How to buy a Windows 8 laptop, desktop or tablet
27th Oct 2012 | 09:00
What to look for in a new Windows 8 PC
Windows 8 is now with us. Microsoft says it's the biggest thing since Windows 95 - its new user interface is certainly one of the biggest gambles Microsoft has made.
Windows has been brought kicking and screaming into the touchscreen era against a competitive backdrop of iPads, Android devices and even Microsoft's own Windows Phone smartphone OS.
Microsoft made attempts at retro-fitting previous versions of Windows with touch, but - quite frankly - it was a terrible thing.
Good news though - Windows 8 has been designed from the ground up to work perfectly with a touch screen.
The new interface clearly reflects this change - where there was once only a desktop, now sits a redesigned Start screen (also known as Modern UI) as well as the desktop with huge, colourful icons that allow you to easily navigate to all the applications within Windows 8 using the power of touch.
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Those of you who still use a mouse and keyboard and prefer to spend the majority of your time at a desk shouldn't suddenly run for the hills, however.
Microsoft isn't expecting everyone to suddenly drop their old ways and start using touch exclusively from now on. The new interface, thankfully, also works perfectly well without a fancy touch screen.
Because of this, Windows 8 is available on a variety of devices including desktop PCs, laptops, tablets and even all-In-ones, such as the Dell XPS One 27 Touch.
Buying a Windows 8 tablet
Not all versions of Windows 8 are alike, however, so you need to be careful that the PC you're buying comes with the features you're expecting. Windows 8 comes in three different iterations, including Windows RT, which is designed for touch screen devices; Windows 8 (for home users) and Windows 8 Pro - the most comprehensive of the bunch.
If you want an alternative to an iPad or Android device, then a Windows RT touch screen tablet is the perfect device for you, such as the Microsoft Surface - which starts at £399 for the basic version.
Be careful though, while Windows RT might look like Windows 8, it's essentially a stripped-down version which only runs the colourful new tiled Start interface, sod you can only use apps either pre-installed on a tablet (such as Mail or Messaging) or apps found on the Windows Store.
Let's make it clear: you cannot install software on the desktop as you would have in the past - it doesn't work anymore. If you want to operate in that sort of Windows environment a Windows RT tablet is not for you.
However, some tablets will start to appear that have a regular version of Windows 8 pre-installed, allowing you the combination of touch and apps as well as the practicality of the desktop interface.
For those used to Windows of old, wanting a the traditional desktop environment where they can install all their old legacy software, games and more, a Windows 8 or Windows 8 Pro machine will be what you're looking for. You can still get your fix of tablet action on either of these platforms.
Buying a Windows 8 laptop
If that's a case, there's plenty more conventional Windows 8 devices around. A laptop is a great alternative to a tablet because you still get good portability, especially if it's a super-slim and light Ultrabook like the Acer Aspire S7. You also get more power and speed if you go down the Ultrabook route.
The thing you need to ask yourself when buying a laptop is: will you really need a touch screen? Windows 8 will work fine without it, so unless you're planning to spend most of your time in the new Start interface it's not essential.
Some laptops are now featuring the technology built-in, so you might find you can shop around and buy a touch laptop without paying much more, such is the competitiveness of the premium laptop market at present.
Buying a Windows 8 desktop or all-in-one
For those of us that spend most of our time at a desktop when we use a PC, a desktop PC is an obvious choice, although it's worth considering an all-In-one as they remove much of the bulk normally found in a PC's hardware, freeing up a lot of space in hectic homes.
Touch isn't really going to be of much concern for users planning to spend most of their time within desktop applications such as Microsoft Office or Adobe Photoshop.
The majority of all-In-ones coming appearing with Windows 8 have touch technology incorporated in the screen, so this will be a good alternative to the desktop if you plan to use it more dynamically, such as getting the family involved.
The large touchscreen can be tilted or laid flat, so kids will have a blast using the more creative apps available, and you have the ability to move it around the house with ease and watch high definition movies. Ideally you should be looking at around 27 inches screen real estate or more, like the Dell XPS One 27 Touch.
An alternative to either a tablet or a laptop (or even a desktop, for that matter - if you can live without the screen space) worth checking out is a device known as a hybrid or convertible PC, consisting of one part tablet, one part laptop. These devices bridge the gap between a tablet and laptop, giving you great portability allied with the practicality of a keyboard.
A hybrid and convertible PC might seem similar at first, but the way they deliver their thing is slightly different. A hybrid PC has a tablet screen that fully detaches from the keyboard element, such as the Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga, whereas a convertible is a device with a screen permanently attached to the keyboard which can be folded over in some way to replicate a tablet, or - in the case of Sony's Vaio Duo 11 - the keyboard slides behind the screen.
These futuristic-looking devices might seem other-worldly, but they're genuinely great if you're not sure whether to get a tablet or laptop but you want the benefits of both. Of course, you could always get a tablet, a stand and a bluetooth keyboard and you're part of the way there.
Don't want to fork out for a new Windows 8 PC? Well, you're in luck. Windows XP, Vista and 7 are upgradeable to Windows 8 - check out the pricing details here: Windows 8 release date and price: all the latest details