While most of the standard benchmark tests we use wouldn't run on the Classmate, thanks to its 2GB hard drive, we did manage to run our iTunes encoding test. The Classmate's 900MHz Intel Celeron M CPU was only slightly slower on that test than the Fujitsu LifeBook U810, a UMPC that uses Intel's newer Ultra Low Power A110 CPU, specifically designed for smaller PCs -- but a laptop with a standard Core 2 Duo CPU will still run the same test about three times as fast.
In anecdotal testing, it was surprising to see Windows XP run so smoothly on a system with only 256MB of RAM. Surfing the Web was a breeze, but opening multiple Web pages and office documents at the same time finally slowed the system down.
We were not able to run our normal DVD playback battery test on the Intel Classmate PC, but in informal testing, we were able to use the system for about three hours while running a light mix of tasks -- Web browsing, working on a Word document, and playing MP3 files -- which was in line with Intel's battery life claims. That sounds fine for a portable laptop, especially an inexpensive one like this, but we wonder if that's long enough for the schoolchildren who are the Classmate's intended audience, and who may not always have easy access to electricity.
In a simple workload test to test power consumption -- involving typing a short (187-word) document, creating a small spreadsheet and a graph, browsing a couple of Web sites and playing a YouTube video (specifically, this one) -- with the screen brightness set to the maximum and then the minimum setting, the Classmate did pretty well. It drew an average of 16.7W with maximum backlight and 15.3W with minimum backlight. Idle and peak power figures were 14.7W and 20.8W respectively with maximum backlight and 13.7W/17.8W with mimimum backlight.
By comparison, the 2G Surf model of the popular Asus Eee drew slightly less power in the workload test than the Classmate: 14W and 13.2W on average with max/min backlight respectively, and 16.5W and 15.6W peak.
Bootup time is a more straightforward performance measure, and the Classmate takes around 70 seconds on average to reach an idle XP desktop from power-on. Opening the Internet Explorer browser to Google (set as the home page) took only 5 seconds or so.
There's scant room left for file storage or adding applications, but to its credit, the Classmate ran Windows XP smoothly with only 256MB of RAM, an impressive feat in itself. The technologies reflected here will likely filter down to consumer systems, leading to cheaper, smaller laptops for everyone, although likely not directly from Intel, which wants to stay out of the system-selling business.
Additional editing by Shannon Doubleday