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More Chromebook for the Money

Tosh cb 2 bWhile others try to serve up the cheapest Chromebook for the classroom, Toshiba has taken a step back and created its Chromebook 2 with one eye on value and the other on making it the best equipped Chromebook around. At $330, it is not the least expensive Chromebook, but it might be the most computer for the money.

Toshiba’s top-shelf approach to Chromebooks starts with the system’s silver case, which has a textured bottom and lid that not only feels good in the hand but makes it harder to accidentally drop. Rugged and solidly made, the Chromebook 2 appears to be able to stand up to the everyday drops and abuse at schools.

At 0.8- by 12.6- by 8.4-inches and 2.9-pounds, the Chromebook 2 is fractions of an inch smaller than Acer’s CB311 Chromebook 13 and 5-ounces lighter. With its tiny AC adapter, the entire package travels at 3.2-pounds. In other words, it should just as easily fit into a child’s backpack as in to a desk drawer for lunch or a between-periods break.

In addition to an Intel Celeron 3215U processor that runs at 1.7GHz, the $330 Chromebook 2 model 3300 that I looked at came with 4GB of RAM and 16GB of a solid state storage. That’s a big step up from Acer’s $250 Chromebook CB311’s NVidia K1 processor and 2GB of RAM. You can augment its storage potential with an inexpensive SD card and the system comes with two years of 100GB of online storage with GoogleDrive.

If performance counts for more than price, Toshiba also sells a Core i3-based version for $100 more. Unfortunately, at that point, it’s on a par with a mainstream Windows notebook.

Tosh cb 2 cThe CB35 Chromebook 2 has a good assortment of connections with a USB 2.0 as a USB 3.0 port. You can connect a projector or large display via its HDMI jack and the CB35 has an output jack for audio. It has the latest wireless with 802.11ac WiFi and the lack of a wired LAN port can be fixed by using a USB-to-LAN converter to plug into a network. If you want to use a wireless keyboard or speaker, the system has Bluetooth 4.0. 

Without a doubt, the center of attention of the CB35 is its superb 13.3-inch screen. While much of the competition, like the Asus Flip C100 have wide-XGA displays, the Chromebook 2’s screen shows full HD resolution and is among the brightest and richest displays available today. On the other hand, there’s no touch option that would have extended the Chromebook 2’s usefulness in schools.

Above the screen, the system has an HD Web cam and dual microphone array and below there’s a keyboard with comfortable 19.2mm keys and a large touchpad that measures 2.7- by 4-inches. Happily, for those who teach by the stray light of a projector, the keyboard is backlit. It does without a super-secure Trusted Platform Module, though, which can make remote authentication easier. It’s included on the Asus Flip C100.

While everything else is well placed, the Chromebook’s speakers end up under the keyboard and despite branded Skullcandy hardware sound better for spoken word programming than for playing music. It not only can sound muffled at times, but is weak in midrange tones. On the other hand, it gets surprisingly loud without any external speakers.

Tosh cb 2As far as performance goes, the Chromebook 2 is top shelf. It scored a 327.9ms on the SunSpider test as well as 15,273 on Google’s Octane 2.0 benchmark. This makes it about twice as powerful as the Asus Flip C100 and able to complete any school task.

This performance potential is, however, at the expense of battery life with the CB35’s battery powering the system for 8 hours. That’s less than either the Acer CB311 (at 9:10) or the Asus Flip C100 (at 9:20), but still should be fine for most teachers and students. It’s more than enough for the typical school day with some battery time left over for a movie, game or homework correction session. It comes with a 1-year warranty.

If a large screen and lots of power sound good, this Chromebook may not be the cheapest around, but it is among the best around.


Tosh cb 2 d

Toshiba Chromebook 2 CB35



+ Excellent configuration

+ Responsive keyboard

+ Large touchpad

+ Bright display

+ Excellent performance

+ Optional Core i3 processor

- Lacks touch-screen option

- Audio light on mid-range tones

Yoga Time at Lenovo

YOGA_Home_900_EDUCATIONThe 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.

05_Hero_Shot_Win10_GoldMeanwhile, 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 iPad Killer

Galaxy-tab-s2-white-angleIn the race to capture America’s student’s palms and fingers, Samsung takes the lead over the iPad with its Galaxy Tab S2 tablet. It is not only lighter, more secure and has a brighter screen but the Tab S2 costs less than a comparable iPad. In other words, it should move to the head of the class.

At 13-ounces and 6.6- by 9.4- by 0.2-inches, the Tab S2 is fractions of an inch smaller and 2-ounces lighter than an iPad Air 2, making it the choice for those who don’t want to be weighed down by a tablet. If that’s still too big, Samsung also makes a 9-ounce model with an 8-inch display that mirrors most of its specs, but is $100 less.

Overall, the design is nothing short of spectacular, with a flush display, rounded corners and an angled back edge that feels natural in the hand. It has an on/off button, one for controlling the volume as well as the expected Android Home, go-back and open apps keys. A micro-USB charging port and headphone jack round out the Tab S2’s basics.

Tab s2 8 and 9.7While the iPad Air 2 and Tab S2 have screens that show 2,048 by 1,536 resolution and respond to 10 finger inputs, they couldn’t be more different. The Air 2’s Retina screen uses conventional liquid crystal screen technology and looks pretty good with saturated colors. By contrast, the Tab S2 uses the latest Organic Light Emitting Diode (OLED) display and is among the brightest I have ever seen. It can be set manually or to automatically adjust itself to suit the local lighting. In fact, I was able to comfortably use it for a variety of tasks with the brightness set at about half.

You can choose from several different color balance schemes suited for looking at images or reading documents. On the downside, it takes on a bluish tinge if you look at the display at an angle.

Unfortunately, the Tab S2 does without the Galaxy Note 5’s S-Pen active stylus. It worked well with a generic rubber dome stylus, though.

While it doesn’t have an HDMI-out port for feeding a projector or flat-screen display, you won’t need one. You can use an MHL adapter to connect the Tab S2’s display on the big screen for all to see. The system has 802.11ac WiFi as well as Bluetooth 4.1 wireless, and worked well with both Samsung’s All Share Cast wireless video connection as well as Google’s latest Chromecast device.

The $500 Tab S2 model that I looked comes well equipped with Samsung’s Exynos 1.9GHz 8-core processor, 3GB of RAM and 32GB of storage space and matches the 16GB iPad 2 on price. There’s also a $600 version that has 64GB of storage, equaling the 64GB iPad Air 2 model. There’s no 128GB Tab S2.

Black_5a_keyboard_cover_9.7The good news for data hogs is that –unlike the iPad – the Tab S2 has a micro-SD card slot for adding up to 64GB of extra storage space to the slate. It also comes with two-year’s worth of 100GB of online storage with OneDrive, which should be plenty of space.

Its accessories make the Tab S2 very versatile at school and home. The multimedia dock combines wired networking, video and USB ports, making it a good way to turn the Tab S2 into a the equivalent of a desktop PC. The $149 keyboard case connects via Bluetooth and the cover solidly snaps onto two small holes in the back of the Tab S2. While it delivers a 2.1-pound ultraportable computer, you can fold the keyboard case over, yielding a slate.

When it comes to security, the Tab S2 has the lead. It not only has Samsung’s Knox and its Enterprise security built-in, but can do 256-bit AES encryption.

Galaxy Tab s2While you can always load Microsoft’s Office apps on an iPad, they come preloaded on the Tab S2. It also has apps for sharing documents, video conferencing and saving files online. My favorite is the Smart Manager, which keeps any eye on all key areas of the tablet’s operations.

It all adds up to a hot slate that never gets more than warm to the touch. With single- and multi-core GeekBench 3 scores of 1,247 and 4,186, the Tab S2 falls a little short in the former but blows the iPad Air away in the latter. Its 5,870 miliamp-hour battery pack allowed the Tab S2 to run for 8 hours and 25 minutes of playing YouTube videos over a WiFi link, which is on a par with most recent iPads and plenty for every day use. While it charges quickly with the included USB power adapter, the Tab S2 does without the Qi inductive wireless charging that the company’s S6 Active has.

If you’re looking for a tablet that has the power and display to replace notebooks or desktop computers in the classroom, look no farther than Samsung’s Galaxy Tab S2. It not only undercuts the iPad on price but outdoes it in just about every category, making the Tab S2 nothing short of the best slate available today.



Samsung Galaxy Tab S2

$500 with 32GB of storage; $600 with 64GB of storage

+ Inexpensive

+ Spectacularly bright OLED screen

+ Lightweight

+ Top security

+ Optional dock and keyboard case

+ Smaller 8-inch model also available


- Doesn’t work with keyboard folded over

- Lacks inductive charging

High-End Chromebook

21605127705_109ca3172c_oWhile others are aiming to underbid each other with basic Chromebooks, Toshiba is aiming for the high-end with its Chromebook 2. Powered by either an Intel Core i3 or Celeron processor, it can hold up to 4GB of RAM and has a backlit keyboard, perfect for lessons lit by the stray light of a projector. It has a 13.3-inch HD screen, but weighs 2.9-pounds and has all the ports you could want. Pricing starts at $330.

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.



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