Intel has released the second iteration of their Classmate PC and it appears to be a much different machine than the one I got to play with a couple of months ago, although not much better.

It now sounds less like a low cost education laptop designed to challenge the XO and more like a pretty run of the mill, inexpensive consumer machine.

The main differences are that the Classmate now includes a 9-inch LCD display, a six-cell battery, 512MB of memory, a 30GB HDD, and an integrated webcam. The second-generation Classmate PCs are built on the Intel Celeron M processor with 802.11b/g Wi-Fi and mesh-network capabilities; future Classmate PCs will be built with Atom processors. Of course, the Classmate PC still supports Microsoft Windows XP, but variants of a Linux-based operating system will also be available.

The OLPC News blog has much more about the new Classmate and comparisons to the XO.

However, based on the first-generation Classmate model loaned to me (smaller screen, 2gb of memory/flash storage, a slower processor, no web cam), this pretty much sums up my assessment.

But other than those few classroom tools, the Classmate hardly feels like a leap forward in educational hardware as much as a gray, shrunken version of any typical Intel-powered laptop.

Which doesn’t mean the XO is necessarily ready for the classroom. While very innovative, it does have plenty of quirks, not to mention usability issues, for both adults and kids.

But there’s no way I’m giving up my little green machine!