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Portable form factor Battle Royale: Tablets and netbooks and hybrids, oh my

The Dell Latitude 2120, Inspiron Duo, Streak 7, and Motorola Xoom represent an important cross-section of state-of-the-art ed tech hardware. How do they stack up? And what's right for you? Check out the images and read the accompanying blog post over on ZDNet Education.
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1 of 13 Christopher Dawson/ZDNET

Wait, is that an iPad?

No, it's the Dell Inspiron Duo, perhaps the best compromise between tablet and PC in a small, lightweight, inexpensive package available from any OEM.

Read the accompanying blog post with more detailed analysis at ZDNet Education.

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2 of 13 Christopher Dawson/ZDNET

Dell uses a custom interface while the Inspiron Duo is in tablet mode to give access to the functions best served by a tablet (the e-reader, for example).

For my tastes, I'll just stick with Ubuntu Unity, which works out of the box with the Duo.

Read the accompanying blog post with more detailed analysis at ZDNet Education.

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3 of 13 Christopher Dawson/ZDNET

The Duo is cool, and not just because it comes in pretty colors. The convertible form factor works very well and serves the broadest cross-section of users.

Read the accompanying blog post with more detailed analysis at ZDNet Education.

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4 of 13 Christopher Dawson/ZDNET

Read the accompanying blog post with more detailed analysis at ZDNet Education.

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5 of 13 Christopher Dawson/ZDNET

The Streak uses Qik instead of Facetime, but 2-way video chat works just fine, as does video capture, making the Streak especially useful for working with peers after school, recording and documenting experiments, or creating vlogs for class projects.

Read the accompanying blog post with more detailed analysis at ZDNet Education.

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6 of 13 Christopher Dawson/ZDNET

I know, I know, this was originally conceived as a consumer device. Ignore the game onscreen and think about how useful it would be for students to have a full browser experience and the ability to interact via Web 2.0 tools with something the size of large pocket.

Read the accompanying blog post with more detailed analysis at ZDNet Education.

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7 of 13 Christopher Dawson/ZDNET

While the Latitude looks decidedly old school, its rugged exterior, management utilities, and variety of options mean that it's still a contender.

Read the accompanying blog post with more detailed analysis at ZDNet Education.

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8 of 13 Christopher Dawson/ZDNET

My favorite part of the Latitude. Seems silly, but the dodgeball-style rubber exterior won't smudge, slip out of little hands, or be easily damaged in daily abuse.

Read the accompanying blog post with more detailed analysis at ZDNet Education.

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9 of 13 Christopher Dawson/ZDNET

A powerful add-on option, the mobile charging station includes management tools and docking/charging for up to 24 Latitudes.

Read the accompanying blog post with more detailed analysis at ZDNet Education.

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10 of 13 Christopher Dawson/ZDNET

It's my favorite. The same can't be said of the students who tested it (they preferred the Streak and Duo), but bigger does seem to be better for adults, most of whom already have a smartphone and need something clearly differentiable and highly usable, no matter how old the eyes or big the hands.

Read the accompanying blog post with more detailed analysis at ZDNet Education.

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11 of 13 Christopher Dawson/ZDNET

Read the accompanying blog post with more detailed analysis at ZDNet Education.

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12 of 13 Christopher Dawson/ZDNET

Do you really need a PC anymore? Just leave a Bluetooth keyboard on your desk for use wtih your Xoom if you need to do some serious typing.

The answer to the question, by the way, is sometimes. Many people absolutely need a PC. But a growing number can do quite well with a device as snappy as the Xoom.

Read the accompanying blog post with more detailed analysis at ZDNet Education.

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13 of 13 Christopher Dawson/ZDNET

Tuff-luv sent me their "veggie-leather" iPad case, which just happens to fit the Xoom really well. It protects, doubles as stand, and improves comfort when you hold the device in your hand. I'm loathe to send it back.

The point is that, while these devices are actually pretty tough, they need protection from the rigors of school use. Get cases and screen protectors, even if they're cheap.

Read the accompanying blog post with more detailed analysis at ZDNet Education.

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