Surrounding the screen is a selection of shortcut buttons and controls to improve navigation and ease of use in this ‘tablet’ mode: a track stick for mouse control, a four-way d-pad, up/down scroll buttons and a two-way brightness rocker, plus an array of useful shortcut keys.
What’s more, the screen is fully touch-sensitive, so you can prod buttons and drag windows about with your finger in laptop mode as well as using the stylus (stowed in the lid) to take advantage of the superb handwriting recognition built into Vista.
Of course most people will probably stick to using the keyboard as their principal means of text entry, so it’s just as well this is pretty good on the Vye. It’s a little fiddly at first with such small keys, but after just an hour or so I was touch typing at some speed and not making many mistakes.
The layout inevitably makes compromises – the backspace key is small, the Enter key is half height and the right shift key is irritatingly the wrong side of the cursor cluster, but these don’t have a significant impact on usability and will be easy to get used to over time. To give you an idea of how good this keyboard is, I wrote the whole of this review on it without getting frustrated enough to resort to either my larger laptop or desktop PC.
The tiny touchpad just below it is equally a triumph of ergonomic design. It looks like it’s going to be a nightmare, but in practice it turned out to be more accurate, responsive and easy to use than many of the full-sized laptop touchpads I’ve used over the years. The buttons, too, have a pleasingly light yet responsive feel. There are no scrolling areas here, but this is another sensible compromise given its small size.
Such sensible design is often undermined by poor build quality and lacklustre battery life, especially when so much is packed into such a small case, but the S37 refuses to adhere to stereotypes. Its plastic chassis is solid, while the rigid screen backing and sturdy hinge are admirably well-engineered and feel as if they’ll take a fair dose of abuse.