Intel's new quad- and dual-core processors are here, and with new processors comes new computers designed to make what you're using now look like a dumb, slow, stupid piece of crap. What is your laptop running? Sandy Bridge? You should have thrown that thing in the dumpster months ago.
All of the big PC makers took advantage of Computex this week to show off their latest wares, and while desktops and heavy-duty laptops got their share of the spotlight the most intriguing systems continue to be convertibles and thin-and-light Ultrabooks. We've been keeping our eye out for the best looking systems all week, and we've collected some of them into one easy-to-reference list for your perusal (along with the thing or things that makes them stand out from the crowd).
Stop us if you’ve seen this one before
We'll get to the new-new stuff in a minute, but first we want to talk about the existing Ivy Bridge systems that are simply trading in those chips for Haswell ones. We said in one of our write-ups that Haswell's battery life improvements in particular would be a boon to some Ivy Bridge systems that just missed greatness, and that appears to be the tack that some OEMs are taking.
Dell's XPS 12, the Ivy Bridge version of which we reviewed a few months back, is one such system. We liked this laptop's flippable touchscreen and solid design, and Dell's press release about the Haswell version claims that the upgrade gets it two more hours of battery life (we got a so-so five hours out of the Ivy Bridge version). The performance upgrade won't be as substantial—the new version is apparently equipped with a Core i5-4200U, which doesn't include the fancy new Intel HD 5000 integrated GPU—but if you've been on the fence the Haswell version may be enough to push you over the edge. The new XPS 12 will run you $1,199 and begins shipping in the next few weeks.
Acer's Aspire S7 was another attractive notebook that just couldn't get the battery life it needed with Ivy Bridge (we couldn't even eke four hours out of it). We also weren't in love with the shallow, oddly-arranged keyboard on the old model. While the refresh is retaining the same layout, Engadget reports that the laptop's keyboard now features better travel and Haswell, in addition to a larger battery (47 WHr, up from 35), brings the battery life up to a more respectable seven hours (in Acer's estimation). Finally, international versions of the Haswell-based S7 will be offered with a high-density 2560×1440 display, though the US model will reportedly continue to use the current (perfectly nice) 1080p display. The new S7 will start at $1,399 when it is made available in July or August.
Finally, it wasn't shown off at the show (and we don't have a solid timeline for it), but a Toshiba representative has told us that a Haswell-based refresh is in the cards for its new Kirabook at some point down the road. We really enjoyed our time with the Kirabook, but it's hard to justify dropping at least $1,600 on a PC with last year's silicon in it; a Haswell refresh would make the 13.3-inch 2560×1440 Ultrabook that much more palatable.
We'll be seeing plenty of other existing Ivy Bridge laptops get the Haswell treatment in the coming months, but for now we want to move on to new products.
Really new stuff
Asus has actually been doing a lot of really great work lately—the build quality on laptops like the Zenbook Prime is quite impressive. Following in that laptop's wake, Asus showed off (but didn't officially announce, price, or date) a new Ultrabook called the Zenbook Infinity, which AnandTech called the "most beautiful notebook at Computex" (and they don't dish out their hyperbolic praise lightly). The laptop has Gorilla Glass 3 coating both its 13.3-inch 2560×1440 touchscreen and its lid. On the inside it sports a (relatively) beefy Core i7-4558U: a 2.8GHz dual-core CPU paired with Intel's Iris 5100 GPU. The end result is something that will probably weigh a little more than other Ultrabooks, but it will also be a substantial step up over Ivy Bridge in performance.
Asus also showed off its experimental side with the Transformer Book Trio, an odd convertible that has the guts of an Ultrabook in its base and the insides of an Intel Atom-based tablet in its lid. When docked, the convertible can run either Windows 8 or Android, and the system becomes a full-fledged Android tablet when undocked. We still don't have pricing information for this one, but a Q3 launch is apparently in the cards.
Not to be left out, Dell also showed how flexible its convertibles can be with the new XPS 11. Due "later in 2013" for an as-yet undisclosed price, the 11-inch 2560×1440 convertible marries the design language of the XPS Ultrabooks with the hinge of Lenovo's IdeaPad Yoga. We've heard from a few sources that the Yoga has been one of the better-received convertibles to come out of the initial Windows 8 push, so it's not surprising to see some other companies rushing to copy its design.
Finally, Sony introduced a number of interesting systems to flesh out its Windows 8 lineup. The first two are Ultrabooks that aim directly for Apple's MacBook Air, the Vaio Pro 11 and 13. The 11.6-inch and 13.3-inch laptops (which both feature 1080p displays) are being billed by Sony as the "world's lightest" entries in their respective form factors, and we were impressed by their size and weight when we got a chance to go hands-on with non-working pre-production models a couple of months back. The 11-inch and 13-inch models will be available starting June 9th for "about" $1149 and $1,249, respectively.
Sony is also pushing a 13.3-inch follow up to its Vaio Duo 11 convertible from earlier this year. Though the 11-inch model is not being updated at this time, the Vaio Duo 13 leaves more room for the keyboard and a small trackpad and improves the design and durability of the convertible hinge mechanism. The cramped keyboard and optical nub of the 11-inch model were two of our biggest issues with it, so it's nice to see these issues being addressed (even if it's not clear when or if these innovations will be able to make it into a smaller form factor). The Duo 13 will be available from June 9th for $1,399.
All of these systems should be making it to store shelves as the summer progresses. We'll be reviewing these (and other Haswell systems) as we get them in, so let us know if there's anything in particular you'd like us to focus on.