The Electric Educator: Picking a Chromebook for your 1:1 Program

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Picking a Chromebook for your 1:1 Program

Chromebooks are HOT right now. And for good reason. They are affordable, flexible, and easy to manage. And in today's increasingly web-first world, having a device that was born on the web is a good option.

At the end of 2015 we learned that 50% of devices in the classroom are Chromebooks. That's pretty amazing considering ChromeOS is only 5 years old and people thought Google was crazy when they said they were developing their own operating system.

There are more Chromebook models available than ever before, so how do school leaders decide which one to purchase? Which devices will stand the test of time - both in terms of durability as well as technology.

Ultimately, school leaders need to have a clear purpose for purchasing and deploying any device. What will teachers and students DO with this device? 

After you have identified your purpose, there are a few general principles for selecting a Chromebook that I hope you will find helpful.

Size + Durability + Touch = Cost

All Chromebooks run the same operating system. The internal components (processor, ports, graphics cards, etc) are of much less concern than other platforms. RAM is really the only item that I pay attention to.

The size of the screen, durability of the construction, and a touch screen are the three factors that will impact the cost of your device. Giving some thought to these three things will help you determine how much (approximately) your Chromebooks are going to cost.

Sub $200 Chromebooks

CTL J4 - $179
Schools on a tight budget can find Chromebooks for as low as $140. That's pretty amazing. Chromebooks in the sub $200 price range will share a few common characteristics:
  • 10-11" Screen
  • No touch screen option
  • 2GB RAM
No one is going to consider these Chromebooks "best in show," but you can't beat the price! At a price roughly 1/3 the cost of an iPad, these Chromebooks will stretch your budget. Look at models from LenovoCTL, and HP. As a budget option you can expect 2-3 years of service from these devices; not bad considering the sticker price. 

$200-300 Chromebooks

Acer R11 - $299
If you have a slightly larger budget, moving up to the next class of Chromebooks will allow you to experience some significant upgrades. This class of Chromebooks features more RAM, touch-screen as an option, and new form-factors. 
  • 12" + screen
  • Touch as a standard or available option ($30 premium on average)
  • Convertible options available
  • 4GB RAM 
This is, in my opinion, the sweet spot for Chromebooks. As Goldilocks would say, not too cheap, but not too expensive. The build quality and durability of these devices will be much better than the lower class of devices. Purchasing a device from this category should give you 3-4 years of solid life. Check out device options from HP, Dell, Asus, and Acer.

$300+ Chromebooks

HP Chromebook 13 - $499+
If you have closets full of money you can look at so-called "high-end" Chromebooks. Expect screaming fast performance, HD displays, expanded RAM and SSD storage. Devices in this category are likely more powerful and luxurious than is required by your average MS or HS student, but might helpful for teachers, principals, and other administrators who live on their computer. 
  • 12" + HD display
  • Touch standard in most devices. 
  • Convertible options available
  • 4 GB+ of RAM
  • 32 GB+ of onboard storage
  • Aluminum unibody design
  • Extras such as on-board stylus and USB-C charging
Chromebooks have long been thought of as a budget devices, but recent models from HP, Samsung, and Asus show that Apple isn't the only brand that can produce expensive hardware. If you are looking for style, performance, and a bit of swagger, this is the Chromebook for you! 

Any one of the Chromebooks on this list CAN be a great purchase - it all depends on what your goals are for the device. Figure out what you want to do and purchase the device that will get you there! 

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