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Small, Light and Powerful

EliteBook-2560p-Front-Left-Open Anyone who tells you that you can’t get high performance and long battery life in a small and light package is either lying to you or hasn’t seen HP’s EliteBook 2560p. The computer doesn’t so much balance power with battery life as ignore the compromises that other laptops have to make, but at $1,700, is an expensive proposition for cash-strapped schools.

The silver and black system has a 12.5-inch screen, yet fits into the space of a 12.0-inch system. At 1.1 by 11.9 by 8.9 inches, its 6-cell battery sticks out of the back of the system. There’s also a larger 9-cell battery available as well as a 3-cell power pack that doesn’t take up as much space.

Overall, it’s a nice size for schools with teachers and students able to put the system into a briefcase and still have lots of room left over for the accoutrement of education. It has a press-to-open latch and a large on-off button above the keyboard.

While the system on its own weighs 4.3 pounds, with its AC adapter and power cord, the EB 2560p has a travel weight of 5.1 pounds. It also has a three-prong grounded plug so it might not fit in to older school buildings without an adapter.

With a 2.6GHz Core i5 2540M processor and 4GB of RAM, the system has been set up with performance in mind. There are versions with slower processors that start at $1,099.

The $1,700 version that I took a look at comes with 128GB of ultra rugged solid state flash memory rather than a fragile hard drive. In other words, it takes the weakest part of a computer and makes it one of the toughest. You can order models with up to 500GB hard drives.

For those who have had to replace or repair broken systems all too often, the EB 2560p has your back. On top of a sturdy metal frame and a spill-resistant keyboard, the system has been tested to meet many of the requirements of the Army’s Mil Std 810G requirements for surviving drops, shock,vibration, dust, humidity, altitude and temperature.

Its 12.5-inch display and Intel HD 3000 graphics accelerator with 64MB of dedicated video memory and can grab up to 1.5GB from system memory. This adds up to the ability to show 1,366 by 768 resolution for displaying high definition material. It came with a DVD Super Multi optical drive.

EliteBook-2560p-Front-Open Above is a Web cam as well as dual microphones that can help reduce background noises during videoconferences. By far the most interesting creature comfort that the 2560p has is its LED night light that can illuminate the keys and touchpad. This will be a boon to teachers who have had to work by the stray light from a classroom projector. It casts a bluish light that’s more than enough to work by.

It’s also about as secure as a notebook gets these days with a Total Protection Module (TPM) and a slew of ProtectTools programs for things like disk encryption. The system has a fingerprint reader and SmartCard scanner.

With 19.2mm keys, the system’s keyboard is good for either kids or grown-ups. It has both a pointing stick in the center of the keyboard, a large touchpad below as well as actuation buttons for each.

The system’s assortment of connectors is a mix of old and new, including 3 for plugging in USB devices (one of which is shared with an e-SATA connection). It does without recent additions, like USB 3.0 and HDMI, though. There’s the choie of either using the VGA or DisplayPort for connecting an external monitor or projector as well as an ExpressCard slot and a flash card reader that works with SD and MMC cards.

Wired or wireless, the EB2560p can get and stay online with Ethernet, WiFi and Bluetooth. Its WiFi can work with 802.11a, b, g and n networks and had an adequate range of 90-feet. It’s a blast from the past with what has to be one of the last notebooks with an old school modem for dialing in to a server over phone lines.

It all adds up to a top performing notebook that scored a 1,441 on the Performance 7.0 series of benchmark tests, or roughly twice the potential of most mid-range systems and three-times the output of the typical netbook or tablet. More to the point, the 5,600 milliamp-hour battery ran for 5 hours and 50 minutes, double the run time of its competitors, making it that rare system that excels in both categories without compromises.

Plus, its battery pack has a surprise. On the bottom it has a four element battery gauge so that you can see how much capacity remains without turning the system on. I wish more notebooks would use this simple and inexpensive device.

Like other EliteBooks, the 2560p comes with Windows Professional and a three year warranty on the system; the battery is covered for just 1 year, though. For most computers this is worth at least $150.


The EB2560p is well-built, exceptionally well-equipped and built to take a daily beating, but at $1,200 – the cost of two midrange systems – it will stretch the budget of even the best financed school these days.


HP EliteBook 2560p



+ Small and light

+ Excellent performance and battery life

+ Security

+ Rugged design

+ Battery gauge

+ Keyboard light

+ Three-year warranty


- Expensive

- No USB 3.0 or HDMI


Off the Wall

WM-818_3 (1) Any frequent reader of Tech Tools will know that I am a strong believer that tablets have a place in the digital classrooms, but sometimes they are awkward in the hand. Just Mobile has a cool idea: mount it on a wall when it’s not in your hands. The company’s $50 Horizon mounting hardware does it with style and grace, works with both generations of iPads and can set it up horizontally and vertically. This allows it to be a picture frame, video conferencing screen or even a way for those heading to the bathroom to check in and out. 



More for Less

Satellite-c650d-st4nx1-laptop You can forget about netbooks, used laptops and last year’s systems when Toshiba has an up-to-date system for $300. There’s now a model of the company’s capable Satellite C650D system that comes with a 15.6-inch wide screen, an AMD Dual-Core C-50 processor, 3GB of RAM and a 320GB hard drive. Sure, it’s basic, but the C650D has WiFi, an optical drive, a Web cam and a notebook bag.




Welcome to Software City

Ckill builders Need a regimen of in-class games to help kids practice everything from integers and time to geography and money? Academic Skill Builders’ SkyChase site has a slew of software that you can set up for your kids to use and learn. The site tracks scores so that you can make a class-wide (or school-wide) contest out of it. The site’s Academics Plus section lets you customize the games and costs $200 a year.




Friday Freebee: Speed Thrills, or Not

Fcc report Why is it that the advertized broadband speed is always an illusion with your network only getting a fraction of what’s been promised? Actually things are getting a bit better, according to the Federal Communications Commission’s latest survey of the 13 top US Internet Service Providers. The best was Comcast at 1.4 times its advertized speeds, while Cablevision (my office’s provider) was only able to deliver a dismal half of the bandwidth it promised. The report makes for depressing reading.



Thin, Light and Cheap

Dell ins 14z Think thin, attractively styled notebooks have to cost an arm and a leg? Dell’s Inspiron 14z can make any school work smarter and look better with its $600 notebook. The system comes with a 14-inch HD screen, second generation Intel Core i processor, an optical drive and up to 750GB of storage space.



Required Reading: Rich Student, Poor Student

Close the gap ebook Apparently, it doesn’t matter whether a student is rich or poor, black or white, according to M. Donnell Tenner, that is. His “240 Ways to Close the Achievement Gap” eBook attempts to be inspirational and practical at the same time. His manifesto for staying in school involves working from a student body’s cultural strengths to provide motivation, encouragement and support. The eBook costs $19 or a signed edition can be had for $3 more.


3 Ways to Cut the Cord

Cq5dam.thumbnail.162.108 If you’re tired of having the projector or monitor in one place because the school has spent a fortune to wire classrooms with fixed cabling, Intel’s WiDi standard can help put these devices where they can do the most good. Think of WiDi as the latest extension of WiFi networking that connects a computer with a monitor and you get an idea as to its worth in the digital classroom.

Short for Wireless Display, WiDi requires a WiFi network, something most schools already have, to work. There are WiDi notebooks from Dell, Toshiba, Sony and others that have the hardware for wirelessly sending images to a screen built in, making their VGA and HDMI connectors obsolete.

At the other end of the WiDi equation, Belkin, DLink and Netgear sell the equipment needed to receive the stream of video at a monitor or projector from the notebook. Capable of high-definition video, the system has a range long enough for the typical classroom.

F7D4501_hi_res Looking more like an alien flying saucer than a piece of educational gear, Belkin’s ScreenCast TV adapter can link a WiDi notebook to a television set or projector across a classroom. On top of full 1080p HD video, it can work with Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound and has a slew of connectors, ranging from HDMI to Composite video connectors. It costs $130.

DHD-131_back By contrast, DLink’s DHD-131MainStage adapter is less expensive at $120, but adds classroom creature comforts like a simple one-button connection scheme so that teachers don’t waste valuable instructional time. The system adds the ability to connect two screens at once, extending a PC’s screen so that you can drag an item from a connected notebook to a projector or monitor. 

PTV2000-Product-Image-High-Resolution18-17111 At $100, Netgear’s Push2TV PTV2000 brings all the technology together at the best price of $100. The system provides the ability to play DVDs, nose around the Web or just show a math lesson on the big screen – all without a cable in sight. It can handle 1080p HD programming and comes with the cables needed to connect the Push2TV to a monitor or projector.


Book ‘Em

ZooGue_ BinderPad b The future of textbooks is digital, but tablets and loose leaf notebooks haven’t really worked well with each other. That is until ZooGue’s iPad 2 BinderPad Pouch. It snaps into a regular old school three ring binder and securely holds an iPad with a Velcro strap. It provides access to the iPad2’s front-facing camera, leaves all buttons available and adds only 3 ounces to the bulk. When the lesson begins, just pull it out. The pouch costs $30 and can make tablets and books get along better.


iPad Tutoring


Your teacher ipad YourTeacher.com’s intensive online math tutoring lessons are now available for the iPad, iPhone and Android tablets and phones. The good news is that you don’t need to get and install a special app, just log on with your mobile device and learn. It covers the same library of 1,000 math lessons that are categorized and searchable and include a video lesson, practice problems, worksheets and tests. It has test prep courses for everything from AccuPlacer to Washington’s Geometry exam.




Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in Tech Tools are strictly those of the author and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Scholastic, Inc.