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Device Profile: Pepper Pad 3 web tablet

Jun 7, 2006 — by LinuxDevices Staff — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 10 views

A smaller, lighter, faster, less expensive version of the Linux-based Pepper Pad web tablet will ship in August. The third-generation Pepper Pad 3 has moved to an x86-compatible AMD Geode processor, and is said to offer better performance, battery life, and other improvements.

The Pepper Pad 3 is being manufactured by Hanbit of Suwon, South Korea, based on Pepper Computer's “Pad 3” reference design. Hanbit licensed the rights to Pepper's hardware and software designs under an agreement signed last December, the companies say.

Additionally, an unspecified Pepper Pad design was licensed by home appliance giant Salton for its Connected Home product line earlier this year.

Third-generation Pepper Pad

Pepper says its third-generation Pepper Pad is the first handheld device to offer a “secure, seamless user experience for the increasing array of entertainment and communications services built around the convergence of the web and digital media.” The device offers a “far richer viewing experience” than small-screen PDAs or mobile phones, Pepper says, requires much less maintenance than a complex laptop, and includes infrared and UPnP capabilities that allow it to control PCs, TVs, set-top boxes, CD players, and other audio/video devices.

The new Pepper Pad design is said to offer all the features of the Pepper Pad 2, along with 300 percent faster web browsing, better video performance, a built-in VGA camera, and faster WiFi and USB connectivity.

Pepper goes x86

Unlike earlier ARM-based Pepper Pads, the Pepper Pad 3 is based on an embedded x86 processor. Although low power has traditionally not been a strong point for embedded x86, Pepper claims its new Pad offers up to fifty percent better battery life than its ARM-based predecessor, thanks to the lower power requirements of its AMD Geode processor, enhanced power management, and a new lithium ion battery.

The third-generation Pepper Pad 3 is based on an AMD Geode [email protected] processor, the first Geode chip designed by AMD's chip design team subsequent to AMD's acquisition of the Geode product line from National Semiconductor in mid-2003. Pepper's previous Pad design was based on an Intel PXA270 processor.

Despite the “800” in its name, the AMD [email protected] is actually clocked at 533MHz. The “800” is meant to reflect the speed at which a Via C3-based processor would have to run in order to deliver comparable benchmark performance. The second number in the chip's product name, 0.9W, is meant to reflect typical power draw with the chip running at about 80 percent of capacity. AMD adopted benchmark-based naming conventions for its Geode products in May of 2004.

When it launched the [email protected] about a year ago, AMD touted the chip's promise for extending the reach of x86 into moderately sized mobile devices. Both AMD and Via promote “x86 everywhere,” and maintain that x86 holds advantages in devices with complex user interfaces, along with greater software support.

Other hardware features

The Pepper Pad 3 is slightly smaller than its predecessor, measuring 11.4 x 5.9 inches, and weighing in at 2.1 pounds. Its rugged, splash-resistant design boasts a 7-inch WVGA (800 x 480) resistive touchscreen with stylus. Another recent Linux web tablet, the pocketable, ARM-based Nokia 770, also features a WVGA screen — albeit with a much higher physical dot density, since it measures just 4.1 inches diagonally.

The Pepper Pad 3 comes with 256MB of SDRAM, and also has 256KB of LPC (low pin-count) ROM memory. Additional hardware features include:

  • Split QWERTY thumb keypad

  • “Direction pad” pointing device with scroll wheel
  • VGA (640×480) video camera
  • 1.8-inch hard drive, 20GB or 30GB
  • 802.11b/g WiFi, with WEP and WPA
  • Bluetooth 2.0 + EDR
  • Dual IR emitters, and IR receiver
  • USB 2.0 host and device ports
  • Stereo headphone jack
  • Built in stereo speakers
  • Component video out
  • Microphone in
  • Built-in microphone
  • AC '97 Codec

Software environment — normal Linux

On the software side, the Pepper Pad runs a 2.6-series Linux kernel, along with an Insyde BIOS. It runs X11, along with GTK+ graphics libraries. Other open source libraries include FreeType font support, Cairo graphics library, and ALSA sound drivers.

The Pepper Pad's Linux OS supports standard Linux, Windows, and Mac filesystems, and its USB subsystem includes drivers for USB mass storage, USB audio and network devices, and HID (human interface device) devices such as mice and keyboards.

Proprietary user-space applications include Pepper's own “Pepper Keeper” application framework, said to provide a suite of Java and XML-based utilities for securely downloading and installing software upgrades; WMDRM10 DRM (digital rights management);'s MobiPocket eBook reader; and Macromedia Flash 7, the same somewhat out-dated, Flash-video-challenged version included with Nokia 770.

Open source user-space applications include Firefox 1.5, MPlayer, and Real Networks's open source Helix media streaming framework. Additional software functionality includes VoIP, Yahoo! and Flickr photo-sharing, IR learn and transmit possibly based on LIRC, a UPnP media controller and renderer, POP3/IMAP/web mail, and a multi-protocol IM client.

Background, and Pepper Pad lineage

Pepper Computer announced the original Pepper Pad (pictured at right) in January of 2004. Based on MontaVista Linux, the Pepper Pad was marketed as a web tablet reference design for Internet service providers, digital content providers, hardware manufacturers, and others. It had a portrait-mode screen orientation, and somewhat clunky form factor little smaller than a compact notebook.

By the end of the year, Pepper had revised its design significantly, and had started marketing the Pepper Pad direct to consumers as a universal programmable remote control, kitchen recipe computer, and general coffee-table browsing platform. The Pepper Pad 2 (pictured at left) was smaller, offered a landscape-oriented display, and was powered by an x86-based Intel PXA270 processor.


The Pepper Pad 3 is available for pre-order through online retailers such as It has an MSRP of $700, and is expected to reach retailers in August.

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