Two Screens From Toshiba
It looks like a netbook but when you open the new Libretto W100 you get two 7” capacitive multitouch screens; turn it sideways and the screens rotate automatically. You’ll be able to get your hands on it this summer--probably in August.
Libretto Finger Touch
Unlike the once-rumored Courier tablet from Microsoft, the Libretto W100 runs a full version of Windows 7 (which is already optimized for touch). Toshiba hasn’t announced a price yet but expect a figure that takes into account the Pentium U5400 CPU (making it faster than Atom netbooks) and 62GB SSD.
It Needs a Large Pocket
Toshiba calls the Libretto “truly pocketable” and technically that's true, but the 7” screens mean you need a large pocket; it also fits in the pocket of a man’s suit (which would cause fewer problems sitting down). At 1.8 lbs you’ll know the Libretto is there but from our time with the W100 we’d say you’ll notice the size rather than the weight.
Texture For Grip, Space For Cooling
The brushed metal cover of the Libretto looks good, but the textured base is easy to grip. With two screens to drive, battery life is under four hours but you can remove and replace the battery using these latches (and the space for the latches also helps with cooling).
You Notice The Hinge
When companies like Asus make prototype two-screen tablets like the Waveface Light, they can pretend the hinge isn’t there. Toshiba General Manager Thomas Teckentrup agrees that the hinge on the Libretto is “disruptive” but he points out the advantage of being able to have the screen and keyboard at an ergonomic angle – and when you close the case both screens are protected.
Folds Flat But No Further
The hinge on the Libretto is smooth and solid; it feels as if it will stand up to years of opening, closing and flattening. The slight curve of the lower hinge helps strengthen it, but also means it won’t fold back to let you use just one screen.
Only One USB
There are very few ports and connectors on the Libretto W100; just the power socket on the right and this single USB port and headphone socket on the left. There’s no VGA or HDMI, and no Ethernet (though 3G is an option).
MicroSD For Space
The advertised SD socket is actually a MicroSD socket to save space. When you're using the Libretto like a notebook – which you’ll probably do when you’re inserting a MicroSD card to copy files – then it’s conveniently on the top of the screen.
Haptic Not Handwriting
Press the button on the side of the bottom screen or press the keyboard icon in the taskbar and the bottom screen turns into a keyboard with haptic feedback; the multitouch screen means you can type fast and it’s surprisingly easy and accurate to type on (and it has XT9 predictive typing to speed things up). But there’s no pen or stylus with the Libretto and Toshiba says handwriting is not supported (we couldn’t get Windows 7 to show the input panel).
A Full Extended Keyboard
There are actually six different keyboard layouts; three QWERTY options (one with larger keys and this layout with function keys), a numeric keyboard and two split layouts, plus a virtual trackpad. Press the keyboard icon on the top right of the keyboard to cycle through them.
Split Keyboard For Two Thumb Typing
If you want to hold the Libretto in both hands and type with your thumbs, switch to the split keyboards. This one has a curved key layout reminiscent of Microsoft’s Origami UMPC keyboard, the other has the standard straight lines of keys, just split apart.
Easy Touch With Toshibas Tools
The LifeSpace utilities that Toshiba puts on all its Windows 7 PCs work, like this bulletin board of icons, gadgets and clippings work really well for touch. Use the Scissors icon to clip an area of the screen and drag it across the hinge onto the board to save for later.
Finger Size Window Controls
On this size of screen, it’s hard to hit the close and minimize buttons, especially when a window is in the corner of the screen. Tap on the title bar of any window to open these larger controls for minimizing, maximizing, closing or moving a window – you can also expand over both screens or swap a window from one screen to the other.
Icons Control Replaces Windows
These icons are always in the Windows 7 taskbar on the Libretto; unless you turn off the notification icons there’s hardly any space for the taskbar icons of your apps. But they are handy for muting the volume, switching between windows, opening LifeSpace, zooming and opening the virtual trackpad and keyboards.
Two Hands Full
Keeping the screens down to 7” means you can comfortably hold the Libretto in both hands; it’s well balanced and not too heavy (we’re not resting it on the table in this shot, we’re holding it in mid-air). You can reach the power button on the right of the upper screen or the keyboard button on the left of the lower screen (but neither of them are in the way when you turn the screens sideways).
Two Screens Like A Book
On the early version we tried out, you can only turn the Libretto in one direction to make it rotate (which may reflect its Japanese heritage); expect this to change for the final product. Using the two screens side by side is useful for comparing information or just switching between two tasks.
When Split Screen Doesn’t Work
To Windows, this ebook (shown left in a screengrab) is all one window even when it’s on two screens (shown right in the photo); it’s easy to make a window fit one screen but we’ll need software that knows about the Libretto’s twin screens to co-ordinate windows to fit both neatly.
Scale: The Libretto Versus The Nexus One
Smartphones are getting bigger (the HTC Evo has a 4.8” screen) but fitting in a full PC means that while the Nexus One, with its 3.7” screen, is about a quarter of the size of the Libretto, the W100 is much thicker (1.2”). What you get by carrying something bigger is a full PC with Windows 7 and any software you want plus the flexibility of either a large keyboard or a second screen; the Libretto W100 looks like a novelty but works surprisingly well.