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ASUS has just announced TAICHI, its revolutionary dual-screen Ultrabook, and we have been able to spend some hands-on time with the product ahead of its launch later this year.Taichi 1

Available in both 11.6” and 13.3” form factors, TAICHI combines the power of an Ultrabook with the flexibility and mobility of a tablet. We spent some time with an engineering sample 11.6” model to get an idea of what opportunities TAICHI opens up with the launch of Windows 8 later this year.

We were surprised just how light the TAICHI is – it weighs virtually the same as the 11.6” ZENBOOK Prime. Its dimensions are also very similar to the 11.6” ZENBOOK Prime UX21A, but we’re hearing that it might end up being thinner than the UX21A when the hardware is finalised.

Our sample was running the Windows 8 Consumer Preview and its highlight is undoubtedly the double-sided Full HD IPS display with a 1920 x 1080 resolution which, even from extreme viewing angles, is incredibly crisp on both sides. Colours are accurate and text is very sharp – it’s a joy to use with Windows 8’s tile-based interface, which really does make the most of the TAICHI’s high pixel density.

Opening TAICHI’s lid reveals a full-size backlit QWERTY keyboard and trackpad not too dissimilar to the ZENBOOK Prime’s. The experience isn’t that different aside from a few button relocations along the edges to make them accessible when using TAICHI in tablet mode. Going around TAICHI’s edges, there’s the power button, volume rocker, rotation lock, a pair of USB 3.0 ports, micro HDMI, mini DisplayPort, a combo 3.5mm audio jack and a power socket.

For extra convenience, the relocated functions are also available as hotkeys on the keyboard for easy access when using TAICHI as a notebook. In this respect, you can use ASUS’ latest innovation just like any other notebook, although it’s expected to run Windows 8 when it’s formally launched which does change the user experience somewhat – we’ll be writing about that in more detail nearer the Windows 8 launch.

When you close the lid, TAICHI instantly becomes a multi-touch tablet computer – complete with stylus support. This brings a degree of flexibility to the computing experience that has never been seen before on an ordinary notebook. It really puts you in charge of how you want to use the device.

If you’re working, it’s as powerful as the fastest Ultrabooks thanks to its 3rd generation Intel Core processors, fast SSD storage and 4GB DDR3 memory – it will handle media creation and productivity tasks effortlessly. If, however, you want to lay back on the sofa and just consume content while relaxing, the experience is unparalleled.

Both screens utilize the same hardware, the two are completely independent of one another. You can switch between displays or turn both screens on simultaneously to share what you’re working on or watching. This in itself gives software developers even more opportunities to create innovative new ways to use devices like TAICHI.

What’s clear is that the ASUS TAICHI is going to deliver a completely unique computing experience that’s part tablet, part notebook, but 100% fun. We’re looking forward to seeing how TAICHI develops before its release date and, when that release date comes, we’ll be the first in the queue to buy one!

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