The Kno Textbook Tablet Preview

Almost every new tablet that has emerged in the iPad-dominated market has essentially been a direct competitor to the iPad, offering little, if any, basic usability advantages. It is for that reason that the Kno tablet stands out from the crowd. This tablet is being marketed to schools that are tired of dealing with the yearly fiasco of selling, renting, or even giving away textbooks. For many schools (both K-12 and higher education), the long-term savings and technological advantage may far outweigh the initial cost of the device.

The Kno comes in two versions: one traditional-looking tablet with a single color screen, and another with dual screens connected together to allow the tablet to open like a book. The screen, at 14.1 inches, is much larger than an iPad or Samsung Galaxy S, but that is most likely by design. It is, after all, intended for work, not play. Nevertheless, the ability to play is there, as it is fully web-connected for research or other browsing.

Kno tablet display

One of the most interesting features of the Kno tablet is not the hardware or software but the way in which it is being developed. Anyone can go to the project’s website and join the advisory panel to offer their input on development. They are particularly looking for educators and other thinkers who could be eventual customers. Furthermore, the operating system of the Kno is Ubuntu Linux with a Webkit-based interface. This means that all apps for the Kno are written in HTML, CSS, and Javascript.

The Kno gives students the ability to take notes with an included pen, right on the screen, and even make notes and annotations directly on their textbooks, highlighting key words, dropping in sticky notes, or circling important items. It also supports video playback in a variety of formats, including Adobe Flash player.

Kno tablet desktop with dual screens

Technical Specifications


  • 14.1 inch single or dual color LCD backlit glossy widescreen multi-touch displays
  • 1440×800 WXGA resolution
  • 262,144 colors
  • Anti-glare film screen with hard coat surface


  • Fingers and Pen stylus (for note taking)


  • Nvidia Tegra T200 series CPU ( based on the Dual-core ARM Cortex -A9 MPCore) 1.0GHz


  • 512 MB RAM


  • 16 GB or 32 GB flash memory


  • Ubuntu 9.10

Other Hardware:

  • Micro USB
  • 3.5-mm stereo headphone jack
  • Microphone with active noise cancellation
  • Accelerometer – 3 Axis +/- 1.5 g
  • Ambient light sensor


  • DC power connector
  • 50.6 watt-hour lithium polymer battery (6 hours usage)


  • IEEE 802.11 b/g
  • Bluetooth 2.0+EDR technology

Software Features:

  • eReader
  • Note-Taking with a pen
  • PDF annotation – Web apps for Docs (Google Docs or Office Live)
  • Virtual keyboard
  • Built-in Webkit-based browser

Audo Playback:

  • AAC-LC, MP3, WMA 10, PCM/WAV (Ogg Vorbis support interestingly not listed)

Video Playback:

  • H.264 – 1080p, WMV9/VC-1 1080p, MPEG-4 – 1080p, JPEG up to 80 megapixel per second, HTML5 video, and Adobe Flash


  • Single Screen 16GB: $599 –  32GB: $699
  • Dual Screen 16GB $899 – 32GB: $999

Average cost of traditional textbooks:

  • $121

Average cost of Kno textbooks:

  • $63

Kno tablet dual-screen web and ereader

Pre-orders of the Kno have just started shipping to select customers. It will eventually be something that schools can purchase in bulk, distribute to students, and even allow the students to take home and use whenever they need it. The company behind Kno sees itself as an innovator hoping to change education, the way people learn and the way knowledge is used. This is a lofty goal, but it is definitely one that warrants attention. One thing I do Kno for sure is that this tablet will likely change the landscape of the tablet market for the better.

Tavis J. Hampton

Tavis J. Hampton is a freelance writer from Indianapolis. He is an avid user of free and open source software and strongly believes that software and knowledge should be free and accessible to all people. He enjoys reading, writing, teaching, spending time with his family, and playing with gadgets.


  1. While the idea is noble, the price is high. I don’t see many schools adopting this until either all books are digital or the price is around $200.

  2. Keep in mind that their early marketing seems to be geared toward colleges and universities. They have more flexibility over book selection, and battery life will be needed more outside of class than in class.

  3. Tavis, the problem is that they’re not delivering the devices!! If I’m not mistaken, they were supposed to start shipping the devices on 12/20. It’s now 12/30 and we haven’t seen a single _independent_ review of the device. Even their own “unboxing” was nothing more than someone showing a powered off device out of the box. What the heck is that?

    And to be clear, I’m a huge fan of the idea of the device and am chewing off my fingernails waiting for mine to be delivered.

  4. About when it should be used, I’m not so sure about that. A function like note taking implies it can be used in the classroom.

    Is the micro usb port for attaching devices, or attaching to a computer?

    Would be nice to have a wide angle camera to take a picture of the board. 8-)

    The 2-part screen is pretty handy.

    1. Unfortunately, the MicroUSB port is for their use and not for us connecting devices. We’ll need to use Bluetooth for keyboard, mouse, etc…

  5. I’ve had an entourage edge since March 2010 — dual screen (LCD and eInk reader screens) Android device. The edge is more of a general purpose, not as glitzy as the Kno or specifically committed in to the student demographic. I use it every day for note taking and annotating design documents printes as PDF files. It’s worked great for me. The Kno looks slick, but it’s way more expensing, heavy, and did I mention expensive?

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