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Acer's Iconia dual touch-screen laptop makes another appearance

Walking the line between tablet and laptop, the Acer Iconia has two 14-inch screens, both of which are multitouch-enabled.

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LAS VEGAS--Not exactly new to CES, Acer's inventive Iconia laptop is making another appearance here. Back in November 2010, the dual touch-screen system was shown off in New York, along with a few Acer tablets, but little has been heard of it since.

Walking the line between tablet and laptop, the Iconia has two 14-inch screens, both of which are multitouch-enabled. The bottom screen can display content, a traditional QWERTY keyboard, or a variety of other control surfaces.

When we first saw it (and snagged a demo unit for a hands-on video tour), we said, "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."

In hands-on use, it seemed fast and responsive, and the onscreen typing function was usable, though awkward at first. It's similar to the Toshiba Libretto W100, which also had a dual touch-screen design, but crammed into two 7-inch screens. On the larger 14-inch screens, it feels much more natural, but as with iPad typing, there's sure to be a learning curve. We haven't spent enough hands-on time with the Iconia to tell if it'll be more than a gimmick, or if it will ever be as easy to use as a traditional keyboard.

That said, we've gotten so good at iPad typing that we're open-minded about the idea of an onscreen laptop keyboard. Cleverly, it's designed so that touching the bottom display with all 10 fingers automatically launches a virtual keyboard, while one open-fingered hand launches Acer's proprietary wheel-like control panel for applications.

The Acer Iconia still doesn't have an exact release date or retail price, but we'll post an update when that information is available.