Hands-on with Acer’s Windows 8 line-up

Acer Aspire U series all-in-one desktop

You might have heard that Windows 8 was coming, and Acer is one computer company keen on showing how prepared it is.

With the launch of Microsoft’s eighth version of Windows hitting literally next week, computers have to be redesigned and reworked to support the touch-friendly operating system, and this week, we sat down with Acer’s people to show us some new gear.

Now the only question we have is to ask what you want: a tablet, a laptop, or a desktop?

The tablets

Microsoft has designed Windows 8 to be more about touch, with an interface that features large squares and rectangles, and a flow that makes it easier for your fingers to get involved.

With that in mind, your computing experience won’t just be about using a mouse and clicking, but physically touching the screen of your laptop and desktop, opening apps and using them in a way that comes more naturally than a mouse.

That reliance on touch will come into play with laptops and desktops, but no more so than the tablet category, an area completely dominated by touch.

This year – and this week – Acer will release new Iconia tablets, running Windows 8 on 10 and 11 inch devices that are more like a tablet than a notebook.

Your typical notebook is a clamshell device: screen in front, with a keyboard sitting at an angle underneath, the main computer parts under the keyboard.

A tablet, meanwhile, can have a keyboard or ditch it, with that piece able to be unplugged and disconnected, as the computer sits inside the screen.

Acer’s Iconia W700 is exactly this, with an 11.6 inch Full HD touchscreen with USB 3.0, Intel’s third-generation Core processors with “Ivy Bridge”, and the ability to plug in a keyboard – if you want to – that comes in a special stand case.

Or you could try the Iconia W510, which echoes a design we’ve seen on the Asus Transformer range of tablets, with a detachable keyboard dock with battery. Acer has thrown in an interesting change here, with the keyboard dock featuring a very different hinge that can see the keyboard facing down and acting as a stand for the W510 tablet.

The Iconia W510 does away with Intel Core processor and switches it for an Atom, a newer version of the chip found on netbooks from a couple of years ago, marrying it with a 10.1 inch touchscreen and an expected battery life of up to 18 hours.

A few minutes with the W510, and we liked what we saw. Intel’s Atom processor appears to have matured, and while we really want more time with the product, this was one snappy computer, and the ability to not only detach the screen from the keyboard, but also use the keyboard as a screen certainly grabbed our attention.

Acer’s W510 will be one of the first to hit retail when Windows 8 launches this week, arriving from $699, while the Iconia W700 will hit retail a few weeks later on November 15 for $1199.