Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Chromebook Flip from Asus

I'm a fan of ChromeOS based computers, like the chromebook, especially when paired with Google Apps For Education. They're a capable and low maintenance combination that allows Information Technology staff to focus on things that are closer to the institution's core mission and not installing software, upgrading servers, recovering lost files, preventing/removing malicious software, etc.

Sometimes, though, a touch screen system is a better tool. So it was of great interest to me when my team deployed the Lenovo Thinkpad Chromebook Yoga 11e to dozens of my teachers in the 2014-2015 school year. I really wanted to see what the teachers could do with such a "convertible" style of computer that could combine Chromebook and tablet features.

At the time, there were only three touch-screen chromebooks: the Yoga, the Pixel, and the Acer C720P. They were all excellent notebook computers, but the Pixel was prohibitively expensive and only the Yoga could mimic a tablet. That is about to change.

Asus has announced the Asus Chromebook Flip, to be released in June 2015. Its a $249 chromebook with 4GB of RAM. That is a pretty good deal already. Their other 4GB RAM chromebooks (the C200 and C300) cost more than that. The Flip, however, comes with a touch screen and converts into a tablet just like Lenovo's Yoga. This nearly halves the price of a convertible chromebook when compared to when we bought them for our teachers just a few months ago.

The Yoga is probably a bit more durable, especially its keyboard and non-metal chassis. The Yoga also has a 15% larger screen. It might be the better computer for adults. However, for younger students the 10.1" screen might be fine. The Flip's cost also matches the low end of what we typically spend on chromebooks for student use. So adding the convertible nature of these models and some Android software (Android-programs-on-Chrome project) and Google Play For Education, we end up with a very nice package.

I don't know about anyone else, but I'm looking forward to the idea of a chromebook for K-5 students which doubles as a tablet, costs the amount of a 2 year old iPad mini even though its brand new, runs Android programs (which are as numerous and diverse as iPad software these days), is the size of a full iPad Air, and has that full keyboard that is required for computer based testing. It sounds like the perfect way to help students transition from "what I use at home for casual web browsing and games" to a more serious "what I need to do research, take notes, and build large projects." Like putting the computer on training-wheels.