gScreen has released two SpaceBook-branded laptops that sport dual 17.3” 1080p monitors. That makes SpaceBook the laptop with the most real screen estate with over four million pixels. gScreen has achieved dual screens by making them sliding - the other screen will slide behind the other one to maintain a regular laptop form factor. The slide effect also allows SpaceBook to be used as a normal one-screen laptop. 

gScreen SpaceBook specifications
  SpaceBook 17 i5 4G SpaceBook 17 i7 8G
Screen size 2x 17.3" 2x 17.3"
Resolution 2x 1920x1080 2x 1920x1080
Processor Intel Core i5-560M (2.66GHz dual core) Intel Core i7-740QM (1.73GHz quad core)
Graphics NVIDIA GeForce GTS 250M 1GB NVIDIA GeForce GTS 250M 1GB
RAM 4GB DDR3 1333MHz 8GB DDR3 1333MHz
Hard drive 500GB 7200rpm 500GB 7200rpm
Optical drive Super-Multi DVD drive Super-Multi DVD drive
Wireless 802.11 b/g/n 802.11 b/g/n
Connections Headphone jack, mic-in, Ethernet, 3x USB 2.0, eSATA+USB, FireWire, HDMI, memory card slot Headphone jack, mic-in, Ethernet, 3x USB 2.0, eSATA+USB, FireWire, HDMI, memory card slot
Dimensions (WxHxD) 16.5" x 1.9" x 12.6 16.5" x 1.9" x 12.6
Weight 10lb 10lb
Price $2395 $2795

For a quick history lesson, gScreen was founded in 2003 and has solely concentrated on dual-screen laptops. They first revealed their plans in 2009 and originally SpaceBook was supposed to come out in early 2010, but it was delayed. However, after more than a year, gScreen is now taking pre-orders. They also seem to have some kind of promotion regarding to the pricing so the prices listed above are the original prices, not discounted ones. 

Frankly, the specifications are straight from early 2010 as well. There is no Sandy Bridge, only Arrandale and Clarksfield, both of which are 18 months old (or more) by now. As for the graphics, gScreen offers NVIDIA GeForce GTS 250M with 1GB of VRAM (no word on the type, though DDR3 is likely) in both models and this GPU is roughly two years old. gScreen doesn’t even offer any BTO options so these are the only options you have; no Blu-Ray, SSDs, or anything like that (although you should be able to install them on your own). There is also no word on the panel type, only that they have LED backlighting. Given the high price and gScreen's aim at professional market, IPS displays would be a nice addition, but with outdated CPU and graphics, a TN panel seems inevitable. 

gScreen doesn’t say anything about the battery life, only that it's a 6-cell, but considering that we are talking about Arrandale and especially Clarksfield with no GPU switching, the battery life can’t be too good. The second screen will also draw extra power so battery life is very likely less than 90 minutes. Considering the presumed bad battery life and the fact that SpaceBook is a 10-pound monster, portability really becomes a moot point. You lose a lot of portability if you need to be plugged in all the time and the weight of SpaceBook means that it won't be your "everyday and everwhere" kind of laptop. 

Given the above, we have to ask: exactly what is the market for the SpaceBook? gScreen claims that they focus on filmmakers, photographers, designers and CAD engineers. However, who would pay over $2000 for a laptop with very out dated hardware and use it as a work machine? If you work with video or other intensive content, then you are going to want the fastest machine you can find, or at least a computer that offers good performance for the buck. Gamers won’t even take a look at machine like this considering its hefty price tag and relatively poor specs. Engineers likewise wouldn't even think about outdated hardware with no professional GPU features (e.g. Quadro or FireGL).

The only market for SpaceBook that I can see is people who really, really need a lot of screen estate while on the go and are ready to trade performance and portability (and a nice amount of $) for those features. That doesn't seem like a big market and it’s hard to see SpaceBook becoming a blockbuster. $1200 can easily get you a laptop with a quad-core Sandy Bridge CPU, decent GPU, and 1080p screen. That’s much more powerful and portable than SpaceBook while costing half as much. With the leftover money, you can grab two big desktop LCDs (even IPS panels!) and get more screen estate than SpaceBook, and still saving money. The only thing you miss out on there is transportability.

All in all, SpaceBook is an interesting concept but it isn't enough to justify the out dated hardware and high price. With 2011 hardware and some configurable options, it could potentially satisfy a niche market, but in its current state SpaceBook looks quite obsolete. We're curious, though: are any of our readers more forgiving of the design? Let us know.

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  • Iketh - Sunday, July 17, 2011 - link

    I'd like to add that I can't think of anything else that says "I mean business" or "I'm the real deal" when visiting clients and my laptop morphs into dual displays.... pure sexiness Reply
  • peternelson - Monday, July 18, 2011 - link

    I think when you wheel in a mil-spec 19 inch rack flightcase on castors, containing your personal workstation cluster and slide open the operator console, you will likely have their full attention.

    The guy with the dual screen laptop just got owned. Sure it may look nice, but because he isn't even running Sandy Bridge yet, you can deliver the project results before he even finishes his slide presentation.
    Reply
  • peternelson - Monday, July 18, 2011 - link

    I agree that programming is a good use case for the extra screen real estate. Having open a browser or e-book to copy code examples, running your editor/compiler, the application being developed also visible, some test/debug window.

    I've found worthwhile increase in my productivity on desktop machines moving from single 24 inch to dual side by side 24 inch on an extended desktop. Actually I now use more eg Samsung 40 inch Syncmasters but they will never be "portable" :-)

    That's mostly the reason I'd seek out a "desktop replacement" laptop of some sort, and for me it is irrelevant how much weight I will carry (as versus taking a desktop case, separate monitors, keyboard and mouse). I think I can also live with perhaps only an hour of battery life or less, because most places I would use this provide mains sockets eg home, my office, client's office, Starbucks, the public library, even trains now. This kind of form factor is acceptable for hot-desking.

    I will mention the potential market in financial trading eg forex, stocks will also benefit from the double screen for technical analysis charting, which is using 2D rather than 3D. A bit like a dual-screen Bloomberg professional terminal, just portable.

    Even so, the GPU did seem to me to be a weak point. Improved (or upgradable) GPU would help GPU accelerated applications.

    I'd also be impressed if they could have an optional third screen which you can take along with you if you wish. The sliding would ideally be flexible to place the keyboard centrally between either the resulting two or three screen array. That would allow an Eyefinity type setup where the bezels do no hide crosshairs in FPS games. The graphics power to drive this triple setup may strain a mobile GPU though.

    For a premium machine like this I would be looking for at least space/capacity for TWO hard drives (one or both of which could be SSD or upgraded later). Some desktop replacement or gaming machines had this feature eg M1730.

    They could even produce a higher version with two 18.4 inch or even two 23 inch screens if they can bring it to market at a more affordable price point.
    Reply
  • peternelson - Monday, July 18, 2011 - link

    Virtualisation could also be relevant to how people could use this type of machine.

    With two screens you have the potential to run multiple operating systems in windows better, eg Windows 7 Ultimate and the virtualised XP side by side, or perhaps VMware workstation for testing multiple environments, or some linux distributions. The cpu and chipset should be selected to support hardware virtualisation and where possible I/O virtualisation too. You might also use one screen as a VNC or similar session to a remote machine.
    Reply
  • jhh - Tuesday, July 19, 2011 - link

    The terms and conditions on their web site seem odd, like they took them from an estore without spending much time fixing them. There are inconsistencies, such as saying they only accept business checks, wire transfers, or money orders. Then later, there is a list of credit cards accepted. The second payment will be requested 30 days before your order is ready (implying that it will be at least 30 days). They also say they can use your deposit for anything - paying the rent, paying for getting FCC certification, you name it. Since you pay the first half up front, if the company goes bankrupt, you don't even have the protection of a credit card chargeback. The company may have honorable intent, but the machine could be even further obsolete by the time you get it.

    I bought a Notion Ink Adam (Android-based tablet) from a startup in India. While I did receive the product eventually, there was a lot of incomplete and wrong information about the state of product completeness, and shipping. If you are really interested in the product, ask questions. For example, is FCC certification complete, and what is the certification number. Is the product built to UL standards and certified? If not, you may not be legally able to use it in businesses. Is it certified for use in other countries? If not, you may not be able to take it to international destinations. If you remember, Israel confiscated iPads at the border until they were approved. Are the machines assembled yet? Will they be direct shipped from China, or will they be imported to the US and shipped from the US? If you are the importer, you are responsible for customs charges, if any, and/or VAT charges in Canada. It will be stuck in a bonded warehouse until it clears customs, and has to be properly classified for import.
    Reply
  • KevinTrent - Tuesday, November 5, 2013 - link

    Or you could use an additional three screens like this: http://www.rugged-portable.com/multi-screen-displa... Reply

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