January 28, 2013
- Lightweight and sturdy design
- Dual 1080p displays
- Very good performance
- No SD card slot
- Poor battery life
Windows 8 opened up new possibilities for mobile computing and the Asus Taichi 21 takes advantage of this. It has dual 11.6-inch 1080p displays where the second on the back of the primary display acts as a tablet when closed. Both of the displays look really good but the battery life is short.
Asus really tried to keep the Taichi 21 light and compact and they certainly succeeded. It measures 12.1 x 7.8 x 0.7-inches (wdh) and weighs just shy of 3-pounds. The design is also eye-pleasing with an aluminum keyboard deck, sides and bottom with tapering edges to finish it off. Our only design question was why Asus put such a thick bezel around the primary display.
The back of the laptop's lid has a 11.6-inch display that has glass with a "9H" hardness rating according to Asus for durability. When in use, a Windows-button lights up under the display. When this secondary display is powered off, it looks like a typical laptop lid with a glossy surface.
This second display can be used in a variety of ways. Asus provides four different display modes: notebook mode (traditional laptop use), tablet mode (lid screen only), mirror mode (both displays mirrored) and dual-screen mode (the lid display acts as a second display). These modes are "hot-swappable", meaning you can boot up the laptop in notebook mode and close the lid later and use it in tablet mode or vise-versa. You can also toggle between modes by hitting a dedicated Taichi key on the keyboard.
Both of these displays have a 1920 x 1080-pixel full HD resolution and an 11.6-inch size. The quality of both displays were very good with vibrant colors and good brightness (the notebook display looked a little brighter than the lid display). Because of the large resolution on a smaller display, some small text sizes can be difficult to see at times. It's important to note that only the lid display supports touch (10-finger). The Taichi 21 also comes with an active stylus for text or drawing. This stylus only comes with the higher configurations and cannot be stored within the laptop itself.
The keyboard did feel a little small, but that's fairly typical on an 11.6-inch laptop. The keys did provide good feedback and are backlit with three brightness levels. The surprisingly large touch pad was comfortable to use and worked well in our use.
For ports, the Asus Taichi 21 offers two USB 3.0 ports, mini-HDMI out, VGA out and a headphone/microphone combo jack. Noticeably lacking is an SD card slot, which may disappoint avid camera users. Asus does provide two adapters: one USB to Ethernet and one mini-VGA to VGA. Wireless connectivity includes both 802.11n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.
Our review Taichi 21's configuration included an Intel Core i5-3517U (1.9GHz) CPU, 4GB of RAM, a 256GB solid-state hard drive and integrated Intel 4000 HD graphics. A PCMark 7 benchmark returned a result of 5,090, which is more than 1,500 points higher than the Windows 8 Ultrabook category average. Real-world use also backed up that test with no problems to report, even while streaming 1080p HD video and doing heavy multitasking.
Battery life is limited at just over 4-hours with only the notebook display enabled. In tablet mode, life was even less at 3.5-hours. Battery life is definitely this notebook hybrid's Achilles heel.
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