Windows 8 after a year: 21 hardware hits and misses

Windows 8 after a year: 21 hardware hits and misses

Summary: Over the past year, I've used Windows 8 (and Windows 8.1) on at least 20 different PCs in a broad range of form factors, ranging from a Vista-era desktop to an amazingly light Haswell-powered Ultrabook with a Gorilla Glass cover. Here's a quick tour of these devices, along with my lessons learned from each one.

TOPICS: PCs, Windows 8

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  • Acer Aspire S7-392 raises the Ultrabook bar

    At this year's Build conference, I had a chance to see this device before it went on sale. After using the 11-inch version, I wanted to see whether this newer 13-inch model had worked out the kinks in its predecessors.

    The answer is a resounding yes.

    The outside, with a white Gorilla Glass cover, is beautiful and tough, and the 13-inch Full HD display is gorgeous. The backlit keyboard doesn't have the same issues with occasionally sticky keys that the previous version did. For me, though, the killer feature is the 4th Generation Core i5 (Haswell). This is the first PC I've ever owned that can genuinely claim all-day battery life without having to add any qualifiers. At IFA in Berlin this year, I used the machine nonstop for a day without ever needing the charger. Atnd at 2.9 pounds it's genuinely portable.

    I had no trouble upgrading it to the RTM version of Windows 8.1. I'll happily take a look at the new crop of Haswell-powered Ultrabooks, but it will take something special to knock this one off its perch.

  • Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Touch: power at a price

    OK, I'm cheating a bit on this one. Although I've had some hands-on time with this device, I haven't owned one. In fact, I've shied away from most Lenovo devices, primarily because the business-class models are very expensive. Still, if you spend any time around Microsoft's Redmond campus, you will see as many of these as you see Surface Pros. This is a very popular device with the developers of Windows 8.1. 

    So I asked my ZDNet colleague Jason Perlow, who owns an X1 Carbon Touch, for his capsule review. Here's what he wrote:

    The Lenovo X1 Carbon Touch is the Chinese PCs giant's flagship Windows 8 Ultrabook, combining the power of the Intel Core i7 processor with a responsive and brilliant color touchscreen display. The system, which weighs only 3lbs, is made out of carbon fiber and is one of the lightest as well as one of the strongest 14" notebooks on the market, and is up to any task a road warrior can throw at it. 

    Like many "executive class" Ultrabooks currently on the market the X1 Carbon Touch has on the mainboard flash storage and has a fixed amount of memory, 8GB, so it cannot be upgraded. It also lacks an optical drive as well as a hard-wired Ethernet port, both of which can be remedied by using USB 3.0-based docks and peripherals. External displays can be connected using the laptop's MiniDisplayPort connector.

    Something to keep in mind is that if you need to be able to boot from LAN (such as for a system re-image) you cannot use wireless networking so you must use a USB Ethernet dongle. While Windows 8.x recognizes many USB Ethernet devices, not every one will show up as a PCI LAN device in the X1's EFI. Currently, you'll need either Lenovo's USB 2.0 USB Ethernet accessory or their USB 3.0 dock ($150, which I find ridiculously expensive for what it does) in order to do this.

    While the Lenovo X1 Carbon is a great laptop I would certainly like to see the display resolution increased in the next model to full HD or higher, as at around $1800 for the system, there are other devices on the market with much nicer screens for the same or less money. I also think that having a full-sized business laptop with no hard-wired ethernet port is just asking for trouble.

  • Microsoft's brilliant, quirky, flawed Surface Pro

    I reviewed the Surface Pro when it came out in February of this year, and the keyword in that review was quirky. Here's what I concluded:

    In short, this is a great product for anyone who’s already committed to a Microsoft-centric work environment. It isn’t likely to inspire many iPad owners to switch, unless those Apple tablets are in the hands of someone who has been eagerly awaiting an excuse to execute the iTunes ecosystem.

    I don’t expect Surface Pro to be a breakout hit for Microsoft. Too many people will have good reasons to say no, at least for now. But it does represent a solid, interesting, adventurous alternative for anyone who wants to spend some quality time today exploring Microsoft’s vision of the future.

    The big question is how large that market is, and whether Microsoft can evolve both the Surface hardware and its accompanying apps and services so the next iteration is capable of breaking out in a big way.

    The short battery life and the heat generated by the 3rd Generation i5 made the first Surface Pro less than ideal for me. I am looking forward to getting my hands on the new design and its peripherals.

    You can read that original review here.

Topics: PCs, Windows 8

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  • What, no Yoga?

    Ed, you need to review the Lenovo Yoga or, better yet, wait for the Yoga 2. That thing looks sweet.
    • Also I agree

      That as compelling as a Macbook Air or XPS 13 is I'm so used to touch on mobile platforms now - I didn't even consider them when I needed a new laptop. Actually I don't think I would consider a 15 or 17 inch laptop without a touchscreen - it's too darned useful.
    • Doesn't make any difference......

      Windows 8 is a big miss all around.
      linux for me
  • 21 Distinct Pages - No Way

    You're joking Ed, aren't you?
    • I don't control the platform, sorry

      I have expressed my sentiments to management about the gallery format and how much it can stand improvement. Meanwhile, each one of these pages has substantial content. This isn't just a bunch of pictures with brief captions. So I hope those who click through feel like they got their money's worth. (Oh yeah, it's still free!)
      Ed Bott
      • Ed you miss

        Lenovo Yoga and Asus Taichi. They are totally different from rest of the devices.
        Ram U
        • I didn't use them

          I should include a link to the main post for this gallery. With one exception this was only devices I personally used for a period of time. I never got review units of the Yoga or the Taiichi, although I played with both a little bit.
          Ed Bott
      • Good job

        I wouldn't click through many articles like this but it was worth it this time.

        I would be interested in your take on the Yoga particularly the 13.3 hi res Yoga 2.
        As far as the ThinkPad Yoga Pro goes I'd be concerned that the keyboard locking mechanism would fail rendering it useless. Make it as simple as possible but not simpler. A. E.

        The Lenovo Helix is also interesting but something bothers me about it and there's the high price too.

        I'm just about convinced that a Surface Pro 2 is going to find its way to my door but I'm hoping to learn a bit more about it from some thoughtful and in-depth reviews.
        • I didn't really agree with Ed's assesment of the Surface Pro

          But I really, really agree with his assessment of the RT. I think it's an understated device with tons of potential. Looking forward to the RT2 or 3. If they could make a wacom digitizer work without unnecessary latency on a Surface RT3, I would ditch my gen 1 in a heartbeat and pay the premium to upgrade.
      • When I read zdnet now

        I right click and open in a new tab all the articles I want to read. When done I just close the tab. No backing out of twenty pages.
      • There are other options

        I've seen posts from other writers here that include the pictures inline as you scroll down the page.
        K B
      • Good and bad

        While I've had many complaints over the years about the gallery format, this is one of the few cases where I've seen it used effectively.

        On the other hand, I was hoping for content more along the lines of how W8 ran on these particular systems, not merely thumbnail reviews of the systems themselves. That lack, not the gallery format, is why I gave up after the 9th slide.
    • Horrible format

      Sorry, just can't handle all the clicking and adjusting, it takes too much attention from the article. From now on I will never read one of these dopey slide show articles. Change the format ZD, this one sucks.
  • Not clicking through

  • Ill Click through

    Because its Ed and he always has good content. Not like some of these other know nothing hacks that write on here.
  • Samsung Series 7 Slate

    is the tablet I use with Windows 8 (now with 8.1). This has been a great tablet, though I have docking stations at home and work, as well as one that travels with me. I like the amount of power it has. It was my replacement for a laptop that had its motherboard die.

    I am looking at the Surface 2 and Surface 2 Pro as possible upgrades or the Lenovo tablet. I like the Surface touch keyboard a lot, I used one at the Microsoft store.
  • Good article overall

    It is pretty interesting to see how different devices handle Windows 8. Even setting aside the slideshow (I find it hard to believe that CBSi would be completely ignorant of how annoying it can be), the article in general does a good job of showing how some older devices hold up under the new Windows.
    Third of Five
  • Where are the high end desktop replacement laptops?

    One of the things that I've noticed is that there is a dearth of high end desktop replacement laptops available these days. Currently, I've got a quad core 2nd generation i7 Asus laptop with a 15.6" non-touch 1080p screen, a DVD/BluRay, 8GB of RAM, and a 750GB hard drive. I got it back in early 2011. Recently, I've been looking to see if I could find a replacement with a touch screen and longer batter life. Slightly more compact or lighter would be nice too. I've haven't found anything that matches the specs of what I've got. The closest I've found is a Samsung Ativ Book 8, but it doesn't have an optical drive. Most of the i7 laptops out there today are dual, not quad, core. This past weekend, I went to the local Microsoft store to see what they had. I chatted with one of the employees and he said that what they were seeing was that manufacturers seem to be taking away features from laptops these days rather than adding them. Tablets and Ultrabooks are all fine and good for some things (I have a Surface Pro myself), but for doing real development work away from a dual screen desktop, you need a high end laptop. I hope someone notices this soon and does something about it.
    Sir Name
  • After a Year I was Surprised

    The only Windows 8 machine I have now is my Surface Pro.
    Everything else went back to Windows 7.

    Note: excluding the Surface, I did not buy any new pc's this year.