It is a happy outcome that there are dozens of Android tablets for schools to choose from, rather than a pair of basic iPadn slate designs. Unfortunately, it’s been my experience that no two Android Tablets are alike, producing an embarrassment of riches.
Choosing the right one is more than a bit complicated. Take Lenovo’s IdeaPad S2110 and Samsung’s Galaxy Note 10.1. Both are prime 10.1-inch tablet contenders for the classroom that share the same basic layout. Under the skin, they couldn’t be more different.
Based on the same version of Android software, they both have 10.1-inch screens, but the Galaxy Note is a high-performance screamer that has some slick school-centric software. It might prove to be too expensive for schools, though. Meanwhile, the S2110 may not be as fast, but it has a snap-on keyboard that can also extend its battery life to several days of typical schoolwork. Together, the slate and keyboard cost roughly what the Galaxy Note does on its own.
Decisions, decisions. Both are A students that will add to any teacher’s abilities in the classroom, from Web research or an English grammar seminar to a chemistry lab. Which you get depends as much on your budget as much as what you plan to use these slates for.
Lenovo IdeaPad S2110
Like so many of the latest Android tablets, Lenovo’s IdeaPad S2110 is two (or more) devices in one. On its own it is a competent slate for classroom use, but snap on its keyboard and it becomes the equivalent of a netbook for typing, Web journeys and general schoolwork.
At 1.3 pounds and 0.4- by 10.2- by 6.8-inches, the S2110 is among the thinnest and lightest 10.1-inch tablets around and undercuts the Galaxy Note 10.1 by 3 ounces and a tenth of an inch here and there. Plus, I prefer the textured back of the S2110 over the smooth Galaxy Note 10.1’s back.
It has a flush screen that can display 1,280 by 800 resolution images, respond to up to 10 finger inputs and work with gestures, like pinching the screen to zoom. On the downside, it lacks a stylus, like the one on the Galaxy Note. It worked fine with a Wacom Bamboo pen.
The S2110 is in a class by itself with micro-USB and HDMI ports, compared to the no-port approach that Samsung took with the Galaxy Note. This means that it’s easy to plug it into a PC or use with a projector.
While it is fine on its own and sits flat on a desktop without a hint of wobble, the S2110 really comes into its own with the snap-on keyboard. As the slate is inserted into the keyboard base it reassuringly locks into place; there’s a mechanical button to release it.
The screen is hinged and can go from being closed to sitting at up to a 45-degree angle, but as you rotate the display, it raises the front of the keyboard and like other similar systems, the S2110 tends to tip over if you start using your fingers to move tiles, draw or tap on things.
Together, the pair have everything you’d expect, from 17mm keys to a touchpad for maneuvering the pointer. It really is the equivalent of a small notebook with 2 extra USB 2.0 ports. The whole thing weighs a svelte 2.6-pounds.
Based on Android 4.0 software, the S2110 has a pair of cameras: a 1.3-megapixel cam for doing video chats and a 5-megapixel in the back for taking snapshots or recording HD video. Along with a 1.5GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon dual-core processor, the system comes with 1GB of RAM and 16GB of flash storage space. It has a 32GB microSD card slot for increasing storage by up to 32GB.
That’s a couple steps down from the Galaxy Note’s 2GB of RAM and quad-core processor, although the S2110 runs 100MHz faster. Its on-screen keyboard is easy to get used to and has audio feedback for when keys are touched.
It all adds up to a reliable system that won’t set any performance records, but will satisfy just about any in-class need. It scored a 6,939 overall on the Antutu Benchmark tests, well off the blistering pace set by the Galaxy Note. To no surprise, the biggest difference between the two was that the S2110’s dual core processor was less than half as capable as the Galaxy Note’s.
As far as battery life goes, the S2110 ran for 6 hours and 48 minutes playing online videos on a charge by itself, just enough to get it through a full day of use, but two hours short of the Galaxy Note’s run time. With the keyboard in place, that rises to 13 hours a 10 minutes, making it the long distance champ and capable of being used for a few days at a time without a recharge.
While the S2110 comes with a good mix of software, it lacks the Galaxy Note’s ability to run split screen and turn scribbles into math formulas. Still, the S2110 with its keyboard dock has a list price of around $500. If you shop around, it can be had for closer to $430, making it the IdeaPad S2110 is the best buy among Android tablets today.
+ Snap-on keyboard has own battery
+ Battery life
+ Thin and light
- Lacks stylus
- 1GB RAM
Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1
The Galaxy Note 10.1 is a curious device in that for every step forward is takes, there’s a half step backwards. Yes, it has a great pressure sensitive stylus and great software, but it’s a little clunky, like other Samsung tablets, it lacks any ports and requires getting the dock. More to the point, its price can put it out of reach of many districts.
To start, it is bigger and heavier than the S2110, but only by a little at 0.4- by 10.3- by 7.3-inches and 1.4-pounds. It has a similar 10.1-inch display that can respond to 10 individual finger inputs, handle gesutres and can show 1,280 by 800 resolution. Along the bottom of the device is Samsung’s slide out S-Pen stylus that has a square profile, is pressure sensitive and can simulate a variety of brushes and pen points so that artwork takes on new creativity. It comes with a copy of Photoshop Touch and Kno’s excellent digital textbooks.
The slate is powered by Samsung’s 1.4GHz Exynos quad-core processor that while slightly slower than the S2110’s dual-core chip, is much more powerful overall. It came with 2GB of RAM and 16 GB of flash capacity for storing material. There’s a slightly higher resolution 1.9-megapixel face cam as well as a 5-megapixel camera in the back of the device.
As is the case with the S2110, the Galaxy Note comes with Android 4.0 software, but adds a slew of Samsung apps. My favorite is the one that lets you divide the screen into two halves and go between them. It is so useful that it is sure to be copied by others. The slate also has innovative software for taking notes and writing math formulas.
Like the S2110, it can sit flat on a tabletop, but doesn’t come with a keyboard dock. While the Galaxy Note has a micro-SD card reader for boosting its storage by 32GB, it has no other connections available. There’s an $80 keyboard dock that includes connections for audio as well as a smaller $35 Multi-Media dock that offers audio and HDMI to drive a projector.
As far as performance goes, the Galaxy Note blew the doors off of the S2110, with a score of 12,454 on Antutu’s benchmark suite of tests. That’s nearly double the performance potential of the Lenovo tablet and opens new vistas for school slates. It was able to run for 8 hours and 50 minutes while playing online videos continuously, two hours longer than the S2110 on its own, but lacks a self-powered dock that could have added extra run time.
All told, the Galaxy Note 10.1 is a slate that doesn’t compromise on performance, battery life or creativity, but at $500 – more than the S2110 with its keyboard – it’s a tough sell for cash-strapped schools these days.
+ High performance
+ Excellent software
+ Good battery life
- No ports
- Requires dock for projector use