Along with the parade of Windows and Android tablets being rolled out, the story of the annual Computex trade show has to be the launch of Intel's Haswell processors -- and the subsequent flurry of PCs launched in Taipei around the new and improved fourth-generation Core CPUs. The architectural improvements in Haswell have led to improvements in both performance and battery life, which means it should come as no surprise that laptop makers have jumped to announce notebooks, both brand-new or freshly updated, that take advantage of the new processors.
Here's a sampling of 10 of the most intriguing laptops launched at Computex this year. Which one are you most exicted about? Or are you waiting for Apple to announce its Haswell plans, possibly at the upcoming WWDC event? Let us know in the Talkback section.
The Duo 13 is an update to the Vaio Duo 11, which Sony released several months as a Windows 8 laptop that uses a sliding hinge to switch into tablet mode. The new version maintains the same convertible design with a bigger full 1080p HD touchscreen and upgraded Haswell processors. As the image above shows, you can use the included digitizer pen to input on the screen, or you can just make use of your fingers. You also get a rear-facing 8-megapixel camera that incorporates Sony's Exmor RS for PC image sensor. Our sister site CNET has a hands-on with the Vaio Duo 13, and still bemoans the inability to tilt the screen, while finding the slider mechanism and touch pad much improved.
Sony may have delivered the best Windows-based competitor to the MacBook Air yet with the new Vaio Pro Ultrabook line. Built with carbon fiber, the Vaio Pro 11 weighs a mere 1.9 pounds and the Pro 13 just 2.3 pounds; both are 0.68 inches thick. Our sister site CNET has already secured units and provided some hands-on testing of the Pro 13 and a full review of the Pro 11. While the base MacBook Air models currently cost less than the $1,150 base Pro 11 and $1,250 Pro 13, they offer lower-res screens and less solid-state storage capacity. Of course, with rumors circulating that MacBook refreshes with Haswell processors could be due as early as next week's Apple WWDC, the Vaio Pro Ultrabooks could lose some of their competitive advantage.
Leave it to Asus to do things really differently with the Transformer Book Trio, which takes the original Transformer Book and adds a third form factor. The Transformer Book combined a laptop with a detachable tablet, but now the Trio not only offers those two modes, but also allows you to connect it to an external monitor station to use as an all-in-one PC. You can even toggle between Android and Windows 8 when you're using the Trio on the go. While the notebook/tablet runs using an Intel Atom chip and offers up to 64GB of flash-memory storage, the PC station packs a Haswell processor and up to a 1TB hard drive. More on the Trio, which does not yet have a release date or any official pricing yet, from ZDNet's James Kendrick.
If you think the Sony Vaio Pro laptops are thin, the forthcoming Zenbook Infinity has them beat by a few millimeters. The new Ultrabook will be just 0.61 inches in thickness. While Asus had the notebook on display at Computex, precious little else is known about it, though it is built with the third (and latest) version of Corning's Gorilla Glass. Despite its beautiful exterior and new Haswell-based interior, the Zenbook Infinity might face difficulties related to Microsoft Windows 8 and the overall PC landscape, according to ZDNet's Larry Dignan.
The XPS 11 is similar to the XPS 12 in its ability to switch between laptop and tablet modes. But while the XPS 12 uses a unique swiveling screen to switch modes, the XPS 11 relies on a conventional hinge (like the Lenovo Yoga uses) that automatically shuts off the physical keyboard when the display is laid flat for tablet use. The carbon fiber convertible notebook features a sweet 2,560x1,440 11.6-inch IPS touchscreen, includes a pen digitizer for input, and will run Windows 8.1. No word on which processor it will use or the pricing, though the XPS 11 is expected this fall. Our sister site CNET has a hands-on with the XPS 11.
Gaming laptops don't always have to be monstrosities. Witness Gigabyte's new "Ultrablade" notebooks, which combine fragging prowess with slim form factors. The 15.6-inch P35K weighs a mere 4.2 pounds, while the 14-inch P34G tips the scales at just 3.7 pounds. They still retain plenty of pixel-pushing power, thanks to Haswell quad-core Core i7 processors options (TBD) and Nvidia GeForce GTX 765M (P35k) or 760M (P34G) discrete graphics. Incredibly, the P35K can hold up to four drives to maximize storage: two 512GB mSATA SSD drives plus a pair of 1TB traditional hard drives. The P34G can "only" handle a 256GB mSATA SSD and a 1TB hard drive. Unfortunately, no word from Gigabyte yet on how much these svelte but brawny systems will set you back, or when you can get your hands on one.
Like the Dell XPS 11, the U21M is a Windows 8 convertible device that can flip between laptop and tablet modes. Roughly 0.8 inches thick and weighing in at 3.3 pounds, the 11.6-inch U21M lacks the high-res screen of the XPS 11, settling for 1,366x768 resolution instead. But it still packs a slate of Haswell processor options, 4GB or 8GB of RAM, and dual-storage choices ranging from 128GB SSD to 1TB hard drives (with many options in between). The touchscreen can swivel up to 180 degrees and, of course, lay flat to use as a tablet. As with its Ultrablade laptops, Gigabyte has not yet provided pricing or availability info for the U21M.
Acer has updated the Aspire S7 beyond the expected Haswell processor options, making some minor tweaks to the design and keyboard, but the new chips promise to improve performance and battery life significantly. There's also an option to upgrade to a ultra-high-res 2,560x1,440 screen. For $1,399, you get a full 1080p 13.3-inch IPS display, 8GB of RAM, 128GB SSD, and Core i5-4200U Haswell processor. The company has also updated the step-down S3, which keeps the same screen but loses the Gorilla Glass lid, though it does add Nvidia GeForce GT 735M graphics. It weighs more than the S7, but costs a few hundred dollars less for the trouble.
Toshiba's Qosmio lineup has been a mainstay of gaming laptops for some time now, but the best version may soon be upon us in the form of the X75. That's because it uses the latest Haswell Core i7 processors (not yet specified by Toshiba), along with graphics courtesy of Nvidia's brand-new GeForce GTX 770M. You also get a 17.3-inch display, red accent colors and lighting, and the ability to configure the system with both a traditional hard drive and solid-state storage. The Qosmio X75 should be available later this month starting from $1,399.
Acer isn't well known for gaming laptops, but the refreshed V3 hopes to change that perception. The Aspire V3-772G is pretty much what you expected from a portable gaming rig -- hefty (7 pounds), big screen (17.3 inches), and the latest hardware -- at a reasonable price. The $1,099 model includes both the new quad-core Core i7-4702MQ Haswell CPU and Nvidia's new GeForce GTX 760M graphics, which should provide superior performance and battery life over previous gaming notebooks.