Windows 8 is as different from Windows 7 as the change from Windows 3.1 to Windows 95. That means there’s going to be a lot of work to do in educating people on how the new OS works and how to take advantage of the new features and speed baked into the OS. It’s also an OS that has paved the way for new devices that incorporate touch screen technologies right into their hardware. From tablets to touchscreen notebooks to all in one systems with touchscreens built in, Windows 8 is definitely transforming the modern PC. That’s why it’s so important for people to get out there and try it for themselves.

As one of Canada’s leading computer retailers, NCIX has taken it upon themselves to help introduce the public to this new OS and have decided to throw a party, one in Eastern Canada and one in Western Canada. We attended the one this past weekend at their Richmond, BC Flagship store at Aberdeen Centre to find out what users thought of the OS and to see for ourselves, the hardware that companies have created to support Microsoft’s latest and greatest. Check out the video above then read on for the highlights.

ASUS Taichi Dual Screen Hybrid Ultrabook/Tablet

Is it a tablet? Is it an Ultrabook? The ASUS Taichi is both!

Coming in a Core i5 and Core i7 configuration (starting at $1299) the ASUS Taichi is one of the more innovative designs made possible by Windows 8. The unit has a multi-touch screen on the lid and a conventional screen (both 1920×1080 IPS displays) when closed. When open, it works like a regular Ultrabook. When closed, you get the full tablet experience afforded by the new Windows interface. This gives users a clear division between the tablet and ultrabook experience all on one device.

My only criticism of this device was just how buggy it seemed while being demo’d. When the lid was closed, the screen on the back would shut off, making it useless as a tablet. When opened, the screen on the inside would shut off. Hopefully these bugs get worked out soon. But in use (with the lid open and flipped around) the touch screen interface seemed pretty quick and snappy thanks to the Core i5 processor and 4GBs of RAM inside in our demo unit. More powerful specs are also available.

ACER S7 Touchscreen Ultrabook and W510 Convertible Tablet

ACER has made it quite clear that they aren’t fans of the Microsoft Surface RT. So with the help of INTEL, they create two devices that they hope will make people think twice about picking one up. Starting with the Intel Clovertrail Atom based W510, this unit runs full Windows 8 (unlike RT devices) and is said to be about 30 – 50% faster. That means that all your Windows apps will run on this device which gives it a huge advantage over the RT variants.

The W510 also boasts up to 18 hrs of battery life with the help of the optional keyboard dock, somewhat invalidating the argument that Windows RT devices will last longer on a charge, and it’s pretty thin to boot. But the kicker is the price which is set at $599 with 64GB of storage and 2GBs of RAM, although you’ll more commonly see it bundled with the keyboard dock for $749’ish. This makes Windows RT devices somewhat of a hard sell which may have been ACER’s intention all along. The only thing that scared me was the flimsiness of the dock mechanism and the fact that the demo would not turn on. Hopefully they get the bugs worked out in production units as this would only go to support the stereotype that ACER stuff is bad news.

Finally, the flagship ACER S7 arrives and I got a chance to play with this beautiful little Ultrabook. It sports a 1920×1080 resolution 11.6 inch touch screen and you can get it with a Core i5 or a Core i7 inside starting at around $1299 with a Core i5 processor, 4GBs of RAM and a 128GB SSD. That alone is quite impressive. This is also a device that was hand crafted with help from key INTEL engineers. They made sure that this device provided one of the top Windows 8 experiences.

LENOVO A720 IdeaCentre

Touchscreen all in one systems will be very popular with Windows 8 users and one of the best ones belonged to LENOVO. This A720 IdeaCentre was totally drool worthy with a beautiful 27 inch multi-touch display, a Core i5 processor, an NVIDIA GeForce GT 630 GPU inside, 6GBs of RAM, and a 750GB hard drive. It also folded right down, allowing you to treat it like the one of the original “surface tables”. Pricing is around $1499 and with these specs, the new OS, it’s hard to see anyone not thinking about it while looking at an iMac. It’s also available with a Core i7 processor and higher specs for more money.

HP, ASUS and ACER were also showing off touch screen machines at the event, but none were really as impressive as this one. But I’m open to being impressed by something new and shiny and I know Samsung has their Series 9 all in ones ready to launch soon.

What The Public Thinks of Windows 8?

After spending a couple days talking to people about Windows 8, the new devices available on the market, and their experience with the new operating system, it’s pretty clear that the public really likes Microsoft’s latest efforts. Especially after having hands on time with the variety of devices that will be readily available throughout the holidays. I do admit that as a long term user of Windows, I too was somewhat resistant to the change that this OS would bring. But after having more alone time with the OS and now some experience with a large number of devices that will take advantage of what Windows 8 brings, I’ve become a believer myself.

I still think that Windows 8 needs to bring back some of the things that made Windows 7 great on the desktop (like the start button and menus) but I also love the speed and performance of the new OS too. If a service pack down the road provides this for conventional desktop users, and hides a few more surprises in there for touch screen users, I think Windows 8 will be the huge success that Microsoft thinks it will be. And it’s very clear that after talking to so many regular users about the new OS over the weekend, they are the ones that will drive acceptance of this new experience.

What are your thoughts on Windows 8? Have you tried it yet?

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