As much as we hate to use the term, Windows 8 really signaled a paradigm shift for user interfaces in the PC world. While its use on the average PC desktop has met with, at best, mixed success, pretty much everyone agrees that using it on a touchscreen device offers a fun, refreshing take on what has become a pretty staid experience.
Regardless of what Microsoft says, it’s clear that Windows 8 has decided to make touch and multitouch its target, prioritizing the user interface for use with fingers and hands rather than keyboards and mice. As a result, using the new OS without a touchscreen sometimes feels like trying to use a smartphone while wearing mittens.
With a touchscreen, however, Windows 8 comes alive beneath your fingertips. Swipe through the Start screen, flick through email, swipe in from the edges and explore the Charms bar and Windows 8 settings. It can be a surprising amount of fun.
When it comes to bringing touch to the PC experience, there are a couple of different options available: you can add a touch-enabled display to your current PC, or you can look at new all-in-one desktops which combine the PC and monitor in one machine. While they tend to be more expensive than a new monitor alone, the new breed of all-in-ones also take advantage of exciting new advances in technology that a simple display can’t match.
In celebrating the new design, we’ve taken a look at some of the latest touchscreen PCs we’ve gotten to use over the past several months, and put together a list of our favorites, in alphabetical order.
By far, the best part about the recent resurgence in desktop all-in-one PCs is the sheer innovation that takes place as manufacturers attempt to out-compete one another. One of the best examples of this is ASUS’ recent P1801, which brings the successful Transformer branding to its desktop lineup for the first time.
When sitting in its base, the P1801 becomes a traditional desktop with up to a quad-core Intel Core i7 CPU. It runs Windows 8, and accepts up to 10 fingers of touch input. Pull on the screen, however, and it pops out to become a 18-inch Android tablet, running the quad-core NVIDIA Tegra 3 chipset.
Price: starting at $1,299
Read more about the ASUS Transformer P1801 All-in-one here.
Dell isn’t the first to leap onto the Windows 8 portable all-in-one wagon, but it seems like they might be one of the best. The new XPS 18 Portable All-in-one plays with the dual nature of a Windows all-in-one, much like the the ASUS Transformer. Unlike the ASUS, however, Dell’s new XPS 18 is an all-Windows machine.
There isn’t any sort of dock to speak of with this all-in-one; instead, little legs flip out of the back of the machine, keeping it at angle – it looks a little bit like a laptop without a keyboard. Inside, however, is an integrated battery, which Dell claims can net you up to five hours of battery life. It’s not designed to really be used on the battery all the time, but lets you move the all-in-one around your house without losing any of your work.
Price: starting at $899
Read more about the Dell XPS 18 Portable All-in-one here.
Early last year, Dell introduced the new XPS One 27 All-in-one. It still stands as one of our favorite all-in-ones on the market, marrying outstanding industrial design with a 27-inch, 2560×1440 display. In order to jump into the Windows 8 marketplace, Dell took the phenomenal XPS One 27 and added a capacitive multitouch screen on top.
It definitely isn’t as flexible as some of the other options, which offer convertible tablets, portable battery power, and even compatibility with the hundreds of thousands of touch-oriented apps in Android’s Google Play marketplace. What you trade in versatility, however, you gain in performance, power, and design.
Price: starting at $1,399
Read more about the Dell XPS One 27 All-in-one with Touchscreen here.
Since HP started the TouchSmart brand of all-in-ones several years ago, we’ve been fans. They’re one of the only manufacturers to have been exploring touchscreen computing from the outset, sowing the seeds of future products that the whole industry is now reaping. Before, they were forced to rely on their own ingenuity and a few hacks integrated into Windows.
With Windows 8, however, they’ve been able to leave that behind, making these TouchSmart desktops some of the smoothest performers we’ve seen yet. One thing that sets the HP TouchSmarts apart from their competitors are the HP-specific apps that come pre-installed; in addition, their partnership with Beats Audio means that HP puts a premium on just how good the TouchSmarts sound.
Price: starting at $899.99
Read more about the HP ENVY 23 TouchSmart All-in-one here.
Lenovo makes a number of touchscreen all-in-ones – and we pretty much like them all. While the company has focused much of its efforts on the consumer market with the brilliant IdeaCentre A Series, it’s their business lineup that manages to catch our eye. The ThinkCentre Edge 92z injects incredible design aesthetics into what might ordinarily be a staid and boring business lineup.
The super sleek Edge offers strong performance in a compact package, but the real draw is Lenovo’s outstanding business support and applications, which let both enterprise and home office users manage their devices in powerful ways. If you’re a home user, don’t worry – the Edge 92z works well in that environment, too; we loved the Edge 91z, and the Edge 92z makes everything just that much better.
Price: starting at $1,049
Read more about the Lenovo ThinkCentre Edge 91z Business All-in-one here.
Like some of the other desktops on this list, the Sony Tap 20 is a convertible desktop PC that offers an integrated battery. Unlike a notebook or tablet, the Tap 20 isn’t designed to run on battery all the time; rather, it lets home users easily move the desktop around their house without worrying about losing their work, or even having to shut the PC down.
The Tap 20 comes in either white or black, giving desktop users a nice change of pace – the white model looks especially elegant. Weighing less than 12 pounds, Sony’s touchscreen desktop gives users up to 2 hours and 45 minutes of portability, and Intel Core i3, i5, and i7 CPUs mean you won’t need to fret about having enough power to do the job.
Price: starting at $879.99
Read more about the Sony Tap 20 all-in-one here.
These aren’t the only options on the market, but they’re definitely some of our favorites. This summer will bring even more products to bear; Lenovo in particular has an exciting possibility in their 27-inch IdeaCentre Horizon Table PC.
Touchscreen products really let Microsoft’s Windows 8 shine in a way that the simple mouse can’t. Until you can get your hands on a touchscreen display or all-in-one for yourself, however, you might be interested in checking out how to bring the Start button back on your PC: