One of the things we expected to see a lot of at CES 2013 were new Windows tablets. That expectation was completely realized. The Intel booth had a plethora of Windows 8 tablets on display from many manufacturers. Sony, LG, and Samsung also had a few of their own devices in their booths.
The Intel booth greets you right when you walk into the main show floor. When you pair that with the dozen tablets on display it made for a great starting place. In addition to the above mentioned devices, they also had some tablets from HP that we hadn’t actually seen before.
The first tablet that really impressed us was one from HP. The ElitePad 900 was a sleek 10.1″ model that felt better in the hand than any other Windows tablet we’ve held, short of the Surface (if you like that sort of thing.) The back of the case was aluminum and didn’t exhibit any flex at all. Unfortunately if we had known some of the specs, and even more importantly the price, we wouldn’t have been so excited. It comes in 32 and 64 GB models with Intel’s CloverTrail (Atom) processor, but the display is some-what unique. It is a 16:10 display, an aspect ratio that most people prefer, but the screen resolution at 1280×800 is lower than most other tablets available. HP has also made pricing extremely complicated on their site, but basically you’re looking at about $1000 to purchase one.
From the more enterprise-focused space Lenovo was showing their ThinkPad Tablet 2. It’s a 10.1″ tablet with Intel’s CloverTrail processor running Windows 8. The display resolution is 1366×768, and has an available Wacom digitizer pen, a feature we love. It felt wonderful in the hand, and has a removable back so that the hard drive can be removed if the unit needs to be repaired. That way you don’t have to send any potentially sensitive data to Lenovo during the service. It starts at $649 with 64 GB of storage and Wi-Fi, but can also be had with AT&T LTE, Windows 8 Pro, and a keyboard dock.
LG had an interesting slider tablet. The Tab-Book H160, like so many others, is CloverTrail-based. It is a tablet that has a button on the side that will open a spring-mounted latch to pop the tablet up at an angle, exposing a small keyboard beneath it. The device wasn’t too terribly heavy or thick, but the hinge mechanism wasn’t the easiest to operate and felt like it might be easy to break.
If the idea of the sliding display sounds nice then Sony might have the tablet you’re looking for. They call it the VAIO Duo 11 Ultrabook. It sports an 11.6″ 1080p display and a hinge system similar to the LG. The sliding mechanism on the VAIO felt significantly more durable than the LG. Because it’s technically an Ultrabook the processor options start with a Core i5, but it can be had with a Core i7. It starts at $1199.
Samsung was showing their ATIV Smart PC tablets that launched with Windows 8, and an updated model: the ATIV Smart PC Pro 700T. The new model is more in the Ultrabook line, and that brings with it a much-needed bump in physical quality. The original ATIV tablets felt pretty cheap, but the Smart PC Pro feels significantly better. For $1200 it better.
Windows tablets seem to be getting better quickly, as does the Windows app situation. We were shown several new Windows apps that looked really nice. One thing was very clear though, most manufacturers are sticking with Intel instead of building Windows RT tablets on the ARM architecture. The ability to run legacy desktop apps is a huge plus with Intel processors, and performance always felt really good. With new ARM processors being announced at CES maybe there is still a chance that Microsoft’s Windows RT will survive a little while longer.