New Laptops at IFA 2014: ASUS, Toshiba, Lenovo, HP, Acer and trio of Chromies

Smartphones were the main attraction at the 2014 IFA in Berlin, but we also got a number of laptops introduced, even if they are mostly flying under the radar. The 2-in-1s trend continued and the Chromies are multiplying like rabbits. Let’s take a look…

New Chromebooks at IFA 2014
We start with perhaps the hottest segment in laptops right now, the affordably practical Chromies. Toshiba has not managed to break out with a popular Chromebook yet, but they are trying, and their latest effort is the Chromebook 2 with a 13.3-inch screen. Toshiba is going high-low with this, offering a model with a 1366 x 768 display and one with a 1920 x 1080 display. As expected, the lower-res model has a higher battery life estimate. They both have the Celeron N2840 processor (BayTrail). So far, the general consensus is that Haswell = more power, BayTrail = better battery life. The lower resolution model has 2GB RAM while the full HD has 4GB of RAM. Bluetooth 4.0 is here and it will be out in three colors. The usual assortment of Chromebook ports are available (USB, HDMI, SD card reader). US prices are $250 and $330 respectively.

HP offers two new Chromies, with two different size, one at 11.6-inches and one at 14-inches which has not gotten a lot of attention from other manufacturers. The 14-inch model is perhaps the most interesting of the two as it comes with the NVidia Tegra K1 processor. Nvidia made a lot of bold claims at CES 2014 about this, but based on early reviews of K1 based products, there are no miracles and wonders. It has a 1366 x 768 or full HD resolution with either 16 or 32GB of on-board and three USB ports (one is 3.0). The 11.6-inch model instead has a Celeron N2830 processor, with 1366×768 and one less USB port. Both HDMI and Bluetooth and a battery life estimate of just over 8 hours. Prices start at $280 and $300 respectively with tentative October 2014 release dates. The new models are listed with details at the HP website but they are not available for purchase just yet.

New Windows 8 Convertible 2-in-1 Laptops at IFA 2014
Intel is definitely in love with the 2-in-1 detachables, they are marketing those probably more than their own processors [exaggeration]. Now to make sure we are all on the same page, a convertible is a laptop whose screen can rotate, flip, sing, and dance, but it is attached to the body and cannot be detached without breaking the device. A detachable is one whose screen can be detached – and it may be (or may not) be able to rotate, flip, sing and dance too.

First up, we have the 11.6-inch Toshiba Radius, one of the better naming choices in the 2-in-1 category. The screen can fold all the way back (aka 360 degrees) turning it into a rather thick tablet. It has the usual “modes” that a design like this allows (Netflix mode, Tent mode, lay flat mode). Specs are entry-level to mid-range.

At the 13.3-inch screen size, we find the Acer Aspire R13 with its semi-unique Easel display which reminds of some of the Dell convertibles where the screen rotates within its frame/bezel (instead of the whole screen rotating). Resolution starts at 1080p but can go up to 2560 x 1440. RAM can only go up to 8GB but you can have up to 1TB of storage and up to an Intel i7 processor. A digitizer will be $optional$. Prices start at $900… At 14-inches, Acer will have the more conventional convertible Aspire R14 which rotates (whole screen) up to 360 degrees to form a thick tablet. A variety of processor options (i3, i5, i7), up to 12GB of RAM, and more. Prices start at $600.

The Lenovo Flex design has been “upscaled/uprezed” in the new Lenovo Edge 15. It too features a screen that rotates close to 360 degrees but not quite (up to 300 degrees), so you don’t get the “thick tablet” experience, but you can have the “Netflix (video watching) mode”. It has many configuration options and can go up to Core i7 and 256GB SSD and 8GB RAM.

New Windows 8 Detachable 2-in-1 Laptops at IFA 2014
At the 11.6-inch screen size, Acer is “growing” its Switch line with 11.6″ Switch SW5-171. Specs vary depending on exact model and can go all the way up to Core i5 and 128GB solid state. Reasonable specs, with 4GB RAM, and 1920 x 1080 Gorilla Glass 3 display. There’s also a more entry-level model, the SW5-111 with Atom Ant Z3745 and only 2GB of RAM and max storage option is 64GB. Instead of including Office 2013, now Microsoft is bundling one year of Office 365 Personal with a lot of these IFA 2014 models.

Lenovo is attacking the 11.6″ segment from the top instead of fighting for bottom. Their new Thinkpad Helix will be among the first to feature the new Intel Core M processor and and comes with 1080p screen. Starting price is $1000. More if you want to get the version with the “Pro Keyboard” which has the iconic red dot and a place to store your stylus.

HP has a 10-inch Pavilion x2 but I think of that as more of a tablet than a laptop, so you can find that at the new tablets at IFA 2014 post.

And now to bigger screens, the HP Envy x2 line-up adds new models at the 13.3″ and 15.6″ screen sizes, and the biggest item of interest with these perhaps is that they will be among the first laptops to use Intel’s new Core M processors that were designed specifically for tablets and 2-in-1s in mind. Even though Beats is now part of Apple, because of the earlier contracts, these new models come with Beats Audio. Not that it really matters anyway. Prices start at $1050 (13.3″) and $950 (15.6″). The price difference? Oh, that’s because of the SSDs in the 13.3″ 🙂

New Windows 8 “Normal” Laptops at IFA 2014
With so many laptop variations, perhaps the industry needs a sexy marketing name for conventional laptops. Until then, we’ll just call them “normal” laptops.

Among the new laptops to be using the new Intel Core M processor will be the brand new 13.3-inch Zenbook UX305. This incarnation of Zen is thin and light, with 8GB of RAM and up to 256GB of SSD. It would be a total waste to pair a Core M processor with a clunky spinning hard disk 🙂 This is no entry-level model, it will have a 3200 x 1800 screen and just 1.2 kg weight, so hide your wallets!

Toshiba revealed one such creature, the Toshiba CL10-B. This is another attempt to go directly at ChromeOS, as it has a 11.6″ screen, 1366×768 and 32GB SSD memory and 2GB RAM and Celeron processor. Now putting the whole Windows 8.1 thing on there is tight quarters, but then again, you have the cloud, USB ports and the card reader. Can these specs + feature convince people away from Chromebooks?

ASUS is too joining the Windows 8.1 with Bing $200 party with the new EeeBook X205. If that names brings you Netbook-era flashbacks, congratulations – your memory is working just fine 🙂 This is yet another attempt at taking on the Chromebooks (and bigger Android tablets) with very lightweight specs: Intel Atom Z3735 (BayTrail), 2GB RAM, 1366×768 resolution. Given the price, it’s no surprise there is no touch-screen. Storage is either 32GB or 64GB. Hey, at least they didn’t attempt 16GB 🙂 Interestingly, they went with microSD and microHDMI instead of full SD and HDMI ports. Even though this is a 11.6″ model, not a 7″ tablet 🙂

Gamers were not forgotten at IFA 2014, as Lenovo revealed the new 17.3-inch Y70 Touch gaming laptop. This will be sold by the pound as it weighs around 7.5 of them. Configurations vary (eg 256/512 SSD or up to 1TB HDD) with up to 16GB RAM, with prices starting at $1300. The “speaker wars” continue, with JBL “winning” the branding here. This does not go beyond full HD (1920×1080).