A little more than a year ago, Kano unveiled a colorful build-it-yourself tablet running Windows 10. But then the company went quiet and, well, we never knew if the product actually came out. The Kano PC was sold, it turns out, but only to a small group of fans that were happy to act as unofficial beta testers. Clearly, the design team wasn’t happy with its first attempt at a Surface-style convertible. That’s why we didn’t hear much about it, and why today the company is back with a “next-generation” Kano PC that’s ready for store shelves and post-lockdown classrooms.
The basic concept is unaltered. The Kano PC is a chunky tablet that you have to assemble with components wrapped in colourful plastic. They snap together like Lego and can be viewed afterwards through a transparent rear panel. Like the original, it will ship with an 11.6-inch touchscreen that lets you tap and swipe around Microsoft’s desktop operating system. While not indestructible, Kano says the panel can withstand “a steel ball dropped from six feet.” The new version also has the same 4GB of RAM, 64GB of internal storage and microSD card slot.
Kano has made a number of changes, though, for the second-gen model. “Every aspect of the physical and electronic design has been improved,” a company spokesperson told Engadget. The biggest upgrade is arguably the dual-core Intel Celeron processor, which replaces the more modest Atom x5-Z8350 chip. The internal battery is now charged over USB-C and both USB-A ports will be 3.0, rather than 3.0 and 2.0. Battery life has been increased to 10 hours, according to Kano, and the heatsink has been extended to improve the device’s thermal performance. There’s also physical volume buttons on the right-hand edge of the tablet and Bluetooth 5.0 support, which trumps the Bluetooth 4.2 offered before.
The specs aren’t high end, but neither is the price. Kano’s PC costs $299 and, unlike Microsoft’s $399.99 Surface Go 2, includes a wrap-around keyboard cover. Instead, the device is competing with low-end Windows 10 hardware, Chromebooks and Apple’s entry-level iPad. Kano claims its two-in-one performs better “than many more expensive laptops,” including the Acer Spin 11 and an unspecified HP ProBook, in various Novabench tests. The Lego-like design means it should also be easier to repair and upgrade. Both will be largely dependent, though, on Kano making and distributing the parts, which need to fit in designated slots.
Kano’s PC will ship with Kano Software Studio, a collection of apps filled with programming challenges. It’s compatible with Kano World, a platform for sharing and downloading user-made creations, and will dovetail with Kano Club, a subscription offering that includes exclusive apps and bi-weekly “video and content drops.” Kano has also developed a 40-lesson Creative Computing Curriculum and a Microsoft Teams integration that should help teachers run virtual classes and track student projects.
Finally, Kano is working on a slew of peripherals that include a webcam, mouse and headphones. The webcam is attached to a bendable cable — so it can theoretically double as a front and rear-facing camera — and has multiple lenses so students can learn how to shoot macro photographs.
The Kano PC launches today and is available to order through the company’s website, as well as Best Buy and Microsoft’s online stores. The two-in-one will also be available in Best Buy outlets across the US and Canada later this month. Kano will be chasing lucrative school contracts, too, and other educational bulk buys around the world. In a press release, the company said it was already in discussions to distribute the device through the UAE’s Private Office of Sheikh Saeed Bin Ahmed Al Maktoum.
The Kano PC follows a wealth of Raspberry Pi-powered machines and a Kickstarter campaign that promised standalone Camera, Speaker and lightboard Pixel kits. To date, only the lightboard has shipped. In a backer update posted last December, Kano said it was working on a new Speaker kit that would be announced sometime in 2020. The Camera, however, was a privacy “minefield” that had to be abandoned. Today, Kano said anyone who backed the Camera, Speaker or Pixel kit will receive a free webcam, headphones and mouse. "They're a more than $100 value," the company said on Kickstarter. "Transparent, modular, and full of content."
Update 7/14/20 10:03AM ET: Added information about the free webcam, headphones and mouse for Kickstarter backers.