One thing that nearly every PC-maker has in store for the launch of Windows 8 is a touchscreen laptop. That's not including 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 touchscreen laptops are traditional clamshell systems, but with a touch-enabled panel added.
One of the several examples of touchscreen laptops that we are expecting 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, even if you didn't know it had a touchscreen. The body is all brushed metal, about 18mm thick and weighs in at 2.1kg, and during a brief hands-on session, it felt like a very upscale, thin, midsize laptop.
The screen has edge-to-edge glass covering it, with a full 1920x1080-pixel resolution. It's also an IPS display, which means that viewing angles should be excellent. Swiping around Windows 8, we found that the screen felt fast, 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.
Touchscreen 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 emails we've received, 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 touchscreen. It's expected to be available in December (a bit later than most Windows 8/holiday-season laptops), starting at US$1399, with local pricing yet to be announced. 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.