While the upcoming Ed-tech shows will no doubt give us more than enough new products for the classroom to think about, most of the technologies start at the Consumer Electronics Show. This week, Las Vegas is overrun with geeks in search of the latest gizmos and gadgets. With everything from displays and tablets to tiny PCs, it’s where the action is. Here’s a preview of what to expect from this year’s crop of announcements, introductions and exhibits, but be careful, many an impressive product has failed to materialize once the show ends.
For 2015, good things will come in small packages with HP’s mighty Mini, which packs a lot of power into a small rounded case. At only 2.1- by 5.7- by 5.7-inches or just over a liter of desktop volume, it’s about the size of a small book and weighs just 1.6-pounds. It can be attached on the underside of a desk, in a drawer or Velcroed to the back of a monitor for an instant all in one system. While the blue Stream model 200-010 Mini relies on a 1.4GHz Celeron, 2GB of RAM and 32GB of solid state storage capacity, the silver Pavilion 300-020 Mini is better equipped with a 1.7GHz Pentium processor, 4GB of RAM, 500GB of hard drive space. Both include 25GB of Dropbox cloud storage, but the Stream Mini adds 200GB of online storage space with Microsoft OneDrive for 2 years. The Minis start at less than $200.
Traditional notebooks are moving up in the educational world with the addition of Intel’s Core M processor. Take Samsung’s Ativ Book 9, for instance. It combines a seductive half-inch profile with lots of performance thanks to its 2GHz Core M-5Y10 processor. The system has a 12.2-inch screen that can show 2,560 by 1,600 resolution, but weighs all of 2.1 pounds.
is a convertible for all sizes. With models that have 11- and 14-inch screens, the Yoga 3 family can be used as a tablet, in tent configuration or as a standard keyboard-based notebook. The hinge rotates nearly 360-degrees, letting you swing the system’s HD touch-screen into the location you want it. While the larger Yoga 3 has a Core i processor, the 11-inch one comes with a battery-friendly Core M processor.
Economy and Simplicity are the watchwords for Toshiba’s Encore 2 Write tablets. There’ll be 8- and 10-inch models that have 1,280 by 800 touch-screen resolution displays. Powered by an Atom processor, the slates sell for $350 or $400, depending on screen size. They come with a Wacom passive TruPen stylus that can sense over 2,000 levels of pressure for precise writing sentences, equations or just doodling. The systems come with lots of note-taking software and a year’s subscription to Office 365.
Meanwhile, WiFi can speed up with Amped Wireless’s RTA 1200 router. By using both the 2.4- and 5-GHz bands, it can push up to 1.2Gbps of data to the classroom with longer range. Inside are eight 800milliwatt amplifiers that can boost the signal to fill those pesky nooks and crannies that are now not covered. It can block objectionable sites and set up a guest network for visitors. Price: $160.
A school of new routers might be overkill, when all you need is a set of high-gain antennas from Linksys that can boost WiFi range and throughput, filling in dead spots without a major investment. The WRTANT7 omnidirectional antennas work in both the 2.4- and 5GHz bands and have a RP-SMA connector that will work with most routers that have removable antennas; you might need to get an adapter for some equipment. By raising its sensitivity to 7dBi for 5GHz transmissions and 3dBi for 2.4GHz work, the antennas can broaden the reach of any network by about 30 percent. A set of four antennas costs $100.
Up close, Acer’s H7550ST short-throw projector has the power to change the way children are taught because it is the first projector with Goolge’s Chromecast built in. Just connect your tablet or notebook via Chromecast and the image is on-screen. Based on the latest DLP imaging chip, the projector uses a six-segment color wheel to create HD images. The projector can deliver a 9-foot image from less than 5-feet away and puts 3,000 lumens on-screen. It has 20-watt DTS audio, and will sell for $1,000.
When color counts, BenQ’s HC 1200 delivers. The digital light processing projector not only puts a sharp HD image on screen, but can reproduce more than a billion colors and show the full sRGB spectrum with twice the contrast of the typical projector. The HC1200 has all the needed input ports and can create up to a 25-foot image.
HD screens are now officially passé with the introduction of HP’s Envy 34c curved display. The $1,000 monitor has a 34-inch screen that is curved with a radius of about 10-feet so that everyone gets a good view and you don’t have to refocus your eyes by moving from edge to edge. Capable of showing 99 percent of the color gamut, it has 3,440 by 1,440 resolution, or more than twice what HD imaging has to offer. The screen has a pair of 6-watt speakers and the stand can tilt and swivel so that everyone in the class can see and hear.
If detail is your thing, Dell’s UltraSharp 27 monitor can put a startling 14.8 million pixels on screen – more than seven-times that of HD displays. Perfect for an art class or for teaching image editing, the 27-inch UltraSharp screen can be calibrated with Dell’s optional xRite iDisplay Pro colorimeter so the color is always perfect. The stand is a gem because it not only lets you adjust it up and down for different users, but the screen can rotate, delivering the traditional horizontal or long narrow vertical view that’s great for looking at Web pages or long documents a page at a time. It sells for $2,500 with a three-year warranty.