Windows 8 laptop roundup: Traditional PCs get an upgrade

notable win 8 laptops microsoft windows 8 pcIt will definitely take some getting used to — the hands-on nature of the OS already requires a bit of a brain rewire — but change should be exciting. This is the first time in a long time that Microsoft has drastically overhauled the aesthetics in Windows — and it should be celebrated for it. Yes, Windows 8 has its limitations and annoyances, but Microsoft is steadily rolling out updates and responding to customer feedback. There’s nowhere to go but up. 

Windows 8 represents the start of a radical shift in the laptop market. Microsoft’s decision to redesign the Windows interface for use with touch should solve one of the most serious problems facing PC manufacturers interested in touchscreen devices – the lack of a decent interface.

No time has been wasted in the development of new products with new ideas. In fact, some of the products debuting with Windows 8 are concepts first shown nearly a year ago at CES 2012. Looking for a new notebook? We’ve rounded up the five laptops that we think are most likely to interest consumers now that the new operating system is available.

Acer Aspire M5

Acer’s Aspire Timeline Ultra M5, one of our favorite Ultrabooks, is being updated for use with Windows 8. The update appears to almost wholly consist of a 10-point touchscreen. Most other components, and the chassis itself, appear largely untouched. We’re not opposed to that. We think the touchscreen model would be a good choice for anyone who wants some touchscreen functionality, but intends to still rely primarily on the ole’ touchpad and keyboard. Acer has priced the model accordingly – it will start at just $800.

Acer Aspire S7

windows 8 laptop roundup acer aspire s7

Acer is trying hard to re-brand itself as a maker of high-end laptops, which has been made obvious in products like the Aspire S5 Ultrabook. Unfortunately, it was also obvious that Acer wasn’t ready to play in the $1,000+ market. The S7 could change that impression.

It comes in 11.6-inch and 13.3-inch versions, both of which have an impressive 1920×1080 touchscreen, which also addresses one our most serious complaints about the S5. Another feature of the S5 that has (thankfully) been nixed is the silly mechanical trapdoor for the computer’s ports. The ports are now located on the side. A slight increase in size and weight has resulted, but the laptop it still under three pounds and among the thinnest on the market. Prices will start at $1,200 for the 11.6-inch model and $1,400 for the 13.3-inch model. Check out our hands-on preview for more info.

HP Envy Spectre XT TouchSmart

Check out our review of the HP Envy Spectre XT Touchsmart laptop. 

HP has gone berserk on this 15-inch touchscreen laptop. It offers a 1080p IPS display, an Intel Core processor, a Thunderbolt port and, of course, a touchscreen. Despite its thin profile, and unlike most of the other laptops listed here, the Spectre XT is clearly not meant for travel. Its weight of 4.7 pounds makes it the gorilla of the group. Still, not everyone who buys a laptop needs portability, and the hardware specs make it clear that the XT will be a competitor for the performance. 

Asus U500VZ

asus zenbook u500vz review  alternateThis 15.6-inch Asus U500VZ touchscreen laptop was revealed back in August as part of its Windows 8 press release. It’s apparently a part of the Zenbook line and, at 19.7mm at its thickest point, will be thin enough to earn itself the Ultrabook label. It will also be packing the 1080p IPS panel that has earned so much praise in previous models.

Under the hood, the U500VZ will be an absolute beast. The quoted specifications include a Core i7 processor, optional Nvidia GT 650M graphics, and room for both a 500GB mechanical drive and a 128GB solid-state drive. Users who desire only solid-state storage can have it with two 256GB solid state drives. Pricing has not been announced. We expect it will be somewhere between “a heckuva lot” and “oh my God.” It’s anticipated to launch in early 2013.

Samsung Series 5 Ultra Touch

Samsung Series 5 Ultra Touch

The Samsung Series 5 Touch joins the Acer Aspire M5 as our pick for the everyman’s touchscreen laptop. We have not fully reviewed the Series 5, but we’re not oblivious to it. We think it’s a well-built, yet affordable, 13-inch Ultrabook. Of course, a touchscreen is included in the new model, as is a Core low-voltage processor and a mechanical hard drive paired with a solid-state cache drive. It’s all conventional stuff, so it’s good that Samsung has barely touched the price. Base price starts at $800.

Conclusion

Only a few days have passed since the launch of Windows 8, but we’ve decided our top picks for Windows 8 laptops are the Asus U500VZ, and the Acer Aspire M5. Both of these touchscreen laptops offer unique design, powerful hardware, and impressive displays. We haven’t had the chance to fully review any of these products, and we’ve had hands-on time with only some of them, so take this list as a collection of first impressions rather than final verdicts. Look for our full reviews on these laptops and more over the coming months.

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