Toshiba Libretto W100 review: Hands-on with the first dual-screen Windows 7 laptop

We go hands on with Toshiba's newest creation -- a Frankenstein hybrid of a tablet PC and a regular old laptop. Read on for early photos and our first impressions of the Libretto W100

Toshiba has a history of interesting world firsts, and here's another one -- a dual touchscreen laptop running Windows 7. It's called the Libretto W100, and CNET UK was on hand at the product announcement to take photos and deliver our professional considered opinion. We also had cupcakes. 

Mega-portable

The Libretto W100 is, in essence, two 7-inch multitouch touchscreens stuck together. Those screens are LED backlit, with a resolution of 1024x600 pixels. That's not a bad number of pixels for screens of that size, and while we found the display to be bright and clear, we are a little concerned that with that many pixels jostling around on screen, icons might be a bit too small to select via touch.

We didn't experience this with the standard Windows software that was pre-loaded, but it's something to bear in mind if you plan to install software with small menus, such as iTunes.

 

The W100's lid rocks a brushed aluminium finish. There's no info yet on whether other colours will be available, but this black version was looking pretty snappy.

When shut, the W100's two touchscreens align more or less perfectly, giving the whole device a very small footprint -- it measures only 202 millimetres across. It's still too big to fit in a pocket, however -- you'll need a bag with you if you want the W100 to accompany you on your travels.

Light and fluffy

It's also extremely light -- Toshiba reckons the W100 weighs 819g. As the above image shows, it's a little light when it comes to ports, with nothing visible on the right-hand side except the power input.

The left side, meanwhile, offers only a 3.5mm socket (for headphones or exporting sound to speakers etc.) and just a single USB port. That's not great, even if it does help keep the overall size down. 

It's also worth noting that -- as you can see above -- the two 7-inch screens are pretty glossy. We didn't have much trouble with annoying reflections while actually playing with the W100, but it does make it a bit tricky to photograph, and we have our suspicions that if we took the W100 outside on a sunny day the display would be considerably harder to make out.

One bit of good news port-wise is that there's a MicroSD slot. 

The Libretto W100 isn't exactly slim, but you should take this slightly chubby-looking photo with a pinch of salt. At 33.4 millimetres, it isn't that thick in relative terms, but being not very wide does leave it with a comparatively stocky frame.

The W100 runs Windows 7's touchscreen interface. In theory it's pretty simple to use -- tap to click and hold the screen for just a moment (as seen here) to bring up the right-click menu.

As you can see, Toshiba has made a few modifications of their own to the windows taskbar. A selection of touch-activated shortcut buttons are along the bottom, designed to make navigating the full touch interface a little smoother.

That mechanical button to the left in the image above quickly brings up the on-screen keyboard...

Professional touch

The lower panel will mostly be used for typing -- and our first impressions are that actually tapping stuff out on the W100 is... learnable. Admittedly, we stumbled a few times early on, but from our initial demo we got the impression that a little patience would pay off. That's something we've seen when it comes to typing on the iPad certainly.

The Libretto W100 also packs haptic feedback (it vibrates just a little with each key) which certainly helped to make a flat panel feel a little more responsive.

When you're not using the keyboard, you get this 'Toshiba Board' which should make things a little easier in terms of opening programs or connecting to networks quickly.

We like the chunky easy-to-hit icons here, but we can't help but think it might have been better to fit the whole machine out with proprietary menus like this, or even with the made-for-touchscreen Android OS. We'll have to play around with our review sample to find out for sure...

There's a built-in sensor that knows when the W100 has been flipped on its side, at which point the display re-arranges itself thus. Thanks to the complex nature of the Windows 7 operating system, this transition isn't as smooth as that you'd see on an iPad (which rocks a much more basic operating system) but it gets the job done, and if you don't mind a bit of fiddling, we can see the W100 lending itself to a spot of e-book reading.

However, Toshiba reckons this device will muster only 3.5 hours of battery-life, so maybe think twice before taking it out for a day's casual reading in your local orchard... or wherever you choose to do your reading...

As far as we could tell the W100 only recognised being turned on its side in one direction -- with the power cable facing down, as in this photo. When we spun the W100 round the other way, the screen didn't respond.

Gubbins

We love nothing more than getting our hands dirty plumbing around inside the depths of a laptop. Sadly Toshiba confiscated our wrenches and soldering irons at the front door, so the best we could do was pull up the system info screen.

As you can see, the W100 is running on a battery-sipping Intel U5400 CPU, which should go a long way toward conserving battery life. 2GB of RAM is more than a netbook, but a bit weedy for Windows 7. There's also a 62GB solid state drive. 

Delicious Toshiba-branded cupcakes (in celebration of 25 years of laptop innovation don'cha know) are the perfect way to relax after a hard morning's demo testing.

The Libretto W100 will be released in July, which calendar enthusiasts will tell you is only a few weeks away. No word on pricing information at the moment, but with two touchscreens and a 62GB solid state drive, it probably won't be cheap. Rest assured you'll know as soon as we do.

The W100 is looking promising, and we certainly admire Toshiba's efforts to do something different. Whether it pays off or not remains to be seen, but for now let us know what you think in the comments, or on our Facebook wall.

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Laptops
About the author

Luke Westaway is a senior editor at CNET and writer/ presenter of Adventures in Tech, a thrilling gadget show produced in our London office. Luke's focus is on keeping you in the loop with a mix of video, features, expert opinion and analysis.

 

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