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Laptops

Lenovo pencil-friendly laptop, Classroom Pen highlight Microsoft EDU hardware

Microsoft's new education tech includes $300-and-under partner laptops and a kid-friendly Surface-compatible stylus.

Microsoft

Microsoft showed off affordable Windows 10 S-mode laptops at its annual education-focused event at the Bett show in London on Tuesday.

Laptops on display are mostly updated and priced below $300, which converts to about £230 or AU$420. They include a Windows version of the Lenovo 300e two-in-one Chromebook, which lets you write on the screen with a traditional graphite pencil as well as the bundled digital stylus. Also on display was Microsoft's new kid-friendly Classroom Pen.

These cheap, sturdy laptops running in a a locked-down Windows mode -- only apps from the Microsoft Store can be installed and its optimized for IT administration -- lead Microsoft's charge to stave off the increasing domination of Google's Chrome OS and inexpensive Chromebooks in the education market. 

In addition to the Windows support, the Lenovo 300e two-in-one gets a big design refresh, making it look a little less clunky and adding a garage for the stylus. The seven highlighted laptops have rated battery lives between 10 and 15 hours. They include:

  • Lenovo 100e, starting at $199 
  • Lenovo 300e (two-in-one), starting at $289
  • Lenovo 14w, starting at $299 (uses AMD Stoney Ridge-generation A6 APU)
  • Acer TravelMate B1, starting at $215
  • Acer TravelMate Spin B1 (two-in-one), starting at $299
  • Acer TravelMate B1 (14-inch with 180-degree hinge), starting at $319
  • Dell Latitude 3300 for Education, staring at $299

International pricing and availability is not currently available and most of these laptops will likely be sold through non-retail channels.

The Microsoft Classroom Pen takes aim at the Logitech Crayon for the Apple iPad, targeted at the K-8 crowd, and is predominantly intended to partner with the company's cheapest tablet, the Surface Go. It's a lot cheaper than Microsoft's standard $99 optional stylus, but it's the same diameter so it's not designed to make it easier for small hands to grip.

microsoft-classroom-pen

This is bound to roll.

Microsoft

There's a notch on it, which can connect a lanyard to tether it to a device case, and it has two buttons. But it's also round, which means it's likely to roll off surfaces. The buttons may slow it down but they don't look big enough to stop it from rolling unless it's placed gingerly -- which kids are not known for doing.

You won't be able to buy it solo, though, at least for the moment. Microsoft's only selling it in packs of 20 for $800 -- $40 per pen. It will start shipping next month in the same markets where the Surface Go is available. But the Logitech Crayon started out as an only-available-via-education-markets sale as well.

Other notable tidbits from Microsoft's Bett announcements include:

  • Increased promotion of mixed reality -- the company will be offering free mixed-reality curricula.
  • It will be giving the technology behind its Code Jumper programming language for vision impaired children to the American Printing House for the Blind.
  • It's rolling out Immersive Reader for VR for reading within a headset.

Updated Jan 24, 2019: Corrected comment about the size of the Classroom Pen and the processor in the Lenovo 14w.

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