The notion that good things really do come in small packages has never been truer than with the new generation of smaller and lighter tablets for schools. They are not only cheaper and better sized for smaller hands but offer all the power and amenities of their big brothers.
Rather than 10-inch screens, these mini-slates typically have 7-inch displays, and as a result they are thinner and weigh several ounces less, but they pack the same software and ability to transform the classroom into a digital domain. At less than a pound, these small wonders are much easier for children to handle with one hand and are less tedious to hold for long periods. But, by far the big difference is that these smaller slates are much less likely to be dropped and broken. In other words, they should fit right into the modern classroom.
In fact, IHS iSuppli forecasts that the 7-inch Android slate market is where the action will be. The market research firm has projected the 7-inch portion of the tablet market to be the fastest growing in 2013 with sales increasing four-fold, versus 2.6-fold for all other tablets. The firm predicts that next year, the 7-inch market could top sales of 67-million slates, or one third of the total tablet market.
A big reason for this interest in smaller slates has to do with price tag. With a 10.1-inch Android slate costing between $350 and $500, a 7-inch model with similar specs and software can go for half as much. Plus, there are models that cost as little as $100.
To see what these smaller slates have to offer education, we brought together five of the latest models. From Acer’s Iconia Tab A110, Google’s Nexus 7 and KD Interactive’s Kurio 7 to Lenovo’s IdeaPad A1-07 and Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 2 7.0, they are five of a kind. All have 7-inch screens of varying resolution, weigh significantly less than a pound and offer an inexpensive entry into classroom computing.
The savings add up quickly when compared to the run-of-the-mill classroom notebook. For instance, the most expensive ones were $200, about one-third to one-half the cost of the typical notebook used in schools.
We gave each a thorough examination and pushed them to the limit with benchmark software and a variety of typical school tasks. We measured and weighed them and used them for email and Web projects. For those that could, we connected them to a projector. We finished up with typical classroom lessons on spelling, math and geography.
We also wanted to see how they stack up against Apple’s iPad new Mini, the 800-pound gorilla in this field. Make that 600-pound gorilla because the Mini has a 7.9-inch screen versus the original’s 9.7-inches and a weight that’s on a par with the lightest of this group. By contrast, the new kid on the block, Microsoft’s Surface RT tablet, is much bigger but is just as interesting from a school point of view.
In the final analysis, size really does matter. But, so do abilities and the best are powerhouses with high-speed processors, sharp touch screens and lots of storage space. Some add cameras, front and back, as well as the ability to drive a projector so the whole class can see. In this regard, half of the group failed out with no way to connect it to a projector, making them more appropriate for use by students than by teachers.
Of the five, one stands out as a jack of all trades for teaching, Acer’s Iconia Tab A110. It may not be the lightest, the cheapest or the most powerful Android tablet around, but it does bring together technologies that can help teachers teach and students learn. It was not only a close second place in performance and has all the ports required in the classroom, but could run for 5 hours and 30 minutes on a charge. It’s squared off design is easy to hold and it doesn’t wobble on a table.
In other words, the Iconia Tab A110 will fit into classrooms for today and tomorrow.