Freescale Smartbook Tablet reference revealed: $200 all-day 3G slate

The Smartbook promise is full connectivity and low price, and if Freescale can successfully sell their new Smartbook Tablet reference design to their OEM partners then it stands a good chance at delivering on both.  The 7-inch touchscreen slate has integrated WiFi b/g/n, Bluetooth 2.1 and optional 3G, and is powered by a Freescale i.MX515 applications chipset based on an ARM Cortex A8 CPU.  Best of all, they reckon pricing could realistically start at under $200.

There's also an optional docking station with QWERTY keyboard being discussed, shown below, which Freescale reckon could be as cheap as $50 more.  To be demonstrated at CES 2010 in both Android and Linux versions, Freescale expect the Smartbook Tablet to support web browsing, Flash playback, handwriting recognition and plug-ins for social networks such as Twitter, Facebook and Flickr.

Other tech specs include between 4 and 64GB of flash memory (plus a microSD card slot), 512MB of RAM, GPS, a 3-megapixel camera, 3-axis accelerometer, ambient light sensor and both USB and mini-USB ports (the latter also used for charging).  The i.MX515 chipset supports OpenVG and OpenGL/ES graphics, along with HD video decoding, while the 1,900mAh battery is said to offer "all day" battery life.

Freescale say that end-products based on their reference design could be on shelves by Summer 2010.  As long as they can keep to that price point, we'll be waiting for them.

Press Release:

Freescale evolves second-generation smartbook form factors with new tablet design

Solution combines best attributes of smartphones and notebook PCs for the ideal blend of performance, portability and battery life

AUSTIN, Texas – Jan. 4, 2010 – Freescale Semiconductor has unveiled the future of the smartbook category with a tablet reference design featuring a 7-inch touch screen with up to four times the viewing area of a typical smartphone and based on a form factor that is approximately one-third the size and volume of today's typical netbook.

The design is intended to enable a second generation of smartbook products with prices less than $200 and featuring form factors that fully leverage the power, performance and functionality advantages of advanced ARM® processor technology. It is designed to provide instant-on functionality, persistent connectivity and all-day battery life. The design will be demonstrated at the 2010 Consumer Electronics Show running both the Android and Linux® operating systems.

The solution is based on Freescale's highly integrated 1GHz i.MX515 processor incorporating ARM Cortex™-A8 technology, and it also includes Freescale's MC13892 power management IC, SGTL5000 audio codec and the MMA8450Q 3-axis accelerometer. The solution is designed to help OEMs jump-start creation of smartbook tablets. End products based on the design could hit retail shelves as soon as the summer of 2010.

"Freescale's new tablet opens the door to an exciting new world of compelling form factors specifically designed and optimized to support common online activities including social media, high-quality audio/video playback and light gaming," said Henri Richard, senior vice president of Sales and Marketing for Freescale. "We believe the tablet will emerge as a popular form factor for the next generation of smartbooks. By introducing this prototype reference design, Freescale intends to play a vital role in propelling the mainstream adoption of smartbooks."

The design is the first platform in Freescale's Smart Application Blueprint for Rapid Engineering (SABRE) series. The SABRE tablet platform for smartbooks incorporates feedback from of a recently completed end-user research study conducted in conjunction with Savannah College of Art and Design's prestigious Industrial Design program.

"Semiconductor providers looking to differentiate in the nascent tablet market will need to offer solutions-focused system reference designs if they are to succeed with the world's foremost consumer electronics OEMs," said Jeff Orr, senior mobile devices analyst at ABI Research. "There is clearly strong end-user demand for tablet form-factors, and new reference designs look to play a major role in helping OEMs speed tablet smartbook products to market."

The tablet includes Wi-Fi and Bluetooth® wireless connectivity, and also features a 3D desktop framework with touch screen/QWERTY keyboard support. 3G modem and RF4CE protocol options are available. The tablet's modular approach to 3G connectivity lets systems designers select carrier-specific air interfaces appropriate for different regions. Modules can be pre-certified by carriers and selected to match a range of features and performance ranges. This method makes it easy to migrate quickly to new modem technologies as they are introduced.

Example smartbook platform applications intended to run on the tablet include a web browser with Adobe® Flash® Player and multimedia plug-ins, a media center, PDF and image viewers, a mail client, an RSS reader, an office suite, handwriting utilities and various widgets for Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, Weather SMS and other applications.

Smartbook reference design features

· Size: small/thin form factor (200mm x 128mm x 14.9cm and weighing 376 grams); no need for fan or heat sink

· Processor: Freescale i.MX515 applications processor provides high performance and low power

- ARM Cortex-A8 1GHz

- OpenVG & OpenGL/ES graphics cores

- HD video decoder hardware

· Memory: 512 MB DDR2

· Display: 7-inch (1024 x 600) touch screen

· Storage: 4-64 GB internal storage; removable micro SD

· Connectivity: 3G modem (option) 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth 2.1, GPS, RF4CE (option)

· Ports: USB 2.0 and USB mini (also for charging), audio in/audio out, SIM card

· Audio: speaker, microphone

· Camera: 3 Mpixel (video recording up to VGA @ 30fps)

· Battery: 1900mAh, USB charging

· Sensors: the MMA8450Q 3-axis accelerometer and an ambient light sensor

· Power management IC


Freescale and its partners offer a range of support, including turnkey designs. Inventec Appliance Corporation (IAC) provides expertise in design and manufacturing services for handhelds and netbooks. Freescale has also partnered with Thundersoft for software integration customization and optimization. For companies wishing to manage their projects internally, Freescale offers design aids including block diagram, schematic, list of materials and a Linux board support package.


The smartbook reference design is expected to be available for evaluation beginning February 2010 through local Freescale sales representatives. Reference design details are available at

About Freescale Semiconductor

Freescale Semiconductor is a global leader in the design and manufacture of embedded semiconductors for the automotive, consumer, industrial and networking markets. The privately held company is based in Austin, Texas, and has design, research and development, manufacturing or sales operations around the world.