I don't know how it does it, but the Asus Taichi manages to break the one of the universe's golden rules. Turns out, God does give with both hands. This incredibly beautiful device is actually a really awesome convertible laptop/tablet, too. Here's why.
What Is It?
The Asus Taichi 21 (to give it its full name) is a convertible laptop running Windows 8 Pro, that features an two full HD, IPS screens. One on the inside of the device and one on the lid. Both measure 11.6-inches on the diagonal and both pack in a screen resolution of 1920x1280.
You can pick it up in two configurations: $1599 will nab you an Intel Core i5 1.7GHz processor with 4GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD, or you can drop $1899 on an upgrade to a 1.9GHz Core i7 processor and a 256GB SSD.
The Taichi is beautiful. I've not yet seen a better-looking Windows 8 device. The internal 11.6-inch screen (which doesn't support touch) is beautiful at 1920x1080, likewise with the lid screen (which does support touch).
It's incredibly thin and light for what it is. The Dell XPS 12 we looked at yesterday manages to pack a single screen into its convertible chassis and it's still thicker than a device that's packing two.
If you're wondering what this device is like to live with, go and look at the Zenbook Prime ultrabook and slap a beautiful 11.6-inch touchscreen on top and you're there. It's taking the best of Asus and building cool things onto it. If it ain't broke, why fix it, after all?
The Taichi weighs in at a modest 1.25kg, which means you're not about to break your back carrying it in a bag and it's not at all cumbersome to carry between meetings.
The keyboard is a delight, as is the huge trackpad beneath it.
We tested the Intel Core i5 version, and it's not one that leaves you wanting for power in the slightest. It's well-tuned to handle everyday computing tasks, but don't expect desktop-saying power when you want to run games or high-end apps like Photoshop. You won't be at a loss for ports, either. The Taichi packs in a mini-HDMI out, a mini-display port, Ethernet and two USB 3.0 ports. Very handy.
The lid touchscreen is exceptional. The blacks are deep and the images are crisp. It's perfect for couch surfers who want to fire off a tweet, do their banking or watch a movie at the end of a day.
It's also about $100 cheaper than its closest rival, the Dell XPS 12, which is nice.
First things first: you won't use this how Asus say you will. Say for example youíre at home with the kids and you need to get some work done, but they really want to watch Dora The Explorer or Pulp Fiction or whatever kids watch these days. Asus wants you to put the movie on the lid screen while you did all of your important Excel-related business on the other side. I mentioned this in my hands-on, and I maintain it's true: that's a crazy way to consume content. Presumably if you're watching something with your kids, you want to be next to them, talking to them and interacting with them. You don't want a giant screen in-between the two parties. That's inherently anti-social. You don't sit on either side of the screen at a movie theatre, why do it when you're consuming content on the go?
Asus also say it's good for presentations. It says that you won't need a projector anymore because you can just throw that Powerpoint masterpiece onto the lid screen. I challenge anyone sitting at the other end of a board table to be able to see in detail what you're putting on that screen.
This device is best used for personal consumption. It's for when you want a laptop during the day and a tablet during the evening in front of the couch, and there's nothing wrong with that. In fact, this is where the Taichi shines.
The standby battery life of the Taichi is mighty impressive, but as soon as you open the lid, it becomes a different story. With heavy use, we got about 4.5 hours of battery life. That lid screen sucks power. 4.5 hours is still quite good, but with a standby time as good as this, I expected a little more from the battery when you actually start using the device.
Windows 8 has a charms menu when you hover your mouse into the top right hand side, which is great. On the Taichi, that charms menu is augmented with Asus' own customisation menu. It's not a problem per sé, it's just a little bit fiddly to have on top of the device.
Finally, it's par for the course on these ultrabooks-turned-tablets now, but the Taichi comes with integrated graphics in the form of the Intel HD 4000. I know we can't have everything in one device but would it kill us to stick something that could at least manage Day Z in there?
(Yes, I know all of these things are nitpicky)
This Is Weird...
I don't know if it's just the unit we were sent, but ever since it came out of the box there has been a tiny hairline crack underneath the Windows soft home key. It's and I don't imagine it's deliberate but there's no questioning the fact that it is present.
Also, the internal screen isn't actually a touchscreen. It's just...a screen. It's not a bad thing, it's just you'll find yourself reaching out to touch it once or twice before you realise it.
Should You Buy It?
Asus is great at building these convertible devices. First with the Asus Transformer line for those who wanted their tablets to be proper productivity tools, then with the Asus Padfone for those who wanted a tablet and a phone but not the bill for both, and now the Tachi. Who is the Taichi for? The person who needs an awesome laptop to use everyday and a tablet to use every night.
Asus knows how to build amazing convertible hardware and all the lessons the company has learned from building its previous models have come into full bloom in the Taichi. Yes, it has a stupid name. Yes, some of the specs like the graphics and the RAM could be improved, and yes, the proprietary settings screens get old quickly. Should that stop you buying this laptop? Absolutely not.
It's a productivity workhorse during the day and a leisurely luxury when you get it home to the couch. Even if the two were to swap scenarios, the two are perfectly interchangable. You'll get a bit tired of carrying it around as a laptop all the time, but for use when stationary, you couldn't ask for much more.
Processor: Intel Ivy Bridge Core i5 (1.7GHz) or Core i7 (i.9GHz) Display: 11.6-inch 1920×1080 Memory: 4GB RAM Storage: 128GB/256GB SSD Ports: Mini DisplayPort, 2x USB 3.0, mini-HDMI, Ethernet Price: $1599-$1899 RRP in Australia