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Dual-screen Acer Iconia laptop, hands-on

Acer's futuristic dual-screen touch-screen laptop debuted in New York City--is it practical, or just a concept computer?

The Acer Iconia: a dual-touch-screen laptop.
The Acer Iconia dual-touch-screen laptop. Acer

Can't choose between a laptop and a tablet? The Acer Iconia may be the product you've been waiting for.

At a Manhattan press event on Tuesday, Acer announced a dual-screen multitouch laptop that, while looking like a concept computer in the flesh, also looks like it's trying to get the best of two worlds at once. Iconia is a 14-inch laptop with an additional 14-inch screen where a keyboard would normally be, making the device in effect a large-scale version of a Toshiba Libretto we reviewed a few months ago.

The focus on the Iconia seems to be bridging the gap between "consuming" video/audio content and normal office productivity, and while the design is bold, its effectiveness remains in serious question. The twin Gorilla-glass-enforced multitouch displays seem to work like the iPad's panels, with support for 10-finger simultaneous touch.

Really, though, a touch device is useless without a good interface and software support. The Iconia does show some promise. Laying down all 10 fingers on the lower screen automatically launches a virtual keyboard, while one open-fingered hand launches Acer's proprietary wheel-like launcher for applications. It's futuristic, but perhaps an unnecessary visual gloss.

Now playing: Watch this: Acer unveils Iconia, new tablets

Iconia is, at its heart, a Core i5 laptop with familiar specs: up to 4GB of DDR3 RAM, integrated Intel graphics, a hard drive up to 750GB, and Windows 7 Home Premium. Ports are also typical for a high-end laptop: two USB 2.0, one USB 3.0, HDMI, and VGA.

Those twin 1,366x768 displays are the heart of the appeal here, and though Acer has shown off some methods of using those displays in innovative ways, we're just not sure that anyone will want to use a laptop like this instead of a more traditional keyboarded model, or a large-screen tablet like an iPad.

No specific availability or pricing has been announced either--Acer is calling Iconia a "concept device," which seems to place it firmly into the same experimental/expensive category that the Toshiba Libretto W105 fell into. Most importantly, we've yet to see a Windows 7 touch device that's really been easy or useful to operate. Will Iconia break the mold? We'll have to wait and see.