A lot of schools these days require you to BYOD, or Bring Your Own Device, but how do you know which device to go for? there's so many out there.
Chromebooks have been dominant in schools for a while now, these are low spec machines designed with students in mind. You see, everything is on the internet these days, you get your research from online articles and videos, type up your paper into a word processor and save your files to the cloud. Chrome OS is essentially the Chrome browser as an operating system, rather than installing programs you access things like Google docs, Office 365 and even Spotify through web based versions of these applications.
This means the OS is very lightweight, it starts up quick and requires a lot less power to run, because of this integrated system you don't need big beefy hardware to run these applications, bringing the cost of the machines down and making it a lot more affordable for students.
Today we're going to take a look at 3 popular machines and talk about what each one offers and lacks.
The first is the ASUS C201PA Chromebook
This is currently the cheapest out of the 3, but I was very impressed with how it functioned on such low specs. The build is solid, the keyboard has a decent amount of travel and the screens hinge is strong.
Speaking of the screen, that’s where we run into our first hiccup, it looks nice, sitting at 1366x768, its bright and not too reflective, but viewing angels take a bit of a hit. Looking straight on it's sweet, even turning to the side it’s not too bad but moving the screen vertically shifts the colours like crazy so you need to make sure it's sitting in that sweet spot.
This machine is running a Rockchip quad-core processor which is essentially a tablet processor. it won’t be as quick as an Intel based machine but to be honest it runs perfectly fine in the Chrome OS. Even with lots of tabs open, the machine never slowed down and was quick at loading embedded video thumbnails and had no problem with YouTube in 1080p.
One big positive from that Rockchip processor is battery life, this machine will easily reach 9 and a half hours getting you through a whole day. It's only 17.9mm thick and weighs just under a KG, yet still feels sturdy enough to take a bit of a beating, so really it's perfect to throw in a bag and take it along with you. As for as the I/O. you get two USB 2.0 ports, a port for your headphones, and then it uses micro HDMI so you will need an adapter to push your content to a screen. You also get a micro SD card slot. so you can expand on the 16Gb of internal storage it comes with, and even take some music or movies along with you.
Overall a very good choice for the price!
The next model we will look is a slightly more expensive Intel based Chromebook, known as the Acer C738T Flip.
Flip, as you might have guessed, is talking about the screen, a touchscreen that can be flipped completely around allowing you to use it like a tablet or prop it up for watching media or presentations. This screen is a lot more reflective, but even sitting at the same resolution it looks sharper and the colours were more vibrant. The back is reinforced with metal inside, so it’s nice and strong, but the thing that sets this Chromebook apart is its one of the first models to support android apps, this greatly improves the amount of software you have available to you and most of the apps seem to work really well.
Over the next year this feature will be rolling out to quite a few Chromebook models but it’s great to see this working on a device right now and I was even able to play a few games on it.
Just remember this is still in beta so you may run into a few applications that still don't really work. The I/O uses full sized HDMI and SD card ports and also includes a USB 3 port, which is nice because it means you won't need to carry an adapter with you to plug this into a display.
Overall I think with the addition of the touch screen, being able to use it in different orientations, Android apps and full sized ports makes this device worth the slightly larger price tag.
The final device we will look at is the ASUS TransformerBook TP200SA.
This device is pretty similar to the last one, a touch screen that can be turned completely around, but rather than being a chrome book its actually running Windows 10.
The IO has Micro SD and Micro HDMI so you will need an adapter for a screen, but it’s got USB 2, USB 3 and even USB C.
This is a Windows laptop competing with Chromebooks so it won’t have the power to run intense applications like the adobe suite, but it’s a very nice and snappy machine.
The display is great, same resolution, the keyboard and track pad are good too and because its Windows you're not restricted with the programs you can install.
The build quality is strong but because its Windows there will be a slight drop in battery life, I found it to last around 7 hours with the screen on half brightness but could be a worthy trade off to be able to install native Windows programs.
In the end all three of these models are great machines for students and pretty amazing what you can get for a few hundred dollars these days. Really it comes down to what sorts of things you need access to, if everything you need is cloud based and online, you will probably be fine with the C201PA.
If you want a touch screen and access to android applications while still keeping that awesome battery life the C738T is a great choice, and if you want a cheap machine but don’t want to be restricted on what you can install, the windows based transformer book is an awesome choice for the price.