Neofonie and 4tiitoo WeTab hands-on (update)

We'll be honest: the first time we heard a company named Neofonie was making a tablet, we figured someone was up to no good... but having just experienced the 11.6-inch MeeGo machine for ourselves at IDF 2010, however, we think it's safe to say we were dead wrong. The WeTab may not have pinch-to-zoom (yet) but we never missed it once while browsing webpages and tiled apps on the large capacitive screen, using one of the most intuitive, practical touchscreen interfaces we've ever had the pleasure to try. Get a brief glimpse at the device in our gallery below, and find more after the break.

Update: Though the internet at large has reported for ages now that the tablet's made by Neofonie, that's not quite correct. As it turns out, a company named 4tiitoo is responsible for the fancy UI, and the hardware itself (like the ExoPC) are actually made by Pegatron.

Update 2: Extended impressions (and video!) after the break. %Gallery-102086%

If you're not familiar with WeTab's proof-of-concept demonstrations in Berlin from a few months back, suffice it to say it's running a tiled, widget-based Windows Phone 7-like UI, but that scrolls vertically and that lets you view entire webpages at a time. Practically none of the controls you'd want to access are buried in menus, but rather easily accessible under either thumb with descriptions in plain English. Starting with a simple pane for brightness and wireless connectivity, to basic multitasking controls, to the interactive scrolling thumbnails that allow you to effortlessly navigate through documents and your tiled desktop. We didn't have the chance to test out video playback on the Intel Atom N450 housed inside nor test out the device's two full-size USB ports, but we're happy to say that browsing was speedy even on the show floor, and the UI demonstrated none of the lag you might have seen in those aforementioned German videos. While 1366 x 768 is a poor resolution for today's 15-inch laptops, it looked great on the WeTab's 11.6-inch screen. Vertical viewing angles were somewhat worrisome, though, as in its suspiciously similar compatriot the ExoPC, so much so that we had difficulty seeing the touchscreen keyboard with the tablet flat on its back. Speaking of the virtual keyboard, we found it as responsive as the rest of the unit, but the keys felt a bit too small and closely spaced for full two-hand typing.

We're afraid we still don't know when we might see the WeTab retail stateside -- though it's apparently due in Germany later this month -- but we like most everything we've seen save the €449 (about $579) and €569 ($732) barriers to entry, so we'll definitely keep you posted if it does.

Update: We just sat down with 4tiitoo CTO Stephan Odoerfer to discuss the WeTab's first US vacation -- and the executive was kind enough to walk through the entire vertical UI, up to and including including a quick demonstration of the slate playing some standard-def YouTube. Sadly, the Broadcom Crystal HD chip isn't enabled at the moment and won't be until a software update weeks or months after launch, but that's not as big a bummer as the fact that there's no plans to bring the tablet stateside.

Odoerfer told us that though the WeTab's generated considerable interest in the international press, his company's too small to manage a worldwide launch, so it's going to take a wait-and-see approach at the moment. Don't give up hope yet, though -- we were told the WeTab 32GB has got a tri-band radio that includes at least one US frequency, so it might be import-friendly if you're willing to spend the Euros. The WeTab ships in Germany next week.