There's been plenty of buzz for the high-concept Toshiba Libretto W105 since it was first announced in June of 2010. This dual-touch-screen minilaptop is a limited-release showpiece designed by Toshiba to celebrate the company's 25th anniversary in the mobile computing business, and is certainly an experiment that pushes the boundaries between laptops, tablets, and portable media players.
Despite the far-out thinking behind it, and the underpowered components, the Libretto W105 worked in practice far better than we expected in some areas, including certain kinds of media playback and general Web surfing. That was especially surprising, as the system is running Windows 7 Home Premium over two simultaneous displays, all from a 1.2GHz Intel Pentium U5400 CPU and 2GB of RAM. Our configuration (the only one currently available, according to Toshiba's Web site) is called the W105-L251 and sells for $1,099.
Looking a little like an oversize Nintendo DS, the libretto has two 7-inch multitouch displays, with the second taking the place of the traditional keyboard one would expect to find in this kind of clamshell design. By tapping a button on the side of the chassis, a virtual keyboard (similar to what you'd find on an iPhone or iPad) pops up to fill the bottom screen. Tap the same button twice and you get a virtual onscreen touch pad instead.
Our first struggle came with figuring out how to juggle these two virtual input devices, as the bottom screen isn't large enough to display both the keyboard and the touch pad fully at once (and, in our tests, the onscreen keyboard and touch pad couldn't register inputs simultaneously). Eventually, we got into a nice rhythm of single- and double-tapping to switch from keyboard to touch pad on the fly, although it's a little counterintuitive.
Pressing the button on the right side of the bottom display switches between the standard Windows OS desktop and a series of Toshiba's proprietary Bulletin Board screens, which allow you to arrange photos and notes on a touch-friendly surface. It looks snazzy, but we can't say it's particularly useful, especially as it (like almost any proprietary app) has its own learning curve.
Actually navigating around the Windows interface was mostly lag-free, which is something even many Netbooks can't say. At the same time, a 7-inch touch screen, no matter how many navigational tricks you include, simply isn't optimal for touch, and we spent plenty of time hunting and pecking, trying to center the tiny cursor on buttons and tabs. … Read more