A Beginner’s Guide To Windows 8 Computers

windows-8-screenshotLove it or hate it, Microsoft’s latest operating system is here to stay; at least for the time being. Windows 8 promised to bring about great changes in the ways users could interact with their personal computers, and on that end, the OS delivered. Taking the best things about touch-centric mobile OSes and applying them to traditional PC OSes, Microsoft’s Windows 8 attempts to bridge the gap between all three basic types of PCs: The desktop, the laptop, and the tablet.

Unlike the dismal Windows ME and Windows Vista, Windows 8’s (hopefully just early) unpopularity doesn’t stem from glaring and unforgiveable technical problems. Instead, the slow adoption comes from the fact that most people are just reluctant to devote too much time to the unfamiliar. It is only after something has become the de facto standard that people feel safer in investing whatever it is they have to invest in something new.

While analyzing and predicting the market isn’t something I’m particularly adept at, I do hope that the coolness of the following Windows 8-primed computers – both in form and function – will eventually turn the tide towards the new OS’s favor.

The Front-and-Center Harbingers

Even before Windows 8 entered the casual consumer market, convertible laptops had already taken center stage in showing what the future of laptop designs could be. Convertible laptops are portable computers which can switch from being traditional-working PCs for when tasks need the complete functionality of programs, to tablets when maximum portability is a must. Aside from displaying what Windows 8 PCs are capable of, they also demonstrate the all-encompassing philosophy of their native OS.

·         Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 13

  • CPU: 1.7 GHz Intel Core i5
  • RAM: 4 GB 1,600 MHz DDR3
  • Storage: 500 GB 5,400 rpm HD
  • GPU: Intel HD 4000 (integrated)

One of these convertibles that turned a lot of heads early on was Lenovo’s IdeaPad Yoga 13. Taking a cue from its namesake, the Yoga’s defining design characteristic allows the display half of its chassis to bend all the way backwards to complete its transformation into a tablet. The quirky design also serves another purpose: The user can also use the keyboard half of the chassis as a makeshift stand while the convertible is in tablet mode.

·         Toshiba Satellite U925t

  • CPU: 1.7 GHz Intel Core i5
  • RAM: 4 GB 1,600 MHz DDR3
  • Storage: 128 GB SSD
  • GPU: Intel HD 4000 (integrated)

While seemingly nondescript to the uninitiated as far as convertibles go, the Satellite U925t is actually noteworthy in that it is one of the few sliders (convertibles that switch modes by sliding their screens upwards to reveal their keyboards) that still retain their touchpads. It might not seem like much, but trust me: Go one day without that laptop part and your laptop usage will start to feel crippling.

·         Dell XPS 12

  • CPU: 1.9 GHz Intel Core i7
  • RAM: 4 GB 1,333 MHz DDR3
  • Storage: 256 GB SSD
  • GPU: Intel HD 4000 (integrated)

The Dell XPS 12 is another convertible with a peculiar design; this time in the form of a screen that swings lengthwise around its hinges. The design lends more usability to its laptop mode, though, as turning the screen around while the chassis is still open lets people opposite the user view what said user is currently doing; this is in contrast to the Yoga’s aforementioned tablet-with-a-stand mode.

·         Microsoft Surface (Windows RT)

  • CPU: 1.3 GHz NVIDIA Tegra 3
  • Storage: 32 GB / 64 GB NAND flash memory
  • GPU: 520 MHz NVIDIA GeForce ULP (integrated)

Microsoft itself seeks to enter the hardware arena by debuting its own convertibles in the Microsoft Surface line. For now though, only the Surface RT (sporting the Windows RT OS, of course) has been released, with the Surface running on the full-fledged Windows 8 to arrive sometime in January next year.

The distinctive hardware feature of both Surface versions is the detachable keyboard. Specifically, there are two variants of this: The touch keyboard and the type keyboard. The former is a thin pressure-sensitive laptop component, while the latter is a thicker one with tactile keys.

Tried and True, With a Twist

If you’d rather stick with conventional laptop designs, albeit with touchscreens to fully accommodate Windows 8’s functions, you also have that option with these following computers.

·         HP Envy TouchSmart Ultrabook 4

  • CPU: 1.7 GHz Intel Core i5
  • RAM: 4 GB 1,600 MHz DDR3
  • Storage: 500 GB 5,400 rpm HD hybrid with 32 GB SSD
  • GPU: Intel HD 4000 (integrated)

An ultrabook, arguably only in name (it weighs a relatively hefty 4.5 pounds), the HP Envy TouchSmart Ultrabook 4 does feature respectable laptop parts for its $800 price tag. If you’re in the market for an affordable-yet-powerful-enough portable computer to test the Windows 8 waters, the Envy TouchSmart is as good a starting point as any.

·         Sony Vaio T13 Touch

  • CPU: 1.7 GHz Intel Core i5
  • RAM: 6 GB 1,600 MHz DDR3
  • Storage: 500 GB 5,400 rpm HD hybrid with 32 GB SSD
  • GPU: Intel HD 4000 (integrated)

This is another touch-enabled laptop that goes for below a thousand bucks. While it’s $30 more expensive than the Envy TouchSmart, it does have 2 more GB of RAM, which makes it the better deal overall.

Desktop AIOs Represented

Desktop all-in-ones (that is, desktops whose hardware are all encased in the same chassis as the display; i.e. no more PC towers) have slowly been creeping into the market as a viable option for those who want desktop functionality with less hardware configuration and setup hassle. This type of desktop seems to have gained an even greater presence with the advent of Windows 8.

·         Acer Aspire 7600U

  • CPU: 2.5 GHz Intel Core i5
  • RAM: 8 GB 1,333 MHz DDR3
  • Storage: 1 TB 5,400 rpm HD
  • GPU: 768 MB NVIDIA GeForce GT 640M

As Win 8-primed AIOs go, Acer’s Aspire 7600U is one of the better ones, with a nifty design, a highly responsive touchscreen, and even three HDMI ports. However, while its hardware is nothing to scoff at, you can get higher-spec components with this next AIO for just a few hundred dollars more.

·         Dell XPS One 27

  • CPU: 3.1 GHz Intel Core i7
  • RAM: 8 GB 1,600 MHz DDR3
  • Storage: 2 TB 7,200 rpm HD
  • GPU: 2 GB NVIDIA GeForce GT 640M

Right now, this AIO is top-of-the-line in its desktop class. With powerful hardware showing their stuff on a 27-inch, 2,560 x 1,440 resolution screen – and with a very competitive price to boot – this is one drool-worthy machine.

The Wild Card

·         Sony Vaio Tap 20

  • CPU: 1.7 GHz Intel Core i5
  • RAM: 4 GB 1,600 MHz DDR3
  • Storage: 750 GB 5,400 rpm HD
  • GPU: Intel HD 4000 (integrated)

And then we have the Sony Vaio Tap 20, which, depending on who you’re asking, could either be a portable AIO, or one huge tablet PC. One thing is clear though: By installing a battery inside this supposed AIO, Sony has probably created the first of a new category of computers: The tablet-desktop hybrid. Cue the collective screams of desire from future tech enthusiasts.

You Only Have to Choose

All of the above fully showcase what Windows 8 can offer. If you want to see for yourself how Windows 8 has changed the game, you really can’t go wrong with these computers. Jump into the fray with these babies and see what’s what!