Dell took to the annual BETT 2019 education technology conference to launch three new budget-friendly Chromebooks in its 3000 series for the education sector. Those will include the Dell Chromebook 3100, Chromebook 3100 2-in-1, and Chromebook 3400. As the model designations imply, the Dell Chromebook 3400 is a 14-inch laptop while the Chromebook 3100 and 3100 2-in-1 are 11.6-inch netbooks. The latter is a convertible tablet-laptop hybrid.
Spill and pick-resistant keyboards have become fairly standard fare for education Chromebooks and that isn’t missing in Dell’s latest offering but the company has taken matters just a bit further. In addition to a completely sealed keyboard with captive keys, Dell says that each of the new Chrome OS laptops meet 15 MIL-STD specifications for durability. All of the new entries can survive a drop of up to two-and-a-half feet onto steel and up to four feet onto plywood.
The Dell Chromebook 3100 and 3100 2-in-1 undergo more rigorous hinge and micro-drop testing with thousands of drops from four inches at every angle to ensure they survive abuse and daily use.
All three new series entries will ship with Intel’s Gemini Lake series processors and wireless cards featuring 2 x 2 MIMO connectivity. USB Type-C ports will be used for charging and data transfers this time around too.
Dell is promising a two-year lifecycle and up to six years of automatic updates to the Chrome OS firmware from the March launch date.
Key differentiating features
Starting at $249, the Dell Chromebook 3100 is an 11.6-inch Chrome OS gadget that will be available in touch or non-touch configuration with a 180-degree hinge. That will enable the device to be laid flat on a surface for use or viewing by multiple students and their teachers. Battery life for the Chromebook 3100 is expected to fall in at just a few minutes longer than 14-hours.
The 2-in-1 variant of the Dell Chromebook 3100 features the same screen in a touch option but coated in Gorilla Glass NBT Touch for extra durability. That functionality does drain on the battery a bit, with Dell claiming the gadget will last just short of 13.5-hours between charges. Education IT departments will also have the option to include a secondary ‘world-facing’ camera for more creative classrooms starting at just $359.
Finally, in the 14-inch category, Dell has introduced its Chromebook 3400. At $319 to start, the Chromebook 3400 comes with a standard display without touch compatibility but with the option to include a full HD panel. Battery life is rated at up to 12 hours and 58 minutes, according to Dell.
Bucking the trends
Dell’s latest education offerings appear, at initial examination, to be on par with competing devices at this year’s education-focused tech event but the company has also avoided an emerging trend in that market. ASUS, CTL, and HP have each launched their own new gadgets for the environment but have included a long-awaited new series of processors from Intel competitor AMD.
The lack of an AMD offering from Dell isn’t necessarily a problem since the first generation of Chromebooks powered by the hardware could suffer unforeseen optimization issues and bugs but it does stand out. The components tend to be much more affordable than Intel chips and AMD has a loyal following as a result.
Dell does offer AMD alternatives to Intel in nearly every other series it has released but playing it safe might be a smart move since, if issues arise, it could help cement Dell in the education market. If the chips work as well as expected, the company will still be able to offer an AMD-powered Chrome OS laptop running the latest silicon in the future.