In a slow and calculated rollout, newcomer Kno started to ship its eponymous tablet right before CES 2011, but the company has been using the exhibition as an opportunity to showcase its technology, and its direction.
"We want to make sure if there are any symptoms that we can address them," explains Osman Rashid, cofounder and CEO of Kno.
The tablet has a dominating 14.1-inch IPS display with 1440-by-900-pixel resolution. It's easily the largest slate-style device we've seen at the show.
The designers settled on that size in order to optimise the tablet around textbook reading. Still, since the screen is just 120 dpi, I could see the dots, and text seemed not as sharp as it could be. The company says that it has had no complaints from users in its pilot programs.
The catch is that the up-front cost to students is high: The single-screen 16GB version sells for $599, while the dual-screen version sells for $899; buyers must add another $100 to each to double the built-in memory to 32GB.
If you do purchase the Kno, definitely bump up the memory: The device has no card slot to add to the storage. The company says the 16GB device can hold up to ten semesters' worth of coursework for students.
As for the lack of a card slot, the company shrugs that off. "It's not meant to be a media player, so we're not worrying about storing music, video, and multimedia, though you can use the browser to stream Pandora," says Rashid.
The unit is otherwise spartan. It has angular ridges around the perimeter, and a single button for powering on and off. Unlike the flood of tablets presented at the show, the Kno has a touch interface designed from the ground up that's running on top of Linux Ubuntu. And all of its apps are based on the Webkit browser.
The multitouch screen lacks pinch and zoom, but it will be getting that feature, according to Rashid. One of the hooks is that you can split a book in two, interacting with it on one side and keeping track of your related notes on the other side.
To enable both stylus and finger use, the company employs N-trig's screen technology (the same as on the HP Slate). The reading apps, the touch navigation, and the ability to write notes directly on the screen are what make the Kno stand out from the rest of the pack.
The company provides its own store for textbook purchases and rentals, and it has partnerships with higher-education publishers such as Cengage, McGraw-Hill, and Pearson.
Assorted other specs: The Kno uses the Nvidia Tegra 2 processor, has 512MB of RAM, and weighs 2.5 pounds for the single-screen version, and 5.5 pounds for the dual-screen version.
Kno isn't the only tablet targeted at students, however. Entourage's Edge has the same focus, but it comes in the form of two smaller dual-screen devices, each with one E Ink side and the other side an LCD running Android.
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