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The All-Day Chromebook

Cb 311aThe beauty of Chromebooks at school is that there are now a couple dozen models on the market to choose from, with a variety of screen sizes, processors and even a few with touch-screens for fingertip control. Acer’s Chromebook 13 CB-311 takes this variety a step farther with a 13-inch screen along with a new low-power processor that does better on battery life than performance.

At 0.7- by 12.8- by 8.9-inches, the all-white Acer Chromebook 13 is a lot of computer, compared to the latest 11.6-inch models. It weighs 3.2-pounds on its own and with its matching AC adapter, it travels at 3.7-pounds, roughly a pound heavier than the CB-311’s smaller cousins. Still, it easily fits into just about any backpack or school locker.

The system’s white case makes a statement – whether it wants to or not – compared to the black or gray Chromebooks that seem to be everywhere in schools. It looks great and I can imagine that kids will immediately see the CB-311’s surface as a sticker magnet. It also has more trouble hiding dirt and smudges than darker systems.

While it is well-designed and -made, the CB-13 lacks the reinforcements and ruggedized features that some of the latest 11.6-inch models have. Inside, the CB-311 uses a 2.1GHz Nvidia Tegra K1 processor. Based on ARM’s Cortex A15 hardware, it has four computing cores in addition to an innovative processing section dedicated to power-saving that helps it to get every last minute out of its battery.

Cb 311cIts 13.3-inch screen can show HD resolution, but can neither fold flat on a desk nor has a touch option as is the case with Acer’s and Dell’s 11.6-inch Chromebooks. Unlike many of its peers, the CB-311 comes with a high-power graphics engine that is descended from gaming computers. It has 192 computational cores.

At $300, it is a genuine bargain that is priced like many systems with smaller screens, such as Samsung’s Exynos-powered Chromebook 2. But, for those who need to cut back, there’s also a very economical $225 model that is identical, except that it has a more conventional wide-XGA screen.

In addition to 2GB of RAM, the system has 16GB of storage space, which should be plenty to get through a school year. If that’s not enough, you can add capacity with the SD card slot and the CB-311includes 100GB of online GoogleDrive storage space for two years. After that, it’s about $24 a year.

It has great connection potential with two USB 3.0 ports (one in the back and one on the side) as well as full-size HDMI and audio jacks. While the system has 802.11ac WiFi and Bluetooth 4.0, like most Chromebooks it does without a wired LAN connector. It worked fine with an off-the-shelf USB-to-Ethernet converter for those who like being tethered to the network.

Cb 311dThe CB-311 has a large touchpad and a responsive keyboard with white lettering on 19.5-milimeter black keys. They’re comfortable to use, but aren’t backlit, which would have been an advantage during projector-based teaching. It also lacks Dell’s latest innovation, the student activity light that can signal the teacher that attention or help is required. 

Above the display is a Web cam that can capture 1,280 by 800 resolution video streams and should do just fine for Web journals, video conferences and even snapshots of a lab. Unfortunately, the CB-311’s speakers point down onto the desk and can sound dull and muffled.

While this points to a powerful Chromebook for tackling the classroom’s toughest teaching tasks, there’s something missing: performance. While it does OK and handled all the apps I threw at it, the CB-311 lacks the speed and command that are available with Chromebooks like Dell’s Chromebook 11 and other non-Tegra-based Acer systems.

For instance, it took 10.2-seconds to start the CB-311 up, 3-seconds longer than Acer’s C720p model and scored 1,323 and 614.5 miliseconds on the Peacekeeper and SunSpider benchmarks. That translates into roughly half the performance potential of many other mainstream Chromebooks.

The payoff is that its 3,200 miliamp-hour battery pack was able to continuously play WiFi-based video for 9 hours and 10 minutes. That’s more than twice what many other Chromebooks can run for and more than an hour and a half longer than the newest Dell or Acer 11.6-inch Chromebooks.

That could mean that with the CB-311, you might no longer need to carry the AC adapter with you and always be on the look-out for AC outlets for a quickie charge. With luck, you might even be able to get away with charging the system every other night. That sounds like a good lesson plan to me.



Cb 311b

Acer Chromebook 13 (CB-311)


+ HD screen

+ USB 3.0

+ 100GB of online storage

+ Nearly 10-hours of battery life

+ Quad-core processor


- Low performance potential


Two Sizes Fit All

Ideapad_100_14_Black-8-OutlookAs penny-pinching administrators and IT folks stock schools with 11.6-inch notebooks, 14- or 15-inch systems have come down in price. The latest entry is Lenovo’s Ideapad 100, which has 14- and 15-inch models that start at $250. The systems include a Pentium N3540 processor that can be paired with up to 8GB of RAM and a 500GB hard drive. Either screen can show up to 1,366 by 768 resolution and use Intel’s Graphics HD system. They come with the right assortment of ports, including USB 2.0 and 3.0 ports as well as HDMI, audio and networking. It comes with 802.11n WiFi as well as Bluetooth 4.0. The good news is that it all fits into a modestly sized case that weighs a tad over 4-pounds for the 14-inch model and just over 5-pounds for the 15-incher.

Chromebook Power Lock-Down

CS16AC-FRONT-SIf the Tripp Lite’s tablet charging station was interesting, but not really what you were looking for because your school uses Chromebooks, the company has a new model for these systems. The sturdy steel charging station can be ordered in white or black and it still has a keyed lock to make sure the systems stay put. There are models that can hold up to either 16-, 32- or 48-Chromebooks, allowing them to get power through the station’s USB ports. The station can be attached to a wall, floor or shelf. Pricing ranges from about $600 to about $2,000.



A Pair of Tough Chromebooks

Chromebook compositeThe sweet spot these days for school notebooks is Chromebook models with 11.6-inch displays that are not only easy to carry and toss into a backpack, but can be had for around $300. That’s music to the ears of district officials trying to outfit entire schools with hundreds or thousands of computers.

The latest pair of Chromebooks from Acer and Dell shows that good things still come in small packages. To start, these two Chromebooks excel at packaging, with each weighing less than 3-pounds. Yet, they still deliver enough performance for everything from homework to online assessments.

After that they go their separate ways with different focal- and price-points. While the touch-screen-equipped Dell Chromebook 11 sells for $330, the Acer C740 Chromebook 11 comes with a standard display and sells for $50 less.

Both can fit into any school’s IT landscape, run for a full school day of classes on a charge and – best of all – are tough enough to be abused with a variety of ruggedized elements. Which you choose depends as much on whether touch is important to teaching at your school as whether you have an extra $50 in your budget for each system.

Acer Chromebook 11 C740

Acer-Chromebook-11-C740-nontouch-gallery-02Value is the name of the game when it comes to Acer’s Chromebook 11 C740 with an excellent mix of the latest components and a ruggedized design that should outlast even the clumsiest teacher, student or administrator.

From a distance, the gray and black C740 looks just like the CB 11 Touch, but it is significantly smaller and lighter. It has dimensions of 0.8- by 11.2- by 7.9-inches and weighs 2.8 pounds. With its AC adapter, the C740 has an enviable travel weight of 3.2-pounds.

On the downside, the system has a cold, hard feel to it, particularly compared to the soft finish of the CB 11 Touch. It does have a textured bottom that can help keep it from being accidentally dropped while running between classes.

At wide-XGA, the C740’s resolution matches that of the CB 11 Touch, but lacks the innovative activity light of the CB 11 Touch and doesn’t have its touch-sensitive screen. Acer does sell a touch-enabled C720p model.

Acer-Chromebook-11-C740-nontouch-gallery-05While it lacks the CB 11 Touch’s Gorilla Glass, the C740 is one tough customer. Its corners have been reinforced to protect it from sudden impacts and can survive a 17.7-inch drop. Plus, the case has strengthening ribs that can tolerate 132-pounds of force and the system has stouter hinges. Unfortunately, the screen doesn’t fold fully flat on a table.

Rather than the Celeron N2840 that’s on the CB 11 Touch, the C740 has a newer 3205U processor. It runs at a slower 1.5GHz, but has twice the amount of processor cache compared to the N2840. The C740 includes 4GB of RAM, 32GB of storage space and the bonus of 100GB of online space for two years with GoogleDrive. Acer also sells a $249 version that has 2GB of RAM.

If that’s not enough, you can add to its capacity with an SD card. It matches the C740 port for port with USB 2.0 and 3.0 ports as well as HDMI and audio connections. It was able to connect to a network with a USB-to-LAN converter or with its 802.11ac WiFi system. The C740 also has Bluetooth 4.0.

It was the speed king with the ability to start up in 6.5 seconds. The system’s Peacekeeper and SunSpider scores of 2,920 and 327.8 milliseconds provide roughly twice the performance potential of the CB 11 Touch. Still it ran for only five minutes less on a charge. In fact, the 8 hours and 35 minutes of playing back HD videos delivered over WiFi means that the system may not even need to be charged every day.

Acer-Chromebook-11-C740-nontouch-gallery-06The C740 comes with a 1-year warranty and if you get them 100 at a time, you get a couple of bonuses. To start, Acer’s Premier Care adds dedicated service and can let you jump to the head of the support line. The Educare warranty adds battery replacements, paid shipping and accidental damage coverage. If you buy it through CDW, you can extend its warranty to three years with accidental damage protection for $142. 

With $150 Chromebooks from Asus on the way from Asus, the C740 has its place in schools because it is a rugged, well-designed system that has all the right parts.



Acer Chromebook 11 C740


+ Performance

+ Small and light system

+ Up-to-date components

+ Tough design

+ Battery Life


- No activity light

- Wide XGA display


Dell Chromebook 11 Touch

Cb 11 touch cFrom the start the Chromebook 11 Touch has been designed with education in mind. From the ruggedized case to the touch-display, it is a small notebook that was made for schools. It, however, falls short (particularly in comparison to the Acer Chromebook C740 Chromebook) in two key areas: price and performance.

At 0.9- by 11.4- by 8.6-inches and 2.9-pounds, the jet black CB 11 Touch is easy to carry, pack and use. It has an inviting soft finish that’s grippy and the case has protective bumpers around its edge. On the downside, it’s larger and a couple ounces heavier than the C740. With the included AC adapter, the CB 11 Touch has a travel weight of 3.4-pounds.

While I’m disappointed with the CD 11 Touch’s 11.6-inch wide-XGA resolution, it has a secret that can help teaching. It can respond to ten individual inputs, regardless of whether it’s from a child’s finger or a stylus. While Google is readying a software update that will make touch more central to the operating system, at the moment it’s still a big help. You can not only tap to open and close apps, but you can draw or finger paint directly on the screen.

The screen has a good stiff hinge that makes for a stable place to tap and swipe the display. Plus, its display can fold flat onto tabletop, which is a big advantage when it comes to touch-screen work.

Cb 11 touch aA big step forward for school notebooks, the CB 11 Touch has a unique activity bar on the back of the screen lid. Using included software, a student can put up a green light (get teacher’s attention), a red one (ask a question) or a blue one (raise hand). This is such an intuitive addition to the Chromebook’s repertoire that I’m surprised nobody thought of it sooner.

Designed to survive the harsh environment of schools, the CB 11 Touch has a Gorilla Glass reinforced screen. It has also been tested to stand up to everything from having 16-ounces of water spilled on it to being repeatedly dropped from a desk onto a wooden floor.

Powered by a Celeron N2840 processor that runs at 2.1GHz, the CB 11 Touch is a step behind the newer Celeron 3205U on the C740. Both come with 4GB of RAM, but the CB 11 Touch's 16GB of storage space is second best. It has an SD slot for adding storage capacity.

They both have the same ports with an older USB 2.0, a newer USB 3.0, audio and HDMI for connecting to a display or projector. It lacks a wired LAN port but worked well with a USB-to-LAN converter and has 802.11ac WiFi and Bluetooth 4.0. The CB 11 Touch adds an optional mobile data card for always-on Web access.

Cb 11 touch bThe CB 11 Touch takes the backseat to the C740 when it comes to performance. It can start-up in 9.1-seconds, nearly 30 percent slower. With 1,491 and 522.5 millisecond scores on the Peacekeeper and Sun Spider tests, the CB 11 Touch has roughly half the potential of the C740. 

Still, the CB 11 Touch was able to continuously play back videos over a WiFi connection for 8 hours and 40 minutes, more than enough for a full day of school with some time left over for listening to music, playing a game or grading tests. The C740 ran for a nearly-identical 8 hours and 35 minutes on a charge.

While its one-year warranty matches that of most school notebooks, the CB 11 Touch’s coverage can be extended to a more fitting three years and include accident protection for under $100. To my mind it is money well spent considering that they will be tossed, sat on and generally abused every day.

Touch has the power to turn a tiresome lesson into a tactile experience, and the Dell Chromebook 11 Touch can make school seem more like fun. 


Cb 11 touch d

Dell Chromebook 11 Touch




+ Rugged design

+ Student activity light

+ Display folds flat

+ Touch screen

+ Battery Life

+ Mobile data option


- Wide XGA screen

- Performance

- Price 

Special Needs Tablet

TD-T7-right-sideWhile most school tablets have been designed for the most-capable common denominator in the classroom, Tobii Dynavox’s T7 has been made for those with physical disabilities and special needs. The 7-inch tablet weighs 1.3-pounds and is 1.4-inches thick, but has an HD screen, a handle and is Medicare- and Medicaid-certified for speech generation. Powered by a quad-core Rockchip RK3288 processor, the T7 comes with 2GB of RAM, uses Android 4.4.4 software and comes with the company’s Compass software. It sells for $4,549.

The New Switcheroo

Acer_Switch_10_E_Blue_04_highIf you liked Acer’s Aspire Switch 10 convertible notebook, you’ll love the new Switch 10E. The second-generation Switch 10 is not only smaller and lighter, but is now available in five colors. It is powered by an Atom processor and comes with either 1- or 2GB of RAM and up to 64GB of solid state storage. Built around Acer’s Snap Hinge 2, the 1,280 by 800 touchscreen is stable regardless of its angle. While the base model will go for $280, there will be a special edition Switch 10 with a Gorilla Glass screen lid for $400.


Fold Up Notebook

Aspire_R_11_R3-131T_07_highWith a 360-degree hinge, Acer’s Aspire R11 provides a lot of computer for its $250 price tag. It can be a tablet, traditional notebook, tent or presentation machine and can switch among its various modes quickly and easily. Based on Intel’s Pentium platform, the system comes with up to 8GB of RAM, up to a terabyte of storage space and a Gorilla Glass 11.6-inch display. While it comes with Windows 8.1, it is the start of an onslaught that will offer a free upgrade to Win 10 when it becomes available later this year.

Snap Together Notebook

Venue 10 bWhen a traditional notebook isn’t flexible enough to take on the variety of classroom tasks at hand, try tearing it apart and putting it back together in different arrangements. This Transformer-like ability is exactly what Dell has done with its Venue 10 Pro 5055, which can assume at least five different computing personas, depending on the situation.

The center of attention is the Venue 10 Pro 5055 tablet and its matching snap-on keyboard, which together blur the line between laptops and tablets. It does best as a tablet, but can also be a notebook, in tent orientation or set up as a presentation machine (with the screen pointing at the user or away towards a small group). It’s possible to fold the keyboard over the back of the system to make a thick tablet, but using the slate system on its own is much more satisfying.

At 0.4- by 10.2- by 6.9-inches, the Venue 5055 tablet is sleek, easy to handle and thinner than the Asus Transformer T100. Although it weighs the same 1.4-pounds as the T100, the Venue 10 Pro feels lighter and its back doesn’t wobble on a tabletop

Unlike other two-piece PCs, such as Lenovo’s Yoga 2 Tablet, the Venue 10 Pro’s keyboard is mechanically connected to the screen. It, however, can be hard to make sure that the slate and keyboard are firmly locked in place. The slate and keyboard together weigh a reasonable 2.5 pounds. As a notebook, it is a reasonable 0.8-inches thick and 7.3-inches deep.

On the downside, the keyboard does without extra ports, an internal battery or the Yoga 2’s ability to be hung on a wall. When it’s set up for notebook use, its hinge not only wobbles when you tap the screen but the whole thing wants to tip over.

Venue 10 eThe 10.1-inch screen will be a delight for those used to squinting at low-resolution systems. It can show HD images and video and can respond to 10 individual touches.

The $429 version I looked at came with the keyboard, but I got the optional $35 pressure-sensitive stylus as well. A nice addition to the tablet, it uses an AAAA battery, but there’s no place to stow it. The total cost was $464.

If this is too steep, Dell has less expensive alternatives. There’s also a wide-XGA model that costs $329, but it lacks the keyboard, making it a tough decision to make.

Inside the Venue 10 Pro is an up to date system built around a low-power quad-core Intel Atom Z3735F processor that can run between 1.3- and 1.8GHz. It comes with 2GB of RAM and room for 64GB of storage, of which about 50GB are available for lesson plans, homework assignments and general school business. If you need more room, the system includes 20GB of Dropbox online storage space for a year.

Around the edge, there’s the expected variety of ports, including a micro-USB plug for charging, a full-size USB 2.0 connector for data as well as a micro-HDMI connection and an audio jack for multimedia. While it does without a wired LAN connection, it worked fine with a USB adapter. The system includes 802.11n WiFi and Bluetooth 4.

Around its edge, the tablet has controls for adjusting the volume as well as turning the system on and off. Rather than a Windows key at the bottom of the screen, the Venue 10 Pro has it as a button on the side edge, which takes a little effort to get used to it.

Venue 10 cThe system has multimedia covered with cameras front and back as well as a dual microphone array pointing at the user. Its speakers are aimed out the side of the tablet and deliver surprisingly rich sound. It doesn’t get loud enough for a full classroom activity and you might want to think about adding Dell’s $50 Bluetooth speaker, which has its own 5-watt amplifier.

While this Atom-based system won’t set any performance records, it did acquit itself nicely with a Passmark PerformanceTest 8.0 score of 505.9, roughly what you’d expect and on a par with the T100’s 503.7. Clearly, adding some extra RAM would have enhanced its performance nicely, but this, unfortunately, isn’t an option. Still, it handled everything I threw at it and ran for 8 hours and 25 minutes of video playback over a WiFi network. This translates into a system that can handle schoolwork but, happily, may not need to be charged every night.

Although the system comes with a 1-year warranty, Dell will extend it to 3-years and include accidental damage for $119. A bonus is that in addition to Windows 8.1, the system comes with a year of Office 365.

It all comes down to price and the Venue 10 Pro 5055 package with keyboard and a stylus is not only priced less than a $500 Surface 3 on its own, but is one of the best values in classroom computers today. It is so flexible that having the right teaching tool at hand will be second nature.


Venue Pro 10

Dell Venue 10 Pro 5055

$464 with stylus

+ Excellent price

+ Includes snap-on keyboard

+ Optional active stylus

+ HD screen

+ Year of Office 365

+ 5 computing personalities


- No battery or ports in keyboard

- Tips over too easily

Three Kinds of Chrome

Asus leadAsus’s latest crop of Chromebooks will hit the market from three totally different directions and have the effect of making traditional school computers look very expensive. The upcoming trio of Asus Chrome systems could change the teaching dynamic with a convertible touch model, what could be the cheapest Chromebook around and a novel Chrome-based stick that plugs directly into a display or projector. Together, they have the school market covered – or at least will when the devices come out over the next few months.

Asus Chromebook FlipTo start, the Flip C100 Chromebook can turn teaching on its head. Rather than a standard clamshell format, Flip has a screen that rotates to flip over, creating a Chromebook convertible that can be used as a keyboard centric system, a presentation machine or a tablet. The system has a 10.1-inch screen, can show 1,366 by 768 resolution and responds to 10 independent touch inputs. It includes 16GB of on-board storage, has 802.11ac WiFi and Bluetooth connectivity so it should fit into any school’s IT landscape. It should be available by summertime.

Haier 11EMeanwhile, Asus has a bargain for you. Its Haier and Hisense Chromebooks should be out a little sooner and will sell for $149. They are similar, though not identical and while they skimp here and there, but the two are functional and very portable computers that undercut the competition by fifty dollars. The Haier model will be sold through Amazon while the Hisense system can be purchased at Walmart, which should fit into schools that specify, but don't supply systems to kids. They are similar to the Flip with 2GB of RAM and 16GB of storage, but each system has an 11.6-inch screen in a more traditional notebook format. They’re small and weigh in at 2.5-pounds, perfect for teachers ans students on the go.

Asus ChromebitFinally, there’s the innovative Chromebit, a self-contained computer on a stick that is like no other Chrome system. Small and light enough to wear on a lanyard, it will be available in three colors. Similar to Google’s Chromecast, it is easily the most inventive computer of the year. Looking like a memory key on steroids, Chromebit plugs directly into the HDMI port of a display, but is a full Chrome system with its own memory and storage space. Created with help from Google, Chromebit will cost just $100. Smaller and less expensive than the $260 Hannspree’s Stick PC, Chromebit has the power to change the entire teaching dynamic. Instead of equipping kids and teachers with more expensive notebooks or tablets, they could get less expensive Chromebit sticks that they plug into displays already set up in each room. The system on a stick will hold the user’s personal history, preferences and key files with the rest being stored online.


A School's Worth of Data

WdfMyCloud_DL4100 (1)Districts that invested tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars in centralized data storage will feel cheated when they see Western Digital’s My Cloud Business Series DL4100. Small enough to stash in a closet or on a shelf, the inexpensive DL4100 can not only hold up to 48TB and keep student data safe, but can be set up to never lose a bit of precious data.

Aimed at small businesses, the DL4100 can hold up to 24TGB of capacity and fit right into a school’s data infrastructure as an alternative to a centralized rack of server blades. If that’s not enough, you can gang two DL4100s together to open up 48TB of data potential. In a school with 250 students and teachers, that adds up to nearly 50GB a year per user for four years.  

In spite of its capacity, the network attached storage system is surprisingly small. At 7.5- by 6.7- by 9.2-inches, the sturdy steel case holds four 3.5-inch SATA hard drives. You can get it without drives for $530 and with 8TB capacity for $850, but I looked at the $1,530 24TB version that came with four 6TB Western Digital Red drives that run at 5,400rpm; it has a raw capacity of 24TB. On the downside, there’re no high-performance drives available as an upgrade, but the system can use just about any WD network drive.

WdfMyCloud_DL4100 (2)As powerful as a tablet computer, the DL4100 has a 1.7 GHz Intel Atom C2338 dual-core processor and 2GB of RAM; it maxes out at 6GB of memory. The back has a pair of wired Ethernet connectors and power supply inputs for redundancy, but comes with only one AC adapter; an extra costs $100. There’s also a recessed reset button.

Upfront, the DL4100 has a USB 3.0 slot, for transferring the contents of a memory key or digital camera; the system can be set to automatically move and delete or copy the data after the device is inserted. The drive case also has a pair USB ports in the back.

In addition to activity lights below the drives, the system has a 2.4- by 0.6-inch monochrome status screen that shows what’s going on inside. It displays the device’s name, temperature of the drives, capacity, IP address, fan speed and firmware version. You can cycle through the options with up- and down-buttons to the right.

To get the DL4100 started, you need to let it take 2 minutes to warm up after plugging it in. Once you’ve set a password and checked for software updates, aim a connected browser to its IP address or just “wdmyclouddl4100” and the system’s management window appears. It shows the available capacity in large characters as well as major categories of data in a pie chart format. At a glance, you can see the firmware version, if the drives are healthy and what’s connected. It has an informative fever chart of network activity as well as indicators for memory and processor usage.

Wd dl4100 managementDig a little deeper and you can change its name, set the system to static or automatic IP addressing and establish IP version 6 addresses. I used it to set the system to be a file transfer protocol server for serving up large files. At any point you can run a system-wide diagnostic, disk check and save the DL4100’s configuration so that every drive in a district has the same settings.

The software also lets you look at each drive’s temperature and its SMART operational data, like spin up time and error rates. It can even send email or text-message alerts in the event of a drive failure or overheating issue.

Along the top there are tabs for assigning shares, adding (or deleting users), managing back-ups, software and changing the system’s settings. Everything is well laid out with large icons, but there’s no place to look inside the drives to see a file list.

It can not only encrypt all the data on its drives with 256 AES security coding, but can be set up with the right balance of performance and data redundancy. In addition to setting the DL4100 up with simple disk spanning using the JBOD technique or by striping the data using RAID 0, a school that doesn’t want to lose a bit of data can go a step further. You can choose among RAID 1 (where each drive is mirrored), RAID 5 (striping with data to rebuild a lost drive) or RAID 10 (stripping, mirroring and the ability to rebuild lost data).

WD DL4100 android screenThe beauty of the DL4100 is that if you build your in-house data infrastructure around RAID 5 or 10 and a drive goes bad, the system will rebuild the lost data while the storage system is still operating. If that’s the case, just pull on the bad drive’s lever, remove it and slide a new one in. Replacement drives cost $280 and it’s impossible to put them in incorrectly. After setting the software to rebuild the lost data, sit back and relax because it can take hours to rebuild a drive’s contents.

To be on the safe side, you can install the DL4100 with an off-the-shelf UPS back-up power source. But, if the system does lose power, it can take an annoying 8 to 10 minutes for its contents to become available.

In addition to being able to house Time Machine back-ups and operate as an iTunes server, the DL4100 works with a DropBox online storage account. In addition to a Web File viewer, there’re a slew of cloud apps, including ones for working with WordPress Web sites and streaming media. Western Digital adds WD Photos iPad and Android apps for viewing images, but the most useful programs are the My Cloud tablet and phone apps that allow you to look at the files and download just about anything the DL4100 holds.

Using RAID 5, the DL4100 takes 5 seconds to wake up from standby mode, when all the data becomes available. The 24GB DL4100 model yielded 17.9GB of usable storage space when set up in RAID 5, but that drops to 11.8GB by using the extra protection that RAID 10 adds. It was able to read data at 111.3MBps and write at 97.9MBps, according to Crystal DiskMark’s Sequential data tests. That’s more than twice as fast as WD’s MyBook Live using the same network. In real world use, the DL4100 was WdfMyCloud_DL4100 (4)surprisingly good at distributing data quickly and worked with a wide variety of systems, old and new. I set it up to play HD videos on 10 separate clients and all played back smoothly with good audio synchronization.

All told, the DL4100 consumed 35.1 watts while operating and 12.5 watts in sleep mode. Assuming it’s used pretty heavily during an 8-hour school day and then asleep the rest of the time, it has estimated operating expenses of $17.50 per year. This is based on electricity costs 12 cents per kilowatt-hour and a 200-day school year. It’s a lot less than the typical blade storage server that districts are using.

Western Digital has freed schools from having to store their data in off-campus repositories by making the DL4100 secure-enough, fast-enough and – above all – cheap-enough to put one or more in every building.



Western Digital’s My Cloud Business Series DL4100

$1,530 with 24TB capacity

+ 4-drive storage enclosure

+ Works with RAID 0, 1, 5, 10

+ Inexpensive

+ Three-year warranty

+ 256-bit encryption

+ USB port in front for memory key


- No option for high-speed drives



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