Asus' Taichi hybrid misses the best thing about Windows 8

Asus' Taichi hybrid misses the best thing about Windows 8

Summary: Asus continues to push different form factors with its mobile devices, but the Taichi seems to answer a question that no one asked, and misses the best part of Windows 8 along the way.


A number of manufacturers have a history of trying out innovative new form factors, whether it's in the tablet space with Lenovo's IdeaPad Yoga, or in the phone arena with Asus' PadFone and its successor, the PadFone 2.


But I just can't get my head around who Asus' most recent hybrid ultrabook, the Taichi, is aimed at, and how the company has so spectacularly missed the point of Windows 8 with the device.

In terms of specs, the Taichi is solid and can stand up to the best of the rest in the ultrabook-cum-tablet sector, with its either Intel Core i5 or i7 processor, 4GB RAM and a 256GB SSD.

What makes the Taichi stand out from the rest of the pack, however, is its back-to-back dual displays — as well as a standard issue, non-touchscreen placed where you'd expect for a laptop, there's also a touchscreen on the reverse of the lid too, for when the Taichi's in tablet mode.

So how does the dual-screen approach work in the real world? I recently got hands-on with the Taichi to find out.

I sat down in front of it, opened it up and hit the power button. I was greeted with the Windows 8 Start screen — so far, so good.

But when I reached out and swiped the screen to have a look around, nothing happened. I thought about it for a second longer; it didn't even feel like a touchscreen. Oh, right, it's not a touchscreen. How disappointing.

Missing the point

With the two-screen approach, Asus has completely missed the point of Windows 8: the OS is all about touch. But touch is something that the Taichi doesn't really accommodate well: despite its nod to being a tablet and featuring a touch-centric UI, the Taichi's touchscreen perplexingly doesn't face forward.

Asus Taichi
The Asus Taichi has a screen on the back of the lid - but does it work? Image: Craig Simms/CNET

(For what it's worth, the touchscreen seemed to work perfectly well; it was responsive, bright and crisp — all the things you'd want in a display. It just happens to be facing in the wrong direction.)

One of the best things about Windows 8 for me is the way in which it feels natural to reach out and scroll or tap the screen to perform an operation, and to still use the keyboard or mouse for text input or other finely tuned operations too.

With the Taichi, there is no option to use the touch interface unless the device is fully closed, thereby shutting off use of the keyboard, or the lid is open, but the keyboard is facing away from you. There are times when having a keyboard to enter text is considerably easier than inputting by touch in Windows 8, and having to turn the laptop 180 degrees every time you need to type in a URL is hugely ungainly, not to mention a bit odd.

A laptop first

I suspect that the Taichi will spend most of its life being used as a laptop, rather than in tablet mode — as much a result of its weight as anything else.

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The device I tested was the 11.6-inch model, weighing 1.25kg, making it a little heavier than the average tablet, and realistically a little too heavy to hold for long periods, despite its impressive thinness. I can only imagine how ungainly the 13.3-inch screen version of the Taichi will be when used as a tablet.

So, then, think of the Taichi as an ultrabook that can technically be used as a tablet, but really only when it's sat firmly on your lap at home, and when you don't want to use a keyboard at all. As such, the Taichi is pretty much reserved for light companion duties, despite the fact that the hardware could easily handle a more demanding workload.

For me, an 11.6-inch tablet that costs from £1,499 (or from $1,299 in the US) is a little on the excessive side for something that will be used mainly for checking emails, browsing the internet and tweeting.

I'm always happy to see Asus' innovative new form factors, and it has done as much for the hybrid/convertible market as any other company, but for me, the Taichi remains just a solution in search of a problem.

Topics: Laptops, Mobility, Reviews, Tablets, Windows

Ben Woods

About Ben Woods

With several years' experience covering everything in the world of telecoms and mobility, Ben's your man if it involves a smartphone, tablet, laptop, or any other piece of tech small enough to carry around with you.

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  • IdeaPad Yoga is not made by ASUS

    Just wanted to correct a litttle error: The IdeaPad Yoga is made by Lenovo, not ASUS.
  • I have a feeling...

    that this guy did not even get a hold of it. There are so many fallacies in here I feel like I am reading something from Obama or Romney.
    • I have a feeling...

      I totally agree with you. There just seems to be something wrong about what he's saying. I could have been sure that the thing with the Taichi is that it was touch both side's. If the "one he got his hands on" isn't touch on both sides, buddy, I think he should totally call up who he got it from and ask if there's an error in his product. Let us know when you do that Obam... oh wait Woods.
      • My bad

        Wow... I totally missed what you'r saying woods. Total misconception on Asus's part. I can't believe i totally missed that at first. But you are absolutely right, outer screen's the only touch screen. That totally sucks. Now I have to think twice before getting it.
        My bad Woods,
        And thanks for pointing that out
    • Like what?

      You mean when he "lied" about the inside screen being touch capable?

      "With the lid open, the TAICHI is just like any ultrabook computer, and comes complete with a full-size QWERTY backlit keyboard and track pad. With the lid closed, however, the TAICHI instantly becomes a multi-touch tablet computer with stylus support, bringing a degree of flexibility that has never before been experienced on an ordinary ultrabook. Better still, while they provide access to the same hardware, the two screens are completely independent of each other and can also be used simultaneously, which means the Taichi can be shared with two users for a host of innovative new applications. "

      Or when he "lied" about Windows 8 being touch centric?

      Come on dude prove the lie here.
  • You're kidding right??

    So let me get this straight. You wanted to see how the touch screen worked on the taichi and the first thing you did was open it up to the keyboard interface side? I would have thought the keyboard in frount of you would have been the first sign that the inside screen wasn't touch. But besides that Im assuming the thing was closed to begin with so you simply bypassed the side of the taichi that was obvioously touch and right there in front of you. Taichi takes advantage of both featues, a touch screen and a laptop screen. same as the other convertable ultrabooks except to access the keyboard you dont need to snap it on or flip the screen through some fragile loop. You simply open it up. Looking forward to the i7 taichi, best of both worlds.
    Jonn Griffin
    • I just ordered mine !

      Should I cancel my order based on this review?

      After all, who would want a cool, first of a kind, 2 in 1 Ultrabook convertible with Win 8?

      This baby rocks. And will do just want I want: a real Laptop computer when I want to work, and a real Tablet when I just want to surf. Touch just doesn't feel right when being used in laptop mode. Lifting the hand to touch the screen is awkward with a keyboard in your lap. Asus made the right choice.
  • Yes, they really messed up on this one. Very deceiving.

    No touch on the primary laptop display. Talk about cutting corners. Everyone seems to miss this part in their reviews. Glad someone finally spoke out about it. If it had both touch screens, it would of been a winner.
    • "Deceiving"!?

      You must've deceived yourself then, because Asus states that the one screen is touch.
  • Taichi is the perfect solution!!....You assume too much, Mr.Woods.

    Just because you hadn't thought of a problem, it doesn't mean it doesn't exists. In my case, for example, the Asus taichi will solve my problem situation perfectly. The Taichi is aimed to the consumer that needs a tablet functionality and mobility while at the same time keeping its versatility to function as a normal yet very powerful ultrabook. When in laptop mode, you'll never worry about the touch functionality while using poweruser apps such as excel, access, quickbook and the such.
    • Without touch, I'd prefer Windows 7...

  • You missed the point! I want my main screen to be fingerprint free!

    I was trying out the Taichi a few weeks ago and sure enough my first instinctive question was why wasn't the inside screen touchable... call me old fashioned, but until there can be fingerprint free touch screens, as a designer (and in fact for general usage) I am keen to keep my laptop screen fingerprint free. AND I can even let others utilize the outside screen to point (touch) and discuss. It is a brilliant compromise. Furthermore the matte screen avoids too much glare for normal extended time usage, while the gloss touch screen provides for great on the road use. So after more thought, it seems to me that Asus' decision was right on.
  • Asus Taichi Vs Lifebook T902.T902 or Taichi for sketching applications.

    Taichi comes with a very precise new generation N-Trig stylus(4th generation).The old N-Trig stylusses weren't precise at all.Actually I use to hate old N-Trig pens and supported wacom always.
    So Taichi could be a great option for sketching,for product designers instead of a Fujitsu Lifebook T902 + Motion computing Wacom pen.But I am worried about getting scratches on my back screen accidentally,that on the screen on which stylus is intended to use for.Unlike iPad,for which enclosure carrying case from CAPDASE or other brands are available,Taichi will not come with such accessories which is bit refraining me from buying Taichi instead of Lifebook T902.also pricing for Lifebook T902 is bit lesser compared to Taichi pricing.
    I am considering this (13.3 inch model) or Lifebook T902 (13.3 inch screen) instead of a Samsung Ativ tablet just because I want a bigger screen for sketching,a all in one portable package.One main advantage of a N-Trig Stylus is Auto Callibration.Calibration for accuracy is a big problem in Wacom which has to be done manually.

    Read more:
    Aman Shah
  • Actually, it's perfect

    I can't think of any less efficient, more useless interfaces than a touchscreen in front of a keyboard. Moving from home keys to a mouse is slow enough, but raising your hand to punch at a screen both breaks your rhythm and injures your shoulder.
    Asus is absolutely right: tablets and laptops should remain separate things. Since people want both, give them both in an easy package. The things you do with a keyboard are physically and cognitively different from the things you do with a tablet. The separation is good for your body and your work psychology.
  • i do not agree you points.

    Hi, I do not agree you points. Asus' Taichi is just what I imagined a few years back. It has both things: an ordinary laptop and tab. if you want to do some work with pace, you would not like raise you hand again and again as it will affect you rhythm. I may also cause pain. So Assus is intelligent that Taichi comes with no touch display on the front. You have physical keyboard and touch pad to do what you want. The back display has touch screen and it is supposed to be there. seriously, your analysis is matured enough.
    • i do not agree you points.( with corrections)

      Hi, I do not agree you points. Asus' Taichi is just what I imagined a few years back. It has both things: an ordinary laptop and tab. if you want to do some work with pace, you would not like to raise you hand again and again as it will affect you rhythm. It may also cause pain. So Assus is intelligent that Taichi comes with no touch display on the front. You have physical keyboard and touch pad to do what you want. The back display has touch screen and it is supposed to be there. seriously, your analysis is not matured enough.
      • I remember times when doctors warned about the mouse causing a "mouse arm"

        I have a convertible since years (no touch, but stylus), and when I have no mouse attached often find myself tapping on the screen with the pen instead of using the touchpad. I do not feel any pain so far, but maybe I will get more muscular, broader shoulders.
  • I definitely don't agree with this review....

    A few weeks back i really started to fall in love with the idea that I'm going to buy this unit and then I discovered that the 1st display is not touch enabled. At first my initial reaction was of disappointment but then I asked myself is that really a deal breaker?

    I thought about myself using the machine and the first thing I always do is disable features to me that are resource intensive. What would I do with windows 8 if they gave me the chance? I may revert it back to its more original windows interface. I definitely still see my "unhip" Logitech M570 wireless trackball in my hand. I also still have my first trackman that I bought over 12 years ago and it still works well before anyone starts to laugh at me. How many things can u say that about? And look at the reviews at amazon, I'm not the only one that feels that way dang it! heheheh ;-) Whatever, the trackman is my HID of choice...

    So what does it matter to me then if the 1st screen in laptop mode is not touch enabled? Is that all there is to windows 8???? hahaha

    Awe looks like I'm going to miss out on all the win8 goodies because the first screen is not touch enabled....

    I would say this unit is a laptop first that allows you to go into tablet mode naturally without having to twist anything around. Also, the dual display is really handy for business purposes when your in laptop mode. I can easily see training or presentations being done between two people where often a regular laptop's display is a natural barrier.

    These are reasons for me that go beyond the windows 8 "touch" novelty......

    That and Asus has a great track record with me. I grew up buying their parts to build my desktops and the past 7 years i own 2 laptops and a netbook from them and they all work well. I've never been disappointed by their products. They put out good hardware. If they ever put out a lemon than I must have missed it.

    Win8 may not be the only OS I would have on this machine. there's talk of an ubunto that will work on these convertibles. I'd be down with that...

    So when mr woods asks who is this device aimed for? Its aimed for those tech enthusiasts who enjoy tinkering which has always been the main audience for asus.

    The only point i can agree with in Mr Woods review is that the 13.3 version gets to be much for a tablet. Also I noticed in the intel commercial where the girl is at the train station with this Asus unit and u can see in the picture above, there is a lot of bevel or frame for the tablet screen. The reviewer fails to mention this and is completely hung up over the "touchness" of win8.

    If you just want a convertible and stay with win8 and u don't need the power or the expense that comes with this unit, well then obviously this unit is not for you or the masses and apparently its not for Mr. woods either! ;-p
  • The point is, it's a good laptop.

    Even while justifying that it doesn't have touch on both sides as a wrong, this laptop has so much going for it that it really doesn't matter in the big picture. It's one of the few ultrabooks capable of delivering a small slideshow... without even leaving the computer! It has dual cameras like a Pad, perfect for including friends into a conversation along with yourself. Not to mention its internal specs blow the crap out of any tablet out there, except perhaps quad-core tablets. The point of this is, it is a great LAPTOP. Not a Tablet, but a LAPTOP. Anyone paying $1500 for watching videos, surfing the web and facebooking with pinches and swipes is a total idiot. I pay $1500 for a dual i7 that can give presentations, and serve as a tablet in a pinch. It is not made to showcase Windows 8, it is made for people who WORK and need versatility in a LAPTOP. Windows 8 is an afterthought, a readymade interface for the Tablet (it would be just as useful for me with Windows 7 and no touch capability).

    Once Again, I do not pay $1500 for a tablet, I pay it for a LAPTOP. You know, the kind that can run ArcMap, Stata, SAS, MatLab, EViews, SQL, Office 2010, Adobe Creative Suite... not Angry Birds. That's the niche for this laptop, and it fills everything in it.
    Gamaliel Lamboy
  • Is windows 8 all about touch?

    If it is i don't think i'm going to give up with win 7. I mostly use computer for digital photography and what i need in laptop is a matte ips (or s-ips) screen, because glare from gloss screens are enemys of a correct color/contrast display. This laptop could be perfect for my location works (tethered shooting) and also to show my portfolio to customers. The hardware seams good for runnin photoshop, camera control pro etc. To me it miss a display port to connect to my eizo cg monitor. The touchscreen on the back is a plus for slideshow and on the go entertainment and surf-mail-social things.
    Sorry for my bad english
    Alessandro Corradini