Hands on with the Toshiba Libretto W100

Dual display notebook in a tiny form factor

THERE HAVE BEEN a lot of demos of dual screen notebooks over the past couple of years by several different companies, least not by the Taiwanese notebook manufacturers, but as things turns out; Toshiba is set to be the first company to actually offer a retail product in the shape of the Libretto W100.

The Libretto W100 builds on Toshiba’s legacy of creating tiny notebooks with unusual features and, historically, most Libretto models have weighed in at less than 1kg. It’s five years since Toshiba last had a Libretto notebook in its line-up with the U100, but the W100 is an entirely different kettle of fish than its predecessors.

The dual screens are an obvious giveaway that the W100 is something out of the ordinary and they also give the W100 a distinctive look. The battery is located on the lower half of the W100 with most of the components – including the CPU – being located at the top half of the W100. This is as far as we’re aware the first notebook to have the CPU on the back of the screen. In this case it’s behind the screen that you’d use primarily for viewing content, as the lower screen doubles up as your input surface thanks to a selection of virtual keyboards that can be launched with the press of a button located on the side of the screen.

The fact that the W100 doesn’t have a physical keyboard means that it’s not great for tasks that requires a lot of keyboard input, as despite Toshiba’s best efforts of adding haptic feedback. This doesn’t make the W100 totally useless to type on, but it’s more like typing on a smartphone than a notebook. In fact, Toshiba should consider talking to Swype for a quick and easy to use keyboard solution for the W100.

On the hardware side of things the W100 is an interesting mix of bits as it features the ultra low Voltage Intel Pentium U5400 which is a 1.2GHz dual core CPU without Hyper-Threading and turbo boost technology which makes it a fairly uninteresting choice and we’d much rather have seen at least a Core i3 330UM in its place, especially considering the asking price. The rest of the hardware consist of Intel’s QS57 chipset, 2GB of onboard DDR3 memory and as far as we’re aware there’s no way of expanding this, a 64GB SSD drive, 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 2.1+EDR, a single USB 2.0 port, a headphone jack, a microSD card reader and a built in webcam.

Overall the specifications aren’t terrible considering that the W100 measures 200x120x25mm and weighs a mere 770g. Take into consideration that it also packs a pair of 7-inch LCD screens with 1024×600 resolution and Toshiba has a pretty mean feat of engineering here. It also has a very compact 8-cell battery which is in the shape of a slice that covers most of the bottom of the W100. The battery life is rated at up to 4h which isn’t fantastic, but not bad either considering the size of the W100.

Although we only had a brief encounter with the W100 is far better than many tablet devices we’ve seen over the years under various names. We would’ve liked to have seen higher resolution displays though, as 1024×600 is not a fantastic resolution in use. However, it was tricky to use Windows on the 7-inch screens as it was, so higher resolution panels would most likely have meant a larger device which sort of defeats the purpose in this case.

At an estimated retail price of $1,100 and a limited availability the Libretto W100 was never intended to be a huge seller for Toshiba as it was created as a special product to celebrate Toshiba’s 25th anniversary. It’s an interesting product and it goes to show what technology companies can produce when they put their mind to it. We’d consider this more of a show of what Toshiba is technically capable of producing rather than an actual useful product that is set to change the way that we use computers. Still, maybe one day we’ll all be using a future version of the W100, as unlikely as it seems today.S|A

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