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CNET First Look
Acer IconiaUnlike a lot of other unique proof-of-concept laptops, the Acer Iconia is fun to use and largely works as advertised. But it has a hard time answering the most frequent question we heard about it -- why would anyone need a dual-touchscreen laptop?
-I'm Dan Ackerman and we are here with a laptop we have been waiting for, for some time. That is the Acer Iconia and as you can see, it ditches the regular setup of a screen up on top and the keyboard down here for 2 independent 14-inch touchscreens. It's a little bit like a Nintendo DS or maybe like your iPad because you're supposed to use an on-screen keyboard to type. Now, the way you get to that on-screen keyboard is simply by taking 10 of your fingers and resting them lightly on the bottom screen, and that pops up a keyboard that looks about as well as the one on the iPad does, which means that you'll need a few to sort of self train to get used to it, but I actually find it fairly easy to use. Once again, you kinda get over that learning curve. You can also take one hand and put your 5 fingers down, and that would give you kind of a media control jog wheel that lets you launch some specialty apps and also get into a bunch of different settings designed for the touchscreen in this machine in particular. Now, we call systems like this kind of the executive laptop because they're kind of gimmicky, they're highly designed, sometimes they're kind of overpriced, and they're really meant for sort of the CEO of the company to go, "Hey, I need one of these fancy things to put in my, you know, desk to impress people but they're not really meant for everyday use." In terms of the executive laptops, the Iconia was actually a little bit easier to use than most, even though it is really based on a big gimmick. Once we got used to typing on the screen, even though there's not really any sort of feedback besides the clicking sound when you type, we eventually got used to almost touch-typing on it. There was just enough of a hint of lag on the typing that if you're a superfast touch typist, you might run into that; for most people, not so much of a problem. Our bigger issue with this is a touchpad built into the bottom here, but it's really too small, and since it's a virtual touchpad, you feel like they could really just make it as big as they wanted. But you're gonna end up going off the sides a lot, and I actually found myself not using the touchpad as much as just reaching up and clicking on the things I wanted on the top screen. Now, I'm gonna demonstrate very quickly some of the cool things you can do if you have 2 screens because the number 1 question we get about the system is why would I need 2 screens. The first thing you can do is open up a Web browser and maybe have it on the top screen, or hit this little button there and flick it down to the bottom screen, or you can have 1 window open in the top and an entirely different window open in the bottom, and they're both, you know, touch sensitive so you can play around with them like that. We also took an HD video and put it in the top screen, then we took another HD video and put it in the bottom screen and played them both at once, and it actually worked pretty smoothly. We also did this with some online video and that worked as well. There's also some custom-made apps designed for the touchscreen. If you do the 5-finger thing and you hit the TouchBrowser that brings up a Web browser that works across both screens automatically, although you're really more likely to just use Chrome, or Firefox, or your favorite browser. There's also a custom-made social media app, and photo and video apps. Again, you're more likely to just use your regular versions of those, but there is a nice kind of control center where you can turn the backlight of the different screens off and on, and perform a bunch of power and system control functions. Now, with two 14-inch touchscreens, this thing is pretty much a tank. It's really thick. It's really heavy especially compared to other 14- or even some 15-inch laptops. We're also not happy that it uses the last generation of Intel processors. If they moved up to the newer version that's something called Sandy Bridge, you probably get better performance, longer batter life, and even some basic game playing ability. As it is right now, this thing really can't play games, although as you saw, it does the HD videos just fine. One thing we did like about it is that for a so-called executive laptop, compared to a lot of other laptops that are super fancy like the Samsung Series 9 or Dell's Adamo XPS, this guy is actually relatively reasonably priced considering what you get. It's about $1199, which certainly doesn't put it outside of the mainstream of high-end mid-sized laptop pricing. I'm Dan Ackerman and that is the Acer Iconia.