Notebookcheck
17.02.2010 05:01

Notion Ink's Adam tablet PC demonstrated by creator Rohan Shravan

Category: new notebook models
By: Morgan Jones

The Adam has been compared to the iPad, but recent demonstrations show that it offers so much more than Apple's gadget

Adam: an open-source tablet PC

Adam: an open-source tablet PC

It supports multitasking

It supports multitasking

Full 1080p HD content thanks to Tegra 2

Full 1080p HD content thanks to Tegra 2

The Adam tablet PC first emerged at this year's CES, and many began to compare Notion Ink's prototype with Apple's iPad. Since then Notion Ink's founder Rohan Shravan has conducted a video demonstration of the Adam with Slashgear.com and Technoholik.com. The Adam is apparently making an appearance at the Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona, which started on Monday. Commentators are apparently divided about the merits of comparing the Adam with the iPad.

I feel any comparison with a largely publicized product is beneficial, because quite frankly, I can't think of a better time to discuss the impending launch of a new tablet PC than right now. Notion Ink's progeny is superior to the iPad in several ways and it's entrenched in the open-source ethos, which further augments its intrinsic flexibility and appeal. One of the first things the Adam has done correctly, is provide plenty of features to increase its viability in the portable PC market: it comes with support for WLAN 802.11 b/g, Bluetooth 2.1 + A2DP, WWAN 3G HSDPA, GSM (TBD) and A-GPS. It's also a small and light machine, measuring 158mm x 239mm x 13mm (HWD) and weighing only 1.7lb.

160 hours of battery life?

The Adam's display is a significant factor in many of the tablet's unique features. The Pixel Qi transflective display is capable of increasing its readability, depending upon how much ambient light the Adam detects. The Adam is able to provide a full colour backlit image and then change immediately to a monochrome highly contrasted image in direct sunlight. The screen was entirely readable when exposed to direct sunlight in one of the videos, this is due to the electrophoretic reflective low power mode, which is used to increase visual quality in bright light. In this mode its backlight is extinguished, and consequently it only uses 0.2W, which equates to almost 160 hours of operation on battery power. Users can also select this mode manually.

Highly responsive multi-touch screen

The Adam was able to render images almost instantaneously during the demonstration, and it responded very quickly to finger gestures. A basic Android UI was used to reveal some of the machine's interesting features, including the creation of macros activated by certain gestures, for example, in the demonstration writing a 'W' on the Adam's display loaded the browser instantly. Notion Ink is developing an Android-based customized UI for the Adam, which will vastly improve the performance already demonstrated in the videos. Once this software is finalized, the Adam is likely to be ready to ship this June or July, and its price range is currently set at $327 to $800.

The recognition of handwriting and speed of rendering were both excellent, which is a promising sign from a product still in development. It managed to play streaming video reasonably well too. Rohan also revealed the rearward side trackpad in one video, which can be used with the left hand for additional cursor and clicking control. Whilst right hand users could use this feature too, it would involve rotating the Adam, which would render a lot of content upside down, of course. This issue wasn't addressed in the video, so we'll have to wait and see if right handed users are catered for in the final version; although I imagine the addition of two trackpads, or an elongated one could also cause UI problems.

Full HD support, thanks to Tegra 2

The hardware behind the Adam's hitherto impressive performance is NVIDIA's next generation Tegra mobile web processor, dubbed 'Tegra 2', which is meant to deliver an 'uncompromised web experience'. The new technology from NVIDIA includes its ultra low power GPU, which provides full Flash 10.1 acceleration (unlike the iPad) and support for HD Web streaming formats, with up to 1080p video encoding and decoding. Adam's low power consumption is in part due to the low power design of Tegra 2, which promises over '140 hours audio and over 16 hours of HD video playback'.

The tablet PC is equipped with a 1GHz Dual-core ARM Cortex-A9 MPCore processor, as part of the TEGRA 2 chipset, and support for DDR2 RAM. The quantity of system memory isn't specified on the company's website, but from the demonstrations, it seemed there was sufficient memory to manage several applications at once. This highlights one important distinction between the Adam and the iPad: multitasking. The Adam is an open-source friendly, multitasking tablet PC, which brings 1080p, HDMI, Flash support and the flexibility of browsers such as Firefox and Chrome to consumers. It will also be designed for use with the popular open-source OS Ubuntu, and Chromium.

Adam's origin and destiny

Rohan revealed some early sketches of the Adam during one of the videos, which demonstrated ideas for using the integrated 3 axis accelerometer: they varied from changing pages or the display angle, to turning the Adam like a steering wheel during gaming. The Adam's conception occurred several years ago, and in a matter of weeks, since its initial unveiling, it has generated a huge amount of interest. Slashgear.com revealed that Notion Ink is working with online magazines and newspapers to produce versions of their content for use with the Adam, although potential partner names are a secret for the time being.

Its every move from now until release will be scrutinised, and at such a low price, its competitors will also be keen to find out if Notion Ink can make the most of the media coverage its innovative tablet PC is receiving. I for one, wish it well, as it's the first tablet PC I've ever considered buying.

Specifications

Processor

1GHz Dual-core ARM Cortex-A9 MPCore

Chipset

NVIDIA TEGRA 2

Memory

DDR2

Graphics adapter

ULP NVIDIA GPU

Display

Pixel Qi 10.1” TFT, LCD (transmissive, transflective and reflective), WSVGA (1024 x 600), capacitive touch panel with multi-touch, matte finish/anti glare coating, scratch and finger print resistant, ambient light sensor

Hard disk

16GB/32GB eMMC/SD

Audio

2 speakers; microphone; audio-in; audio-out

Connections

3 x USB 2.0; HDMI; SIM Card slot; MicroSD slot; DC-in; docking port; audio-in; audio-out

Networking

WLAN 802.11 b/g; Bluetooth 2.1 + A2DP; WWAN 3G HSDPA, GSM (TBD); A-GPS

Optical drive

None

Battery

3 cell, up to 16 hours battery life (160 hours without backlight)

Webcam

3.2MP autofocus, swivels up to 180 degrees

Dimensions

158mm x 239mm x 13mm (HWD)

Weight

1.7lb

Color

Black and gray

Additional features

On screen keyboard; trackpad (rearward side); 3 axis accelerometer

Operating System

Android 2.0; Ubuntu; Chromium

Warranty

Not specified

Price

$327 to $800

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Author: Notebookcheck, 2005-09-20 (Update: 2011-05- 3)