Aside from the Toshiba Chromebook, the Japanese vendor didn't have much to show off in the way of actual laptops at CES 2014. But Toshiba had an interesting piece of forward-looking tech to display on the show floor. This is Toshiba's concept for the first 5-in-1 detachable hybrid laptop, and it's interesting, to say the least.
While a mere mock was shown behind glass, here's the idea behind Toshiba's latest hybrid: Thanks to a custom motherboard tucked inside the large base that doubles as an extended keyboard deck, the laptop will have five different use modes.
In addition to the standard laptop mode, first there would be a canvas mode, which is flipped 270 degrees and interacted with using an included stylus. Next would be a tablet mode, in which the keyboard is detached and the base is folded back completely. In the presentation mode, the base would serve as a stand for video viewing.
Finally, "Convertible Tablet" mode would be to simply fold the attached keyboard 360 degrees for yet another tablet experience. This one is a bit of a stretch, considering both modes are technically tablets and one is inherently lighter than the other.
The detachable, backlit keyboard is just that – there would be no actual components inside other than what's required to transmit that information. Everything else would either hide behind the hybrid laptop's screen or within the base.
Aside from the magnesium alloy chassis that a Toshiba representative told me draws heavy inspiration from the company's Kirabook line, there aren't many more details on this concept design. In its current iteration, the 5-in-1 hybrid laptop weighs a dense 4 to 4.5 pounds, though Toshiba is working on bringing that down.
What I could spy from the other side of the glass is a large speaker grille on the top side of the base coupled with another speaker on the bottom for better sound in certain tablet modes. (Both of which will be provided by Harmon Kardon, if you follow that sort of thing.)
The hybrid laptop will also provide USB (hopefully 3.0), microSD, micro HDMI-out, a proprietary power input and a headphone jack. A Toshiba rep also warned that the rubber foot slipped onto what would be the open end of the base is not final. If that accessory does sneak its way into the final design, I give it a few days before customers lose it down the couch.
Lastly, note the tiny, silver mouse button on the detachable keyboard and trackpoint mouse button crammed in between those silver keys, giving this concept a professional bent. While the design is super experimental, Toshiba is also very interested in bringing something like this to market.
Frankly, I'm somewhat confused by Toshiba's 5-in-1 hybrid laptop concept. Admittedly, I'm a purist when it comes to laptop designs. Products like the dual OS ASUS Transformer Book Duet are slightly off putting, and this first take makes me equally uneasy.
Five different use modes just seems unnecessary, especially in a professional-grade device, if that's where this concept is headed. This is one gorgeous prototype, with its all-magnesium alloy construction, but it needs more focus. We don't need more modes – we need modes that make more sense. At any rate, the Toshiba 5-in-1 hybrid laptop concept shows potential for a seriously sharp device.
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