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Roam with a view

Smart displays are here but at a price that stings

The first of a new generation of Smart Displays — LCD panels that connect wirelessly to a PC enabling you to roam freely within 100m of the system box — will go on sale in the UK at the end of February.

But they won't be cheap. In fact at a starting price of £999 for a 10in screen, the ViewSonic airpanel could end up costing as much as your PC did. The 15in model will be £1,299.

The airpanels will be sold through retail stores — currently ViewSonic has signed up Dixons Stores Group and is talking to other chains. They will be bundled with the required upgrade to Windows XP Pro and a USB wireless access point adapter.

In the US, the same 10in model is priced at $999. "The retail channel is less greedy in the States when it comes to profit margin," said ViewSonic product manager Aaron Fright, explaining the 40 percent price hike.

A 'naked' version — just the airpanel minus XP Pro upgrade and wireless access point — could also be sold for about £200 less.

A Smart Display is a PC screen that you can wander around with. You operate it using a stylus, which acts as a mouse for accessing applications, and the onscreen keyboard, and can also write and capture handwritten notes.

It differs from a tablet PC in that it is a screen which provides an interface to a conventional desktop PC rather than a PC in one package, although the Smart Display does contain its own processor, memory and four-hour battery

So this means you can sit in you living room watching a DVD movie playing on your PC in the study, does it? Unfortunately not. Smart Display uses the Wi-Fi or 802.11b wireless network protocol which doesn't have the bandwidth to support video.

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