Acer recently showed off its new PCs and the U5-710 all-in-one manages to deliver an enviable mixture of style, performance and size. The system is just 1.5-inch thick, yet packs in an Intel sixth generation Core i5 or i7 processor, all the ports you could ever want and a 3-D camera. Its 23.8-inch touch screen not only can show full HD material and respond to 10 individual touch inputs, but the system can be ordered with high-performance Nvidia GeForce graphics hardware.
The latest Windows 10 systems from Lenovo show a focus on thin, light and innovative desktop and ultra-portable PCs. To start the Home 900 Education system is an all-in-one design that picks up where the Horizon left off with a built-in battery and pull out leg that allows it to be used anywhere. It has a beautiful 27-inch HD screen that responds to up to 10 touch inputs so it can be thought of as a huge tablet. Available for $1,500, the Home 900 is high-performance all the way with has a Core i5 processor, 8GB of RAM and a 256GB solid state storage system as well as an Nvidia GeForce 940a graphics chip with 2GB of dedicated graphics memory.
Meanwhile, the Yoga 900 has slimmed down to 0.6-inches, making it one of the thinnest notebooks anywhere. The key to its versatility is that its hinge allows the screen to rotate 360-degrees so that it can be a tablet, traditional keyboard-centric notebook or bet set up to display material to a group. It weighs in at 2.8-pounds and will sell for $1,200 with a 13.3-inch screen that can rival Apple’s Retina display at 3,200 by 1,800 resolution. It comes with 8GB of RAM and a 256GB solid state storage system and JBL speakers.
The latest workstations from HP not only fit into tight spots but are priced only slightly above standard desktop computers. Take the Z240 SFF, for instance. It is small enough to fit on a shelf next to a row of books or attached to the back of a monitor, yet has the latest Intel Core i processors and will accommodate future Xeon chips. It can hold up to 64GB of RAM, has high-performance graphics options and the SFF case has an integrated M.2 slot for adding ultra-fast flash storage and not take up one of the system’s PCI-e connectors. Everything has been built for access with a clever places to grab the system, a swing-out hinged drive cage and a replaceable dust filter up front. Pricing starts at $880.
Tablets are great for when you need to move around, but there’s nothing like the comfort of a big screen computer, keyboard and mouse on a desk. That’s exactly what an all-in-one desktop PC can do for a classroom, library or study hall. Rather than specialty items, all-in-ones are now mainstream with a variety of new ideas and designs. They all come with Windows 10 and show the latest thinking in putting it all on the desktop.
To start, economy is the watchword when it comes to HP’s ProOne 400 G2 AIO. It starts with a 20-inch screen that delivers 1,600 by 900 resolution and can be ordered with or without touch. Inside is a fourth generation Intel Pentium or Core i processor, which should make it one of the most powerful PCs at school. A big security improvement is the inclusion of HP’s BioSphere that can protect the system’s BIOS from break-ins. It comes with the choice of a small easel stand (at right) for when space is of the essence or one that lets you adjust the height and viewing angle of the screen from nearly vertical to nearly horizontal. It will be out in October for $680 for a non-touch version.
Acer’s Z3-710 has a 23.8-inch touch screen that can be tilted to accommodate a variety of users, from the smallest third-grade to a hulking high-schooler. Powered by a Core i5-4170T processor, the all-in-one comes with 6GB of memory, a 1TB hard drive and a DVD drive. The $750 system looks like a winner with an aluminum stand, sleek profile and Intel’s RealSense stereo cameras.
In the meantime, Asus has been busy with all-in-ones as well, and its Zen AiO S Z240IC is a head-turner. The system is built around an aluminum skin and has a touch-sensitive 23.8-inch ultra- HD display at a stunning 4K resolution that shows the entire sRGB gamut. It can be stocked with a variety of sixth generation core processors and a high-performance graphics board for heavy-duty work, like video editing. With six speakers at its disposal the Zen AiO will sound much better than other desktop PCs and comes with WiFi and Bluetooth built-in.
Easily the biggest of the four, Lenovo’s Ideacentre AIO 700 has an impressive 27-inch ultra-HD resolution touch screen that can make everything look great. It has both HDMI-in and -out ports so that it can send images to a projector or be used as a stand-along monitor. It won’t be out until the fall and there will be AIO 700 models with AMD and Intel processors. The system has an HD Web cam, dual microphone array and Intel’s RealSense 3-D camera for digitizing real-world objects. Pricing will start at $900.
We all know that small, rugged and easy to maintain Chromebooks are taking the classroom by storm with a variety of inexpensive models, but if you think big (really big), Chrome works on the school desktop as well. LG’s Chromebase 22CV241-W packs a lot of classroom computer into a small price tag.
Because it’s a self-contained all-in-one system with a built-in screen and speakers, the white and silver Chromebase requires about 5 minutes of set up time. You’ll likely find that it takes longer to get it out of the box than to get it plugged in and working. You will need to screw the base into the screen, though, which requires a small Philips screwdriver. Unfortunately, the stand wobbles.
It takes up 20.9- by 7.5 inches of desk space and is 15.6-inches tall. The gorgeous 21.5-inch screen will be a big step up for most computer labs, library kiosks and study halls. It shows full HD resolution and can be customized to suit just about any room with adjustments for gamma, brightness and contrast.
The screen can also be set to Reader Mode, which reduces its blue cast to decrease eye strain when working with black characters on a white background. The only thing it lacks is a touch option as is the case with Acer’s more expensive Chrome-based desktop.
Inside, the LG Chromebase is a dual-core Celeron processor that runs at 1.4GHz and has 2GB of RAM. Unlike many other Chrome-based systems you can get inside and add or replace things like its memory modules. It comes with 16GB of built-in flash storage and includes 100GB of online GoogleDrive space for two years; after that it costs about $2 a month.
Rather than minimal ports, the LG Chromebase is equipped like a desktop with wired Ethernet, 802.11n WiFi and Bluetooth built-in. There’s also an HDMI connector for using the system as a monitor, three USB 2.0 and one USB 3.0 ports and an audio jack. The screen has a handy clip in the back to neatly route cables into and out of the system.
On the downside, you can’t use the system with a projector or an external display, so it might not be so good for instruction to a large group. You also can’t read the contents of an SD card. I was able to use a generic SD card reader, though. Its USB ports worked fine with an external hard drive, memory key and for charging a tablet or phone.
There’s a Web cam and microphone up front for video conferencing and Web logs as well as a pair of 5-watt speakers that sound rich and full but don’t quite get loud enough to fill a good sized classroom. It has both a volume control on the monitor’s frame as well as one on the included wired keyboard; the Chromebase comes with a matching mouse.
It all adds up to a mid-range system that was able to start in 6 seconds, compared to roughly 10 seconds for most Chromebooks. It scored a 2,616 on FutureMark’s PeaceKeeper benchmark and 368.3 miliseconds on the Sunspider set of tests, which is roughly twice as powerful compared to Dell’s Chromebook 11 Touch and slightly behind Acer’s Chromebook 11 C740.
When it’s running the system uses 41 watts of power, which drops to zero after an hour of being idle. If the system is used for 10 hours every school day during the year and idle the rest of the time, it should cost roughly $8.10 a year to run, assuming that power costs the national average of 12 cents per kilowatt hour.
With a 1-year warranty, the LG Chromebase is priced right for schools at $350, but if you shop around you’ll see it for under $300. One of the least expensive desktops around, LG’s Chromebase combines the power of a desktop with an excellent screen at the right price for schools.
+ Inexpensive desktop system
+ Includes wired keyboard and mouse
+ HD display
+ 100GB of online storage
+ Good assortment of ports
- Unsteady stand
- No touch screen option
As notebooks, tablets and phones become more prevalent in schools, look for desktop computers to start learning some of their tricks and better fit into the educational landscape. For instance, Acer’s Revo One makes a virtue of being small, powerful and – above all – stationary.
Unlike other desktop PCs, the Revo One is tiny compared to the typical desktop or tower case. While Apple’s Mac Mini and HP’s Pavilion Mini are a little smaller, the Revo One’s 6.1- by 4.2- by 4.2-inches dimensions mean that it will fit where other computers can’t. It can be set up on a shelf or even in a desk drawer.
There’s a power switch in the back as well as lights on top to show that it’s turned on and its drives are active. Still, the flagship Revo One RL85 model that I looked at packs the power of a full-size system with a dual-core Core i5 processor that runs at between 2.2- and 2.7GHz. The processor has 3MB of its own cache and my test machine included a generous 8GB of RAM and a 1TB hard drive for $580. There are models more appropriate to schools that start at $250 for a Celeron-powered system with 2GB of RAM and 60GB of solid state storage, which can give Chrome machines a run for the money.
A bonus is that as small as the Revo One is, there’s room for two more 2.5-inch hard drives inside. Pull the cover off of the chassis and the drives snap right in. I added 500- and 750GB hard drives, which I set up as a RAID 5 array that can recover lost data from a drive failure. Alternatively, the system can also be configured to run as a simple set of disks for maximum capacity or RAID 1 mirroring for storing data that can’t be lost.
It may be small, but the Revo One has a Trusted Platform Module inside as well as an excellent assortment of ports that make it a good PC to build a computer lab around. In addition to a pair of USB 2.0 ports, there are two connections for faster USB 3.0 accessories. It can connect via its wired LAN, 802.11n WiFi and Bluetooth 4.0.
The system’s video is handled by Intel’s HD Graphics 5500 graphics accelerator but without any dedicated video memory; it borrows up to 3.6GB of RAM from the system, which makes having 8GB of RAM a good idea. It has both an HDMI and a mini Displayport output for connecting to a projector or display, so it can even be used to support a pair of monitors at once. It has an audio jack and an SD card slot.
Because of its limited size, the Revo One does without two things. There’s no DVD drive, but you’ll hardly miss it. Plus, you can’t add a graphics or other specialty card to the system. It’s a small price to pay for such a small system.
While the system comes with matching a wireless mini-keyboard and mouse, the Revo One does a cool trick that roaming teachers will appreciate. With the free Revo Suite software for Androids, the system can be controlled from a phone or tablet, even if you’re on the other side of the room. It needs to be on the same network and have Bluetooth turned on to connect. The software is a little clunky and doesn’t show what’s on the system’s screen, but if the teacher’s screen is projected for the class, she can control what it shows from anywhere in the room.
Unlike the latest ultra-mobile devices, the Revo One has a cooling fan. It is quiet and the unit never got more than warm in over a month of daily use ina variety of tasks from server duties to running math and science simulations. When it is being used the system consumes 22.5-watts of power, less than the power draw of a light bulb. In sleep mode, it uses 10.5-watts, but can quickly wake up after hitting the keyboard. This leads to an estimated annual cost of operation of just $2.50, assuming it’s used for 10 hours a day during the school year and off the rest of the time; I used the national average of 12 cents per kilowatt-hour in my calculations.
Despite this lower power use, the Revo One has the power for a variety of tasks from video editing to teaching with an interactive whiteboard. It scored a 1,689.2 on PassMark’s PerformanceTest 8 benchmark tests that stress every part of a computer. That puts it at roughly three-times the output of most school computers.
Acer proves that good things really do come in small packages. In fact, the Revo One makes most desktop computers obsolete with its mix of size, price and performance.
+ Small, easy to hide desktop PC
+ Good performance
+ Can hold three hard drives
+ RAID, 0, 1, 5 set ups
+ Phone and tablet app remote control
+ Includes matching wireless keyboard and mouse
- No DVD drive
If everything about Apple’s 27-inch Retina 5K iMac appeals to you, except for the price tag, it just went on mark-down. The $2,500 model that includes a 3.5GHz quad-core Intel Core i5 processor, 8GB of RAM and a 1TB hard drive now sells for $2,300. This model now has a cheaper cousin that goes for $2,000 and is a step down with a3.3GHz processor. Both have the same spectacular ultra-HD screen and AMD Radeon R9 M290 graphics with 2GB of its own memory.
It’s an open secret that you can build your own all-in-one computers by strapping a small computer, like Mac’s Mini, to the back of a monitor. More often than not, people use Velcro tape to attach the two, but there is a better way. Hideit’s $40 mounting bracket lets you screw a Mini in to the back of a display. The Mac Mini hardware is made of sturdy 16-gauge cold-rolled steel, has holes that line up with the screen’s 100 millimeter VESA mounting hardware and the Mini slides right in.
What’s small, white and able to turn a projector into a teaching machine? Acer’s Revo One RL85 is called an entertainment PC, but don’t let the name fool you, it is a computer that puts the emphasis on interactivity and value. At just 6.1- by 4.2- by 4.2-inches, it’s hard to believe that the RL85 has a full Windows 8.1 PC inside. There’s a good assortment of ports as well as an SD card reader on top and an LED light below.
It can turn any lesson into a multimedia extravaganza with surround sound, 802.11ac WiFi and Bluetooth built in. With Acer software, any phone or tablet can be a remote control for the computer, allowing teachers to roam around the room. It’s only available in a white, but the best part is price. There're several models, from a $250 version that includes a Celeron processor, 2GB of RAM and 60GB of solid state storage all the way up to the top of the line configuration with 8GB of RAM, a 1TB hard drive and a 2.2GHz Core i5 processor for $580.
Think Chromebook and you think of small notebooks that excel in size and price, but Acer has an excellent alternative for those applications that don’t require mobility. How about a Chrome-based all-in-one desktop with a 21.5-inch HD display that can respond to 10 individual touch inputs? Based on Nvidia’s Tegra K1 quad core processor, the Chromebase system can work with all online and offline Chrome apps and comes with two-year’s worth of 100GB of online storage. It has a great assortment of ports, including HDMI-out, USB as well as 802.11n WiFi and Bluetooth. In other words, it can fit in just as well as a library research system, an email kiosk or even in a computer lab.