Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Intel announces the Classmate Convertible Tablet PC

January 9th at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Intel announced the Intel Classmate Tablet PC. Intel had previously announced and manufacturers are making the clamshell version of this device, but this was the introduction of the convertible tablet version. The model I saw was manufactured by Nobi and is a convertible tablet PC running either Ubuntu Linux or Windows XP Home Edition. It features an 8.9” touch screen display. You can activate the screen with your finger or with the included stylus. The display has palm rejection technology. I tested the screen using the stylus and there wasn’t any vectoring evident. It can be used with included handwriting recognition software and Evernote notetaking software was loaded on the device as well.

From a “tech specs” point of view, the device is semi-rugged for drop tests, per Intel. It utilizes the Intel Atom Processor N270 1.6GHz and they claim 4 hours of battery life with the 4-cell battery. There is also a 6-cell battery option. The base unit comes with a 60Gb hard drive and large drives as well as SSDs are optional. There is a built in 1.3MP camera which can be rotated so it can face the user as a webcam or face away for recording a classroom session of taking a photo. It has USB, VGA, 10/100 Ethernet connections as well as 802.11 b/g/n wireless. There is an SD slot as well. The weight is just 2.6 to 3.1 pounds depending on configuration.

I found the device to be very solidly built with a very comfortable feel. It just feels like the unit is exactly the right size for kids in kindergarten through 8th grade, its target market. The keyboard is small and tight but looked comfortable for children whose fingers are smaller than mine. As the father of twin 10 year old girls, I was very impressed by the overall build, feel and design of the tablet. It has a comfortable handle and will fit in a child’s backpack. They showed the daughter of one of the Intel guys using the tablet version and talked about the software applications available. ArtRage and Evernote can be included with the system and it has been touch optimized. According to Intel, each OEM will choose which software applications to bundle with the tablet.

The price for these units is $499 for the base unit.

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