PC Gamers love to take pride in the power of our systems, but that does mean that our rigs aren’t always the most portable. At this year's virtual CES, NEC has a new prototype 2-in-1 laptop with an 8-inch screen that also works with an optional controller to make it like a Nintendo Switch.
Like Alienware’s Concept UFO, which debuted at CES last year, the Lavie Mini is still just a prototype, but it’s a bit more versatile than the Alienware Concept UFO. Instead of being a straight copy of the Switch’s form factor, it’s a full convertible laptop with an optional attachable game controller and a standalone dock that charges your machine and outputs video to your TV at the same time.
But while the Concept UFO was powered by an Intel 10th gen processor running integrated graphics, the Lavie Mini uses up to an 11th generation i7 processor with Intel Iris Xe graphics. And although we still don’t know exactly what other specs the Concept UFO was rocking when it debuted a year ago, we know that the Lavie Mini also has 16GB of LPDDR4 memory, up to 256GB of SSD storage and Wi-Fi 6, plus a 26WHr battery. That’s a pretty detailed specs list for a prototype (and an odd one given that all we’ve seen so far is renders), but the Lavie Mini does have its drawbacks as well. The game controller is listed as optional, meaning you’ll probably have to buy it separately, and there’s no indication that it splits into two smaller controllers like the Switch or Concept UFO. The controller also seems to come in a bulky rectangular shape, and while you can dock the Lavie Mini to play on the big screen, we’re not sure yet if you can collapse the controller to make it smaller and more suited to your hands when it’s not attached to the tablet.
And because the Lavie Mini is also a full laptop, it does look a bit awkward to use with the controller attached, though it is supposed to top out at 1.3 pounds. Its keyboard also has an unusual layout, with three rows of utility keys above the QWERTY alphabet and several unusually shaped keycaps.
But like with the Concept UFO, there’s no word yet on if or when this prototype will become a product you can actually buy. That might be a little disappointing, but one upside here is seeing manufacturers experiment with their Switch clones a bit more. While the Concept UFO was pitched as a gaming device only, the Lavie Mini makes use of the PC space to offer something a bit more diverse in what it can offer.
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Michelle Ehrhardt is an editor at Tom's Hardware. She's been following tech since her family got a Gateway running Windows 95, and is now on her third custom-built system. Her work has been published in publications like Paste, The Atlantic, and Kill Screen, just to name a few. She also holds a master's degree in game design from NYU.