CTL 2Go PC convertible early impressions

ctl-2go-1

The folks at CTL were kind enough to send me a 2Go PC convertible netbook/tablet to play with for the next few days. I’ll have a full review soon, but after playing with the computer for a few hours, I wanted to share a few initial thoughts:

  • Con: The keyboard is awfully small and takes some getting used to. This probably isn’t a huge problem for the target audience: children, but if you need a large keyboard this may not be the computer for you.
  • Pro: The touchpad, on the other hand, is quite roomy and responsive. The mouse buttons don’t make that nice solid clicking noise I’ve grown used to on other computers, but they’re also quite responsive.
  • Pro: Since the speakers are on the display, the audio quality doesn’t suffer when you’re using the netbook in tablet mode. Well, no more than they suffer from being small cheap speakers in the first place.
  • Pro: The status LEDs on the side of the display are quite useful, especially the battery meter which actually gives you a rought idea of how much power you have left.
  • Con: I have no idea why anyone uses 3 prong adapters for netbooks. Sure, you can get over 5 hours of battery life out of the 2Go PC with a 6 cell battery. But if you do need more than that, it’s often hard to find a place to plug in 3 prong power supplies at coffee shops and libraries.
  • Con: While 1024 x 600 pixel displays are usually plenty roomy enough to display web pages, if you rotate the screen for use in tablet mode you wind up with a 600 x 1024 pixel display which means you may have to spend a bit more time scrolling around than you’re used to.

I’m still getting a feel for the preloaded software. The CTL 2Go PC is based on the Intel Classmate PC reference design, and it looks like Intel developed some of the software while CTL chose some other applications to include. The computer ships with Windows XP Home Edition instead of Tablet edition, but it includes a handwriting recognition application and two separate program launchers for use with the touchscreen.

I’ll have a full review in a few days, but if there are any burning questions you have, feel free to ask away in the comments and I’ll do my best to either answer them here or in the review.

  • tal

    Hi Brad. Thanks so much for testing it for us. As usual focusing on the right devices.
    As the T91 and T101H are not going to be released soon as indicated recently this is my main contender. this or paying much more for a full tablet 12″ laptop.

    1. I understand that the keyboard is bad … but how worse than other 8.9″ netbooks such as the Acer aspire one?
    2. Did you remove the handle already? :) is it doable and is it safe for the device?
    3. Is it really that hot on the bottom as other sites are stating?
    4. I know its much thicker than other 8.9″ devices … is it that bad when carrying it?
    5. Any other comparison to the Gigabyte m912m model will be wonderful

    Thanks man! and keep up the excellent work.

    • http://liliputing.com Brad Linder

      1. The only 8.9 inch netbook I’ve spent time with was the HP 2133
      which had an unusually large keyboard. But the CTL 2Go PC keyboard
      reminds me of the tiny keyboard on the original Eee PC 701 with a 7
      inch screen.

      2. I haven’t removed the handle and probably won’t, but it’s quite
      easy to do. You just remove the battery and then undo a few screws.

      3. I haven’t noticed any significant heat, but that may change as I
      use th ecomputer more.

      4. It doesn’t feel any heavier than my Eee PC 1000H. Both netbooks are
      about 3 pounds. I’ll probably take a few photos of the two machines
      next to one another soon. But it’s certainly heavier and bulkier than
      the HP Mini 1000.

      5. It costs a lot less. :)

  • Gary

    Brad,
    Is the Classmate 3 as durable as they claim?

    • http://liliputing.com Brad Linder

      It’s not as rugged a the Classmate 2 – which can easily survive
      repeated 3 foot drops. They made the case a little less sturdy on the
      Clasmate 3 in order to accomodate the screen rotation. So i wouldn’t
      pit against a Toughbook anytime soon, but it is a bit more rugged than
      your typical netbook and is build from strong plastic that’s meant to
      take a light beating.

  • Oliver

    My HP2133 has a 3-prong power adapter. And I don't recall ever having a problem finding a 3-prong outlet at my favorite coffee places (incl. Starbucks. Only downside: all my European adapters were two-pronged, so I had to go buy a 3-pronged for, uh, 99 cents at Frys.

  • http://www.chadwsmith.com/ Chad78

    Um, isn't the 3rd prong the ground – like for surge protection….

  • richard_h

    Hi Brad,
    I wish they have back-lit keyboards so that we can type under dark situation. Do you think you would be able to use the keyboard and mousepad under dark ? This would be useful in airplane.
    Does it have a onscreen keyboard ? Are we need to download a software for this ?
    I wonder how is the WIFI receiver strength, compared to other netbook ?
    Thanks !

  • http://liliputing.com Brad Linder

    The keyboard is not backlit, but I'm not aware of any netbooks with a
    backlit keyboard.

    There is an on-screen keyboard, which is good because I'm not in love
    with the handwriting recognition software. But I need to play with
    them both a bit more before really making up my mind.

    I haven't scientifically tested the WiFi receiver, but I haven't had
    any problems connecting to my home network or the network in a local
    coffee shop.

  • Luke B

    I just got it, haven't even switched it on, and here are some pros/cons from my point of view:

    Pros:

    -No stickers or logos! I kept thinking that the only thing that looks goofy about this lil guy in the review pictures was the CTL 2go logo. Luckily, it doesn't come with that. The only sticker is the intel atom inside sticker, easily ignorable or removable. And of course the few on the bottom.

    -Speaking of the stickers on the bottom… there is one that says “hassle free warranty,” which is a sharp contrast from “do anything to it and you void your warranty” type policies. I have a history of voiding warranties within hours of receiving the device, so this sounds promising although it is too early to tell if doing something like upgrading the memory will void the warranty.

    -Packaging wasn't of Apple quality but it was simple and easy to deal with. The only piece of paper in the whole box is the manual, so you aren't inundated by special offers and mini catalogs like with most new laptops.

    Cons:
    -There is no plastic film protector for the screen or the back of the notebook. This is a pretty standard protection against scratches or smudges. My screen looks pristine, so I lucked out there, but there are a couple of smudges that I know weren't from me on the back which is not really a welcome sight, though far from a deal breaker.

    -A full, two piece power cord. The eee PC has spoiled me with its great, one piece adapter.

  • Luke B

    I measured both, and I can say that the keyboard is the exact same size as the original Eee PC 701 surf 4g. The key layout is also the same, except it has a right ctrl instead of a menu button. Yes, that means that instead of the ~ being the first key on the numberpad, the 1 is. It is notable that it has a fn-based numberpad, unlike the eeePC.

    Although it is the same keyboard, it has a different feel to it while typing. The eeePC had little springyness to the keys, but this one feels like a much higher quality in that regard. It is also significantly quieter.

  • richard_h

    Thanks Brad,
    With backlit keyboard, I was thinking of MID like N810, or even Mac, and also the Fujitsu U820 Fujitsu ihttp://www.tabletpcreview.com/default.asp?newsID=1326 …..with a “keyboard light assembly to shine over the keys in poorly lit areas”. Maybe CTL's screen is also bright enough to shine on its own keyboard.
    Is there a button or key to deactiviate the “touchscreen” feature ? I'm just afraid too many hands fiddling ….
    I wish there is a forum or sub-forum constructed to throw questions and read user reviews …

    Thanks !.

  • Luke

    Took off the handle and there is two gaping holes now that it is gone. Would have been nice if CTL included some sort of filler pads that you could screw in in its place.

    Finally turned it on, the touch screen is easier to use than I thought it would be. The 9 point calibration works pretty well.

    Something happened that was kind of goofy, when I went to activate windows XP, the serial key that was auto entered was wrong and for a moment I thought they gave me a bad serial key. However, the one on the back was different from the one that automatically gets entered, so after I changed it it activated just fine.

    After the first boot up, you will need to reboot it again before the home key and the auto rotate feature will work.

  • Luke

    They fixed the home screen quick launch software so that it resizes when you rotate it. I saw a video that criticized the lack of that feature in an earlier version.

  • Goodman

    Thanks for all the reporting, Luke. I wonder if the “hassle free warranty” means that children can decorate their Classmate without voiding the warranty. (Or adults, for that matter.)

    So this is upgradable to 2 gigs of memory, right?

  • Goodman

    Strange, I coulda swore ctlcorp.com used to list the price for this as $499. Now the buy page says the price is $599, but ON SALE for $499. Are they pondering upping the price? Is it just market psychology, or paving the way for Amazon.com to offer it for a “discount” for $499? Who knows? I'm still saving up, hoping it'll show up on Amazon soon (like other CTL machines) so I can get free shipping and no sales tax.

    Keep us updated on your experiences with this thing, Luke and Brad!

  • Luke B

    I sent an email to ctl and they said that the memory is upgradeable without voiding the warranty, at least that is how I interpreted it. However, if you need it repaired or replaced you have to put the original ram back in.

    Here is a copy of the email:

    “We currently do not offer any way to fill the gap left by the handle, nor do we have any plans to offer one in the future. However I will certainly run the suggesting by our product manager.

    We sell separate batteries, however the 2goPC tablet is still a very new product and batteries may not be consistently available yet. However you are welcome to contact our sales team and see if we have any in stock: 1-800-642-3087

    The memory is upgradeable, it uses DDR2 SODIMM (or notebook sized) 667 mhz RAM. The 2goPC can be picky with what brand of RAM is used. We use and sell Kingston RAM to upgrade the 2goPC. To upgrade the RAM you must remove the bottom panel (the one with the parallel slits. There will be two screws hidden under 2 circular grey stickers.

    The 2goPC has one slot for RAM which officially supports up to 2gb stick.

    (Please note that if you choose to upgrade the RAM on your own, we cannot repair or replace that system so long as the upgraded RAM is in it).

    Douglas Jenkins

    -CTL Support-”

  • Luke B

    I'm a little disappointed with how onenote receives input from the pen, it recognizes it as mouse input so it doesn't bother with smoothing the ink and making it look halfway decent. I am practically married to onenote so I have to find a solution.

    I'm going to try windows 7 which is supposed to have tablet features. After that I will try windows xp tablet edition.

  • Luke B

    As for the hot underside verdict by laptopmagazine, I couldn't disagree more. This tablet runs pretty cool. Perhaps it was just more noticeable because you spend more time holding this one. I can say it runs cooler than my eeePC 701 and my msi wind u100.

    The fan is noticeable at full volume but not too noisy. It isn't high pitched like the eee PC fan. You would probably only hear it in a quiet room.

  • richard_h

    Luke,
    Which tablet are you comparing with in using the onenote ?
    I think CTL only provide XP home edition, and not the XP tablet edition, right ?
    On CTL website, it mentioned it can support Linux, does it mean the OS ? which may be coming on April ? I'm actually looking forward for something of Linux OS or GUI that does something similiar like iphone (or Mac)….like flipping through icons like a book.
    Thanks.

  • Luke

    I was comparing it to the hp tx2500z, when I use onenote with that tablet I get nice smooth ink. I was looking for something smaller to replace it.

    Their FTP doesn't have drivers for linux but I suppose it is plausible. Since more than one OEM is making this, maybe there won't be a shortage of drivers.

  • Luke

    i installed windows 7, everything went smooth at first, it recognized and had drivers for almost every device. The tablet worked automatically. The performance is decent with all the features/animations turned on. The only animation that stutters is closing in and out of windows. Performance seems on par with xp.

    Even though I was able to install the drivers for the accelerometer, I can't seem to run the program that controls it, so it is semi useless in windows 7. Also, I was able to install all the tablet drivers but the tablet features of windows 7 are still not turned on.

    Verdict: it is a little useless to install windows 7 on the ctl 2go tablet at this time, but it is still nice to know that if it ever is supported, the hardware is enough to push it.

  • http://liliputing.com Brad Linder

    CTL plans to make a version available with Ubuntu 9.04 in the future,
    since Canonical is expected to add touchscreen support. Windows 7 will
    also probably be an option once that OS is officially released. For
    now you can get it with Windows XP Home or Pro.

  • luke b

    Well the laptop works perfectly with windows tablet edition, and I finally have onenote acting the way I want it. Looks like this little computer is a real gem once you get the proper OS installed.

    By the way, the windows tablet edition handwriting recognition works about 1000x better than the software that intel included.

    One thing you will need to do if you reinstall the OS is find the drivers on the ctl ftp. They don't have a direct link to them. Go to the netbook directory and it is the one labeled NL1.

  • Goodman

    Sigh. Tablet Edition runs around $160 at New Egg. I'm guessing CTL didn't include it for cost reasons. Nice job strangling new technology in it's cradle, Microsoft.

    These reports have been great. I was curious as to the heat and noise, so it's good to hear that's not much of an issue. Looks like CTL is getting inventory under control. Their web site now says “usually ships in 1 to 2 days”.

  • richard_h

    Hi Luke,
    Is there any difference between XP home or pro edition on the use tablet ?
    Does the mouse pad respond to tap as a “mouse click” ? I'm comparing it with my dell inspiron.
    Thanks.

  • luke b

    Ahem, you didnt hear it from me but the tablet edition floating around the piratebay may work just fine. I figure we have all purchased xp one way or another probably an average of 3-4 times, I'm not super interested in buying it again.

    There have been a couple times since my initial report that I felt the underside and it was a higher temp. I still wouldn't call it hot but maybe just very warm. You wouldn't notice it on your lap through a layer of clothing but it may be borderline uncomfortable for people holding it, as you are apt to do with a tablet. I still don't think it gets warmer than most laptops I have used. Also, when the fan is at full force it is probably a little louder than my msi wind, but it rarely gets up to full force.

    This lil computer is an attention getter on the train and at school, people are very curious as to where I got it. If CTL does the proper advertising it will really take off.

  • http://liliputing.com Brad Linder

    I'm with Luke. The 2Go certainly warms up a bit after you've been
    using it a while. But no more so than most other laptops or netbooks
    I've used. I wouldn't call it hot.

  • Goodman

    >No stickers or logos! I kept thinking that the only thing that looks goofy about this lil guy in the review pictures was the CTL 2go logo. Luckily, it doesn't come with that.

    Mine did have the 2go stickers, alas. But no big deal. Still haven't found the “blue dolphin” interface I'd heard about, but generally I'm pretty happy with it.

  • Goodman

    >No stickers or logos! I kept thinking that the only thing that looks goofy about this lil guy in the review pictures was the CTL 2go logo. Luckily, it doesn't come with that.

    Mine did have the 2go stickers, alas. But no big deal. Still haven't found the “blue dolphin” interface I'd heard about, but generally I'm pretty happy with it.

  • Pingback: Pro und Con: Classmate CTL 2go | Netvertible News

  • http://www.dressesofwedding.com/ wedding dresses

    Thanks for all the reporting, Luke. I wonder if the “hassle free warranty” means that children can decorate their Classmate without voiding the warranty.