With the ultrabook under-performing at retail, both Intel and manufacturers are experimenting with form factors to see what works.
The result has been a Cambrian-style explosion of hybrid devices — portable computing solutions that try to mix the power of an ultrabook with the convenience (and touchscreen) of a tablet.
Toshiba's Portege Z10t is an excellent example. It's an Intel-powered Windows 8 tablet that classifies as an ultrabook, thanks to its slim keyboard dock.
In fact, even when attached to the dock, the Z10t is still under 2cm and just 1.43kg, making it very portable indeed.
Inside the loan unit we have in the office is a Core i5-3339Y processor, 4GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD. The screen is 11.6 inches and full HD, and the number of ports is impressive: on the tablet itself are a mini-HDMI port, a USB 3.0 port, a headphone jack and an SD card slot, along with room for a 4G data SIM. The keyboard adds another USB port, HDMI, Ethernet and VGA.
The 4G capability is a nice point of difference for the Portege from the plethora of other hybrids out there today. Our test unit came with a Telstra 4G SIM, and we've seen fairly consistent speeds of around 25-30Mbps for downloads and around 20-24Mbps for uploads.
Coupled with a reassuringly no-nonsense design and build, the Z10t feels like a business-capable device with oomph. It's responsive, and the combination of SSD and processor make it rather quick.
Sadly, there are few niggles that have jumped out at us in our first look at the device. The standby battery has seemed solid, but when actually being used, the Z10t burns through its stored power rather quickly.
The keyboard dock also has a very restrictive angle — the screen won't go past around 90 degrees. We assume this is because the keyboard is so light that the screen would cause it to overbalance, but the end result is that it's uncomfortable to view the screen if you're typing from a lap or low table.
Similarly, the shuttle switch you need to use to detach the tablet from the keyboard is in a very awkward position, making said detachment a rather tricky task, even with two hands.
Finally, the left- and right-click keys on the track pad are touch only; there's no give or click to let you know when you've used one.
In all, our first experiences with the Z10t suggest that it's a rather great Windows 8 tablet (if a little light on battery length), but a little more mediocre when used as a full ultrabook.
We'll have a full review of the Toshiba Portege Z10t in the near future.