If there's one theme that's run throughout IFA 2012 it's that whoever the Gok Wan of the tech world is has decided that it's Windows 8 hybrid tablets that are in vogue. The Metro or Modern UI atop the latest desktop OS from Microsoft is just so touch ready that it would be rude not to run it on a tablet. The rest of the system, however, is just so fiddly that it would be impossible without a keyboard. Et voila, the Windows hybrid is born.
Sony has one, Samsung has one, Asus has one... in fact, here's a list of everyone who's launched a Windows hybrid tablet/latop (tabtop?) at IFA this year.
So, before we get going, there seem to be two major groups of Windows hybrid tablet laptops. The first are the dockers. They're dock-based mechanism machines. One minute, they're a tablet, the next, you've clipped on a keyboard dock at the base and they're a laptop. If that's what you're after, then these are the ones to look at.
Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet 2
The Lenovo ThinkPad 2 is a 10.1-inch device that docks into the keyboard that comes with the package. To the side is a slot for a digital stylus, which we believe is also included (though the press release says that you'll have to stump up extra cash for it).
The most obvious difference between the Tablet 2 and its predecessor is the operating system of choice. The original tablet ran Android, whereas this version's inclusion of Windows 8 Pro means Lenovo is now supporting both operating systems across its different devices. Hands-on
Samsung Ativ Smart PC
The Samsung Ativ Smart PC uses a detachable keyboard to bring a more traditional Qwerty computing experience to a tablet, while keeping things as portable as you might want a Windows 8 tablet to be. The 11.6-inch display has multi touch support which works naturally with Windows 8.
Not content with keyboard and touch, the S Pen control method, like the Note 10.1 and just announced Note 2, is also thrown in for good measure, bringing a little variety to your input options. There are two variants of the Ativ Smart PC. The standard Ativ Smart PC is 9.9mm thick and uses an Atom processor. The Ativ Smart PC Pro is larger at 11.9mm, thanks to its more powerful i5 processor. Hands-on
HP Envy x2
Not wishing to be left behind by equivalents from Samsung, Sony, et al, is HP. The HP Envy x2 is a tablet/PC hybrid 11.6-inch device that runs Windows 8 and features the Beats Audio system that the manufacturer hopes will give it that extra edge over the rest.
Weighing 1.4kg when the keyboard is attached (0.68kg when not), the Envy x2 has a HD IPS panel, which should ensure decent brightness (400-nit), and front and rear cameras. There's NFC for use with media sharing and HP has added proprietary software, including HP Connected Photo, an app that syncs photos across multiple devices and offers basic editing options. Read more | Hands-on
Asus Vivo Tab
Asus kicked off IFA 2012 with the announcement of two new tablet devices. The Asus Vivo Tab and Asus Vivo Tab RT bring the successful Transformer concept to Windows 8. The name comes from the Latin verb "to live", with Asus describing the new tablet devices as ideal for work and play.
Based around an 11.6-inch Super IPS+ display, like the Transformer range of Android tablet devices, the Vivo Tab will feature a dock to turn this Windows 8 tablet into a fully fledged notebook. With a thickness of just 8.7mm and weighing 675g, the Vivo Tab is a slick looking device, exhibiting Asus's growing experience in tablet design. Read more | Hands-on
The other way to do the Windows hyrbid laptop tablet thang is by tucking the keyboard neatly away to leave a thick tablet rather than removing the thing altogether. The disadvantage is that it's a little chunkier and heavier than it would be when in tablet form. On the plus side, you're less likely to leave part of it on the 16.25 to Swindon.
Toshiba Satellite U920T
Packing Windows 8 and a choice of the latest Ivy Bridge processors, the Toshiba Satellite U920T looks to be as powerful as the rest of the competition. No discreet graphics but the U920T features both a 32GB SSD and a 1TB HDD, as well as 6GB of RAM.
A slight letdown is the screen, which at 14-inches and with a 1366 x 768 resolution, is fairly pixelated. It is also fairly heavy, at 1.79Kg. A 1-megapixel webcam on the front is paired with another on the rear and the connectivity is good too. SRS Premium Sound 3DTM speakers sit next to the display adding some quality to you entertainment potential. Read more
Sony Vaio Duo 11
The Sony Vaio Dual 11 sports a surf slider build with a full Qwerty keyboard, but consumers can opt to stick to a slate tablet mode and use the 11-inch touch display. A digitised stylus is included in the tablet device. Again, one could argue that this is, in fact, a laptop. Because, again, it is, but the duo is meant to be a tablet every much as it as meant as an Ultrabook.
Like the Tap 20, the Duo 11 and features Sony's new Clear Audio+ sound technology for a an improved sound experience when watching video or listening to music as well as a choice of high end Intel Core CPUs and Intel HD graphics. Coming at the end of October. Read more | Hands-on
Dell XPS Duo 12
Stretching the boundaries of what can be considered a slider comes the Dell XPS Duo 12. In what we'd describe technically as more of a flipper or a spinner, this one runs a full version Windows 8, looks more like a much plusher sequel to the Inspiron Duo and is machined from aluminium and carbon fibre - a top-of-the-line piece of kit.
There's a Full HD touch screen display, edge to edge glass and it's upgradeable all the way to an Ivy Bridge Core i7 processor and a backlit keyboard. Stay tuned for more on pricing yet and specs for the XPS Duo 12. Read more | Hands-on
All of the hybrid machines above run the full-fat version of Windows 8, but don't forget that Microsoft also has the lite version of the OS called Windows RT that's designed specifically for tablets. It's rather surprising that we haven't seen more Windows RT hybrids launched at IFA but if you want to know what did arrive, then these are they.
Dell XPS 10 Windows RT tablet
Dell has announced at IFA 2012 that its first foray into the world of Windows RT tablets will be called the XPS 10. The tablet will feature a detachable keyboard, as seems to be the trend right now, and it will be backlit for a much better experience.
To make use of that keyboard, you'll also have Microsoft Office - which is standard on Windows RT devices - and a microSD slot along with a micro-USB connection for your choice of peripherals. The screen will also be "HD" although as yet we don't know if that's 1280x720 or 1920x1080. The XPS 10 will, according to Dell, have 20 hours battery life. Somewhat mega. Read more | Hands-on
Asus Vivo Tab RT
Asus wants to make your Windows RT tablet dreams come true with the Asus Vivo Tab RT docker. Sibling of the full Windows 8 model, this is an MS version of one of the hugely successful transformer products. The Asus Vivo Tab RT is slightly smaller than the W8 one.
It is based around a 10.1-inch 1366 x 768 resolution display and is powered by the Nvidia Tegra 3 chipset, with 2GB RAM, so is very much the mobile device. In the hand it feels sturdy and well constructed, the metal finish to the back giving it a good-quality feel. The buttons around the side of the tablet, and the build of the accompanying keyboard feel assured. Hands-on
Sometimes something pops up that you just can't pigeon hole. It's definitely not a slider, you couldn't call it a flipper, it's certainly not a docker and you'd be hard pressed to argue that it's a spinner. It's...
Sony Vaio Tap 20
Some might argue that the Sony Vaio Tap 20 is a desktop computer. Because it is. However, this is a machine that Sony is positively encouraging the family to use as if it were a giant, 20-inch tablet. Because it's basically also this too.
Thanks to the magic of Windows 8 this computer - minus the plugged-in mouse and keyboard - is designed to lie flat and become some sort of multi-use, family painting device. Graphics are integrated, as are the speakers, and there's up to 8GB of RAM and an Intel Core i7 and a possible 1TB of storage at your disposal. Read more | Hands-on