Nvidia’s Tegra 2 announcement was full of tablets, tablets, tablets, but those aren’t the only devices with the technology. Smartbooks will also benefit from the low-power consumption and high performance Tegra boasts. The Mobinnova Beam is one such smartbook and we had some time to play around with it yesterday.
This 8.9-inch device looks like a netbook but has specs reminiscent of systems that came out over a year ago: SSD drive, 512MB of RAM, 3-cell battery. However, that’s not a detriment, as Tegra makes it possible to get great overall and multimedia performance and long battery life from this hardware. When we took a spin around the Beam’s custom UI (built over Windows CE in the unit we saw, but that will sit on Android at launch) we found it very fast and slick. 720p video played smoothly and looked beautiful both on the 1024 x 600 res screen and an HD television.
Mobinnova is positioning the Beam as an internet and multimedia consumption device, not a traditional notebook or even netbook. The focus is not productivity but entertainment, so consumers would use it more like a smartphone with benefits for getting on the web, updating social networks, watching video, listening to music, and other similar tasks. Though users will have the benefit of a full keyboard, it’s more to facilitate composing emails or blog posts than doing heavy document editing. Just taking a look at the home page, the icons along the bottom tell you the whole story — Internet, Music, Video, Photos — with a big search box prominently placed in the center of the screen.
Mobinnova partnered with AT&T to provide 3G service to the Beam as well as access to AT&T wi-fi hotspots all over the country. Owners will have access to both locally stored media and cloud content from social networks to media files. The company also has a partnership with Roxio CinemaNow to provide streaming and downloaded digital movies and television shows. As the maximum amount of storage the Beam can handle is 64GB, users will have a Video Locker on the service, which gives them access to all purchased media which will be stored in the cloud.
Since it’s a smartbook, users aren’t expected to boot the device very much. It should sleep and wake instantly like a smartphone yet still last 7 – 10 hours, even with the small battery thanks to Tegra 2. The smaller battery means a very light device (under 2 pounds) and a thin one as well (less than an inch thick).
Design-wise the Beam has some distinctive touches. The battery cylinder pulls down to reveal a line of ports along the back –power, headphone, mic, two USB, HDMI, and an extension port for VGA and Ethernet. (An SD card slot is included on the left side and a SIM card slot on the right.) When the battery is in the down position it gives the unit a slight lift and also boosts the sound coming from the speakers beneath a bit. The power button is located in the hinge, a design touch we’re fond of.
The keyboard is reminiscent of the one found on the 8.9-inch Eee PC. The F keys along the top are no longer labeled F1, F2, etc as they would be on a notebook or netbook running windows and instead provide shortcuts to the web and multimedia functions of the device. You also won’t find a Windows key here, but instead Home, Back and Menu buttons on the bottom row for easy navigation of the interface. We like this touch because it makes the Beam feel like a device made for its intended purpose and not just a stock re-branding of a netbook.
Pricing isn’t available yet, though we expect to find out soon since the Beam should be available by this summer. Whet your appetite with the video hands-on and gallery below. You may not have to worry about saving your pennies just yet, as pricing is expected to be very aggressive for this device. Dare we dream that it will be $200 or less?