What’s Wrong with Dual-Screen Tablets and Laptops?

I love technology, and it doesn’t take long for someone to figure that out after meeting me. My home office is filled with screens ranging from tablet computers to big-screen monitors. I even have a USB-powered monitor plugged into my streaming server so I can monitor chat as it flies by at breakneck speeds. It’s for this reason that I feel as though I’m probably going to regret declaring my absolute dislike for the dual-screen tablet and laptop trend that has somehow found its way into the products I love.

I was fine with the Nintendo DS. Its introduction to the market made way for a number of small-scale games that took advantage of the touchscreen as a secondary controller, and this did a lot to set the Nintendo handheld system apart from its rival, the PSP. Unfortunately, two screens just don’t scale well for me. I don’t like typing on a touchscreen tablet, and I hate having to worry about fingerprints even more. Having two screens on a tablet to simulate a laptop is just silly to me, and a total waste of money, in my opinion.

Perhaps my age is showing here, but I’m very fond of tactile feedback when typing out articles or responding to email. Unless I can type entirely with my thumbs, an on-screen keyboard just feels out of place to me. Why force it on a laptop form factor? Is there some inherent benefit to giving up a keyboard in favor of another screen?

Sony Tablet P

The Sony Tablet P is one product that sounds really good on paper, but seeing it in action is another story entirely.

Two 5.5″ screens enable the user to experience tablet-size applications in a form factor that folds to fit in your pocket. That’s the good news, but the bad news is that you end up with an ugly black hinge sitting between screens. Apps look funny on the device, and frankly I don’t see any reason why anyone would drop over $300 on one.

I own the Sony Tablet S, and it also has a bizarre build. Thankfully, the screen is one solid piece that doesn’t have some ugly bezel sitting directly in the center of it.

Acer ICONIA 6120 Touchbook

Really, Acer? I get that some folks think that two is better than one, but having two 14″ touchscreens is a needless waste of battery life for a laptop. Users have to deal with twice as many fingerprints at the advantage of having one screen at an optimal viewing angle and another that really isn’t. It’s for that reason that I’m not entirely sold on the ICONIA 6120 Touchbook.

This laptop is a gimmick, and one that I can only hope never catches on. I love a lot of what Acer does, but this just looks like something engineers come up with during a Friday afternoon a week after the quarterly rush.

Toshiba Libretto W100

Toshiba made a dual-screen laptop that combined some of the perks of a tablet with some of the perks of a netbook into one foldable package. Two 7″ touch screens powered by Windows 7 do little to help battery life as this thing has just over two hours of active use in it before you need to search for an outlet.

Like the Acer ICONIA, the Toshiba Libretto W100 was a gimmicky product on which I wish research and development time hadn’t been spent. Toshiba was one of the brands that launched the laptop movement, and to me, these types of products are exactly what’s wrong with the industry today.

Two screens work when you have tactile controls to offset the touch environment. A desktop or laptop computer with two monitors and a standard keyboard and trackpad can work very well for the majority of users. Likewise, the Nintendo DS worked because only one screen was touch controlled. Many games allowed you to play without having to take the stylus out at all. Pushing users to substitute a physical keyboard for an on-screen keyboard when the form factor allows for alternatives is just silly.

This may be one of the reasons the W100 didn’t do very well. Thankfully, Toshiba decided to stick with what worked. I only hope other manufacturers follow suit.

Am I wrong in this? Do you agree that dual-screen tablets and laptops are a bit out of place? Do you disagree? Leave a comment below and let us know.

Image: Sony

6 comments On What’s Wrong with Dual-Screen Tablets and Laptops?

  • Interesting. I’ve been thinking about this recently since I got the Google Nexus 7. What I think will eventually evolve is an essentially seamless folding tablet where the screen folds to a respectable width (the length of a cell phone like my htc G2) but it will then fold out and with each unfolding provide more usable space until at fully unfolded (3 or 4 folds) you have a full 7″ tablet.

    You might find just essentials displayed (like in the upper left hand corner of a Nexus 7 when its “off”) when it is just the single fold.

    To me, it just seems a matter of time since oleds are essentially sprayed on to a substrate now a days with something similar to an inkjet printer. Its just a matter of developing and shaping the right substrates.

    • Interesting concept, although I think for this to work well, the screens would have to be VERY close together when unfolded. If there’s any kind of gap between then, it will be horrible (IMO).

  • Unfortunately, and like I mentioned in today’s YouTube video, the hardware configuration (specs) are often out of line with what the software was designed to do. It’s a usability nightmare when the two aren’t in perfect alignment.


  • Although there may be massive issues with the implementations, I do see where the dual screen may actually be a good idea. Imagine switching out your keyboard for a different language or layout, or having custom controls displayed with the application or game in mind. The potential is there. Am I going to go out and get a dual screened laptop? No. The potential is there, the software just isn’t ready.

  • Can someone pls tell me how to hook a second monitor to my laptop? Many thanks.

    • If you have a second monitor, you should be able to just plug it right into your laptop. The only issue you could have is that the monitor and laptop don’t have the same port. For example, if the monitor uses VGA but you have a newer laptop without a VGA port, you might have to get some kind of adapter. It’s hard to tell you exactly without knowing the model of your laptop.

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