Why netbooks should never be used in school classrooms
I was amazed when I first heard netbooks were being rolled out to schoolkids as part of the Labor Government’s “education revolution” in Australia.
Frankly, you might as well give each child a boat-anchor – both would perform equally well on high-demand applications.
Except, the boat-anchor would also have a secondary use as an actual boat-anchor.
The reality is any student running a netbook these days is even further behind the eight-ball than they would have been in 2008 when netbooks first hit the mainstream.
While there have been numerous netbook CPU releases over the last three years, the basic thing that unfortunately hasn’t changed in netbooks is performance.
Having benchmarked tens of netbooks over the last three years, today’s 2011-generation netbooks perform with virtually the same performance levels as netbooks of 2008.
So while netbooks were indeed slow back in 2008, they are now even further behind the performance benchmark today.
And if we’re asking school students to run high-performance applications such as Adobe Photoshop or code applications in Visual Studio, doing this on a netbook is arguably the best way to ensure Australian students remain behind the rest of the developed world.
On the whole, netbooks are underperforming and over-priced for serious school/study applications.
News today that some schools are considering iPads as student computers too is equally baffling. Tablet devices are fine for consuming content – but they are pretty awful when it comes to creating content, requiring all sorts of kludges to make work.
If we want iPads/tablets to replace textbooks, then yes, I can see a possible benefit there if it’s done right. But there is no way you would consider using one as a full-time content-creation device, for numerous reasons.
One, they’re not designed to do that – touch-screen keyboards are fine but not for long-term use and the touchscreen itself isn’t precise enough. Two, no peripheral ports (at least in the current-generation iPad). Three, limited content-generation apps through iOS and Android. Four, moderate application speed.
If we want kids to understand the future of computing and how tablets work, fine – but as a more general computer replacement, forget it. Using tablet computers just doesn’t work.
The best bang-for-buck computer device for general all-purpose work is still the desktop computer – it gives you the best performance v dollar return you’ll get. But if you’re after something portable, there are a bucketload of cheap 15.6-inch notebooks running around in Australian retail stores for under $500.
They generally deliver three times the application performance on netbooks for around the same price, fast enough to make serious-performance applications run at a decent clip. Sure, they’re not as light as netbooks or have the same general battery life as netbooks but if it’s a case of getting something done today or two days from now, give me a budget full-function notebook any day.
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