Product Review: RM Slate

Product Review: RM Slate

Product: RM Slate (Windows) (www.rmeducation.com/us)

By Carol S. Holzberg

Retail Price: $694; $749 (with RM Easiteach Next Generation teaching tools and RM Podium 2.0 podcasting software). Optional accessories include: Docking Station: (for charging, desktop use, and Ethernet port) $89.95; Case: $24.95; Stylus: $14.95; and Keyboard: $24.95. Warranty: 1 year included as standard; 2 years, $157.00; 3 years, $257.00

The RM Slate is a Microsoft Windows 7 touch-sensitive tablet equipped with Windows 7 Home Premium, and a full complement of components, including a 1.66 GHz Intel Atom processor, 2GB RAM, an 11.6-inch display, integrated Bluetooth 2.1 and 802.11b/g/n WiFi for connectivity, plus a front-facing 1.3 megapixel Webcam. Additionally, this tablet sports a 32GB solid state hard drive, 2 USB ports, one mini-HDMI connector, slots for optional SD and SIM cards, 2 stereo speakers, and an OMTP (audio in/out port) connector for a conventional headset. With full support for Windows, users can install and run PC applications such as Microsoft Office, LibreOffice 3.x (an Open Source Microsoft Office alternative), and Microsoft Touch Pack for Windows 7, a collection of games and applications for Windows 7 computers with multi-touch enabled displays (http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyID=b152fadd-82e4-4ddb-a46a-aebe49944428&displaylang=en). Unlike Apple’s iPad, the RM Slate does Flash, a capability that teachers and students will appreciate if they visit Web sites with Flash-based activities and movies. I did receive error messages when I tried to install and run the trial version of Kurzweil 3000 v12.

Quality and Effectiveness

The RM Slate measures 11.61” x 7.67” x .55” and weighs 2.19 pounds, making it slightly larger and somewhat heavier than both first and second generation iPads. With its glossy capacitive multi-touch screen capable of 1366 x 768 resolution and an accelerometer for screen orientation, the display is clear, bright and responsive to touch. Users can rotate the device 90 or 180 degrees in any direction (e.g., from landscape to portrait or vice versa), then wait a few seconds as the screen blanks and automatically redraws to accommodate its new orientation.

The touch-sensitive screen supports a variety of finger intuitive movements, including single and double-tapping, dragging, flicking, pinching, expanding and rotating. For example, you can rotate a selected image by touching two points on the image and moving your fingers in a twisting motion. Similarly, you can bring up the right-click menu either by pressing the screen with one finger and then tapping with a second finger close by or using a finger to press, hold, and release the screen.

A Windows Pen and Touch Control Panel has options to adjust Pen, Flick, Handwriting, Touch and Panning settings. To use handwriting options, you must first train the device to recognize your handwriting style. Purchasing the optional stylus for this task is probably a good idea because it is somewhat difficult to write with a finger.

Ease of Use

If you already know your way around Windows 7, you won’t have any problems transitioning to the RM Slate. A helpful Quick Start Guide can be downloaded from http://www.rm.com/_RMVirtual/Media/Downloads/RM_Slate_QSG.pdf. Housed in a magnesium alloy case with rubberized grip that keeps the unit from sliding around on a desktop or lap, this tablet has USB and HDMI connectors, making it fully compatible with a host of peripherals, including USB keyboards, mice, trackballs, data-loggers and sensors. In the beginning, I attached a USB mouse to help with point and click selections as I found the on-screen keyboard keys a bit small for my adult-size fingers. But after a few days of practice, I preferred to use the device by simply tapping the screen.

Users can grow the keyboard display size for larger key size. Alternatively, they have the option of displaying the keyboard without the Home, PgUp, End, PgDn, and Insert keys to save on screen real-estate. Keys light up as they are pressed to facilitate typing. Word prediction built into the device often shortens the typing task as the right word pops up for selection during typing.

The keyboard will swipe out of the way when not in use and display an icon for easy access in the System Tray if users prefer. I could easily connect to a WiFi network, install and print to an HP LaserJet 4240n printer, and set up the tablet for use with Skype voice and video calls. Skype automatically recognized the installed 1.3 Megapixel (fixed focus) front-facing Webcam.

Creative Use of Technology

Notable features on this Windows-based PC tablet include support for Bluetooth 2.1 with EDR (Enhanced Data Rate for transfers up to 3 Mbits/second and a 26-pin dock connector for the optional keyboard. A light sensor on the back of the device automatically adjusts screen brightness based on ambient light. An embedded Lithium-ion Polymer 2-cell (35.52Whr, 7.4V, 4800m Ah, 2S1P) battery powers the device for about 3-5 hours, depending on computing tasks. Battery charge time (when off) takes about 143 minutes; Battery charge time (when powered on) takes about 160 minutes. Charge times vary depending on usage and battery age. The device requires about 40 seconds to start up and reach the Windows desktop from a cold boot.

Suitability for Use in a School Environment

Schools and districts that have standardized on Windows will appreciate this Windows 7 computer. The base unit includes all software that typically comes with a Windows computer (including a recovery DVD that you can use to reinstall the OS should the need arise). None of the installed applications is especially designed for K-12.

RM does market an optional Educational Bundle consisting of two applications:

RM Easiteach Next Generation with math, English language and other subject-oriented tools, widgets and interactive content for classroom teaching and learning; and

RM Podium 2.0 a robust, user-friendly podcasting solution enabling users to script, create, edit, and publish both audio and video podcasts.

A third application, called RM Sonica ($297), supports English language learners with interactive activities and contextual content for reading, writing, and speaking. Teacher management options and built-in formative and summative assessments provide feedback on student performance.

OVERALL RATING:

The RM Slate is a slick, sleek Windows 7 learning pad with a built-in Webcam and rubberized anti-slip backside. These are very attractive features in a school that prefers Windows computing over Android and Apple’s iOS operating systems. However, the tablet doesn’t come cheap. Fully outfitted with the RM Educational Bundle, an extended warranty (essential in a school environment), and accessories like the stylus to facilitate its built-in handwriting recognition and drawing, the price jumps to over $1000. A conventional Windows 7 Webcam-enabled netbook (i.e., no touch screen) and a 3 year warranty (educational software extra), costs much less.

Top Features:

  • The multi-touch tablet can be used as a Windows PC alternative because it will run Microsoft Office, Adobe Flash, and other familiar Windows applications.
  • Users can have their own login, enabling teachers to tailor applications and desktop tools to individual users.
  • USB and mini HDMI connectors make it easy to connect to a host of peripherals, while SD and SIM card slots allow for expansion.

Carol S. Holzberg, PhD, cholzberg@gmail.com, (Shutesbury, Massachusetts) is an educational technology specialist and anthropologist who writes for several publications. She works as District Technology Coordinator for Greenfield Public Schools and the Greenfield Center School (Greenfield, Massachusetts) and teaches in both the Licensure program at Hampshire Educational Collaborative (Northampton, MA) and online in the School of Education at Capella University. Send comments or queries via email to cholzberg@gmail.com.

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