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Hands-on review: Updated: Asus Taichi
The Asus Taichi is a prime example of the new and varied form factors that are springing up from every manufacturer in the lead up to the release of Windows 8.
In a market that's as far from the generic clones that are plaguing the Android tablet market, there's no way that Asus will be beset by claims of copying with the unique Asus Taichi.
From afar the Taichi looks like a standard 11.6-inch ultra-portable laptop. There's no swivelling, docking or sliding as we've seen from the likes of the Asus Vivo Tab, the Samsung Ativ Smart PC or the Sony Vaio Duo 11.
On closer inspection, however, you'll notice that the Asus Taichi has a second screen embedded into the lid, so when the laptop's closed, it becomes a tablet PC.
This second screen enables it to be used as a standard laptop while open, held as a tablet when it's shut, and even be used by two people at the same time.
Powering this unusual Asus tablet-laptop hybrid is an Intel Core i5-3317U processor clocked at 1.7GHz with 2.6GHz available at full load. This offers plenty of power to multitask over the two 1080p IPS panels.
Having not one but two Full HD screens is staggering, and the rest of the lineup is none too shabby either. There's Intel HD 4000 integrated graphics, 128GB SSD, and 4GB of RAM.
What's more, the size and weight of the Asus Taichi is impressive, without acknowledging the serious amount of technology packed inside. It weighs just 1.1kg (2.5lbs), which is far more than a tablet, but ranks among one of the lightest full form laptops we've ever seen.
Visions of complex Windows commands being required to start using the rear panel were thankfully dispelled, and opening the slim chassis revealed a blue hotkey that shone out from the array of compact black buttons.
Press this button and the screen is dimmed before a horizontal bar appears on the screen for icons for four distinct settings: Notebook mode, Tablet mode, Dual-Screen mode and Mirror mode.
Notebook mode just switches off the second screen and Tablet mode enables you to use the top screen while the laptop is closed, just like a tablet. Mirror mode 'mirrors' whatever is on the laptop screen onto the lid, and Dual-Screen enables you to use both screens independently.
The early pre-production model we had time with was still far from finished, and there were plenty of issues with the software still to be ironed out.
This is understandable, since the system has to decide which way to orientate the display as you hold the tablet and open the screen. Switching was also laborious, but it's obviously a long way from being finished.
In our brief hands-on test we couldn't find any performance issues with the Tegra 3 chip, and Windows 8 remained responsive while multitasking apps and switching between them.
The clear benefit is the ability to carry your laptop and use it as a tablet on the move, opening it up when the keys are required for typing longer emails or working on documents, but enabling you to surf the web and check your email.
However, it still remains a niche product, but one we hope isn't resigned to Asia only, or a muted execution by CES 2013.
Weight is important with any device that's supposed to be used as a tablet, which is still an early build, but we were assured that the thickness, weight and build is extremely similar to the Asus Zenbook.
Other concerns are with battery life, and having an Intel Core processor powering two screens will struggle to cope with anywhere near all-day use. We'll have to wait for more details to emerge before working out whether the Asus Taichi will see the light of day.
We're still dubious whether this will see a genuine release of the Asus Taichi, because it's hard to see how the cost of production can match with mass appeal to become a mainstream product.
Asus has been there before, notably with the Asus Padfone, which has recently been given a proper global release with it's second iteration, the Asus Padfone 2.
Whatever happens to the Asus Taichi, Asus should be applauded for testing the boundaries of what can be achieved with Windows 8.
Hands-on review: GoPro HERO 3: Black Edition
This week GoPro held an event in and around San Francisco to introduce the world to their latest creation, the GoPro HERO 3: Black Edition. Described by the company as the world's first 4K-capable action cam, everyone in attendance was given their very own HERO 3: Black Edition to put the little camera to the test.
With an MSRP of $399.99 the GoPro Hero 3 is 30% smaller and 25% lighter than the Hero 2 and offers 4K video capture at 15fps. For those in the know, 15fps is probably not gonna cut it for the more hardcore would-be filmmakers but the GoPro HERO 3 boasts myriad capture modes iincluding the new resolution of 2.7K at 30fps, 1080p at 60fps, 1440p at 48fps, 960p at 100 fps and 720p at 120fps.
In addition to that the GoPro HERO 3 is also capable of capturing 12MP stills at 30fps, and it also sports improved low light performance compared when compared to its predecessors.
We tested our GoPro HERO 3 at Sonoma Speedway just north of San Francisco where we used to the camera to record footage of various motorsports. We drove an Audi R8 around the track with a camera attached to our helmet as well as one mounted on the roof of the $180k sports car. The in-car footage was super smooth and did a great job of showing what it was like to be behind the wheel. In addition the improved audio with the GoPro HERO 3 made it possible to hear the conversations we were having in-car as well as with the instructor who was guiding us via radio. That said, audio quality is still an issue with these cameras.
The roof-mounted camera likewise did a great job of expressing what it was like to speed around the track at upwards of 100mph. And GoPro sells so many top-notch mounting options that we easily were able to attach the camera to the roof of the car via a suction cup.
In addition to driving the Audi R8 we also mounted the HERO 3 to a motorcycle helmet and were taken around the track on the back of a sports bike while a professional racers tried and successfully scared us to death. The images picked up by the camera are stunning.
As far as specs are concerned the HERO 3 has built-in Wi-Fi for which lets you stream footage live to your computer or smartphone. In addition to that, the HERO 3: Black Edition ships with the $79.99 LCD Touch BacPac. This makes it much easier to set up your shots. Prior to hitting record, we would frame our shots with the LCD Touch BacPac and then turn it off to conserve battery power. The GoPro HERO 3: Black Edition also ships with a Wi-Fi remote that can control up to 50 cameras simultaneously.
One downside with GoPro's cameras is the lack of an easy-to-use UI. And while this is still an issue with the HERO 3 the LCD Touch makes this much easier.
Simply put, if you're an action sports fan that does anything from surfing, cycling, skiing or you just like to record yourself diving fast, you'll no doubt be pleased with the GoPro HERO 3: Black Edition.
Review: Microsoft Wedge Touch Mouse
With the launch of Windows 8, Microsoft has released some new peripherals that have been designed to complement the new operating system, and its new way of doing things. First up is the Microsoft Wedge Touch Mouse, a rather odd looking Bluetooth-only mouse.
In the past, Microsoft has launched a number of ergonomic peripherals that are comfortable to use for long periods of time. As you can guess from one look at this mouse, this isn't one of them.
But that's not the aim of this mouse. It's not designed for sitting in front of a desktop PC for hours at a time, but for quickly using with a Windows 8-equipped tablet. There's no dongle, but as long as your tablet is Bluetooth capable you can get Windows 8 to search, detect and connect to the mouse rather painlessly.
Software for adjusting what the mouse can do can be downloaded from Microsoft's website, but there's not many settings to change, so it's pretty pointless.
The mouse is small, so easy to carry around with you, and you can fit a few fingers on there to move the mouse around. As with previous Microsoft mice, the Bluetrack technology keeps the mouse responsive over a variety of surfaces.
The mouse also works with some touch gestures, such as swiping horizontally or vertically. While it doesn't seem to support multi-touch gestures, such as pinching to zoom in, it does make the Windows 8 interface more intuitive, as opposed to using a traditional mouse.
The Microsoft Wedge Touch Mouse is certainly not going to be to everyone's taste, and we had some serious reservations when we first saw the design, but it's actually not that bad at all if you want a light mouse to quickly work on your tablet when a touchscreen won't do.