Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Student Reviews of the Acer C720 Chromebook

Last week I posted a couple Leyden student reviews of the HP 11 Chromebook.  This week I'm happy to post those same two students' reviews of the Acer C720 Chromebook.  After using the HP 11 for one week as their primary device, they each then used the Acer C720 for one week.  As a reminder, Leyden Community High School District is in its second year of being fully 1:1 with Chromebooks.  All 3,500 students currently have the original Samsung Series 5 device and we are currently discussing when it makes sense to refresh our fleet and which new model makes the most sense for our students.  The Acer reviews are below and coming next week will be the student reviews of the HP 14.

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.  Over the past couple weeks, I have had the opportunity to test out different model Chromebooks.  This week I tested the Acer C720 Chromebook by using it in all classes in place of my usual Samsung Chromebook Series 5.

In this post, I am going to focus on comparing the Acer’s speed, keyboard/trackpad performance, screen, and ports to that of the Samsung Series 5 Chromebook.

Compared to the Samsung Chromebook, the Acer C720 Chromebook is faster.  When testing both Chromebooks side by side, the load time was about two seconds faster on the Acer C720 model.  I also compared the Acer C720 Chromebook to a desktop computer.  The Acer proved faster than the desktop.

Compared to the Samsung Chromebook, the keyboard on the Acer is more rugged.  I felt that the Acer keyboard was more comparable to a desktop keyboard: the keys were larger and the depth (or vertical movement) was greater for each key.  With regards to the trackpad, I did not experience any freezing while using the Acer Chromebook like I sometimes do with my Samsung Chromebook.  The trackpad was very responsive.

The screen of the Acer Chromebook is smaller than that of the Samsung (11.6 inches vs. 12.1 inches); however the resolution is greater (1366x768 vs. 1280x800).  One interesting aspect of the Acer is that the image on the screen appears to be tinted a silver color.  This gives the illusion that the colors are darker and that the backlight is not as bright as the Samsung Chromebook.  This did not cause any undue hardship while using the device or affect the functionality of it.  

Like the Samsung Chromebook, the Acer Chromebook has two USB ports; however, unlike the Samsung model, one is a USB 3.0 port.  USB 3.0 offers faster transfer speeds than USB 2.0.  Also absent from the Samsung model but included in the Acer is a HDMI port.  Both models have a SD card port.

The charging port on the Acer Chromebook seems to be very secure and well made, especially compared to the charging port on the Samsung Chromebook with can easily be broken.  The Acer also claims to have 8.5 hours of battery life (depending on use) which I found to be accurate.  The audio port also seems extremely secure.  In fact, I sometimes struggled to remove my earbuds.

The Acer C720 Chromebook comes with a Kensington locking feature.  This feature allows the owner to secure the Chromebook to a desk or cart to prevent stealing.  While this is a cool feature, I don’t think it would be practical for students in a high school setting whom carry their Chromebooks with them from class to class.  I don’t see many students “locking” their Chromebook to their desk each period.

As my final conclusion, I prefer the Acer C720 over the Samsung Chromebook Series 5.  I felt that I was using a more durable Chromebook that more closely resembled a laptop or desktop computer.

Student 2 - A West Leyden Senior

My name is Antonio and I am a West Leyden Senior. Right after I tried the HP 11 Chromebook, I was given an Acer C720 Chromebook.  I noticed right away the resemblance to a netbook.  The top cover was made of a seemingly durable material like aluminium.  The bottom was black plastic with obvious vents, observable speakers, and a visible copper heatsink leading to the back of the Acer.  At first glance, I did not like it.

Quite impressively, the boot-up and log-in took about 10 seconds--total.  Since I had multiple devices available at the moment (HP and Samsung Chromebook), I performed some simple, improvised tests.  I tried restarting all devices to see which one started up the quickest.  The winner was the Acer, then the HP.  Next, I tested the time it took to load up webpages.  Again, the Acer performed the best out of all three.

I also tried to find which one sounded the loudest.  Both the Acer and HP sounded loud at full volume, but the Acer did not sound as clear as the HP.  The speakers on the Acer are placed in the same location as the Samsung, giving the same muffled sound.

Another important thing is the screen.  The Acer has the same type of glare-free screen that the Samsung has.  It is not HD or glossy like the HP screen.  The bezel is glossy and thick.  

The keyboard and touchpad felt more mechanical and clicky than the HP.  I thought they were too loud, and would sound really bad as cacophony in a classroom full of typing/clicking students.  On the other hand, it makes the whole device feel more durable and resistant--more solid.

Ports are not a problem.  The Acer has USB 2.0, USB 3.0, HDMI, SD Card reader, headphone jack, and charging port.  The only downside is that the charger and charging port are about as flimsy and breakable as the Samsung.  The full-sized HDMI port can connect to a better screen or projector, but of course they must have an HDMI input.

It is similar to the HP in size and weight, and it has more than the HP in terms of ports.  In my opinion, the Acer C720 is a fast, durable device with enough for a 1:1 program at a school.  Fast boot up, excellent battery life, durability, and appearance put the Acer between the HP and Samsung.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Info about 1:1 at Leyden

Thanks to the recent post on the Education Week blog that includes Leyden Community High School District 212 as one of the 35 High Schools Worth Visiting (see #22) and suggests you visit my blog for more info, I decided to add a page that keeps track of all the resources related to what we are doing and how we are doing it.  You can find the 1:1 at Leyden page permanently linked above.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Restrict YouTube Videos To Your Domain and G+ Circles

I just learned from the Google Apps blog that if you use your Google+ identity in YouTube, you can restrict your videos to only those people in your domain or circles.  Nice!

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 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.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Bring Back the Google Menu Bar

By now, most Google Apps users have had their black menu bars removed and replaced with the new Google App Launcher (here's a great video overview by the Google Gooru).


I, personally, have already become accustomed to the new App Launcher and don't mind it at all.  I may even start to like it soon.  If you, however, absolutely cannot function without the black menu bar, check out the Proper Menubar extension for Chrome.  It provides you with a similar version of the original Google menu bar with quick links to most of your Google tools.  It does not include links to your domain/marketplace apps.

You can even go into the extension's options and configure which links are included in your menu bar, which websites it appears on, and the background color.