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Old 12-06-2009, 03:29 PM   #1
celtica96
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A Windows 7 Intel Convertible Classmate PC: First Impressions

Tired of waiting for the Archos 9? Discouraged by the reviews of the Asus T91 and Viliv S7? You may want to check out the Mirus Innovations CT9W7. I picked up one on Saturday and it's been fun playing around with this Windows 7 touch-screen netbook for the past 24 hours.

The specs listed below show it's not just targeted at children ages 6 and up. Big kids like you and me will find it to be a wonderful mobile companion. I own both a full-size Windows 7 laptop (Gateway P-6831FX) and a netbook with Windows XP (MSI U100-279US). I'll use these as points of comparison. The Gateway is my primary workhorse and it's in no danger of being replaced, especially after upgrading its CPU and installing Windows 7. However, the Mirus is giving my MSI netbook some serious competition for the role of lightweight traveling companion.

System Specifications:
8.9'' LCD Touch Screen (1024 x 600 pixels)
Water Resistant Keyboard and Touchpad
1.3 Megapixel Rotating webcam
Intel Atom 270 1.6GHz Processor
WLAN (802.11 b/g/n)
Ports (Ethernet, 2 USB Port, Headphone Jack, Microphone Jack, VGA out)
2-in-1 Card Reader
1GB DDR2 RAM
60GB Hard Drive
About 2.8 lbs With Battery
Windows 7 Starter Edition
Built-in Accelerometer
Educational Software (Note Taking, Handwriting Recognition, E-book Reader, Graphics Program)
1 Year Limited Warranty

At $500, the CT9W7 is hardly an impulse buy but it provides a tremendous amount of value. This small package includes some big attractions--a built-in accelerometer, a relatively zippy Atom processor, a touch screen plus keyboard, and Windows 7. Also, it's finger-friendly with Intel's Blue Dolphin interface and has a stylus for even better control. Battery life is above average and can exceed 5 hours depending on your usage. Finally, the build quality is very good and the unit feels--dare I say it--rugged.

Every netbook has its problems because of the compromises made in exchange for portability. Those for the Mirus include relative performance, size/weight, a crisp but funky webcam, a tiny right shift key, and a glitch in switching from landscape to portrait mode. Let's consider these one at a time.

The Windows 7 Experience Scores: CT9W7 Versus P-6831FX
Processor: 2.2; 6.0
Memory (RAM): 4.4; 6.0
Graphics: 2.0; 5.9
Gaming Graphics: 3.0; 5.8
Primary Hard Disk: 4.1; 5.2
Overall: 2.0; 5.2

The Windows Experience indexes for the CT9W7 show why the Mirus won’t be replacing my primary laptop. Nonetheless, I was impressed by the memory and hard disk scores. I anticipated much worse performance.

The Mirus is roughly 9.5" x 7.5" x 1.8 " and close to 3 pounds so it isn’t going to slip into a pocket and be forgotten. It's surprising that my MSI with its 10” screen is actually lighter (2.6 pounds). However, the Mirus' built-in handle and ruggedness make it a better choice to just grab and go.

The webcam has a decent 1.3MP resolution that produces crisp, still images. Unfortunately, the webcam also changes blue to red but this can be tweaked with an application like VLC. It's best used for static shots. (I was shocked to find that a person walking across the camera’s field of view may not even register!) On the other hand, being able to rotate the camera 180 degrees to take pictures is a real plus.

Most of the problems with netbook keyboards are due to shrinking a normal keyboard to match the size of the unit. I have large hands and any netbook keyboard is a challenge but Mirus made the problem worse. The CT9W7 has a narrower than necessary layout, which does not come close to spanning the width of the machine. The result is some tiny keys, the most problematic of which is the right shift key. The MSI U100-279US does a much better job with its size and layout, including a properly sized right shift key. Mirus should drop the extra Ctrl key and move the Page Up key to its place to give the right Shift key more room or better yet adopt the MSI layout. Complaints aside, I wrote this entire post using the CT9W7's keyboard. Overall, the keyboard is acceptable with decent travel and a firm touch.

Finally, the convertible has some odd behavior in tablet mode. The transition from landscape to portrait messes up the touch function. While in portrait orientation, the touch function stays stuck in landscape orientation. That is, when tapping on a button to activate it, the screen registers the touch somewhere else. The screen won't recalibrate in portrait mode so I'm wondering whether this is a Windows 7 issue. I have to check with Mirus customer service about this problem to see if there is a solution.

Overall, the pluses outweigh the minuses. The combination of Windows 7 and a touch screen really brings out the best in the netbook experience. Tablet mode's onscreen pop-up keyboard in Windows 7 is a great improvement over Windows XP Tablet Edition. Also, I love the ability to use the touch screen with either the Kindle eBook Reader or FBReader (0.10.20090707 comes preinstalled). Sound quality is good for both music and videos. YouTube plays well in a window but with a few frame drops using the full screen. The web browsing experience is far superior to something like the SmartDevices Q7 because of the screen resolution, Flash availability, and choice of browsers. Of course, there's room for improvement by reworking the keyboard, tweaking the webcam, fixing the touch-screen glitch, and swapping out the Intel 945 Express Chipset for an NVIDIA Ion GPU (not likely on this Intel spec'd product).

How can you purchase a Mirus convertible laptop? You can find one through a national retailer like Kmart, Sears, or Walmart. I ordered mine directly from Mirus Innovations to avoid shipping charges. I highly recommend going with the Windows 7 version ($499.99) because of all the extra tablet/pen features available compared to the Windows XP version ($479.99). Take the Intel Classmate Convertible out for a spin and you'll find it's not just for children anymore.
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Old 12-06-2009, 03:56 PM   #2
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Wonder if this is why Asus, Hp and Acer have suddenly started discounting their netbooks?

cheers
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Old 12-07-2009, 08:29 AM   #3
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Great to see your review here. I too purchased a variation of this little Mirus about three weeks ago (the Windows XP home version). Due to a fluke on ebay, I bought a brand-new one for $220... the best computer purchase I've made in 25 years!

Though the XP is not as desirable as the W7 version, I still feel it's one of the best computers I've ever owned. I've seen some reviews where it has been compared to non-tablet computers, with minor complaints that the hardrive is slow and the keyboard is too small for large hands. But, the reviewers seem to think they're comparing apples to apples when actually they're not. It's not really a computer which can be compared to other netbooks, or even laptops, since it has one major feature in which those computers don't... it's a convertible tablet, touchscreen, incredibly small, incredibly rugged, very well-built, very grippable, easy to hold tool which goes beyond what most other battery-operated computers are capable of doing.

I'm an artist who enjoys occasionally going out into the woods to sketch, paint and take visual notes of nature. With the exception of a couple of PDAs, I have yet found a conventional laptop which is capable of meeting such a task... even the previous two tablet computers I've owned were not really efficient at outdoors carrying. The Mirus is designed to take abuse and carry anyplace. It's screen is more matte than most glossy screens and the winter sun doesn't completely kill it's viewability like it does to the more glossy screens. The Mirus is easy to hold in one hand (like a sketchbook) while the other hand actually rests upon the screen itself while sketching!

I could easily go on-and-on about this Computer. It's tailored to the needs of school-kids, but because of that, it's perfect for any adult who also has special needs which go beyond their living room or coffee shop usage.

It seems the odd behavior you mentioned might only be in the W7 variation. The XP tablet mode functions correctly at all times. I believe it's a firmware issue, since there had been early complaints when it first came out (back in January) but with a couple firmware updates, no more issues.

There are several netbooks which are lower-priced than this, but there aren't any which can actually compete with the features which I've mentioned. If you want a fun computer which is extremely versatile, you owe it to give this one a try (go with W7 of course)... you won't be disappointed.
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Old 12-07-2009, 08:47 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Leep View Post
Wonder if this is why Asus, Hp and Acer have suddenly started discounting their netbooks?
I'm not sure there's much market pressure on the big players from Intel's Classmate PC program. Companies like Mirus Innovations have a pretty small market share.

I think the Mirus CT9W7 is just a side effect of Intel's effort to blunt the OLPC initiative.

I'm glad to be able to buy it without being a K-12 student.

Price cutting among the big players is probably just the usual holiday/end-of-the-fiscal-year jostling for market share.

Dell in particular seems to be experiencing problems while Acer is having a field day.

I'm all for competition that provides more features for less money!

Who knows? We may have a market full of inexpensive touch-screen convertibles running Windows 7 by this time next year.
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Old 12-07-2009, 08:52 AM   #5
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I'm an artist who enjoys occasionally going out into the woods to sketch, paint and take visual notes of nature.
Outstanding!

Would you be willing to upload one of the sketches created with the Mirus so we can see what's possible with this tool?

Thanks.
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Old 12-07-2009, 09:41 AM   #6
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I'll be more than happy to post a sketch or too. Give me a couple of days to get away from the office and back to the cabin where things are. Thanks,
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Old 12-09-2009, 01:24 PM   #7
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Cardinal Art

Quote:
Originally Posted by celtica96 View Post
Outstanding!

Would you be willing to upload one of the sketches created with the Mirus so we can see what's possible with this tool?

Thanks.
It is my pleasure to share some art. This was completed a couple days ago, using the Mirus's ArtRage app. In this instance, I used the program to give 'oil paint' effects. It can also duplicate many other painting and drawing media. I'll post some others as well.

(Does this show up as a link, or does the image actually show?)
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Old 12-09-2009, 01:30 PM   #8
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(Does this show up as a link, or does the image actually show?)
Yes, a thumbnail image shows, and if clicked on will enlarge.

Last edited by Wetdogeared; 12-09-2009 at 01:40 PM. Reason: OK after all
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Old 12-09-2009, 01:37 PM   #9
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Thanks for quick reply Wetdogeared. I didn't know if image would show full-size in message or as a text link. Now I see that it's a thumbnail which enlarges. Thanks for helping!
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Old 12-09-2009, 02:20 PM   #10
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Hmm, I can't find anything about that CT9W7 on their site... Only the CT9XP...

And where would I be able to buy one?
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Old 12-10-2009, 10:26 PM   #11
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Hmm, I can't find anything about that CT9W7 on their site... Only the CT9XP...

And where would I be able to buy one?
The CT9XP and the CT9W7 are the same hardware.

You can go to the Mirus store here (http://mobility.mirusinnovations.com...product=121862) and change the operating system to Windows 7 for $27.61 more.

Also, the CT9W7 with a free mouse is available at Sears (http://www.sears.com/shc/s/p_10153_1...s+7+schoolmate).

Those are just two options. I hope that helps.

Last edited by celtica96; 12-10-2009 at 10:40 PM.
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Old 12-10-2009, 10:28 PM   #12
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It is my pleasure to share some art. This was completed a couple days ago, using the Mirus's ArtRage app.
Thank you for sharing. I think the painting looks great!

Last edited by celtica96; 12-10-2009 at 10:34 PM.
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Old 12-11-2009, 01:56 AM   #13
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The CT9XP and the CT9W7 are the same hardware.

You can go to the Mirus store here (http://mobility.mirusinnovations.com...product=121862) and change the operating system to Windows 7 for $27.61 more.

Also, the CT9W7 with a free mouse is available at Sears (http://www.sears.com/shc/s/p_10153_1...s+7+schoolmate).

Those are just two options. I hope that helps.
They don't mention anything about international shipping... But thanks for the link, I couldn't find anything!


Edit:

Finally found it! It's called Classmate in English, but Skoolmate in Dutch...

The price isn't too bad, generally it's $1=€1 for such devices... The price is €399, and that includes W7. It's not for sale yet, but you can reserve it...

(http://www.paradigit.nl/info.php?group=15&art=10021916)

Last edited by Sweetpea; 12-11-2009 at 04:19 AM.
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Old 12-11-2009, 07:01 AM   #14
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Finally found it! It's called Classmate in English, but Skoolmate in Dutch...
The one I purchased on ebay says... "Schoolmate" below screen. It's marketed by Mirus.
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Old 12-11-2009, 08:11 AM   #15
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I was actually looking online at the Mirus, and was wondering if you have tried downloading the app from amazon or b&n to be able to read their ebooks on pc to see how well it works? I kinda liek the idea of a tool that has multiple uses myself.
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