Oftentimes press releases from the major manufacturers can feel like fluff: "We refreshed our notebook line again this year, new processors, etc." But every so often one of them lets a maniac into their design department, and we get something fairly radical. Today, Acer has decided to be the ASRock of computer companies by announcing the Iconia 6120, a 14" notebook they're dubbing a "Touchbook" because instead of a keyboard...there's a second screen. That's what I get for complaining about their keyboard design so much: they've gotten rid of it entirely. If the Iconia brings to mind Toshiba's Libretto W100, it should, but unlike the Libretto this is a more aggressive stab at making a dual-screen notebook with a much more aggressive price point.

The Acer Iconia 6120 Dual-Screen Touchbook will come equipped standard with an Intel Core i5 processor (complete with integrated Intel HD graphics); we're not sure if it's Sandy Bridge as the press release doesn't say, but most likely Acer opted to use Arrandale (we've seen i5-480M listed elsewhere). Backing up the i5 is 4GB of DDR3, a 640GB mechanical hard disk, and Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit. Acer was also keen to point out the Iconia 6120 includes USB 3.0 connectivity, a welcome addition and one we hope to see gain more and more traction in the mobile market. Remaining connectivity is handled by two USB 2.0 ports, HDMI, VGA, Gigabit Ethernet, and 802.11b/g/n wireless networking. Finally, the touchscreens themselves are designed using Gorilla Glass.

Given that Windows 7 is barely designed to handle one touchscreen let alone two, Acer is including a wealth of custom software to maximize the design of the Iconia 6120. Built around what they call the "Acer Ring Control Interface" (activated by placing five fingers in a circular pattern on the bottom display), a wealth of touch-enabled applications are included, including a touch-based web browser, social networking interfaces, and a device control panel. The Iconia 6120 also recognizes multitouch gestures like a smartphone would, and includes both a basic virtual keyboard along with a helpful gesture editor. Typing on glass definitely isn't going to win our award for best keyboard ever, but at least the Iconia should be better than typing on a tablet. It remains to be seen just how practical the Iconia 6120's touch interface is going to be: the Toshiba Libretto W100 was released largely as a limited edition curiosity, and Toshiba tried pushing its utility by being able to hold it like a book and manipulate it that way.

The press release also fails to list quite a few important details. The photos are clearly doctored/rendered images, and there's no information on what sort of display technology Acer is using. If they actually have the guts to use a couple IPS displays, there's still potential, but TN panels are likely the weapon of choice and that will make for a very poor viewing experience. Also missing is information on expected battery life or battery capacity; typically, Arrandale is good for 5-6 hours of battery life on a moderate ~55Wh battery, but powering two LCDs could really cut into that figure. Finally, the weight is on the portly side of things, tipping the scales at 6.18 pounds (as a point of reference, the ASUS U41JF we just reviewed is a 14" laptop with a DVDRW that only weighs 4.78 pounds), so this isn't a viable tablet alternative either.

On the other hand, the Iconia 6120 doesn't look to suffer from the same kind of schizophrenic design decisions that limited the Libretto: this is very clearly designed to be used like a regular notebook with a brand new interface. What potentially pushes this "touchbook" over the edge, though, is the pricetag: at an MSRP of just $1,199 in both the US and Canada, the Acer Iconia 6120 is priced within the reach of mainstream shoppers willing to take the plunge and try something new.

This could end up being one of the coolest devices to come out in 2011, or it might end up just being a funky laptop that's uncomfortable for typing, or it could be a complete flop. The price is too high to qualify as an impulse buy, and without any benchmarks or hands-on experience all we can do for now is show you the pictures and wait for actual hardware. Still, we have to give Acer some props for at least trying something different. Acer is offering the Iconia 6120 Dual-Screen Touchbook for pre-sale now, with availability expected in April. The full press release can be found below.

Acer Iconia Touchbook Dual-Screen Tablet
Provides Engaging, Natural Way to Interact with Digital Data

World’s First and Only Tablet Featuring Two 14-inch Touch Screen Displays
Now Available for Pre-Sale in the U.S. and Canada

SAN JOSE, CA – March 29, 2011 – Acer today announced that its much anticipated dual screen tablet, the Iconia-6120 Dual-Screen Touchbook is now available for pre-sale in North America. Providing a powerful, immersive touch experience like no other, it is the world’s first and only tablet to offer two touch-enabled 14-inch high-definition widescreen LED backlit LCDs.

Intuitive to use and customizable to individual needs, it combines the power of Intel Core i5 processing with the familiarity of Windows 7, and is destined to change how people use technology to engage with the world. A winner of this year’s prestigious “Last Gadget Standing” award at CES, the Iconia was noted for incorporating the best features of any notebook or tablet device.

With the flexibility to use a finger, type on a virtual keyboard, or use a combination of both, the Iconia Touchbook provides many ways to make the computing experience a truly personal one. Consumers can customize what is shown on each screen, allowing them to watch a video on the top screen and browse their multimedia library on the bottom one, or view a single web page across the two displays. Using the bottom screen to manage and control the action on the top screen keeps presentations, movies or web pages free of icons and other navigational tools.

Extremely durable and scratch resistant, the Iconia’s 14-inch LCDs are made of ultra-thin Gorilla® Glass from Corning, a renowned manufacturer of extremely durable glass. With a wipe and clean coating, it’s easy to keep the displays shiny and smudge-free.

“The Acer Iconia Touchbook delivers a computing and visual experience like no other,” said Eric Ackerson, senior product marketing manager, Acer America. “Whether the Touchbook is used by a small business owner or a student, its unique dual screen design enhances the interaction they will have with their digital data. Our compelling design and applications will let them discover new and much more personal ways to communicate and enjoy the computing experience, regardless of whether it’s work related or for personal enjoyment.”

The Heart of Iconia – the Acer Ring Control Interface

The unique Acer Ring Control Interface makes navigating by touch simple and intuitive. By placing five fingers in a circular pattern on the bottom display, the Acer Ring appears, providing instant access to favorite applications and features. From this point, consumers can use their fingertip or launch the virtual keyboard to change the tablet’s settings, surf the web, capture screen images, post photos and status updates to a social network, watch a movie and more, all in the manner most comfortable and natural to them.

AppCards Provide Quick and Easy Access to Productivity and Entertainment-Based Applications

Appearing on the either side of the Acer Ring is a unique set of Iconia touch-based applications, called AppCards. Using a finger, users can scroll to the one they want, and simply tap it to have instant access to a range of compelling programs ideal for either business or home use.

  • TouchBrowser is specifically designed to offer a more comfortable web surfing experience when using touch input. Upon launching, web content will flow across both screens. A toolbar at the bottom of either screen provides easy control over the open pages. To enter a website address, consumers can use the virtual keyboard or enter it using handwriting gestures. A pinching action will zoom in on the content on the page. Pages can be added to Favorites by simply tapping the Add Favorites icon.
  • MyJournal is a handy place to keep clippings of websites and other information. Images can be captured from any web page and organized onto a single, easy-to-view page. It includes pre-set tabs for News, Sports, Entertainment, Politics and Business. The selected website content on the tabbed pages is automatically updated each time it’s opened. A toolbar at the top of the page makes it easy to edit, resize, rename and move clips to other pages. In a business environment, a professional will find this feature useful in tracking news on competitors or to keep an eye on the stock market. A consumer can follow a local news story, their favorite sports team or keep an eye on their favorite celebrity’s latest antics.
  • Social Jogger simultaneously connects to three of the most popular social networking sites — Flickr, Facebook, and YouTube, presenting them a simple interface on one screen. Users can check posts and updates on one screen at a glance, and use the other screen to view one of the sites in more detail, surf the web, view photos or work on a spreadsheet.
  • Scrapbook is a convenient place to store website and photo images and other content. It includes a pen tool for drawing or entering handwritten text, such as adding comments or reminders. From there, images can be exported to the clipboard for insertion into other applications, or saved as an image file.
  • TouchPhoto, TouchMusic and TouchVideo provide direct access to multimedia files stored on the tablet.

Easy-to-use Tools Make Navigating Intuitive and Fun

Appearing directly on the Acer Ring are a number of useful functions and tools, including Virtual Keyboard, Gesture Editor, Capture, Webclip, Windows Manager and Device Control. Tapping the desired tool’s icon brings it up for immediate use.

  • The Virtual Keyboard gives users the ability to enter data and navigate in a familiar fashion. Combined with its touch capabilities, the Iconia Touchbook is a flexible and powerful tablet designed for maximum efficiency and productivity. When both palms are placed on the bottom screen, the virtual full-sized keyboard instantly appears. Adaptive typing and predictive text allows for quick data entry and minimizes mistakes. A numeric touchpad with handwriting recognition converts handwriting to text. The palm rest area can also be customized with any image on the computer – a company logo or a scenic background — so users can personalize the tablet even more.
  • Gesture Editor is a simple and quick way to instantly launch specific applications, access favorite websites, or even to lock the computer with a simple finger motion. A set of pre-defined gestures is included, but customized gestures can be created in just five easy steps. For example, simply drawing a $ (dollar sign) on the screen can launch a financial or accounting application, or a v (checkmark) can open a to-do list.
  • The Capture tool allows users to clip parts of an image (a photo, illustration or a webpage) and save it to the Scrapbook application for further editing. It’s a great way to collect images for use in a PowerPoint presentation. And it couldn’t be easier to do. With the picture on the top screen and the Scrapbook page opened on the bottom display, users just tap the Capture tool, run their finger around the desired image and then tap the area to open a menu that will allow them to drag and drop it onto the Scrapbook page. The captured image will automatically be added as a thumbnail image above the scrapbook page for quick and easy viewing. They can then drag and drop the desired thumbnail onto the page, where it can be rotated or resized with pinching actions.
  • The Web Clip tool is specifically for clipping parts of web pages to save to MyJournal. Tap the screen, select the area to crop, tap and drag on any of the corners of the selected area to size it, and then tap the area again to open a menu to paste the content into MyJournal, Scrapbook or copy it to the clipboard. It can also be saved as a bitmap file.
  • Window Manager provides a touch-friendly interface for controlling the various open windows on the displays. Users can customize which screen the application appears on as well as its size.
  • Device Control is an easy way to access and adjust power, display and volume settings, wireless connections and various devices connected to the HDMI, VGA and USB ports.

Clear.fi makes data sharing convenient in small office environment or the home

Making it easy to share multimedia content, the Acer Iconia Touchbook features clear.fi, Acer’s digital media sharing solution. Clear.fi automatically connects all Acer devices on a network (smartphones, notebooks, desktops, HD media players and storage devices) and then gathers and organizes media files by type (video, music, photo, pre-recorded TV). Users can browse the categories and then drag and drop the media to any of the connected PCs or devices for playback.

No-Compromises Tablet Features Leading Technology for Maximum Productivity and Fun

A super charged tablet filled with enough leading technology to rival many desktop and notebook PCs in performance, the Iconia-6120 Dual-Screen Touchbook is powerful enough to handle demanding applications and graphic intensive multimedia files. Featuring an Intel® Core™ i5 Processor with Intel® Turbo Boost Technology(2), 4GB of memory and Intel® HD graphics, the Touchbook is equipped for heavy lifting. In addition, Dolby® Advanced Audio™ v3 brings vibrant sound to business presentations, movies, music, and games.

Windows 7 Premium 64-bit provides a familiar computing environment, and is compatible with today’s most popular applications and media formats, and supports full web browsing with Adobe® Flash® Player 10.1. For professional environments, Windows 7 delivers what is expected in a business-class PC: manageability, security and the ability to run the applications used within most organizations today, including Microsoft Office.

To maximize productivity, the Touchbook includes the new USB 3.0 standard with a top speed that’s 10 times faster than standard USB 2.0; a 25GB high definition video file can be transferred from an external USB 3.0 storage device in just 70 seconds and stored on the roomy 640GB SATA hard drive(3). Two 2.0 USB ports and an HDMI port are also included.

A 1.3 megapixel HD webcam is ideal for face-to-face videoconferencing or for staying in touch with business associates, friends and family. Connect reliably with 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi CERTIFIED™ or Gigabit Ethernet LAN from work, home or while on-the-go. Weighing in at just 6.18 pounds, it’s as convenient to carry as any notebook computer, and fits comfortably in a briefcase or backpack.

U.S. Configurations, Pricing and Availability

With an MSRP of $1,199.99, the Acer Iconia-6120 Touchbook is available for pre-sale now and will be available in April at leading retailers nationwide.

Canada Configurations, Pricing and Availability

With an MSRP of $1,199.00(CAD), the Acer Iconia-6120 Touchbook will be available in April through authorized Canadian resellers.

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  • SilthDraeth - Tuesday, March 29, 2011 - link

    I wonder how spill proof the design is. I for one would love that dust, pet dander, food crumps, and the occasional spilled drink wouldn't get under the keys.

    I think the concept is great, I just hope the implementation is, even though I know I won't be buying one of these.
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  • xeopherith - Tuesday, March 29, 2011 - link

    I can't wait for the follow up. It's not something I would buy but it looks like a neat "toy."
  • iconian6120 - Friday, April 22, 2011 - link

    It is really a toy. Too much to experiment with it. I got mine 4 days ago and still learning. The keyboard is definitely special and not that easy, but same as the iphone or the Blackberry Pearl.
    It is heavy, and battery life is not that good for todays standards. I find it pretty fast.

    i am creating some forum so people can talk about their experiences, problems, and how to improve.

  • marc1000 - Tuesday, March 29, 2011 - link

    "every so often one of them lets a maniac into their design department", yes, we need more maniacs like these!!!!

    this is a huge ideia, imagine if we could unfold both screens and use it to watch a movie on a really big screen, for example.
  • Rocket321 - Tuesday, March 29, 2011 - link

    Its the Kyocera Echo of laptops. Sadly, I think this laptop has a better chance at selling than the echo does.
  • strikeback03 - Wednesday, March 30, 2011 - link

    I thought the same thing. Complete with the fact that updates will probably take forever, as who knows what might break all the custom interaction software/drivers.
  • Belard - Tuesday, March 29, 2011 - link

    Think is... the OLPEC (One Laptop Per Child group) designed the dual-screen notebook over 3 years ago. It was designed to work like a keyboard (as we see) as well as a tablet or a dual user mode interactive toy/educational aid.

    This looks like it'll be a cool product... but its still shaped like a notebook. The OLPC design is smaller and the 2 halves mirror each other.

    Still... how many of us bang the keyboard in frustration?

    Real Keys work because they are tactile feel. YOU know when you press it... and artificial CLICK noises don't cut it along with the vibration. The fingers can tell you where the keys are and if they are being pressed.

    Now, in a future in which a virtual "feelable" keyboard can be made... that would be cool. But that would be rather expensive... ;)

    There is the LIGHT Projected keyboard - which actually draws a keyboard onto a surface. Needless to say - heavy typing = sore finger tips..

    Try THIS:
    rapidly press two or so keys with your fingers for 10 seconds. Cursor keys will do.
    Then go to your touch phone (asleep) and do the same thing with the same fingers.

    1 - a real keyboard can be hit harder
    2 - yet causes less fatigue on the fingers or hand.

    This is WHY the tablet design works. Light typing (such as a web address and light text entry) is fine.

    On a full size 14" notebook... you might as well have a REAL keyboard and pocket the $600.
  • aguilpa1 - Tuesday, March 29, 2011 - link

    I could even deal with a small edge for safety if need be but you designers need to ditch this ginormous bezels, very ugly designs. At least Apple tries to hide them, not that I would buy a Mac but their designers at least get it for the most part.
  • chromatix - Tuesday, March 29, 2011 - link

    ...and the biggest problem is that you can't feel where the keys are. Nor can you feel where the edges of the trackpad (or it's buttons) are. Typing even as much as an e-mail on this would be a nightmare, if you have advanced beyond the hunt-and-peck stage even slightly. (Full disclosure: I use Model Ms and Cherry MX keyboards daily.)

    The second biggest problem is that the second panel, like the first, is a cheap TN job. You know how horrid the vertical viewing angles are on TN panels... well, this is a TN panel you will *never* be looking at straight-on. So you can't even *see* where the keys are unless you contort yourself into an ergonomically suicidal position.

    This is also why tablets are not a good idea for doing Real Work on.

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