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Hardware Thread, So, what are you doing with laptops this year? in Technical; I am presently crowd-sourcing a chunk of information on mobile tech and what people are looking for this year. If ...
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    GrumbleDook's Avatar
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    So, what are you doing with laptops this year?

    I am presently crowd-sourcing a chunk of information on mobile tech and what people are looking for this year.

    If you were writing a buyers guide of laptops in schools this summer what would you consider the important questions and the particular answers?
    eg What battery life would you expect, type of screen, network connections (LAN / WLAN / BT / etc), type / size of screen, disk size, processor type / speed, how would you charge them, trolleys, etc?

    Do you have any specific favourite things you look for? Any favourite brands?

    Any brands which are trouble (inc model) and why?

    Any additions to this appreciated. You might be asked (via PM) if you can give further comment.

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    nephilim's Avatar
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    Size/Type of screen - 13inch glossy as a minimum
    Network connections - network port and B/G/N connectivity
    Disk Size - 80GB is sufficient for students, 160GB for staff
    Processor - minimum of Core 2 Duo 1.8GHz
    RAM - 4GB
    Charge - we have a dedicated charging section within the school

    I will look at all brands, but have found Fujitsu Siemens, Toshiba, Sony and HP to be the better brands to use

    Acer (any of the netbooks and travelmate series) do not like PXE booting much, and the Acer firmware updates have a tendancy to cripple one bit of hardware (in the past GFX card reverted to 16bit colour, and wifi cards stopped working) and Acer engineers answer to fix was "get a new one on warranty".

    Feel free to PM me if you need anything more.
    Last edited by nephilim; 16th June 2011 at 03:48 PM.

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    GrumbleDook (16th June 2011), simpsonj (21st June 2011)

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    maniac's Avatar
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    3 hour minimum battery life
    3 yr one-site next business day warranty
    Minimum of 2GB ram, but must be upgradeable.
    Availability of spare parts at reasonable costs like power supplies, keyboards and screens
    Supporting G and N band wireless

    I don't focus on the processor, chipset and hard drive size as much, I just get the best I can for a given price at the time I'm looking for the machines.

    I avoid Acer, because I find they're not very durable and I've had horredous problems with their support in the past
    I avoid Dell for laptops because of well documented power supply problems that have cost us over £1000 in replacement power supplies over the last 2 years, and a lot of our time changing them in cabinets as well.
    I like stone laptops because they come with a 3 year battery warranty as standard and so far have been very reliable

    Our charging arrangements are in cabinets within individual departments with the department assuming responsibility for the cabinet, and reporting any technical faults to us. Each cabinet is checked each holiday period by us, but during term time the teachers are responsible for making sure the resources get put away properly - they soon learn the importance of this when they want to use the machines for a lesson and they're all flat through not being plugged in. They use standard chargers which are cabled tied in place inside the cabinets - the only problem with this is periodically cables get trapped in the doors and damaged, but I think this issue would occur no matter what cabinet be brought.

    (In an ideal world I'd like to see a universal charging solution where pretty much any make of laptop could be slotted into it and charged - I feel we're a long way from seeing this in practise, although I do keep touting the idea to suppliers whenever I get the chance.)

    I'm happy to comment further, we have quite a lot of laptops in this school and buy at least 60 new ones every year.

    Mike.
    Last edited by maniac; 16th June 2011 at 04:01 PM.

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    simpsonj's Avatar
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    For use in education: How easy is it to replace component parts? This would be my critical question in mobile technology. Easy to replace keyboards, screens, hard drives and RAM are vital for me.

    If we had the money, we would be looking at RM Mobile Ones with a wildcharge trolley, with wildcharge desking in place in the rooms they are most likely to be used. this would effectively elimanate the battery and charging issues we are experiencing. A network adapter than like WDS PCE booting would be a must have too.

    We use different size laptiops for different classes, but having a full size keybaord with number pad is very useful, and 15.6" screen size is a minimum for us. Our wireless is now N rated throughout, so that would be a minimum too. I'm about to trial Solid State Drives in laptops to see how that improves speed, but disk space is not a priority, I'm thinking a 40gb SSD drive would be preferential to a 160gb normal hard drive. 2gb RAM minimum, 4gb prefferred.

    @nephilim, how does the dedicated charging area work? Sounds like an interesting idea.

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    GrumbleDook (16th June 2011)

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    GrumbleDook's Avatar
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    Do people see much of a difference between use in primary and secondary schools? smaller devices for the little ones? Netbooks?

    Thanks for the responses so far.

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    nephilim's Avatar
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    Charging bay is simply a room we had purposely converted. Has nearly 400 sockets in the room, 50 network points and purpose built shelving with appropriate partitions. Works quite well and is centralised within the school.

    Being a middle school which deals with lower schools, we found that normal laptops are better suited. Because the children are smaller doesn't mean they should use smaller laptops or ict equipment. Don't know if its just us and our feeder schools that think that though

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    pooley's Avatar
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    We find the notebooks are to small for our primary children, ks2 find the screen size (eeepc 901) too small for anything other than simple web browsing and our ks1/infants find the keyboards too small. They find 13" or
    Above much easier to use.

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    Mr.Ben's Avatar
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    The ease to obtain component parts (this is why I do not use Acer).

    The cost of component parts (especially those likely to be replaced - the PSU and Battery).

    PXE Booting and TPM Modules (TPM is a recent requirement)

    3 Year warranties - So that all of those 'wear and tear' issues (dead HDDs etc) are covered.

    Finally cost - This depends - I would happily pay more for a machine if the batteries are £50 cheaper than a rival's to replace.

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    GrumbleDook (16th June 2011)

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    FN-GM's Avatar
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    We are currently phasing out staff laptops. Instead using a remote gateway (Sonicwal Wall SSL VPN) to access the terminal servers and other services.

    Eventually there will be very few staff laptops instead teachers will use Desktops in classrooms etc.

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    GrumbleDook (17th June 2011)

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    SYNACK's Avatar
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    Wireless support for both GN and AN wireless
    screens with vertical resolution 600px is pathetic and hinders usage of too many resources that we use
    15" screens (cheaper)
    latest Gen CPUs as these are the hardest bits to upgrade and you get large jump in power efficiency leading to cooler, lighter, longer running laptops.
    250GB+ HD
    4GB RAM (any less is underspeccing if you plan to keep them for three to four years without upgrading)
    Solid three year warrenty.

    Some schools of course refuse to learn and will jump at the chance to shave a couple of hundred dollars of the initial cost of each one which is pointless given they end up paying that back double in matinence.

    Would love to look at SSDs but we are in the past and SSDs are still shockingly expencive.

    Brandwise: HP, at a stretch Toshiba (despite their aweful driver support for APAC - usually need to find a simmilar EU model on the EU site to get latest drivers + software)

    Won't touch Acer or Lenovo with a barge poll (again APAC driver support is a joke and I have (through 5 different models of Lenovo desktops to netbooks) never had a good reliable lenovo system.

    I would consider Dell now that they have stopped catching on fire but higher ups have issues with Dell (being completely ignored by their sales team) which means we can't buy them.

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    GrumbleDook's Avatar
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    A few folk have said privately they would love to go with SSDs but can't afford it. What do people think about having SSDs reducing the chance of disk failure when kit is left running whilst in laptop trolleys (the types of trolleys you stand the laptop on their edge rather than flat) or if you have to boot the laptop whilst in the trolley to do patch management, etc?

    And thanks for comments so far.

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    nephilim's Avatar
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    I would LOVE to have SSDs but the trouble with them is in a school environment they are expensive to replace, in terms of downtime as well as cost.

    I can easily keep a stock of laptop hard drives readily imaged and good to go, but SSDs would be a hell of alot more expensive so I could not keep a stock of them. On top of this RTB warranties take from a week to a month to get a replacement, and onsite warranties are hardly reliable as I have found they dont have a similar spec part (and I would never accept anything lower), and then I would have to reimage it etc. So we would be down a laptop for a while, and as happens often, things have a habit of going at the same time, I would be crucified if I did not have replacements by 2 working days.

    As for leaving the laptops on, the kids here know to shutdown or they will be kept back at break/lunch and learn how to do it (something I instilled in the teachers as they take responsibility for the laptops the moment they book them for a specific period).

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    maniac's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by GrumbleDook View Post
    A few folk have said privately they would love to go with SSDs but can't afford it. What do people think about having SSDs reducing the chance of disk failure when kit is left running whilst in laptop trolleys (the types of trolleys you stand the laptop on their edge rather than flat) or if you have to boot the laptop whilst in the trolley to do patch management, etc?

    And thanks for comments so far.
    HDD's are covered by the warranty up to 3 years, and I've never had problems getting them changed if they malfunction so it's not a terribly important consideration. It doesn't take long to re-image the machine and get it back in use, and for those out of warranty I can source replacement drives for around £20 each so it's no big deal. SSD's need to come down in price just a little bit more before I will consider buying machines with them in, the problem of HDD's failing isn't quite big enough to warrent the extra expense at the moment.

    Once the difference is down to maybe as little as £10 or £20 per machine to have it with an SSD drive, then we might make the change.

    Mike

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    SYNACK's Avatar
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    I would love SSDs for this as HD chewing is a major hobby of one of the primary schools, getting rid of the HD and going with LED screens would remove two of the most vunrable parts. I would quite like it if the vendors could actually make the CPU heat sinks a little bigger on the latest revision i3/i5/i7 so that they could run passive cooling for a large chunk of the time. It would be great for the 'usage patterns' that they experience.

    From the stuff I have read (the one year drop rate) they may not actually be that much more reliable but removing shock from the equation would be great.

    I keep looking as SSDs but to get a half reasonable size would ad an extra quater to an extra third to the price and it just does not work out.

    The last batch I was thinking about the seagate hybrid drives which have something like 8GB cache of SSD plus a 500GB standard drive which idle the drive out and run of SSD cache hopefully most of the time. These almost make sense price wise but we have the issue of finding a vendor that will ship them in a unit. Not sure if places like HP are any more receptive in the UK but we get the list of options (6 months or so out of date in comparison) and we can choose from that.

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    I am about to implement a plan which i hope will reduce the stupid amount of costs we incur from having to replace broken keyboards, which are £40 a piece and broken screens which we end up writing off the laptop due to the cost to repair.

    I have bought 30 low end spec laptops, dual core celerons, 4 GB RAM which are absolutely fine for what they will be used for, MS Office and Browsing etc. I've bought a 3 year accidental cover plan for each one so it means any damage, as long as it was an "accident" will get it replaced, even it a key is picked off. they are all in a lapsafe classbuddy trolley and after 3 years we'll buy another batch with insurance cover and dish out the older ones to staff, who rarely break laptops at home.

    Of if we cant afford a new batch, just let them be used until they are broke as their value by this point will be relativly small.

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