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Asus Chromebox in the Classroom

We have just deployed some Asus Chromeboxes in a couple of classrooms as replacements for aging teacher PC's. I've been toying with the idea of ditching the old PCs in classrooms and replacing them with Chromeboxes for a while now and have elected to start with three rooms where the teachers are heavy ChromeOS users already.

So in my lab where I teach A level Chemistry the setup looks like this:

We bought the entry level 2Gb model as the 4Gb model comes with a wireless keyboard and mouse which are not really practical for the classroom. However, I picked up some cheap 4Gb DDR3l SODIMMS and have upgraded all the devices to either 8 or 4Gb. Upgrading one is a simple matter of taking the four screws out on the back (under the rubber feet) and popping in extra RAM. This, along with the included VESA mount sold the Asus over the HP model (only 1 memory slot compared the the Asus's 2) to us.

The setup shown is the photos has 8Gb RAM and is really very nippy to use (around 10700 in Octane). To hook it up the the monitor and the projector does require two adaptors. In this case displayport to DVI (for the monitor) and HDMI to VGA (for the projector). These adaptors we pick up on ebay fairly cheaply. The adaptors used depend on the classroom as some have TV displays with HDMI inputs that plug straight in.

Some of the benefits of using a Chromebox over a PC in these classrooms:

  • Fast startup and login.
  • Generally good performance.
  • Work seamlessly with all our Google Apps stuff.
  • Silent.
  • Low power consumption.
  • Dead easy to manage in term of deploying WiFi/policy and updates.
  • Cheaper than a PC - total cost - 2Gb Chromebox, RAM upgrade, management licence and adaptors comes to around £175. 

Some of the challenges

  • Windows apps have to be access via a remote desktop server - so SIMS for example. While this works well - its 'different' for many and less convenient. 
  • Printing - needs to use cloud printing. This we have setup using Papercut to share out managed copiers. While this works well - it again needs user education. 
  • They need 1 or 2 display adaptors depending on what you are hooking these up to. This adds about £10 to the cost.
  • i3 model (the model I'd really like) is far too expensive £300+ last time I looked. I can get a better specced VESA mounted PC for £260 (i3, 120Gb SSD + Win 8.1 Pro). 

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