Hands on with the InFocus Mondopad

InFocus Mondopad screen angle touchscreen computer white boardEarlier this year, InFocus introduced the Mondopad, a hybrid television and computer built specifically to conquer the classroom and boardroom. Like Sharp’s competing Aquos Board, this all-in-wonder machine promises to make “presentation, annotation and collaboration” easier than ever before with video, drawing and even multitouch capability. Recently, the Wilsonville, OR-based company came by Digital Trends HQ and dropped one of for us to play around with. We played around with it and offer our impressions below.

Out of box

The Mondopad is big. Take that concept you have of a flat-screen TV and toss it right out the window. The Mondopad measures 38.3 x 53 x 5.5 (H x W x D-in inches) and weighs 96.5 lbs. Wrangling the Mondopad from its box is a two- or three-person job, to be sure. You can wall-mount the Mondopad (very carefully) but it comes with two large “feet” that fit up and into the bottom of the cabinet to act as a stand.

InFocus Mondopad speaker whiteboard touchscreen computerIf you want to use your own audio system, you can, but InFocus includes its own self-amplified sound bar, which mounts directly under the screen. It uses two 3-inch drivers and a ¾-inch tweeter on the far left and right sides and houses a 25 watt-per-channel amplifier as well.

Also in the box is a 720p webcam and microphone array for video conferencing, a wireless mouse and keyboard and a stylus.

It’s not a tablet!

To be frank, we’re not fans of the name. This is for a couple of reasons: First, Mondopad just sounds funny. The name got more than a few chuckles around our office during the few weeks the device was in residence. Second, the name implies that the device is a monster-sized tablet — and it isn’t, despite the fact that a great deal of the press seems to have bought into that notion.

InFocus Mondopad keyboard stylus touchscreenSure, thinking of the Mondopad as a tablet brings to mind a simple interface with touchscreen capability — that’s probably a good thing for InFocus’ marketing department — but to refer to the Mondopad as a tablet seems misleading and inaccurate, because it is so much more than that. Under the hood of this tank is a full-fledged PC running on Windows 7 Pro, a 2.5GHz Core i5 processor, 4GB of RAM, a 250GB hard drive and Intel HD Graphics. It also features six USB A ports, a USB B port, two Ethernet jacks, built-in Wi-Fi, two HDMI inputs, S-Video, component and VGA inputs, and comes with a wireless mouse and keyboard. Does that sound like any tablet you’ve ever heard of?

We understand that “touch-screen PC” doesn’t sound as good, but let’s call it what it is.

What it can do

If a PC can do it, the Mondopad can do it. But in addition to basic PC functionality, the Mondopad supports easy presentations, document annotations and video conferencing thanks to a sensitive touch-screen, built-in whiteboard, web camera and customized user interface (shell).

How it works

When you boot up the Mondopad, you are greeted with a home screen with nine icons (which InFocus calls apps) lining the bottom. The “getting started” icon takes you to a brief tutorial, “view and share” pulls up a folder where Mondopad-related files are stored, “browser” pulls up an Internet Explorer window without needing to leave the Mondopad interface, “white board” is self-explanatory, “Video Meeting” pulls up an interface to access VidTel’s cloud-based service for video conferencing, “extras” allows access to some common Windows functions (like the control panel)  without having to leave the Mondopad shell, “reset meeting” closes all files, whiteboards and video meetings and the “schedule” icon will bring up a daily calendar.

InFocus Mondopad web camera white board touch screen interactive pcVideo conferencing through VidTel allows almost anyone to join in a virtual meeting, whether they use VidTel or another service like Skype, GoToMeeting, webex or Google Talk. If you don’t want to run a full-on video meeting, you can simply share your whiteboard through a password protected IP address and make a conference call. When you’re done with your presentation, you can email everything you did directly from the Mondopad.

The Mondopad connect app takes sharing and control a step further by allowing its screen to be shared with mobile devices and tablets (iOS and Android apps available) or, conversely, the Mondopad can have content shared to it, or even relinquish control to a mobile device. This takes place via Wi-Fi, and since the Mondopad acts as its own Wi-Fi hotspot, clients need only log into the Mondopad as an access point to get started.

In use

The InFocus home screen skin keeps things looking and feeling simple, but it is possible to leave the Mondopad’s shell and work directly from Windows 7 Pro. The route out of the shell and onto the Windows 7 desktop isn’t readily apparent, nor is the process easy to memorize. We found ourselves hunting and pecking for the way out. We always found it, but only after a couple of minutes.

We did have a little trouble using VidTel initially. We found most of the instructions on how to use the service at VidTel’s website, but even after attempting setup ourselves, we were unable to have colleagues dial in remotely using non-VidTel applications such as Skype. One of the advantages to VidTel is that it is a cloud-based service and, using its “MeetMe” service,  coordinates video conferencing from multiple channels like Skype and Google Talk. All we wanted was to give someone a number or email to “dial” and that seemed like a lot of work. Ultimately, we ended up launching Skype from Windows and used that as our teleconferencing platform. That worked relatively well, save a few disconnects which we blame on our own network issues.

To be fair, we were able to successfully dial into InFocus’ support team using VidTel and the experience was smooth and simple. We received outstanding customer support from InFocus any time we needed it, getting succinct answers to our questions and, when needed, had our Mondopad remotely controlled by the support staff for quick and easy solutions to our problems.

With all of that said, we think that anyone interested in purchasing and using the Mondopad should ensure the dealer selling it to them is prepared to provide some level of introductory instruction to get them up and running unless they have a competent IT guru on hand prepared to jump into the Mondopad head first. Even a 30-minute instructional session could save hours of trial-and-error and the accompanying frustration of learning a new, complex tool.

InFocus Mondopad web cam touchscreen pc whiteboardWe were particularly impressed with the included webcam and microphone. The camera’s angle is wide enough that it was able to cover our entire boardroom and the sensitive microphone delivered crystal-clear audio that rivaled that of our expensive Polycom conferencing phone.

We found the Mondopad’s 55-inch screen made a spectacular TV screen as well. Brightness, contrast, black level and shadow detail were all excellent. In a media room setting, the Mondopad would be great for watching movies and sports.

Do we need this?

There is no doubt in our minds that businesses and educators could benefit greatly from a device like the Mondopad. With it, the distance learning experience could significantly be enhanced. We envision classrooms in the US connected with classrooms in Japan, sharing information in new and exciting ways. We can just see rows of students with iPads contributing to lessons from their seats, and then taking the whole thing home with them to study. This is the sort of futuristic, Jetsons-style technology we’ve been waiting over 50 years for.

But while we have no doubts the Mondopad is ready to take on the world, we’re not so sure the world is ready to take on the Mondopad. There are still some who need convincing when it comes to the idea that digital textbooks are superior to paper texts, never mind the notion that a 55-inch HDTV should replace a chalkboard or a whiteboard and toxic-smelling markers. But we have to start somewhere and we applaud InFocus for leading the way.

[Update: Article edited to reflect Vidtel is a service, not software]


Exclusive: The Surface Hub 2S will revolutionize work. Here’s how it was made

Exclusive interviews with the designers, futurists, and visionaries behind the Surface Hub 2 paint a dramatic picture of how Microsoft thinks collaboration will change your office.

Microsoft reveals details of Surface Hub 2S, coming in June at $9,000

The Surface Hub 2 could be the most expensive whiteboard ever made, but it should be a powerful and capable one. With the ability to connect several of the 50-inch displays together, the picture at least, should be gorgeous.

Meet the mastermind behind Microsoft's massive new Surface Hub

Microsoft Chief Product Officer Panos Panay gives us an exclusive peek at the 85-inch Surface Hub 2, and explains how innovation and collaboration will transform your workplace.
Product Review

You won't buy Microsoft's Surface Hub 2S, but it could still change your life

The Microsoft Surface Hub 2S wants to change the way you collaborate at work. That’s a lofty goal most devices fail to achieve, but the unique Hub 2S could be an exception. And trust us – you’re going to want it.

HP’s new Zbook, EliteBook 800 workstations go 4K with 8th-gen Intel CPUs

HP's new line of workstation laptops includes some seriously durable EliteBook and ZBook designs, with options for high-end, eighth-generation Intel CPUs, 2TB of storage, and discrete AMD Radeon graphics chips.

Light up your external GPU with Razer’s new Core X Chroma enclosure

The Razer Core X Chroma external graphics card enclosure is big enough for three-slot graphics cards, with enough space for a 700w PSU and it brings back the RGB lighting of the Core V2 — all for the same price as its predecessor.

Microsoft accelerates carbon reduction plans in new sustainability push

Microsoft wants to accelerate its sustainability goal of becoming a zero-carbon company. To reach those goals, Microsoft is doubling its self-imposed carbon tax to incentivize business divisions in making sustainable choices.

MacOS update may include external display support for iPads

Apple's upcoming MacOS is rumored to include a new native external display support feature. Code-named "Sidecar" the new feature is expected to allow MacOS computers to send app windows to external displays like iPads.

Apple’s MacBook laptop is on sale for just $800 for a limited time

If you have your heart set on a MacOS-powered laptop, B&H has a sale on Apple's MacBook that takes the price down to $800. Only select models are on sale right now, but you can score up to a $600 savings if you act quickly.

AMD could offer ray tracing with next-gen Navi graphics cards

Navi is the next-generation graphics card line from AMD and it's coming in just a couple of months time. When it does arrive, one of its major features may be ray tracing, which has to date been an Nvidia-exclusive feature.

Report says 20% of all 2018 web traffic came from bad bots

Distil Networks published its annual Bad Bot Report this week and announced that 20% of all web traffic in 2018 came from bad bots. The report had other similarly surprising findings regarding the state of bots as well.

Learn to uninstall a Steam game and clear some space on your PC

Looking to learn how to uninstall Steam games? You've come to the right place. In this guide, we walk you through the process step by step, whether you want Steam to do it for you or handle the process manually.

Amazon strikes $100 off the price of Microsoft Surface Go tablets

If you've been eyeing Microsoft's Surface Go for its compact size and portability, now may be a great time to buy the tablet. Amazon has a $100 discount on the Surface Go, bringing the price of this slate down to just under $400.
Emerging Tech

How emotion-tracking A.I. will change computing as we know it

Affectiva is just one of the startups working to create emotion-tracking A.I. that can work out how you're feeling. Here's why this could change the face of computing as we know it.