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TechLAB Shootout: 5 Small Android Tablets

TechLab_web largeThe 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

Android leadTo 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.

A110 cOf 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.

 

                                       Acer Iconia Tab A110

A110 aBy combining excellent performance and battery life with the latest hardware and software available in a school-ready design that is easy to use and hold, Acer’s Iconia Tab A110 goes to the head of the class. At $200, it is not the cheapest but is the best equipped to excel in everything from finding the right Web resources to presenting lessons.

At 0.4-inches thick, the A110 is among the thinnest systems here and feels good in small hands. The 5.0- by 7.6-inch slate is a good compromise between the tiny Galaxy Tab and the larger IdeaPad. We really like the system’s squared off look, surface that is easy to grip and its flat back that doesn’t wobble when used on a desk. It, however, lacks the protective bumpers that come with the Kurio 7 although there are several aftermarket cases available to protect it from the clumsy.

Its 13.6-ounce weight is on the heavy side, but the system carries it well with good balance. Solidly made, the A110 appears to be able to stand up to years of classroom use and abuse.

The black and gray mini-slate has a flush display, but it lacks the permanent Android actuation buttons that are on the Kurio 7 and IdeaPad; all of the Android controls are part of the screen. With a resolution of 1,024 by 600, the A110’s 7-inch display is in the middle of the pack on sharpness, between the high-resolution Nexus 7 and the Kurio 7’s low-resolution screen. It not only plays smooth video but you can quickly zoom in on an image detail.

A110 bIts capacitive screen responds accurately and dependably to finger movements. It can handle up to 10 independent inputs and deals with multi-finger gestures without a problem. It worked well with our Wacom Bamboo stylus and was just as good at finger painting as highlighting a word in a sentence or drawing a right triangle.

There’s a front camera that can capture 2-megapixel still images or videos but, unlike the Kurio 7 and IdeaPad, it lacks a rear camera. This makes the A110 more appropriate for video conferencing or taking head shots of the user than for use as a digital camera or camcorder.

In addition to Android 4.1.1 software, the A110 is extremely well equipped with a 1.2GHz Nvidia Tegra 3 processor and the bonus of Nvidia’s GeForce 12-core graphics accelerator; its processor is 100MHz slower than the same chip on the Nexus 7. The A110 comes with 1GB of RAM and 8GB of flash storage space, but its Micro SD card slot can work with up to 32GB flash cards to supplement its storage capacity.

Around the edge of the A110 are buttons for tuning it on and off as well as increasing or decreasing the volume. Its array of ports is a huge step up from the Galaxy Tab, IdeaPad or Nexus 7 with Micro USB, Micro HDMI and headphone connections. It worked well with the Lab’s Epson MG-50 projector and connected easily with a desktop PC for moving files onto and off of the slate.

On top of using cables, the slate comes with 802.11n WiFi and Bluetooth. It was able to connect with all of our classroom peripherals except the memory key because it didn’t come with a Micro USB adapter.

Acer iconia tab a110 screenIt all adds up to a top ranked Android tablet that scored 10,484 on the Antutu Performance Benchmark, just behind the Nexus 7, which has a slightly faster processor. Still, its performance potential is roughly three-times higher than either the Kurio 7 or the IdeaPad and twice that of the Galaxy. The system was able to stay connected with the Lab’s WiFi router up to 105-feet away, tying for the long-distance lead with the IdeaPad. This makes it a good choice for schools with spotty WiFi coverage.

With a 3,420 milli-amp hour battery pack, the A110 was able to run for 5 hours and 30 minutes of constantly playing YouTube videos. While it was three hours off the pace set by the Nexus 7, it should be more than enough for a full day of schoolwork.

The system comes with a good mix of programs that are pre-loaded and ready for classroom use. In addition to Movie Studio, it has Google’s Currents as well as Play Books and Magazines apps.

With a 1-year warranty, the Iconia Tab A110 has a list price of $230, but if you shop around you'll find it for about $200, putting it in a tie with the Nexus 7 and Galaxy Tab 2. On the other hand, it is the only one of the three that can connect with a projector on its own. It is more than worth it because the Iconia Tab A110 does so many things in the classroom and does them effortlessly.

4.5 stars

A110 c

Acer Iconia Tab A110

Price: $200

+ Powerful

+ Latest software

+ Reasonable size and weight

+ Good assortment of ports

+ Doesn’t wobble

 

- No rear camera

 

Google Nexus 7

Nexus 7 dMade by Asus, Google’s Nexus 7 makes a virtue out of being small, light and powerful, but this is at the expense of its flexibility in the classroom. That’s because the slate lacks any way of projecting its contents onto a classroom screen, making it better for students than teachers.

Its size and shape are extremely impressive at 0.4- by 4.7- by 7.7-inches, making it only slightly larger than the Galaxy Tab 2. The black tablet has a silver band of edging around it and a thoughtful rubberized back that makes it easy to grip. Its rounded back suffers from a slight wobble when used on a tabletop.

At 11.9-ounces, the Nexus 7 sets the pace on weight, making it the least tiresome to hold for long periods. It’s the featherweight champ that is a few tenths of an ounce lighter than the Galaxy Tab 2 but nearly 2-ounces lighter than the Iconia Tab A110 or the IdeaPad.

The center of attention for the Nexus 7 is its superb screen. It may match the others with a 7-inch diagonal display, but it can show 1,280 by 800 resolution, making it the sharpest view around. Its bezel has a slight lip and, like the A110, it only has a front camera.

Unlike the Kurio 7, the Nexus 7 lacks the three dedicated Android buttons, preferring to use the screen controls, so you’ll need to tap the button images on the screen. It has an on/off button as well as ones for adjusting the volume.

Based on multitouch capacitive technology the display responds to 10 separate finger inputs, can use complex gestures and worked well with a Wacom Bamboo stylus. We used it for navigating within online magazines, drawing triangles for a math lesson and showing how a chemical reaction works.

Nexus 7 aAs good as the Nexus 7 is, it can’t drive a projector or monitor. That’s because it doesn’t have the HDMI connection that many of the others have and it doesn’t work with a USB-MHL projector adapter. This leaves the Google slate mainly for use by students.

It does have a Micro USB port as well as one for headphones, but that’s it. There’s no Micro SD card slot for boosting its storage from the included 16GB. Like all the others, except for the IdeaPad, the Nexus 7 comes with 1GB of RAM. The system includes Bluetooth and 802.11n WiFi and was able to stay in touch with the Lab’s router 100-feet away, just short of the best.

There is one thing that the Nexus 7 excels at: raw performance. It’s 1.3GHz Nvidia Tegra 3 processor is the most powerful available in this class of computer and it includes the same 12-core graphics engine as used on the Iconia Tab A110. This pushed the Nexus 7 to excel with an Antutu Benchmark score of 10,629, marginally faster than the Iconia A110 but more than three times higher than that of the IdeaPad or the Kurio 7.

This high  Nexus 7 main screenflying was not at the expense of battery life because the system’s 4,325 milli-amp hour battery pack, the Nexus 7 was able to run for 8 hours and 40 minutes on a charge while continuously playing YouTube videos. It was just ahead of the Galaxy Tab 2 and could run for two schooldays on a charge.

With the latest Android 4.2.1 software, the Nexus 7 matches the Iconia A110. It comes with a good mix of apps, including Play Books and Magazines.

While we like the size and weight of the Nexus 7 and are impressed with its performance and battery life, it has one glaring shortcoming: it can’t be used with a projector.

3.5 stars

Nexus 7 c
                                                           Google Nexus 7

Price: $200

+ Top performance

+ Small and light

+ Excellent battery life

+ Up-to-date software

+ High-resolution screen

 

- No flash card reader

- Lacks HDMI port for projector

 

KD Interactive Kurio 7

Kurio 7 dThe Kurio 7 is the rare digital device available today that has been designed for use by kids. It comes with protective bumpers, and has exactly the right software included, but gets to its enviable price tag by skimping in too many places. 

At 0.5- by 4.8- by 7.7-inches, the Kurio 7 is the biggest of the five, and is nearly one-quarter larger than the slim Galaxy Tab 2. Its 12.6-ounce weight is right in the middle of this group. On the other hand, the Kurio 7’s back is rounded and it wobbles when used on a table top.

While you can buy protective cases for all of the others, the Kurio includes a silicone plastic bumper case that gives it a soft feel, makes it harder to drop and protects everything but its screen. It adds another 7 ounces to its heft, bringing the total to over a pound.

Like the others, the Kurio has a 7-inch screen, but it can only show 800 by 480 resolution and is much less detailed than the others. It looks good and is plenty bright for classroom use but it has a shimmering quality to the glass that is diverting. It accurately responds to touch and accepts gestures, but can only work with five inputs at a time, less than the tablets that respond to 10 independent inputs.

Kurio 7 aBelow the screen are dedicated buttons for the three major Android functions, while the A110, Nexus 7 and Galaxy have these functions as part of the screen. This makes it easier for teachers and students to navigate, particularly in a darkened room because these areas are back lit when you touch them. It has a 300KP camera facing the user as well as a 2.1MP one for shooting out of the back.

Turn it on and immediately, it looks different from the rest. To start, the password protection can be configured to respond to series of taps in certain places. This is much easier to remember than a sequence of letters and numbers.

The Kurio also has a skin on top of its Android 4.0.3 software that’s been designed with education in mind. Up to 8 profiles can be established and there’s an area to limit where and what a student can use the Kurio for. In addition to the Android software, KD Interactive adds 25 programs just for children, from a digital coloring book to 2D Boys’ World of Goo. It comes with Aldiko’s eBook reader,

Inside is an up-to-date Cortex A8 processor that runs at 1.2GHz, 1GB of RAM and a stingy 4GB of storage space that can’t compare with the Nexus 7 or IdeaPad’s 16GB. The Kurio’s storage space can be augmented with up to a 32GB Micro SD card. The system has a Mali 400 graphics processor that runs at 350 MHz and takes some of the pressure off of the processor. 

Kurio 7 cAlong with the Iconia A110, the Kurio 7 it has the best assortment of ports for connecting it to classroom devices. In addition to a Mini-USB and -HDMI ports, it can drive a pair of headphones or speakers. While it has 802.11n WiFi for connecting to the school’s network, it lacks Bluetooth so wireless peripherals are off limits. It disconnected from the lab’s router 80-feet away, the shortest range of the five.

The performance of the Kurio 7 was disappointing, with a score of 2,899 on Antutu’s Performance Benchmark. It was marginally faster than the IdeaPad, but offers only about one-third the performance potential of the Nexus 7.

Kurio 7 interfaceIt has the bonus of including connection cables so that the Kruio can grab items from a USB memory key, but because it lacks Bluetooth, it could not work with our wireless keyboard or speaker; it was able to work with the projector. The system ran out of battery power after only four hours, roughly half the life of the Galaxy Tab 2 and the Nexus 7 and cutting it too close for a school day of work.

If the $150 Kurio 7’s impressive software counted for everything, it would be a winner. But, a school slate has to be an all-around performer and the Kurio needs to catch up on performance, battery life and wireless abilities of its peers.

4 stars

Kurio 7 b
KD Interactive Kurio 7

Price: $150

+ Inexpensive

+ Comes with protective bumpers

+ Excellent assortment of software

+ Good port selection

+ Android function buttons

 

- No Bluetooth

- Wobbles on desktop

- Short battery life

- 4GB of storage space

 

Lenovo IdeaPad Tablet A1-07

Ideapad A1-07 bThe IdeaPad A1-07 from Lenovo is getting a little long in the tooth, but still can compete with newer models. It is a mixed bag when it comes to small tablets and includes twice the storage space as the others and has a low price tag. On the downside, the IdeaPad uses an older version of the software and can’t drive a projector.

Easily the largest of this gang of five Android tablets, the IdeaPad measures 0.5- by 4.9- by 7.5-inches and weighs 13.6-ounces, more than an ounce and a half heavier than the Nexus 7. The black and dull gray slate is sturdy and has a slightly rounded back that wobbles a little when used on a tabletop. It lacks the protective bumpers that come with the Kurio 7 but Lenovo sells an inexpensive case for the slate.

The 7-inch screen delivers 1,024 by 600 resolution images and was the brightest of the bunch. However, rather than 10 independent inputs the touch display can handle up to two fingers at a time. This limits the variety of gestures it can work with, although it can still zoom-in and -out with a finger pinch and responded accurately to our Wacom Bamboo stylus.

It does come with the Go keyboard built-in. The on-screen keyboard not only makes suggestions along the way based on what’s been typed but has different themes and can speed up word entry. In addition to the expected on-off switch and volume controls, the IdeaPad has dedicated Android controls, which are also on the Kurio 7. The A1-07 goes a step further with a screen rotation lock that could come in handy with smaller children.

The system has a pair of cameras, matching the Kurio 7’s abilities. Up front is a 300KP device for video conferencing and the back has a camera for stills and video that can capture up to 2.1MP.

Ideapad A1-07 aWhile the others all have variants of fourth generation Android software, the A1-07 comes with the older 2.3.4 version. It is proven and stable, but lacks a few of the features that the 4.0 software provides. The system includes Docs to Go, eBuddy and Amazion Kindle’s eBook reader apps.

The tablet is powered by an ARM A8 single-core Cortex processor that runs at 1GHz and comes with the least RAM: just 512MB. In daily use, it didn’t prove to be a problem but on occasions we were left waiting for the slate to respond.

A big bonus is that the A1-07 is equipped with 16- (instead of 4- or 8-) gigabytes of storage space. And it can be boosted by another 32GB with a Micro SD card, making it as close to a bottomless pit for data as we’ve seen in this class of computer.

Its array of ports is limited, though. The system includes a Micro USB connector for charging and connecting to a computer and a headphone jack for individual listening. The slate was able to work with the Lab’s wireless speaker, but not the keyboard or memory key. Of greater concern is the lack of an HDMI port to run a projector. It also didn’t work with our USB-MHL adapter. In other words, the A1-07 is better for use by students than a teacher.

Ideapad A1-07 dIts performance was at the back of the class with a score of 2,738 on Antutu’s Benchmark app. That’s roughly one third the potential of either the Iconia A110 or the Nexus 7. It redeemed itself with the longest WiFi range and its reasonable 5 hour and 35 minute battery life while playing YouTube videos, plenty for a full day of work.

The good news is that the A1-07 is among the least expensive Android slates around. With a price tag of $150, it’s on a par with the Kurio 7 and significantly cheaper than the others. If you shop around, you might be able to get it for even less, making it a classroom bargain.

3.5 stars                                                               
Ideapad A1-07 c

Lenovo IdeaPad Tablet A1-07

Price: $150

+ Inexpensive

+ Comes with 16GB of storage space

+ Go keyboard

+ Dedicated Control buttons

 

- Older version of Android

- Less than 1GB of RAM

- No HDMI for driving projector

- Two finger touch screen

 

Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7.0

Galaxy tab cBeing small, light and thin has its benefits for young students with small hands, but for Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 it is at the cost of its usefulness in the classroom because it lacks a port to connect it to a projector. Still, it is an impressive slate wrapped in a beautiful design that can find a home with students.

The smallest of the five, the Galaxy measures a svelte 0.4- by 4.7- 7.5-inches, although its slippery finish is in stark contrast to the rubberized grippy feel of the Nexus 7. Bottom line: it is much easier to drop the Galaxy.

It may not be the lightest slate around, but the Galaxy’s 12.2-ounce weight is right in the middle of the pack. It makes The Galaxy slate easy to carry and less tedious to hold than some of the others.

Its black and gray look matches other Samsung Galaxy products and is a bonus for schools in search of a unified look to their gear. Its rounded back, though, means that it wobbles slightly when used on a desktop. While it lacks the protective bumpers that are provided with the Kurio 7, Samsung sells a $50 portfolio cover for the Galaxy.

Galaxy tab dThe Galaxy’s outer surface is smooth but it doesn’t provide is any ports for connecting it to the world. It has a headphone jack and that’s it. Everything else must go through the 30-pin proprietary connector that’s also used to charge the slate. There’s an optional $35 desktop dock (the only one available for these slates) but it only has an audio connection. To connect to a computer or USB memory key or an SD card requires a $30 kit; there’s also a $20 USB adapter.

While the Galaxy doesn’t have an HDMI port for using a projector, Samsung sells a $40 adapter to do this, making it just as good for teaching s for learning.  As is the case with the others here, the Galaxy has a 7-inch screen and its 1,024 by 600 resolution matches that of the IdeaPad and A110, but falls short of the Nexus7’s extremely detailed display. It lacks the Kurio 7’s dedicated Android control buttons, but they appear on the screen.

The slate’s display can handle 10 separate finger inputs and works with complex gestures. It, however, lacks the fabulously useful and versatile S-Pen and software that Samsung includes with the Tab Note slates. The system did work well with our Wacom Bamboo stylus.

Unlike the IdeaPad and Kurio 7, the Galaxy has only one camera and it points out of the back of the device. This makes it better for taking class pictures or videos of a science lab than for video conferencing or taking headshots of the user.

Galaxy tab bWhile it has a reasonably powerful 1GHz Samsung CPU, the Galaxy lacks a separate graphics accelerator to handle video, which is included with the Kurio 7, Nexus 7 and the A110. Like the others, it has 1GB of RAM. The Samsung slate comes with 8GB of storage space and has a Micro SD slot for adding up to 32GB of storage capacity.

Its on-screen keyboard feels a little cramped, but it is extremely functional and can speed some classwork – like Web research – with rows for letters and numbers on the same screen. It also has a dedicated key for either “www” or “.com” depending on what’s being typed. At any time, you can change the keyboard to accept swipes rather than taps, which can speed up typing.

Of the five slates reviewed here, the Galaxy’s audio is the clearest, richest and the loudest. It also comes with 802.11n WiFi and stayed online 90-feet from the Lab’s router. The system includes Bluetooth and was able to work with our wireless speaker and keyboard.

Galaxy tab keyboardIt all adds up to a middle-of-the-class grade, with the Galaxy scoring 4,925 on the Antutu Benchmark. That’s twice as powerful as either the Kurio 7 or the IdeaPad but half the performance potential of the Nexus 7 or Iconia. Its 4.000 milli-amp hour battery pack was able to power the Galaxy for 8 hours and 20 minutes of playing YouTube videos continuously, just off the pace set by the Nexus 7 and more than twice as long as the Kurio 7 can go on a charge.

In addition to Android 4.0 software and its apps, Samsung includes a slew of free apps, including software for teaching anatomy, music and the U.S. Presidents, most of which are available through other sources, but Samsung puts them all together for you. It comes with Amazon Kindle’s eBook software as well as Reader’s Hub for consolidating online reading material.

At $200, the Galaxy matches the price tag of the Iconia and Nexus 7, but requires a pocket full of adapters to connect and project.

3.5 stars                                                                
Galaxy tab c

Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7.0

Price: $200

+ Thin and light

+ Long battery life

+ Best on-screen keyboard

+ Good sound

+ Excellent apps

 

- Lacks USB port and flash card slot

- Only has camera in back

- Wobbles on tablet top

 

A Tale of Two Slates

The iPad Mini and Surface RT are the long and short of alternatives for classroom tablets

There’re other choices out there when it comes to stocking a classroom full of slates, like Apple’s iPad Mini and Microsoft’s RT. Both are the new kids on the block and are ultra-slim but are very different tools for teaching.

Apple iPad Mini

IPad_mini_inHand_Wht_iOS6_PRINTSize really does matter and the iPad Mini has a 7.9-inch screen that’s larger than any of the slates reviewed here but is smaller than the original iPad’s 9.7-inch display. Unlike the full-size iPad, the Mini has a lower resolution display that shows 1,024 by 768 images rather than the fabulous 2,048-by-1,536 resolution Retina display on its older and bigger brother. But, a higher-resolution model might be on the way.

Overall, the Mini feels good in small hands and weighs 11-ounces, slightly less than the lightest Android system. Powered by a 1GHz dual-core processor, the Mini comes with a skimpy 512MB of RAM and either 16-, 32- or 64GB of storage space. It, unfortunately, can’t be augmented because the Mini doesn’t have a flash card reader.

With 275,000 apps to choose from, there’s a particular emphasis on educational games and software at the iTunes app store. The Mini also works well with Apple’s iBooks texts.

While it can work with a variety of formats – from MPEG 4 video to AAC audio – the iPad Mini can’t deal with Flash files. In our use in the Lab, the Mini was able to run for more than 11 hours of playing YouTube videos on a charge. On the other hand, like earlier iPads, the Mini has neither USB nor HDMi ports so you’ll need to get a pocket full of adapters to use it in the classroom.

It all comes together in a slate that travels easily and its $39 polyurethane cover folds to create a surprisingly useful stand. The Mini, however, doesn’t have anything on a par with the Surface’s add on keyboard cover that can transform it into a classroom computer. At $329 (with 16GB of storage), Apple has created a tablet that is small and light without downsizing its educational potential.

Microsoft Surface RT

Surface with keybaordBy contrast, Microsoft’s Surface RT presents a larger view of the classroom, with a 10.6-inch screen that can show 1,366 by 768 resolution. ON the other hand, it weighs in at a hefty 1.5-pounds that might prove to be too heavy for small children to carry and hold.

Its specs outdo the Mini with a 1.2GHz quad-core processor and more comfortable 2GB of RAM, the system can be outfitted with 32- or 64GB of storage space, although Surface can beef that up with a 32GB Micro SD card for a total of 96GB of storage potential.

Unlike the Mini, or any iPad for that matter, it has a reasonable set of ports so that the Surface can connect with a classroom. There are connectors for USB and HDMI as well as a headphone jack. In other words, there is no need to have adapters for the Surface to fit into the classroom scene.

While the Surface tablet can’t use traditional Windows software, Win RT looks and feels very much like Win 8. It comes with Microsoft Office Home and Student 2013 that includes versions of Word, PowerPoint, Excel and One Note. A work in progress, Microsoft says that there are several thousand Win RT apps and hopes –rather optimistically – to have 100,000 apps by early 2013. Later in 2013, look for a Surface system that runs on Windows 8 and can work with all of your school’s current software.

At $500 (with 32GB), it’s a little big, heavy and bulky, but the Surface has an ace up its sleeve: it’s Touch Cover, which is probably the best add-on keyboard for a tablet. It provides a full-size keyboard and a stand that turns the system into the equivalent of a netbook, but costs $120, bringing the pair up to the cost of a good notebook.

 

School Slates            
  Acer Iconia Tab A110 Google Nexus 7 KD Interactive Kuirio 7 Lenovo IdeaPad A1-07 Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7.0  
Size and Weight
Dimensions 0.4-x5.0-x7.6-in. 0.4-x4.7-x7.7-in. 0.5-x4.8-x7.7-in. 0.5-x4.9-x7.5-in. 0.4-x4.7-7.5-in.  
Weight 13.6-oz. 11.9-oz. 12.6-oz. 13.6-oz. 12.2-oz.  
Screen size 7.0-in. 7.0-in. 7.0-in. 7.0-in 7.0-in.  
Screen resolution 1,024x600 1,280x800 800x480 1,024x600 1,024x600  
Components and Features
Processor/Speed Nvidia Tegra 3/1.2GHz Nvidia Tegra 3/1.3GHz Cortex A8/1.2GHz Cortex A8/1GHz Samsung/1GHz  
Operating System Android 4.1.1 Android 4.2.1 Android 4.0.3 Android 2.3.4 Android 4.0.4  
RAM 1GB 1GB 1GB 512MB 1GB  
Storage 8GB 16GB 4GB 16GB 8GB  
Ports Micro-USB, Micro-HDMI, headphone Micro-USB, headphone Mini-USB, Mini-HDMI, headphone Micro-USB, headphone headphone  
Flash card reader Micro-SD No Micro-SD Micro-SD Micro-SD  
WiFi/Bluetooth Yes/Yes Yes/Yes Yes/No Yes/Yes Yes/Yes  
Camera resolution/ front and back Front-only 2MP Front-only 1.2MP 300KP/2.1MP 300KP/3.0MP Rear-only 3.0MP  
Performance, Price and Warranty
Antutu Benchmark 10,484 10,629 2,899 2,738 4,925  
WiFi range 105-ft. 100-ft. 80-ft. 105-ft. 90-ft.  
Battery life 5:30 8:40 4:00 5:35 8:20  
Warranty 1-year 1-year 1-year 1-year 1-year  
Price $200 $200 $150 $150 $200  

 

Download Scholastic 7-inch slates FT

Android Testing

TechLab_web largeTo evaluate how well each of these tablets fit into the classroom, we used them extensively on a daily basis at Scholastic’s TechLAB facility. In addition to reading eBooks, writing lesson plans and performing Web research we watched online videos, taught lessons and worked with email.

We started out by measuring and weighing each as well as examining each button, port and control. We then went through the system's software and tried out all the major programs.

After we connected each tablet to the Lab's WiFi wireless network and set them up to play an Internet radio station, we slowly walked away from the Lab’s Linksys router. We noted where the system lost contact and walked back, allowing the tablet to reconnect and confirmed the place where the system lost its wireless data connection.

Measuring tabletTo make sure that the slates fit into the classroom, we tried each out with several hardware accessories, including, a Wacom Bamboo stylus and an Epson MG-50 projector. For those with Bluetooth, we tried a Logitech wireless speaker and an Adesso Bluetooth keyboard. If the tablet had a USB port, we also connected a memory key and a hard drive.

After that, we loaded Antutu’s Benchmark and ran it on each tablet. This suite of tests pushes the system’s processor, memory, graphics as well as SD card transfers. The software records a total score that is comparable to its overall performance.

Next, we fully charged each system’s battery and started the YouTube app and started a series of videos via a WiFi connection. With the screen brightness set to 6/10 and volume level set to 3/10, we unplugged the slate while starting a stop watch. When the tablet runs out of power, we stopped the watch and then repeated this process three times and averaged the results. 

AntutuTo see how well the screens work, we set each to allow the display to rotate as the slate is moved. After moving a finger across the screen, we noted how responsive and accurate its digitizer is. Then, we used the MultiTouch Visualizer 2 app to measure how many fingers the screen can keep track of at once.

Then, we watched videos and ran simulated lessons for English, math and science. After that, we set those with an HDMI port up with an Epson MG-50 projector to test its abilities to project a lesson for the class to see. For those without an HDMI, we tried a USB-to-MHL converter that works with many smartphones and tablets.  We downloaded an e-book with the included app and read it on the screen.

Finally, we put all the info together and gave each a rating that is based on a maximum of five stars. The key criteria are size, weight, performance and battery life as well as how responsive the display is and what software is included.

 

 

 

 

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