Taiwan firm E-lead is trying to solve what it sees as two drawbacks of the mini-laptops such as Asus' Eee PC on show at Computex this week.

"These machines are fine but they have two problems: the keyboards are small, especially if you have big fingers, and the screen-size can make it hard to read what's on the page," said Tom Huang, a sales manager at E-Lead.

E-lead has a developed its own mini-laptop, the Noahpad EL-460, which has a 7in screen and uses a high-tech way and a low-tech way to address those problems.

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The low-tech part is to show the display of a 10in screen on the Noahpad's 7in screen, so the words and images appear larger but the user has to scroll left and right and up and down to view all parts of the screen.

What makes that less hassle than it sounds is the unusual soft keyboard, which doubles as a touch-sensitive trackpad. It's split in half, so the user can drag a finger left and right or up and down over the left half of the keyboard to move around the page on the screen. The right half moves the cursor, like a trackpad on other laptops.

To make the device more usable for people with chunky fingers, E-Lead has done away with the keys that aren't used very often, like the function keys, and made the keys in the remaining Qwerty keyboard the same size as those on a standard laptop. The user slides a finger over different parts of the keyboard to perform the tasks normally done by the keys that are missing.

Pulling a finger back over the top right corner of the keyboard is like pressing the backspace button, for example. Pulling two fingers apart over the keyboard zooms out on the screen, pushing them together zooms in.

The shrunken keyboard on the Asus Eee PC, which has set the standard for mini-laptops, hasn't stopped the product from selling well, and the keyboard on the E-lead device takes some getting used to. But it might find a niche for people who want a very small laptop with full-sized keys.

The Noahpad is offered with Windows XP or Linux, a 1GHz C7 processor from Via Technology, and a hard drive up to 120GB. It uses 802.11b/g Wi-Fi and Bluetooth for connectivity and has two USB ports, an SD card reader and a VGA port. It weighs 0.8kg.

It will go on sale in Taiwan this month and Japan next month, with parts of Europe to follow, according to E-Lead spokespeople here. It will be priced at the equivalent of $550 (£275), Huang said.

For first looks at all the latest products that debut at Computex 2008, visit PC Advisor's dedicated Computex 2008 video blog