These thoughtful design touches, alas, do not extend throughout the s.book’s chassis. The TFT panel, for instance, is a bit of a disappointment. Though it is a touch-sensitive one (there’s a stylus stowed in the top left corner), at 7in in diagonal it doesn’t take full advantage of the full width of the s.book’s chassis, and the resolution is a mere 800 x 480 pixels.
As a result it feels cramped to use, particularly when browsing the web, and I found myself constantly panning and scrolling about, even on simple web pages. It’s also a little grainy – text isn’t as crisp as it is on the best TFT panels – though viewing angles and brightness are both excellent.
The reason the screen occupies just three quarters of the lid is that the final portion is dedicated to, bizarrely enough, a Bluetooth Skype phone. Personally I’d rather have a larger screen – you can always buy a USB Skype phone for out-and-about use if you desperately want one – or even use your own Bluetooth headset. It’s a waste that’s made especially galling by the fact that it doesn’t even work that well, with audio breaking up constantly and awkward navigation of contacts on the phone.
Below the screen, the keyboard continues the slightly disappointing theme. It’s small, but generally pretty easy to type on – though you do have to practice a bit before you can get up a serious head of steam. But it’s hamstrung by poor layout. Its worst crime is that there’s no right Shift key, and this isn’t helped by a tiny Tab key, a shrunken comma and a backspace key that could be larger.
The keyboard is accompanied by possibly the smallest touchpad I’ve ever seen – so small it looks like it belongs on a laptop belonging to Barbie or Ken instead of a self-respecting business person. To my surprise it worked remarkably well. You have to swipe your finger across it more than once to get the cursor from one side of the screen to the other, but it doesn’t jump around or respond erratically. The buttons flanking it are finger-friendly too.
Its major flaw isn’t its small size, accuracy or sensitivity, though – it’s the placement that irritates: it’s in the direct centre of what on other laptops would be the palm rest. This means it’s easy to brush against while typing, relocating the cursor frustratingly elsewhere in your document.