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Acer Beefs Up 11.6-, 15.6-Inch Chromebooks For Careless Students

High-performance hardware might be that which gets us the most excited, but sometimes it's also good to take a step back to the sensible basics. Acer has been putting some energy and thought into two new Chromebooks, the 11.6-inch C740 and the 15.6-inch C910. Both of these Chromebooks are aimed at the education market, and as such they are built to be tougher and more versatile for multiple users.

The 15.6-inch C910 comes with either an Intel Celeron 3205U processor or an Intel Core i3-5005U. This CPU is wired to 4 GB of DDR3 memory, and storage is handled by a 16 GB or 32 GB SSD. Screen options include a 1366 x 768 resolution on a TN panel or a Full HD IPS panel. It should manage about eight hours of battery life, which is enough to get through a school day. The entire unit weighs about 2.2 kg and is just shy of an inch thick (0.95").

The smaller 11.6-inch C740 comes with the same CPU options, along with a 16 GB SSD. Buyers can opt for 2 GB or 4 GB of DDR3 memory, but they're limited to a 1366 x 768 TN display panel. It weighs 1.3 kg, is 0.79" thick, and should manage about nine hours on a full charge.

Clearly, the highlight of these Chromebooks aren't their specifications, because those aren't all that impressive. Where Acer has decided to stand out with this release is the durability of the notebooks, because in schools not every young student handles the school laptops with equal care. One of the points that the company emphasized when we met with Acer representatives at CES was the work done on the hinges -- you can see that the new hinge extends much further along the side of the lid -- and the use of thicker plastic for the entire assembly, which together make the entire screen panel much tougher and more rigid than its older Chromebooks.

We were able to handle samples of both the old and new hinges, and although the new hinge isn't exactly as inflexible as steel, it's demonstrably stronger than the old one. That, combined with few other changes to the chassis, and Acer rates the laptops to be droppable onto corners from heights of up to 45 cm, and the screen covers can withstand up to 60 kg of force when closed.

The green hinge extends further, reducing the screen flex.

Naturally, the units come with all the connectivity they need for the modern world too, including USB 3.0, 802.11ac WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0, HDMI, and an SD card reader for transferring photographs or expanding storage.

Acer also believes that making Chromebooks stand out in the educational market will aid the adoption of Chrome OS, because students will learn to compute with it from a young age. Chrome OS is still a young operating system, and it isn't as capable as an operating system such as Windows 8, so convincing older users to use Chrome OS at all can be a bit challenging. Younger users who aren't accustomed to the Windows or OS X climate, however, may be more flexible.

The C740 will be available with a starting price of $279, and the C910 will start at $299. They should be available through retailers sometime in February.

Follow Niels Broekhuijsen @NBroekhuijsen. Follow us @tomshardware, on Facebook and on Google+.

Niels Broekhuijsen
Niels Broekhuijsen is a Contributing Writer for Tom's Hardware US. He covers hardware news on all components and peripherals.
  • dovah-chan
    So instead of forcing their illuminati OS on us they're going to target the helpless and innocent children. RIP privacy and software that respects freedoms.
    Reply
  • house70
    15109290 said:
    So instead of forcing their illuminati OS on us they're going to target the helpless and innocent children. RIP privacy and software that respects freedoms.

    This trend was started by pushing ipads in schools with all kinds of "incentive" programs. This is only different because it doesn't actually incentivize kids into using them. Thinking that iOS is not about collecting any data from it's users is naive at best. Nothing is really cheap or free, there is always a trade-off. If all kids (or their families) were loaded, they would not need cheap hardware to take to school. Stating facts here, nothing more. At least Acer is not pushing some "exclusivity" deals here.
    Reply
  • canadianvice
    I find it highly presumptuous that it's now considered acceptable for public schools to require parents to fork out for a $249 chromebook.

    That's just obscene and defeats the whole point of universal public education.
    (ftr, I don'y know about the states, but here parents buy them for use at school, the schools don't pay)
    Reply
  • AndrewMD
    @canadianvice - seriously STFU! I don't care how poor someone is, there are payment plans that can be arranged to help anyone in school. Also, there are other programs in place to ensure that truly piss-poor people can get things for free so they will never appreciate the cost of anything, keeping their sorry asses on welfare and any other public help offerings.

    Reply
  • canadianvice
    15110289 said:
    @canadianvice - seriously STFU! I don't care how poor someone is, there are payment plans that can be arranged to help anyone in school. Also, there are other programs in place to ensure that truly piss-poor people can get things for free so they will never appreciate the cost of anything, keeping their sorry asses on welfare and any other public help offerings.

    The point is it should not be a requirement. It's a cost that parents should not have to bear and schools shouldn't even be making use of.

    I wouldn't buy one on principle if I had children and I know my parents wouldn't have either - we're not poor, since you seem to think that's the only reason for my objections. Universal education is intended to be accessible, and extra costs, especially those that represent a quarter of a family's bills that may need a payment plan are barriers that should not exist.

    You don't see people chucking chromebooks in the charity bins for a reason.
    Get off your ignorant ass and your high horse.
    Reply
  • canadianvice
    15110289 said:
    @canadianvice - seriously STFU! I don't care how poor someone is, there are payment plans that can be arranged to help anyone in school. Also, there are other programs in place to ensure that truly piss-poor people can get things for free so they will never appreciate the cost of anything, keeping their sorry asses on welfare and any other public help offerings.

    There are poor people who try and get a leg up, but with people like you constantly pissing on them and pushing them down, no wonder they have trouble.
    Reply
  • canadianvice
    15109290 said:
    So instead of forcing their illuminati OS on us they're going to target the helpless and innocent children. RIP privacy and software that respects freedoms.

    Well, until linux is a low-maintenance, easy-to-understand OS, this is the best alternative.
    Chromebooks are used because they're dead simple and a moron could operate one without issues like viruses, x.org configuration, trying to find a proper FOSS driver... the list goes on.

    The chromebooks fit the paradigm for tech use in these schools better than any other currently existing solution. Inexpensive (relative to other options), easy to use, low maintenance, and good battery life. It's the perfect option if a school feels entitled enough to require every 6 year old has a laptop.
    Reply
  • CRITICALThinker
    Often schools are investing in Chromebooks for the classroom and library. The problem with linux is not that it is difficult to use, as it is very simple to click on a web browser icon. It is the fact that it is difficult to use it as a fully fledged operating system, and I assume it is also more difficult to use as an admin.
    Reply
  • Sn SM
    "Well, until linux is a low-maintenance, easy-to-understand OS,...."

    Fudd like this gets embarrassing after a while 8-] Let me help you
    here...go to www.mint.com....download an ISO....burn it on one
    one of those round disk things (you DO know how to do that
    don't you?) and get back to us. Installing winblows on a unit
    like this is vendor lock-in and unsecured to boot.
    Reply
  • turkey3_scratch
    15114088 said:
    Often schools are investing in Chromebooks for the classroom and library. The problem with linux is not that it is difficult to use, as it is very simple to click on a web browser icon. It is the fact that it is difficult to use it as a fully fledged operating system, and I assume it is also more difficult to use as an admin.

    I have a good 6 months of running Linux, the command line is a vital tool unlike how in Windows every single thing is GUI, so I don't think Linux is fully fit for students who are not tech savvy. However it does come with a GUI and I think is still better than Chrome OS. Kids should learn a Unix based OS anyway.
    Reply