Asus W5Fe: Welcome to the dual-screen Vista laptop era

Laptops with two screens? It sounds like complete madness, but with some Vista gubbins involved it's so darned crazy it just might work

When former Intel CEO Craig Barret told us laptops of the future would come with two screens, we mocked him. Attendees of the 2003 Intel Developer Forum had to physically restrain themselves from throwing rotten tomatoes, such was the ludicrousness of the proposal. Seriously, does anyone even use the second screen on their mobile phone?

The series of laptops, codenamed Newport, were said to have a main screen and an additional external display built into the top of the lid. These could be used to scan emails, access a calendar, check network connections and monitor downloads without having to fire up the laptop.

It sounded like a total gimmick at the time, (why not just open the lid?) but we've just taken a look at the Asus W5Fe, one of the first Newport laptops, and have to concede the second screen could come in useful. It comes with its own power switch, a four-way directional pad with a central selector button, and a menu button for choosing which task you want to perform.

The system is provided by PortalPlayer Preface, and known officially as Windows SideShow -- a Vista-only technology that lets you do all of the above while the laptop is switched off, on, or hibernating. PortalPlayer reckons SideShow will let you access flight departure information, movie show times, alerts, play games, movies, images and MP3s. And the best part: it can run for "hundreds of hours without draining your notebook battery," according to the PortalPlayer site.

We can't wait for this to hit the streets (probably some time after Vista's release) -- not necessarily because we want to use any of the functions, we're just complete posers. Imagine the looks you'd get on the train! -RR

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