May 19, 2009 Sharp Corporation is releasing a new notebook PC with an innovative optical sensor built into an LCD touch pad – which the company claims is a world first – at the end of the month. While Sharp’s Mebius PC-NJ70A netbook will only be released initially in Japan, the 4-inch track pad, which recognizes input by pen or touch, clearly signals the direction notebooks are headed. According to Sharp, a pen can be used to input drawings and text, while finger gestures on the LCD pad can enlarge, shrink or rotate items on the notebook screen – all in addition to the conventional ways a mouse is used. Users can sign their name to a photo before emailing it, for instance; or they can use two fingers to zoom in and out of internet websites to adjust them for the best view.

According to a Sharp spokesman: “The optical sensor is a new type of LCD with three major features. It supports handwriting, enables touch operations, like the iPhone, and can recognize shapes.

“The Mebius offers an illustration application which allows users to edit their photos, using many different pre-installed stickers and stamps, like photo-booth stickers. The notebook also comes with games that support finger-touch operations. They include easy-to-understand games like bowling and playing the piano.”

Built into the transistor layer of the LCD panel, the optical sensor recognizes light or shadow created by the pen or fingers. Unlike other touchscreens, the optical sensor pad doesn’t require a touch sensor or protective film that can affect the clarity of illustrations or photos.

The Mebius comes loaded with a range of software, including seven dictionaries, games (mini-bowling, piano, matching puzzles). It weighs 1.46 kg, has a 160GB hard disk drive and runs for about three hours on a single battery charge. It comes in white and black.

“We would like not just men but women to use the Mebius,” the spokesman told DigInfo News. “Users can enjoy using it by posting handwritten illustrations to their blogs, writing up a short message to email and doing other things that are made possible by the new notebook.”

Sharp expects to developed more software and content for the optical sensor LCD pad in the future.

Paul Best

Key specifications

  • Installed OS – Windows Vista® Home Basic with Service Pack1 (SP1)
  • LCD – 10.1-inch Wide Pure Clean LCD (WSVGA compatible)
  • CPU – Intel® Atom™ processor N270 (1.60 GHz)
  • Chip set – Mobile Intel® 945GSE Express Chip Set / ICH7-M
  • Main memory – 1 GB standard (expandable to 2 GB, DDR2 SDRAM)
  • Optical sensor LCD pad – Display function:4-inch optical sensor LCD (FWVGA, 854 x 480, LED backlight, 65,536 colors)
  • Input function – Optical sensor method (mouse operation: compatible with finger gestures; touch operation: handwriting input, hand-drawn illustrations, touchpad software)
  • Web cam – CMOS camera with about 1.3 million effective pixels
  • CD/DVD/FD drive
  • Communication functions – LAN (100Base-TX/10Base-T), wireless LAN (IEEE802.11b/g compliant), Bluetooth
  • Card slots – SD memory card, SDHC memory card, Memory Stick, Memory Stick PRO, xD-Picture Card
  • Sound functions – Built-in chip set + High Definition Audio Codec, built-in stereo speakers, built-in monaural microphone
  • Interface – External display output (analog RGB, 15-pin mini D-sub)
  • Microphone input (3.5-mm-dia. stereo mini-jack)
  • Headphone output/audio output (3.5-mm-dia. stereo mini-jack)
  • External dimensions – about 260 (W) x 190 (D) x 23.3–39.8 (H) mm excluding protrusions
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