If you think that only Apple and Android have school-ready tablets, think again. Microsoft’s Windows 8 not only works well with the latest slate designs, but it offers the unparalleled advantage of allowing schools to continue to use their favorite programs without having to spend a penny on new software.
Two of the most recent Win 8 school slates are Acer’s Iconia W700P and Dell’s Latitude 10. They both use the latest software, have touch screens and were designed to be used on the desktop and in the hand. After that, they differ widely.
For instance, the Latitude 10 has a 10.1-inch screen and starts at $499 but gets expensive when you add in all the accessories needed. By contrast, the W700P has a larger 11.6-inch display and comes with everything you’ll need to use it to teach and learn for $1,050.
When you add together all that’s needed, the price tags are closer than you might think.
Acer Iconia W700P
With its matte silver edging and long narrow format, Acer’s Iconia W700P presents a more formal look for school slates. It also raises the bar on cost but is as close to a complete teaching tool as exists.
The slate features a large 11.6-inch touch screen that can display full 1,920 by 1,080 HD resolution, making it just as good for watching video as viewing digital images. It outdoes the Latitude 10 in size and resolution, offering more than 25-percent more workspace. It, however, wasn’t as bright as the Latitude 10’s display.
Its long, narrow screen is just as good for working through long essays as it is for scroll through interminable Web pages. The display is sensitive to 10 independent inputs compared to the Latitude 10’s five finger input. It works well with gestures and responded precisely to an off-the-shelf stylus. The W700P comes with a well-designed stylus that actually looks and feels like a real pen.
Its display is made of super-tough Gorilla Glass and around its edge there are buttons to turn it on, adjust the volume and lock the screen’s orientation. There’s also a Windows Home key.
The W700P leads the Latitude 10 in size and weight, and that’s not such a good thing. It weighs in at 2.1-pounds and measures 0.5- by 11.6- by 7.5-inches. That’s more than 40 percent larger and a third heavier than the Latitude 10. Overall, it feels a little big and heavy for small hands, but can be a great tool for teachers and high-school students.
Inside is a high-performance computer that will put many notebook and desktop PCs at school to shame. It’s all built around a Core i5 3317U processor that has two cores and a speed of 1.7GHz. With Intel’s TurboBoost technology, it can run as fast as 2.6GHz if needed. The system comes with 4GB of RAM and a generous 128GB of solid state flash storage. Like the Latitude 10, the W700P has a Trusted Platform Module for airtight remote access.
With two cameras – a high resolution one in the front and a 1,280 by 720 in the back – the WD700P can be used for video conferences with parents or making classroom movies. The system has Dolby Home Audio and a pair of speakers on the bottom of the slate.
While it lacks a VGA port, the W700P makes up for it with a micro-HDMI connection; the system includes an adapter for a VGA projector. It worked well with a Mitsubishi WD390U-EST projector as well as USB and wireless keyboards. The W700P, though, lacks WiDi for wirelessly sending images and audio to a display.
The best part about the W700P is that the $1,050 package I looked at comes with everything you’ll need to teach and learn, including the stylus, adapters and a nice dock that has can be set up vertically or horizontally. It has 3 USB 3.0 ports and can be a little tricky getting the slate in and out. Once you learn to slide it horizontally, into and out of the dock it gets much easier.
The system also includes a padded gray case that’s covered with in soft faux suede. The slate snaps in and there’s a Bluetooth keyboard that can make typing a grade report much easier than using the W700P’s on-screen keyboard. The whole package does a good imitation of a notebook and weighs 3.4-pounds.
The system’s performance was exceptional and better than most school notebooks. It scored a 1,605.0 on Passmark’s PerformanceTest 8.0, 7-times the score of the Latitude 10. Its 4,850 milli-amp hour battery was able to power the machine for a reasonable 5 hours and 30 minutes, of continuous use. This should translate into a full day of use, but is four hours short of the Latitude 10’s incredible battery life. Unfortunately, like the Latitude 10, the battery can’t be changed.
While others skimp on the expected items, Acer excels at them, providing more value. In addition to Windows 8 Pro, the W700P includes a 2-year warranty. If you add that plus the case, configuration differences and the stylus together, the two systems are actually very close in price.
The bonus is the W700P’s great large screen and ability to fit right into the classroom.
+ Big high-resolution screen
+ Top performance
+ Comes with cradle, cover, stylus and keyboard
+ 10 finger input
- High price
Dell Latitude 10
At roughly the size and weight of an iPad, Dell’s Latitude 10 squeezes a lot of PC into a thin tablet, but compared to the Iconia W700P it cuts too many configuration corners and gets expensive quickly when you add in the needed accessories.
At 1.4-pounds, it is much lighter than the W700P and it is only 0.4-inches thick. The system takes up 10.7- by 7.0-inches of precious desktop space, making it good for side-by-side work. The Latitude 10 is smaller in every dimension; it also has a 10.1-inch display versus the 11.6-inch screen on the W700P.
On the other hand, the Latitude 10 has comfortable cut-outs for hands and its rubberized coating feels better than the W700P’s cold metallic surface. In all, the system can more comfortably be handled and used by smaller children.
At 10.1-inches, the Latitude 10’s screen is not only smaller than the W700P’s, but is not made of Gorilla Glass. Its 1,366- by 768-resolution is also second best compared to the W700P’s HD display. It can only handle up to five separate finger inputs, but this should be plenty for most classroom uses. It worked with gestures and an off-the-shelf stylus; the tablet didn’t come with a pen.
Below the screen is a handy Windows Home button. Around its edge there are buttons for turning the system on and off as well as adjusting the volume and locking the screen orientation.
Its components are a step or two down from the W700P’s set up. Powered by Intel’s dual-core Atom Z2760 1.8GHz processor, the system lacks compatibility with DirectX 10 software. The system comes with 2GB of RAM and a 64GB solid state storage system, all less than the W700P provides. It does have security-conscious TPM hardware, though.
There’s also a pair of cameras on the Latitude 10: a 2-megapixel device up front for video chats as well as an 8-megapixel camera in the back for taking pictures and videos. It has a pair of speakers but the Latitude 10 lacks the W700P’s Dolby audio enhancements.
The slate itself has an SD card slot as well as a USB 3.0 port and an audio jack. It can connect with 802.11n WiFi networking and Bluetooth built-in. The system worked with a USB and wireless keyboard. On the downside, the slate on its own can’t be used to project or connect to a monitor.
That’s where Dell’s $120 cradle comes in. More desk-centric than the W700P’s dick, it securely holds the system horizontally, but not vertically. It has four USB ports, one of which is conveniently up front for instant-access items like a memory key or charging a phone. There’s also HDMI, audio and LAN connections. Like the W700P, it lacks WiDi for wirelessly sending images and audio to a projector. The system I looked at included a wireless mouse and keyboard set that adds $40 to the price tag.
To no surprise, the Latitude 10’s performance was a distant second compared to the W700P, a direct result of using Intel’s low-power Atom processor and 2GB of RAM. It scored a dismal 262.8 and couldn’t complete the benchmark’s DirectX 10 testing.
On the other hand, it’s a long distance runner, with the Latitude 10’s 4,050 milliamp hour battery able to go for 9 hours and 32 minutes on a charge. That’s four hours longer than the W700P’s battery life. In fact, it ran so long that it might be able to handle several days of use in the classroom without a recharge.
Right-sized for small hands, the Latitude 10 falls short on performance. Plus, if you add up all the extras that the W700P provides (like the case, dock, stylus, more RAM, larger storage, longer warranty and Windows Pro), the Latitude 10 costs about $950, putting them roughly on a par with each other.
+ Exceptional battery life
+ Small and thin
+ Inexpensive tablet
- All accessories are extra
- Low performance
- 2GB of RAM
- 5 finger input