|The Toshiba Satellite U920t Ultrabook Convertible is a notebook mimicking a tablet's convenience. (Supplied)
This holiday shopping season, the hot tech item won't be a tablet or a laptop. If a recent wave of product announcements is any indication, it'll be a little of both.
The imminent release of the new, tablet-friendly Windows 8 operating system has sparked the imaginations of numerous tech companies, many of them proven PC manufacturers looking for a foothold in the exploding tablet market.
The result: A slew of gadgets that aim to merge a laptop's processing capabilities with the user-friendliness and portability of a tablet. Time will tell if buyers will take the bait, but these new-to-the-market gadgets may just be the best of both worlds.
Toshiba Satellite U920t Ultrabook Convertible
A sliding hinge takes the Satellite from laptop mode, which features a LED-backlit keyboard, to tablet mode, where you can take advantage of a five-point touch Gorilla Glass screen. The Rapid Start feature found in much of the ultrabook family mimics the quick boot time of a tablet, but it certainly doesn't skimp on performance: The Satellite includes an Intel i5 processor and 128GB hard drive. Along with an HD webcam, it's equipped with a 3MP back camera for use while in tablet form — not stunning, but the Satellite, which is at its core a notebook mimicking a tablet's convenience, has its priorities in place. The Satellite starts at $1,149.99.
Samsung Ativ Smart PC
Samsung's Ativ convertibles come in two versions — the basic Smart PC, which can handle day-to-day tasks, and the Smart PC Pro, which packs a powerful i5 chip. What sets the Ativ family apart is the accompanying S Pen stylus, which earned raves in early reviews for its responsiveness and handwriting recognition software. The 11.6-inch screen comes with 10-finger touch capabilities, letting you pinch, zoom, rotate and scroll with greater dexterity. The entry-level model will sell for $699, and the Smart PC Pro is priced at $1,149.
Dell XPS 12
Dell does something a little different for its convertible unit — the screen is mounted on a spinning hinge within a frame, allowing you to fold the unit flat with the screen facing out for a tablet-style experience. The XPS 12 is, like the Satellite, a laptop in tablet's clothing; it boasts a number of high-performance, customizable specs, including Intel i5 and i7 processors, 4-plus GB of RAM, and either 128 or 256GB of hard disk space. The lightning-fast boot speed and processing punch should help make up for the price tag: It's $1,199.99 to $1,699.99 at Dell.com.
HP Envy x2
The Envy x2, which detaches from its keyboard using a magnetized hinge, fits more squarely in the "tablet" category. Its lower 64GB hard drive capacity, coupled with its 8MP back camera, suggests a device built with on-the-go use in mind. But in addition to the reasonable processing speed from its Intel Atom chip, there's bonuses like Beats Audio speakers and NFC technology, which allows you to share information between devices (like a desktop PC) by tapping them against one another — a feature you'll likely see in more machines going forward. It'll be available in early December for $849.99.
Of course, Microsoft is getting in on the Windows 8 fun themselves with their newly unveiled Surface tablet. The flagship tablet borrows its design cues from Windows 8's colourful signature Live Tiles home screen; that's evident in the Surface's standout feature, the ingenious Touch Cover accessory. The cover includes a touch-sensitive "keyboard" — plus, there's also an upgraded Type Cover that includes more traditional moveable keys. The Surface negates the need for tablet stands with its built-in Kickstand, which folds into the device when not in use. The Surface opts for portability over power with its 32GB and 64GB iterations and NVIDIA Tegra 3 processor. Microsoft may be hoping its in-house software will lure buyers — the Surface comes pre-loaded with the Microsoft Office Home and Student software suites. It'll start at $519.