Only Dual-Screen Devices Can Break Human Bottleneck

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In an era where every mainstream notebook has at least two CPU cores and even phones will soon have four,  human beings are becoming the real bottleneck in every application. Each time you switch between tasks because you need to copy and paste that URL from the browser into your Facebook update in another tab or browser window, your system waits on you. Whether you're using a notebook, tablet, or phone, more megahertz won't solve this problem. Dual screens such as those on the Kyocera Echo phone and Acer Iconia 6120 tablet will.

Just think about all the things you need to do at once just to complete a single task. In one window on your notebook, you're composing a document while in another two windows you're doing research on the web, and in a fourth window you have Outlook open to deal with any urgent correspondence that comes your way. On your phone, you're writing an e-mail to a client while you review your company's prices in a PDF viewer and look at the client's website.

If you have only one application visible at a time, you must constantly take a second or two to switch the display from one application to another. Not only does it take time to click (or tap) icons to task-switch, the act of switching taxes your short-term memory. If you read a document that you need to absorb before performing an action in the second window, you may have to switch back and forth several times, unless you have a photographic memory.

However, if you can see more than one application at a time, you're limited only by the speed at which you can move your eyeballs or rotate your neck. Efficiency experts have known this for years. Way back in 2003, Microsoft researchers cited productivity gains of between 9 and 50 percent when upgrading from one to two screens. No wonder so many desktop users have two screens, but what about mobile users?

Dual Screens For Your Notebook

Whether they dock at home or at work, notebook users have always had the option to attach a second screen. However, up until the past couple of months, the options for deploying dual screens on the road have been few and far between.

If you wanted a second screen to take on your business trip, you could pack a bulky desktop LCD monitor in your luggage and hope it doesn't break. Or you could take out a second mortgage and buy the $5,000, 13-pound Lenovo ThinkPad W701ds, which offers a tiny 10.6-inch secondary display that pops out of its lid.

Just this year, we've seen two compelling mobile monitors hit the market. Both the 14-inch Toshiba USB Mobile LCD Monitor and Mobile Monitor Technologies' 15.6-inch Field Monitor Pro are light enough to bring with you and connect directly to your notebook's USB port. These are truly convenient products that road warriors should buy like they're going out of style, not only because they save time, but also because strong sales would encourage vendors to build more of them.

Dual-Screen Phones

In the phone space, Kyocera recently released the groundbreaking Echo on Sprint. This dual-screen handset allows you to perform different tasks on each screen, such as messaging on one while you surf on the other. Optimized apps such as the e-mail client will even show you a menu (ex: your inbox) on one screen and content (ex: an e-mail message) on another.

Some of my fellow journalists have called the device "clunky," because they don't like the hinge design or the 3G-only connectivity. Who cares? The Echo is the first phone that truly lets you multitask. Put that in your Retina display and smoke it!

Two Screen Tablets

In the tablet arena, we've seen a few attempts to create dual-screen Windows systems. The Toshiba Libretto W105 came out last summer with two 7-inch screens and some really neat custom software, but its hot-running CPU required some heavy fans that made a ton of noise. The Libretto also didn't dissipate the heat properly and sucked battery like nobody's business.

March saw the release of the Acer Iconia 6120, a truly innovative device complete with unique software such as a social jogger that shows your news feeds on the bottom screen while allowing you to tap an update and view its contents on the top screen.  However, the $1199 Iconia suffers from short battery life, bulk, and a high price.

The limitations of these early dual-screen slates should not hold us back. The Acer Iconia 6120 and the Toshiba Libretto W105 have set the stage for someone else to build a dual-screen tablet that lasts longer on a charge, weighs less, and carries a more reasonable price.

As consumers, businesspeople, and early adopters, we need to support this fledgling generation of dual-screen devices, both with our voices and our wallets. No matter how fancy processors get, dual-screen technology is the best way to speed up your gadget's slowest component—you.

Author Bio
Avram Piltch
Avram Piltch, LAPTOP Online Editorial Director
The official Geeks Geek, as his weekly column is titled, Avram Piltch has guided the editorial and production of since 2007. With his technical knowledge and passion for testing, Avram programmed several of LAPTOP's real-world benchmarks, including the LAPTOP Battery Test. He holds a master’s degree in English from NYU.
Avram Piltch, LAPTOP Online Editorial Director on
Add a comment
  • Tim Says:

    Don't get me wrong, I love my dual monitors...hell I'm thinking about setting up a 3rd at home. But Alt-Tab lets me have infinite monitors. Maybe we should be training users how to use 1 monitor effectively before we give them 2 or 3 and waste our money. Multi-monitor hasn't been around for very long and yet we're already behaving as if it was impossible to get anything done without it, not to mention the managers who seem to think the number of monitors you have = status.

    We truly are spoiled

  • HP Says:

    What's Webos?

  • i told u Says:

    ok not a bad review until you said the Echo nonsense is the first phone to truly multitask...???? lol. For the record people not only does it NOT multi task because the app still goes into a dormat state when you go to another app, but Webos is the only true multi tasking OS period. So no bad bad very very bad statment.

  • Rich Says:

    Great article. Dual screen tablets are the future but until major computer companies truly embrace them the buying public will have to sit and wait for a good quality portable dual screen tablet that should have two seven inch screens and a long battery life. The technology is there, the Libretto 100 and 105 prove this but Toshiba failed badly on battery life and more importantly their price point was way too expensive!! When a major computer company creates a dual screen tablet with an excellent battery life that is affordable for all then they will have a perhaps the best selling tablet/computer ever seen to date. I am amazed that no major computer company has truly worked this out as of yet. If I was CEO of a major computer company the 7 inch dual screen tablet would be at the top of my list of products that I would want to sell to the buying public. The dual screen tablet is the future, make the future now.

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