updated 02:10 am EST, Fri January 7, 2011
We look at Kno's educational tablets
Tablet newcomer Kno was showing its 14-inch tablets at the ShowStoppers event on Thursday night and gave a rare chance to see them first-hand. Electronista had the opportunity to get a hands-on with the educational tablets. Read on after the break to see our impressions and how well it fared against the iPad.
The displays -- one or two depending on the model -- are suitably pleasing to look at, with good color and viewing angles as well as the fully accurate textbook layouts at the heart of the design. They're also very responsive, including to pens; a capacitive stylus on the Kno showed virtually no lag and was very accurate. It's known to be multi-touch, but it will notably ignore your palm if you're handwriting. NVIDIA's Tegra 2 powers the tablet and can clearly handle the job.
Its interface is fairly intuitive and slightly reminiscent of the iPad with a large number pop-overs and gestures for things such as highlights and post-it notes. It was still clearly optimized for its book reading and note taking focuses. We most liked the emphasis on reading flexibility with the two screen model, which just isn't an option on tablets like the iPad: you can lock in a particular page, such as a review page or your notebook, while continuing to flip pages on the other screen.
We're not convinced regarding the keyboard, however. It's large, but it has an unusual formatting. We're not certain how it would play out in real life without extended testing.
We only had a limited opportunity to check out web browsing and other tasks, but it has an accurate web engine and an icon-based bookmark system.
Our main concerns are more to do with the inherent complications of the design rather than any execution. As an education-first device, the Kno only has a small amount of concessions to other things a student might want to do. There's really only the web browser and basic media playback -- Flash support is coming in about a month, Kno said -- and this might be a problem. At $599 and $899 for the one- and two-screen models, it's difficult to buy this as well as to get another computer, even if the Kno pays for itself in textbook savings.
And the weight is an inevitable fact of life for either model. A 14-inch screen is tolerable by itself, but the dual-screen Kno just can't be handheld for long periods. Kno acknowledged it was heavy and frankly said people would more likely use it on a desk, but the reality is still that it won't encourage reading on the lap or in other positions beyond being upright in a chair.
Having said this, the Kno could still be a definite threat to the iPad if pushed hard in education. It shows a rare amount of attention to design for a first-generation product and, importantly, focuses on serving its core audience well. Apple has the advantages of flexibility and a much more portable design, not to mention its marketing, but it may need to push harder into schools to keep up its interest.