The Datawind name might not say much to those of you passionate about high-end gadgets, but the UK-based company has been behind the Indian government’s bold initiative of deploying Android-based tablets across the country's millions of schools .
The 2011 dirt-cheap Aakash tablet was the result of the collaboration between Datawind and the Indian government, but unfortunately their noble endeavor hit more than a few nasty bumps on the road.
After numerous production issues and a bunch of delays and staggered releases, the Aakash failed to reach the hundreds of thousands of students it was planned to. It was back to the drawing board for Datawind, which understood that it had to up the ante a bit spec-wise.
Fortunately, the Indian authorities didn’t withdraw their support, and now the updated Aakash 2 is ready to debut. Before the tab will hit schools though, Datawind has decided to get the commercial versions out, also known as the UbiSlate tablets.
The UbiSlate 7Ri, 7R+, 7Ci, and 7C+ are the four newly unveiled slates, all sporting 7-inch screens and all ready to go on sale at unbelievably low prices. Though we don’t have many photos starring the four tabs, these shouldn’t look very different on the outside, and their innards will be similar as well.
All four gadgets are set to be powered by Cortex A8 1 GHz processors, which, despite being single-core, are a vast improvement over the first-edition Aakash. The model from 2011 only had a 366 MHz CPU, so the bump in raw power will be easily noticeable. Especially that the 256 MB of RAM have been also upgraded to 512 MB.
The displays all come with 800 x 480 pixels resolutions, but only the UbiSlate 7Ci and 7C+ will have capacitive panels (hence the “C” branding). The 7Ri and 7R+ will sport resistive screens, which, as you might know, aren’t very responsive to touch.
Aside from the processor bump, the new range of UbiSlate tablets comes with another major upgrade, this time in the software department. If the 7-incher from last year ran old raggedy Android 2.2 Froyo, the new gadgets are all ready to bring Ice Cream Sandwich goodness to India.
Other features include 4 GB of on-board storage, a VGA front-facing camera, G-Sensor, mini-USB, a microSD card slot for expanding the memory with an additional 32 GB, and Wi-Fi connectivity all-around. The 7R+ and 7C+ come with additional GPRS connectivity, and they should also be the tabs with the best battery life. Well, best is somewhat of a stretch, giving that Datawind predicts the slates to only be able to go for up to 3-4 hours on a single charge, while the 7Ri and 7Ci have a maximum of 3 hours of autonomy.
Datawind has failed to announce any exact release dates for the four 7-inchers, while in terms of pricing we know that the cheapest one will go for Rs. 2,999 ($55), and the most expensive one will be up for grabs for Rs. 4,999 ($90). We're guessing the 7Ri will be the low-ender, while the 7C+ will be the high-ender. As for the 7R+ and 7Ci, these don't have price tags attached to their names, but they will probably be made available for Rs. 3,999 ($73).
It remains to be seen which one of the four will also hit Indian schools as the Aakash 2, when will this actually reach students, and how many units will end up being used for educational purposes.