October 10, 2012, 8:30 AM — If you believe the rumors, today is the day that Apple will be sending out invitations to a press event on October 17th. That press event will be to introduce the iPad Mini.
But more interesting to me right now is the arrival of some Windows 8 tablets and hybrids. From what I'm seeing the Windows 8 'mobile' ecosystem is going to be wildly diverse, offering everything from pure tablets to what are basically laptops with touch screens and clever hinges. We'll see if that's a good strategy or not; Apple seems to thrive on offering very few options to its users and we'd seen Android's diversity work against it to some extent.
For today let's focus on the offerings of two companies: Acer and Lenovo. Acer has showed us two Windows 8 tablets thus far. The Iconia W510 starts at $500 which gets you a 1.5 Ghz dual-core Intel Clover Trail Atom Z2760 chip driving a 10.1" 1366 x 768 display, 2 GB of RAM and 32 GB of storage. $500 is for just the tablet; there's an optional keyboard dock that Acer hasn't priced yet. But if you want to spend $750 you can get a 64 GB W510 that comes with the dock. Given the traditional "an additional $100 doubles the storage" pricing of tablet vendors, we'll guess that the dock is going to cost in the range of $150. The W510 weighs 1.3 lbs and runs for 8 hours without the dock. With the dock (which has a 2nd battery) you double both the weight and the run time.
If you want more power, Acer also will be offering the W700. The 11.6", 1080P (1920 x 1080) W700 starts at $800 which gets you a 1.8 Ghz Intel Ivy Bridge i3 CPU with an integrated Intel HD 4000 GPU, 4 GB RAM and 64 GB of storage. It comes with a cradle and a bluetooth keyboard but those are two discrete items; the W700 doesn't have the 'laptop mode' that the W510 with keyboard dock offers. The W700 should also run for 8 hours on a charge. The big downside here is the weight: 2.3 lbs for just the tablet. You're going to be using that cradle regularly, I think. You can bump up the capabilities of the W700 by spending $900 to replace the i3 with a 1.8 Ghz i5, or $1000 for the i5 and 128 GB of storage.
Now let's move on to Lenovo which announced four Windows 8 devices yesterday. First up is the Lenovo IdeaTab Lynx, which is the closest of the four to a traditional tablet and quite similar to the Acer W510. The $600 Lynx is an 11.6" tablet with a 1366x768 display running a 1.8 Ghz Clover Trail Atom processor. It comes with 2 GB of RAM, 32 GB of storage and weighs 1.41 lbs. Once again we're looking at 8 hours of tablet time, or 16 with the optional $150 keyboard dock.
Next up is the ThinkPad Twist. The Twist is more laptop than tablet, but you can open the 12.5" 1366×768 screen all the way and twist it around to cover the keyboard if you like. $850 gets you an i3 CPU with Intel HD 4000 integrated GPU, but this model comes with a traditional (320 GB) hard drive. The Twist offers a slew of options; you can upgrade the drive to a 500 GB traditional unit or a 128 SSD. You can take the CPU to an i5 or i7, and RAM configurations run up to 8 GB. The Twist weight 3.5 lbs.
Last up for now are the Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 11 & 13. Both have a laptop form-factor where the display opens a full 360 degrees and the design is such that the keyboard half acts as a stand for when you want to use the Yoga as a tablet (they call this 'tent mode'). The Yoga 11 is a Windows RT (all the rest of the devices mentioned today run the full version of Windows 8) device running a quad-core Nvidia Tegra 3 processor. $800 gets you an 11.6" (1366x768) screen and 2 GB of RAM. Lenovo says the Yoga 11 includes 'up to 64 GB' of storage; it isn't clear how much $800 gets you. The Yoga 11 runs 13 hours on a charge and weighs 2.8 lbs.
The Yoga 13 is quite an upgrade from the 11. First of all you get the full Windows 8 experience and as the name implies, a 13" screen (13.3" actually, 1600×900). Inside is an Intel Core i5 or i7 with an integrated Intel HD 4000 GPU. Prices start at $1100 and the Yoga 13 can be configured with up to 8 GB RAM and up to 256 GB of storage (via SDD). Battery life is about 7 hours and the weight is 3.4 lbs.
So that's a lot of verbiage about the Windows 8 tablet/hybrid devices coming from just two manufacturers. You can imagine how flooded the market is going to be once the supply stream is really up and running. I'm guessing that the Windows 8 audience is going to gravitate towards systems like the Yoga series: primarily laptops with touch screens that can be used as media consumption devices during non-office hours (flip the Yoga's screen open 290 degrees or so, set it on a table keyboard side down and you've got a nice movie watching device).
For the pure Windows 8 tablet market to take off I think we need some maturation of the Metro app ecosystem first; cheaper tablets running Windows RT and a rich library of apps would be nice to see.
Anything here catch your eye? If I had to pick one of these devices, I think I'd go with the Acer W700 and that high resolution screen. Wish it were a bit lighter though. How about you? Leave a comment!
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