How many ways can you skin a device with Windows 8? The landscape of laptops and convertible devices leading up to Microsoft's late-October Windows 8 launch seems to be heading toward several solutions: convertible tablet/laptop devices and computers with touch screens added on. Most are trying both at once.
Samsung's newly announced Windows 8 version of the Samsung Series 5 Ultra Touch has a capacitive touchscreen, but it's otherwise very similar to the Series 5 Ultra we reviewed earlier this year. The 13-inch Series 5 Ultra was already an attractive laptop, with a clean design and thin profile, albeit not as thin as the Series 9. The new touch-enabled version looks like it has a slightly thicker lid.
The Series 5 Ultra Touch will come in two versions: the US$849 NP540U3C-A01UB will include an Intel Core i5-3317U processor, 4GB of RAM and a 500GB hard drive with 24GB SSD cache. The $799 NP540U3C-A02UB will have the same dimensions and specs (and a 1366x768-pixel display), except with an Intel Core i3-3217U processor.
In my brief time with the Series 5's touch interface, I found that it all worked as you'd expect: in other words, much like any touchscreen Windows 8 tablet. The 10-point capacitive multi-touch technology is the same that's used in the Series 5 and 7 Slate.
But here's the question most consumers will ask come 26 October, when the new Series 5 Ultra Touch becomes available: would a touch-enabled laptop even be a good idea? So far, in my limited hands-on time with a few devices, I think the answer depends on the distance of the screen to your elbow. The more you have to reach across a wide expanse of keyboard, the less appealing it's likely to feel. Smaller devices seem like a more logical touch candidate, ironically enough, because it's easier to reach across and use the screen.
At the prices quoted by Samsung, the new Series 5 Ultra Touch laptop doesn't cost an arm and a leg for the extra touch function, which could be the key for their success.