Just what the world needs, another low-end laptop that doesn't quite have the chops to run legitimate apps like Photoshop, the graphics prowess for real action games, or do any video editing. Worse yet, these newly announced laptops are for education purposes, so kids (and teens, or those in college) will have to suffer along with slower-than-slow Intel Celeron processors, integrated graphics (which means games run slow), and a version that has so little RAM they'll hate using even a web browser.

When Microsoft first announced Windows 10 laptops that would be stripped down and meant for students, it was obvious they had taken note of the Chromebook craze. I'm a big fan of these low-end laptops because they don't make any promises about running apps. They are called Chromebooks because they run Chrome, and that's about it. For a writer like myself, a Google Pixelbook is a perfect match for me, running Google Docs, Gmail, and Spotify all day. You know it's a light laptop, and nothing more.

But for my kids? No thanks. To even consider a low-end laptop means you are ready to make incredible sacrifices. Models like the Lenovo 100e and the HP ProBook are basically crippled right from the starting gate with an Intel Celeron process, configurations for only 2GB or 4GB of RAM, paltry storage (one Lenovo version only has 32GB available), and integrated graphics. Kids won't be able to run 3D apps like Google Earth, at least not fast enough to enjoy them. Most laptops these days use the Intel Core chipset, and the best ones have discrete graphics from companies like NVIDIA.

Let's say you're a college and you want to hand these out to students. They could use them to jot down notes in class using an app like Microsoft OneNote, poke around in a browser to do research, and maybe get Microsoft Word running, but they won't really enjoy any real desktop apps. This means, if a student (even at a young age) suddenly wanted to learn about photo-editing, he or she would find that Adobe Photoshop wasn't really fast enough. At least with a Chromebook, you know the entire point is to run a browser (you can't even run Photoshop). It looks, acts, and feels like web computer. They are lean and fast, because they boot to a browser and that's about it.

With Windows 10 laptops meant for education, it feels like a marketing gambit. The computers are essentially Chromebooks that run Windows 10, so they have to manage all of the operating system in memory, you have to use up precious RAM and storage for apps, and yet they are really only adequate for web browsing and light computing needs. Plus, there are already many low-end Windows 10 laptops. It's nothing new.

If you're considering them, know that these are not the same as Chromebooks from companies like Acer and Samsung. Older students will think they can install games like Call of Duty or even Star Wars: Battlefront, and believe me they will also try to do that, but there's not enough processing power or graphics power. While the laptops might last all day, and the browser will run more like a Chromebook, it feels like a bait and switch. Here's a laptop that is capable of running Windows apps, but don't bother.

As always, you have to ask about the goal. Is it for students to run a browser? I'd suggest a Chromebook for how they boot so quickly and don't provide any other complexities. There's nothing else the student can do with a Chromebook than browse. Do you want to make sure students have a "real" laptop that runs apps? There are many more powerful options. It's better to hand out machines that can grow up with the student, not limit them.

Published on: Jan 22, 2018