Bill Gillespie
Rosemary McDowall

A short time ago we were talking to our friend Matt Gillard from Sammat Education and the discussion turned to Chromebooks. Matt mentioned he had been using a Chromebook that was less than $300 and worked perfectly on the Department of Education’s computer network.

Matt suggested that we contact John Robinson from PC Merge to look at a new 11.6-inch Chromebook that has been built especially for the education market.

John sent over PC Merge’s PCM-116E model to test. The Chromebook comes with a “ruggedised” case with a carry handle built into the device. The tablet appears to be extremely well built and would withstand the rigours of multiple users in a school environment.

The Chromebook comes with a splash-proof keyboard and removable battery.

Technically, the Chromebook is well suited to the education market with a 1.8 GHz gigahertz quad core processor and an 11.6-inch high-definition widescreen LED backlit display. The company claims 10 hours of battery life, which should get a student through the school day.

The laptop comes equipped with two USB 2.0 ports and one HDMI port. It also has an SD card reader, two internal speakers, 720p camera and Bluetooth 4.0. All this in a package weighing 1.25kg!

There are a number of advantages to using a Chromebook in an educational environment. One of those is how quickly the device is available for use. We found that within 20 seconds of starting the Chromebook we were ready to commence work.

Another advantage is that the Chromebook uses Google Chrome’s Operating System (OS). Usually schools devote a lot of time and energy to upgrading the operating systems of their iPads and Windows tablets. This is not the case with Chromebooks as you get the latest version of Google’s Chrome OS as soon as you connect to the internet.

We decided to test the Chromebook in an eT4L environment. It took us about two minutes to connect it to the network. We found that we could access all the Department’s apps without any problems. Of course, it was extremely easy to access the Department’s Google app environment and share files.

One thing we did notice was that it was not possible to access folders on the server but this is not a problem when you spend most of your time working in the Cloud.

Google and the Department are constantly adding to the number of apps available to students so Chromebooks will become increasingly more valuable in the educational domain.

For schools looking for a cheap device that is rugged, easy to use and designed to use in a collaborative environment, the PC Merge Chromebook is certainly worthy of further investigation.

This will, unfortunately, be our last review for Education. After nearly 18 years of writing software and hardware reviews the time has come to put the keyboard aside. We would like to thank our readers, particularly those who have contacted us through the years. Thank you for your support and we wish you all the best.

Hardware supplied by PC Merge. Hardware reviewed by Rosemary McDowall and Bill Gillespie. Rosemary teaches at The Forest High School and Bill teaches at Elanora Heights Public School.

Thank you

Federation thanks Rosemary and Bill for the cheerful and illuminating columns that have helped techie and non-techie teachers over almost two decades.