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The Power Tablet

Portege-Z10t-A1110-600-12If you ever wanted to see what the most powerful tablet looks like, here it is. Toshiba’s Portege Z10t not only is a high-performance ultra-portable slate, but with its included keyboard base, it can double as a regular old notebook computer.

The textured gray tablet itself weighs in at 1.8-pounds, 6-ounces heavier than the iPad, which has a smaller screen. It is half an inch thick and occupies 11.6- by 7.4-inches of desk space. On its own, the slate feels good in the hand, sits flat on a table and automatically rotates its screen when the unit is turned.

With the included snap-on keyboard, its weight rises to 3.1-pounds. The system takes up 0.8- by 11.6- by 8.8-inches – about what you’d expect from a small notebook these days.

Rather than have up to five distinct computing profiles, as is the case with other convertibles, the Portege Z10t can be a tablet or keyboard-centric notebook. It can neither be set up in presentation mode, in tent mode nor flat on a table with the keyboard in front as is the case with the Toshiba Radius P55W.

While the slate and keyboard base mate easily and are locked in place with a single latch, it has a traditional hinge that allows the screen to open to only about 115-degrees. If you tap the screen too energetically, the whole thing tips over.

On the other hand, pulling the slate free of the keyboard dock takes a bit of getting used to because the latch release is a little stiff. I prefer the magnetic design used on Acer’s Iconia Switch 10 where you just pull it free of the base.

Portege-Z10t-A1110-600-13The 11.6-inch display can show full HD material and responds to up to 10 independent touch inputs. I found that the long narrow display is great for reading a long online article with less scrolling or watching a widescreen movie.

Although it worked well with a generic stylus, the system includes a small stylus that fits into the slate and is good for quick notes or sketches as well as a larger more comfortable one that that has a pocket clip and an eraser for those apps that support it, such as Sticky Notes. I really appreciate that the screen’s surface has a roughened feel to it that makes touch and writing on it seem more like paper.

With the keyboard in place, the system is the equivalent of a small notebook. Its keyboard has a cut-out above its release latch for the screen’s Windows key and there’s a full set of 19.1-milimeter keys, which feels like a big step up from on-screen keypads. While the keys can quickly wake the system up, unfortunately, they lack the depth that other add-on keyboards, like the one for the ThinkPad 10, provide.

The keyboard has the luxury of both a touchpad and a pointing stick. Because the keys are backlit, the Portege Z10t is perfect for lessons given by the light of a projector. The base, however, doesn’t have a second battery that could have extended the system’s time away from an AC outlet.

Happily, it has been designed for abuse at school with a tough skin and a 256GB solid state hard drive. The A2110 model I looked at has been built for speed with a Core i7 processor that usually runs at 1.7GHz but can go as fast as 2.9GHz. It has 8GB of RAM, 802.11ac WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0 and a security-conscious TPM module. At $1,900, however, it is priced out of the reach of all but the best endowed schools. Toshiba sells a less powerful Portege Z10t model with a Core i5 processor and half as much RAM and storage space that starts at $1,500.

Portege-Z10t-A1110-600-03With cameras front and back, the system can be used for video conferences as well as for shooting a class picture or taking a video of pictures of a lab. Around its edge, the Z10t slate has a basic set of ports with USB 3.0, micro-HDMI and a headphone jack; there’s an SD card slot for adding to its storage potential. Snapping on the keyboard adds another USB port as well as a full-size HDMI, LAN and VGA plugs.

Not only can the system be powered by plugging the 6-ounce AC adapter into either the tablet or the keyboard, but its two-prong plug that should come in handy in older schools with older electrical outlets. On the downside, the Z10t has a loud fan that makes too much noise when it’s working hard.

It all adds up to the top-performing tablet I’ve seen with a Passmark PerformanceTest 8 score of 1,889.2, putting it in the upper echelon of educational computers.  As powerful as it is, the Z10t’s 3,600-milliamp hour battery was able to power it for 4 hours and 50 minutes of non-stop work, an hour and a half short of the company’s larger Radius convertible system. Still, it’s enough for a full school day of on-and-off work with more than enough left over for playing games or grading tests.

Expensive and worth it, the $1,900 Portege Z10t-A2110 model I looked at comes with its snap-on keyboard, Windows 8.1 Pro and a 3-year warranty, which together are worth about $650 compared to lesser slates. It may not be able to assume five different personalities, like the larger Satellite Radius, but the Z10t is equally good as either a slate or a mini-notebook and can outperform the competition.

In other words, if price is no object, this is the keyboard and slate combo to get.



Toshiba Portege Z10t-A2110


+ Top tablet performance

+ Includes two passive pens

+ Backlit keyboard

+ 3-year warranty

+ Two-in-One design

- Expensive

- Tablet latch hard to use




Screen (Little) to Screen (Big)

Mirastick cEver want to put what’s on your phone, tablet or notebook onto a classroom’s big monitor, TV or projector screen? Favi’s 3-ounce Mirastick can do it with a minimum of hassle, stress and wires. The $35 wireless adapter plugs into the HDMI port of a display and can stream audio and video across a classroom, You’ll need to use Favi’s app for iOS, Mac, PC or Android tablet, but it takes just a minute or two of setup time. After that, everything from the small screen is streamed to the big one.

Seeing is Believing

Lifesize nasaRegardless of whether it’s for connecting a classroom with a sick child, to talk to a parent remotely or to watch a virtual field trip, video conferencing is taking hold in most schools. Lifesize lets you do it without any extra hardware because all you need is a PC, Mac, iPad or Android device and a good Internet connection. The system lets you log-on, talk and see other participants in high definition video without expensive hardware or busting the budget. The company’s package of 25 licenses can be extended to 625 actual users, more than enough for the typical elementary or middle school. At $7,500, it adds up to about a dollar a month per user. You can set up a remote demo of the system or try it out for two-weeks for free.


And the Winners are …

5D3_0463Thousands of students from more than 90 countries entered the Google Science Fair, but the winners’ project isn’t just astoundingly creative, but can help make our planet a better place to live. The three grand prize winners discovered a naturally-occurring bacteria that can speed plant germination by 50 percent. Ciara Judge, Émer Hickey and Sophie Healy-Thow are each 16-years old and will not only get those cool trophies but a trip to the Galapagos Islands and a $50,000 scholarship.

Meanwhile, Mihir Garimella built a flying robot that mimicked how fruit flies evade threats and Hayley Todesco figured out a way to remove pollutants and toxins from mine tailing ponds. Finally, Kenneth Shinozuka won the Scientific American Science in Action award for is wearable sensors project that let him remotely keep tabs on his elderly grandfather and Arsh Dilbagi won for his Talk project that lets people with speech impairments communicate by exhaling. Congratulations, all.


Freebee Friday: Common Core Quizzes

Common core open ed aNeed some help drilling kids in Common Core math and language arts subjects? OpenEd’s free Common Core Quest app can help them show what they know and – more importantly – what they don’t. Available for iPhones, iPads and Android phones and tablets, Common Core Quest lets kids accumulate badges and ribbons for mastering each category.


Play to Learn

45120_350x350_1_xx-xxIt’s no secret that using Lego bricks can help develop physical, social and mental skills, but the LearntoLearn kit’s activities can push critical thinking and problem solving in science, language, math and social studies. Aimed at grades one through four, the $100 LearntoLearn package has enough bricks for 28 students to use. 


Candidate Helper

Teachermatch aIf you ask any principal, the hardest part of the job, the reply you’ll likely get is to keep the school staffed with qualified, curious and inventive teachers. TeacherMatch’ Professional Development Profile can help with an up to date appraisal of a candidate’s or an existing teacher’s strengths and weaknesses. It can even set up a professional development plan to address any major instructional shortcomings.


USB for the Power Mad

USB powerSure, anybody can charge a phone or tablet using a USB power adapter, but what about plugging the device directly into a wall outlet? That’s where a USB wall outlet comes in. You can charge a phone or tablet directly without a separate adapter and save on space and clutter. Here’re five ways to power up a room full of tablets.

  Power2uNewer Technology’s Power2U is a direct replacement for the typical AC outlet, but it adds a pair of USB power plugs alongside the traditional 115-volt outlets. You’ll need an electrician install it, it’s available in three colors and you can get it in 15- or 20-amp versions. The USB outlets supply 5.2-volts at up to 2.5 amps for each plug. Unlike the others, it comes with a face plate that has slide-open doors, which cover the USB plugs and turn off the power when they’re closed. It costs about $23.

IbcGetAttachmentCan you do without the AC outlets? Leviton Decora USB4P outlet replaces the 110-volt plugs with four USB ports. Capable of delivering up to 4.2-amps of current at 5-volts, it has a microprocessor to balance its load to that it can charge four high-current tablets at once; any single device can draw up to 2.1-amps. You’ll need to have an electrician install it and the Decora outlet set comes in white, ivory, light almond, gray and black for $40.

Rca WP2UWR_1If you don’t mind giving up one AC outlet, RCA’s Wall Plate Charger can do the trick for charging. It plugs right into the wall, so you don’t need an electrician. It sticks out slightly and yields a pair of 2.1-amp USB charging ports as well as a regular old 110-volt AC outlet. It sells for $15 and the company also makes one that has four USB charging slots.

Rnd 31SYNpGpj-LRND’s $20 3.4-amp Fast Charging Station takes this idea a step farther and is perfect for rooms with lots of tablets. It plugs right into a wall outlet and is bigger than the other two, but combines three 110-volt AC outlets with a pair of USB charging ports. The bonus is that, unlike the other two, the 3.4-amp Fast Charging station has a 540 Joule surge suppressor to protect delicate equipment from dangerous voltage spikes.

  51uwQbaA5YL._SL1500_By far, the easiest to install and use of the five is the Pro 4USB Port AC Wall Charger. It plugs right into a wall outlet, has four 5-volt USB power ports with blue LEDs to show they’re working and won’t hog both outlets. In fact, a traditional double AC outlet can accommodate two of the 4USB chargers for 8 USB outlets. On the downside, while a single device can take up to 2.1-amps of its output, with two devices the current draw drops to 1.05 amps each. With four items connected, they can only take 0.5-amps each, which can slow charging. It’s available at Amazon.com for $11, making it the bargain of the group.






The Business of Educational Notebooks

Tecra c50If you think that you can’t afford the security, ruggedness and warranty of a business-ready notebook, you haven’t seen Toshiba’s Tecra C50 notebook. Rather than bulking up a consumer system, the C50 is a pure commercial system that has a 15.6-inch display, a Core i3 processor, 500GB hard drive and 4GB of RAM for $579; a Core i5 version costs $699. The system weighs 5-pounds, is an inch thick and comes with either Windows 7 or 8.1.

Hands-Free Pad

IMG_3147Whether it’s for displaying sheet music or just to read with your hands free to take notes, the AirTurn Manos Universal Tablet Mount is a great way to suspend a slate. The $49 hardware works with everything from an iPad and Surface slate to a Samsung, Sony or LG tablet. In fact, the AirTurn will work with just about any tablet that has a 13-inch or smaller screen, even if it is in a case. Its spring-loaded fingers securely grab the sides of the tablet to allow the pad to rotate 360-degrees and be tilted to a comfortable position.




Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in Tech Tools are strictly those of the author and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Scholastic, Inc.