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The best Windows 8 machines you can buy today

Melissa Riofrio | April 23, 2013
Our top tablet, laptop, and desktop picks from the first generation of Windows 8 hardware are ready to change your expectations.

Hybrids and laptops are merging

Tablets are just a decent keyboard away from being hybrids, and the laptop-shaped machines in this section blur the line we once drew between tablets and portable computers. You can't knock the versatility of a machine that can fold flat like a tablet, and then unfold for more intensive work, its keyboard willing and waiting. You also can't expect a hybrid to have quite the power or features of a full-fledged laptop, though many people will find that it comes close enough.

The HP Envy x2 offers a good-size, 11.6-inch display and a keyboard dock that packs a second battery. The Envy x2 lasts about 8.5 hours when running on its main battery, and the dock's battery provides almost 5 hours of service beyond that. Another plus: The keyboard's pretty comfortable to use. Though the tablet's Intel Atom processor is no barn burner, the device didn't feel sluggish during normal use. Its brushed-aluminum case will catch envious eyes in the café.

The Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 13 is one of the most innovative designs we've seen in the first generation of Windows 8 machines. Its 360-degree hinge permits the laptop to fold over itself completely to become a tablet, or even to stand up like a tent for presentations. At 3.4 pounds, the Yoga 3 is less portable than a regular tablet, but its 13-inch, high-resolution (1600-by-900-pixel) touchscreen makes the additional burden worthwhile.

A full-fledged laptop like the Dell Inspiron 15z offers a more luxurious--though also bigger and heavier--experience, with a 15.6-inch touchscreen display and a gray brushed-aluminum chassis. It includes four USB 3.0 ports and even a DVD+-RW drive. Our test model (equipped with Intel's 1.7GHz Core i5-3317u CPU) delivered decent performance, and Dell subsequently upgraded the model with faster CPUs. The battery life is the only notable disappointment, at less than 3.5 hours.

Huge touchscreen all-in-ones let Windows 8 spread out

Dell also sells one of the best touchscreen all-in-one PCs we've seen, the office-ready OptiPlex 9010. Its 23.6-inch, 1920-by-1080-pixel widescreen provides a very sharp picture, but the coolest part of the design is a double-jointed arm that lets you move the display up and down and slightly forward, as well as tile it in the traditional fashion. It even has a standard VESA mount point so you can hang it on a wall.

The high-end configuration of our test model included a fast Intel Core i7-3770S CPU and 8GB of DDR3/1600 memory. The system's integrated Intel HD 4000 graphics managed playable frame rates at lower resolutions.

The HP Envy 23 TouchSmart is a consumer all-in-one that stuffs a lot into its 23-inch touchscreen design: A third-generation Intel Core i7-3770S processor, 12GB of RAM, an Nvidia GeForce GT 630M graphics card, and an impressively large 3TB hard drive. Its low-voltage processor reduces its power potential a bit, but the Envy 23 still outperforms other desktops in its class. It comes with a Blu-ray Disc optical drive, built-in Bluetooth 4.0, and Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n. The stand, though sleek, can be a bit annoying, since it prevents you from storing any peripherals (such as the keyboard) under the screen.

 

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