Desmond De Araujo gets to grips with the RM Mobile One - the laptop computer designed with teachers in mind.
The success of the RM One PC (reviewed in Online, November 5, 2004) was derived from the smart design approach - listen to those most important, the people who will actually use it. No surprise then that the new RM Mobile One follows this success story as teachers, students and network technicians have all been consulted again. From a car-like rubber bumper to effective battery monitoring and easy touchpad disabling, the Mobile One makes a positive mark.
While it's a laptop rather than a desktop, key ideas used in the RM One have been replicated in the RM Mobile One - presumably on the grounds of not changing something that already works well. But RM has added some impressive extras.
The hard screen on the desktop is used here, too - the first laptop in its class to do so. The same, clever anti-scratch casing has also been used, and the underlying materials of the machine are exactly the same colour as the paint finish, so any accidental scratches that are made are hard to notice.
A steel-plated Kensington lock is standard which means that the laptop can be securely attached to any surface - an excellent idea that will prevent any possibility of your Mobile One wandering off.
RM also knows that school laptops need to be transported regularly from storage to classroom and between classes. The Mobile One's durability is extensively improved by the inclusion of a rubber bumper - a simple but highly-effective design feature - that runs between the lid and the base and protects both screen and electronics when on the move. Its tough magnesium alloy casing provides extra protection.
Aside from robustness, RM has also taken into account practicality during lessons. At the press of a button, the touchpad can be disabled to allow students to type easily without accidentally brushing the pad and sending the cursor to another part of their document unintentionally. While at the press of another button, the Mobile One's cleverly preset power modes can be switched easily.
An effective battery monitoring system shows clearly (in the form of traffic lights) whether the laptop will last the duration of another lesson. If it can't, fear not - an external battery charger, with a second battery, is available as an extra. With up to 4.5 hours of battery life and just 2.5 hours charge time - using fast charge technology - there should be no problems with battery life.
The Mobile One is available in a wide choice of configurations from basic machines at the lower end of the price range, to models equipped with the latest Centrino mobile technology at the other. The basic machine starts at just pound;549.
For this you get an Intel Celeron M350 processor, 256 Mb RAM, a 40Gb hard drive, a CD-Rom Drive, and wifi (Tri-band). RM has included "always on" wireless that ensures the children can't simply turn the wireless on and off to annoy their teachers. An anti-trip cable cleverly detaches itself if jerked suddenly.
Connectivity options are decent. Most notable are four USB ports that are well spaced (two on the left-side and two to the rear) that should ensure no shortcomings for any plug-and-play devices. Also included are FireWire and infrared ports.
Other useful extras are a waterproof cover, and a primary keyboard with dual-labelled keys (upper and lower case) to help students who are still learning the transition to upper case. The keyboard is also colour-blind proof - the number keys are all red, letters are blue and function keys green, allowing them to be easily distinguished from each other.
Criticisms are hard to find. At 2.9kg the Mobile One isn't the lightest of laptops, the screen quality is average and, perhaps, RM should have retained a dedicated volume control. That aside, there's little to complain about. The RM Mobile One ought to be a huge success with schools looking for a laptop computer.
RM Mobile One
Standard Mobile One notebook with Intel Celeron M Processor 350 (1.3GHz), integrated Intel Extreme Graphics card, Microsoft Windows XP Professional (Service Pack 2), 256Mb Memory, 40Gb hard drive, 15in XGA TFT Screen, 24xCD-Rom Drive, Intel tri-mode wireless, integrated 10100 network adapter, 56K Modem, FireWire port, 4 x USB 2.0 ports, Infrared port, VGA port, TV-Out port, VGA port, parallel port, PC card slot, 1-year return to repair agent warranty.
Prices from pound;549 exc. VAT.
RM 08709 086 868
Fitness for purpose *****
Ease of use ****
Value for money *****