The latest Chromebook, HP’s $200 Chromebook II G4 Education Edition, may be a mouthful, but it has been upgraded in all the right places for schools. To start, the system is rugged and sturdy enough to stand up to daily abuse at schools with molded edging and a spill-resistant keyboard. Then, it has been test-dropped from 27-inches, about desk height. While it weighs 2.7-pounds, the CB 11 EE has an 11.6-inch screen that folds flat on a table, Celeron processor and can go for a full day at school on a charge. For those seeking anything but a gray or black system, the CB 11 EE can be ordered in bright green.
Nearly six months after its debut, Windows 10 is still lagging behind Windows 7 in adoption, according to NetMarketShare’s online survey of which OS people are using to log onto the Internet. As of the end of December, Win 10 stood at 10% of Web traffic and just behind the 13% for the combined Win 8.x systems. The irony is that Win 7 held firm at 56% of the market while Windows XP continues to be strong with 11% market share, despite Microsoft cutting users loose with no more security updates. Mac’s OSX software garnered 5% while everything else, including Linux software was good for 5%
Acer’s TravelMate B117 notebook sets the pace for school notebooks with a system made for education that should stand up to the worst abuse that a teacher or student can give it. Based on Windows 10 Pro software, the system will be the first in Acer’s TeachSmart line and has been built around an 11.6-inch screen, yet weighs less than 3-pounds. A big step forward is its lid light that allows a student to either answer a class question (instead of a clicker) or alert the teacher to a need for help. It can blink in four different colors, which are registered on a teacher console. The system itself is rugged enough for everything from preschoolers to high schoolers with a water resistant keyboard, rubber bumpers and a lid that can survive up to 130 pounds of force. Inside, it’s powered by either a Pentium or Celeron processor, 4GB of RAM and has WiFi and Bluetooth built in. A big bonus for the $250 system is that it has a security conscious Total Protection Module for remote log-ins.
Sound good? Acer has started a seeding program to let schools try out either the B117 or a C730E-C4BA Chromebook for free. Just fill out the online application and talk to Acer about the details of your school and the system should be on its way.
Anyone who’s seen a display that uses Organic Light Emitting Diode (OLED) technology generally sticks with it because it not only uses less power than standard Liquid Crystal Displays (LCDs) but are lighter, brighter and richer. HP moves the OLED state of the art forward with HP’s Spectre x360 convertible computer. Its 3,820 by 2,160 resolution OLED screen can be flipped over to assume several computing personas, from a standard notebook to a tablet and presentation machine. Despite having a 13.3-inch screen, the Spectre x360 still weighs 3.2 pounds. Look for it in the spring for about $1,150.
Windows is Windows and Chrome is Chrome, right? Well, Lenovo is offering schools the freedom of choice of which operating system to include on its ThinkPad 13 system. This can not only lower upfront costs, but maintenance and repairs as well. The TP13 is built around a sixth-generation Core i5 processor with the security minded vPro extensions, can be outfitted with up to 16GB of RAM and as much as 512GB of solid state storage. It sports a full-size HDMI port, three USB 3.0 and a Type C connector, yet the TP 13 fits in a slim system that weighs 2.3-pounds. While the Windows version will be ready by April, you’ll have to wait until summertime for the Chrome machine.
Meanwhile, Samsung has its third generation Chrome design on the way, which can cross over between Windows and Chrome software. The Chromebook 3 has a metallic skin and is just 0.3-inches thick yet carries an 11.6-inch screen and weighs just over 3 pounds. Inside, the system is powered by an Intel Celeron N3050 processor, has your choice of 2GB or 4GB of RAM and has 16GB of storage space. It can connect with 802.11ac WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0 and a pair of USB ports. It should sell for about $400.
The wild card is packages that Samsung is putting together for schools with a variety of software components. The most interesting pairs 100 CB 3 systems with software from Neverware that runs Windows virtually in Chrome’s environment. There’re also packages that team 30 systems with McGraw Hill’s ELA software and a three-month subscription to Reading Labs 2.0 or subscriptions to the company’s Thrive curriculum and three-months of ALEKS. A third package includes 10 CB 3s with Smart Technologies’ Amp content and enough licenses to cover six users per system.
Ruggedness is the center of attention for Asus’s C202 system. Designed to survive everyday drops and spills at school, the C202 is built around a sturdy frame with reinforced corners and rubber edge bumpers. Plus, the system has a scratch-resistant finish so that three-year old systems look almost new. If anything should break, the major components, including the power port, battery and keyboard, can be quickly removed and replaced. Powered by a Celeron processor, the C202 comes with 2GB of RAM and 16GB of solid state storage space. Its 11.6-inch screen shows 1,366 by 768 resolution and can fold flat onto a table top.
Meanwhile Acer has been working on Chrome computers, big and small. To start, the Chromebook 11, aka: CB3-131 is an 11-inch system that has been redesigned for durability. It costs $180. As to the big, the Chromebase 24 just might be perfect for public access kiosks, libraries and study halls. It has a Core i processor, a 23.8-inch display that can show full HD material and the one-two networking punch of 802.11ac WiFi and wired gigabit Ethernet. The system can connect via a bunch of USB ports and Bluetooth and can be ordered with the luxury of up to 8GB of RAM. Look for it later this year.
Too expensive for your school? The HiSense C11 Chromebook might downsize the display to 11.6-inches, but it also cuts the price tag to $99. It comes with a quad-core 1.8GHz Cortex processor and 16GB of storage space. If that’s not enough, you can add more space with a microSD card. It weighs 2.4-pounds.
Instead of a fragile budget notebook, students need (and deserve) rugged systems, like HP’s ProBook 11 G2 EE: the EE stands for Education Edition. Built around the latest Intel Core processors, the EE is not only thinner and lighter than the G1 version, but it’s resistant to spills and its molded trim protects it from drop damage. The system has super-tough Gorilla glass as well as DTS audio and 802.11ac WiFi. In addition to Windows 10 Pro, the $359 EE system can be ordered with HP’s School Pack 2.0 array of software. It includes copies of Classroom and TouchPoint Manager as well as HP’s Adaptive Learning app.
Those who have a lot of iPads are certain to have noticed that this past Monday, the beta of iOS version 9.3 was released. In addition to the expected bug fixes, enhancements and its intriguing Night Shift mode, the release has four cool augmentations that can help schools deploy and use pads in the classroom. The best part is that all are free.
>Shared iPad. As the name implies you can now set iPads up for general use where students log in and their files and apps show up automatically. There’s no limit to the number of users and teachers can even set iPads up for kids in advance to have their photo, name or initials on the screen so they know which one to use.
>Classroom app. While it falls well short of a full-featured LMS program, this new feature can help teachers get the most out of classroom education apps. They can not only lock iPads to a specific app, Web site or ebook, but can connect them to Apple TV for projecting their screen to the whole class. If a student forgets his or her password, the teacher can quickly reset it so the class is hardly slowed down.
>School Manager. This new feature uses a student’s Mobile Device Management details for buying apps in bulk and originate Apple IDs for students and teachers. You can even use it to manage hardware and software.
>Managed Apple ID. This could be the biggest step forward because school or district IT managers can now set up serialized Apple IDs that get fed into Student Information System software. There’s no limit to the number of student log in credentials it can manage and there can be prefixes for different schools or programs followed by student info. As time goes on, Apple hopes to integrate this into SIS apps.
If iPads are breaking faster than you can replace them, Bump Armor cases can help keep them in one piece with a protective foam cover. Able to meet the army’s 810G standard for ruggedness, there’re Armor cases for second- through fourth-generation full-size pads, Minis and Air models, but nothing yet for the new super-sized Pro pad. Available in six bright colors, they have stands and are perfect for small children.
Samsung’s latest device isn’t a sleek phone, but a Windows 10-based tablet that is equal parts performance and mobility. At a pound and a half and only a quarter of an inch thick, the Galaxy TabPro S has a 12-inch AMOLED display that can show 2,160 by 1,440 resolution and doesn’t require a battery-sapping backlight. Inside the TabPro S has a 2.2GHz Core M processor along with with 4GB of RAM and either 128- or 256GB of storage space. It comes with WiFi and Bluetooth standard and there’s an optional LTE mobile data card for always having access to data.
Its 2GB of RAM, 32GB of storage space and processor may not impress you with its performance potential, but iRulu’s WalknBook’s $220 price will. The tablet runs Windows 10 software and has a 10.1-inch screen that uses IPS technology and shows 1,280 by 800 pixel resolution. The really cool things about the WalknBook is that rather than a raw tablet, it comes with a snap-on keyboard case, something others charge extra for. It weighs 2.3-pounds and the company also sells an 11.6-inch convertible for about $50 more.