Intel Classmate PCs Gain New Atom Chips, Increased Ruggedness

Intel is introducing its latest line of clamshell and convertible Classmate PCs. Now running Intel Atom N2600 dual-core chips, they've also received a toughened-up redesign.

Intel has updated its line of Classmate PCs, its clamshell and tablet-convertible devices designed for young users with droppy little hands.

The newest versions run Intel's latest Atom N2600 dual-core processors and feature a new rounded-corner design with increased ruggedness-corners strengthened for shock and vibration absorption, a keyboard that can withstand curious fingers and small water spills, and new rubber covers on the hard-disk drive and LCD. There are also enhanced educational applications, which, for example, enable teachers to distribute and collect files or launch a quiz, and the battery life has been increased to 10 hours.

"To succeed in today's global economy, students need to develop 21st century skills like problem solving, critical thinking and collaboration," Kapil Wadhera, general manager of Intel's Education Market Platforms Group, said in a statement. "Technology solutions that are purpose-built for education play a key role in supporting the development of these skills."

Multi-touch and "palm rejection technology" are also included, and a textured touch screen, special stylus and handwriting recognition software create what Intel says is an experience like writing on paper. That suggests, one presumes, that it has a very natural feel-not that writing on paper isn't a 21st century skill.

The convertible, which swings around from a laptop to a touch-friendly tablet, has a 10-inch display, a rugged DC jack, rubber feet, a retractable handle, dual audio jacks and a 180-degree rotational camera. The clamshell features all the same, though its camera is described as "enhanced," with noise-optimization features.

Also included are McAfee antivirus software, for keeping "students' digital lives more secure," management features that let teachers dictate what students can access in the classroom and at home, and a touch-based application called LabCam that consists of six "scientific inquiry tools" that leverage the notebook's camera in various science-lesson-inclined ways, according to Intel.

Since launching the Classmate PCs in 2007, Intel officials say the giant chip maker has shipped more than 6 million units that are being used in 70 countries. OEMs for the new devices, according to Intel, include ASI, Babilon Technologies, Compumax, Computek, CTL, Equus, JP SaCouto, Koodoo, Lanix, Lenovo, M&A, Mustek, NTT System, Pradigit Computers, Positivo, RM, Sigong, Stone and Viper.

PC market leaders Hewlett-Packard, Lenovo and Dell all additionally compete in the K-12 education space, with HP offering clamshell-style Mini 100e notebooks-seen in a slide show here-and Dell selling a Latitude line of netbooks with rubber ball-like exteriors and antimicrobial keyboards.

Last spring, Lenovo took up Intel on the Classmate offer, launching the Classmate+-which features an Intel Atom N455 CPU, WiFi, Windows 7, 1GB of RAM and a 1.3-megapixel camera-initially in Buenos Aires.

The PCs are part of the Intel Learning Series, which looks to create one-on-one learning, offering tools to help teachers enhance lessons, enable educators to move from individual to small group and whole-class instruction, while offering safe, child-friendly, low-cost connected learning environments.

Pricing varies according to Intel OEM partners.