Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Invasion of the tabletop tablets: Are these fiendishly clever hybrids the ultimate family PCs?

Windows 8 has spurred a lot of unusual hardware designs, but few are as intriguing as the tabletop tablet. Imagine a full-fledged all-in-one PC that lies flat on whatever surface you have handy. It's a design that offers all the screen real estate and CPU performance of a touchscreen all-in-one, along with the portability of a battery-operated tablet.

With display sizes ranging from 18.4 inches to 27 inches, the new hybrids are ostensibly perfect for modernizing "family game night." And, indeed, these machines are bundled with touchscreen versions of board games, air hockey, poker, and other digital diversions. If you use these PCs as their manufacturers intended, your hybrid machine will be a family-room desktop computer by day and a living-room gaming platform by night.

But is this an experience that consumers want or even need? Asus, Dell, Lenovo, and Sony sure hope so. Each computer maker took an independent path toward the invention of this novel form factor, though the companies were certainly compelled by a single market force: Traditional PC sales are falling off a cliff. HP plans to get into the game, too, but its Envy Rove won’t ship until July.

As with any experiment in crossbreeding, the goal is to generate a new life form that's superior to its parents. Is that what happened here? Yes and no.

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