Intel Unveils Tablet Style Classmate PC

We knew amidst all of Intel’s Atom talk here at IDF that the company would unveil its newest netbook – the Classmate 3. Aimed at the education market, the new Classmate sports a convertible hinge that turns the laptop into a tablet.  While OLPC’s XO-2  dual touchscreen tablet might look a lot sleeker, the Classmate 3 is due out by the end of the year (Intel says it will ship to OEMs by 2009). That is 2 years ahead of OLPC’s XO-2 that is due out in 2010. Intel’s Lila Ibrahim revealed some details about the specs. It will sport a 1.6 GHz Intel Atom processor, 1GB of RAM and run Windows XP Home. Kids now get the latest Wi-Fi connection with 802.11b/g/n. It has a 4-cell battery. As for the touch screen, it will support pen and finger input. It will even have a soft on-screen keyboard. With built-in palm recognition, the kids can use their fingers or the included stylus to draw or select icons. The system also has an accelerometer that will recognize when the screen is being tilted. If the screen is rotated, it will automatically adjust the orientation. It will also have a quick launch software that allows for easy launching of programs with your finger. Intel didn’t reveal a price on the new netbook, but they are predicting it to be above $400. Stay tuned for our video hands-on with the Classmate 3. Updated With Hands-On Impressions After the press briefing I got to spend a good 20 minutes with the newest Classmate. The hardware on the new system is far from complete as Intel is still fine tuning the handle along with the touchpad; those parts didn’t match and are clearly just working ideas at the moment. Other than that keyboard looked the same as the one found on the second-generation Classmate. Which if you recall from our typing tests was actually faired well for adult sized hands. I spent most of my time toying around with the new Classmate’s resistive 8.9-inch touch screen. When I flipped the screen into tablet mode the screen orientation changed immeadielty, thank to its built-in accelerometer. (If only the Gigabyte M912 had the same capablity). Because of the palm rejection in the screen, selecting icons on the desktop required a firm press. Once I got the hang of it I had no problem pulling up programs and maneuvering within them. A stylus also pops out of the left hand side of the system. I was able to sketch a bit in Paint and the pen was very responsive to my light shading on the screen. I was most impressed with Intel’s attempt to make Windows XP more user intutive for students. Overlaying the Windows XP Home is a “Quick Launcher” software shell. The interface has large touch icons with shortcuts to the programs students most often use. inclduing Internet Explorer, a webcam capture software, Paint and others. In the case of the Classmate 3, maybe the kids shouldn’t have all the fun! It could be the best iteration of touch we have seen on a netbook thus far. Check out the hands-on video and let us know what you think.

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