Asus has developed a reputation for bizarre gadgets and whether commercially successful or not, it doesn’t shy away from innovation. The latest contraption to hit our markets is the Taichi, a dual-screen Windows 8 hybrid that debuted sometime last year. The Taichi can behave like a regular Ultrabook and even doubles up as a tablet when closed thanks to the secondary display on the top. Naturally, this being a one-off concept, Asus is charging a bomb for it. But is it worth the premium? That’s what we’re here to find out.
Design and build
The Taichi looks and feels exquisite and would easily be at home in a gallery of modern art. The lid is now home to a 13.3-inch full HD touchscreen and a 5MP autofocus camera. There’s also an illuminated Asus logo that lights up in notebook mode and a "Windows" logo that lights up in tablet mode. The notebook is quite slim, measuring 1.7 cm at its thinnest point, but is quite heavy. At 1.5 kg, the notebook feels very heavy when used as a tablet.
Exquisite design and build
In terms of connectivity, we have two USB 3.0 ports, headphone and mic combo jack, SD card reader, microHDMI and mini-DisplayPort. We also have a volume rocker, power/sleep switch and a rotation lock toggle. It would have been nice if Asus had incorporated a LAN port as well in the design. The base of the notebook uses an all-aluminium chassis, lending it a premium finish and also making it extremely sturdy. The bottom is completely sealed off and there aren’t any removable compartments for swapping the RAM or hard drive. The four rubber feet offer good ground clearance while keeping it firmly planted on your desk. The intake vents are underneath while the exhaust vents are near the hinge.
A Gigabit LAN port is sorely missing
Inside, we have plenty of space for your palms and a generously sized trackpad with finger-friendly buttons. The chiclet styled keys are backlit and very comfortable to use. There’s good amount of spacing and the tactile feedback is good without being noisy. There are three levels of backlighting for the keyboard, which you can switch through depending on the ambient light. We wish this would have been automated, though. The primary screen inside is also a 13.3-inch full HD display, but isn’t a touchscreen. Overall, the Asus Taichi is extremely well built and looks absolutely gorgeous. The notebook ships with a stylus and carry pouch as well.
Asus sent its flagship variant of the Taichi, which is powered by an Intel Core i7-3517U running at 1.9GHz and about 4GB of RAM. For storage, we have a 256GB SSD, which should offer a good balance of speed and storage space. There’s no discrete GPU onboard so we’ll have to make do with the HD 4000 graphics. Windows 8 Pro 64-bit comes bundled along as well. Apart from Asus’s standard suite of apps, which includes their automatic updates and cloud storage, we also have a special Taichi control panel that can be brought up either through the Charms bar or via the dedicated button on the keyboard.
The Taichi UI can be activated at anytime through the keyboard or Charms bar
Asus has designed this to be touch friendly so you can very easily use it in tablet mode as well. The four options on the upper right hand corner let you switch to different display modes, as Windows treats the display on the lid as the second one. This lets you clone the display, so both are active at the same time or you can extend the desktop as well. The switching between displays is not as seamless as the press videos lead you to believe. It takes a couple of seconds when you close or open the lid for the other screen to switch on and even longer when you try to clone or extend the desktop. The Taichi console feels very laggy when you use it with the touchscreen. We weren’t too impressed with the stylus either, as it wouldn’t register our inputs very well. Overall, our experience with the whole screen switching was quite clunky and felt unpolished.