Freescale Designs $200 Smartbook Tablet: What Now, Apple?

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News Posted: Mon, Jan 4 2010 1:57 AM
We won't be the ones to say we told you so, but hey, we kind of told you so! The Smartbook revolution looks to be upon us, with Freescaleserving up its version of the product just as CES gets unofficiallyunderway. At first glance, you may confused this device with somethingakin to an Apple tablet, but when you consider that most every tabletlooks generally the same (rectangular, thin, a large panel, few buttonsand maybe a camera at the top), you'll probably realize that one isjust about as good as the other.

This device won't actually be wholly produced by Freescale. Instead,this is more of a rendition/mockup of what Freescale hopes to see thesmartbook tablet sector look like, and for good reason. Smartbookswon't rely on general CPUs from AMD and Intel; instead, they'll useARM-based cores that can be purchased from none other than Freescale.Needless to say, Freescale has a dog in this fight, and it certainlystands to gain a lot if these smartbooks and smartbook tablets cancatch on.

The reference design, as it's being called, features a 7" touch panelwith up to 4x the resolution of a typical smartphone. As for size,it'll be about 1/3 the volume of a typical netbook. It'll obviouslyutilize an ARM CPU and a custom Linux build that makes accessinggeneric applications (an Internet browser, Office suite, etc.) easy.Reportedly, the design would provide "all day battery life," and the$200 price tag makes it all the more interesting.

Other specs would include Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, a touch-screen QWERTYkeyboard, optional 3G, support for Flash and built-in applications foraccessing Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, etc. $200 sure sounds cheap forsomething such as this, and it sounds really cheap compared to the$700+ price estimates we've heard surrounding Apple's so-called (andstill not confirmed) iSlate. We love OS X, but we think we'll takeLinux and an extra $500 if given the option.



Smartbook reference design features

  • Size: small/thin form factor (200mm x 128mm x 14.9cm and weighing 376 grams); no need for fan or heat sink
  • Processor: Freescale i.MX515 applications processor provides high performance and low power
    • ARM Cortex-A8 core
    • OpenVG & OpenGL/ES graphics cores
    • HD video decoder hardware
  • Power management IC:
    • Battery charging system for both USB and wall charging
    • Output buck converters for the processor core and memory
    • Boost converters for LCD backlighting
    • Serial backlight drivers for displays and keypad, plus RGB LED drivers
  • Display: 7-inch (1024 x 600) touch screen
  • Memory: 512 MB DDR2
  • Storage: 4-64 GB internal storage; removable micro SD
  • Connectivity: 3G modem (option) 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth 2.1, GPS, RF4CE (option
  • Ports: USB 2.0 and USB mini (also for charging), audio in/audio out, SIM card
  • Audio: speaker, microphone
  • Camera: 3 Mpixel (video recording up to VGA @ 30fps)
  • Battery: 1900mAh, USB charging
  • Sensors: MMA8450Q 3-axis accelerometer and an ambient light sensor

Partners

Freescale and its partners offer a range of support, includingturnkey designs. Inventec Appliance Corporation (IAC) providesexpertise in design and manufacturing services for handhelds andnetbooks. Freescale has also partnered with Thundersoft for softwareintegration customization and optimization. For companies wishing tomanage their projects internally, Freescale offers design aidsincluding block diagrams, schematics, lists of materials and a Linuxboard support package.

Availability

The smartbook reference design is expected to be available forevaluation beginning February 2010 through local Freescale salesrepresentatives. Reference design details are available atwww.freescale.com/smartbook.


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As long as it's just a painted wooden frame with a picture of a desktop glued onto it, why not announce it at $29.95? I'll wait for a company which is known to deliver on their products and just ignore these out-of-left-field too-good-to-be-true products. Does anyone remember the CrunchPad, the last iSlate killer?

Not that it matters much. If and when Apple comes out with a tablet computer (and remember, they haven't announced anything yet-- whatever we know about it is speculation, though that trademarking of "iSlate" is interesting), it'll be expensive but worth the money. Remember your first $150 PC? Remember how it sucked? Yeah, me too. Captain Clunker even takes too long to redraw windows, for crying out loud, which was a new one on me when I started using Windows; you simply don't get that under Mac OS. If there is a $200 tablet out there, I'm guessing that the pleasantness of user interaction will be down in the basement.


"I didn't cry when Bambi's mother was shot... but I cried when HAL was turned off."

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ClemSnide:
As long as it's just a painted wooden frame with a picture of a desktop glued onto it, why not announce it at $29.95? I'll wait for a company which is known to deliver on their products and just ignore these out-of-left-field too-good-to-be-true products. Does anyone remember the CrunchPad, the last iSlate killer?

I don't think it is all that to good to be true. It cuts out all the costly Intel chips of a netbook. I could see it selling for $200.

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3vi1 replied on Thu, Jan 7 2010 11:30 AM

You're missing the best feature: Hold it upside down and shake to clear the screen.

What part of "Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn" don't you understand?

++++++++++++[>++++>+++++++++>+++>+<<<<-]>+++.>++++++++++.-------------.+++.>---.>--.

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ClemSnide replied on Sun, Jan 17 2010 6:41 PM

I'll believe it when I can ut my hand into the wound on its side. My guess is still that if they're cheaping out that much, the OS will be sluggish and unpleasant to use.


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How powerful is the "ARM Cortex-A8 core" and what exactly is the "HD video decoder hardware?"

Would the Ion have worked better in the tablet instead?

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Agreed. Better to save your cash and wait for some reviews. Apple's tablet might come at a premium (maybe not $700), but I'd expect to be very functional and of good quality (okay, maybe the 3rd generation will be).

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