Acer and Toshiba serve up Windows 7 to go


The tablet market continues to be increasingly crowded as the recently launched iPad 2 fends off a veritable Android army. And Taiwanese hardware-maker Acer made the fight even more interesting when it threw its hat into the ring this month, with the announcement that is will soon launch its brand new Iconia W500 tablet in Japan.

The Iconia’s user interface is intriguing, as the company has implemented what it is calling the “Acer Ring,” which lets you access a number of applications with a swipe of the finger. Users will also get SocialJogger, where you can manage various social profiles or explore content from YouTube or Flickr. There’s also a “My Journal” feature that allows you to save clips as you browse

Acer’s new tablet looks pretty good too, as it sports a 1,280 × 800 LED 10.1-inch back-lit touchscreen. The specs are respectable, as the tablet is powered by a 1 GHz dual-core C-50 processor and a Radeon HD 6250, both components from chip maker AMD. Two gigabytes of DDR3 RAM and a 32 gigabyte solid-state drive are not too shabby either. All those guts are packed into a 275 × 190 × 15.75 mm body that weighs less than a kilo, though I should point out that it’s a little heftier than some other tablets out there. The Iconia also features two USB 2.0 ports, HDMI out, a SD card slot, and Acer Crystal Eye web cameras on the front and back.

But underneath all the bells and whistles it’s a Windows 7 machine, and that’s bound to turn off more than a few consumers out there.

While most other tablets have been getting software optimized to specifically run on a tablet, the W500 has the more generic Microsoft Windows 7 operating system. So while the specs may look sexy alongside some other tablets with less, it’s not really a fair comparison since Apple’s iOS can do just as much or more with far less memory, and the same may be said of some Android devices running Gingerbread, the 3.0 iteration of Android built specifically for tablets.

Acer’s does also have an Android tablet, the A500, which the company tells The Japan Times is not the same hardware as the W500. That device will eventually reach the Japanese market too, but Acer cannot specify any date as yet.

In the meantime, the Iconia W500 will be available for preorder on April 20, and begin selling at the end of May. It’ll carry a price tag of ¥60,000 and will be available at electronics stores all over Japan.

Much as in the tablet space, many hardware manufacturers are trying to keep up with Apple in the high-end laptop sweepstakes too. This year’s new Macbook Air is a beautiful machine, if you don’t mind parting with some serious coin in exchange. For many business users however, a Windows machine is still a must (all discussions of virtual operating systems aside) as that remains the dominant platform in most offices the world over.

Korean PC maker Samsung launched its challenge to the Air with its Series 9 laptop just last month. And now Japanese PC maker Toshiba is jumping into the fight with a new line of high-performance laptops. Among them is the Portege R830 series, which the company touts as being “the world’s lightest 13.3-inch full-performance ultra-portable laptop featuring an integrated DVD drive” (that’s a mouthful to say). At about an inch think, it’s an interesting alternative to a lightweight laptop such as the Macbook Air, and at 1.4 kgs the Portege weighs just a little more than Apple’s 13-inch MacBook (1.32 kg).

The Portege allows the choice of Intel Core i3, i5, or i7 processors, options of either a 7200 RPM hard drive (up to 640 GB on the consumer side) or a 128 GB solid state drive, as well as four gigabytes of DDR3 1333MHz memory. That should be more than enough power for all of your business needs, or even for a little gaming as well if you’re so inclined.

The Portege is already on sale in the United States starting at just under $900 for consumer models. For consumers in Japan, Toshiba also just rolled out the brand new Regza Tablet AT300, and the new Dynabook Qosmio T851/D8CR, the world’s first notebook capable of both 2-D and 3-D display without any need for glasses.