One thing nearly every PC maker has in store for the launch of Windows 8 is a touch-screen laptop. That’s apart from all the hybrid and convertible laptops we’ve seen, which will also be nearly universal. Those hybrid systems have a screen that either flips around or snaps apart from its keyboard, while touch-screen laptops are traditional clamshell systems, just with a touch-enabled panel added.
One of the several examples of touch-screen laptops we expect to see between now and the end of 2012 is the HP Spectre XT TouchSmart. A new entry in Hewlett-Packard’s highest-end laptop line, this slim 15-incher looks very slick and capable, and would even if you didn’t know it had a touch screen. The body is all brushed metal, about 18 millimeters thick and weighing 4.7 pounds, and during a brief hands-on session, it felt like a very upscale, very thin, midsize laptop.
The screen has edge-to-edge glass covering it, with a full 1,920×1,080-pixel resolution. It’s also an IPS display, which means viewing angles should be excellent. Swiping around Windows 8, I found the screen felt fast and responsive, and could make for a decent complement to the system’s touch pad for navigating the tile-based interface formerly known as Metro. Also worth noting is the inclusion of a Thunderbolt port — something very rarely seen outside of MacBooks.
Touch-screen laptops have heretofore been rare, usually relegated to a handful of laptops with custom tile-based UI overlays (Lenovo has had a few over the past couple of years). It’s not a feature frequently asked for, at least going by the reader e-mails I receive, and its utility, even in Windows 8, depends a lot on the ergonomics of that particular laptop and the stiffness of its screen hinges.
Of the Windows 8 laptops we’ve previewed to date, the Spectre XT is probably the slickest and most high-end, and would be an enviable system even without the touch screen. It’s expected to be available in December (a bit later than most Windows 8/holiday-season laptops), starting at $1,399. A similar system, called the HP Envy TouchSmart Ultrabook4, is expected around the same time. HP now considers the Envy line to be a step below the Spectre line, so this 14-inch laptop is thicker, at 23mm, and lacks some of the extra features, such as Thunderbolt.