A unique feature of Dell’s new laptops is a “network activity light” that indicates when a student is using the wireless LAN.

“As a teacher, I can pretty quickly see if students are interacting with the network,” Phillips said, adding that this could be useful when students are taking an exam or in other cases where they should, or shouldn’t, be online.

The Latitude 13 laptops are available with Intel Celeron, Core i4, or Core i5 processors. They include 32-bit or 64-bit configurations and start at $399 for a non-touch Celeron version.

“We’re excited about this newly designed Latitude series for education,” Phillips said. He added that it’s important for companies like Dell and others to offer a full portfolio of options for schools, to meet a wide range of student needs—including laptops, tablets, and Chromebook devices.

Dell isn’t the only computer maker offering a new line of laptops for schools.

During the Florida Educational Technology Conference in January, Lenovo unveiled its ThinkPad 11e series of laptops, designed specifically for education and fully ruggedized for student use.

The ThinkPad 11e series is available in two form factors, said Sam Morris, education solutions manager for Lenovo: traditional “clamshell” laptops or an innovative “Yoga” design, with four unique positions: laptop, tablet, tent, and stand.

The Yoga design features a hinge that rotates 360 degrees, turning the laptops into touch-screen tablets while maintaining the ruggedness that students need, Morris said. He said Lenovo’s Yoga design gives students a system that can adapt to their needs, based on the content they’re working with.

For each of these form factors, schools can choose Windows or Chromebook options. The ThinkPad 11e laptops feature 11.6-inch screens and Intel processors, and the Windows versions come with optional applications such as LanSchool and webNetwork to make management of the devices easy.

The clamshell design costs $349 for the Chromebook version and $449 for the Windows version. The Yoga design adds about $100 to the cost of each option.

A Lenovo white paper makes a case for why schools should consider investing in fully ruggedized devices. It says an independent market research firm found Lenovo’s repair rates for laptops to be lower than its competitors’ in a recent study.

Meanwhile, ASUS last fall introduced what it calls “Transformer Books,” which also combine the productivity of laptops with the flexibility of tablets.

The ASUS Transformer Book T100 is a “two-in-one” ultraportable laptop whose 10-inch touch screen detaches from the keyboard to become a standalone tablet computer. The device runs Windows 8.1 and features an Intel quad-core processor and up to 11 hours of battery life. A 32GB version costs $349, and a 64Gb version costs $399.

The ASUS Transformer Book T300 offers the same concept, but with a larger (13.3-inch), full-HD screen. It runs on Windows 8 Pro and features an Intel Core i7 processor and up to eight hours of battery life.

Follow Dennis Pierce on Twitter: @eSN_Dennis.

Dennis Pierce

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