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Dell's 'Dual Personality' Laptop 126

njkobie writes "Dell was the unlikely star of today's keynote at IDF, unveiling a convertible tablet. While that might sound a bit been there, done that, the Inspiron Duo can be used as a tablet or opened up to offer a keyboard. The screen rotates inside the frame, taking it to the netbook form factor. It runs on an Atom processor and will be available at the end of the year, Dell said."
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Dell's 'Dual Personality' Laptop

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  • I know I've seen this design before... [] the only difference is the Dell's screen (glass part) flips instead of the whole top. I feel that I would prefer the other design since it has a bigger hinge, less likely to break then that Dell's.
    • by arivanov ( 12034 )

      Asus is just the reference MSFT tablet design - rotating hinge. It has been for years and has failed to deliver spectacularly so far.

      So I would not be so sure. Dell maybe onto something here.

      • A story about laptops (zzzz), and "Big Data" (whatever that means), and Steve Jobs possibly (but probably not) yelling at Japanese security.

        I think I'll submit a story.....


      • by dargaud ( 518470 )
        Yeah, the Asus T91 was exactly what I wanted technically. Except that, unlike most Asus products, it didn't run Linux natively. After installing Ubuntu on it, there were a few driver issues and random crashes that totally spoiled the experience. I gave up on it quickly (and a colleague wanted it with puke Win7).
    • by AaxelB ( 1034884 )
      Yeah, this is not really anything new/innovative, though it certainly could be a better implementation of an existing idea.

      I read the summary as "While that might sound a bit been there, done that, here's a feature that's already been done by many of our competitors." Awesome!
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The Sharp Mobilon TriPad PV-6000 from more than a decade ago had a similar form factor. It ran Windows CE and had 16 MB of RAM. []

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by IrquiM ( 471313 )
      Yeah, Dell too! []
    • Vadem's Clio did it a decade ago. Yawn.
    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      It was called the Compaq TC1000.

    • by Ethanol-fueled ( 1125189 ) * on Tuesday September 14, 2010 @03:52PM (#33579380) Homepage Journal
      I have mixed feelings, having repaired laptops for a day job and battering plenty of my own.

      The idea looks good at first glance, because tablets use something known cutely as The Achilles Hinge. [] The dell mechanism that swivels the screen does not depend on friction, but probably a latch.

      But, there are a good number of hinge-related problems, namely cracked cases around the hinge supports. In this case the top clamshell dosen't have the weight and the sturdiness of a fully integrated LCD and, even with a latch, we may be left with a flimsy outer "picture frame" that may be prone to bending and even breaking. You know what I'm talking about if you've ever opened (carefully) a laptop clamshell without the LCD attached. Any hinges which depend on friction will render your gadget useless if they go limp.

      It's all Apple's fault, of course. They had the change to make something more than a glorified, overpriced, locked-down "phone-without-the-phone."
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by timeOday ( 582209 )
        I think the answer is a wireless connection between the top & bottom half.

        What are the things you almost ALWAYS need? Processor, screen, battery, wifi.

        Whare are the things you SOMETIMES need? Keyboard, DVD/Blu-Ray drive (hey, some people still use them for movies), touchpad ...?

        So, a tablet with a wireless "base" that has a DVD drive, keyboard, and touchpad, and which the tablet snaps into to protect the screen when not in use, seems the logical way to go. The main point is co-locate the screen

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by tsm_sf ( 545316 )
          Like an ipad with a charging dock that doubles as a keyboard. That's a pretty good idea. It's mine now.
        • So, a tablet with a wireless "base" that has a DVD drive, keyboard, and touchpad, and which the tablet snaps into to protect the screen when not in use, seems the logical way to go. The main point is co-locate the screen and processor so you don't have the video signal sent through the hinge.

          Check out the Always Innovating Touchbook [] to see what your idea looks like in practice. It has its own issues, mainly that the weight distribution is very unlike that of a laptop, producing a top heavy device which tends to fall over if opened at a nice reading angle. Yes, they've mitigated the problem it by modifying the base, and eventually we might see lighter circuitry (or heavier batteries) remove the issue.

          It is a shame that they seem to be mismanaging their opportunity away. They've ran into issue

          • Thanks, good link. Unfortunately, I think it will be very hard for an upstart for dethrone Apple. Maybe a third party will make something like this as an add-on for the iPad.
      • They had the change to make something more than a glorified, overpriced, locked-down "phone-without-the-phone."

        Didn't we used to call them PDAs, or Tablet PCs, depending on if we're talking about the ipod touch or the ipad? Why do these keep getting compared to the iphone when their inspiration is so obvious. Smartphones early on were certainly more PDA than phone. Apple got the mixture right apparently, but that doesn't make everything else backwards.

        Which way makes more sense?
        phone without a phone VS. PDA with a touch screen, err.. PDA with wireless?
        phone without a phone the size of a clipboard VS. tablet

      • yea its a issue with all convertible laptop models. laptop hinges are weak enough really the case with older models. now your removing a main support in favor of making it a tablet hybrid. theirs a reason the tablet laptop market died. hp tried it years ago and the system was plagued by cracked lcds and broken hinges. in fact the only laptops i have found with reinforced hinges are the eepc. they are almost the size of the lcd itself. so unless dell is winning to spend the extra money on a reinforced hinge
    • I don't know, the hinge on the standard convertible tablets is definitely heftier, but it also has the whole screen rotating around a single point, where this is connected at both sides. To me, the added stability of having two hard points instead of one might overwhelm the advantage of having a larger hinge. First and foremost, the hinge in Dell's new one is much simpler, and only needs to spin 180 degrees in one direction. Second, since it's attached at both sides it shouldn't have torque in directions

    • How about a real blast from the past... Imagine its 2005, netbooks haven't been dreamed up yet and Fujitsu came out with the P1500 [] convertible.

    • I was looking at it and thinking the same thing. The hinge on the T91 is bigger and beefier.

      On the other hand, the T91 has a lot more complex a hinge system, and it does a relatively poor job of containing the forces necessary to switch from one mode to another. They combined a single spindle and a hinge into one unit that can't be terribly effective at either, then overdesigned the crap out of it to compensate. Imagine being halfway through the conversion and having something bump into the top of the sc

    • The original OLPC could do this. No touch screen though.
    • by jesseck ( 942036 )
      Let's not forget about the Lenovo U1 [] tablet
    • The ThinkPad 750P is where you've seen this before. []

      Not QUITE the same mechanism, but damn close.

  • But that is really cool and innovative. This product fulfills a need that is currently not being met. I'm sure that will be copycaters pretty soon.

    • its old teck and it never fell into fever due to design flaws. a single hinge support on a lcd that's not only being opened but twisted and moved alot brakes the support quickly. lcds are also prone to cracking even ones with a extra layer of glass. hell every laptop maker have tried this in the past and every model has failed. so unless dell and someone changed the entire design of convertibles be rdy for major issues to pop up.
  • I know "Duo" refers to being both a tablet and a netbook, but I feel like it's an intentional reference to Intel's Core Duo processors. I don't think it's right to imply that connection if you're going to use an Atom processor. That said, I find myself interested.

    Unfortunately, the article is devoid of details. What kind of battery life can we expect? Will it run WIndows 7 or Android maybe? Both? How much will it cost?

    • by uncanny ( 954868 )
      Well, maybe it's a dual core atom processor
    • The article does mention Win7, but makes no mention of battery life. You can presumably put other OSes on it if you want. Battery life will probably be better than a typical laptop but worse than a long-life netbook or ultraportable, based on my guesses at how much of its chassis can be battery and the probable power consumption of the parts we know about (10" screen, Atom 550). I'd guess 6-8 hours, but though I'd love to see better I wouldn't be terribly surprised if it's only 5 hours either.

      Cost is unknow

    • Re:Duo (Score:4, Interesting)

      by sabernet ( 751826 ) on Tuesday September 14, 2010 @03:52PM (#33579384) Homepage

      I want to know if it has or can be upgraded to have a Wacom digitizer. Fingerpainting is fine, and reading books with your fingers has an intuitiveness to it, but I've been waiting ages for a nice thin pen-enabled tablet.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        Have you looked at the HP tm2t? I bought one recently to use for grad school and it has a Wacom digitizer. It's only about an inch and ahalf thick, around 5 hours battery life, and is pretty snappy with the low end 1.2 GHz Core i3. They're not exactly cheap, mine was about $900 after a $200 discount, but it's significantly cheaper than other similar tablets.

        I wrote this post on my tm2t.

        • I was thinking more along the lines of the ultra thin, ultra light form factor variety...4.5pds doesn't quite cut it:) I've got my old m200 for now.

          • Well if you want to wait 10 years for technology to advance that far, that's up to you. I was just informing you of options that exist outside of Star Trek.
            • Or, use the technology that's available now , throw in a 3mm digitizer and write down "I will not use snarky sarcasm when dealing with subjects of which I understand little."

              • The technology doesn't exist now - it may be close, but to have the kind of device you want (and I want too), it's going to be several more years.

                But I guess wishing the future was here now and being a dick to people who offer you alternatives that already exist works better for you.

                • I shouldn't feed the troll but...

                  A) the alternative you gave me was no better than what I use now.
                  B) your response to me starting that fact was childish
                  C) take an ipad or android tablet, shove 3mm worth of digitizer pcb below the lcd. How was that star trek level future tech?

          • Re:Duo (Score:4, Interesting)

            by Gilmoure ( 18428 ) on Tuesday September 14, 2010 @05:34PM (#33580694) Journal

            Yup. From when I got my first 6x9 Wacom tablet, back in early 90's, have wanted a tablet display on it. At the time, I wasn't too concerned if it had to be hooked in to a parent machine but after seeing what the iPad and similar systems can do with size and weight, am really hoping for a real Wacom tablet.

      • a lenovo x60 [] has a wacom
        pretty thick, though

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by basotl ( 808388 )
      This video says it has a dual core atom processor and Windows 7. []
    • by Hatta ( 162192 )

      Wait, you mean I can't play my Super-CDRom2 discs [] on this Dell?

    • by Gilmoure ( 18428 )

      I still have a Powerbook Duo 270c.

      But I know what you mean.

  • breakable? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by hey ( 83763 ) on Tuesday September 14, 2010 @03:32PM (#33579092) Journal

    I like this but...
    I wonder how many times you can convert it before it breaks.
    Does dirt and stuff get in the mechanism?

    • I was wondering that too. Seems like either the glass or frame will be the major points of failure. Kudos for an interesting design though. And as mentioned by other posters, I'd like to know more specs on this device.
    • by pnutjam ( 523990 )
      I have an old tablet style toshiba with a swiveling hinge. It's gotta be 5 years old and came to me second hand. I run opensuse but the hinge still works fine. I rotate it if the kids are watching a movie so they don't mess with the keyboard (young kids).
  • The rotating screen is a cool idea but the screen itself looks as thick as an iPad, the upper half looks thicker yet and the bottom half about the same as the top making for one chunky looking device.

    Given all the griping about the iPad's weight I wonder how much battery they could pack in with all that extra hardware.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      I'm not sure this is meant to be an iPad killer... it's meant to give you the option of using your laptop(/netbook) like a tablet if you want to do so.

      And iPad cannot be used as a laptop, even if you want to do so.

      It would not be much of a shock if the battery life of a netbook is about the same as other netbooks, nor much of a shock if the weight of a netbook is heavier than that of a big iPhone :)

  • It would probably be better if, instead of the screen flipping inside the frame, they had made it so that if you opened the laptop up completely to 180 degrees, you could then just slide the screen down across the keyboard.

    Or is that how it was done before?

  • The X41 from IBM did this in 2005 also. []

    We have a couple of these at the office still. They were horribly slow and horribly expensive... a great idea that came way too early for the technology and it never sold well. We'll see if Dell does any better.

    • Now that my love affair with Netbooks has ended, I have an overwhelming feeling of "what was I thinking".

      This Dell toy will probably be just as slow as those X41 from 2005, IMO Intel Atom is a step in the wrong direction, what we need are i7 with great battery life.

    • Re:IBM did it first? (Score:4, Informative)

      by Hognoxious ( 631665 ) on Tuesday September 14, 2010 @04:06PM (#33579560) Homepage Journal

      It does it in an entirely different way - one central hinge. That design - the one most convertible tablets use - puts a lot of strain on that one central point.

      If you bother to read TFA you'll see that this one uses two hinges (twixt body and frame) to fold/unfold and two (on the screen within the frame) to roll the screen over. Providing the frame is strong enough, this is on the face of it a more robust design; any force acts less than half the screen diagonal from the fulcrum.

      Leverage knacks hinges.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        The Dell looks pretty fragile to me, whereas the X41s we have are still going with no hinge problems after 5 years. But that's not the point I'd worry about. mrops has it right... the form factor is smaller still, and probably will be too slow to satisfy anyone who can afford it. With today's technology I bet you could fit a killer system inside a body the size of an X41.

      • cool they reinforce the lcd agenst breakage. but still 1 main support for the movement is another major issue, that it looks like they did not overcome. so they addressed 1 flaw in tablet laptops but not the other. a better design is not having the rotation at all. lavano is making such a design. rather then the convertible the lcd half of the laptop detaches from the body at that point its a tablet. the main support etc are left on the laptop body.
    • by g4b ( 956118 )
      actually, I own a X41 and don't find it "horribly" slow, it works great (besides the intel graphics mess at the moment at linux) for small tasks and similar to other laptops of that era, and I do use it to surf the net with chrome, writing mails or drawing with artrage2 over wine until today.

      Of course, the X41 does have a great bottleneck, which is the hard drive, a special type of 1.8", must be from specific vendor (if you dont want to press buttons at the startup to confirm an IBM warning) and has a slowe
    • by mirix ( 1649853 )

      X4n had a (up to) 2GHz P-M, if i'm not mistaken.. which should still knock the pants off a atom, at least in speed. I think they were reasonably speedy when they were launched, it's been a long time.

      The thing I disliked about them the most was the nonstandard hdd.

  • by pwnies ( 1034518 ) <> on Tuesday September 14, 2010 @03:51PM (#33579352) Homepage Journal
    So it's a generic convertible tablet PC like we've had for ages, except the screen rotates along the x axis instead of the y axis? Why is this news?
    What does this do that my X61t doesn't?
    • It's a bit like the Vadem Clio from 1999 - []

      Two hinges inside a bigger frame should be stronger than one smaller hinge that also rotates.

    • it fixes the rotation flaw in all tablet laptops. running along the x axes lets it have a duel hinge support rather then a single that has plagued all desines for ages. i like lavanos better being it just detaches from the entire laptop and becomes a tablet. less wight.
  • Yawn yawn yawn... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by gilesjuk ( 604902 ) <<giles.jones> <at> <>> on Tuesday September 14, 2010 @03:53PM (#33579392)

    When will they realise that it's not the hardware that matters but the software.

    I've seen a convertible laptop/tablet before at a customer site. He was trying to use it to take notes. But thanks to Windows it required a reboot as it wouldn't come out of sleep properly. It's a bit annoying when you all have to sit there and wait to start a meeting while a laptop boots.

    Anything tablet like needs to be instant on/off. No HDDs, no x86 Intel processors and a keyboard should be totally detachable for those who don't want to use it.

    • by ChinggisK ( 1133009 ) on Tuesday September 14, 2010 @04:56PM (#33580176)

      When will they realise that it's not the hardware that matters but the software.

      No HDDs, no x86 Intel processors and a keyboard should be totally detachable for those who don't want to use it.

      Yea, those are generally the biggest software issues I have with my tablet...

    • by jerky42 ( 264624 )

      No HDDs, no x86 Intel processors and a keyboard should be totally detachable for those who don't want to use it.

      but then I would probably forget something else [].

  • And looks pretty rubbish [] loved the crappy input latency on the map app and the fact that they're still using mouse emulation for the touchscreen.... I thought Windows 7 had proper support for touch input.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by BitZtream ( 692029 )

      It does, and it uses that proper input to emulate mouse movements which every app for the past 20 years has been written to expect on Windows.

      When you start running apps with UIs designed for touch and not a mouse, then you can stop using touch as if its a mouse emulation layer.

      Current apps are not designed for touch so having OS support means nothing.

      • by Flipao ( 903929 )

        Current apps are not designed for touch so having OS support means nothing.

        Ah, a bloated OS forced to support legacy software for which no touchscreen based applications exist. I could not think of a better platform to build tablets around!

        • Well, you basically have 2 choices. The first being to start with a new platform like ios or android. The disadvantage being you can't run any 'legacy' apps.

          The second being to retrofit an existing one. My money would be on kde rather than windows. It has been modernised in the 4.x release with plasma. Plus, thanks to nokia's efforts with meego and symbian, Qt is already touch ready.

    • Who picked that map app for the demo? They seriously deserve to be fired, it makes their whole product look like an underpowered piece of garbage. My phone performs better than that...

  • Other than the fact that it's a Dell, and therefore a complete piece of shit, it sounds great.

  • While that might sound a bit been there, done that, the Inspiron Duo can be used as a tablet or opened up to offer a keyboard.

    Not only does it sound a bit like been there, done that, it was done ... several times ... by several different manufacures.

    They all failed. Touch interfaces fucking suck. Apple has a nice one on the iPhone for what its for, but you don't sit around using an iPhone for hours on end to accomplish things.

    Touch is good for short, dedicated, standardized input, like picking a phone nu

  • Here's exactly what so many posters on Slashdot complain that they want - a full PC they can install anything on in a tablet form.

    I wonder if it will even be around a year from now...

    • It already sells - the HP tm2t shows that. The only reason that tablets aren't more popular is that most of them are horribly overpriced.
  • ...the chip is different but for whatever reason the Windows platform performance is extremely sluggish...
  • by mbourgon ( 186257 ) on Tuesday September 14, 2010 @04:23PM (#33579792) Homepage

    Behold its majesty. []

    I really wanted one when it came out, precisely because of the form factor. Given that it runs Wince 2.1 (Sorry, WinCE 2.1), I was probably better off.
    But a clever design.

  • The whole idea is to move away from ridiculous contraptions with moving parts that add weight!

    It would be cooler if you just closed the lid and BAM there was your screen on the outside of the lid. OLEDs would be good for that. Thinner/lighter so two wouldn't add as much weight as two traditional LCD panels.

    • I doubt it adds any significant weight, it's just a rotating frame after all. Though I agree that your suggestion is cooler.

    • Alternatively there's also the dual-touchscreen concept, which solves the "many movable parts" problem, and puts the "keyboard" section to good use when you use it as a tablet instead.
  • by Bill_the_Engineer ( 772575 ) on Tuesday September 14, 2010 @04:47PM (#33580076)

    It can do a lot a things as a netbook, but won't be able to as many things as a tablet or as well as a dedicated tablet.

    That's the problem with the Windows Tablet (and has been for years) not all the programs available will take advantage of the tablet. Programs that do take advantage of the tablet, do it so poorly that you prefer to run it as a netbook. Thus all you end up with is a netbook with a neat gimmick.

    There is something to be said about devices that are dedicated tablets. If it runs in Windows then I'm tempted to make a program that can use a keyboard so I can take advantage of an already large audience. There isn't as much temptation with iOS or Android because even though both have access to a keyboard (iOS via bluetooth) the devices do not have a ready made market of legacy devices that were keyboard centric.

    • by EvanED ( 569694 )

      Programs that do take advantage of the tablet, do it so poorly that you prefer to run it as a netbook.

      I agree with this, with one big exception: OneNote, which is a pretty fantastic piece of software. I generally hate about 99% of the software I use in a given day. (I recently pushed for and got Linux on my work box, while I run Windows at home; this way I get pissed off in different ways by my OS depending on where I am, instead of always the same way, which gets a bit old.) So, at least I think that my li

  • on how many of them will be returned with the screen hinges busted after the first three months.

  • Actually, just a ThinkPad X41 Tablet [], but you swivel the screen, and presto, tablet. I bought it used, cheap, so it's fun.

    It needs a Wacom style pen, but it's a tablet, just not touchisensitive.

    And even accounting for the pen, it's not all that.

    And this kludge by Dell looks equal parts flimsy and flaky. I give it a C- on sight.

    Now the Lenovo S10-3t [] was interesting. And the U1 [] was very cool looking. Can I find one?

  • Dell's dual personality laptop. Is it a piece of shit or a piece of crap?
  • with the Lenovo S10-3t tablet/netbook convertible. The Lenovo hardware is for the most part excellent; the Atom processor is a bit slow for some tasks, but the battery life makes that a reasonable trade-off for me. Around the time of the iPad launch, some people were saying the S10-3t might prove to be an iPad killer. It might not have been a killer, but it could have been a contender, but for its Achilles heel: the Windows tablet functionality is so bad that the device is almost non-functional as a tablet

  • "While that might sound a bit been there, done that, the Inspiron Duo can be used as a tablet or opened up to offer a keyboard." multiple other tablet/laptops already on the market. Thanks for the Dell commercial.

Things equal to nothing else are equal to each other.