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Administrator Magazine
Scholastic Administrator is a must-read resource for 240,000 of today's results-driven school leaders. Every issue features leadership for education executives, insight and analysis into what's next in education, and reporting on cutting-edge technologies in real life applications.

TechLab: 5 Notebooks

We test five notebooks for $450 or less. Plus: A tale of two laptops.

Scholastic Administrator TechLab puts the latest in educational technology—from notebooks to projectors to interactive whiteboards to tablets—through their paces at our top-secret proving grounds. Our rigorous evaluations rely on a mix of benchmark tests, comparative measures, and subjective assessments.

The Challenge: Find the best classroom notebook for $450 or less. These 15.6-inch laptops may not set performance records or have every doodad but they can teach a lot about stretching the budget.

Click here to download and view the PDF.  

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How High, and Low, Can You Go?

Big or small, in the land of laptops you end up getting what you pay for.

Apple MacBook Pro
There are a number of ways to outfit a school district with notebooks, ranging from ultracheap econo boxes to ultra-luxurious budget busters.

Sleek and silver, the 15-inch MacBook Pro falls into the latter category. It weighs 4.8 pounds, slightly lighter than the Dell Inspiron 15, and it comes with a 2.4 or 2.7GHz Intel Core i7 processor, 8 or 16GB of RAM, and 256 or 512GB of solid-state storage. The centerpiece is the MacBook Pro’s 15.4-inch Retina screen, which is five times more detailed than the typical notebook display.

In addition to a pair of USB 3.0 and FireWire connectors, the MacBook Pro has audio and a Thunderbolt port. One of the best-equipped and most elegantly designed computers on the market, it costs a hefty $2,200—or roughly what all five of the machines we reviewed on the previous pages cost.

Dell Inspiron 17
At the other extreme is the Inspiron 17, a large notebook that sports a Core i3 processor, 4GB of RAM, and a 500GB hard drive. It adds up to a six-pound system that is only slightly heavier than a 15.6-inch system. The payoff is a huge 17.3-inch display. With that kind of screen real estate, it’s pretty much a portable desktop.

The Inspiron 17 has a great group of ports, although, like its smaller cousin, the Inspiron 15, it lacks a VGA connection to accommodate older projectors. The system can run for almost four hours on a single charge and outperforms anything at its price point.

It may not be as charming as the MacBook, but at $450, the Inspiron 17 is a genuine bargain for the interactive classroom.

—Summer 2013—

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