On the XO Laptop

Comparing the OLPC XO Laptop and Intel’s Classmate PC

with one comment

While browsing some XO-related web sites recently I came across a link to the home page of Intel’s new Classmate PC, Classmate PC, and did an investigation into the content.

At the bottom of the page there is a note that says for more information you should go to their portal, and I did so: Classmate PC Portal. A little investigation led to the following page which has a hardware and software summary: Classmate System Configuration.

The hardware configuration is described here:

Chassis: Customized Mini Chassis 245x196x44
Processor: Intel® Mobile Processor ULV 900 MHz, Zero L2 cache, 400 MHz FSB
Chipset: Intel 915GMS + ICH6-M
Memory: DDR-II 256M SO-DIMM
LCD: 7″ 800 x 480, LVDS Interface, LED B/L
Storage Device: 1GB/2GB NAND Flash
Audio: Stereo 2 Channel Audio, Built-in Speakers and Microphone, Jack for External Output and Microphone Input
LAN/WLAN: 10/100M Ethernet + WLAN 802.11 b/g w/ Antenna
Keyboard: Integrated Keyboard with Hot Keys
Touch Pad: Cycle Touch Pad with Left and Right Buttons
Digital Pen (optional): Wireless Pen to take digital notes
Power Solution: Battery with Adapter – 6 Cells, approximately 4 hours Usage
Weight: Less than 1.3kg (aprox. 2.86 pounds)
Operating System: Windows XP Pro*/ Linux*

(See this for a comparable summary for the XO.)

The machines are similar in that each has 256 megabytes of dynamic memory, and a Flash (no moving parts) disk. The Intel processor is twice as fast and the larger model has a larger disk (2GB) instead of the 1GB also used by the XO. Each weighs about 1.5 kilograms, or three pounds. Here are the notable hardware differences:

  • The Classmate has no builtin video camera; the XO does.
  • The Classmate batteries are good for 4 hours, the XO’s for over twenty.
  • The Classmate has a wireless receiver; the XO has a wireless receiver AND a wireless transmitter.
  • The Classmate display is 800 (H) by 400 (V); the XO display is 1200 (H) by 900 (V).

To me the main hardware difference is that the XO has a video camera and a wireless transmitter, not just a receiver. Moreover, the XO transmitter can run when the XO is in suspended mode, consuming about half a watt to keep the mesh network up and running. Though power usage figures are not given for the Classmate, I expect the XO takes much less power.

Operating System

The XO is based on Red Hat’s Fedora Release 6 version of Linux, as described at OLPC Software Specs.

The Classmate supports Windows XP and two Linux distributions: Mandriva Discovery 2007 and Metasys Classmate 2.0. (Though I have heard of Mandriva, Metasys is new to me.)

Educational Software
To me, the key software feature of the XO is that all the educational applications are written in Python.

I’m not that familiar with educational applications based on Windows XP. I certainly have not heard of any “must-have” applications, though in fairness my main interest is in Linux and open-source solutions.


If you look at the bottom of the software page you learn that the Classmate is licensed as follows:

  • Windows XP Professional: Microsoft Partners in Learning Program for Governments;
  • Mandriva Discovery 2007 (Linux-based): Annual Volume Licensing to OEM;
  • Metasys Classmate 2.0 (Linux-based): Annual Volume Licensing to OEM;

Here is the licensing information for the XO Laptop:


Note that you have to pay a licensing fee for the Linux variants available for the Classmate, even though Linux itself is free and open-source software.

The Classmate’s Linux variants require 500 MB (megabytes) of disk; the XO needs just 300 MB.


The XO costs about $200. There are no licensing fees.

The Classmate hardware sells for about $350 according to a recent article in the New York Times.It is not stated what, if any, part of this cost is the license fees noted above. However, I do think it worth noting that the Classmate includes Microsoft Office as part of the $350 cost, a cost that makes the Classmate almost twice as expensive as the XO, for which there is NO software licensing cost.


Written by daveshields

January 7, 2008 at 3:39 am

Posted in xo-laptop

One Response

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  1. there are two other hardware items which beg comparison, one is the XO screen being outdoor readable and the other is the XO water resistance and shock resistance( drop-testing ). These seem to me to be the things which really take the Classmate out of the category of the kind of device the XO was designed to be and is manufactured to be. Not just a device for small fingers/kids but a device for their environment.


    April 4, 2008 at 5:51 pm

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