We go hands on with all of this year’s Chromebooks to help you decide which is best for your students.

Last year if you were in the market for a Chromebook your choice was very limited, the only real option was the Samsung Series 3 or the HP, but in 2014 it’s a completely different story. Schools looking to buy Chromebooks now have a huge range of options, from the high end Chromebook Pixel, to the petite selection of 11″ Chromebooks.

Over the last few weeks we’ve gone hands on with all of the latest models to help you out with your purchasing decisions. We’ll take into account not only hardware specs, but also student choice, bulk purchasing options, and durability.

When talking about prices I’m referring to bulk purchasing discounts offered by the manufacturers, not about retail pricing which is often significantly different. Prices may change depending on which supplier you use.

Let’s get to it!

 

1. Toshiba Chromebook 13

toshiba-chromebookThe Toshiba Chromebook 13 is a big favourite in ClassThink Towers. Tosh may not be the go-to manufacturer for school hardware, but the Chromebook 13 is a great all round laptop at a very competitive price point.

The performance and price are on par with the HP Chromebook 11, Acer, and Dell, but the Toshiba comes with a productivity boosting 13″ screen. Toshiba knows it’s not the first brand that comes to mind when buying education laptops so from our experience they’re currently offering some very favourable prices to schools buying large quantities.

If you’re looking for a Chromebook with something more than an 11″ screen, and performance and battery life to boot you should be looking at the Toshiba Chromebook 13. In my opinion this is the best all-round laptop available on the market today.

More information: Review | Pricing

 

2. Dell Chromebook 11

Chromebook 11 NotebookDell’s first Chromebook is one of the best of the bunch and could easily have taken the top spot were it not for one factor — price.

The Dell Chromebook 11 is a well built, solid laptop. Everything about it feels like a quality device — well, as much as you can expect for under £200. Even the screen is well protected by a sheet of glass which will reduce the breakages that are so common on other Chromebook models.

The Dell’s performance is great, it never fails to keep up with Chrome, and there’s also the option to bump the RAM up to 4GB, which is unheard of in low end Chromebooks.

But there is a catch. Even when buying in large quantities I’ve struggled to get Dell’s pricing down to meet my expectations. This makes the Dell Chromebook pricier than the others, but for that extra cash you do get an attractive, well built Chromebook. The choice is yours!

More information: Review | Pricing

 

3. Samsung Series 3

samsung-s-3At the grand old age of 2, the Samsung Series 3 is looking long in the tooth, but that doesn’t mean it’s without merit. Suppliers are pushing these haggard old Chromebooks out the door as fast as possible and it’s possible to pick up a real bargain.

The Series 3 is slow, the screen is poor, and the build quality is only slightly better than a paper aeroplane, but it works and it works reliably. There’s also the added benefit that if you know where to look you can get spare parts at extremely low prices.

Worth considering for those on an extremely tight budget.

More information: Review | Pricing

 

4. Acer C720

acer-c720Acer’s C720 is a strange beast. Internally it’s go the chops to go head to head with most other Chromebooks, but on the outside it looks like Acer thought they were designing a netbook in 2007. As a result the Acer is ugly as sin and reminds me of that stack of old Dell 2100’s that I’ve got hidden away in a cupboard when we all thought netbooks were going to be “the next big thing.” Remember that?

The big thing the C720 does have going for it, however, is price. You can pick up a single Acer for less than most other Chromebooks, and when you start talking about large quantities I’ve seen prices as low as £140.

If you can put up with the flimsy, accident prone screen, and flexible keyboard, the Acer C720 might just be for you, but don’t come crying to me if the screen snaps in half in a light breeze.

More information: Pricing

 

5. HP Chromebook 14

hp-chromebook-14

The HP Chromebook 14 is one of the largest Chromebooks available. This is a big bulky beast, not at all like it’s Macbook Air wannabe cousins. If you’re not going to be moving around much the HP 14 is a great Chromebook for productivity, but for those on the move this Chromebook is a few inches too big.

The large screen, generous trackpad, and sizeable keyboard make jumping around Google Docs a breeze, and the HP’s case is rubberised and solid. But if you want something your students can just throw in a bag and carry home, or even to and from a trolley, you should look elsewhere.

More information: Review | Pricing

 

6. Samsung Chromebook 2

samsung-chromebook-2Samsung’s sequel to the Series 3 should by rights be king of the hill, but the company got it so wrong this time around.

The choice of processor results in a sluggish user experience — this thing runs like a smartphone turned into a laptop — and this lack of performance is obvious in everything you do on this laptop.

The design itself smart, the build quality solid, but this Chromebook just cannot perform. Samsung should have stuck with the formula that made the Series 3 so popular — small, cheap, and “just enough” — instead they increased the screen size, made it heavier, and downgraded the performance.

Steer clear.

More information: Pricing

 

7. HP Chromebook 11

hp-chromebook-11The all white HP Chromebook 11 breaks the mould by at least attempting something that looks like deliberate design. As far as Chromebooks go this is a pretty device, but hardware faults stop us recommending this Chromebook for anyone but sadists.

If you want something unique with a splash of colour the HP 11 might be just what you’re looking for, but this Chromebook has major performance and battery issues, in our tests lasting just 4 hours on a single charge, and the processor struggled even with minimal usage. Avoid!

More information: Pricing

 

8. Chromebook Pixel

chromebook-pixelFeeling flush? Fancy trading in your 6 month old Porche for a laptop? Well, the Chromebook Pixel is the one you want. Hey, while you’re at it why not hire a secretary to tap the keys for you? Heck, you might as well buy 3 Pixels in case one gets a scratch.

The Chromebook Pixel is the laptop that shouldn’t exist. The hardware is beautifully made, even rivalling Apple’s Macbook range, and the specs are to die for, but even so the Pixel is massively over priced.

I’d love to own a Chromebook Pixel, but there are so many better, cheaper, and more flexible devices out there. If your school is considering buying Chromebook Pixels for your students you should reconsider your career, religion, and sanity.

More information: Pricing

 

Are you using Chromebooks in your school? Which option did you choose and why?

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About Author

Profile photo of Karl Rivers

Karl is an award winning Director of IT for the Royal Grammar School Guildford, based near London, England. He has been working in education for more than ten years and founded ClassThink in 2013 to share technology best practice with other schools. In 2014 he won the NAACE Impact Award for support services in schools, and writes edtech articles for Education Executive Magazine.

4 Comments

  1. Thanks for the summary! Since our students will not be taking CBs home, we went with the HP14. Solid build, great track pad, large screen were the main selling points.

  2. Chromebooks are also a good fit for many schools, as they are inexpensive and easy to replace. With the help of third-party solutions such as Ericom AccessNow, it’s even possible to run Windows- and Java-based educational and testing applications on these devices. This solution enables Chromebook users to connect to any RDP host, including Terminal Server and VDI virtual desktops, and run Windows applications or desktops in a browser tab. AccessNow does not require any client to be installed on the Chromebook, so it’s easy to deploy and manage.

    For more information about AccessNow for Chromebooks in Education, visit:
    http://www.ericom.com/Education-ChromebookRDPClient.asp?URL_ID=708

    Please note that I work for Ericom

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