Windows 8.1: Now the Hardware

With the OS out in the wild, tablet and laptop makers are lining up to stock store shelves with compatible devices.

Microsoft did its part delivering Windows 8.1 several days before the one-year anniversary of the Windows 8 launch. Now the company's hardware partners are stepping up with new tablets that leverage the operating system's new capabilities.

Oct. 17 marked the release of Windows 8.1, a free update for current Windows 8 users. The first batch of PCs and tablets based on the OS officially start shipping on Friday, Oct. 18, setting the stage for new Windows-based devices ahead of the crucial holiday shopping season. At the forefront of the impending flood of new 8-inch tablets are Acer and Lenovo.

The newly announced Acer Iconia W4 is an 8-inch tablet with Windows 8.1 preinstalled. Featuring a fourth-generation, 1.8GHz Intel Atom processor (code-named "Bay Trail"), the 0.91-pound device delivers up to 10 hours of battery life.

The Iconia W4, which ships this later month, costs $329.99 for a 32GB model or $379.99 for a 64GB version. It sports an IPS display (1,280-by-800 resolution at 16:10 aspect ratio) with Zero Air Gap technology that closes the distance between the touch panel and LCD component, improving visibility outdoors. It also features microSD storage expansion, a micro-USB port, a micro-HDMI port, a 2-megapixel front-facing camera and a 5-megapixel shooter on the back. Another draw: Microsoft Office.

Brandon LeBlanc, a Microsoft spokesman, noted in a blog post that the tablet "comes with Microsoft Office Home & Student 2013 so you can edit Word documents, Excel spreadsheets, and PowerPoint slides right out of the box."

Lenovo also jumped on the Intel Bay Trail bandwagon when it announced the Miix2 8-inch tablet. The company listed "the return of the popular 'Start' button" as one of its highlights. Microsoft originally nixed the Start button, a fixture of the desktop OS since Windows 95, in Windows 8. The Miix2 is also fronted by an IPS screen with a resolution of 1,280 by 800 pixels and includes Microsoft Office Home & Student 2013. Miix2 ships later this month beginning at approximately $299.

On Oct. 25, Microsoft will begin shipping its Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2 tablets. In an encouraging sign for Microsoft, which took a beating in the company's fourth quarter due to poor Surface sales, the 64GB Surface Pro 2 preorders are currently sold out.

Laptops, Too

PC vendors are making sure that tablets don't hog the spotlight in the Windows 8.1 era. Laptops are well-represented, courtesy of companies like Toshiba and Fujitsu.

Toshiba debuted new Windows 8.1 Pro laptops under the Z-Series brand. The line of Intel Haswell-powered portables includes the sleek 13-inch Portégé Z30 (with an optional touch screen), the 14-inch Tecra Z40 and the 15.6-inch Tecra Z50.

Fujitsu made waves by announcing "the slimmest laptop in the world," the company's 14-inch Lifebook U904/H, which also includes a palm-vein sensor that acts as a biometric security feature. A smaller, 13.3-inch Lifebook provides up to 28 hours of battery life under Windows 8.1, claimed the PC maker.

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the network of...