Taking a Chromebook for a Spin

by +James Sayer

Earlier this year Acer announced its latest Chromebook designed for education, the Chromebook Spin 11 (with stylus). I have been lucky enough to have received a pre-release device to check it out.



For anyone new to Chromebooks, Chrome OS powers these devices and is essentially the Chrome browser hardwired as an operating system. Fast start-up times, highly secure (Google has offered a ‘reward’ if anyone hacks their OS), Chromebooks are a fast internet ready device that don’t get slowed down by unnecessary software. Missing Photo editing software? Video editing? There are hundreds of thousands of Apps and Extensions and some very powerful replacement tools. Watch this for an awesome overview of Chrome OS:



Design

Picking up the Spin 11 for the first time and it has a reassuringly rugged feel. With rubberised edges, it is designed to withstand drops from 48 in (122cm) - perfect for that grade 5 student passing to their friend or the grade 10 student accidentally pushing it off the edge of a desk! Officially the Spin 11 is ‘US Military Standard MIL-STD-810’, what this means in practice is that it is strong enough and resistant enough to withstand most of what our students can throw at it. The water resistant keyboard (and yes I did test this...accidentally!), and anti-bacterial screen coating means that shared devices needn’t be germ magnets!

I met with YM, Acer’s Product Marketing guru, who encouraged me to stand on one foot on the device, drop it onto a hard surface and run it under water - and it still plays video and runs normally! Check out the video on durability:



Much like Acer’s R11, the device is fully convertible. Writing an essay? Use as a regular laptop. Studying for an exam? Fold it up like a tent and place on your desk to read your ebook. Need to film some video? Just fold back the screen and the outward facing 5mp camera above the keyboard is perfectly placed to record as you would with a tablet. The strong hinges mean that the Chromebook can be picked up by the screen without the keyboard moving around.

The Spin 11 has two USB-C and two USB-B ports, along with an SD card reader and headphone jack. Teachers might need to get a USB-C to HDMI dongle as there is no exclusive display connector. But then, of course, there is Chromecast for wirelessly transmitting your display.

So it is more than strong enough and resistant enough for the classroom, what about its features?

Features

The Spin 11 will be the first to be powered by Intel’s latest Sunny Lake chip, with RAM options from 4-8gb and Solid State hard drive between 32-64gb there is plenty of power for most educational requirements. And of course, linked to your school account you have unlimited cloud storage from G-Suite for Education.

In reality, this means that the Spin 11 is fast enough to handle everything that Chrome has to offer. I have frequently had 3 accounts signed in, with video conferencing, several drive tabs and apps open and the Chromebook didn’t slow.

This is also one of the first Chromebooks to have Android apps via Google’s Play Store enabled by default.

And of course, there is that stylus.

Acer has partnered with Wacom and included a stylus with the Spin 11. About the same size and weight as a regular ball-point pen, and utilising EMR technology (yes I had to look that up! Read more here) it is easy to hold and write, and resists palm detection when held a few mm from the screen surface. In practice, it is as fast and easy to write as any other tablet-pen combo. With Texthelp’s upcoming EquatIO with handwriting recognition for math teachers this is going to be a huge time saving feature. I can see this being great for sketching/annotating notes and quickly adding handwritten notes to Google Keep.

Summing Up

As a teacher for 16 years, I can confidently say that this is a device designed for the classroom. Rugged, flexible, easy to deploy and control, it can be a tablet, laptop and more. This is the go anywhere and do everything device at a price most schools can afford.

Want a device that you can view your Classroom assignments and then flip over to use the stylus to annotate student work? Do you have students that need to record video on a field trip and need a device rugged enough to handle this? The Acer Chromebook Spin 11 could be the device for you.

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