Litl Webbook video hands-on

After seeing the Litl Webbook teased along with its not-so-teasing $699 pricetag, there's no way we could let CES slip by without checking out the easel-like device. And that really is the coolest thing about the Webbook: its 12.1-inch screen flips around to take it from regular laptop into a tent-like, digital photo frame of sorts. Jump past the break for our hands-on impressions and some video.

In clamshell mode the laptop's quite comfortable to use; the big keys are bouncy, but fun to type on and the screen has excellent viewing angles. Powered by a 1.6GHz Intel Atom CPU the laptop runs Litl's own user interface atop a Linux core, which is centered on a Web card design -- you can add interactive widgets (or cards) to the grid-like home screen. The interface was a bit confusing to use at first, but we got the hang of getting to the Firefox browser for hitting some Web sites and adding cards. Other than the browser and some preloaded widgets -- like Flickr, weather and a cute alarm clock animated with birds -- there isn't much additional software. No office suite or multimedia players here. But that's because Litl doesn't intend the device for power users, it's meant more for consuming Web content and viewing multimedia as a second or even third device in the home.

Litl really shines when you fold the screen over (about 270-degrees) and stand it up like a tent. The user interface automatically adjusts to an alternate card mode that let's you view the widgets at full screen. But because it isn't a touchscreen you can only change the displayed card by turning the wheel that's on the top hinge. The set up is a bit wonky, and though we got the hang of it, we wished we could just reach out and touch the screen (out of habit we actually tried to a few times). So, what's the point of this mode? Basically just to display content, like video or photos, similar to the HP DreamScreen or Chumby-like device.

We get what Litl's trying to do here and they do have a very nicely designed product. But the question is at $699 do you really need something like it when you can snag a netbook that can do lots of the same things at $399 in addition to a digital photo frame for less than $150. We do appreciate that the Webbook's price includes an unconditional two-year warranty -- yes, you can do anything to it and they will replace if for free (Litl trusts you). To sum it all up: cool concept, nice design and software, but with a high price tag.