When Asus released the Eee PC in late 2007, technology industry observers were uncertain that mobile computing would catch on. Laptops had already bridged the gap between portability and productivity, with desktop computers remaining popular at home and in the workplace. Who could ever need anything more portable than a thirteen-inch laptop?
As the EeePc – along with hundreds of other netbooks – has proven, there’s inevitably doubt and confusion whenever a game changing product is released. Apple saw it with the iPad; Asus saw it with their revolutionary Eee PC, and now Toshiba are preparing to see a similar level of tech industry uncertainty with the release of their Libretto W100 dual touchscreen laptop.
At first glance, the Libretto W100 looks like any other netbook. It’s small enough to fit in a carry bag, slim enough to slide inside an envelope, and housed in a black plastic enclosure that wouldn’t look out of place alongside Asus’s original Eee PC ultra-portable. But what separates it from other netbooks is its bizarre screen arrangement; unlike other Libretto models, the W100 uses two touch screens manage user input.
It’s an arrangement that’s surprisingly comfortable, especially after a bit of practice. We suspected that the Libretto W100 would fall into the same traps as other touchscreen devices; limited power, questionable usability, and a virtual keyboard that’s worthless for business use. However, it’s in all aspects a powerful device, proving itself useful for almost all standard computing tasks.
The W100 comes with Windows 7 as standard, and uses the operating system’s built-in touchscreen features in a surprisingly natural manner. Browsing the internet is remarkably simple, and scrolling through eBooks and documents feels quite natural. There’s an obvious adjustment period for typists and business users, however we feel that the W100 could eventually become an office tech partner.
An Intel U5400 provides ample power, while 2GB RAM allow users to keep multiple applications open without worry. We can’t recommend the Libretto W100 for multimedia users or as a developer workstation, although it is surprisingly usable for advanced tasks. 64GB of solid state data storage are included as standard, with a single USB 2.0 port giving users alternative control or storage potential.
Amazingly, the Libretto W100’s greatest strength is one that’s barely advertised by Toshiba. Switch the netbook to a portrait orientation and you’ll find its screen display switching with you, creating the ideal mobile reading device. With two seven-inch touchscreens and a more dense pixel layout than Apple’s iPad, the W100 could be the ultimate portable reader.
Toshiba have truly hit the mark with the Libretto W100. It’s a device that’s patently weird at its core, falling into no current categories and having more in common with Nintendo’s DSi gaming console than with its netbook competitors. If the thought of picking up an iPad is too much to handle, then Toshiba’s latest dual-screen touch netbook could be the best choice out there.