Digging Deeper Into the Notion Ink Adam; Android Done Right or All Just a Dream?

Image courtesy of Notion Ink

Time after time our hearts have been broken by empty promises for a newer better tablet. We all know NOTHING has even come close to comparing to the mighty iPad in terms of tablets and slates. The Samsung Galaxy Tab recently was released, and it is probably the only tablet in existence that someone could even compare to Apple’s offering. But as an Android enthusiast I can agree its refinement (so far) has proven less than worthy. We still have a few weeks yet to go this year and a whole bunch of promises to be filled. Mr Ballmer stated a while back that we should expect some Windows-based tablets by the end of year and a whole lot more early 2011.

For all those holding out for the perfect Android tablet, you may be in luck this holiday season. The Notion Ink Adam is currently on the bench at the FCC, and hopefully will find itself in your stocking this holiday. I’m not holding my breath thinking that I’ll see it this year, but I can tell you they already had some setbacks that delayed the tablet from an earlier release. So why should I care? Is this just another promised Android Tablet to raise expectations and let us down in the end like all the rest? I think not, and I’m determined to tell you why the Notion Ink is different. I’m not looking to compare the device to anything really, except the devices that failed over the past year.

First, lets look at the proposed specs:

  • 10.1″ LCD or Pixel Qi transreflective screen (with physical on/off switch)
  • 185 degree rotating Camera
  • True GPS chipset (on all models)
  • Wifi B/G/N
  • 3G support (select models)
  • Nvidia Tegra 250
  • Magnalium Chassis
  • Custom “Genesis” Android App Store
  • Custom Android UI (Based on 2.2)

So really what set this piece of hardware apart from the rest of the short-lived iPad competitors? I think first and foremost Notion Ink’s headliner Rohan Shravan is literally pouring his heart and soul into this device. We heard of it earlier this year at CES 2010, along with many other devices that eventually fell to the dark vaporware abyss or simply didn’t sell enough units to cover shipping. Carly covered it here back in September, when the light of day hitting the Notion Ink Adam screen was looking rather dim. The problem with technology these days is that by the time you get a product developed, testing, manufactured, shipped, and in the hands of consumers, you’re already a “day late and dollar short”. The hardware is well expired and you have nothing that really makes it any better than the last. I started following the Notion Ink blog a few months ago, and things really have been taking off there.

To begin, this is the first time I’ve ever seen a creator/manufacturer explain nearly even single item that is going into their device. Rohan has a complete breakdown of almost every component, testing it, and explaining why he chose that individual part or option. It’s almost like an open source piece of hardware. One of the things I found impressive is the attention to detail spent on figuring out speakers for the device. I actually found it refreshing to see that he spent so much time on getting the best possible sound from something so small.

I am also a musician (I play guitar and mouth-organ). And since starting it was extremely important for us to get the best sound to come out from Adam. And we think Adam has the best sound when compared to any tablet out there! You can easily watch movies on it without using any other speaker

Attention to detail is what wins the hearts and minds of the consumer, after you get the past price of course. The highest end model sporting a transflective Pixel Qi screen has been priced at a budget friendly $500. Compare that technology (which is really non-existent thus far), and you really can’t go wrong. Battery life is told to be a mild 15 or so hours depending on usage and hardware options. Although times may vary for everyone and environment plays a huge part, Notion Ink put their device to the test using different scenarios to see how to discharge the battery the fastest.

You might have noticed that your phone might work for 2 full days and might require 2 charges a day. Based on the use cases devices claiming 10 hours have ended in 4 hours (3D gaming). Clearing this confusion is extremely important, so here we are with the post “How to discharge your Adam in 6 hours only?” Here is the list which we have compiled:

  • Play 1080P continuously with full brightness and at full volume (displayed as 1024 on Adam and not via HDMI to TV) (no idle time) (Adam has BIG speakers)
  • Play YouTube Flash videos on Wi-Fi or 3G network (no idle time)
  • Use Streaming 3D maps on 3G network with GPS
  • Record HD Video and stream it over the Wi-fi networks
  • Play an augmented reality 3D game with camera input over the network (wi-fi of 3G)

Image courtesy of Notion Ink

I for one am pretty excited at the idea that I could have a device with a 10″ screen that could do anything high-def related while streaming over any type of network for 6 hours. This again is an in-house test so you have the right to be skeptical, I can just appreciate the extra steps in research and development taken into account here and printed for the world to see. I have to admit one of the biggest complaints I have from mobile devices is battery life (or lack thereof), and the screen is usually the number one culprit. This seems to fit the bill, at least until the Mini Nuke reactors or Mr. Fusions fit inside of a 10mm thick housing. The batteries account for that cylindrical tube that sits atop of the Adam, along with a few other key components and their placement.

Image courtesy of Notion Ink

Pixel Qi…Finally. It’s been teased now for quite a while but really has not hit mainstream. We touched on it here back in July, but really have not had many products launch with this sun-loving LCD. Basically the screen laughs at direct sunlight and glare and saves you about 80% of the normal power used in today’s LCD technology. Wrap that all up in a full color 1024 X 600 (16:9) screen with HD 1080P playback  and you have an anywhere readable E-book device or full color media tablet. So when your reading documents, or using it as a portable office device, you can save yourself some serious battery and flip over to the high contrast transreflective mode.

Image courtesy of Notion Ink

The camera, which has been modified a few times from its original design, swivels 185 degrees in its position. I find this a pretty cool idea that the same camera is used for both a front facing camera (FFC) and rear camera, especially since the device doesn’t have to be facing you directly to stay in view. I like the idea of having a full resolution camera as an FFC because your chats and whatever else you do with it facing you will be at a higher resolution than the other tablet/slate options out there. It’s a bit risky making it swivel because of the possibilities of something going wrong, but it seems to have been well planned out for exact placement on the top edge right hand side.

Image courtesy of Notion Ink

Software/OS is a highly debatable topic, especially when it comes to Android devices. Notion Ink already stated that the device will be released with Android 2.2 Froyo, but it will receive updates as they become available through Google. This is a big one for me, and I think for a lot of the Android skeptics. Notion Ink is hitting software hard and vows to stay on top the software, custom apps, and developement. This is a must for this device to succeed. The blog has a ton of posts and listing about the Genesis Early Access Development program, and they have basically hand-selected developers from all over the world. If you dig into the blog they talk a lot about their custom UI, true multitasking, and their very own app store. This could be the key to keeping this device alive, as most Android skeptics will tell you the worst thing about Android is the lack of a polished UI and fragmentation. As far as I can tell, Notion plans on putting a stop to all those issues. A mobile device really is only as good as the software it runs on allows it to be.

When we started we want to crack few issues:

  • Multi-tasking in a way it should be;
  • Optimization on Memory while multi-tasking (there is no point with 100 screens open and no RAM to run any!)
  • Understand the psyche of the User of what exactly he wants from an application when he is multi-tasking
  • Create a unique method of window management and
  • Design for Touch

Image courtesy of Notion Ink

So after a long run of rumors, leaks, failures and money issues. Can Notion Ink pull of this mythical tablet? Or are they just really creative at writing and getting hopes up once again? I plan on picking up the $500 model as soon as preorders start for the masses. With a promised full office suite and all these crazy ideas, it seems to be the device I have been looking for. By that time there should be some other options peeking up, along with the possibility of Android 3.0 Honeycomb, which should eventually be supported by the Adam. For now we can only chalk this one up as a ” probable maybe” but with a great site and good content to back it up. Tegra 2 looks to be the next big thing and is taking no prisoners. I’m hoping Android can at least have something to show in 2010 other than the Galaxy Tab. Afterall, Notion had this thing lurking at CES2010 but has yet to show a finished product. I believe this kind of R&D is happening behind the scenes at every company, but mostly under lock and key unlike the Adam. So tuck your $500 away under the mattress and keep your hopes high. This could be the answer that alternative tablet you’ve been looking for!

Click the link for more info, pictures, and upcoming news of the Notion Ink Adam.

via Notion Ink

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