November 23, 2010 10:43 AM PST

Dual-screen Acer Iconia laptop, hands-on

by Scott Stein
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The Acer Iconia: a dual-touch-screen laptop.

The Acer Iconia: a dual-touch-screen laptop.

(Credit: Acer)

Can't choose between a laptop and a tablet? The Acer Iconia may be the product you've been waiting for.

At a Manhattan press event on Tuesday, Acer announced a dual-screen multitouch laptop that, while looking like a concept computer in the flesh, also looks like it's trying to get the best of two worlds at once. Iconia is a 14-inch laptop with an additional 14-inch screen where a keyboard would normally be, making the device in effect a large-scale version of a Toshiba Libretto we reviewed a few months ago.

The focus on the Iconia seems to be bridging the gap between "consuming" video/audio content and normal office productivity, and while the design is bold, its effectiveness remains in serious question. The twin Gorilla-glass-enforced multitouch displays seem to work like the iPad's panels, with support for 10-finger simultaneous touch.

Really, though, a touch device is useless without a good interface and software support. The Iconia does show some promise. Laying down all 10 fingers on the lower screen automatically launches a virtual keyboard, while one open-fingered hand launches Acer's proprietary wheel-like launcher for applications. It's futuristic, but perhaps an unnecessary visual gloss.

Iconia is, at its heart, a Core i5 laptop with familiar specs: up to 4GB of DDR3 RAM, integrated Intel graphics, a hard drive up to 750GB, and Windows 7 Home Premium. Ports are also typical for a high-end laptop: two USB 2.0, one USB 3.0, HDMI, and VGA.

Those twin 1,366x768 displays are the heart of the appeal here, and though Acer has shown off some methods of using those displays in innovative ways, we're just not sure that anyone will want to use a laptop like this instead of a more traditional keyboarded model, or a large-screen tablet like an iPad.

No specific availability or pricing has been announced either--Acer is calling Iconia a "concept device," which seems to place it firmly into the same experimental/expensive category that the Toshiba Libretto W105 fell into. Most importantly, we've yet to see a Windows 7 touch device that's really been easy or useful to operate. Will Iconia break the mold? We'll have to wait and see.

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Scott Stein, a New York Jets fan and CNET senior associate editor, has written about tech, entertainment, video games, and viral culture for outlets including Laptop, Maxim, Esquire, and Men's Journal. He also appears on the Digital City podcast.

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Add a Comment (Log in or register) (24 Comments)
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by 1812dave November 23, 2010 10:55 AM PST
with two screens to feed, I can only imagine how bad the battery life will be!
Reply to this comment 2 people like this comment
by KingOfTheJungle November 23, 2010 2:11 PM PST
even it lasts 4 hours, I would like to have it.
8 people like this comment
by gadgetguy360 November 23, 2010 6:41 PM PST
Really? I gotta be the one to say it? Ok..... That's what she said.
1 person likes this comment
by dankenyon86 November 23, 2010 11:07 AM PST
this kinda reminds like the Microsoft courier but better and tbh i would love to own this
Reply to this comment 1 person likes this comment
by jabberwolf November 23, 2010 11:18 AM PST
Flip it sideways like a book.. there is your courier

If it were smaller (like netbook size), I'd buy it.
I'm not really sure why they wanted it so large unless if was more for concept.
by Slick1of2 November 23, 2010 11:17 AM PST
I read about Iconia early this morning. The dual touchscreen laptop is something I have been waiting for long time because it does have an efficient design (ability to draw and type and view media on a larger and more interactive fashion). However, the Iconia only has a 4-cell battery and it is 6.2lbs. It also sports Win7, which is a great OS in my opinion, but it is not exactly touch friendly.

Relating back to its functionality I think it is a great design. It reminds me of the revival of the tablet with the iPad. Before it was released, most of us were questioning where it fits in with laptops and smart phones. We were not entirely sure if it was going to just be the tablet fad all over again. But sure enough everyone seems to really like the design and functionality. I was a skeptic of its success at first. I still might prefer an e-reader over a tablet, mostly because of cost and I do not need all of those added features (wifi for web browsing and the ability to read books, journals, and magazines is all I need. Plus color e-ink, which is not that far off). I think a laptop with this added screen makes the laptop more versatile. For example, in a hieroglyphics course I am taking I hook up a drawing pad to my laptop so I can write down some glyphs for reference. With this dual screen laptop I don't need a companion device to accomplish this task. The purpose of this sort of technology is to replace older ones like the pen and paper and make it more productive. I think a dual touchscreen laptop accomplishes this. All they have to do now is slim it down, increase the battery life, and use a more touch friendly OS.
Reply to this comment 3 people like this comment
by dankenyon86 November 23, 2010 11:44 AM PST
i think win 7 is great for a touch interface look at the taskbar at the bottom and look at the size of the buttons
2 people like this comment
by Sindiewen November 23, 2010 11:26 AM PST
Looks better and looks to perform better then the Toshiba Libretto. I kinda like it.

Battery life will probably suck hardcore with the dual screens it has to power.
Reply to this comment 1 person likes this comment
by Yucaterco November 23, 2010 12:48 PM PST
I'm curious to see how this will work. But honestly, Windows wasn't designed from the ground up to be touch oriented, so it can never truly compete iOS or Android. Sure it can do a lot more, but the point of a tablet isn't to have a full operating system. A full operating system, such as Windows, just isn't meant for a tablet.
Reply to this comment
by Jon889 November 23, 2010 12:53 PM PST
I love the look of it, don't care about that battery life as long as it can manage the best part of 6 hours. I'd want this just for the virtual keyboard, I love that they change layout per program (give me optimus Maximus/Tactus)
Reply to this comment 2 people like this comment
by Yami Pegasus November 23, 2010 1:00 PM PST
This seems cool, but knowing Acer, it's a safe bet that it won't have build quality to match the concept. Watch as six months after release, people complain about broken hinges, or similar problems.
Reply to this comment
by KingOfTheJungle November 23, 2010 2:15 PM PST
I used to own a Acer desktop and it lasted a long time. Don't really know about this dual-screen yet. Broken hinge?easy! go to ebay or google and buy replacement part. DIY!
1 person likes this comment
by Angmarr November 23, 2010 3:06 PM PST
OK let me Seriously Understand this!

"The focus on the Iconia seems to be bridging the gap between "consuming" video/audio content and normal office productivity, and while the design is bold, its effectiveness remains in SERIOUS QUESTION"
"Acer's proprietary wheel-like launcher for applications. It's futuristic, but perhaps an UNNECESSARY visual gloss"


So Apple make a big iPhone, calls it an iPad (no flash, no real multitasking, not enough ram so browser crash, not that cheap ... for that matter NO tablet is lol) and the media GOES WILD!

Someone other than GOD ALL MIGHTY Apple thinks of something more than a traditional laptop ... and its ... Questionable! Not so worthy! May be too flashy!

I'm sincerely sorry to any Apple fans/ Yes your products are quite good (I personally wouldn't say the best) But this is just ridiculous!
Reply to this comment 4 people like this comment
by Angmarr November 23, 2010 3:11 PM PST
also Check this out, for possible future of touch interface that Is Not just basic 1 finger click which decreases productivity
1 person likes this comment
by JackOfShadows November 23, 2010 3:35 PM PST
When I was serving as a field systems engineer/analyst, I can think of man uses when having to differnet views/controls would aid in the troubleshooting of faults or just for normal operations (provided system security was sufficient). For say a chemical engineer at a petroleum plant the top view could display the system of pipes and valves and video of various locations that can be selected on that screen. On the bottom screen would be the controls for the entire plant (again provided system security was sufficent) which can be layered as with a military MFD (Multi-Function Display). That's on scratching the surface since video chats with 'whiteboarding' of those two displays would probably be possible as well. Pardon if I did any injustice to chemical engineers with the above, it just occurred to me that that would be a goo use of the tablet.

I have other uses in mind but that would entail a lot of tooling. I'm glad that they had the right idea on the processor. At the very least a Core i5.
Reply to this comment 2 people like this comment
by mgiovan932 November 23, 2010 4:21 PM PST
Hey, any competition of Apple, that would be great. Apple doesn't really do a good job on their os. And this Acer tablet is great.
Microsoft, create a mobile friendly Windows OS
Reply to this comment
by nhl.le November 23, 2010 4:47 PM PST
Wonder how the Acer Iconia works when paired to bluetooh devices such as keyboard and mouse. Can you achieve full functionality of traditional devices when trying to get serious work done such as office productivity. Hardware specs and features .... Also bulit-in accelerometer ? Traditional hard drive or SSD
Reply to this comment
by mightybrawler101 November 23, 2010 6:43 PM PST
The only problem I have with it, is if a person didn't have all of their 10 fingers to make the keyboard appear. There better be another way to bring it up!
Reply to this comment
by Angmarr November 24, 2010 4:49 AM PST
haha .. I mean it's not a laughing matter .. but haha
by brentlam123 November 23, 2010 10:05 PM PST
how much is this tablet/netbook because it looks cool but if the price is good i will probably be able to deal with the 6 and somethings pounds even my laptop is lighter. i think they need to make it lighter
Reply to this comment
by thelastknight November 24, 2010 7:00 AM PST
I want the Iconia!
Reply to this comment
by Kahless01 November 24, 2010 8:33 AM PST
would be great with a bluetooth kb and mouse, have on its side so you have the two in portrait. would be nice for watching a movie if you could shut the bottom screen off to save battery life and be able to make it through the movie. just a toggle switch on the side to turn the bottom one on and off. ill probably get one only because i work for them and can get it on the cheap.
Reply to this comment
by Zanny_Blowzsteve November 24, 2010 9:37 AM PST
This is a brilliant design. Dual touchscreens!
Imagine working in ProTools, Top screen, your regualar track/waveform window, while the bottom screen has a virtual mixxing desk, with touch sensitive faders!

Reply to this comment
by big.mouth November 24, 2010 10:54 AM PST
Am I the only one who finds these dual-screen tablets incredibly lame, even in concept?
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