The advent of Windows 8 has encouraged a movement to homogenize the computer-using experience (if not the actual computer types themselves); whether that’s a good or bad thing is up to the future to decide.
While one of the objectives of the movement is to decrease the confusion and difficulty of using any kind of computer, Windows 8 has also introduced another kind of confusion: how laptops should look from here on in. Computer manufacturers can’t seem to decide on a specific basic type, let alone a singular design. Then again, maybe that was the whole point: settle on a common (more or less) operating system, so that instead of diversifying functions, computer manufacturers can focus more on diversifying forms.
Groovy Design, Man
The forms that have been very prevalent as of late seem to be different takes on the laptop/tablet hybrid concept. Traditional laptops may still be around, but given the structure of Windows 8 and the fact that today’s generation of computer users are more outgoing than ever, some pundits are speculating that it won’t be long before the hybrids become the norm. It’s still such a relatively new classification, though, that designs tend to be quite varied.
One of the fresher looks to appear is Acer’s Iconia W700. On its own, it looks just like any other tablet, as expected. Its dock, and the way the two laptop components are put together, however, set it apart from the rest. The dock’s design calls to mind something out of a 70s sci-fi movie: it has borders for the bottom and left side, and is open at the top and right side. The 70s-style borders are also thick enough to protect the slate, so the design is functional at the very least. The slate slides in from the right to attach to the dock, and it has just one solitary USB 3.0 slot, which is as useful as one expects it to be. However, it’s also the only thing that connects the slate to the dock, so any peripheral piece attached to the slot has to be removed beforehand. The trade-off is a dock that has three USB 3.0 ports, so that’s more than a fair deal.
The Iconia W700 also has a wireless keyboard that feels good to type on. The keys are spaced apart well, and they give a satisfying “clack” when pressed. So far so good.
Not Well Thought Out
What the hybrid doesn’t have is a touchpad or a mouse. Despite Windows 8 being touch-based, it’s still not handy enough in that regard to consider doing away with an actual pointer device. Confoundedly, this is a mistake that some manufacturers still make (*cough*VaioDuo11*cough*), and the W700 follows suit. The dock has a stand at its rear, but the way it attaches to the dock allows only one viewing angle, which is a complete design snafu. The stand can also be attached in such a way that you can switch from a landscape to a portrait alignment, but that only emphasizes the flaw even more. The Windows 8 UI (not to mention the traditional desktop view) is best seen in landscape, after all.
As for the inner laptop components, the Iconia W700 has a 1.7 GHz Intel Core i5 CPU, 4 GB of 1,600 MHz DDR3 RAM, an Intel HM77 APU with HD4000 graphics, and 128 GB of storage space. It has a Mini-HDMI video port (no DisplayPort), 802.11n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity, and the aforementioned four USB ports (three on the dock, one on the tablet). Pretty standard stuff… until you get to the price. For $999, you would think you’d be getting more RAM, or at least a couple more ports.
In the end, despite the sleek (and admittedly cool) retro look of the device, the Acer Iconia W700 is a bit of a hard sell. It’s best to look elsewhere for your computing needs.