Fourier Systems Nova5000

Company: Fourier Systems;
System Specifications: 400 MHz processor; 64 MB RAM; 7-inch color touch screen; weighs 2 lb.; Windows CE 5.0 operating system; Internet and e-mail features; word processing, graphing, and spreadsheet applications
Price/Grade: About $600/K-12 and up
Pros: High-quality screen; instant on capability; works with dozens of science probes; data logging and analysis functions built in; Internet, e-mail, student productivity software included
Cons: USB Wi-Fi dongle requires external cable; battery life shorter than expected

Students can connect dozens of science probes to the Nova5000, which also features spreadsheet and online capabilities.

There's a new player in the burgeoning one-to-one market: the sturdy and versatile Nova5000, which seamlessly incorporates science, math, and other educational features into one tablet device. Built on Windows CE 5.0 handheld technology, it can be operated easily with a stylus using an onscreen keyboard or handwriting recognition software. It's easy to hold, has built-in connections for science probes (more on that later), and can also be connected to a regular keyboard and mouse for word processing or spreadsheet creation.

The Nova5000 comes in three models: the entry-level BX, the midrange SX, and the top-of-the-line EX. I tested the EX model, which comes standard with a built-in Ethernet connection and a USB Wi-Fi dongle that allowed me to wirelessly connect to my network.

At first glance, the Nova5000's 64 MB RAM and 400 MHz processor might not seem that powerful, but because its applications have smaller footprints than regular Windows software, it does more with less. (Applications include Internet Explorer 6 with Flash 6, Windows Media Player, an e-mail client, file viewers for Microsoft Word and PowerPoint, and spreadsheet capabilities.) I was able to run multiple applications, all while listening to an Internet radio station and typing up a document on the word processor without performance problems.

The Nova5000's 7-inch, touch-sensitive color screen is especially bright and clear, and students can use the compact flash card slot on the back to transfer files. The unit's four-hour battery will last longer with the intermittent use typical in a classroom, but its power goes more quickly when powering the wireless dongle. The Nova5000 comes with graphing calculator software that includes 18 categories of math functions and graphs that can be exported into written documents.

One of the main strengths of the Nova5000 is its integration of data collection probes. More than 50 Fourier probes can be connected to the Nova5000 to create a complete lab station for collecting and analyzing experimental data. The four built-in sensor ports can simultaneously collect data from as many as eight probes, and the Multilab software allows students to collect, graph, and analyze classroom data quickly and easily. The EX includes a tempera-ture probe and a light sensor; in my science lab, the software automatically identified the type of probe connected, allowing me to quickly begin collecting temperature readings for a cooling curve experiment as well as light-intensity values for a clear versus cloudy days experiment. Fourier Systems sells an adapter that allows as many as two dozen different Vernier science probes to be connected to the Nova5000.

A Fourier Systems USB dongle lets users connect to their networks wirelessly.

An exciting handheld device that is packed full of features and software, the Nova5000 combines many features that often have to be purchased separately in standard computing situations. From science and math to writing, it provides teachers and students with a broad combination of tools for increasing productivity-and learning.

Mike Brown is an educator and director of the Coastal Studies and Technology Center at Seaside High School in Seaside, Oregon.