You know a tech trend has emerged when new entrants start flooding the market. That certainly happened with tablets before the craze died down, and it looks like the case with Chromebooks. In additional to the major PC manufacturers that led the charge -- names like Acer and Dell -- smaller brands are joining the fray. Walmart, for instance, is selling a Chromebook from Chinese company Hisense for $149, and now CDI Computer hopes to carve itself a piece of the pie with its new Chromebooks.
As their name suggests, the new eduGear Chromebooks are design to appeal to schools, which have become a major driving force behind the increase in Chromebook sales -- even out-shipping former education darlings Apple iPads during one quarter last year. Part of the attraction to the laptops running Google's Chrome OS is their affordability, which is one of the primary benefits that CDI is touting with its new notebooks.
There are three series that comprise the eduGear Chromebook lineup: the J, M, and R. The J and R series start at $179, while the R's base model comes in at $249. That price difference owes itself in part to the fact that the R family uses an Intel Celeron N2940 quad-core processors, whereas the other families rely on a less powerful RK3288 Cortex-A17 CPU. All eduGear Chromebooks feature 16GB of solid-state storage, built-in 802.11ac Wi-Fi and an 11.6-inch display with 1,366x768 resolution, though only the R series screen is LED-backlit. CDI makes each series available in configurations with either 2GB or 4GB of RAM installed.
The M series is built a little tougher than the J editions, being able to withstand drops of 20 inches, according to CDI. It labels the R series as "ruggedized," with the ability to handle drops of 28 inches as well as being spill-resistant. The keyboard can channel spills away from components and the trackpad is sealed.
Though not a household name, CDI is a longtime tech player in the education space, so it's able to provide ancillary services around the Chromebooks, ranging from computer carts to an add-on education software suite, not unlike what Dell is attempting to offer. Whether or not that translates into success for the eduGear Chromebooks remains, one thing's for sure: don't expect this to be the last vendor to join the Chromebook arms race.