Review of Toshiba Libretto W100

THE first thought that popped into my head when I opened the box and took out the Libretto W100 notebook was "Oh man, this looks like an oversized Nintendo DS."
Unlike a typical notebook, this laptop does not have a physical keyboard. Instead, there is a 7in WSVGA LED multitouch screen in the space where the keyboard would be.
The dual screens - and the black metallic finish of the device - makes it look like a cousin to Nintendo's handheld game console.
Librettos are Toshiba's subnotebook computers that have made a name for themselves by packing a lot of firepower into a small form factor.
In conjunction with the company's 25th anniversary this year, Toshiba took the Libretto range further - the result is the W100 ultraportable, a concept model that was the world's first dual-screen laptop.
Acer has just released a similar product, the Iconia.
I have to admit that it was not love at first sight when I laid eyes on the W100. It looked weird without a keyboard. Also, the lid with its airvent and speaker grill on top, looked odd.
Then there's the sticker on the lid that cautions users about the heat that the notebook produces when in use. Gosh, how hot does this thing get?, I wondered.
The need for the airvent soon became obvious. It's above the processor and the air around the opening gets really toasty, even after operating the notebook for a short while. The rear of the device is mostly taken up by the battery.
Toshiba has made this Libretto really light. It tips the scale at a mere 776g. It's small too; only slightly bigger than our palm, so it's real easy to carry the device around.
But due to the small form factor, the laptop is only able to offer limited connectivity options - a single USB2.0 port, a microSD card reader, and a headphone jack.
For wireless connections, there are Bluetooth and WiFi options.
Fast boot
Preinstalled with Windows 7 Home Premium, the machine booted up in about 20 seconds. That's quite fast if you have to ask.
Processing power is supplied by an entry-level 1.2GHz Intel Pentium U5400 chip, while there is an integrated Intel HD graphics card chip.
FAST ACCESS: The Bulletin Board provides fast access to daily activities, tasks and projects, plus the ability to drag and drop photos, videos, links, documents and application shortcuts into one place.
The W100 aced our tests when it came to multitasking and standard tasks such as wordprocessing and surfing the Web. It also played all the high-definition movies that I threw at it, without so much as a hiccup.
Also, its 62GB solid-state drive is more than enough to hold most users' files, photos, music and videos.
My only real complaint is the audio, which was too soft even at the highest setting. To add salt to the wound, the device's exhaust fan made whirring sounds that were loud enough to drown out the audio. I fixed this by hooking up a pair of headphones or external speakers.
Built-in accelerometer allows the dual screens to automatically orientate themselves to landscape or portrait view, depending on how the laptop is held. In portrait mode, the W100 looks like a digital book.
I flipped the laptop into several positions and noticed that the screens took a few seconds to reorientate. That's slow, in our book, but not a deal breaker.
I love the dual-screen setup. I could work on a Word document on one screen, while surfing the Internet on the other. This makes it really easy to research an article while writing the piece. And no need to be flipping between the two.
To make it easier to navigate around the screens, Toshiba has added its own tool next to the "Close" icon on each window pane. With it users can shift the desktop window to the bottom and back, or maximise it across both displays.
Also the notebook comes with the personalised Toshiba Bulletin Board app that provides fast access to daily activities, tasks and projects, plus the ability to drag and drop photos, videos, links, documents and application shortcuts into one place.
Incidentally, the bottom screen dims when idle to conserve battery power.
Virtual keyboards
Yes, you read that right. Keyboards. Plural. The W100 offers up to six virtual keyboards to suit users' preferences.
At the press of a button, you can choose from a full Qwerty layout, simplified Qwerty keyboard, a 10-key numeric pad, split keyboard for thumb-typing, and so on. Each has haptic feedback to simulate keypresses.
BEST FOR ME: The split thumb-typing keyboard worked the best as I was able to hold and type while lying down.
And, a virtual trackpad is also available.
I enjoyed trying out all the virtual keyboards but the user experience was hampered by the small size of the screens at first; I'm used to regular-sized keyboards. But given more time, I may have gotten used to typing on the W100.
The split keyboard worked best for me and because the W100 is really light, I could hold it in both hands while I used my thumbs to type, without it becoming cumbersome.
Also, I liked that the virtual keyboards are all lit, so I could type in a darkened room easily.
The W100 proved to be quite an interesting piece of hardware and despite a few shortcomings, such as weak audio and cramped virtual keyboards, it is both useful and fun. It turns heads too, especially when the dual screens are obvious.
It's really portable and carrying it around won't cause you to develop over-muscular arms or a hernia. And too bad you can't play Mario Bros on it. Also regrettable is that it retails at RM3,999, which makes it out of reach for a number of people.
Pros: Dual-screen setup is neat; lightweight and small; boots-up fast; easy to use; enjoyable.
Cons: Screen orientation is slow; barely audible audio; only one USB port; runs hot; pricey.ends
Dual-screen ultra-portable notebook
PROCESSOR: Intel Pentium U5400 Duo Core (1.2GHz)
DISPLAY: Two 7in WSVGA LED multitouch displays (1,024 x 600-pixels resolution)
GRAPHICS: Intel HD graphics
STORAGE: 62GB solid state drive
CONNECTIVITY: WiFi 802.11n, 10/100 Ethernet port, Bluetooth 2.1
PORTS/SLOTS: One USB2.0 port, microSD card, mono microphone, mono speaker, earphone jack
BATTERY: 4-cell (Two hours battery life maximum)
OPERATING SYSTEM: Windows 7 Home Premium
OTHER FEATURES: Accelerometer, 1.3-megapixel webcam and six choices of virtual multimode keyboards (with haptic feedback to simulate normal keypresses)
DIMENSIONS (W x D x H): 202 x 123 x 30.7mm
WEIGHT: 776g (with battery)
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