While 10-in Android slates rule at school, there is another, less expensive, way. With the advent of a variety of 7-inch tablets, there’s now a smaller and lighter alternative that can not only cost less but work better for smaller children.
The latest pair of 7-inch Android tablets shows the range of thinking with Google’s Nexus 7 and Dell’s Venue 7 proving what a small slate can be capable of. They both are smaller and lighter, yet just as capable as their bigger brothers and can each help a school to teach the digital way.
Although both the Venue 7 and Nexus 7 have jet black cases, fit into a jacket pocket and share many attributes, they differ on the details and especially their price tags.
For the most part, Dell has stayed in the background waiting for others to try out Android tablets, but the wait is over. The Venue 7 is an inexpensive and competent slate that’s just the right size for students.
At 12-ounces and 0.4-inches thick, the Venue 7 is a little on the heavy side and 2 ounces heavier than the Nexus 7, despite having the same size screen. As is the case with most slates, its controls are minimalist with only an On-Off switch and a volume control.
While its black on black color scheme is a bit dour, I really like the soft touch coating on the back of the system. The Venue 7’s silver buttons stand out better than the black ones on the Nexus 7.
Powered by Intel’s 1.6GHz Atom Z2560 dual-core processor, the Venue 7 comes with 2GB of system memory and the system can hold 16GB of data. This can be augmented with up to a 128GB micro-SD card; the Nexus 7 does without a flash card slot.
A step down from the Nexus 7’s 1,920 by 1,080 resolution, the Venue 7’s 7-inch screen shows 1,280 by 800 resolution images. It works well for small hands touching, sliding and tapping the screen’s surface. The system uses Intel’s HD Graphics and served up skip-free video, but its single speaker sounded tinny.
There is a micro-USB port for charging the system. On the other hand, the Venue 7 lacks the Near Field Communications (NFC) technology that’s built into the Nexus 7 and many Samsung slates that allows printing and communications at a tap.
There’s no direct way to connect the Venue 7 to a projector or large monitor for group work. It can, however, use a MiraCast receiver and connected with a Rocketfish receiver, moving audio and video. The slate includes 802.11n WiFi and Bluetooth.
The hardware may be up to date, but the Venue 7’s software is a half-step behind the Nexus 7’s Android 4.4 with Android 4.2.2. The system comes with the standard Android apps plus Dell’s Pocket Cloud, which allows teachers and students to save, retrieve and share items with an online server. It includes 2GB of storage space for free and can even let users take control of a home computer to grab forgotten assignments.
Its power comes up a little short compared to the Nexus 7 with an Antutu Performance rating of 18,999 compared to the Nexus 7’s 20,000 score. This level of performance should be more than enough in the classroom or office. It ran for 7 hours and 17 minutes, a half an hour longer on a charge than the Nexus 7, though. Either should provide more than enough for a full day at school and a little left over to read assignments at home.
The Venue 7 is for schools and districts on a tight budget, but don’t want to skimp on the slate they use. At $150, it costs $79 less than the Nexus 7. This means that compared to Nexus 7 slates, a school can afford an extra Venue 7 for every two they buy. And, that’s the kind of math that administrators love.
+ Micro-SD slot
+ Soft case coating
+ 7-plus hour battery life
- Low-resolution screen
The Nexus 7 is a powerful tablet that would be the perfect school slate if it only cost less. At $229 – 50-percent more expensive than the Dell Venue 7 – it will be out of reach of many districts, but it’s an important technological statement about what is possible for a small tablet.
Made by Asus, the Nexus 7 thinks small. It weighs 10-ounces, undercutting the Venue 7 by two ounces. This makes it one of the lightest 7-inch slates available and particularly well suited for small hands and fingers. A little wider and shorter than the Venue 7, the Nexus 7 matches it with a 0.4-inch thickness. On the downside, the basic black color scheme makes the Nexus 7’s buttons for turning it on and adjusting its volume hard to see.
Inside is Qualcomm’s Snapdragon S4 Pro quad-core processor, which runs at 1.5GHz. Like the Venue 7, it comes with 2GB of RAM and 16GB of storage space; a 32GB model –something not available on the Venue 7 – costs $269. On the other hand, it lacks the Venue’s micro-SD card slot so that the system’s storage capacity can’t be augmented with a flash card.
Its 1,920 by 1,080 display out-classes the Venue 7’s screen, but both are sensitive to up to ten individual screen inputs. The screen has a dedicated 400MHz Adreno 320 graphics accelerator. On the other hand, the Nexus 7’s pair of speakers deliver richer and crisper audio than the single speaker on the Venue 7.
The Venue 7, the Nexus 7 has a micro-USB port for charging as well as an NFC equipped back that allows it to print with Samsung’s or HP’s printers. If you don’t have an NFC-ready printer, you can use Google Print to put anything onto paper. In addition to 802.11n and Bluetooth, the Nexus 7 has the ability to use an optional mobile data plan.
Plus the Nexus 7 came with version 4.3 of Google’s Android software and after a couple of week updated itself to version 4.4, aka KitKat. The software makes multitasking more efficient and saving files to an online server easier. Google provides access to 15GB of free online storage for two years with GoogleDrive while the Venue 7 offers 2GB of online storage from Dell’s Pocket Cloud infrastructure.
The Nexus 7 is a powerhouse with a 20,000 score on Antutu’s Performance test suite, making it slightly more powerful than the Venue 7. It was able to run for 6 hours and 51 minutes, nearly half an hour short of the battery life of the Venue 7.
At the end of the school day, the Nexus 7 is an impressive piece of technology that comes with apps for teaching geometry, emulating a universal remote control and use a ChromeCast device to connect with a TV or projector; it also works with a Slimport wired adapter.
While it can help any school to teach a generation of students, it would be easier to swallow the Nexus 7 if it cost less than $229.
+ Good mix of components
+ High-resolution screen and graphics hardware
+ Light weight design
+ Online storage
+ Latest Android software
- No micro SD card slot
- Black buttons are hard to see
If you think the day of the desktop has passed, think again because, Intel’s Haswell fourth-generation Core processor family has breathed new life into stationary computing. Acer’s Veriton 2 minitower not only as room for an optical drive, but for a PCIe x16 and a PCIe x1 slot for future upgrades. It’s energy efficient and allows entry for maintenance and cleaning. The systems come with Windows 7 and 8 so that the school can choose without cutting off an important upgrade path. Models start at $449.
MasteryConnect’s Resource Pinner is an exchange for teacher resources like no other. The idea is to create a Pinterest-like community for K-through-12 teachers to share items like lesson plans, hot educational Web sites and classroom materials. The software works with Android phones and tablets, is free and can save a school a lot of money and hassle.
If you’re finding it hard to track every scholastic aspect of each student in a big school, there’s a better way. Using some of the tenets of customer relationship management software, School Command puts everything in the cloud for a more responsive experience. The student information system can consolidate every aspect of a student’s educational live in one online place, from admissions and attendance to grading and communicating. It can even create a school community that draws alumni together with present students and teachers.
If your class likes to play Dig-It’s Mayan Mysteries, they have a chance to create a character for the game. All they need to do is sketch a character, give it a name and age as well as write a brief description of him or her. The deadline is December 15 and the grand prize winner will get an iPad 2 with a copy of Mayan Mysteries while three finalists will get an iPod Touch with the game.
If you’re spending too much time thinking about software than actually working with students, Moxtra has a novel solution. The Android and iOS app combines collaboration with chat (with a single student or the whole class), virtual meetings and graphic as well as audio messaging into a single interface. Best of all, it’s free.
There are stylus pens and a few brushes available that can turn a tablet into an artist’s canvas, but Crayola takes the idea of slate accessories to a new level with its $40 DigiTools Paint Pack. In addition to a paintbrush and airbrush, the kit includes a stamper and a paint roller. All the tools fit into a carrying case