The ASUS Taichi is an ultrabook with a difference. As flexible as its name suggests, this dual-screen ultrabook is as happy being a Windows 8 computer as it is a Windows 8 tablet. We went hands-on today with this intriguing new ASUS machine at Intel's Christmas ultrabook showcase.
We've never seen a laptop nor ultrabook quite like the ASUS Taichi. Though opening up the clamshell reveals a fairly standard, non-touch 11.6-inch screen, closing the case reveals it's killer feature. Where you'd usually expect the screen back covering to be instead sits an 11.6-inch 10-finger multitouch display. Rather than putting the machine in standby mode, closing the ultrabook while it is on instead activates this outside screen, letting you use the Windows 8 Modern UI in a tablet-style mode.
With both screens running at Full HD 1080p resolutions, they're incredibly sharp, with the touchscreen proving particularly responsive (even if the touch-sensitive Home/Modern UI bezel button was a little temperamental), but using the device takes some getting used to, and poses a few unique quirks.
Firstly, whereas most convertible ultrabooks that double up as quasi-tablets use a single touchscreen display, the use of two displays (both touch and non-touch) can make for some jarring transitions. Maybe it was down to a lack of caffeine in my system when trying out the Taichi, but I regularly kept trying to swipe away at the non-touch screen after re-opening the ultrabook, something that wouldn't cause a problem on a standard single-display, fully-touch convertible. Two screens also necessitate extra weight and a higher price; 1.25kg is an acceptable ultrabook weight, but not comfortable for an extended tablet usage session, while the £1499 price tag is certainly towards the upper limit of what we'd comfortably pay for a Core i5 11-inch machine. You'll also have to keep a laptop sleeve handy if you want to put the Taichi in a bag and keep it in tip-top shape.
Despite these issues, there's no denying that the Taichi represents the simplest, speediest tablet-to-ultrabook convertible solution we've seen yet. There are no hinges to twist or catches to unlock, as it's as simple as closing the lid in order to enter tablet mode. You can even have both screens running at once if necessary, like a futuristic version of Battleship (it will be a crime if a bespoke version of the boardgame doesn't come pre-installed here)!
Configuration options are reasonably thorough too, with options for Intel Core i7 or i5 Ivy Bridge processors and either 128GB or 256GB SSDs for speedy boot times. SonicMaster audio is onboard, co-developed by Bang and Olufsen too. There is no option for a dedicated GPU however, relying instead upon integrated Intel HD Graphics 4000. 4GB DDR3 RAM comes as standard across all models, with a quoted battery life of 5 hours suggesting you'll struggle to get a full days work out of each charge.
It's an interesting concept that's sure to turn heads during the ultrabook wars this Christmas. With so many OEMs vying for attention following the Windows 8 drive, ASUS's Taichi is one of the more eye-catching options for sure. Whether it's a sensible one remains to be seen.
We're hoping to get hold of a review sample ahead of the ASUS Taichi's winter launch, where we'll give our full verdict of all features of the tablet/ultrabook hybrid.