No keyboard, no problem: Welcome to the dual-screen laptop era

Multiple displays, virtual keyboards that anticipate your every move -- the next big thing in laptops is coming this year.

Claire Reilly Former Principal Video Producer
Claire Reilly was a video host, journalist and producer covering all things space, futurism, science and culture. Whether she's covering breaking news, explaining complex science topics or exploring the weirder sides of tech culture, Claire gets to the heart of why technology matters to everyone. She's been a regular commentator on broadcast news, and in her spare time, she's a cabaret enthusiast, Simpsons aficionado and closet country music lover. She originally hails from Sydney but now calls San Francisco home.
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  • Webby Award Winner (Best Video Host, 2021), Webby Nominee (Podcasts, 2021), Gold Telly (Documentary Series, 2021), Silver Telly (Video Writing, 2021), W3 Award (Best Host, 2020), Australian IT Journalism Awards (Best Journalist, Best News Journalist 2017)
Claire Reilly
4 min read
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We keep hearing that voice is the next interface, but the tech world is still pretty darn obsessed with screens.

At Computex in Taipei this week, the world's biggest PC and gaming manufacturers have been showing off their latest kit, and there's one overwhelming trend: Why have one screen when you can have two?

Since the very first laptops started weighing down our legs (and our messenger bags) in the '80s and '90s, the design hasn't really changed. They've gone thinner, lighter and brighter, but we've largely always worked with physical keyboards below digital displays.

Intel's Tiger Rapids, a dual-screen laptop concept

Part Windows 10 laptop, part inkable electronic paper display, Intel's Tiger Rapids was just one new dual-screen concept on show at Computex.

Claire Reilly/CNET

But that's changing.

According to Intel's senior vice president of client computing, Gregory Bryant, the next laptop you buy could look radically different.

"You're going to see secondary displays, you're going to see other [ways] of interacting with that [PC] platform," he said in an interview. "You'll probably see foldable displays, you'll see things that are bendable, you'll see things that fit in your purse. One of the most obvious things you'll see is things that just don't look like the traditional or legacy PC."

And the good news? These new devices could be yours by the end of the year.

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Asus' concept Project Precog is real and here's what it looks like.

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The first taste of the dual-screen future at Computex was Project Precog -- an ambitious concept laptop from Asus that does away with the physical keyboard in favor of two beautiful 4K screens. Like the convertibles we've seen in past years, it flips and folds every which way, but the second screen also adapts to anticipate your needs. 

That's where the "precog" part comes in (yes, think Minority Report, but not quite "precrime detection"). Asus says artificial intelligence in the laptop will know what you want to do based on your activity. Hold your fingers out to type, and a digital keyboard pops up. Bring a stylus to the screen, and it knows you're drawing. It will even scan your calendar to work out when you'll need the laptop for heavy use (say, during a meeting) and conserve battery accordingly. This is function following form, and what's more, it's real -- yours to buy in 2019.

Watch this: Asus' ZenBook Pro turns your touchpad into a second screen

If that's too long to wait, Asus also showed off its new 2018 ZenBook Pro which crams a 5.5-inch, 1,920x1,080-pixel resolution touchscreen into the touchpad. Apparently, one screen is never enough.

But Asus wasn't the only brand to jump on the trend. Lenovo also showed off a similar dual-screen Yoga Book, the second generation of the brand's laptop lineup. Back in 2016, the first-gen Yoga Book did away with the physical keyboard in favor of a digital keyboard -- it was akin to using an iPad keyboard.


Lenovo teased its next two generations of Yoga Book, with Gen 2 set to arrive later this year.

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But now Lenovo is changing its shape again. We didn't see much of the new Yoga Book 2 at Computex (it was there and gone again onstage at Intel's keynote) but we do know it will have dual touchscreen displays, an "enhanced inking experience" and AI-enabled keyboard (though once again the practicalities of "AI" in everyday use remain to be seen). Another good piece of news? Like Project Precog, you'll be able to buy it. Lenovo says it should be available later this year.

Lenovo also used Intel's keynote to hint at a third-generation Yoga Book, but was pretty tight-lipped. The teaser image onstage showed a slick and futuristic design with no hinge in sight and a body that opened out flat to look like one single display.

And then there was Intel's Tiger Rapids dual-display prototype. Away from the show floor, we managed to snag some time with this one to have a play and it's a lot of fun. 

The prototype looks less like a laptop and more like a hinged notebook (the paper kind, that is), and that's exactly the look Intel was going for. Intel said it saw room in the tech world for a "full PC-capable device but also a need and desire for pen and paper."


Intel's Tiger Rapids prototype features a Full HD LCD display on one side and an inkable electronic paper display on the other. 

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The Tiger Rapids device has a 7th-gen Core processor and runs Windows 10, with a 7.9-inch Full HD LCD display on the left and an inkable electronic paper display (EPD) on the right. You can push notes from right to left and the EPD adapts to become a keyboard depending on orientation.

Using Tiger Rapids feels like using a high-tech Filofax -- send off your emails on one side, jot down a note on the other, slide it into your bag and make it to brunch by 11.

And although this device is just a prototype, Intel told us that one of its manufacturing partners was working on a similar design that's due in stores by the end of the year. Watch this space. 

These devices might be a while off, and there's no doubt they'll command a high price when they hit the market. But they're also proof that the humble laptop is far from dead. They also show us that the future of PCs won't be about putting up with the same old one-size-fits-all clamshell design. In the future, you'll be able to buy a device that's much more closely targeted to what you need -- whether that's multiscreen touch displays or old-school note taking -- and they'll anticipate your needs too. 

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With the replacement cycle on most laptops at least three to four years, you may not get these new gadgets tomorrow. But there's a very good chance that when it comes time to upgrade, your next laptop won't look anything like old clamshell notebook you're lugging around right now.

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