In-Depth

GALLERY: Windows Systems Abound at CES 2015

WEB EXCLUSIVE: Manufacturers showed off dozens of Windows devices, at reasonable prices, at the annual Las Vegas gathering this week.

Those interested in Windows 8.1 will have a lot of new systems to choose from over the next few months. Manufacturers are showing off dozens of new devices, including laptops, two-in-ones, all-in-ones, mini PCs, tablets and convertibles this week at the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. Starting prices for the stuff shown so far are affordable, ranging from $230 to $1,500.

Lenovo Floods Vegas
If success at CES was achieved by the number of devices launched, Lenovo would win the show. The PC maker flooded Las Vegas with more than a dozen devices, mostly laptops, on Sunday and Monday. Lenovo is hoping all the new systems will help it continue to flood the market in overall sales, as well. Lenovo Chairman and CEO Yang Yuanqing used CES to announce that Lenovo had reached 100 million ThinkPads sold. The company published statements of recognition for the milestone from Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and Intel CEO Brian Krzanich.

The flagships of the new line are the ThinkPad X1 Carbon and the ThinkPad YOGA 15-inch convertible.

The ThinkPad X1 Carbon is a third generation of what Lenovo calls its "best business ultrabook." A 14-inch, super-bright display accompanies a PCIe solid state drive, a weight of less than 2.9 pounds and a rugged chassis built from the carbon that gives the PC its name. The newest Carbon will be available this month and prices start at $1,249.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon

The ThinkPad YOGA 15-inch convertible brings the YOGA line's trademarked four modes of laptop, stand, tent and tablet to a new larger size and with an optional 3-D camera, among other improvements. As the first Lenovo device to offer the Intel RealSense 3-D camera as an option, the laptop could be used for scanning small objects for 3-D printing applications. The 15-inch ThinkPad Yoga will be available in February starting at $1,199.

ThinkPad YOGA 15-inch convertible

A new Windows tablet offering from Lenovo is the 8-inch YOGA Tablet 2, which sports a new input method called AnyPen Technology. Using AnyPen, a standard pen or pencil replaces a specialized stylus for writing, drawing and making selections on the smallish screen. Like its predecessor, the YOGA Tablet features hold, tilt, stand and hang modes. Available later this month, the YOGA Tablet 2 will start at $299.

Lenovo 8-inch YOGA Tablet 2

Other near-term Lenovo ThinkPads include the X250 (coming in February, starting at $1,149), T450s (February, $1,099), T450 (February, $849), T550 (February, $999), E450 (February, $599), E550 (February, $599), L450 (February, $699), YOGA 12-inch (February, $999) and YOGA 14-inch (May, $1,199). Non-ThinkPads on the way from Lenovo are the YOGA 3 11-inch in March starting at $799 and the YOGA 3 14-inch (March, $979).

Lenovo's NECP Connection
Another set of Lenovo-branded laptops are on the way, but they are actually the first fruits outside of Japan of a partnership that Lenovo formed with NEC Personal Computers (NECP) in 2011. The lightweight portables are branded the Lenovo LaVie Z HZ550, a 13-inch PC weighing 1.72 pounds, and the Lenovo LaVie Z HZ750, a 13-inch convertible weighing 2.04 pounds. Both are 16.9 mm, and the HZ750 shares the 360-degree hinge of the YOGA line to spin from a laptop to a tablet. U.S. availability is slated for May with prices starting at $1,299 for the HZ550 and $1,499 for the HZ750.

Lenovo LaVie Z

Acer Goes 3-D, 5th Gen
Acer also came to CES with a lot of models to show. For a new Aspire V 17 Nitro notebook, Acer emphasized the inclusion of an Intel RealSense 3-D camera, and expressed hopes that the device -- a combination of a conventional camera, an infrared camera and an infrared laser projector -- will be a game changer.

"Acer believes three dimensional computing offers unlimited potential for both professional and consumer users," said Jerry Kao, president of Acer Notebook Business Group, in a statement. "Business applications include 3D modeling, mapping and architectural design, while the most popular consumer uses will likely include augmented reality gaming, and simple PC navigation and control." The Aspire V 17 Nitro series of notebooks will be available worldwide in January with prices to be announced.

Acer Aspire V 17 Nitro with Intel RealSense 3-D camera

Other Acer product lines are getting refreshed with Intel's fifth-generation Intel Core processors for improved performance and battery life over the previous generation and support for 802.11ac wireless. Those include the Aspire R 13 Series of convertibles and the Aspire S7 Ultrabook line, both available this month.

Samsung Emphasizes Mobile Security
Samsung gave an Intel Broadwell Core M processor update to the Samsung ATIV Book 9, emphasizing the 10.5-hour battery life, 0.46-inch thickness and weight of just over 2 pounds. But Samsung also built some interesting new security features into the laptop. One is the ability to set a drawing pattern on the touchpad at login. Another is a single-function command (Fn10) for selecting a window to hide in order to protect private information in a public setting. The laptop will cost $1,200 and be available for pre-order sometime this quarter.

Samsung also focused on all-in-ones, developing what it calls the first curved display in that category. The ATIV One 7 Curved sports a 27-inch display, surround sound and other multimedia features, and will be available for pre-order this quarter at a starting price of $1,300.

Samsung ATIV One 7 Curved (left), ATIV Book 9 (right)

ASUS Separates from the Group
The laptop designs brought forward at CES by many of the manufacturers are thinner and lighter, but most have returned to the roots of laptop design as opposed to the relatively wild first few generations of Windows 8 portables. One exception is ASUS, which rolled into CES with three new detachables. ASUS showed the new Transformer Book Chi T300, T100 and T90 two-in-ones, which will be available in February starting at $699, $399 and $299, respectively.

ASUS Transformer Book Chi T90

E FUN Makes Detachables Cheap
Delivering Windows systems that fall squarely in the consumer category was E FUN, which, like ASUS, rolled out detachables, but at the economy end of the scale. At CES, E FUN expanded its line of two-in-one Nextbooks to new sizes. Coming out in May, a 10.1-inch version will cost $229, an 11.6-inch model will be $249 and one with a 12.5-inch screen will retail for $279.

E FUN Nextbook two-in-one tablet

HP and HP Consumer
HP went to CES with both consumer and professional Windows 8.1 offerings. On the consumer side, HP launched the HP Pavilion Mini Desktop and the HP Stream Mini Desktop. About two inches high and weighing just over a pound and a half, the Minis crunch a traditional tower PC into a size suitable for the corner of a desk or part of a shelf of an entertainment center. With built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, HP positions the device as suitable for streaming content throughout the house. Both will be available later this month. The Pavilion starts at $320 and the Stream starts at $180.

HP Pavillion Mini

On the professional side, HP introduced the HP ZBook 14 and 15u Workstation Ultrabooks with Intel fifth-generation processors, up to 16GB of memory and up to 1.25TB of storage. Worldwide availability is set for this month, with prices starting at $1,249 for the 14 and $1,199 for the 15u.

HP ZBook 15U Workstation Ultrabook

Dell Keeps It Close to the Vest
One major PC manufacturer remained coy through late Monday about it's release plans for CES. Dell provided a teaser video, titled "XPS -- A New Way to See the World," on its partner blog. The 30-second video showed a beach scene quickly revealed to be the display of a device screen (see image below), which then turns to show off an extremely slim profile, and the message, "The new XPS from Dell." A link goes to another short video featuring Ed Boyd, vice president of design at Dell, hinting at an extremely thin design.

A new XPS device from Dell?

UPDATE, 1/6: Dell on Tuesday unveiled a bevy of portables at CES, headlined by the XPS 13. Read about it here.

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.

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