A PC is just a PC, right? Apart from a few notable exceptions that's broadly true. But the exceptions are significant, particularly where they are designed and built for specific locations. A good example is the RM One, ubiquitous in UK schools (125,000 sold) and now even appearing in local libraries.
That's what happens when design is focused on customers and context. Now watch out for a generation of new RM Ones that are tougher, safer, greener, more communicative (integral webcams) and ultimately more useful - and RM has even put back the carry handles to make them more mobile.
RM has been scoring highly in new-build school contracts partly through its attention to sustainability issues. More than half of its machines are "ecoquiets". As the name suggests, power consumption is low, some use a proportion of recycled materials and they are most definitely quiet. The new RM One I used (available April 20) was quieter than the MacBooks with which it shared desk space - and they are not exactly noisy.
You can pick a model from a very wide range of configurations. This one was an RM Ecoquiet 965 with Vista Business operating system, Intel Core 2 Duo T8100 (2.10GHz) 2Gb Ram memory, 300Gb hard disc, 4 USB slots in front with firewire and audio in and out, on/off button on front, 9-in-one-card reader (great for adding data from digital cameras and suchlike), and a 19-inch quality, toughened-acrylic screen with its own side controls including on/off for screen and eco mode.
This machine was used for web work, writing and lots of graphics. It was smooth, efficient and silent at all times. It generated no discernible heat. The small footprint made it a good space saver, and it's actually not as tall as its predecessor. The new RM One is also a good mover, ie it's on rollers that allow it to be rotated with ease (but not moved freely) and the screen can be raised and tilted and even locked into position. To ensure it doesn't move to an undesirable new owner (ie a thief), it even comes with a thick steel bolt for permanent fixing.
The new RM One's appropriateness for school use is evident from set-up. Cables can be clamped in the rear connection "cave", the cover for which is fitted with security screws (the same as all external screws). This machine did not have wifi, but a wifi dongle inserted into one of the front USB slots gave internet connectivity in an instant.
There were no problems and the only reservation was with the keyboard which was slightly spongy. But that is not an issue as RM offers a variety of alternative keyboards.
In a mainly Apple establishment looking for a suitable PC, the prompt collection of the review model of the new RM One was a sad moment. It had proved its worth, and quickly, and would have been a welcome permanent fixture. It's probably the nearest a PC will get to an iMac and remain practical (eg features like USB connections in front).
For a school wedded to Windows the new RM One is a welcome development. It is one of the most appropriately designed PCs available. Of course it's worth looking around as competition in the market with rivals like Viglen means that there are alternatives to consider; but this machine is solid, versatile and, with its new, integrated webcam, a great all-rounder. And coming from a company that takes support seriously you know there will be more - next will be a touch-screen. If the Goverment pursues its new open source policy for the public sector with vigour you can expect to see one with Linux/Edubuntu some time in the near future too.
New RM One
Updated version of RM's popular all-in-one PC for education. Available April 20, 2009. Comes with a one-year on-site warranty as standard. Prices start at around £600 (review machine £749).
What's new: improved, space-saving design; integrated webcam; 9-in-1 memory card reader; integrated carry handle; height-adjust lock for screen.
Coming next: touch-screen.
Possibles: 22-inch screen; open source.
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