ASUS Taichi 21 notebook review

ASUS Taichi 21

Price: $1750  |  From: Asus

We’re used to seeing interesting designs when it comes to Windows 8 tablets and convertibles but the Taichi takes the cake for originality. Sitting in front of it with the lid open it appears to be yet another run-of-the-mill ultrabook. Flip the lid closed though and the magic is unveiled – there’s a second display mounted on the exterior of the lid. In this configuration it operates just like a regular tablet albeit a rather chunky one. There’s nothing else quite like this twin display configuration but does that mean it’s any good?

To be frank the Siamese displays feel more like a gimmick than a killer feature. The sole advantage offered over and above a regular convertible is the ability to run both displays at once which could possibly make showing presentations to larger groups easier. However to do so requires the screen to be perfectly vertical which makes viewing angles less comfortable than sitting in the front row at the movies. Some might also argue that the lack of a rotating hinge should ensure a longer lifespan but most convertible hinges these days are built to withstand a direct nuclear attack.

There might be one advantage to this twin-display design but there are multiple disadvantages. Squeezing two displays into the lid is obviously going to weigh more than a single screen and at 1.25kg it’s rather heavy compared to some of the lightweight competition. To its credit ASUS has managed to keep the lid nice and thin and the entire device depth is a mere 17mm. A nice range of inputs and outputs have been fitted to this depth with twin USB 3.0 microHDMI mini VGA and even a port that accepts an RJ45 LAN adapter. The two 11.6-inch screens are also premium components with crisp HD resolutions of 1920 x 1080 pixels and excellent image quality. Only the exterior screen is touch-enabled though so you’ll have to use the trackpad with Windows 8 when it’s in laptop mode.

The final issue is battery life: while we didn’t test it with both screens enabled it’ll undoubtedly make the already short battery life even smaller. With only one screen active battery life doesn’t seem to have been hurt by the twin displays too much – while it’s still low compared to some of the other ultraportable devices the running time of 140 minutes is rather standard for a machine running such a speedy processor. Most of the juice is directed to the dual-core Core i7-3517U CPU which also includes Intel’s integrated HD4000 graphics with the rest helping to power a 128GB SSD and 4GB of DDR3-1600 memory. Four gigs isn’t a whole lot of RAM but its performance was nothing less than impeccable even when both displays were active. The 128GB SSD is rather large compared to most tablets yet it’s only middling by ultrabook standards; thankfully a 256GB upgrade option is available. The absence of both GPS and 3G/4G support means this machine isn’t perhaps well suited to a life on the road but these features aren’t yet common in convertibles.

We’re not sold on the idea of twin displays and it’s obviously come at the cost of other components. If you can find a good reason to use both screens there’s nothing else quite like the Taichi although it feels more of a proof of concept than a usable solution.

Pros : Zippy CPU and specs decent amount of storage.
Cons : Twin displays no GPS/mobile data.
Rating : 7 out of 10.