The Classmate PC is the latest version of the netbook designed specifically for K-12 use. The new model combines a compact netbook with a user-friendly tablet, making this product ideal for school 1:1 programs. The most dramatic upgrade is the convertible aspect: Rotate the display 180 degrees and fold. The netbook is now a fully-functional tablet with touch screen capabilities. The screen also automatically adjust from portrait to landscape modes.
Pros: The new hardware design features and software offerings show considerable thought and consideration for the student user experience. Most impressive were the swivel screen, which turns the PC into a tablet. The Blue Dolphin interface brings the learning tools right to the student without having to wrestle with Windows. The Webcam works in both tablet and clamshell mode. The handle and rugged casing should give teachers comfort in handing this machine over to children.
Cons: The student reviewer had a hard time figuring out how turn the device on at first (lower left-hand side switch). The touchscreen is more difficult to use for those who are used to a “feather touch” screen. Intel developers explained that the “palm-resistant” technology makes it possible for students to write in applications using the tablet mode. Depending on the application, this can be either a hassle or a feature. The problems were mostly solved when using the included stylus or fingernail. Note to developers: get a tether on that stylus!
Overall Impression: An impressive upgrade to an already strong product. Switching the device from clamshell to tablet and back again is more than a novelty. The design gives the Classmate much greater versatility as a learning tool.
Price: between $200-$500 (price set by OEMs depending on configuration, etc.)