Those disappointed by the current crop of underpowered Android tablets and iPad clones might find something to like with Merel Technologies’ mTouch. For starters, it’s powered by an Intel Core 2 Duo 2.8GHz processor, sports a SATA 320GB hard drive, and has 4GB of DDR2 RAM. In addition, it supports up to 20 touch points on its LED-lit LCD screen and is tough enough to double as a drink coaster.

Oh, it comes in two sizes, 32 inches and 42 inches, and is actually a table tablet very much like the Microsoft Surface product.

That Merel Technologies, a tiny New York-based startup, is competing with the likes of Microsoft is not newsworthy. What is newsworthy about the mTouch is that it seems a viable alternative to Microsoft’s tabletop offering, on the surface at least (no pun intended).

Microsoft Surface utilizes a distinctive camera and infrared-spectrum image recognition system that does not rely on touch pressure to register movement. It provides Surface the ability to interact uniquely with specific objects. Merel’s mTouch is a touchscreen very similar to what you would find in a tablet, only scaled up and reinforced. It’s limited in terms of functionality.

But with Microsoft’s impressive tech comes a steep price. Microsoft Surface units start at $12,500, while the 42-inch mTouch runs only $4,200 and is manufactured completely in New York. In addition, Microsoft Surface runs via a lamp-powered DLP projector with a mean-life of approximately 6,000 hours. The mTouch uses LED strips that can last upwards of 50,000 hours and consume less power. Finally, the mTouch is more or less an open device. It runs a custom OS, complete with dedicated app store and SDK. However, if users want to load Android or Windows 7, they are free to do so.

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