For all that many crowdfunded hardware projects are not necessarily successful or even trustworthy, now and then one comes along that merits another look. For example, the Gemini PDA.

Effectively the second coming of the Psion 5, the Gemini is a clamshell mobile device, like a miniature notebook computer. It has a 5.9″  403ppi 2160 x 1080 display—effectively the same display as many current smartphones—with a similarly-sized keyboard attached.

The Gemini has 4 GB of RAM, 64 GB of internal storage, and a micro-SD slot. It comes in WiFi and WiFi + 4G variants, for $500 and $600 respectively. It dual-boots Android and Linux, and will also function as a smartphone (in the 4G version, at least). And it’s raised $2,221,000 (from 6,200 backers), which it says is 284% of its original goal. It comes in WiFi and WiFi + 4G variants, for $500 and $600 respectively.

On TechCrunch, writer Brian Heater has a hands-on look at the device. He finds the idea of it appealing, but admits that the Gemini is actually a better idea than it is a device.

It’s unclear which problems the device is looking to solve in a world of ubiquitous slate phones and low-cost laptops and tablets. There aren’t ultimately all that many scenarios in which the throwback makes more sense than the hundreds of other available options, so it’s hard to recommend this as either a primary phone or laptop in 2018.

And at 17.14 cm (6.75 inches) wide, the keyboard is more than an inch narrower than Anker’s iPad Mini keyboard, which I found unusably tiny when I tried it out a couple of years ago. As neat as it might be to have a truly pocketable touch-typing writing machine, I can’t imagine actually touch-typing on something the size of the Gemini. (Also, its keyboard seems to be missing the quotation mark character entirely, unless I’m missing something.)

This isn’t the first time this form factor has been tried lately, though the specs and keyboard on the Z8550 Paul wrote about in 2016 are considerably less impressive than this model.

While clearly meant more for writing than for reading, and with an attached keyboard that could make it awkward to use in portrait orientation, the Gemini could nonetheless be used for e-reading. It even has a physical space bar to tap to advance the pages rather than having to tap the screen. I can’t see that ever being a popular use for it, though.

And after ten years of development, screen keyboards have gotten to be good enough that I can type nearly as fast with one as I can touch-type on a full-sized keyboard. With that being the case, is a physical keyboard really necessary?

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