A common complaint with the Apple iPad is that, while it has plenty of potential for entertainment and browsing, for productivity it is somewhat lacking. Aside from its limited hardware and software, one of the main reasons is the absence of a hardware keyboard. So what if you want the best of both worlds: the flexibility of a tablet combined with the convenience and productive potential of a proper laptop? In the Packard Bell Butterfly Touch, we may have the answer to just that question.
This 11.6in mobile machine is essentially an ultra-portable laptop with a swivel touchscreen, which can be folded down over the keyboard to turn it into a tablet. It's by no means a new form-factor or a unique implementation, but what makes the Butterfly Touch special is that, with a retail price of just £499, it joins Acer's similar Aspire models in making convertible laptops affordable.
Judging by the hardware, it shouldn't be too much of a slouch either. Its low-voltage, 1.2GHz Intel Celeron SU2300 is a little less powerful than we'd ideally like, but at least it's a dual-core processor so it shouldn't get bogged down like a single-core chip might. It's backed up by a full 4GB of RAM and a relatively generous 320GB hard drive, not to mention Gigabit Ethernet and Wireless-N Wi-Fi. We weren't really expecting Bluetooth at this price point, and the Intel integrated graphics won't please gamers, but overall there's little reason for complaint.
To maintain its slim (for a convertible) profile and relatively low 1.6kg weight, the Butterfly Touch omits an integrated optical drive, and Packard Bell (PB) doesn't provide an external one. Again this is quite common and external drives are both cheap and plentiful, so it's a tolerable compromise.
With the lid closed, the Butterfly Touch looks much like any other laptop, save that you can see the chromed hinge in its central position. Unfortunately the lid is glossy as usual, so fingerprints, dust and smears will be your constant enemies.
Opening the machine up reveals a more interesting and attractive interior. PB has gone for a highly reflective glossy black bezel, which some will find annoying, but it looks good and contrasts well with the patterned matt black finish that's employed elsewhere.
Build quality is excellent, with not a hint of flex or creak, and the swivel hinge action is both smooth and secure. Neither has PB skimped on connectivity, with three USB ports, VGA and HDMI video outputs, microphone and headphone jacks, Gigabit Ethernet and a multi-format card reader all included. There's nothing outstanding in that collection, but for the money the Butterfly Touch has everything you need.