One of the real take home messages behind Windows 8 is that it is fantastic for touch devices like tablets, but on the desktop however it swings between confusing and business as usual.
Touch on a vertical screen may work for ATMs and shopping centre kiosks but for day to day use pawing at a vertical screen is a novelty at best and an ergonomic nightmare at worst.
PC manufacturers know this, which has led to Windows 8 driven trend towards all-in-one PCs that tilt back for more comfortable touching. It is a concept that we found intriguing when first seen on HP’s 2011 touchsmart system, which was merely a taste of what we are seeing nowadays.
Asus has been doing some serious innovation in its mobile devices in recent years, with devices like the Padfone and Transformer series of tablets. It is now bringing this kind of innovative design to the all-in-one space, and the 23in ET2300 is a fantastic example of this.
It revolves around an articulated hinge that allows the ET2300’s multitouch screen to move from vertical to horizontal, and be usable at any point during that journey. It means that you can find a comfortable position to take advantage of Windows 8 touch features, or use it as a traditional keyboard and mouse-based PC.
To achieve this, while keeping the whole unit stable, Asus has opted for a heavy base for the design. This base holds most of the PC componentry inside it, and is where the expansion ports are located. It features a gun-metal grey covering, with swirls reminiscent of the Zenbook ultrabook design, and makes for a good looking and highly functional PC.
Under the hood sits an Intel Core i5-3330 CPU, 8GB DDR3 RAM, Nvidia GT630M, 1TB HDD and a DVD Burner. It also features dual thunderbolt ports, card reader, four USB 3, eSATA, Gigabit Ethernet and HDMI in and out (which enables the all-in-one to be used as a screen for other HDMI devices). It also features 802.11 b/g/n and supports Intel’s wireless display (WiDi) technology.
The screen itself uses a 23in 1920 x 1080 IPS panel, which means that viewing angles aren’t an issue when folding the screen flat. It makes for a remarkably vibrant and crisp display, and Windows 8 looks quite wonderful on it. It does, unfortunately, suffer from the unavoidable problem that it gets covered in fingerprints in no time flat.
This isn’t too noticeable when the screen is active. However because Windows 8 relies heavily on touch gestures that move from the bezel into the screen, it quite rapidly becomes smudged and smeared around the black screen edges.
By being capable of laying completely horizontal the ET2300 potentially opens up new usage models. It was interesting playing the touch enabled games on the flat screen, but one can’t help but wonder whether it would just be easier to buy a deck of cards for a fraction the price.
This is where the real sticking point with the ET2300 comes in – it is a beautifully designed, highly powerful and capable all-in-one PC, but there just aren’t the apps to make it truly shine.
Given the sheer number of all-in-ones being launched that have the ability to fold back to some degree, we’d expect enterprising developers will take advantage of the fact, and that apps will arrive that merge form and function. But they just don’t seem to exist yet, and that alone means that the ET2300 is going to be a leap of faith for most users.
With the ET2300 Asus has quite consciously made a well-rounded, highly featured Windows 8 design. If you are looking for something relatively future proof then this is a very tempting offering, even if you do end up paying a premium for the fancy features. We really can’t fault the design or aesthetics of the ET2300, and Asus has delivered a hardware platform intrinsically tied to the best and worst of Windows 8.
We were only able to spend a day with the ET2300 in the office, so we haven’t had a chance to run our real world benchmarks on the unit. We did, however spend our time with the all-in-one exploring the form factor and the Windows 8 touch experience.
At the time of writing there also wasn’t any pricing available for the system, which will play a major factor in whether or not this is a device to buy. We’ll revisit the ET2300 once we have a chance to benchmark it fully, but for now it receives our excellence award – it is by far the best quality and most innovative Windows 8 all-in-one that we have encountered.