Cheap to Keep
There’s a lot to be said for always having the fastest and most up-to-date notebook, but most schools are still using Windows XP and can’t afford Windows 8, the latest Intel processors and solid state storage. That’s where Acer’s TravelMate B113 comes in. At roughly $550, it may not have the fastest and latest hardware and software, but it is an excellent value.
That’s because the system avoids the newest and most expensive hardware and instead uses reliable components. For instance, instead of a third-generation processor, the system has a second-generation Intel Core i3 processor that runs at 1.5GHz. It has two processing cores and 3MB of processor cache but doesn’t have turbo boost technology that allows news chips to run faster for brief instances.
Plus, the system has neither a touch-screen nor Windows 8, instead relying on Windows 7 and a traditional 11.6-inch display that can show 1,366 by 768 resolution. It uses Intel’s older 3000HD graphics engine with 128MB of dedicated video memory, which can be boosted to 1.7GB by using extra system RAM. The B113 comes with 4GB of RAM and can hold up to 8GB.
Instead of expensive solid state storage, the B113 relies on a traditional hard drive that can hold 320GB. It might be confining for some, but should do just fine in schools as a general purpose system that live on carts or are issued to students at the start of the year.
The black plastic system is as small and light as a netbook, but will prove to be more reliable and powerful. At 11.1 by 7.9-inches it doesn’t take up too much desktop space and is size just right for smaller hands. At between 0.9- and 1.1-inches thick, it’ll fit into any bag.
I really like the fold down screen hinge that can keep the display from providing a place for kids to hide behind. Plus it has a simple monolithic touchpad and full-size keys.
It weighs in at 2.9-pounds and with its AC adapter can go from room to room at just 3.3-pounds. The best part is that the adapter plugs right into a wall outlet and its two-prong plug can rotate so that it doesn’t cover the other outlets.
It has all the ports that any school could want, including wired LAN, VGA, audio and HDMI. The system offers the bonus of a USB 3.0 port as well as connections for a pair of USB 2.0 devices. It has a Webcam, built-in microphone and an SD card reader.
The system comes with Bluetooth and Intel’s Centrino 802.11n WiFi wireless networking. I’m disappointed, though, that there’s no way to connect wirelessly to a projector via WiDi, a technique that makes projecting simple, quick and easy.
I gave it a heavy workout doing simulated lessons and general work, and the system kept its cool and never locked up or crashed, including when I ran the University of Colorado’s PHET simulation of vibration modes, watched HD videos from YouTube and connected on the first try with an Epson projector.
While its 863 score on Pasmark’s Performance 7.0 benchmark suite of software tests won’t set any records, it is right in the middle of the pack for school notebooks with roughly double the performance potential of a netbook.
Its small 2,500 milli-amp hour battery pack can run for 4 hours and 10 minutes on a charge while playing back YouTube videos continuously. Unlike many of the latest small notebooks, you can change the battery with a fully-charged spare. Plus, rather than having a latch that’s out in the open for kids to play with, the B113 has a tiny recessed latch that you need to flick with a screwdriver or pencil to release the battery. This should mean that fewer batteries will be dropping out of notebooks during class.
With Office Starter, Evernote and Windows 7 Professional, the system comes with a nice assortment of software. The system includes a 1-year warranty.
While the system I looked at goes for about $550, you can get one for as little as $400. All told, the TravelMate B113 may not be exciting, but it is a good, reliable notebook that will instantly fit into any school’s infrastructure and can be purchased at a reasonable price. And, that’s exactly what schools are looking for these days.
+ Good performance and battery life
+ Small and light
+ Flexible AC adapter
+ USB 3.0
- No WiDi