Three wildly different Windows 8 tablets. Three separate target customers. Three very unique designs.
Even though all of these tablets run Windows 8 and feature third-generation Intel Core i-series chips, the Razer Edge, Panasonic 4K tablet, and Lenovo ThinkPad Helix have little in common at a glance. But each are examples of the promise that Windows 8 holds, as well as the unique and sometimes niche products from major manufacturers that launch at CES 2013.
The Razer Edge actually debuted at CES 2012 under the codename Project Fiona. According to Razer reps, the company used the months following the show to garner feedback from gamers and developers on how to proceed with the dedicated gaming tablet. The Razer Edge is the end result.
The Razer Edge is actually just the tablet itself. It\’s a Windows 8 unit with a 10.1 display (1366 x 768), and the base configuration is powered by an Intel Core i5 and features 4GB of RAM and a 64GB SSD . In fact, it\’s very similar to the Microsoft Surface Pro, with one huge difference. The Razer Edge features dedicated NVIDIA GT graphics. That means this tablet can handle just about any high-end PC game.
Unfortunately, that processing power comes at a price. The Razer Edge is thicker than most other Win 8 tablets by a few millimeters, and its battery life is significantly shorter, it only lasts a few hours on a single charge. Though, that\’s something most PC gamers are used to, as powerful rigs require lots of juice.
The Razer Edge pictured is actually the tablet docked in what Razer calls \”Mobile Console Mode.\” The controllers on each side are essentially the two halves of an Xbox 360 controller, for controlling the game. No clumsy on-screen controls here. In our brief demo playing Dishonored, the control schemed worked exceptionally well, and the entire rig is light enough that it\’s comfortable for extended gaming sessions.
Unfortunately, the Razer edge will not be cheap. The base unit starts at $1,000 USD, and that doesn\’t include the controller dock, which retails for $250 USD. Razer will also offer the tablet and docking station as part of a bundle, and a Core i7 version with larger SSD will also be offered for a few hundred dollars more. Razer will also offer a keyboard dock with extended battery and standard dock (Keyboard Mode and Home Console Mode), each sold separately.
Panasonic 4K Tablet
The Panasonic 4K tablet is huge. It\’s 20-inches corner to corner with a 3840 x 2560 resolution display. So it\’s not quite 4K, but close enough. It too features a Core i5 with NVIDIA graphics, but due to its size and weight, at 5.3 pounds, it\’s not a practical mobile gaming rig, even if it is less than half an inch thick. It will support an Anoto light pen, which is far different from the Wacom and N-trig sticks some Windows tablet users are used to. But at this size, who needs Wacom-like precision?
This tablet is suited toward imaging professionals, drafters, and engineers, the type that work on a drafting board or lug around large portfolio cases to client meetings. Panasonic is labeling the 4K tablet as a \”prototype,\” but reps claim it could hit the market in 2013. Judging by the interest its garnering at CES, Panasonic might want to hurry it into production. Before then, Panasonic will have to work out some kinks. The tablet TechnologyGuide demoed was exceedingly hot, and even though this is a table-top tablet that users only touch when moving from place to place, it\’s something Panasonic will probably remedy before release.
Lenovo ThinkPad Helix
The Lenovo ThinkPad Helix looks like just another Ultrabook, albeit with a detachable tablet screen, but it features some amazing product engineering. This is another Intel Core-powered Windows 8 tablet, with an 11.6-inch Gorilla Glass display. As of CES 2013, it\’s the lightest tablet in its class, coming in at only 835 grams. When attached to its battery-boosting keyboard (offering up to 10 hours of juice), it can also perform all the flips, bends, and contortions of the unique Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga.
What is truly impressive about the ThinkPad Helix however, is the design. There is little to no wasted space and everything is tightly integrated. For example, the full-sized keyboard features Lenovo\’s beloved trackball, though the trackball buttons which typically reside just above the trackpad are gone, and have been replaced with a larger trackpad (about 20% more surface area compared with traditional ThinkPad trackpad) that supports virtual trackball buttons.
Also, a powerful tablet like the ThinkPad Helix would overheat without proper ventilation, a problem Lenovo solves with a fan-powered vent that lifts up from the back of the keyboard. It almost looks like a car spoiler, and aside from being functional, gives the ThinkPad a slick robotic and industrial feel. It looks cool, and powerful, which one could not say about past business-centric ThinkPads.
Finally, in news that will surely delight old Windows tablet PC users, the Lenovo ThinkPad Helix ships with a Wacom stick and fully supports pressure-sensitive pen input. In addition, Lenovo slightly tweaked the Windows 8 desktop mode by including a Lenovo-branded Start button.
Windows 8 Strength
These three examples show one advantage Microsoft has over the competition in the tablet space, and that is variety. You won\’t see an assortment of products like this running Android, and never iOS. The Windows 8 platform is scalable for all types of users, and the tablet form factor is uniquely suited to take advantage of that. Here\’s hoping it continues into 2013.