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

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 Freescale serving up its version of the product just as CES gets unofficially underway. At first glance, you may confused this device with something akin to an Apple tablet, but when you consider that most every tablet looks generally the same (rectangular, thin, a large panel, few buttons and maybe a camera at the top), you'll probably realize that one is just 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 the smartbook tablet sector look like, and for good reason. Smartbooks won't rely on general CPUs from AMD and Intel; instead, they'll use ARM-based cores that can be purchased from none other than Freescale. Needless to say, Freescale has a dog in this fight, and it certainly stands to gain a lot if these smartbooks and smartbook tablets can catch on.

The reference design, as it's being called, features a 7" touch panel with 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 obviously utilize an ARM CPU and a custom Linux build that makes accessing generic 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 QWERTY keyboard, optional 3G, support for Flash and built-in applications for accessing Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, etc. $200 sure sounds cheap for something such as this, and it sounds really cheap compared to the $700+ price estimates we've heard surrounding Apple's so-called (and still not confirmed) iSlate. We love OS X, but we think we'll take Linux 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


Freescale and its partners offer a range of support, including turnkey designs. Inventec Appliance Corporation (IAC) provides expertise in design and manufacturing services for handhelds and netbooks. Freescale has also partnered with Thundersoft for software integration customization and optimization. For companies wishing to manage their projects internally, Freescale offers design aids including block diagrams, schematics, lists of materials and a Linux board support package.


The smartbook reference design is expected to be available for evaluation beginning February 2010 through local Freescale sales representatives. Reference design details are available at