Dell, Acer add new Chromebooks, Windows laptops to education offerings

Both PC makers are touting new Chromebooks that meet military standards for ruggedness, while covering their bases in the school market with a new Windows notebook.
Written by Sean Portnoy, Contributor

Acer Chromebook Spin 512

Following on HP's announcement this week of new education Chromebooks, rivals Dell and Acer have launched new Chromebooks for schoolkids as well. Just to make sure they leave no stone unturned in the burgeoning market segment, the two companies are each introducing a new Windows-based educational laptop as well. The slew of new education Chromebooks are timed to correspond with the Bett education technology event going on in London.this week.  

Like HP, Acer's new offerings include Intel and AMD processors -- AMD chips having just started showing up in Chromebooks at the recent CES event -- while Dell chooses to stick with Intel inside. All three manufacturers have embraced the idea of making their educational portables rugged enough to deal with the messy. clumsy hands of schoolchildren, as the new systems tout compliance with military levels of durability. Such touches include spill-resistant keyboards, drop protection, and in the case of  Acer Chromebook Spin 512 and Dell Chromebook 3100 2-in-1 Gorilla Glass displays. 

The Spin 512 is joined by the Chromebook 512 among Acer's new Intel-based systems, both sporting 12-inch screens and either a quad-core Pentium N5000 or Celeron N4100 processor. (The Chromebook 512 can alternatively be equipped with a dual-core Celeron N4000 CPU.) Using a unique 3:2 aspect ratio that Acer claims provides 18 percent more vertical screen space, the screens have a resolution of 1,366x912. The Spin 512 comes with a 360-degree hinge that allows it to be used in tablet mode with the included Wacom digital stylus. 

Acer hasn't abandoned the traditional 16:9 aspect ratio, as it has a Spin 511 edition slated as well, with specs similar to the Spin 512, and the more budget-friendly Chromebook 311 and Spin 311. The Spin 311 comes with an AMD A4 processor, while the Chromebook 311 can ship with either the A4 or a Celeron CPU, joining the Chromebook 315 as the company's first Chromebooks with AMD processor options. Acer hasn't announced pricing for the 512 series yet, but the Spin 511 will cost $380, the Spin 311 will be slightly cheaper at $350, and the Chromebook 311 will be priced at either $300 for the Intel version or $280 for the AMD model. 

Microsoft continues to compete against Apple and Chromebook laptops in the education market, which is why partners like Acer and Dell are introducing new Windows notebooks for schools as well. Acer's entry is the TravelMate B114-21, a 14-inch machine that meets the same rugged standards as the above Chromebooks. It's based around an AMD A6-9220C processor and Radeon R5 graphics and providing up to 10 hours of battery life. As with the 512 series above, no pricing for the B114-21 has been revealed, but it will start shipping in the second quarter.

Dell's new Windows laptop for schools is the Latitude 3300 Education, a 13.3-inch notebook starting at $619. It comes with the usual durability features, choice of Intel processors, and, depending on the configuration, up to nearly 17 hours of battery life between charges. The Latitude 3300 is joined by a trio of refreshed (and ruggedized) systems from the Chromebook 3000 series lineup, which receive a performance update in the form of Intel Gemini Lake processor upgrades.

The 3100 is an 11.6-inch laptop starting at $249 (touch-screen option will boost that price) and boasting up to 14 hours of battery life, while the 3400 is a 14-inch clamshell with claimed battery life of nearly 13 hours for $319. Rounding things out is the Chromebook 3100 2-in-1, builit around an 11.6-inch Gorilla Glass NBT touchscreen and offering over 13 hours of battery life. It will start at $359 when it begins shipping in March with Dell's other new education laptops.

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