Laptops have gotten a lot more interesting in the last few months, thanks to laptop manufacturers experimenting with Windows 8-friendly touchscreens and convertible form factors. If you want a laptop that combines the ultraportable features of a tablet with the productivity of a full keyboard, here are some of the most interesting new Windows 8 hybrid laptops (or convertible tablet PCs) and touchscreen laptops available for ordering now or soon. ~ updated January 9, 2013
I've edited this list to include the ThinkPad Helix, which is everything you might want in a Windows 8 convertible. The 11.6" full HD display can be used alone as a touchscreen tablet or docked into the keyboard in either normal laptop mode or facing outwards for presentation or movie watching. This business-class laptop has a thin and light Ultrabook form, with up to 10 hours of battery life (the keyboard dock adds extra battery life to the tablet's 5 hours). It also can be outfitted with powerful specs: up to an Intel Core i7 processor, 8GB of RAM, and 256GB SSD. And it has a Wacom digitizer for pen support. The only thing is this premium laptop-tablet hybrid comes with a premium starting price of $1,499. Expected to start shipping in February.
The IdeaPad Yoga from Lenovo looks like a traditional clamshell notebook, but it has a few tricks up its sleeves: The "first multi-mode laptop" folds on double hinges so you can use it in different positions (propped up like a tent, for example, for easy multimedia viewing or web browsing). The 13.3-inch Ultrabook has a HD+ IPS multitouch display, can be outfitted with up to a 3rd generation Intel Core i7 processor and up to 8GB of memory, and comes with a 128GB solid state drive. At less than 0.7-inches thin and weighing just 3.3 pounds, it's also very light and portable. The battery life rating is 8 hours. MSRP: $1,099
The Acer Aspire S7 is one of the first Ultrabooks designed specifically for Windows 8. The 13-inch laptop is also one of the thinnest and lightest (0.47 inches thick and 2.86 pounds). While the Aspire S7 doesn't convert to tablet mode or do tricks like the IdeaPad Yoga, it does have a premium design, with a minimalist all-white chassis (a unibody chassis made of aluminum) and Gorilla glass lid and a great 1920 by 1080 pixels resolution. You can find models available with a Core i5 processor and 128GB SSD or Core i7 and 256GB SSD. Prices starting around $1400.
Dell's XPS 12 is an unusual convertible laptop, with a clever touchscreen that flips in the lid into different screen positions. This lets you shut the lid to use the screen in tablet mode or have the screen facing outward in a "stand" mode. Like other Ultrabooks, the XPS 12 is thin and light, comes with Intel Core i5 or i7 processors and either a 128GB or 256GB SSD. The XPS has a 12.5-inch display with HD (1920 by 1080 pixels) resolution. Battery life is a little on the low side, however, running under 5 hours. Prices starting around $1200.
One of the smallest Windows laptops is the Asus VivoTab RT, a 10-inch tablet with hardware keyboard dock. As the name suggests, the Vivo Tab RT runs Windows RT, not the full Windows 8 operating system (you can learn more about the differences here, but basically the RT version will only allow you to install additional apps from the Windows 8 Store). The VivoTab RT is attractively priced (about $600 with the keyboard dock included) and comes with 32GB of storage and 2GB of memory, plus a screen resolution of 1366 by 768 pixels. One of the most compelling features of the Vivo Tab is its support for Wacom digitizer stylus for better writing experience. A larger Vivo version with a 11.6-inch screen, full HD IPS display, and full Windows 8 is also coming up (and probably worth waiting for).
Another tablet with a hardware keyboard dock, this one is from Samsung. The 11.6-inch Samsung ATIV Smart PC runs Windows 8--the full version--off of an Intel Atom processor and comes with 64GB SSD storage. (A pro 700T version is also available running Intel Core i5 processor and with higher-end specs such as a 1920 by 1080 pixel display.) The touchscreen can be popped on or off the keyboard dock; it has a standard 1366 by 768 resolution. One of the nicest features of this tablet-laptop hybrid is it comes with a digitizer pen (stylus), similar to the ones Samsung is including in its popular Note smartphones, so it should be great for writing on the tablet. Available for pre-order now starting at $650.
The Samsung Series 7 Slate PC has been offered previously running Windows 7. A Windows 8 version of this dockable tablet is also in the works, with an updated Core i5 processor and new pressure-sensitive Samsung S-Pen (which offers 1,024 levels of sensitivity). Like the previous models, the Series 7 Slate's 11.6-inch screen docks into a silver keyboard dock. A Series 5 version will also be available starting for about $450 less and running an Intel Atom processor. The Series 7 Slate has the better specs, however, with a full HD display, 4GB of memory, and 128GB SSD. It weighs just 1.9 pounds and is half an inch thick. These aren't available yet as of this writing, but I'm keeping an eye out for it. Prices are expected to be around $1,199.
Sony took a different approach with its VAIO Duo Windows 8 laptop: Instead of having the screen detach or fold, Sony designed the Duo's 11.6-inch display to slide up or down. This convertible tablet PC can be outfitted with solid specs: Up to a 3rd generation Intel Core i7 processor, a 1920 by 1080 pixels resolution IPS display, and up to 256GB SSD. Battery life is on the low side, up to 4 hours and 45 minutes, but on the plus side the weight is just 2.87 pounds. Starting at $1,100.
One of the most unusual experiments in touchscreen laptops is the Asus Taichi, which comes with not just one touchscreen, but two. One is on the back of the lid so you could be working on your laptop while someone sitting across from you can be using the other screen independently. Available in Core i5 and i7 flavors with full HD displays, prices start at $1299.
Asus took the concept of its popular Android tablet Transformer and brought it over to Windows 8. The Transformer Book features a 13-inch full HD IPS multitouch display, Core i5 or i7 processors, and a 128GB SSD. When docked, you gain access to more storage space (500GB HDD), ports, and additional battery life, making this Windows 8 tablet with dockable keyboard a killer combination. An 11.6-inch version will also be available. Pricing TBD.
Finally, for the business user, Lenovo offers the ThinkPad Twist, a 12.5-inch convertible tablet PC that swivels like the tablet PCs of old. This one can also be propped up in tent mode, like the IdeaPad Yoga. You have a lot of options to outfit this ThinkPad Ultrabook: with up to an Intel Core i7 processor, 128GB SSD or 320GB or 500GB storage, and up to 8GB memory. Battery life is a decent 7 hours but the weight tips a littler higher than others in its class, at 3.5 pounds. The best part of the ThinkPad Twist convertible tablet PC may be its business features: sturdy construction, TPM module for data security, and that iconic, award winning keyboard and pointer. Prices start at $799.