The Bottom Line
Mar 15 2013 - ASUS certainly offers a very different approach to a convertible laptop by making one with both internal and external displays. This is actually quite useful in some situations when sharing the laptop for presentations. The big downside here is that only the external display is touch enabled and also compatible with the digitizer pen. The Taichi 21 also has some of the best audio in such a small laptop making it excellent as a media platform. The big downside here though is its terrible battery life that makes it less useful for those needing a long running mobile computer.
- Unique Dual Screens
- Excellent Audio For Such A Small Laptop
- Digitizer Pen Support
- Internal Display Lacks Touchscreen
- Poor Battery Life
- No SD Card Slot
- Intel Core i5-3317U Dual Core Mobile Processor
- 4GB PC3-12800 DDR3 Memory
- 128GB Solid State Drive
- 11.6" WXUGA (1920x1080) Multitouch Display With 5.0 Megapixel Webcam
- Intel HD Graphics 4000 Integrated Graphics
- 802.11a/g/n Wireless, Bluetooth
- Two USB 3.0, micro-HDMI, mini-VGA
- 12.05" x 7.83" x .69" @ 2.75 lbs.
- Windows 8
Review - ASUS Taichi 21-DH51 11.6-inch
Mar 15 2013 - Most of the convertible or hybrid laptops on the market work by having a single display that can be rotated, flipped or slid from a laptop mode to a tablet mode. ASUS has taken a different route with the Taichi 21 by instead having the lid of the system feature a display on both sides. When the laptop lid is open, it functions like a standard laptop via the internal screen. While the lid is closed, the system then operates in a tablet mode. This is a very unique design decision that simplifies the engineering of the lid but adds the cost of a second display.
In terms of performance, the ASUS Taichi 21-DH51 is very similar to most ultrabooks. It uses an Intel Core i5-3317U dual core processor. This provides it with sufficient performance for the majority of tasks that users will have for the system. It isn't as fast as traditional laptops so it isn't as well suited for more demanding tasks like desktop video but it can do that but taking more time. The processor is matched up with 4GB of DDR3 memory which is common for ultrabooks but does limit the performance a bit when multitasking or using demanding applications.
Storage for the ASUS Taichi 21-DH51 is handled by a 128GB solid state drive. This provides it with less storage space for applications, data and media files than a traditional hard drive but it gives it much faster access times. For instance, the system will boot in under twenty seconds which is good compared to hard drive laptops but still a bit on the high side for an SSD equipped ultrabook. If you do need additional space, there are two USB 3.0 ports for use with high speed external hard drives. There is no optical drive which is typical of most ultrabooks but it also lacks a memory card reader for use with the most common types of flash memory used with digital peripherals.
The screens are the big feature for the Taichi 21 and ASUS got some very nice panels for the system. Both of them run at a very high 1920x1080 resolution in an 11.6-inch size. This provides it the ability to handle full 1080p high definition video but it does make the text and icons a bit smaller when set to the standard sizes. Color and brightness is good as are the viewing angles. Now for the not so great part. While this does feature an external touchscreen panel for the tablet mode, the internal laptop mode screen is a standard non-touchscreen display. This is disappointing as the Windows 8 modern interface is much easier to navigate with a touchscreen. It should also be noted that the default configuration sets the system up to go into tablet mode when the main lid is closed. If you set the displays to mirror one another, closing the lid will turn the exterior display off. The graphics like pretty much all ultrabooks is handled by an Intel HD Graphics 4000 built into the Core i5 processor that does fine for most tasks but is certainly limited in 3D and accelerating of applications outside those that support Quick Sync video.
In addition to the external touchscreen display, the system also comes with a digitizer pen to allow writing on the surface. It is responsive enough and has a button that allows for erasing with the pen on supported applications. The keyboard for the Taichi 21 uses the same isolated style keyboard found on most of the ASUS laptops expect that it is smaller because of the limited space. They offer a bit more travel than your standard ultrabook and offer a good overall experience unless you have really large fingers. The trackpad is of a good size and uses integrated buttons. It does a decent job of handling multitouch gestures which is important since the internal display is not touch enabled.
For the battery, ASUS has an internal 35WHr capacity pack. This is relatively small compared to many other ultrabooks but is the same capacity as an Apple MacBook Air 11. In digital video playback testing with only the laptop mode screen enabled, the system was able to run for just four hours before going into the standby mode. This puts it well below most of the ultrabooks on the market and definitely at the short end of the touchscreen based ultrabooks on the market. Even the ASUS VivoBook Q200E 11-inch touchscreen laptop is able to squeeze out more running time and it costs less than half of this. It certainly falls well short of the six hours that a much more powerful Apple MacBook Pro 13 with Retina display can achieve.
Pricing for the ASUS Taichi 21-DH51 runs around $1300. This puts it on the more expensive range for the convertible laptops which is not surprising since it features two high resolution screens. The closest competitor on the size front is the Sony VAIO Duo. It has the same base price, rough size and weight but offers a bit more performance and running time but with a screen that isn't quite as flexible. The Dell XPS 12 is a bit more affordable and uses a screen that can flip within its frame to switch modes. It offers a similar level of performance with much longer running times but is much heavier. For those on a tight budget, the Lenovo ThinkPad Twist is well under $1000 and offers an exceptional laptop experience. The downside is that it does have less performance and features.