Our collection of small, inexpensive, education-orientated notebooks is at last complete, following the arrival today of a brace of Intel Classmate systems. The Classmate will go up against the OLPC XO and ASUS's Eee in our low-power computing project.
First impressions of the sturdy, blue-clad Classmate are of a more traditional notebook than the XO: their screens are of similar size at 7in. and 7.5in. respectively, and both use solid state storage, but the Classmate runs Windows XP rather than Linux and has a standard, if small, keyboard. The Classmate also has an RJ-45 Ethernet port as well as Wi-Fi, whereas the XO relies solely on Wi-Fi and mesh networking for connectivity.
Battery life will be an interesting comparison. Our tests with the XO so far show it delivering between 3.5 and 4 hours with the backlight on full and between 4.5 and 5 hours in 'ebook' mode (with the backlight off).
This weekend I let a pair of real children (mine), aged 12 and 14, loose with a brace of XOs. They were utterly unfazed by the Linux OS and its idiosyncratic user interface (for their sins, they're used to Windows), quickly getting to grips with the idea of shared activities over the mesh network. They were concerned whether 'teacher' would be able to eavesdrop on inter-pupil chat sessions (will have to check that), and even liked the much-maligned (by fat-fingered adults) keyboard.
Stay tuned for more testing bulletins, and our final report.