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The No Decision Notebook

21145543838_29cf89c207_oTired of having to decide between tablets and notebooks? Don’t, because Toshiba’s Click 10 provides both at less than an iPad goes for. Built around a 10.1-inch screen that can show full HD material, the Click 10 weighs 1.2-pounds and is only about one-third of an inch thick. The key to its usefulness at school is that it comes with a one-pound snap-on keyboard that transforms it into a mini-notebook that’s better equipped than just about any tablet with the latest 1.8GHz Intel Atom processor, 2GB of RAM and either 32- or 64BG of storage space. It has WiFi and Bluetooth built-in, a pair of cameras, two USB ports and a micro-HDMI connector for putting a lesson on the big screen. Price: $350.


Next-Gen Pixel

Hero-image_2xGoogle has used its first two Pixel Chromebooks as demonstration platforms to try out new ideas for squeezing a lot of computing power into a small and very portable case. The latest, the Pixel C, is no exception and takes this concept into new territory with the ability to be a tablet for viewing content or a keyboard-centric system for writing.

Unlike Asus's convertible Chromebook Flip, Pixel C is a detachable system with a tablet that docks with a keyboard. Under its silver skin, the Pixel C is a full Android tablet that will be based on Google’s new Marshmallow OS. It’s powered by an Nvidia Tegra X1 processor with 3GB of RAM and high-performance graphics. The system will be available with either 32- or 64GB of storage space and is charged with the new Type C USB connector that also can move data into and out of the system.

Pixel c bWith a 10.2-inch screen, the new tablet shows 2,560- by 1,800-pixel resolution at a 1:1.4 aspect ratio that mimics the shape of A4 paper. The key to its flexibility is that the system has an optional Bluetooth keyboard, but rather than using physical connectors, the keyboard is held in place with strong magnets. You can tilt the screen to a comfortable angle or stow the keyboard underneath when you don’t need it. A nice design touch allows the keyboard to be inductively charged when the two are mated.

It all adds up to what could be the most advanced tablet ever created, and one that should fit right into the classroom. It won’t be available for several months, but when it comes out, pricing will start at $500 for the Pixel C tablet and $150 for the keyboard. Together, that's less than the upcoming iPad Pro on its own.



Putting Tablets in Their Place

ARMTBLTITablets are great for education but sometimes you need an extra hand, and that’s where StarTech’s Desk-Mountable Tablet Stand with Articulating Arm for iPad or Android comes in. The $142 stand can be clamped to a desk and allows any tablet that has a screen between 9- and 11-inches to be rotated 360-degrees move up and down as well as swivel and pivot. This means it will work fine with most Androids and all iPads except for the upcoming iPad Pro, which has a 12.9-inch screen.

New OS, New Support

Ios 9iOS 9 for iPhone and iPads is here and JAMF is already on the case with its Casper Suite. Whether it’s existing devices that get upgraded or for new ones like the upcoming iPad Pro, the suite not only lets IT administrators inventory every device, old and new, but they can check and modify each tablet’s security settings.

Little Big Phone

6787AAs phones bulk up and tablets slim down, they are meeting in the middle with devices that have a little bit of each in them. Called Phablets, these monster phones might make your current handset look puny but are just big enough to cut it in the classroom. Samsung’s Galaxy S6 Active can make presenting a digital lesson and moving to a new room for the next period much easier than lugging a notebook.

That’s because the S6 Active weighs just 6-ounces and won’t slow you down.  Its 5.1-inch screen uses the latest AMOLED technology for incredible brightness and richness of color. Plus, at 2,560 by 1440 resolution, it is likely a lot sharper than your notebook is.

Its screen responds to 10 independent inputs, but can’t compare with the Galaxy Note 5’s slightly larger screen and its included pressure-sensitive pen or the older Galaxy Tab Active, which has an 8-inch screen and a capacitive stylus. It worked well with a generic stylus.

Below the screen is something that phone traditionalists have missed in the current generation of phones and tablets: actual buttons for navigating within the phone. There are keys for going to the home screen, going back and showing the open apps, but their orientation is opposite most Android-based gear with the go-back on the right and the open apps on the left.

6787A-3There’re also buttons for turning the phone on and off as well as raising or lowering the volume. The controls are augmented with a unique button that opens Samsung’s Activity Zone software. This shows everything from the current weather and Air pressure to a digital compass, stopwatch and a flashlight, all of which can come in handy on a field trip. There are links for lots of physical activities.

If you think that this is a fragile phone that is best put in a protective case, think again. It is not only dustproof and water-resistant, but carries an IP68 rating that means it can survive for 30 minutes underwater. It has a Gorilla Glass screen and even has passed 21 of the military’s stringent MIL-STD 810G specifications, including tests for humidity, rain, vibration, solar radiation, salt, dust, transport and thermal shocks. In fact, the phone has a camouflage pattern on the back.

Its 0.4- by 5.8- by 2.9 dimensions are a little deceptive because the Active feels smaller because it has rubber bumpers and rather than rounded corners are cut off at an angle. Plus, because it is rugged from the start, you won’t need a case for the Active.

Inside, the Active is the equivalent of a full tablet inside with Samsung’s Exynos 7420 processor that’s actually three CPUs in one. There’re 2.1- and 1.5GHz quad-core Cortex processors along with a Mali T760 graphics engine. All in all, it’s one of the most powerful devices that you can put in your pocket.

It uses Android 5.0 software and comes with a pair of cameras point forward and back. It can capture sharp stills or record ultra HD quality videos at up to 2,560 by 1440 resolution.

6787A-2The S6 Active comes with 3GB of RAM and 32GB of on-board storage. Unfortunately, there’s no micro-SD card slot for augmenting that with a flash card. Still, it should be plenty with judicious use of online storage. The phone comes with 802.11ac WiFi, Bluetooth 4.1 and Near Field Communications for exchanging data or quick printing.

While it does without an HDMI connector or the ability to use an MHL converter with the micro-USB port, the Active can connect with a monitor or projector. You’ll need to use the wireless Samsung Link, Miracast or a Google Chrome Cast, but you’ll have to pair it with an appropriate receiver at the other end. It was able to project the latest PBS and YouTube videos as well as Ted Talks over a Chrome Cast connection.

The phone was a top performer with scores of 350.2ms and 1,340 on the Sunspider and Peace Keeper tests. That puts it about 50 percent more powerful than an iPhone 5.

Still, it has a 3,500 milli-amp hour battery – roughly what a tablet or notebook has – that powers the S6 Active for an astounding 10 hours and 30 minutes on a charge of continuously playing online videos. That’s more than any other phone I’ve seen and should be plenty for a full day of school with some left over at the end of the day. If you’re tired of fumbling with a micro-USB plug for charging, the S6 Active can be charged using a Qi inductive pad.

Available as an exclusive on AT&T’s 4G LTE network, the S6 Active sells for $595 as an unlocked phone. You can get it for $130 with a two-year contract or $20 a month for 2 years using AT&T Next 24 plan. This makes the S6 Active a luxury that most teachers and schools can afford.




Samsung Galaxy S6 Active

$130 with two year AT&T contract

+ Shock, dust and waterproof

+ Big ultra-HD screen

+ Activity Zone

+ Physical Android keys

+ High performance

+ Battery life


- Thick and clunky

- Lacks S-Note stylus

Yoga Projects

Yoga Tab 3 10Lenovo’s Yoga Tab 3 Pro is like no other tablet. It not only has a 10.1-inch Ultra-HD screen but inside its cylindrical handy is a tiny DLP projector that can not only create a 6-foot image but can rotate it 180-degrees. the tablet uses Google latest Android 5.1 software, weighs in at a hefty 1.5-pounds, but has four JBL speakers and is made of aluminum, glass and leather, giving it a premium feel and ruggedness. It will sell for $500.

Pixel Perfect

21040960556_a6afe1136f_oSpeaking of large, high-def slates, the next generation Toshiba Satellite Radius 12 not only has a superbly detailed 12.5-inch screen, but its color balance has been calibrated and certified by engineers at Technicolor and produces the entire RGB gamut. Able to deliver an astounding 3,840 by 2,160 resolution, it is the epitome of ultra-HD displays and will be the system to use for teaching everything from image editing to digital art. Based on the sixth-generation of Intel Core processors it still weighs less than 3 pounds and has a 360-degree hinge that lets it be a traditional keyboard-centric notebook, a tablet or set up on a table as either a presentation machine or in tent mode.

The (Really) Big Pad

Ipad proApple has upsized its iPad tablet in the hope that it will appeal even more to educators in search of a big screen for schools. To start, the iPad Pro has a 12.9-inch screen, making it one of the largest available on any kind of tablet. It can display 2,732 by 2,048 resolution images and videos, or roughly twice HD resolution and perfect for introducing 4K video to future movie directors, producers and editors.

The big pad is powered by Apple’s third-generation A9X processor that is nearly twice as powerful as the one used on the iPad Air 2. At less than a third of an inch thick, but might be a handful for younger students at 1.6-pounds.

PencilWhen you’re tired of tapping the screen, the pad Pro has a $169 snap-on Smart Keyboard that has 64 keys and a large number of shortcut keys that can streamline using the pad. The biggest step forward is the iPad Pro’s optional $99 Pencil, a stylus for the tablet that responds to pressure. Under its cap is a lightning connector that can charge it for 30 minutes of use in just 15 seconds.

It should be available in November with models starting at $800 or over $1,000 with the keyboard and stylus.



School in a Slate

MobyAs Android invade schools with low priced teaching tablets they are morphing into a variety of sizes, shapes and prices. Take MobyMax. It’s a 7-inch slate that’s aimed at K-through-8th grade curriculum with math, science and language arts components. It uses older Android 4.2 software, but sells for an unbeatable (at least for now) price of $69. Inside is a dual-core processor, 1GB of RAM and 4GB of storage space. You can try out a Moby pad for two weeks for $10.

Z580_kvAt the other end of the slate spectrum is Asus’s ZenPad S 8.0 Z580C, which sets a new standard for school slates by combining an Android 5.0 software, Intel Atom Z3580 quad-core processor, 4GB of RAM, 64GB of storage and a PowerVR graphics engine. Its 7.9-inch screen is protected by Gorilla Glass and not only responds to up to 10 inputs but has the ability to show 1,536 by 2,048 resolution. In other words,  it leaves HD and lesser screens in the dust. In addition to WiFi and Bluetooth, it has the latest USB Type C connector for top speed connections. At $300, it's in a different league than Moby but packs a lot of technology into a 0.3- by 5.3- by 8.0-inch case that weighs 10.5 ounces. Asus sells an optional pressure sensitive stylus for an extra $30. 


Flip and Learn

Chrome Flip_White_ (1)If inexpensive notebooks have been dropping like flies at your school, Asus shows you a new way with its $250 Chromebook Flip C100. Well-made and just powerful enough to succeed at school, the Flip gets my vote as the best classroom notebook of the year, even though it’s only August.

The key to the Flip’s longevity is its pressed aluminum case that protects its delicate components better than a plastic case can. Generally reserved for more expensive systems, the dull-gray aluminum skin is gently rounded, looks great and is complemented by sophisticated bright edging. It’s sturdy enough to be grabbed by the screen and should stand up to daily abuse, regardless of whether it stays at school at night or undergoes the rigors of traveling back and forth every day.

Think of the Flip as a jack of all trades in the classroom that can assume four different computing personalities for different tasks. The first convertible Chrome system, it can be a traditional notebook with a mechanical keyboard for student writing assignments and teacher assessments but flip the 360-degree hinge all the way over and it’s a thick tablet with a 10.1-inch screen and the keyboard is disabled. In between the Flip can be a presentation machine for small group work or set up in tent mode.

At 0.6- by 10.3- by 7.1-inches, the Flip is halfway between the size of a small notebook and a 10-inch Windows tablet. Its 1.9-pound weight might seem a bit heavy for a tablet, but is spot on when you factor in the keyboard. It’s powered by a micro-USB cable and comes with a tiny power adapter that gives it a travel weight of 2.1-pounds.

Happily, the 10.1-inch screen is nearly flush with the surface, which makes for easy tapping, swiping and scribbling, although its wide 0.8-inch bezels around the screen are a bit large. It responds to 10 independent touch inputs for everything from marking up an assignment to an art class in finger painting. There’s no active digitizer, although it worked well with an off-the-shelf stylus, but its 1,280 by 800 resolution is second best compared to tablets, like the Surface 3’s full HD imaging.

Chrome Flip_White_ (10)It has an integrated graphics accelerator that has its own quad-core processor. Its screen is bright at 278 candelas per meter squared, rich and sharp. Unfortunately, its screen tends to wobble too much when tapped or swiped.

Inside is a mid-range computer that’s powered by a 1.8GHz quad-core Rock Chip 3288, 2GB of RAM and 16GB of storage space. Asus adds 100GB of online storage with GoogleDrive for two years; after that it runs about $2 a month.

Around its edge, the Flip has a power switch with a volume control as well as LEDs. There’s a micro-HDMI port for driving a projector or display along with a pair of USB connectors. On the downside, they are the older and slower USB 2.0 spec, not the newer one, but it’s a small price to pay. The system worked with everything from a memory key and LAN adapter to keyboard, mouse and Bluetooth speaker.

Its keyboard has 17.6 millimeter keys that are comfortable to type with, particularly when compared to the on-screen keyboard. The system’s speakers are under the wrist rest and pointed down. To my surprise they sound quite good and get loud enough for small groups. Beyond that you’ll want to use a pair of external speakers that are either connected via the system’s audio jack or Bluetooth

In addition to a micro-SD card slot that can accommodate up to 64GB modules, the Flip has Bluetooth 4.1 and 802.11ac WiFi for top wireless connectivity. For those who stay up nights worrying about remote connectivity, the Flip has a Trusted Platform Module (TPM).

While it won’t set any performance records, that misses the point of the Flip system. It should satisfy with the ability to perform most teaching-related tasks. Sure, it can’t run Windows or any of its software, but it was the ticket for browser-based services and the variety of Chrome software is increasing just about every day.

Chrome Flip_White_ (16)It started up in 8.2-seconds, two seconds faster than Acer’s Chromebook 13 CB-311. The Flip recorded 1,428 and 175 milliseconds on the PeaceKeeper and Sun Spider benchmarks, which puts it slightly ahead of the CB-311, but with about half the performance potential of LG’s desktop Chromebase all in one system. Still it’s more than enough for most classroom use.

There’s no cooling fan to make extra noise and cut into battery life. In fact, the system ran for 9 hours and 20 minutes on a charge. For some it will be more than enough for a full school day of use, but for others it will mean that the Flip won’t need to be charged every day. It was reliable and its video was remarkably strong with smooth streaming and good sound synchronization.

While it has a list price of $250 with a 1-year warranty, the DB01 Flip system that I looked at can be had for as low as $230 if you shop around. There’s also a $279 model with a generous 4GB of RAM. Either way, the Flip is a genuine steal and seems like it was designed from the start for school use. 


Chrome Flip_White_ (22)

Asus Chromebook Flip C100PA

+ Great price
+ Four computing profiles
+ Full school day plus battery life
+ Bright, rich screen
+ 100GB of online storage
+ Size and weight

- USB 2.0
- Display wobbles when tapped






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