Six Windows 8 tablets: Can one be your next travel PC?

Loaded with Intel's latest Atom processor, these mid-range Windows 8 devices promise tablet and laptop functionality in a carry-on-friendly single package.

A new tablet PC era

On Thursday, Intel's hardware partners showed off their mid-range Windows 8 hybrid devices at a Clover Trail coming-out party. Today we reveal the hardware in all its photographic splendor.

Each tablet features Intel's Z2760 Atom processor (aka Clover Trail), a dual-core, four-thread system-on-chip running up to 1.8GHz. Clover Trail devices won't pack the performance oomph of Ultrabooks, laptops and hybrids running Core-caliber processors, but the products you see in this gallery should deliver excellent battery life—in excess of 10 hours. In theory, at least.

Perhaps more importantly, Clover Trail devices could emerge as winning travel PCs: thin, light tablets married to accompanying keyboard docks. Put everything together, and you might be able to leave your iPad and Ultrabook at home, and simply take one of these hybrids on the road.

Acer Iconia W510

Boasting a 10.1-inch, 1280x800 display, the W510 doesn’t offer quite the screen real estate of its 11.6-inch Clover Trail competitors, but it’s just 8.9mm thick and 1.27 pounds—or 2.78 pounds including the keyboard dock, which reportedly extends battery life to 18 hours.

The tablet connects to its dock with a seemingly sturdy click, but only extended PCWorld testing will prove out durability. The tablet includes speakers, a SIM slot, and microSD, microUSB and HDMI ports. The dock adds a full-size USB 2.0 port. The industrial design didn’t wow us compared to other tablets we saw at the event, but, who knows, some people may appreciate the cheery, bright styling.

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Acer Iconia W510 in laptop mode

Another view of the Iconia W510, which can attach to its keyboard dock to be used like any clamshell laptop.

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Acer Iconia W510 side view

Here you can see the W510's USB ports on the side. When the keyboard lies flat in the system's presentation mode, the keys become inactive.

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Asus VivoTab

Asus has significant experience with tablet/laptop hybrids thanks to its Android-based Transformer line, and now the company gets to play with serious productivity via Windows 8 running in the new VivoTab.

The device’s 11.6-inch, 1,366x768 display is a Super IPS+ panel, and the system supports a Wacom stylus for old-timey note-taking and drawing. There’s also an 8-megapixel camera in the tablet packaging, which is just 8.3mm thick, and weighs a skinch under 1.5 pounds. The optional dock adds a keyboard, extra battery life and USB ports. The industrial design? Austere but classy. Only significant hands-on time will tell us whether a Clover Trail hybrid can replace an iPad and laptop in a single package, but if nothing else, we think the VivoTab's generous display and competent keyboard have a fighting chance toward that goal.

The power supply connector for the Vivo Tab looks a lot like the old style iPhone connector.

Asus VivoTab power connector

The VivoTab uses a power supply connector that looks a lot like the old-style iPhone connector.

Short on razzle-dazzle styling, but long on business features and durability, this 10-inch tablet includes a docking station and swappable battery--because, apparently, even the power efficiency of Clover Trail CPUs doesn’t preclude the need for even more battery life (and, of course, IT departments appreciate battery serviceability). An optional dock includes full-size USB ports, and SD card slot, and Ethernet support.

Dell Latitude 10

Short on razzle-dazzle styling, but long on business features, this 10-inch, 1366x768 tablet includes a docking station and swappable battery—because, apparently, even the power efficiency of Clover Trail CPUs doesn’t preclude the need for even more battery life (and, of course, IT departments appreciate battery serviceability).

An optional dock includes full-size USB ports, an SD card slot, and Ethernet support. Dell also boasts that the Latitude 10 supports Dell Data Protection and Encryption, a feature that will appeal to IT departments who want to lock down employee data.

The tablet is pudgy at 10.5mm thick, though it weighs about 1.6 pounds. Again: It's not a model of industrial design, but Dell tends to reach for function, not form.

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Dell Latitude 10 battery compartment

Here you can see the Latitude 10's large compartment for its user-replaceable sheet battery. Battery swapping has become a rarity for laptops, so the fact that Dell's tablet offers the feature is really quite significant.

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Dell Latitude 10 smart card option

One version of the Latitude 10 includes a smart card reader for added security. Once again, Dell demonstrates its commitment to serving the business market.

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HP Envy x2

Like most of the hardware in this round-up, the Envy x2 is a detachable convertible: Attach the tablet to the dock and you have a classic clamshell laptop. HP spent considerable design effort to create a simple docking experience, using both magnetic and physical latches. In all, we found docking to be an elegant, confidence-inspiring affair. Indeed, when you pick up the system by its 11.6-inch, 1,366x768 display when in laptop mode, it doesn't really feel like a discrete tablet is part of the packaging.

As with other HP mobile systems, the Envy x2 integrates Beats Audio for improved sound quality, as well as front and rear facing cameras for video conferencing. The tablet alone is 8.5mm thick and weighs 1.5 pounds (the dock adds another 1.6 pounds).

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HP Envy x2 tablet in portrait mode

Like most Windows 8 tablets, the Envy x2 includes built-in sensors, like accelerometers and gyroscopes, to enable motion detection and image orientation.

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HP Envy x2 disassembled

The Envy x2 offers independent batteries in both the tablet itself and optional keyboard dock.

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Lenovo ThinkPad 2

Lenovo’s Clover Trail offering is a pure tablet in a 10.1-inch form factor. Yes, you can purchase a dock that integrates a classic Lenovo keyboard, but it’s a Bluetooth dock without a physical connector that would turn the system into a traditional clamshell.

The ThinkPad 2 integrates a Wacom digitizer in its 1366x768 display, and includes a stylus supporting 1,024 levels of pressure sensitivity, potentially making it an ideal tool for artists. A USB port is included for external device connectivity. The tablet is 9.8mm thick, but weighs under 1.5 pounds.

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Lenovo ThinkPad 2 with dock

The ThinkPad 2's dock isn't a "hard dock." Instead, it's just a Bluetooth version of Lenovo's classic keyboard. The tablet merely leans against a support when cradled in the dock.

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Samsung Smart PC

Samsung’s Smart PC, also known as the Series 5 Slate, features an 11.6-inch, 1,366x768 display and directly connects to a stylish keyboard dock for a complete clamshell experience.

The display integrates a Wacom digitizer and full S Pen support (the same technology used in Galaxy Note smartphones). In laptop mode, the system weighs 3.26 pounds. The tablet alone weight 1.65 pounds. Samsung includes both front-facing (2 megapixel) and rear-facing (8 megapixel) cameras for easy video conferencing.

Much like a Samsung Ultrabook, the Series 5 is a smart, posh-looking affair (Samsung calls the color styling "mystic blue"). We couldn't glean a thickness spec, but Samsung was one of the few companies to discuss pricing: The tablet alone will cost $649, and the tablet and dock together will run $749.

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