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Displays Portables Hardware

Do Two-Screen Laptops Make Sense? 262

Posted by Soulskill
from the cornering-the-conjoined-twin-market dept.
An anonymous reader writes "With two 17" HD LED displays, the SpaceBook goes against every trend in laptop design I can think of (well, apart from the Core i7 and Core i5 processors). It's more than 1.7" thick, weighs more than 4.5 kilograms, and apparently has the world's largest laptop screen space. As odd as lugging a 4.5kg laptop around sounds, it can actually make sense in some situations. Sure, there are now plenty of powerful laptops that can replace a desktop PC. But for some of us, it's never the same as sitting in front of a desktop. Especially if you're used to having two screens. Someone must think there's a market for the twin-screen laptop — this isn't the first. Lenovo brought one out a couple of years ago. Given the number of people who prefer a multi-monitor setup, surely someone can come up with a lighter, less cumbersome, and cheaper design?"
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Do Two-Screen Laptops Make Sense?

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  • No. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Lumpy (12016) on Wednesday July 20, 2011 @08:18AM (#36821796) Homepage

    But I will buy a 21" laptop in a heartbeat. I already have a 18.5 inch and would like bigger. In fact if they made a 21" macbook pro artists and video editing people would be all over it.

    I do embedded programming and EE cad design in the field... (think on the floor in an electrical closet while I program a buildings processors) and having that kind of screen real-estate with a higher than 1080p resolution would be a instant purchase from me.

    None of this crap of Low res huge pixel screens they have been pulling. if the screen is larger than 15" and not 1080p then it's crap.

    • Re:No. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) on Wednesday July 20, 2011 @08:38AM (#36821988)
      +6 Insightful, brother.

      Roll on 17" 300+ppi displays. It's pixel density which needs to increase, not screen size.
      • Or GUIs that shouldn't grow in size just to be "touch compatible". See Windows 7 vs. XP, I can't stand the excessive spacing between menus lines in 7 when I will use it as a mouse-only OS for the foreseeable future...
    • Give me a screen that can be mounted, placed, or moved up high so I don't have to bend my neck looking downwards at the screen.

      Oh, and the keyboard should be detachable, so it can be placed at the proper height for a keyboard (a few inches below normal desk height).

      And a real mouse, also at keyboard level, not desk level.

      And the screen should either be portrait, or it should be huge.

      I think after I'm done, I'd end up with a desktop.

    • by alta (1263)

      What 18.5" do you have? I want one. And yes, 21" would be great. I just started working at a new company where everyone has laptops instead of desktops. I'm a developer. I came from having a quad core xeon desktop with 4 monitors, 3 22" and one 26" They didn't know that. I was hired along with 5 other people. We all were issued this *lovely* hp core i3 with a 15"wide that does 1376x200 or or something.

      So far from parts I've bought myself I've expanded it with two more monitors and am soon going to g

    • In fact if they made a 21" macbook pro artists and video editing people would be all over it.

      If, and only if, they drive to work (or they are out of work, and at home all day). All the pro artists and video editing people I know, commute into the center of London everyday. I'm not sure if you've actually tried lugging a heavy bag on the tube in the middle of summer, but I can assure you it is not fun in the slightest! I used to lug a 15" XPS around, but even that is simply too big use on a busy rush hour tube train. Resting a 21" laptop on the commuters either side of you, whilst you are dripping i

    • by Freultwah (739055)
      There actually is a market for those laptops, resolution notwithstanding: people whose work involves travelling, but also demands serious screen estate while on the road. I'd wager that many touring bands would definitely cough up some cash for that kind of laptop. You know, for recording the shows in multitrack and stuff like that. One screen for monitoring the input, the other for everything else. Combinations galore. Also, I know a few DJs who'd definitely be interested, and some construction engineers I
    • I agree with the no, but not for the same reason. Rather: It doesn't seem very logical. Mechanically, having three screens would make more sense: One main screen in the middle, and two half-size slide-out panels on the sides - 1080p in the middle and 960x1080 on either side, for instance.

      And there's no reason to make the damned thing so heavy either - Don't add the extra screens to a mobile workstation with a quadcore and workstation graphics, just add it to a regular laptop. That way you'll end up with som

    • by tverbeek (457094)

      "In fact if they made a 21" macbook pro artists and video editing people would be all over it."

      Some. Not me. It'd be neither fish nor fowl: too big to be portable, too laptoppy to be something I'd want to spend a lot of time using. I want my display(s) "up here" in my line of sight, not "down there" attached to the keyboard. I like to be able to nudge my keyboard to a more comfortable angle as I shift in my chair without the display having to go along with it. The fundamental design of a laptop is just

  • This looks like something some stereotypical nerd in a movie would use, just so the writers could make fun of nerds. It's extremely tacky. Would anyone actually buy this?? I've a 17" laptop and it's already pretty unwieldy at times. I just plug it into my monitor with an HDMI cable at home when I want more space...
    • by mhajicek (1582795)
      It would be perfect for doing CAD/CAM work at a customer's site. Dual screens are a huge plus when doing that sort of work (graphics window on one side, part print, parameter windows, and communications on the other), and it's rather awkward to set up a desktop in someone else's machine shop. Hey, with one of those I could do my work sipping mohitos on the beach. Might need a car battery and inverter to keep it going though.
  • The whole hype that laptops must weigh next to nothing is silly. If the laptop is your mobile office, and if it is important for work, then 4.5 kg is a tiny amount.

    Anyway, if the 4.5 kg laptop means you don't carry 3.5 kg of paper with you anymore (which many business travelers - especially scientists - actually do!), then it makes perfect sense.

    For me personally, the laptop screen is always too close and too small. I don't see how this contraption improves that. I guess I will wait until they build a lapto

    • If you move it from your home a couple hundred meters to your car and then a couple hundred meters to your office then it is not very important if it weights 4.5.

      If you are a road warrior and drag it with you everywhere then 4.5 kgs can be a lot after a couple of hours.

      • by vlm (69642)

        If you move it from your home a couple hundred meters to your car and then a couple hundred meters to your office then it is not very important if it weights 4.5.

        If you are a road warrior and drag it with you everywhere then 4.5 kgs can be a lot after a couple of hours.

        Speaking of "warriors" that's only a couple grams away from the weight of my M-16 or my gas mask, both of which I hauled everywhere in the field in the 90s (when at base that stuff sat locked up in the armory or NBC cage respectively). In addition to the assorted computer-y thingies which were also very heavy due to TEMPEST shielding, like the 75 pound green 386...

        I you wanna talk the talk about "warriors" then you gotta walk the walk, or at least carry the laptop, or something like that.

        Another interestin

      • A properly designed laptop bag can make that 4.5kg seem completely weightless, though. It's about weight distribution, and how you're carrying that weight. If it's in a briefcase at the end of your arm, then it'll suck. If it's in a shoulder bag that you're wearing on one shoulder, then it'll start to suck after a few hours. If it's in a proper backpack, or at least an across-the-chest messenger bag, then most humans can easily go all day without noticing the extra weight. 4.5kg really isn't that much.

        That

      • by Kjella (173770)

        If you go hiking, carrying 4.5 kg for hours is absolutely nothing. Most "road warriors" only cover a tiny bit on foot, mostly it's by car, bus, tram, subway or train - they very rarely actually carry their laptop all day. I've asked for the biggest, baddest laptop they issued because I essentially needed a "server in a laptop format" to lug around, GPU wasn't important but CPU, memory and HDD performance was. I'm guessing it weighed 3-4 kg, and the main reason I didn't go for one more extreme is because I'd

    • by CastrTroy (595695)
      I agree. It would make much more sense just to build a modular laptop with a base station, which would consist of the keyboard trackpad, motherboard etc. and then have small thin monitors you can plug in. This way if you only needed 1 monitor on a particular day, you would only have to bring 1 monitor, without all the extra weight. It would probably make sense to have each monitor contain it's own battery, so you aren't carrying extra battery weight when not needed, although it would make charging more c
      • by todrules (882424)
        Why even have the monitors built in to the laptop. Why not carry a lightweight laptop, and if you need an extra monitor, Toshiba http://us.toshiba.com/computers/accessories/mobile-monitor/ [toshiba.com] has ultra portable monitors that you can hook up? The laptop and extra monitor probably weigh less than the behemoth in TFA, and you can leave the extra monitor at home for the times that you don't need it.
        • If I hadn't already posted, I could mod this one....

          Only downside I see to it is that it's 1366x768. It'd be nice if it had a higher resolution. That said, it's plenty adequate for what it is, and would easily fit in my laptop bag alongside my laptop. Not only would it weigh less (1.3kg for the extra monitor, and 1.5kg for my laptop), it would cost significantly less ($200 for the monitor, and $400 for the laptop). That said, does it work in Linux?

        • Toshiba's portable display is a step in the right direction, but it's too dim unless you use their standalone power supply. And their official external power supply is a cruel joke of an afterthought that was obviously tacked on at the last minute with minimal dedicated design effort. I can understand it being dim when powered by 100mA from a wimpy laptop USB port, but for god's sake, it should AT LEAST be able to take advantage of a proper powered USB hub capable of supplying 500mA per port when available.

    • by Chrisq (894406)

      The whole hype that laptops must weigh next to nothing is silly. If the laptop is your mobile office, and if it is important for work, then 4.5 kg is a tiny amount.

      But I am carrying it together with the water cooler and cubicle screens you insensitive clod. Have you heard of the last straw that broke the camel's back?

    • by c0lo (1497653)

      The whole hype that laptops must weigh next to nothing is silly. If the laptop is your mobile office, and if it is important for work, then 4.5 kg is a tiny amount.

      Given the amount of physical exercise nowadays, I'd say 4.5 kilos isn't enough. But maybe I'm wrong [blogspot.com] (safe to click)

      • by hedwards (940851)

        Theoretically yes, but in practice what it means is leaving the laptop at home most of the time. Which isn't really bad, but it's not really the typical point of a laptop. Personally, I had a laptop in college because it allowed me to bring it home on weekends so that I could finish my work. So, most of the time it would remain stationery except for when I'd go home.

        The amount of physical exercise is more of an issue of sloth than anything else, it's not that hard to work a few minutes of exercise into ones

    • by vlm (69642)

      The whole hype that laptops must weigh next to nothing is silly. If the laptop is your mobile office, and if it is important for work, then 4.5 kg is a tiny amount.

      You can tell quickly who is ex-military. So, let me get this straight, I've only got to carry 10 pounds, for only a mile or so, in an air conditioned airport? Admittedly this was a long time ago, in a galaxy far far away, but back when I was a US Army computer guy, I had one road march well over 15 miles with well over 50 pound backpack on a warm summer day, no exaggeration. And it was up (and down) hills all the way. So carrying a small blade server chassis five miles in normal outside weather on flat

    • by aaarrrgggh (9205)

      The spacebook would push the limits of your carry-on weight allowance as well. Some airlines limit to 8kg, although 18kg is more normal. You can't get much more than the suitcase and the laptop and be under the limit.

  • The main problem I have with my work laptop is actually that it's hard to place on a desk due to the monitor, I'd rather have two VGA/DVI/DP ports than a monitor and one port for an external display. And yeah, the keyboard really wouldn't be needed either, I just want it to be portable in the sense that I can move it between the office and my home office...

    • by jschen (1249578)
      Sounds like you want an external hard drive. Or a fast network connection.
    • by mwvdlee (775178)

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thin_client [wikipedia.org]
      Basically a very small desktop computer.

      • by tverbeek (457094)

        A thin client is not "a very small desktop computer". It's a 21st century dumb terminal that you use to connect to a server which acts as a real computer.

    • Maybe you should build a mini-itx computer, or even run an RDP or NX server at home and login to it when you're on the road.

    • by jeffmeden (135043)

      The problem is that ultra-portable screens arent very common. NEC made one that seems to be discontinued, so apparently the answer to the question of "do people really want a dual screen laptop setup?" is a resounding no. Personally, i would probably buy (or rather, convince my employer to buy) a ultra-portable, maybe even battery powered LCD screen that was the same size or a little larger than the screen on my laptop. That way, I could have a reasonable two-screen setup on the road.

      Back to the premise

    • by Amouth (879122)

      If it's a Thinkpad (and within the past 3 years) look at getting a Series 3 docking station.. they support dual VGA/DVI/DP .. compatibility differs on laptop model and the video card (aka mine will do dual DVI but not dual DP)

      i use an x220 with dual DVI on the dock and Bluetooth keyboard/mouse to my office setup.. and the same at home.. works wonderful

  • I agree the two monitors is nice, but it's a laptop. TFA points out that carrying a docking station (along with extra monitor) with you is not practical, but neither is carrying a giant 4.5kg brick, plus think of the real estate you will need in a conference room. As far as plugging in at the hotel, I find most hotels I stay at have modern TV's that have VGA/HDMI inputs and I just plug in to the TV for my second monitor, and voila, a dual monitor setup.
    • by hedwards (940851)

      I haven't bothered to do it yet, but my new laptop has both HDMI and VGA outputs on top of its own screen and I have two monitors on my desk...

      There is something absurdly ironic about a tiny laptop with two huge honkin' displays.

  • I have a laptop. I have a monitor at my home desk that becomes my second monitor. When I am on the road I live with just having the one monitor. Typically on a plane, I wouldn't have space for two monitors anyway.

    If I am in a satellite office, I can typically find a second monitor if I want it.

    There is likely a market for this laptop, but I don't really see it being large. Most folks who need to travel want to travel light.

  • Of course it makes sense... ...if you need a fast computer with lots of screen space in a portable package.

    It's a niche, just like ruggedised laptops are a niche. Would you buy one if you didn't need the features? No. You'd be nuts. Would you buy one if you did need those feature? Of course since no other laptop would do the job well.

    I personally don't need either at the moment, though I have bought in to both niches in the past.

    Oh, just IMHO, but the trend towards thinness is really overrated. I like my ee

  • No (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Zouden (232738) on Wednesday July 20, 2011 @08:32AM (#36821922)

    No, they don't make sense, because you can buy a 20" screen for $100.

    The market for a dual-screen laptop is basically the intersection of these groups:
    1. Those who absolutely need two monitors when travelling,
    2. Those who aren't willing to pack a second monitor with them but are will to pack a 4.5kg laptop, and
    3. Those who are moving around too much to justify buying a second monitor at their destination.
    I think that's a pretty small market for an expensive device.

    The article says the designer came up with the idea "when he needed a video editing workstation on a 6 month working holiday in Hawaii."
    He then says, "I realized one morning that I did not want to haul my desktop and extra monitors around to every hotel for editing with the Adobe suite."
    Well, fair enough, so this laptop would be great for him and anyone else on a 6-month video-editing holiday moving from hotel to hotel. But most people tend to stay in one place when working for 6 months, or if they're moving from hotel to hotel, they probably don't need 2 monitors.

    If he finds a market for this laptop design, good on him, but to answer the headline's question: no, it doesn't make sense for the rest of us.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      No, they don't make sense, because you can buy a 20" screen for $100.

      Seriously? Does that $100 monitor fit into the not especially huge laptop case? And how much does it weigh?

      1. Those who absolutely need two monitors when travelling,

      Fair enough. If I was having to frequently write large amounts of code on-site and was travelling by car, I would certainly consider such a laptop.

      2. Those who aren't willing to pack a second monitor with them but are will to pack a 4.5kg laptop, and

      Well, that doesn't really sh

      • No, they don't make sense, because you can buy a 20" screen for $100.

        Seriously? Does that $100 monitor fit into the not especially huge laptop case? And how much does it weigh?

        Good question. I haven't seen a 20" screen that'd fit comfortably into my laptop bag. That said, another poster did draw my attention to this [toshiba.com], which would fit comfortably into my laptop bag, and only weighs 3lbs.

        1. Those who absolutely need two monitors when travelling,

        Fair enough. If I was having to frequently write large amounts of code on-site and was travelling by car, I would certainly consider such a laptop.

        I wouldn't. I'd ask them to have a second display waiting for me at my destination. Anybody who can afford to have a consultant drive on site to do some coding for them can afford to provide said consultant with a workstation or a place to work. I can simply commandeer the monitor that's plugged int

        • Good question. I haven't seen a 20" screen that'd fit comfortably into my laptop bag. That said, another poster did draw my attention to this, which would fit comfortably into my laptop bag, and only weighs 3lbs.

          Looks neat: I wasn't aware of such a device. Still, if I needed one all the time, I'd probably buy the luggable.

          I wouldn't. I'd ask them to have a second display waiting for me at my destination. Anybody who can afford to have a consultant drive on site to do some coding for them can afford to provi

      • by delinear (991444)

        Seriously? Does that $100 monitor fit into the not especially huge laptop case?

        Speak for yourself - I'm rocking an Alienware Orion [mobileedge.com] that can comfortably carry TWO bulky 17" laptops and all the relevant accessories, so one laptop and a monitor (not 20" admittedly) would leave room for a couple of books. Of course, the backpack alone weighs probably as much as than my other (ultraportable) laptop AND bag together...

    • Ya and you can but a 20" laptop for $3K as well, so what is your point?

    • 2. Those who aren't willing to pack a second monitor with them but are will to pack a 4.5kg laptop, and

      Right, and where AC power isn't available (sometimes laptops are used in the field).

      It's a narrow subset of the market, but, hey it's a huge market, so if the company is well-run they should do fine. They should also be able to command whatever price they want, as this market is likely thirsting for such a product.

    • by jeffmeden (135043)

      Add to your list:

      "4. Those who don't have the foresight to book a hotel room with a nice wall mount LCD in the room that can easily be used as a second monitor."

      I have stayed at a few hotels that have decent 720p or 1080p LCD screens, surely if this guy is a big shot movie editor he can afford to stay in one.

  • by rgviza (1303161)
    How about tile vertically/horizontally? Try it. I think there's absolutely no reason to dual screen a laptop. I'd rather have one big screen.
  • I have a laptop with a 15.6 display and a cheap 15.6 monitor. If I have to work on my laptop I want 2 monitors but if I am just taking it with me to answer emails and surf a little I only want one.

    Best of both worlds and way cheaper.

  • Having two screens in a laptop won't solve the problem that a laptop inherently has poor ergonomics. Sure, there's lots of screen real estate, but it's not ideally positioned. That, or the keyboard won't be ideally positioned. To me, this setup seems even worse, with no main screen right in front. Though if you insist on that much screen space in a portable package (4.5 kg isn't so bad compared to laptops from a decade ago), I guess this works.
  • by kevinmenzel (1403457) <kevinmenzel AT gmail DOT com> on Wednesday July 20, 2011 @08:34AM (#36821946)
    If they had kept making 4:3 screens then with today's display technology, there's no reason you couldn't have a 2048x1536 laptop. Not quite 2x1080p, but it'd at least have a hope of being standard, and it'd be a hell of a lot better than the single 1080p displays laptops come with these days.
  • At what point do we stop calling these huge things "laptop" and start calling them "luggable"?
    The point of a laptop is that it can sit on top of your lap. Machines like this really aren't made for that purpose; they're basically desktop machines that are easy to carry around.

    • by hedwards (940851)

      The keyword for that has been "Desktop Replacement" or at least that's what they were calling them the last time I was looking for a high res display. I can't recall what they were calling them back when portables were just desktops with a tiny monitor in a fold up form factor.

  • You guys do know what Alt-Tab does in Windows, right? right?

  • For some people it might make sense... but for a lot of people wouldn't it be better to carry a single screen laptop and carry an extra monitor for the times you actually need it?
  • You can currently hook up a tablet to your laptop as a second monitor. My understanding is that depending on the software your using though, it can be a bit laggy. It would be nice if someone decided to design a tablet specifically for use in conjunction with a laptop.

    Does anyone know what the best laptop/tablet solution is?

    • by tverbeek (457094)

      A laptop + tablet would be a much better solution for me. Use each of them independently when you want something lighter, or pair them for dual screens.

      But frankly, anything less than a couple of 19-inch monitors is too small for my office/studio uses, and there's no way I'm going to carry even one physical display that size around, no matter how elegantly they package it. At a desk: I use a desktop. A laptop is for using in places that aren't your office; I don't expect it to match those capabilities.

  • or even my phone.

    I'm not using them when I'm on my PC... They might as well do something useful !

  • This is the type of thing that's going to end up on one of those "10 stupidest gadgets that never caught on" lists in 10 years. Everyone will look at that demo picture and wonder "What's a Bing?"
    • I just wonder why someone would spend all that money on a laptop with two displays and have Bing in both of them...Or one of them.
  • Having 1 monitor for a laptop is good, and allowing for external monitors to be hooked up is ideal. If you are at your desk and ready to get real work done you hook up your external displays, and you good. Otherwise you are either on the move or in some location where you probably just need to do some quick tasks where one display is sufficient.

  • ...who, like the inventor, regularly has to do screen real-estate-intensive work "on the road" ...for example, on-location video editing, where two screens are particularly useful. If there are enough people in that category, good luck to the product.

    However, for anybody who spends more time working at their desk than on the road, 2 x 17" is a bit small (...and they look like 1080p monitors to me) - I'd fancy something rather bigger for my main screen, and for the price premium of a dual screen laptop you

  • If you use a laptop just like a desktop replacement, then it'd make some sense.
    But if you use a laptop as a ... ehm ... portable computer sitting atop your laps, then it doesn't.
    Two screens means twice screen consumption, heavier laptop etc.etc.
  • Now all they need to do is have a fold out keyboard and laptops don't have to be so annoying.

    I think this is the technology of the future, that way laptops can continue to get smaller but have the same or bigger screen size.

  • Maybe Apple will make one, claim they are innovators, patent it and sue everyone using more than 1 screen. :P Seriously, though. I don't see this going anywhere if it isn't as portable as regular laptops can be now. But the first ones were not that portable, either and things seem to go way faster, so if there really is a market for it, who knows.
  • It's like a washer-tumble-dryer. Twice as much to break, twice the cost when it does, little advantage (except space) over having two the separate things.

    Laptops have a high screen-damage rate - about 50% of the ones that I see die do so because of:

    - Broken plastics on the screen corners making it vulnerable
    - Broken hinges
    - Broken screens
    - Broken backlights.

    They've managed to take the most vulnerable, power-hungry and costly part of the laptop and double its vulnerability, power needs and cost so that peop

  • 1. Allow the auxiliary display output to be driven as a second screen, with its own graphics h/w, memory, etc.
    2. Build a battery powered LCD/LED display that I can slip into my laptop case and whip out when I need. Or use the second display output to drive a big desktop display. Or projector.

  • http://www.amazon.com/UM-710S-Powered-Swivel-Screen-Display/dp/B002RMPASG/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1311172395&sr=8-1 [amazon.com]

    Not quite what I would want but its a start in the right direction, give me a 17 inch capacitive touchscreen that can be plugged into a USB port. What IPad? (yes I know the IPad would be smaller than a laptop plus that display but its the functionality of the touchscreen I want, not the small package of an IPad).
  • What's wrong with having the desktop computer at home with the dual or triple 24" monitors and the netbook for travel? How many people really need that kind of screen real estate when they're traveling? Sure, it would be nice, but not worth the hassle, at least in my opinion.

    To each their own, of course. I doubt you'll see many of these sold, so hopefully the few that buy them don't get screwed because the manufacturer drops product support.

  • This is a ridiculous solution. What they need to develop is a LCD screen which draws its power from the laptop's IEEE 1394 port (IEEE 1394's 45W is fine for an efficient 17" LED monitor).
    Customer:
    * Take or leave the second monitor on a per-job basis
    * Can upgrade at any time
    * >2 panels possible
    * Can combine with other specialist requirements, (i.e. a Mac or a ToughBook etc.)
    * All your eggs aren't in one basket when something breaks.
    Manufacturer
    * The high R&D can pay back over a much longer product cyc

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