Laptopmag published an interesting article about touchscreen laptops last week. “Why you shouldn’t buy a touchscreen laptop.” I strongly disagreed, along with others, on a Facebook comment thread. Touch can be extremely useful, productive and fun if you commit to it but if you’re not feeling adventurous then yes, touchscreens may be a disadvantage for you. The 1-2mm thickness, 100 grams and, usually, $100 is a waste. Me, I need touch badly, as I found out at the weekend when testing out a Macbook.
Macbook. No touchscreen.
The Macbook is a gorgeously finished ultra-light PC with a great screen, an amazing trackpad and, for me, a nice keyboard. That keyboard might be a little too low-profile for some so try before you buy.
It was the screen that caught me out though. It took me at least 5 seconds to realize there was no touchscreen as I poked the URL bar on Safari. I’m so used to doing it on my own touchscreen laptops and convertibles that when it’s not there I not only miss it but I waste time too.
Scrolling and zooming, selecting and dragging are often harder and slower with a touchpad and simple things like annotating a Snipping Tool grab or adjusting the screen brightness and volume are faster and more accurate when the touchscreen and touch UI are in place. Of course OS X isn’t built for touch so there’s no reason for touch here but the experience confirmed to me just how much I rely on a touch layer and touch UI. The Macbook is a no-go for me.
I realize I am probably in the minority as a touch laptop fan so feel free to voice your opinion below. Do you think the number of touchscreen laptops available is going to increase or decrease? Will Windows 10 improve or degrade the laptop touch experience?
Update: The full review is now available. Go give Notebookcheck (and my review) some love!
Think about 2013-level Ultrabook performance with no fans, more flexibility and a good market-start price. The Acer Aspire Switch 12 weighs 1.1 KG…until you add the keyboard which takes you up to 1.4 KG. Because of the always-exposed screen Acer have done the right thing and provided a nice case but when you put the bundle together with the power supply you’re carrying over 2 KG. Despite the weight I like the Switch 12 for a couple of reasons. 1) It’s more stable on the lap than many other solutions because of the rear stand and mid-mounted screen. 2) It’s fanless and is returning performance scores well above what you’ll find with Baytrail-based solutions. There’s also a fast SATA-connected SSD inside which makes this one of the cheapest full-HD 128GB SATA SSD solutions out there. Add AC WiFi, USB 3.0 and a good keyboard that can be pulled away from the unit and you’ve got a productive setup. Comparisons must be made to the Surface Pro 3, Lenovo Yoga 3 11 and the HP Envy 13 X2 which is even more hot-desking focused.
A preliminary set of performance results, battery life figures, confirmation that there’s a digitizer and other information can be found over at Notebookcheck.net where I’ll be publishing the full review. Let me know if you’ve got any questions and I’ll try to get them answered in the full review.
Rounding-off a series of Chromebook updates here on UMPCPortal are my thoughts on the Lenovo N20p Chromebook which is built around a design I tested recently in the Lenovo Flex 10. In my opinion it adds a lot of value to a laptop and is actually more suited to a laptops design than a ‘yoga’ style tablet-capable design. Like the Flex 10 the N20P has a 270-degree fold-back ‘stand mode’ touchscreen and comes with a basic set of specifications. Atom CPU, 2GB of RAM and 16 GB of eMMC storage.
Unlike the Flex 10 this Chromebook doesn’t have a touch-friendly user interface option and that, for the time being, could be seen as a big disadvantage. In practice though there are a lot of things you can do with a touchscreen in stand mode and web-browsing is an important one. When I did the in-depth Lenovo Flex 10 testing I found the unit to be more practical as a partner PC than a 7-inch or even 10-inch tablet without a stand. Magazine-style reader apps (I use Feedly) are great with coffee as is a Facebook or Tweetdeck ‘easel.’ Video applications work well too because this seat-back friendly mode brings the screen closer to the eye and, at full fold-back, has great stability. If you want to lift the screen to eye-height you’re also able to fold the screen to 180-degrees and prop up the unit to balance on the keyboard edge. Flex is good and worth paying a little extra for.
At current prices the Lenovo N20p is going to set you back about $60-$80 more than the cheaper Chromebook options which is a significant 25%-33% more than the cheaper ASUS and Acer options and, presumably because of the design, it’s a little heavier than, say, the ASUS C200. There’s a 34.8Wh battery inside which is OK, but not the biggest either.
Screen resolution is a basic 1366×768 and there’s no mention of wide-viewing angles in the Lenovo marketing materials. A USB 2.0. USB 3.0, SD card, headset and full-size HDMI port are on-board and there’s AC-capable WiFi.
Although there isn’t a perfect match between a 2-in-1 design and ChromeOS now the Lenovo N20p offers the consumer something that’s been missing from Chromebooks up until now – fun. As ChromeOS develops with new features and improved touch capability the N20p could evolve into an attractive secondary PC for home and holiday use. If the AccuType full-size keyboard is good, this might make a good conference or hotel PC. In the Education market students are going to be far more excited about this Chromebook design.
When I reviewed the 270-euro Lenovo Ideapad Flex 10 recently I knew it would be a great candidate for an SSD upgrade. This fanless, touchscreen hybrid is the very model of a modern casual portable laptop but it was fitted with a really poor quality hard drive that was obviously holding the system back. After completing the SSD upgrade yesterday I can report that the difference is amazing. Applications are starting in half the time, the PCMark score is up 70% and the system works as it should. No more drive activity slow-downs and a huge lift in the user experience. I’ve done a lot of SSD upgrades over the years but this one is probably the most impressive.
The Lenovo Flex 10 has a 270-degree fold-back screen. Stand-mode is very useful.
I’ve dropped a MydigitalSSD BP4 in as a test (I had it from a previous test I did with an Acer V5) but you can shop around for a good deal. On Amazon.com there’s an offer on the 7mm 128GB Sandisk SSD that would be perfect for this. $69.99 is a great deal. [Affiliate link.]
Over 40X improvement in the very important 4K write speed. Superb result!
In a PCMark test the device scored 70% better. 1521 with HDD, 2579 with SSD. Application start-up times are drastically reduced. DriftMania started in 10 seconds compared to 21 seconds with the HDD. Lenovo Photo Show started in 5 seconds (11 with HDD.) Facebook, IE, Chrome and Paint also started about twice as quick. Battery life has probably been improved too but I haven’t tested it yet. Considering the heat that was generated by the HDD and the time it took to get things done there’s going to be a clear real-world difference in how much you can get done on this. Silent operation is a dream too. I’ve connected a USB3.0 docking station and I’m writing this with external screen, keyboard and mouse and it’s a very nice way to write.
Inside the Flex 10. RAM is soldered. No fans. Disk and WiFi module are easy to remove
How to upgrade to SSD on the Lenovo Flex 10
To do the upgrade you’ll need a USB recovery drive (create using Windows 8 tools on a 16GB USB stick or CDROM.) I chose to use an external USB 2.5-inch SATA adapter so that I could do all the imaging on a faster PC. Obviously you will lose your warranty and there’s a possibility of failure or breakage so take care and own the risk!
Reduce partition size on C: to bring total disk size into range of SSD. Use Windows 8 disk manager to shrink the volume. (Ideally do a system restore to factory setup beforehand.)
Remove back of Lenovo Flex 10. This is a little tricky. Two screws are hidden under the rubber feet and one has a seal that will need to be broken. You lose your warranty at this point. You can use a thumbnail to carefully prise the unit apart. It takes time and care, especially at the front corners, but it’s certainly not a sealed unit.
Remove hard disk. It’s an easy 4-screw removal process. (Note: You can upgrade the WiFi too. The basic 2.4Ghz single channel unit has good reception but would benefit from a dual-channel upgrade IMO.)
Put hard disk in 2.5-inch USB3.0 adapter.
Take Acronis TrueImage disk image of hard drive. (Took 40 minutes on a fast SSD-based Ultrabook using free 30–day trial.)
Remove drive from adapter and store with care
Insert SSD into adapter.
TrueImage disk copy the saved image to the SSD drive. (You might get an error saying it won’t boot but you can ignore that.)
Remove disk from adapter and install in Lenovo Flex 10
There are still clear limits with this setup. The Lenovo Flex 10 doesn’t have a powerful CPU and that shows itself when you start using browser-based apps. Google Drive and the associated productivity apps won’t be much fun (Chromebooks are way more suited to this) but I suspect the free Office Home and Student will be a far better experience. GPU and video decoding power is pretty good though so you’ll be able to watch 1080p videos and play Windows 8 RT games without any issues. XBMC and Openelec work well. Read my full review, or my summary review video for more detail.
I’m a huge fan of the 270-degree fold-back screen (more so than the 360-degree fold-back) and a huge fan of ‘lightweight’ computing. Based on what I’ve seen with the Flex 10 there’s scope for Lenovo to make a seriously useful Flex 11 with a quad-core Baytrail-M and a low-cost 64GB SSD. Until then though, this Flex 10 SSD upgrade has created an extremely well-balanced hybrid netbook that covers a wide range of activities. I’m keeping it.
The Samsung Series 7 Ultra isn’t an Ultrabook convertible which means it’s not getting the best of media attention right now but please, take a closer look because the specs are spot-on for many of you that could be looking for a ‘pro’ Ultrabook. Full HD, Discreet graphics, full SSD and a touch option. In out opinion this could be one of the best Ultrabooks yet. It’s available for pre-order now in Germany so here’s the detail, pricing and an idea of availability. I will be checking this out at CeBIT in about 4 weeks.
I’ve been doing a lot of testing on the Dell XPS 12 over the last 4 days.
Here’s a 16 minute video of my findings. If you’re interested in Ultrabook Convertibles, take a look at this video because it covers some ergonomic issues as well as a detailed look at the Dell XPS 12. [Specs, images, videos and more info in our database here.]
As always, I welcome discussion below. What do you think of Ultrabook Convertibles and what device impresses you the most?
CES 2013 is all over for another year. We weren’t there but thanks to live streams, press releases and news from other sites we were able to relay all the important news for you and had the time to add a little more analysis that we would have done had we been there.
In the Ultrabook space 7 new products were shown and 7 products got an update and there was a lot of related technology news. Read on for the 23 most important Ultrabook-related news items of CES 2013.
The Intel CES press event didn’t hold any major news for us yesterday. Low power 3rd-Gen Core, Perceptual Computing, Convertibles, Haswell and even a touch of Bay Trail were expected as Ultrabook-related news but to announce that all 4th-gen Core Ultrabooks (Haswell platform, Q3/Q4) will have Touchscreens was a complete surprise and I can only describe it as a massive risk-taking move by Intel. What does it really mean though? Higher pricing, consumer focus? There won’t be any Windows 7 Ultrabooks, that’s for sure.
One thing that is for sure is that the Ultrabook is going to get more difficult to use in bright light. Capacitive touchscreens mean fingers-on-glass and in general, glossy finishes. It means that all Ultrabooks will now have additional costs associated with them and it means that some users and some commentators will rebel because they don’t want a touchscreen. But there’s another view…
We’re expecting a number of Ultrabook refreshes over the CES 2013 week and here’s the first of them. The Lenovo U310 and U410 are getting a touchscreen upgrade.
Liliputing reports a fairly straightforward refresh with 1366×768 touchscreens on both the Lenovo U310 and U410 and starting prices of $779 and $850 respectively. There will be an optional Nvidia GeForce module on the U410. Availability is said to be March. We’re assuming all CES info is for the US market only so other markets may get different timescales.
As part of our continuing co-op with Intel to highlight interesting and useful Ultrabook software resources I’ve got a demo of a touch-enabled game from Appup running on the Lenovo Thinkpad Yoga Ultrabook Convertible for you, gamers and developers alike.
The Yoga wasn’t my favorite Ultrabook of 2012 but it was incredibly popular when we wrote about it. Over on YouTube it was our most-watched video of 2012. We got hands-on with the Lenovo Yoga at CES 2012 and exactly one year later it’s in our hands for review. [Follow closely for teasers of 3rd generation Ultrabooks next week as we cover CES 2013.] Here’s a quick unboxing video just to prove it’s here in the studio. We’ll produce a first impressions, detailed review and for those on the cusp of buying one, a live review session where you can ask your own questions. Feel free to start listing those below.