Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Student Reviews of the HP 11 Chromebook

Leyden Community High School District 212 is currently in its second year of being a fully 1:1 district where all 3,500 students get issued a Chromebook.  Being one of the first three districts in the country to adopt Chromebooks for a 1:1 teaching and learning environment has come with both numerous rewards and challenges.  I suppose being an early adopter of anything puts you in that boat.  At the time we made our decision, the Samsung Series 5 Chromebook was the only option.  Since then, a number of new devices have hit the scene.  The Leyden leadership teams have just recently started discussions about when and how to refresh our devices.  In order to make well informed decisions, I have begun obtaining some of the new Chromebook models to test out.  I then turn them over to a couple of our students from our Tech Support Internship (TSI) classes to use as their primary device for a week.  I plan on posting their reviews on this blog. We'll start with the HP 11.

Student 1 - An East Leyden Junior

My name is Bryn and I am a Junior at East Leyden High School.  I am also a first year student in the Technical Support Internship course.  Last week, I was approached by Mr. Jason Markey, East Leyden’s Principal, and Mr. Bryan Weinert, the Director of Technology, about testing the new HP Chromebook 11. To do this, I used the HP Chromebook 11 for one full week in all my classes in place of my usual Samsung Chromebook Series 5.  The results could not be finer.

The first thing I noticed is that the HP Chromebook is extremely fast.  I tested the HP and the Samsung Chromebook side by side and visited a variety of websites.  The load time was much faster on the HP Chromebook than it was on the Samsung Chromebook.   I also did a side by side comparison of the HP Chromebook and a desktop computer in the TSI classroom.  Again, the load time on the HP Chromebook was much faster.

The second thing I evaluated was the keyboard and trackpad.  Compared to the Samsung Chromebook, the keyboard on the HP Chromebook is more slick and provides a smoother typing experience.  The trackpad is more responsive and does not freeze like the Samsung trackpad does.

When compared to the Samsung Chromebook, the screen on the HP Chromebook is more hi-res and is better in image and quality.  The sound quality is very crisp and as the volume increases, the sound does not get distorted or muffled.  The device is lighter, smaller, and seems more durable, particularly with regards to the charging port.

There are two features on the HP Chromebook 11 that stand out: the fan and the LCD lights. There is no fan because the processor does not require one.  The LED lights on the front face of the Chromebook lights up when powered on.  This adds a cool feature to an already sleek looking device.

I was disappointed with one aspect of the device: the battery life.  On an average day, with the Samsung Chromebook, I use approximately 50% of the battery.  With the HP Chromebook, I used at least 75% of the battery during my normal school day & activities.  This is concerning since batteries lose their charge life as time goes on.  The one positive with regards to charging is that the HP Chromebook uses a micro-usb port.  This means that you can use a traditional phone charger to charge the device if needed.

As my final conclusion, I prefer the HP Chromebook 11 over the Samsung Chromebook Series 5 due to it’s fast speed, keyboard/touchpad performance and sleek look.

Update: On Wednesday, November 13th, Best Buy & Amazon pulled all their HP Chromebook 11’s from their shelves.  Rumor has it that the charging ports were overheating.

Student 2 - A West Leyden Senior

My name is Antonio and I am a Senior at West Leyden High School.  I got the opportunity to test out an HP Chromebook 11 for a week.  The Samsung Series 5 Chromebook served as a paradigm for comparison.  My job was to use the HP as my primary device in every one of my classes as I would with the Samsung.

When it was first handed to me, I quickly noticed the difference in weight and size.  The HP was noticeably lighter than the Samsung and slightly smaller.  Although probably not as important, I liked the white and blue colors and so did my classmates.  I got reactions like, “Wow! That’s a Chromebook?” and, “I wish we had those.”  I thought white could be a good color that is stylish and not depressing.  Of course, that is just my opinion.

After about one minute (as some of my classmates stared behind me), the HP booted and logged in.  Things looked the same except for one important thing: the screen.  It was a glossy, high-definition screen without a glossy bezel like the Samsung’s bezel which can peel off.  It showed darker hues and bolder blacks.

I tested the webcam to see how it looked.  It seemed to display darker colors but blurry motion.  Compared to the Samsung, I preferred the Samsung webcam.

Along with good graphics, good audio was produced by the HP.  The speakers seemed to be placed differently so that the sound was projected upward through the keyboard instead of downward to the desk like the Samsung which produced muffled sounds.  The HP also sounded louder and clearer: almost twice as loud as the Samsung.

The responsiveness of the keyboard and trackpad were very similar to the Samsung, but the trackpad felt more “clicky.”  The size and spacing of these parts were excellent.

As I looked at the exterior of the HP, I found no Video In/Out port or SD card port.  We rarely have the need to use these ports, much less the latter, so I doubt this would cause problems.  If the need arises, though, students can share the assignment with the teacher to run it through the teacher’s device and through the projector; a USB flash drive can be used in lieu of an SD card.

Throughout the trial, I accessed websites and webpages that I normally did.  The HP seemed to access web pages more slowly than the Samsung, but the HP loaded individual elements more quickly.  For example, when I tried accessing YouTube videos, the Samsung would get to youtube.com faster, but the HP would load the videos, thumbnails and comments faster.

It is sturdier and will withstand damage that the Samsung is more vulnerable to.  Among these is the curse of the broken charging port.  Because the type of charger is shorter and firmer, it is not likely to break or damage the charging port.  The charger also fits Android smartphones, so that could be a sort of reminder for students to charge their Chromebook after they charge their beloved phones.  The HP had basically the same battery life as the Samsung.

Overall from what I have experienced, I think the HP is better than the Samsung.  It is smaller, but it does not feel cluttered or tight.  It has less ports, but they are not imperative.  It runs Chrome OS, and it does it better than the Samsung.  I recommend this device for 1:1 at Leyden.