MRP: Rs 70,000
Remember Microsoft's dual-screen notebook concept called the Courier? It created quite a buzz on the internet, but was finally scrapped by the software giant. However, wacky ideas just refuse to die in this weird world. The Courier's ghost lived through Toshiba's Libretto W105. Sadly, this gadget was only available in select countries for a limited time, so it never really made it to India. No worries though, as Acer has not only delivered a similar gadget, but it's also available in India. When it landed in our office, our jaws dropped due to its radical design. L ove it or hate it, you simply can't ignore it.
Instead of competing with established tablets, the device is in a league of its own. Contrary to the portability offered by other touch devices, the ICONIA focuses on providing mainstream computing with the added mojo of touch. Needless to say, Acer's laptop is expensive, but one can't expect the winner of the Last Gadget Standing Award at CES 2011 to come cheap.
Design And Build Quality
The device is made up of thin aluminium and black plastic, which looks classy. When the lid is closed, this 347 mm (l) x 248.5 (h) x 31.9 mm (d) gadget looks like an ordinary laptop. Once opened, you are greeted with two full touchscreen displays with black bezels around them. Yes, there is no physical keyboard here.
The edges are non-curvy, which gives the ICONIA an old-school charm. The back panel is pretty unusual by notebook standards, as it opens up like a mobile phone's cover and gives direct access to the components. Although highly convenient, the panel feels too flimsy and may fall off if not locked properly. The hinge is well built and allows the display to go all the way to 180 degrees. The overall build quality is good, but you will think twice before carrying this 2.8 kg device.
On the sides, it sports an HDMI, VGA, and Gigabit Ethernet port. A hardware keyboard toggle button is also present. Interestingly, only one out of its three USB ports has 3.0 SuperSpeed
support. We don't expect an optical drive on every device, but a gadget of this size certainly deserves one. The review piece we were sent did not have Bluetooth, but the product specifications listed in the official page state that the device supports Bluetooth 3.0
. Moreover, an inbuilt card reader is not present, but company representatives claim that an external 5-in-1 card reader is offered along with the retail pack.Display(s) And Sound
The laptop has two 14" capacitive touch screens, covered by Gorilla Glass
. This kind of protective glass is generally found on mobile phones, and explains its premium price tag. Both screens support multi-touch gestures and have pixel dimensions of 1366x768. The displays are reasonably bright and the contrast ratio is good too. Colours look vivid, but tend to lose accuracy beyond viewing angles of 45 degrees. Moreover, the displays are reflective, and glare becomes a problem near windows. Finally, the displays are fingerprint magnets and get smudgy in no time. This is quite annoying since the whole UI revolves around touch.
In the Acer ICONIA TAB A500 review
, I had mentioned the visibility of a weird dot pattern. This time around, it has evolved into a more complex design. Although these are nothing but touch receptors, the company should consider hiding them.
The stereo speakers at the bottom are surprisingly loud, and the sound quality is good too. Unlike ordinary notebooks, you can make do without earphones.
We don't often discuss the UI of a laptop, but then again, we don't see a notebook that has a second touchscreen. By default, the bottom display features a virtual keyboard and trackpad. The former can be activated by touching ten fingers to the lower display, although eight will also do. Though its island-type design makes it one of the best virtual keyboards out there, it is nowhere near the usability of a physical one. It generates a sound upon registering a keystroke, but there is no pseudo-tactile feedback otherwise found in smartphones.
Acer has included customisations that let you add designs to the keyboard. Users can also choose the spacing between the keys, as well as the colour scheme. If the keyboard is not to your liking, you can turn it off to use the handwriting recognition tool, which works very well. The trackpad's size is similar to those of normal laptops, and even though it's virtual, there is no option to increase its area. This however, is not a big issue as the touchscreen allows you to click on any icon directly.
The Acer Ring
is perhaps the most interesting thing I've ever seen on a notebook. The Ring's interface looks futuristic and can be activated by touching five fingers to the lower touchscreen. Yeah, somewhat like Minority Report
The Ring contains Acer's custom apps, namely Touchbrowser, MyJournal, Social Jogger, Scrapbook, TouchPhoto, TouchMusic,
. Out of these, I found Scrapbook the most interesting. It lets you draw pictures on the screen, and since it supports multi-touch, up to two people can draw on the same canvas simultaneously.
The product offers a good amount of flexibility over how you want to utilize the two screens. Users can choose to view an application in split-screen mode, or push it to the bottom display. You can open a browser in one screen and keep a video playing in the other.
The user interface is fun to use for the most part, but Windows
7 is not a touch-centric UI and is therefore unreliable at registering inputs. Transferring open windows from one screen to the other is also a painful task. Moreover, touch typists and chat addicts will have a hard time on the virtual keyboard.Performance
Under the hood lies a 2.66 GHz Intel Core i5
CPU, 4 GB DDR3 RAM, and a 640 GB (5400 rpm) hard drive. It comes pre-installed with Windows 7 Home Premium
64-bit, and offers almost mainstream performance thanks to the Core i5's sheer speed. The laptop handled multitasking with ease, and played HD content effortlessly. While the Intel HD 3000
graphics are a big letdown for gaming, nobody expects such capabilities from a dual-screen notebook.
One major problem I encountered was that frequently, the notebook would stop accepting touch inputs altogether. In these situations, a hard reboot using the power button was the only way out. Unsure whether the unit we received was faulty, we asked the company's PR to send us another unit. They replied that the process to get another unit or repair the existing one would take a month at least. This leaves me sceptical about the after-sales service on offer. As for the problem, the ICONIA can be given the benefit of doubt. However, readers are advised to spend some time with a demo piece before making a buying decision.
Here are the Windows 7 Experience Index
and PCMark 7
On any laptop, the biggest battery draining factor is its screen. The poor 6-cell battery on the notebook has to handle two of them. Little wonder then, the battery performance of this device is the worst I've ever seen on any laptop. The cells powered the device for 2 hours and 30 minutes under moderate use. This dropped further to 1 hour and 20 minutes under heavy use.
We also ran the Battery Eater benchmark in two modes: the light Reader mode and the stressful Classic mode. During the tests, the brightness was set to maximum. The results are as follows:
It's not often that you come across a device that offers not one, but two bigger-than-iPad
touchscreens, and is capable of running a full-fledged Windows 7 OS and robust productivity applications. Although its touch precision is nowhere near any iOS
device, the ICONIA's multitasking ability still gives it an advantage. The dual screens and the Acer Ring application lend the notebook an oomph factor that makes the iPad
and other Android
tablets look boring. The current issues with the touch interface can be expected to fade away with the arrival of Windows 8
Having said that, the device has its limitations and lacks basics such as an inbuilt card reader. The battery is a downer, and people may not want to spend Rs 70,000 on this device. Long story short, the ICONIA-484G64ns will not replace traditional notebooks any time soon, but makes for a good alternative to the fancy MacBook
seen on the CEO's desk.Features:
3/5Design And Build Quality:
3/5Value For Money:
4/5 Overall Rating: