Quick! Have you seen (or heard of) the Acer Iconia 484G64ns? It’s not a spanking brand-new product by Acer, however, but it’s very interesting nevertheless.. Acer calls it a touchbook. I don’t know what to call it, though; it’s simply different. “Why so?”, you might ask. Well, let me slowly describe it, and you’ll see..
External Design & “Looks”
You see, when the lid is closed, it looks just like an ordinary laptop (see Figure 1 below). The device’s exterior is made up of thin aluminium and black plastic, which looks classy. Its edges are a little bit curvy without any sharp edges. The slightly-curved bottom side of the Iconia feature a pair of rubber “feet” that prevents the entire unit from slipping. Now, pushing these rubber feet inward and sliding out the entire bottom cover will provide you instant access to the device’s inner components, similar to the way a cell phone’s cover allows easy access to its innards; this feature is pretty neat and unusual by notebook standards. To further accentuate the feeling of “seamlessness”, the power button and virtual keyboard “launcher” are discreetly integrated on the hinge barrel (see also Figure 2 below).
When the lid is opened and the unit is turned “on”, that’s when things get exciting! But wait a minute.. I think I’m getting ahead of myself here.. First off, when the lid is opened, most people would probably exclaim, “What the…! Where’s the keyboard?!”, because, unless they know that there won’t be a need for a “hardware” or physical keyboard, there really isn’t one; instead, what you’ll see are two 14-inch, CineCrystal® high-brightness (i.e., 200-nit) LED-backlit, Active Matrix TFT Color LCD multi-touch displays, each capable of exhibiting a resolution of 1366 x 768 pixels in high definition and of supporting 10-finger touch (see Figure 3 below). The dual touch screens are covered with an ultra-thin (yet extremely durable and scratch-resistant) layer of Corning® Gorilla Glass®, the kind of protective glass that is generally found on cell phones, and this type of premium glass adds to the unit’s price tag. But perhaps it’s worth the price though, as the material helps in maintaining the device’s multi-point touch detection accuracy (with palm-contact rejection to boot), for optimized on-screen input. Also, the Iconia 484G64ns’s display is very sharp, and the viewing angles are superb; gather a group of friends or colleagues around, and everyone will be afforded a good-enough view of what you’re trying to show them.
Now what kind of computer has no keyboard and two touch screens? Is it a tablet computer? Well, for one thing, it’s not a convertible tablet because it does not have a “hardware” or physical keyboard; see, if you review the definition of convertible tablets, you will find out that they are the kind that usually feature an LCD display that can swivel 180 degrees and can be folded to close, screen up, so that it covers the integrated “hardware” or physical keyboard. Nor is it a slate tablet because slate tablets are like the Apple iPad®, and this device certainly doesn’t look anywhere like the iPad; instead, it looks like two oversized iPads attached end-to-end, with a hinge in between them. Nor is it any other kind of tablet computer that we’ve seen recently or in the past. So what is it, really? Well, it’s in a league of its own, really (like I said at the very beginning, Acer coined the term touchbook to describe it), and you’ve got to hand it to Acer; the company always has a knack of making things which we haven’t seen before in the computer world!
Anyway, turn on the Iconia 484G64ns, and the machine effortlessly boots into Microsoft Windows® 7, Home Premium Edition, 64-bit version (this comes standard with the Iconia 484G64ns), thanks to its powerful Dual-core Intel Core i5-480M processor, which hums along at a brisk pace of 2.66 GHz (it can be overclocked to 2.93 GHz when the processor goes to Turbo Mode). The processor also makes use of an 3-MB L3 cache and supports Intel 64 architecture and Intel Smart Cache. A 640-Gigabyte, 5400-rpm SATA hard drive provides ample storage space, and 4 GB of DDR3 RAM (which can be “upgraded” up to 8 GB) is sufficient enough to be used as main memory.
Internet connectivity is provided via the provided Gigabit® Ethernet (or RJ-45) port or via IEEE 802.11 “b”, “g”, or “n” wifi, while connectivity to other “common” devices is handled by the single USB 3.0 port and the two (2) USB 2.0 ports. We would have appreciated more of these ports, but it’s what most other laptop brands and/or Acer models offer. What sticks out like a sore thumb, though, is the device’s lack of a built-in card reader (though this can be easily remedied by the addition of a USB-connected card reader kit) as well as its lack of Bluetooth support and a DVD/Combo drive. Sigh… Welcome face-saving features are the HDMI/HDCP port for connectivity to “specialized” devices (such as high-definition monitors/screens) and the VGA connector, as well as the front-facing, 1280 x 1024-pixel CrystalEye® webcam.
User Interface Features, Quirks, & Issues:
There are several “new” things which you will learn to love (or hate ) about this machine. First, the keyboard: see, when you boot up the Iconia 484G64ns, the “upper” screen presents the usual Windows 7 desktop, while the “lower” screen presents a virtual keyboard (see Figure 3 below). Now, as onscreen keyboards go, this has got to be one of the best-looking (if not THE best-looking) virtual keyboards out there, with every little detail about an actual computer keyboard being imitated (or should I say, faithfully reproduced). For starters, the “index finger” keys (i.e., the “F” and “J”) are aqua-colored, perhaps to remind the viewer that it is where his/her two index fingers should be positioned. And then there are the blue-colored special functions, such as the VCD-style Play/Pause, Stop, “Backward” & “Forward” buttons, the special functions assigned to the function keys F3, F4, F5, F6, and so on, the volume “up” and “down” functions, as well as the brightness “up” and “down” functions (see Figure 3).
Acer has thoughtfully incorporated some useful customisations that enable you to, for instance, choose the spacing between the keys in its island-type design, or to add your own “designs” to the keyboard, such as defining its colour scheme (see Figure 4). A lot of cutting-edge tech has actually been brought to bear in the design and construction of this keyboard, such as the adaptive typing intelligence and predictive text input features that gives the user a somewhat pleasant “keyboarding” experience, similar to that of getting used to a cell phone’s keypad. The virtual keyboard (I have to mention the “v” word again, lest you might be lulled into thinking that I’m describing a “real” or physical/hardware keyboard here) also comes complete with a touchpad/trackpad, numeric keypad, and a multi-gesture handwriting mode, or what we would simply describe as a handwriting recognition tool.
Now, you might ask the question, “What if the virtual keyboard is simply not suited to my liking?”. Well, to remedy this, you can altogether turn it “off”, perhaps to use the earlier-mentioned handwriting recognition tool, which also works very well. You can actually “toggle” the keyboard “on” and “off” via the included Virtual Keyboard Switch, which is positioned on the left edge of the hinge barrel (review the bottom part of Figure 2 or see Figure 4). In situations where you have already turned “off” the keyboard, you can activate it by pressing that switch or via assuming the “typing position” by touching your five fingers (actually eight will also do) and palms on the lower touch screen display. Do this (try it; this is so cool!), and voila! The virtual keyboard instantly appears and allows you to type!
Great for showing off, right? The funniest thing about this keyboard is that it looks so damned real, it even includes a touchpad/trackpad and, since it is just a simulation of an actual touchpad/trackpad, you’d expect it to be moveable and/or resizeable (in keeping faith with the it being virtual thing, right?), but surprisingly, it’s not! Ha-ha-ha!
Anyway, I could go on and on describing the quirks of this virtual keyboard system, but I’ll stop here. On the next installment of this three-part review, I’ll be talking about the Iconia 484G64ns’s “included” UI (i.e., User Interface) features and/or apps, such as the Gesture Editor, the Acer Ring, the Touchbrowser, MyJournal, Social Jogger, Scrapbook, TouchPhoto, TouchMusic, and TouchVideo, among others. Lastly, I’ll give you my overall impressions/takes on this beauty from Acer. ‘Til then, as I sometimes say here at Pinoy Tech, keep your head up, plant your feet on the ground, and stay “connected” to Pinoy Tech. May the techie force be with you!
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