Wednesday, November 24, 2010

No Keyboard? No Problem: Acer's Dual-Touchscreen Iconia Oozes Coolness

Acer Iconia with dual 14-inch touchscreens
Is the Acer Iconia the opening salvo of a new generation of keyboard-free notebooks or just a grand experiment doomed to be a footnote in the annals of PC history? It's certainly too early to tell, but there's one thing that can be said about the new dual-touchscreen unit: It's just darn cool.

With no visible moving parts other than the hinge connecting the two bright 14-inch touchscreens, the Iconia is a sleek, clean-looking computing machine with nifty enhancements to the standard Windows interface.

You can navigate through your browser, word processor and other software with your finger as you would on an Apple iPad or other tablet, but if you lay both palms upon the lower touch screen, a full size keyboard appears, including a virtual touchpad, thus allowing you to work as if it were a conventional notebook.
Acer Iconia with virtual keyboard

The unit, and a handful of other new mobile devices, was introduced by Acer Tuesday at a spiffy New York press event which included a white runway more suited for fashion models than computer company executives.

Both of the LED-backlit14-inch LCD touchscreens offer a resolution of 1,366 by 768 pixels and come with a protective layer of Gorilla Glass, a scratch and crack-resistant composite glass developed by Corning, which is based appropriately enough in Corning, New York.

Acer Groups Senior Corp. VP Jim Wong watches demo 
The full-size keyboard not only offers all of the keys of a standard keyboard, but can do some tricks that a hardware keyboard can't. For example, once you touch the virtual touchpad below the virtual keyboard, the entire bottom screen becomes your touchpad as long as you don't lift your finger. Instead of dragging your finger in short bursts across a two-inch square, you can use the entire real estate of the 14-inch display to propel the cursor around the top screen.

The Paper PC on the Iconia
Touching the keyboard with five fingers and then giving the screen a twist causes the Acer Ring, a circular, scrollable group of one-touch application cards, to appear.

In practice the keyboard worked fairly well, requiring no more practice than one would need to use the virtual keyboard on an iPad or other tablet. The lower section can be used for generously sized system configuration screens--a boon for those with aging eyes.

The lack of a hardware keyboard allows for a very slim profile and of course, a very quiet notebook. The unit will be built with Intel's i5 family of processors, but other configuration information wasn't immediately announced.

A key question went unanswered Tuesday: The price. Acer officials said it had not been finalized yet. While Acer said that the unit may be available as soon as late this year, no sale date was given.

So is this the beginning of the end of the keyboard as we know it? Not quite. The lack of haptic feedback or the reassuring bounce-back of a physical keyboard may cause even good touch-typers to constantly look at the virtual keyboard instead of the screen. However the Iconia's dual screens brings the concept of a lightweight, but very rugged notebook with a weatherproof display and keyboard closer to reality.

So the question is: Would you buy something like this as your primary laptop? Chime in.

Top two product photos courtesy of Acer
Text and other photos and video Copyright 2010 Stadium Circle Features


Lexmark 82 said...

Is this for real? Is this available in the market already? I'm sure this is expensive. But it'll be an interesting gadget to try. =D

mac hard drive recovery said...

This could be something revolutionare, for all keypads.

Anonymous said...

I have this acer iconia laptop, the virutal keyboard hangs when you type too fast...

I am hoping they will have a fix soon...