Something about Microsoft’s Windows 8 seems to bring out the eccentric in PC makers.
In the few months since Win 8 launched, we’ve seen PCs that fold, PCs that slide, PCs with keyboards that pop on and off. But we haven’t seen anything quite like the Taichi 21 from Asus.
The Taichi, which starts at $1,299 for a model with four gigabytes of memory and 128 gigabytes of storage, belongs to a class of PCs known as Ultrabooks — laptops that run on an Intel Core i5 or i7 processor and use flash memory chips instead of a conventional hard drive.
What sets it apart is its screen. Or rather, screens — plural.
Open, the Taichi is a fairly conventional laptop, with an 11.6-inch, non-touch-screen display. Closed, it turns into a touch-screen tablet, thanks to another 11.6-inch screen mounted on the outside of the lid.
Using a button on the keyboard, you can switch between the two screens, use them independently or set them to mirror each other, making it potentially attractive for small-group presentations. You can drive from one side, while your audience watches the other.
But there are a number of drawbacks. One is the lack of a touch screen on the “inside” display. Not only does Windows 8’s tile-based home screen beg for it, it’s confusing going back and forth between the two interfaces. I found myself constantly poking the traditional display and wondering why it wouldn’t respond.
Another is that using both screens drains the battery rapidly, especially after adjusting the overly dim default settings for brightness to something a little more comfortable. And while its weight is fine for a laptop — 2.8 pounds — it’s heavy for a tablet.
If you do a lot of presentations, the Taichi is worth a look. As long as there’s a plug nearby. And you don’t mind a little eccentricity in your life.