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Dell builds tough, inexpensive Chromebook 11 for students

After Dell's success with its last Chromebook, the company is now targeting students with its latest version of the Chromebook 11, which is less powerful, but more rugged.

Dell’s latest version of its Chromebook 11 is after one specific market: students.

The simple $250 laptop is designed to be “school tough” and was put to the test by using MIL-STD military standards for durability, pressure, temperature, humidity, shock, and vibration.

The LCD screen and base trim are rubberized for shock absorption; the touchpad and keyboard are sealed to protect against spills; the screen hinge rotates 180 degrees, allowing the laptop to lie flat on surfaces; and the device is made out of good ol' fashion, hard plastic.

There is also an optional touch screen version made of Corning Gorilla Glass, which solves the problem of students breaking Chromebooks by placing pencils on the keyboard and then closing the screen.

The main appeal as a school device is Dell’s “activity light,” which now does more than signal when bored students are roaming the Web without permission. The light in the top right corner of the machine is able to change colors to indicate whether a student has a question (which may appear as blue) or is finished with an assignment (which could be red). The color is controlled by a student or teacher using a built-in app.

The three-pound laptop has an 11-inch screen and a battery life of around 10 hours. It runs on Chrome OS and a Bay Trail-generation Intel Celeron processor, which is a processor designed for tablets and chromebooks for a smoother performance. As with most Chromebooks, the device is meant to be used mainly with Wi-Fi and is designed to rely mostly on cloud storage.

Though Dell is looking to encroach on Apple’s territory, the new Chromebook 11 is also being marketed to average consumers. The latest version is available on Dell’s website in black or blue. Prices range from $249 to $329.

While designing a less powerful system may seem counter-intuitive in a world moving toward a technology-driven future, there is a growing market for these devices. Chromebooks highlight many of the flaws with luxury, high-tech computers: 1) they are expensive, 2) they are not designed to be tossed around, and 3) they are typically crammed with a bunch of features that many users never even open.

The original Chromebook 11 was such a hit with consumers and critics that Dell had issues keeping up with demand. The excitement surrounding the latest version is signaling that this may be another winning product for Dell.

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