- Great overall performance
- Good virtual keyboard and track pad
- Exceptionally mobile
- Mediocre battery life
- Doesn't work well in portrait mode
- Fan noise will bother some
- VERY weak internal speaker
At its launch price it's hard to recommend, but it's FAR more than an overpriced toy.
The Toshiba Libretto W100 (the W100 is the Japanese versionof the tablet with a WiMax radio, and the W105 and the W100 share the same hardware, sans WiMax) is the most exotic computer form factor to be released in years. After all, Toshiba branded it a “concept” device.
Whatever it is called or compared to (Nintendo DS, Courier, iPad), the W100 is a mix of the tried and true spiced with uniqueness that combine to form a compelling product. For most people, it is probably too expensive, but there isn’t any other device on the market this size that has this level of functionality. In essence, it is a pound and a half miniature laptop with virtual input devices.
BUILD & DESIGN
The most striking characteristic of the W100 is unquestionably its two 7-inch 1024 x 600 pixel touchscreens housed in a diminutive clamshell package measuring 7.95 x 4.84 x 1.2 inches, weighing 1.55 lbs with the 4-cell battery (it’s about 1.8 lbs. with the 8 cell power source). It’s much smaller and lighter than the average 10-inch netbook and it’ll easily fit in a woman’s purse; it even fits in some of my pants pockets.
After reading other comments about the new Libretto, I don’t think enough emphasis is put on just how small and portable it truly is, which is arguably the coolest things about this device.
One design aspect to note is that the CPU and motherboard comprise the top of the unit, the reverse of practically all other clamshell computers. As a result the top does get warm — not scalding, but not comfortable to hold for long periods of time especially if the unit is running hard. This issue is part of the reason why I don’t think the Libretto’s portrait mode is particularly useful, and the fact that the portrait orientation of 600 x 1024 simply doesn’t work well for many things as the horizontal width is simply too narrow.
I’ve read a lot of discussion about fan noise and while the fan is audible much of the time, almost any amount of ambient sound will practically drown it out. When it’s on my bedside table, it doesn’t keep me awake at night while running. It’s definitely a matter of individual taste and tolerance, but the fan noise hasn’t in any way impacted where or the way I use the W100.
The W100’s screens are centerpiece of the device since there’s literally nothing else, and they do the job well. They are based on Toshiba’s TrueBright technology and have good brightness, color accuracy, viewing angles, and text is laser sharp.
In standard clamshell laptop mode the bottom screen can appear a little dark compared to the top screen, but fortunately, screen brightness can be set independently, so it’s possible to make the bottom screen brighter than the top and thus even out the brightness.
The screens are glossy, so the W100 isn’t good for outdoor use but it works as well as any laptop in shade.
Keyboard & Mouse
The virtual keyboard and mouse are most impressive and are controlled manually via the button on the left of the bottom screen; press it once to toggle the keyboard and quickly twice to toggle the mouse. Both work on either screen, even simultaneously, and they provide haptic feedback on both screens as well.
The keyboard has six different layouts that allow it to be configured for optimum size and features based on the task at hand. I find typing on this keyboard MUCH better than any other touch screen keyboard I’ve tried, and even with pretty big hands (I wear extra-large men’s gloves) I can get 40+ WPM out of it. I typed this review on it, and while it’s not something I’d do normally, writing large amounts of text on this device is practical if not entirely efficient. Thanks to the different keyboard configurations, it’s also awesome for on the go and walking around typing.
The virtual track pad, while virtual, is very much like any physical track pad found in netbooks and laptops — many are just smooth surfaces these days anyway. Ironically the W100’s track pad isn’t multi-touch enabled and it is not quite as effective as the keyboard, but it helps immensely by adding increased precision and comes in particularly handy in situations where apps are a little difficult to work with in Windows 7 given the small screens. The old argument that Windows doesn’t work well on small screen devices is largely mitigated by the track pad.
Ports and Integrated Hardware
There aren’t a lot expansion ports or integrated hardware in the W100, but the necessities are here: one USB 2.0 port, a micro-SD slot, one 3.5mm headphone jack, two internal microphones and a decent one megapixel web cam good for video calls and conferencing. Perhaps the biggest thing not here is a video output, but it should be possible to hook up an external monitor or projector via the USB port.