One of the most interesting technologies to be unveiled at this year's CES has to be the Que proReader from Plastic Logic. On the surface, it's just another slate-alike ereader with an E-Ink screen but inside is nothing less than an electronics revolution.
The proReader is the first product to built using plastic transistors, created at the world's only factory for plastic electronics in Dresden. Because the 8.5x11-inch device doesn't use silicon chips, its screen is lighter, tougher and - crucially - flexible, so it doesn't need a heavy, fragile sheet of glass in front.
Picking up the proReader at today's early morning press conference was a revelation. Despite its A4 dimensions, it's as light as a feather - lighter even than a pad of paper the same size.
In use, the screen is similar to other monochrome E-Ink displays, even down to the frustrating one to two second lag between pages. But the proReader is more than just an ebook reader, offering PDA functions and the ability to work with and annotate Office documents.
On the home page, a calendar column summarises your day's appointments (with links to relevant documents), a favourites bar shows key documents, a recently viewed area functions as your mobile desktop and there's a link to Que's online store (in partnership with Barnes & Noble).
Plastic Logic's links with dozens of newspaper and magazine publishers have paid off. The digital USA Today paper demoed had graphics, columns and headlines - ten times better than the terribly basic formatting of publications seen on Amazon's Kindle.
With this kind of spec, it's no surprise that Plastic Logic is targeting the 'mobile business professional' with the Que - and they might be the only audience willing to spend $650 for the basic 4GB model with Bluetooth and Wi-Fi or $800 for the 8GB version that also has a 3G link (courtesy of AT&T).
There are some great features on board, including the ability to beam emails and attachments over from BlackBerry devices, a comprehensive search and doodling/annotations functions on the capacitive touchscreen.
But the Que also feels half-finished. Live over-the-air synching of diary and email is promised 'in the next few months', you can't actually edit or save Office documents (your notes appear as a separate PDF layer) and (unlike the Android-powered Entourage or Alex readers) there are no web widgets or browsing.
The Que proReader ships in April - and we'll have a full review as soon as possible.