RM has something of an image problem. A company that built its success on taming technology for school environments, it is seen by some as overly conservative, with pinned-down networks and bulky PCs and laptops.
While there's an element of truth here, it doesn't take into account the stability the company has brought to schools and colleges, or the innovation in its development of software for the curriculum, for example. But you still wouldn't have thought of RM as a place to buy a laptop - not when you could go to the likes of Toshiba, Apple or Dell.
However, that perception is changing as RM wakes up to increased competition in the schools market and refocuses its activities after a calamitous run-in with the City which resulted in nearly 100 redundancies. Its Professional offering for teachers, the GT9000 at pound;1,095 (ex VAT), places RM alongside its rivals with a product (from Samsung) that competes well on both performance and price.
The GT9000 weighs in at 2.7kg, not bad for a PC with a 14-inch screen. It achieves this by letting you swap the CD-Rom drive (in the review model a DVD) for a floppy when you need to access floppy disks or vice versa. You can do this with the machine on - "hot swappable" in the lingo.
Powered by a Pentium III processor (933MHz) with 256Mb of memory, this machine handled everything expected of it with ease: graphics-intensive tasks were no problem; Windows XP made a doddle of digital pictures and their storage and display; internet connection was simple with its internal 56k modem.
The surprise came with handling digital video. With its "mini", high-capacity video connection (FireWire), it was extremely efficient, stirring envy in my movie-maker collaborator who owns a high-spec (and pricey) Toshiba.
While connectivity has moved on, this machine still supplies serial connection for teachers who need it for data-logging for example. You can buy a special docking station from RM (a discounted pound;179.10 for online purchase) for connection to peripherals but why bother when you can simply plug it straight into your workplace network (support for which is available from RM).
As with most laptops the GT9000 can be ordered in a variety of configurations.(See the Laptops for Teachers web pages for details of the version available under this initiative.) The review machine came without software, apart from Windows Professional XP, which prompted an enlightening encounter with the free StarOffice 5.2, just before Sun started charging at the end of May (albeit a paltry $39.95 or $9.95 for "lite" version"). Then it was back to Microsoft for its value-for-money Works 2002 (review p34).
RM's DVD drive provided a neat battery test. After watching the movie 9 (80 minutes), the battery still had an hour or so spare. All in all, not something I expected fromRM. Watch out for the Sony Vaio which is coming up next.
RM Professional GT9000 Meeting Pad
Fitness for purpose 5
Ease of use 5
Value for money 4
Pentium III mobile processor (933MHz)
20Gb hard disk
1.44Mb floppy disk drive
56k internal faxmodem
FireWire port, 2 USB ports
Software: Windows XP Professional (pre-installed standard Office pound;67, professional pound;88)
Tel: 08709 200200