Live From IDF: Hands On with the Intel Classmate PC
The Intel Classmate Tablet PC and regular laptop style Classmate PC
So taking a regular laptop or netbook to school is great (I love using my HP Mini netbook everyday — so much easier to take around school), but sometimes you want something a little more durable, or maybe something that gives you the ability to use a touchscreen and “write notes” (or doodle). Intel, not usually known for designing whole computers themselves, actually has designed a small tablet like PC that lets you do just that– full keyboard to take notes, or twist the screen and just write on the touchscreen, and even a bigger more traditional netbook style Classmate if you want all the ruggedness without the touchscreen.
Here at IDF we got to spend a couple of minutes with the Classmate, and overall, were very impressed and found the Classmate to be a very cool idea. Pix and full details after the break.
The more “normal” netbook looking Classmate PC
Ok, so actually right now there are 2 Classmate PC’s — one tablet (8.9 inch screen), and one “normal” style laptop (10 inch screen). Both are designed for students (mainly those in the K-8th grade area– but hey, I wouldn’t mind a cheap, solid touchscreen PC), and since they’re designed for younger ages, they are rugged (meaning don’t worry about this dropping from your desk or hand to the floor and cracking in half), have waterproof keyboards (remember how many times you or a friend spilled something in 2nd grade), and even has a handle for carrying it around — something you don’t see everyday.
Spec’s wise this is pretty much like your normal netbook — 1 GB RAM (upgradeable to 2GB), Windows XP, 1.6 GHZ Intel Atom processor, and either a 30 GB hard drive (for the traditional laptop design) or a 60 GB hard drive (tablet design). You also get some specially designed software– such as theft deterrent software (more on this coming soon from IDF, but basically it allows you to disable your PC so the thief can’t get to your data) and depending on where you buy, a lot of dedicated education apps like a textbook reader (seen below– no more carrying around 50lb books!), a webcam, and, on the tablet — you even get an accelerometer (like in the iPhone, iPod Nano and iPod touch which means that when you flip the iPod on its side, the screen rotates) and a resistive touchscreen (meaning you need to use the included pen like stylus to really make good use of the touchscreen. You can still use your fingers to draw or write — it just doesn’t work as well as the stylus as it isn’t designed like the more finger friendly capacitive touchscreens found on the iPhone and iPod touch).
Reading a textbook on the Classmate Tablet PC
We really liked using the Classmate in the brief moments that we had them, and even though we found them to be a little bit heavy, the keyboard on the tablet a little small (though it is designed for hands much smaller than mine), and not as stylish as say a MacBook, they definitely seemed to be something we wouldn’t mind using in school everyday.
Here’s the bad part though — Intel doesn’t actually sell them to individual customers. Instead they’re designed more for schools to buy and distribute. You can buy them online though if you can find them (try checking out the link here for the tablet. ), and when you do want to buy, say, only 1 for you instead of, say 20 for a whole class — it is pretty expensive at $499.99 to start. There is said to be a new 10 inch tablet Classmate coming sometime early next year, so maybe things will change a little bit by then.
Oh, and if you really are into this design like I am, and are looking for a new netbook, try looking for the ASUS Eee T91 which we wrote about back in January — it’s also $499, but offers a bigger hard drive than the Classmate PC tablet (the standard netbook hard drive: 160 GB), has the ability to add in Bluetooth and TV (pretty sweet), and is designed for an individual to purchase.
You can learn more about the Intel Classmate PC at Intel’s site here.