Windows 8 Hardware Reviews

Kaya Systems

Microsoft’s re-imagined OS is only half the equation

As has been reported exhaustively by now, Windows 8 can be a very unsettling experience for longtime Windows users. It’s like going to visit your parents and finding dad decked out in drag. The person you’ve known for so long is still there, but a new, unexpected element to his persona has you flummoxed and fumbling for how to behave.

The big, blocky, colorful, touch-centric Modern UI seems about as natural to a desktop jockey as seeing pops in a bouffant blonde wig and a body-hugging velour pantsuit. But while adjusting to dad’s new way of life could take considerable time, and possibly therapy, adapting to Windows 8 might simply be a matter of having the right hardware.

Windows 8 is a new OS for a new way of computing. Obviously, mobile is a big part of that. Microsoft’s Surface RT tablet as well as a host of portables combining tablet and notebook qualities in one have been built expressly with Windows 8 in mind. But there’s also hardware that makes Windows 8 more agreeable for tower users—touchscreen monitors, touchpads, Win8-optimized mice and keyboards. On the following pages we take a look at several of these products to determine which ones succeed in making sense of Windows 8.

To read our indepth review of the Windows 8 os, click here .

Microsoft Surface RT

Software giant takes on tablets

Microsoft is thought of only as a software company by most, but people often forget the company’s long string of hardware victories over the years, such as the Xbox 360 , as well a line of award-winning and coveted mice, game controllers, and keyboards.

Two keyboard options are available: a "real" keyboard (seen here) and a membrane keyboard that actuallyl isn't Atari 400-bad.

Frankly, we think you can add the Surface RT to that list of impressive hardware pieces. The Surface RT exudes luxury with its stylized and solid metal case, clever kickstand, magnetic power connector (a first on a tablet that we know of), and innovative keyboard cover.

Windows RT—the pared-down Windows 8 OS in the Surface RT—and its Modern UI (née Metro), makes for a truly unique (god help us) “reboot” on how you interface with a touch-enabled computer. Yes, by bucking the rows of icons we’ve used for years now to interface with touch, the learning curve is steeper, but there’s something enjoyable and refreshing about Windows’ new tiled interface.

For hardware, the Surface RT packs an Nvidia Tegra 3 part clocked at 1.4GHz, 2GB of LP-DDR3, 32GB (or 64GB) of storage,  front and rear cameras, and a 10.6-inch 1366x768 screen. Given the RT’s premium price, Microsoft has taken dings for the screen’s resolution. With the fourth-gen iPad ’s resolution at 2048x1536 and the Nexus 10 ’s at 2560x1600, it’s no surprise that people see the relatively low resolution of Surface RT as a minus. In practical use, it won’t kill you, but there will be times when you wished the Surface RT had a few more pixels to smooth things out.

Performance of the Surface RT is difficult to gauge, as there are no standardized benchmarks that can’t be run outside of the browser on the iPad, Nexus, and RT. We did run several browser-based benchmarks, but obviously, you’re not getting that close to the metal and each platform’s browser has a significant impact on performance. If pushed to make call, we’d say it’s a split in the numbers game, as each device won at least one benchmark. Using our Mk. 1 eyeball as a benchmark, the Surface RT didn’t feel slow in the apps we tried and the scrolling seemed creamy-smooth—certainly better than the severe stutter we experienced on pre-Jelly Bean Androids tabs. One thing that’s apparent, though, are slow application launches. It takes from five to six seconds to launch the most basic apps, which is unacceptable on a premium tablet. Once cached, it’s fine but the initial launch is s-l-o-w.

A clever kickstand lets you stand up the Surface RT for movie viewing or typing on the optional keyboard.

While we’re harping on hardware, we’ll also ding the camera used in the Surface RT. Both front and rear are 720p, which is pretty sad in this day and age, but maybe that will dissuade people from embarrassing themselves by using the tablet as a camera. Another hardware issue worth mentioning: The 32GB version we reviewed is about half spent on OS storage. That’s fortunately mitigated by the inclusion of a MicroSD slot, so an additional 64GB is just one Amazon click away.

The Surface is sexy-thin and its hard angles are refreshing in a world of soft-round-cornered gadgets.

The most impressive feature of the tablet is the integrated keyboard cover. Two versions are available: a 5.75mm thick Type Cover that uses mechanical keys and a 3mm Touch Cover that uses membrane “keys” that don’t move at all. We purchased the Touch Cover with our Surface RT and initially worried that it would remind us of the Atari 400 keyboard . Surprisingly, it wasn’t that bad and we could comfortably type on it once we became accustomed to it. We will say that the track pad for the cursor is too small. Both covers attach via a clever magnetic connector that’s strong enough to hold the weight of the Surface RT when picked up by the cover.

Some people have criticized the inclusion of a keyboard as a sign of weakness in the Windows RT OS. We strongly disagree. First, you don’t get the keyboard for free—you have to pony up $120 for the Touch Cover and $130 for the Type Cover . Ouch. There’s also no strong emphasis on the keyboard in the OS. You can navigate perfectly fine using just touch.

What we do have problems with is the OS. We, again, think Modern, or whatever you want to call it, is a refreshing and futuristic take on a touch interface but Windows RT is marred by minor irritations such as non-uniform controls in the applications (some apps feature back buttons, and some don’t) and difficultly controlling some aspects of it. Our biggest complaint, though, is that portions of the OS aren’t finished. For the most part, 90 percent of the OS is in the fat-finger-friendly Modern UI. But doing something as common as changing the screen time drops you into the desktop mode. And while still surprisingly easy to manipulate with your finger, the desktop mode is jarring—why in a touch-centric device, would you force someone to use a non-touch UI? It’s just surprising to us that Microsoft relegates so much of the control in Surface RT to the desktop mode. Want to use basic calculator functionality? Do it desktop mode.

From what we can see, Windows RT is just a recompile of Windows 8 for ARM . Want a DOS box? Got it. Manually make regedit changes? That’s there, too. It’s simply mind blowing for anyone coming from the four rubber walls of iOS, or the slightly less confining environs of Android. Don’t get us wrong, we like command lines and tweaking the guts of an OS and we know it’s there in iOS and Android , too—it’s just a little disconcerting in  Windows RT.

We suppose there’s some strength here. If a large company could port its custom Win32 app to Windows RT, the desktop mode would be a seamless way to transition to a tablet. Unfortunately, apparently only Microsoft has permission to install applications for the desktop mode, so what’s the point of even having it? To us, this makes the real competition for Surface RT its x86-based brothers. With the barren shelves of the Metro app store, x86-based Windows 8 tablets at least give you the fallback of millions of Win32 apps already out. With Surface RT and a keyboard at $600 versus a full-on x86-based tablet such as Acer’s Iconia W510 hybrid at $750 with a keyboard dock, it ain’t pretty.

Ultimately, we’re impressed by the Surface RT. Yes, it has some rough spots, and yes, the app store looks like a grocery store after the zombie apocalypse has hit, but this is a very good first effort with a lot of potential.

Microsoft Surface RT
Pluses

Supports most USB mass storage devices and printers directly over USB

Minuses

Slow app startup and some too much reliance on desktop mode

$600, www.microsoft.com

Benchmarks

Surface RT Nexus 7 iPad 3rd-Gen
CPU Quad-core 1.4GHz Nvidia Tegra 3
Quad-core 1.2GHz Nvidia Tegra 3 T30L Dual-core 1GHz Apple A5X
GPU 520GHz Nvidia ULP GeForce
416GHz Nvidia ULP GeForce PowerVR SGX543MP4
RAM
2GB
1GB 1GB
Screen size / Resolution / PPI
10.6-inches / 1366x768 / 148 7-inches / 1280x800 / 216 9.7-inches / 2048x1536 / 264
Dimensions / Weight
10.81x6.77x0.37 / 1.5 lbs
7.7x4.7x10.4x.4 / .74 lbs
9.5x7.3x.37 / 1.44 lbs
SunSpider JavaScript 0.9.1 (ms) 982 1,702 1,519
Google Octane V1 700 1,307 881
FutureMark Peacekeeper 366
461
465
BrowserMark 80,558 126,618 117,980
Microsoft Fishbowl HTML5 10 fish (fps)
23 21 60

Best scores are bolded

Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 13

Bend it to your will

Lenovo got a head start generating interest in the IdeaPad Yoga 13 when it demo’d the device at last year’s CES. At that time, its unique ability to be both an Ultrabook and a tablet seemed like a far-out concept, today its “convertible” design is the perfect justification for Windows 8—and just one example of a whole new category of portable devices. As the name implies, the Yoga 13 is unusually flexible, able to assume four different positions of functionality, thanks to its special patented double-hinge. In notebook mode it’s your standard clamshell; in stand mode the keyboard is rotated back and out of the way, forming a base for the screen; in tent mode the hinge is at the apex, with the screen in front and the keyboard serving as a kickstand; and in tablet mode the screen is rotated all the way so it’s flattened against the back of the keyboard. In all instances where the physical keyboard isn’t intended for use, it’s automatically disabled, with an onscreen keyboard taking its place.

Lenovo Ideapad Yoga 13

The Yoga’s screen is a 13.3-inch 10-point multitouch panel with 1600x900 resolution and the slimmest of bezels, so there’s nothing getting in the way of your “swiping” in from the edges in Windows 8 fashion. Regardless of your opinion on touchscreens, you gotta love the fact that IPS panels seem to be the norm here, as opposed to the inferior TN panels that have been typical of standard, non-touch Ultrabooks. It makes sense—a device that’s meant to be flipped and turned and viewed from a variety of orientations needs the better image fidelity of IPS. Yay for that.

The screen not only looks good but is very responsive. Even in Desktop mode, our touches to the relatively small file/folder names, menu items, and commands were registered with pretty consistent accuracy.

Still, we were more inclined to perform desktop chores the old-fashioned way, and fortunately, the Yoga accommodates with a nice, comfortable keyboard and buttery-smooth touchpad that itself supports Windows 8 gestures. Indeed, as an Ultrabook, the Yoga 13 is pretty nice for the price. We might have been even more impressed if we hadn’t just reviewed CyberPower’s $850 Zeus M2 last month, which had nearly the same specs but performed 10-20 percent faster than the Yoga in all tests, except Quake III, where the Zeus M2 was 75 percent faster (the Yoga can thank its single-channel RAM for that defeat). Why such disparity between two Core i5-3317Us? The Yoga has a tendency to throttle down under load, presumably to maintain thermal levels.

Be that as it may, you’re buying the Yoga 13 for more than just an Ultrabook experience. While a 13.3-inch, three-and-a-half-pound notebook folded back upon itself is pushing the limits of a tablet (as is the sensation of a keyboard beneath your fingers on the back), the flexibility offered by the Yoga 13’s form factor and touch capabilities has definite uses, not the least of which is giving Windows 8’s split personality meaning.

Lenovo Ideapad Yoga 13
Warrior Pose

Nicely built; useful flexibility; IPS screen

Wussy Pose

CPU throttles down somewhat; 128GB SSD

$1000, www.lenovo.com

Benchmarks

Zero-Point
Premiere Pro CS3 (sec) 840
1,140 (-26.3%)
Photoshop CS3 (sec) 100
116.3 (-14%)
ProShow Producer (sec)
1,122
1,409 (-20.4%)
MainConcept (sec) 1,901 2,419 (-21.4%)
Quake III (fps)
358.2
250.1 (-30.2%)
Quake 4 (fps) 76.1 59.2 (-22.2%)
Battery Life (min) 250 282

Our zero-point ultraportable is an Intel reference Ultrabook with a 1.8GHz Intel Core i5-3427U, 4GB of DDR3/1600 RAM, integrated graphics, a 240GB SSD, and Windows 8 64-bit.

Specifications
CPU 1.7GHz Core i5-3317U
RAM 4GB DDR3/1600 single-channel RAM
Display
13-inch 1600x900 IPS LCD
Storage Samsung 128GB SSD
Connectivity
HDMI, USB 3.0, USB 2.0, 2-in-1 card reader, 802.11n, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, headphone/mic, 720p webcam, USB-to-Ethernet dongle
Lap / Carry 3 lbs, 6.5 oz / 4 lbs, 0.6 oz

Dell XPS 12

A premium Ultrabook with a twist

Like the Yoga 13, Dell’s XPS 12 is an Ultrabook convertible, but it moves from clamshell device to tablet in an entirely different way. Push in on the lower back of the screen with both hands and it rotates in its frame to face backward—then just close the lid and you have a tablet. We like how this design hides the keyboard from sight, and feel, but we can’t help but wonder how the rotating screen and thin metal frame will fare over time and with regular use. Dell says it’s been tested to 20,000 cycles.

With its 12.5-inch screen, the XPS 12 is a bit smaller than Lenovo’s Yoga 13, but it weighs the same three pounds, 6.5 ounces (without its power brick) as its peer, which again, makes it a more sedentary type of tablet. We’re not saying you can’t benefit from being able to fold up this Ultrabook, rest it atop your lap, and surf the web from your couch while you watch TV, tablet-style. We’re just pointing out that it’s larger and more unwieldy than even a 10-inch iPad.

Size issues aside, the XPS 12’s 1920x1080 IPS screen is crisp and bright and its edge-to-edge Gorilla Glass coating should make it plenty durable. Capacitive sensors enable prompt response to all the various touches and swipes in Windows 8, even in Desktop mode. Dell was kind enough to include a “Getting Started with Windows 8” app in the Modern UI, which explains how to navigate the OS—a feature that’s sorely lacking from Windows 8 itself. Like the Yoga 13, the XPS 12’s touchpad also supports Win8 gestures, so you can, say, swipe in from the right of the pad to expose the Charms bar, or swipe in from the left of the pad to switch programs. This worked most of the time, although not quite as reliably as with the Yoga. The physical keyboard is suitable for productivity, with nicely sized and spaced keys and a pleasant rubberized palm rest. It’s also backlit with blue LEDs.

The XPS 12 came loaded with top-notch hardware, but no Ethernet port or media reader.

The XPS 12 starts at $1,200 for a config similar to the Yoga 13. But Dell sent us its most fully loaded model, which costs quite a bit more at $1,700. It consists of a 1.9GHz Core i7-3517U, 8GB of DDR3/1600 RAM, and a 256GB SSD. It’s a pretty similar build to our zero-point Ultrabook and the two machines traded modest wins in all of our benchmarks.

While the XPS12 is handsome and has admirable parts, it strikes us as falling shy of the mark.

Dell XPS 12
Red Vines

Innovative concept; nice large SSD; IPS panel.

Twizzlers

Expensive; rotating screen and frame seem vulnerable; touchpad gestures were hit or miss.

$1700, www.dell.com

Benchmarks

Zero-Point
Premiere Pro CS3 (sec) 840
900 (-6.7%)
Photoshop CS3 (sec) 100

ProShow Producer (sec)
1,122
1,064
MainConcept (sec) 1,901 1,902 (-0.1%)
Quake III (fps)
358.2
345.3 (-3.6%)
Quake 4 (fps) 76.1 72.3 (-5.0%)
Battery Life (min) 250 207 (-17.2%)

Our zero-point ultraportable is an Intel reference Ultrabook with a 1.8GHz Intel Core i5-3427U, 4GB of DDR3/1600 RAM, integrated graphics, a 240GB SSD, and Windows 8 64-bit.

Specifications

CPU

1.9GHz Core i7-3517U

GPU

Intel HD4000 integrated graphics

RAM

8GB dual-channel DDR3/1600

Display

12.5-inch 1920x1080 IPS LCD

Storage

Micron 256GB SSD

Connectivity

2x USB 3.0, Mini DisplayPort, 802.11n, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 3.0, headphone/mic, 1.3MP webcam

Lap / Carry

3 lbs, 6.5 oz / 4 lbs, 0.6 oz

Acer Iconia W510

A two-fer, hybrid-style

Acer’ s Iconia W510 also aims to give users a notebook and tablet in one, but it’s what’s called a hybrid device, as opposed to a convertible. This means there’s a discrete tablet that contains all the brains of the operation, which can slot into a sturdy keyboard base as needed.

The Iconia W510 differs from the two convertible reviewed here in another significant way. It’s running an Atom processor, specifically Intel’s Z2760 system-on-chip (code-named Clover Trail). That combined with its smaller size—10.1 inches—also makes the W510 a lot less expensive. It can be purchased as a stand-alone tablet for $500, or complete with its keyboard and auxiliary battery base, like the model featured here, for $750.

Of course, what you’re no doubt wondering is whether Atom sucks. Intel’s ultra-low-power Atom chips got a reputation of being subpar during the rise of netbooks, which, while low-priced, were known for weak performance. The Z2760 is a 1.8GHz dual-core chip with Hyper-Threading and non-Intel PowerVR graphics. While the base clock speed is a little bit higher than previous Atom chips, the biggest change is reported to be in power consumption. It also has the benefit of running Windows 8, which was developed with mobile applications in mind, unlike the decidedly desktop-centric Windows 7.

Unfortunately, the unit Acer sent us is pre-production, so we can’t test Atom’s performance with benchmarks yet. What we can tell you is that the W510 booted to the Modern UI in about 16 seconds. Once there, horizontal scrolling through the interface was surprisingly smooth, but vertical scrolling, as on web pages, was inconsistent, with periodic lags. Still, we have to say we were surprised that the sucktastic qualities of old Atom were not apparent. We did experience a few quirks that we’re attributing to its pre-production state, but we’re going to give Acer the benefit of the doubt and assume these issues will be fixed in the final product. It’s an intriguing concept, so we’d like to see it polished.


Batteries in both the keyboard base and the screen/tablet keep the W510 supplied with plenty of juice.

As a tablet, the Iconia W510 is far more convincing than either the Yoga 13 or the XPS 12. Freed from its keyboard, the W510 weighs just one pound, four ounces. The 10.1-inch screen is easy to hold in one or both hands, and while its 1366x768 resolution isn’t going to win any contests, it’s got the nice image quality of an IPS panel, under a protective layer of Gorilla Glass.

As a notebook, the experience is more compromised. For starters, the device is top-heavy, what with all the computing components stuffed into the screen, so it has a tendency to topple backward when it’s sitting in your lap. Then there’s the somewhat cramped keyboard, which isn’t great for long bouts of typing. And its 64GB of storage is all too tablet-like for our tastes (a media reader and USB port make expansion possible). Also, its touchpad isn’t great. Not only does it not support Win8 gestures, but it was noticeably less responsive than either Lenovo’s or Dell’s.

Still, we think this device has potential if the quirks we experienced are worked out in the final product. It’s a believable tablet with far more productivity chops than other tablets offer at down-to-earth pricing.

Acer Iconia W510

$750, www.acer.com

Specifications

CPU 1.5GHz Intel Atom Z2760 SoC
GPU PowerVR SGX540
RAM 2GB DDR2/800
Display 10.1-inch1366x768 IPS LCD
Storage 64GB SSD
Connectivity
Micro HDMI (with dongle for VGA), Micro USB 2.0 (with dongle for full-size USB 2.0), Micro SD card reader, 802.11n, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, headphone, mic, keyboard dock with USB 2.0
Lap / Carry (with dock)
With dock: 2 lbs, 12.4 oz / 3 lbs, 0.2 oz with dock); tablet only: 1 lb, 4 oz

Acer T232HL

Doesn’t come with a bottle of Windex

What makes a monitor “good” for Windows 8? First, you need a touch panel with a flush bezel that lets you summon the various Windows 8 command ghosts. That pretty much eliminates optical-based monitors, which have the camera lenses hidden in the corners. Microsoft also recommends no less than five-finger multitouch for the OS, but 10-finger is advisable.

That’s all good news for Acer’s new 23-inch T232HL touch panel. This 10-point-touch projected-capacitive panel lets you do all the Windows 8 swiping and flicking your heart desires. As you can imagine, projected capacitive carries a price premium and the Acer streets at $500—compared to, say, the $280 that a 23-inch optical touch panel might cost you. That’s a big price increase, but certainly not as pricey as the InnovaTouch (reviewed next).

Step-back Modern UI, haters, this multitouch panel won’t break the bank.

Running the panel through the Lagom LCD monitor obstacle course (www.lagom.nl), the Acer was good in most of the tests but we did see banding in the gradient tests. That issue wasn’t in just synthetic tests, either—using a real-world product shot of a system, we could see the banding in one particular fade in the background. It’s not terrible, and some might accuse us of pixel-peeping but the issue was noticeable compared with the InnovaTouch monitor. A series of digital images also looked less impressive on the Acer than the InnovaTouch—not to a great degree, but again, worth noting. The InnovaTouch also wins in responsiveness over the Acer, exhibiting less lag in response to touch commands.

Where the Acer wins is in ports—you get DVI, VGA, HDMI, and three USB 3.0 ports vs. the VGA and DVI on the InnovaTouch. The Acer also is also far sexier, though we’re not totally sold on the design. Neither panel is height adjustable.

Despite all this, we think the Acer is a pretty decent panel for the price. It’s IPS and, more importantly, it’s a flush-bezel multitouch, which will make even the Win8 Modern UI haters reconsider their position.

Acer T232H

$500, www.acer.com

InnovaTouch IW2235P-U

Looks aren’t everything

When we first began our hunt for flush-bezel touch panels to review, one of the few we could find initially was InnovaTouch’s IW2235P-U. This IPS, 10-point projective-capacitive panel isn’t the typical consumer-grade monitor, and in fact, is marketed for commercial applications; its price of $754 reflects that. The fact that the panel is slightly smaller than the Acer, at just under 22-inches viewable, would immediately make you recoil and assume there’s no real difference between this panel and consumer panels that cost about two-thirds the price.

After using the InnovaTouch side-by-side with the Acer, we can say that’s not true. Using Lagom’s LCD test images on the pair of 1080p panels, we found the InnovaTouch slightly better than the Acer in image quality, particularly in areas of gradation. The Acer isn’t horrible, but the InnovaTouch was far smoother. Grading the panel for digital photo work, we found the InnovaTouch slightly warmer and with a bit more contrast, too. Off axis, however, the InnovaTouch had a ghastly yellowish tinge to it.

One key advantage to the panel has is in touch response. We used a painting app and drew our finger across the screen. When drawing at anything faster than slow speeds, the Acer’s digitizer lagged far behind the InnovaTouch’s.

So what’s not to like? The stand, which is designed to stabilize the panel when tilted flat, is insanely overbuilt—as well as downright ugly. There’s also a pretty limited input selection—no media  reader, camera, or USB ports; just DVI and VGA. So we suppose your choice really depends on what you value. The edge in image quality and touch performance goes to the InnovaTouch, but the Acer aces in price, ports, and style.

InnovaTouch IW2235P-U

$754, www.touchsystems.com

LOGITECH WIRELESS RECHARGEABLE TOUCHPAD T650

Touch Windows 8 without a new monitor

WE WON’T LIE—Win8 isn’t an optimal experience for traditional mouse and keyboard users. But what if you can’t afford a touchscreen? Consider a giant touchpad. That’s the idea behind Logitech’s Wireless Rechargeable Touchpad T650. It’s a giant (5-inch) touchpad that greatly aids the use of a touch-oriented operating system in the absence of a touchscreen.

The T650 supports up to four-finger gestures to help you navigate Metro, err, Modern. Various moves perform different commands in Win8, such as swiping four fingers to the left or right to “snap” a Window on the desktop. Four fingers up or down on the pad will minimize or maximize a window, while swiping three fingers up pulls up the Start screen. We’re honestly not fans of any of the multitouch touchpad controls, as they’re not uniform across devices and all the swiping and gesturing makes us feel like we’re casting a magic missile more than controlling a cursor. Plus there’s the tendency to inadvertently open a program.

The Touchpad’s surface itself is glass and, frankly, smoother than the two touch panels we reviewed here. It recharges via Micro USB and works with Logitech’s wonderful Unify system so you can run six Logitech Unify devices from a single 2.4GHz RF dongle. Using the Touchpad feels luxurious if you’re coming off a cramped notebook touchpad but it can use some improvements. The Touchpad has a hard edge that we wished was beveled, as we kept catching our finger when we swiped in from the right to pull up the Charms bar.

The T650 offers a luxuriously smooth, 5-inch touch surface to navigate Windows 8.

While it’s great for moving through the Modern interface quickly, we had problems with the Touchpad in precision work, such as selecting a word or one or two letters of a document for deletion or editing. With a mouse, it’s second-nature to make such precision moves—not so with the Touchpad, which takes too much concentration. Another issue we had was selecting things to drag around the desktop with the Touchpad—it takes a wee bit too much finger pressure to accomplish.

Logitech Wireless Rechargeable Touchpad T650

$80, www.logitech.com

LOGITECH T620

Years later, we still have issues with touch mice

Logitech's T620 reminds us of other touch-enabled mice and— unfortunately—those aren’t mice we were very fond of. Most of the surface of the T620 is touch-enabled. To left-click you can either push the whole body down or tap the left side of it. That’s not it, though— no fewer than 10 different Windows 8 functions can be accessed by touching or stroking different parts of the mouse body. To pull up the Charms bar, for example, you can stroke your finger in from the right side. In theory, it sounds neat to be able to command the OS from the mouse but we found the surface much too cramped. If we had to have “touch,” we’d rather pair Logitech’s Touchpad T650 with a traditional mouse rather than just try to tough it out with the T620 alone.

The Touch mouse T620 tries to jam too many features into its small touch surface.

Logitech T620

$70, www.logitech.com

LOGITECH T400

It’s like the Start Menu never left

You don't know how much something means to you until it’s gone, and with Windows 8, we’re really pining for the Start menu. Sniff. Logitech’s T400 helps us get over that loss. With one touch on the glass touch area, the Modern UI Start screen is available. Like the T620 and T650, it uses Logitech’s rather nifty Unify dongle that can drive up to six devices at once. Beside the easy access to the Start screen, you can also smoothly scroll on two different axes with the T400. We appreciate the limited command set rather than the surfeit of gestures on the T620. The only other thing we’d want is an option to directly access the Charms bar. Our one real complaint about the T400 is that it’s way too small, which made driving the mouse uncomfortable rather quickly.

We liked the welldefined touch area of the T400 but it’s built for smaller hands.

Logitech T400

$50, www.logitech.com

MICROSOFT SCULPT COMFORT KEYBOARD

Curved Microsoft keyboard offers hotkeys for Windows 8

THE NEXT iteration in a long line of curved keyboards from Microsoft, the Sculpt Comfort Keyboard shares familiar lines with its predecessors. As ergonomic keyboards go, this one is rather flat, and the keys are contiguous from side to side. The palm rest is removable and also has feet enabling you to add height to the front of the keyboard.

Designed for use with Windows 8, the Sculpt Comfort Keyboard’s function keys double as hotkeys used to emulate actions and gestures within Microsoft’s new OS. The hotkey configuration is controlled using a switch above the number pad, making it difficult to switch back and forth between the two modes.

Microsoft’s Sculpt Comfort Keyboard uses 2.4GHz wireless connectivity with the included USB dongle and is powered by two AAA batteries.

Microsoft’s latest curved keyboard features a split spacebar and wireless connectivity.

Microsoft Sculpt Comfort Keyboard

$60, www.microsoft.com

MICROSOFT WEDGE MOBILE KEYBOARD

Bluetooth keyboard geared toward mobile PC or tablet users

Microsoft's Wedge Mobile Keyboard provides an alternative input method for PC users on the go. A sturdy design paired with its diminutive size make it easy to carry in a bag or backpack. The included cover and tablet stand add significant weight to the keyboard. Bluetooth connectivity allows the Wedge Mobile Keyboard to be used with tablets or smartphones running a variety of platforms.

Provided along the top row of the keyboard are media playback controls and buttons to activate the Charms buttons found in Windows 8. The Wedge Mobile Keyboard’s physical keys make touch typing much more feasible than screen-based input methods, but the key spacing leaves something to be desired.

The build quality of the Wedge Mobile Keyboard is second to none. We wish the same could be said about the typing experience.

Mobile Keyboard really comes into its own when used with Windows 8.

Microsoft Wedge Mobile Keyboard

$80, www.microsoft.com

GETTING BY WITHOUT TOUCH

HOW TO NAVIGATE WINDOWS 8 WITH KEYBOARD SHORTCUTS

So you want to update to Windows 8 but have no intention of buying new touchy-feely hardware. Some common keyboard shortcuts will make getting around Windows 8 much easier than using just your mouse.

Windows key + start typing: Search
Windows key + C:
Expose the Charms bar
Windows key + F:
Open the Search charm to search files
Windows key + Q:
Open the Search charm to search apps
Windows key + H:
Open the Share charm
Windows key + I:
Open the Settings charm (this is where you’ll fi nd the power button)
Windows key + K:
Open the Devices charm
Windows key + Shift + period (.):
Snap an app to the left
Windows key + period (.):
Snap an app to the right
Windows key + J:
Switch the main app and the snapped app
Windows key + Ctrl + Tab:
Cycle through open apps (except desktop apps)
Windows key + D:
Switch from Modern to Desktop mode
Windows key + X:
Access a slew of Windows tools like Power Options, Device Manager, Control Panel, Run, etc.

Note: This feature originally appeared in the January 2013 issue of the magazine .

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