We've just spent the morning fondling an Asus EcoBook -- the first laptop to feature real bamboo panelling. Yes, bamboo -- the stuff that's gobbled up by pandas and used to construct beach houses in the Maldives.
Making a laptop out of wood doesn't sound all that sane a project, but we should probably get accustomed to this sort of thing -- Asus has already delivered the first leather-bound laptops, and Tulip does a range of crazy laptop skins for its Ego range.
The EcoBook, due to launch next year, is designed to communicate Asus' eco-friendly message. Like it or loathe it, you should check out the world exclusive pictures over the next few pages. -RR
The EcoBook has a modular design. This illustration shows how the individual panels are attached to the main unit. Should one of the panels be accidentally damaged, it can be replaced with relative ease. Unfortunately, consumers won't be able to exchange panels as is possible on some mobile phones.
From concept to reality: bamboo is hacked from some poor, unsuspecting plant and shaped to fit the EcoBook.
The final product is striking. The EcoBook has a very warm look about it and makes a welcome change from the hackneyed black and silver laptops that have flooded the market.
Up close, you can really see the detail in the wood. Take a look at the mouse trackpad, too. It's been scaled up by 150 per cent in order to integrate a handwriting function -- you simply use your fingers or a stylus to enter text.
The mouse trackpad has LED status lights fitted behind the cover. Asus says this reduces the cost of manufacturing and assembling external LED lenses.
The keys on the keyboard are designed to mimic the look of bamboo joints. The wood above the ports is engraved so you can easily find which one you're looking for. On final retail models, the large, circular PowerGear button (for adjusting laptop performance) will glow red or green to indicate how much power is being consumed.
The bamboo is natural so it is, of course, biodegradable. Each of the panels can be recycled separately, so you can be confident that your fancy new laptop is kind to the environment.