Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Student Reviews of the Asus C202 Chromebook

Over the last month, two of Leyden's Tech Support Intern (TSI) students have reviewed the Lenovo N22, HP 11 EE, and generation 2 Dell 11 Chromebooks.  Below are their reviews of the Asus C202 Chromebooks, the last devices they were asked to review.

Review by an East Leyden Sophomore TSI Student...

When I first saw the Asus C202 I was very impressed with how it looked.  It reminded me of a gaming laptop.  I also couldn’t believe that I got to test this Chromebook since it was showcased at C.E.S (Consumer Electronic Show) 2016. 

The Asus C202 contains pleasing specs. This Chromebook has the Intel Celeron N3060 Processor with two cores which run at 1.60 GHz (note that this device contains a different processor than all of the other Chromebooks I have tested) and 3.8GB of R.A.M. These specs allow for the Chromebook to be used for student tasks such as writing essays and manipulating Google spreadsheets.
This Chromebook has a great number of benefits, one of them being that it has a reinforced chassis and a rubber bumper with reinforced corners.  In addition, it has a scratch resistant exterior finish.  Asus claims this Chromebook was designed from the ground up for educational use and that it should withstand bumps, spills, and bruises that students may accidentally cause.

I really liked the keyboard on this device.  First, according to Asus, the keyboard is also spill resistant.  In addition, the letters, numbers, and other symbols on the keyboard are light blue.  For  me, this made the keys easy to locate in both dark and bright environments.  

Another feature that I found useful are the indicator lights located on the right edge of the keyboard.   The first indicator light  lets you know when the Chromebook is on.  The second indicator light lets you know the charging status of the Chromebook: it turns orange when it is charging and light  green when it is finished charging.  I found these features to be useful because most Chromebook charging indicators remain the same color while charging and when done charging (such as the current Dell Chromebooks that we have).  You never really know how charged your device is unless you open the Chromebook and check the battery status bar.

A different feature that this Chromebook has to offer is that the screen (like the Dell Chromebook 11 2nd generation) is anti-glare and is 11.6 inches. This is a useful feature because the screen is easy on the eyes.

I also really liked the modular design of the Chromebook.  The keys on the keyboard, power socket, and the battery are modular.  Asus claims that full dismantling of the device is possible in a few easy steps using only simple tools. This would be a huge benefit for TSI students when it comes to repairing the devices. This could also be a benefit for Leyden students as it may be less expensive the repair the devices.  For example, rather than replacing an entire keyboard when a few keys are damaged, we could easily just replace the keys. 

Finally, the footprint of the device is smaller than other Chromebooks I have tested.  This can either be positive in that the device consumes less space in a backpack or on a desktop or negative in that it can sometimes be harder to work on a smaller device.

As you can see, the Asus C202 Chromebook has many benefits, but it does have its downsides.

The first downside that I noticed is that this Chromebook only has one U.S.B 2.0 port. This may be a downside to some students because as I have mentioned before, they like to connect multiple things like their phone charger and an external mouse. 

The second downside is that the Google Chrome browser starts to lag when only having six tabs open. This may be an issue for some students because they may like to multi-task and have multiple homework assignments open. 

Another downside is the battery life.  Asus claims that this device only lasts about 8.5 hours, which is less than the other devices I tested.  

The final downside that I noticed is that the bottom and top covers are white.  After using the device for about a week, the white covers were noticeably dirty.  In addition, I had black “skid” marks on the bottom of the device.   A quick clean did resolve the issue.

Overall, the Asus C202 Chromebook has a nice design, decent specifications, and a nice rugged exterior which is great for student use. This device has multiple benefits and few major downsides which consumers look for in any electronic device. I think that this Chromebook should be kept in mind when Leyden High School picks the next Chromebook, although I still believe that the Dell Chromebook 2nd Generation is the winner.

Review by a West Leyden Sophomore TSI Student...

The Asus Chromebook is the greatest “looking” Chromebook I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing. It is mostly grey, with a navy blue rubber borders. It has a bumpy texture to it, the first of the Chromebooks. Inside, instead of keyboard consisting of black keys with white letters, it has blue letters. The screen, also, like the previous Chromebooks I’ve tested, lean all the way back. Aesthetically, it is the most gorgeous Chromebook I’ve ever used, and you can tell that Asus didn’t base their design of their Chromebook on any of the previous generations of Chromebooks.

The Asus Chromebook is the smallest Chromebook of the 4 Chromebooks I’ve used. It fits easily in the black Leyden case and could also easily fit in the tighter original blue case Leyden had given students. In terms of weight, it is also pretty light. The size and weight of the Asus make it easy to carry, especially for students who do not like to use their case when walking around Leyden with it. 

The Asus’s Chromebook has a very satisfying to use mechanical keyboard. There is something that just feels right when you tap on a key and it makes a great clicking noise. There’s something rhythmic about it that makes doing classwork more bearable. The touchpad and mouse are also very smooth to use. It moves where I tell it to and it does not flick randomly and in general is very responsive. 

Durability wise, it is tough to say with the Asus. The sides of the Asus are rubberized, so if it falls on its side, the rubber will absorb the impact. Chromebooks, from what I’ve seen in TSI, get damaged on their side a lot, and cracks their edges. Rubberized sides would minimize these Chromebooks problems by a lot. It is the only Chromebook of the 4 I’ve tested to have this quality. Besides the rubber sides, however, I don’t think the Asus is all that durable. The top of the Asus is just plastic, and a weak one at that. I can easily push it in with minimal force. If the Asus Chromebook were to land with the all the force on the plastic, I don’t think the Chromebook would survive. 

The battery of the Asus Chromebook isn’t amazing compared to the other Chromebooks. At the end of the day, this Chromebook was at 60%, which you might say, isn’t so bad. However, since it’s the end of the year and this is my last week at West Leyden, I haven’t had to use the Chromebook as much. Moreover, if I were using this Chromebook during the middle of the year, I’m sure the battery would be at a much lower percentage at the end of the day, maybe 50%, or even 40%. 

Small, extra bits and pieces I want to go over are the speakers and USB ports. In terms of the speakers, it passed the Kung Fu Panda test wonderfully (if you’re confused, please look towards by review of the HP Chromebook). The speakers are the loudest and clearest sounding out of all the Chromebooks. The sound is not muffled and hard to hear like the others. Another one of the good qualities of the Asus Chromebook is the fact that both of its USB ports are USB 3.0s, which allows for faster data transfer speeds than the older USB 2.0. 

The Asus Chromebook has an unbeaten physical design, a small form factor, and a satisfying to use keyboard and touchpad. It’s durability is so-so, better than what we have now, but there is still room for improvement. The battery life isn’t so great and I don’t think it’ll last long for students. The speakers and USB ports are an excellent touch though. However, I believe that the Asus Chromebook just isn’t the right fit for Leyden, because durability is a very important factor and Leyden should go with the Chromebook that excels the most in this quality.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Student Reviews of the Dell 22 (gen 2) Chromebook

In the last few weeks, two of Leyden's Tech Support Intern (TSI) students have reviewed the Lenovo N22 and HP 11 EE Chromebooks.  Below are their reviews of the second generation Dell 11 Chromebook.

Review by an East Leyden Sophomore TSI Student...

This Chromebook has a dual core Intel Celeron N2840 running at 2.16ghz, 3.778GB of R.A.M, internal display with 768x1366 resolution, a screen that is 11.6“, and it only weighs 2.74lbs.  In addition, the device has front facing speakers, co-molded rubber edges, and the LCD can extend 180 degrees (like the HP G4  EE).

The first and probably the most beneficial feature of this Chromebook is that the edges are co-molded with actual rubber (unlike the HP Chromebook 11 G4 EE, which was co-molded with plastic).  This is a huge plus for students in the event they drop the Chromebook.  According to Dell, the device is “specifically built to withstand the abuses inherent to an education environment.  It’s purpose-built design means that this notebook should survive drops, water spills, dirt and dust and most things that the harsh academic environment throws at it.”  In addition to the co-molding, the device has rubber feet.  This allows the Chromebook to grip to desk and table surfaces and helps prevent accidental slippage.

The second benefit is the battery life.  Simply put...the battery life is amazing!  Dell claims the battery will last approximately 8 hours.  During my time with the Chromebook, I found the battery life to last much longer than that.  First I tested the device on low brightness and made sure to have no more than 5 tabs open at a time.  Using this criteria and with normal educational usage, the battery lasted for three full school days.  Then I tested the device on full brightness and did not limit the number of tabs.  Using this criteria, the battery lasted for two full school days.  Based on these tests, this Chromebook’s battery life is the best out of all of the Chromebooks I have tested so far.

An additional benefit to the Dell Chromebook 11 2nd Generation is the anti-glare display. This means that when you are in a bright environment, the display will not reflect the light around you thus making it easier to see what is on your screen.  I was extremely pleased with this feature.  Most classrooms are really bright and with other devices, I was forced to adjust my screen to an uncomfortable position in order to see it.  I did not have to do this with the Dell Chromebook 11 2nd Gen.

Another great benefit is that the keyboard and the touchpad are spill resistant.  Most Chromebooks only have a spill resistant keyboard and not a spill resistant touchpad.  I also found the touchpad to be very responsive.  The plastic and rubber co-molding on the bottom edge of the trackpad is depressed.  This is useful because the user does not have to apply too much force to the touchpad in order to click.

Another neat feature that this Chromebook has to offer is that it has dual front facing speakers. In my experience, this placement of the speakers makes the audio sound clearer and easier to hear.  This is in contrast to the current Dell Chromebook we are using which has bottom facing speakers.

The final neat feature I noticed about this Chromebook model is the interactive light feature.  Located on the left corner of the top cover, this light works nicely with an app that can be installed called Dell Activity Light.  When the app is selected a dialogue appears with three icons: raise hand, question, and discussion.  When the raise hand icon is selected, the interactive light turns blue which lets a teacher know you need assistance. When the question icon is selected, the interactive light turns red.  And finally, when the third icon is pressed, the interactive light turns yellow which lets a teacher know you want to be a part of or start a discussion.  Dell suggests using this feature during quiet class moments, such as testing, to prevent distractions.

Even though the 2nd generation Chromebook 11 has numerous benefits, like all technologies, it does have two negatives that I would like to address.

The first negative is the Chromebook only has one U.S.B 2.0 port, allowing only one peripheral or external storage device to be connected.  This may cause a problem for some students who need to connect multiple devices to their Chromebook such as a wireless mouse, flash drive, or even their cell phone.

The second negative is that the keys on the keyboard are raised a little too much.  Although the keys feels nice and responsive, garbage, food crumbs and dust can easily get under them.  I can see this possibly becoming an issue especially if enough debris gets caught under the keys preventing them from working properly.

To conclude, the 2nd generation Dell Chromebook 11 is almost a flawless device. For $250, you get amazing specs and a well protected and designed exterior.  In addition, the Chromebook is manufactured by Dell.  This is a huge advantage for Leyden as we already have a partnership with Dell.  We already have two years experience repairing Dell Chromebooks, following R.M.A(Return Merchandise Approval) procedures, working with Dell’s warranty, etc.  I think that Leyden High Schools should keep this Chromebook very close to mind when choosing the next student Chromebook.

Review by a West Leyden Sophomore TSI Student...

The Dell Chromebook 11 has many appealing qualities that make it the best fit for the Leyden students. Dell’s design of the Chromebook 11 looks like a revamped version of their original Dell Chromebook. Dell’s new Chromebook is also wider than their last Chromebook, and the difference is big enough that it will no longer fit in the old blue Leyden cases and will now only fit in the newer black cases.

The best quality of the new Dell Chromebook is the hard new shell. The shell for the Chromebook offers much more protection than the Lenovo, HP, and even the previous Chromebooks we’ve had in the past. This Chromebook, in the time I have had it, has not received one scratch or any sort of damage. This Chromebook can take a beating and could probably even be dropped and receive no damage whatsoever. This characteristic of the Chromebook will be very beneficial to students because they constantly drop and break their them, causing them to be charged massive fines and take loaners.

Another great quality that not only this Dell, but all the Chromebooks had was the fact that the screens can bend all the way back. Now students can put the screens back to their preference. They also won’t break the screens and cause them to become unhinged from the system. Hinge problems are one of the most prominent reasons for sending Chromebooks back to Dell. The return rate on these Chromebooks can last from weeks to months, causing students to get long-time loaners and lowering the loaner count we have for all the other students. I’m glad these hinge problems will be minimized.

One of the unique characteristics of the Dell Chromebook 11 is the little LED light in the front of the Chromebook. By using an app on your Chromebook, you can change the color of the light to either red, blue, or yellow. There are a variety of uses for this little light. For example, when the teacher wants to know when everyone in the class is done with a particular in class assignment, they can ask their students to change the color on their Chromebook to red. A teacher could also divide the classroom into groups of 3 and have each group be a separate color.

The touchpad on the Dell Chromebook 11 was not as smooth as I hoped. It was more like the original Dell Chromebook, in the way that it didn’t move as easily and sometimes would be unresponsive. I would have greatly enjoys a touchpad and mouse similar to the HP Chromebook. The keyboard on the Dell Chromebook 11 is average at best, it just seems like the everyday keyboard and is not as comfortable to type on as some of the other Chromebooks I have tested out.

The Dell Chromebook 11 is the best Chromebook so far for the Leyden students and I think that, in the end, it will be the best choice. The fact that it is so durable is one of the biggest reasons to choose it because in the long-run it’ll save Leyden a lot of money. The LED light in the front adds a new layer of innovation that teachers and students alike will benefit from. Even the battery life and speeds from it are not that far off from what we currently have.  Although the touchpad and keyboard are average, I think the pros of this Chromebook really make it stand out from the rest of others.