Compal gaming 2-in-1 laptop concept has controls hidden on its back

Handheld gaming PCs are becoming a bit more popular these days, especially with major brands getting in on the game, pun intended. But while these small computers seem impressive for packing that much power inside, their designs make them less useful for anything else unless you connect an external monitor, keyboard, and mouse. Not only do gaming laptops offer more power, they can also be used for other purposes. Conversely, you need to connect a game controller and put the laptop down on a table, which loses the appeal of being able to play anytime, anywhere. Compal has an idea that attempts to bridge the best of both worlds, though its 2-in-1 gaming laptop design does raise just as many questions as it answers.

Designer: Compal

2-in-1 laptops and tablets that have touchscreens do offer a compromise when it comes to gaming with a controller. Just like with smartphones, it’s theoretically possible to put virtual joysticks and buttons, but those are actually awkward and more cumbersome to use on such a large screen. And just like on smartphones, it also means covering up part of the screen with their thumbs, and most PC games don’t take that into account.

The Compal Rover Play concept solves that by putting the controls on the back of the tablet half of the 2-in-1 laptop, almost like those paddles on the back of modern controllers. These aren’t simple buttons, though, as they would make the laptop look rather odd and unusable when not used to play games. Instead, there are panels on the back of the laptop that slide and fold slightly outward, creating an angled structure that’s like grips on a controller.

These FlexiRear Controllers have ultrasonic sensors that don’t use physical buttons to register presses and gestures. The idea is that instead of using the touchscreen on the front, you use those sensors on the back to control the game. The concept doesn’t exactly explain how those gestures would map to standard controller input, but it’s not difficult to imagine some specialized software making that conversion.

The biggest hurdle for this rather intriguing design is how such controls would feel alien to gamers. Not only would it require a considerable amount of learning effort, switching between this non-standard input method and a conventional controller could also prove to be confusing. Still, Rover Play is an interesting design that aims to bring the best of both worlds, but it’s still a little bit raw for any PC maker to implement in an actual product.