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2 Windows 8 touch-screen laptops for tight budgets

Brian Nadel | Aug. 16, 2013
If you don't want to spend much on a new laptop, but need a touch screen, try one of these under-$600 systems.

Asus VivoBook V400CA

On its own, the notebook weighs 4.1 lb. — about half a pound lighter than the TouchSmart. Plus the VivoBook uses a relatively small power adapter that brings its travel weight only up to 4.6 lb., compared to the TouchSmart's 5.8-lb. travel weight. And a bonus: It doesn't require a three-prong outlet.

Rather than use a new processor design, Asus chose to cut corners with a second-generation dual-core Intel Core i3-2365M, which runs at 1.4GHz and has 3MB of built-in cache. Asus offers a Core i5 model as well, but that raises the price of the computer to over $650. The VivoBook comes with 4GB of RAM and can handle up to 8GB.

Unlike the TouchSmart, the VivoBook uses a hybrid storage arrangement. It includes both a 500GB hard drive and a 24GB SSD; the latter makes starting the system and waking it up from sleep mode much faster. Asus also includes three years of up to 32GB online storage.

The VivoBook comes with a 14-in. touch screen that is capable of 1366 x 768 resolution; it uses Intel's antiquated HD 3000 graphics accelerator with 32MB of dedicated video memory. I found that the display could interpret up to 10 independent finger moves and handle two-finger gestures without a problem; it also worked well with a Wacom Bamboo stylus.

While the hinge on the competing TouchSmart allows its screen to sit at a 45-degree angle, the VivoBook's display can be lowered to 35 degrees, allowing a more natural feel when using fingers or a stylus. The VivoBook's screen also wobbled less than the TouchSmart's when it was tapped.

The display's bezel is slightly narrower than the TouchSmart's and is slightly raised, which made some finger movements on the screen near the edge a little awkward.

The keyboard has 19mm black keys that show up well against the notebook's silver background. There's also a 4.1-x-3-in. touchpad that's 50% larger than the one on the TouchSmart.

Above the screen is a single microphone and a webcam that can capture 1200 x 800 video or still images.

The VivoBook comes with Asus' Sonic Master speakers that fire out of the sides of the system. The sound is full, rich and can get quite loud. The system also includes software that allows you to fine-tune the audio.

Connections include an HDMI port, two USB 2.0 and a single USB 3.0 port, audio connections and an SD card slot. Unlike the TouchSmart, the VivoBook includes a traditional VGA port for connecting with an older projector or monitor, making it more versatile. The system comes with 802.11n Wi-Fi, an Ethernet connection and Bluetooth.


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