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Chromebooks in school
Chromebooks have proven to be wildly popular in schools. More than a million Chromebooks were sold to schools this spring alone.
For schools, Chromebook math is easy. In Google's Chromebooks for Education program, each device can cost as little as $279 and they're easy to manage from a centralized console. For school districts the real killer feature is this: If they buy through the Google program and a Chromebook stops working, Google just replaces it for no additional cost.
Chromebooks also come with their built-in advantages: They require no anti-virus programs, they boot up in fewer than 10 seconds, they automatically update to the newest patches without any fuss or muss, and with them you can use a wide variety of educational and productivity programs.
Some people are still under the illusion that Chromebooks can't be used when they're off-line. That's not true. I can write documents, answer e-mails, read e-books, watch a movie. In short, I'm as productive on my Chromebooks when I'm off-line as I am when I'm using any old-style desktop with Linux, Mac OS X, or Windows without an Internet connection.
It's also true that Chromebooks don't come with much storage. They average 16 GB to 32GB of solid-state drive (SSD) storage or up to 500 GB of hard drive space. I've never found that I need that much storage. In no small part that's because almost all Chromebooks come with a free 100GB of Google Drive for two years.
Now Chromebooks aren't for everyone. If your school has some particular program you need, say Adobe Photoshop, then a Chromebook isn't for you. That said, your college requiring Microsoft Office is not a deal-breaker. Google Docs now supports Microsoft Office formats.
If you absolutely must have "real" Microsoft Office, that's not a problem either. The Web-based Office 365 works just fine on Chromebooks.
Put it all together and the trio of security, low-cost, and speed make Chromebooks in general a natural for almost any student. Sorry, Microsoft, for students Chromebooks make a great deal of sense.
Dell Chromebook 11
The Dell Chromebook 11 was made for education, but as ZDNet's Steve Ranger pointed out, Dell's Chromebook is too good to be left to the kids.
This model is powered by Intel's 1.4GHz dual-core Celeron 2955U processor with integrated Intel HD Graphics. You can get it with either 2 GB or 4GB of RAM. If you're the kind of person who likes to have dozens or hundreds, of tabs open at the same time spend the cash for the extra RAM. You'll be glad you did.
It comes with an 11.6-inch display, 16GB of internal storage and an SD card slot, plus two USB 3.0 ports, an HDMI connector and an audio jack. There's no wired Ethernet port. For wireless connectivity there's dual-band 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0.
Many reviewers really like the Dell Chromebook 11. The 2GB model costs $279, while the 4GB version runs $299. If, that is, you can get one. Dell's run short of them. That's both because of demand, and sources tells me, there's an Intel Haswell i3-powered model coming real soon now. If you can get one, do so.
Acer Chromebook C720P
Another worthy Chromebook for the student is Acer's new Chromebook C720P. This model was the first Chromebook — outside of my beloved, but much too expensive Chromebook Pixel — to come with a touch screen.
I've found a touch screen to be useful in a Chromebook but not worth the extra $100 that brings its price up to $299.
This model does, however, also come with a 32GB SSD — unlike its excellent older brother the Acer C720, which only has a 16GB drive.
Otherwise, the two models are identical. Each comes with an 11.6-inch display; a SD card slot; one USB 2 and one USB 3.0 port; an HDMI connector; and an audio jack. For wireless connectivity, it uses dual-band 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0.
Finally, if you want to try this model at faster speeds and more RAM, the C720 Chromebook with Core i3 has just been released. ZDNet's own James Kendrick, the only person on the planet I know who has played with more Chromebooks than I have, found it the "fastest Chromebook I've used, with the exception of the Chromebook Pixel." At $379.99 list price, it should be!