Compal, a leading contract maker/ODM of notebooks and other mobile devices, has developed a prototype of a foldable hybrid tablet that can be equipped with a hardware keyboard. The design concept of Compal’s FlexBook resembles Lenovo’s ThinkPad X1 Fold that is due to be released in the coming months, but it is unclear whether the FlexBook will ever be commercialized.  

Compal’s FlexBook looks like an ordinary 13-inch tablet with landscape orientation that features two speakers located on its lower side, two USB-C connectors, and volume buttons on a side. Yet the tablet can be folded in half as it is equipped with a foldable OLED display as well as a ‘zero gap lay flat hinge’. When half-folded, the device can be used as a notebook, but it is much more convenient to attach a dedicated hardware keyboard to it when working in stationary mode. The FlexBook also supports stylus, just like tablets aimed at creative professionals.

The FlexBook is encased in leather, so should look and feel very good. Unfortunately the company isn't saying anything about the internals of the prototype FlexBook, as it's clear they're opting to instead focus on the design and folding capabilities (i.e. the parts they actually designed) rather than whose hardware is underneath. An Arm SoC seems likely for this prototype, though to a certain extent it doesn't matter as devices this large typically can be made to accommodate SoCs from pretty much any vendor.

Since Compal is a contract maker of computers and other electronics, it does not manufacture its own products carrying its brand. To that end, FlexBook may serve as a proof of concept and as a reference design for a vendor interested in bringing a product like this to the market. Only time will tell whether or not Compal’s clients are interested in FlexBook-like devices, but the company evidently has engineering skills to develop and build foldable tablets.

Compal’s official description of its FlexBook reads as follows:

Encased in rich and luxuriant leather, the 13” FlexBook is a next generation flexible tablet/laptop duo that captures the supreme convenience of a lightweight tablet plus the usability and performance of a mini PC. When separated, the OLED tablet features a perfect, zero gap “lay flat hinge” so user is free to fold in half for effortless mobility and safekeeping, then flip open like a book to write with the stylus over its absolute no image loss screen. Attach tablet onto the keyboard and instantly turn FlexBook into a compact laptop great for fixed location work. This is a modern-day marriage between stationary and mobile work in style.

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Sources: iF World Design Guide, Liliputing

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  • flyingpants265 - Tuesday, February 18, 2020 - link

    Nice, so like a tablet... with a keyboard?
  • Cliff34 - Wednesday, February 19, 2020 - link

    Haha. More like a foldable tablet with a keyboard.
  • ken.c - Tuesday, February 18, 2020 - link

    Ah, good, folding display technology is working so well for everyone else...
  • golemB - Tuesday, February 18, 2020 - link

    If the keyboard were foldable, you could carry the whole shebang in a jacket pocket or smaller purse. That's one use case where this could be better than an Ultrabook or Surface.

    But i wouldn't bet my own money on commercial success. The next big form factor I would bet on is eyeglass screens with enough pixels to be productive, in a form factor that can be comfortably with all day. And doesn't look dumb. Simple, right?
  • fazalmajid - Wednesday, February 19, 2020 - link

    Those AR glasses are expected somewhere around 2023
  • edzieba - Wednesday, February 19, 2020 - link

    I would not expect viable 'AR glasses' that soon.

    There are fundamental optics and tracking (and compute, for optical segmentation) problems to solve first. AR requires much more accurate tracking and much lower latencies than are acceptable for VR, as you have a direct view of the external world to compare to in real-time. Mid 2020s may get you VR-form-factor AR devices with front-mounted cameras for mediated view and an external processing box (AR is more compute-intensive than VR due to the tighter latency requirements), but if you want a 'glasses' form-factor, even with an external processor box, I would expect mid 2030s or later.
  • DanNeely - Wednesday, February 19, 2020 - link

    Yup. I was interested until I saw the keyboard was in a single piece. A folding keyboard that wasn't terrible would have been a really interesting design.
  • PeachNCream - Wednesday, February 19, 2020 - link

    With the VR fad having flatlined, I guess folding screens everywhere will be the next bit of mud we throw against the wall. Maybe something will come of it, but I wouldn't hold my breath.
  • nico_mach - Wednesday, February 19, 2020 - link

    No RGB in that keyboard!? Outrage! Come back when it's a little more polished and professional and can output a rainbow of colors like explosions on the fourth of July.
  • Smithy299 - Monday, October 19, 2020 - link

    I like this technology

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