell XPS 12 convertible Ultrabook

The Dell XPS 12 convertible laptop is a great hardware solution for those of you who want both laptop and tablet functions in the same unit. It doesn't compromise when it comes to processing power, and the way it can be converted from laptop to tablet is very easy. However, we did experience some problems with the wireless service in Windows 8, as well as a few other niggles, which we hope are only present on our test model.

  • Review Date:
  • Reviewer:
  • Manufacturer:
  • 5th Nov., 2012
  • Elias Plastiras
  • Dell
  • Rating:
  • Price:
  • Pros:
  • Provides a great tablet experience
  • The screen
  • Build quality
  • Cons:
  • Windows 8 wireless service problems
  • No SD card slot
  • Feels heavy for its size
  • VGA and Ethernet dongles not supplied
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