Asus Taichi 21 review: Dual screens, but only one does touch

Fortunately, the input tools provides help make up for the lack of an interior touch screen. The island-style, flat-top keyboard is similar to what you'd find on most ultraportable laptops, with keys that are large enough for comfortable typing, and especially large Shift, Enter, and Tab keys. The touch pad is of the large, button-less, clickpad style that's become popular in the past year or so. For an 11-inch laptop, it's a good size, and multitouch gestures, such as two-finger scrolling, worked well.

But, as a touch-screen substitute for navigating Windows 8, even an excellent touch pad is second-best, if only because the Windows 8 UI requires a lot of counter-intuitive edge and corner swiping to work.

Asus Taichi 21 Average for category [ultraportable]
Video Micro-HDMI, mini-VGA HDMI or DisplayPort
Audio Stereo speakers, combo headphone/microphone jack Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks
Data 2 USB 3.0 2 USB 3.0, SD card reader
Networking Ethernet (via dongle), 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth Ethernet (via dongle), 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth
Optical drive None None

Connections, performance, and battery life
Even for an ultraportable laptop, the Taichi is light on ports and connections. The usual SD card slot is missing, and any kind of video output will require a dongle to connect, as will an Ethernet cable. The system is self-contained enough for casual use, but no one wants to be stuck carrying around a bag full of adapter cables just in case.

Besides the Core i7/256GB SSD version we tested, a less-expensive version of the Taichi 21 is also available. That drops the CPU down to the Core i5 and the SSD down to 128GB, which is a pretty standard setup for a $700-to-$1,000 ultrabook. That lower-end model is still $1,299, but it does include two 1,920x,1080 screens.

In our CNET Labs performance tests, the Core i7 in our test unit worked as expected, turning in faster scores than Core i5 and Atom Windows 8 hybrids, and matching up well against other recent Core i7 systems. In heavy anecdotal use, speed and performance was never a problem, even with both screens running at once with multiple windows open on each.

As one might expect from an experimental system such as this, battery life was not its strong suit. Using only the interior screen, the Taichi ran our video playback battery drain test for 4 hours and 37 minutes, putting it 1 to 2 hours behind other current Core i7 laptops. With the test running on both screens simultaneously, the system ran for 3 hours and 11 minutes, which seems reasonably impressive.

The Asus Taichi 21 is fun, inventive, and a great conversation starter. It's also likely more clever than practical for many, and has a bit of a novelty feel -- but that's true of many of the new breed of Windows 8 laptop/tablet hybrids, as PC makers struggle to find forms that will appeal to consumers. The marketplace will ultimately decide which designs move forward.

If you're interested in a dual-screen Taichi, however, it's hard to not suggest waiting for the next generation of hardware (if there is one), which will likely have dual touch screens instead of this model's mix of touch and non-touch.

Multimedia Multitasking test
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Asus Taichi 21
Dell XPS 12
HP Envy x2
Adobe Photoshop CS5 image-processing test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Dell XPS 12
Asus Taichi 21
HP Envy x2
Apple iTunes encoding test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Asus Taichi 21
Dell XPS 12
HP Envy x2
Video playback battery drain test (in minutes)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
HP Envy x2
Dell XPS 12
Asus Taichi 21
Average Watts (Load test)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
HP Envy x2
Asus Taichi 21
Dell XPS 12

System configurations

Asus Taichi 21
Windows 8 Pro (64-bit); 1.9GHz Intel Core i7; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 32MB (Sharedl) Intel HD 4000; 256GB SanDisk SSD

Dell XPS 12
Windows 8 (64-bit); 1.9GHz Intel Core i7-3517U; 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,333MHz; 32MB (Shared) Intel HD 4000; 256GB LITEONIT SSD

Acer Aspire S7-391-9886
Windows 8 (64-bit); 1.9GHz Intel Core i7-3517U; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,333MHz; 128MB (Shared) Intel HD 4000; 256GB Intel SSD

Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 13
Windows 8 (64-bit); 1.7GHz Intel Core i5 3317U; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 32MB (Dedicated) Intel HD 4000; 128GB Samsung SSD

HP Envy x2
Windows 8 (32-bit); 1.8GHz Intel Atom Z2760; 2GB DDR2 SDRAM 1,066MHz; 747MB (Total) Intel GMA; 64GB SSD

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Quick Specifications See All

  • Resolution 1920 x 1080 ( Full HD )
  • Installed Size 4 GB
  • Color silver aluminum
  • Weight 2.8 lbs
  • Graphics Processor Intel HD Graphics 4000
  • CPU Intel Core i7 (3rd Gen) 3517U / 1.9 GHz
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