We've had about six months to play with Windows 8 (like it or not) and with the first generation of hardware designed for the new OS. So now, with PCs based on Intel's Haswell CPU poised on the horizon, it's time to take stock of the best Windows 8 hardware available today. You may be able to snap one up for a bargain-basement price as the industry clears out inventory in anticipation of second-gen machines.
Our top picks among first-gen Windows 8 devices offer touch capability, along with something deeper: a new take on what it means to be a tablet, a laptop, or a hybrid that lies somewhere in between. As for desktops, members of the latest generation of all-in-ones provide generous screen real estate for both Live Tiles and touch features. We applaud all of the following machines for the way they've risen to the Windows 8 challenge.
Windows 8 tablets: The best and the boldest
Yes, the Surface Pro is the best available Windows 8 tablet. Though it's not quite the iPad killer Microsoft should have created, it's a huge improvement over Surface RT, thanks to a vastly better display, Ultrabook-caliber components, and a full version of Windows 8 Pro.
Surface Pro can run all of the legacy desktop applications you need for serious productivity--and run them well, outpacing many full-fledged Windows 8 hybrids. And who doesn't love its smart industrial design? Its VaporMg chassis still inspires us today, offering a level of fit and finish missing from competing tablets.
It's no easy feat to pack a full computer into such a small space. But given Microsoft's vast resources, we're disappointed that the Surface Pro is so much thicker and chunkier than the new iPad and the Surface RT. Also, its display, though very nice, isn't Retina-caliber--and is too small for serious work. And finally, Microsoft's two keyboard options are starting to look worse compared to those that other hybrids offer.
Our other favorite Windows 8 tablet makes no apologies for what it is, and what it costs. The Razer Edge Pro is a Windows 8 gaming tablet built expressly for playing PC games on the go. The tablet's Core i7 processor and discrete Nvidia graphics allow it to run graphics-intensive games at decent frame rates--and when playtime's over, the Edge Pro can run legacy desktop applications too. It's really, really fast.
It's also really, really expensive: $1450 for our test model, not counting the gaming accessories you'll likely want. Not surprisingly (given the horsepower), it runs a bit hot, and its battery life falls just short of 4 hours. But this tablet isn't interested in being practical. It just wants to play hard, and that it does.
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