Device Review: Acer Aspire One 11″ Cloudbook

The following post by #MIEExpert Kevin Sait was originally published in Issue 6 of #TheFeed as part of a monthly feature that explores a range of Windows 10 devices. If you’d like to know about other devices, be sure to get your free copy of #TheFeed every month.

“The screen sharpness was really pleasing; text quality was on a par with the Surface 3 and the keyboard layout was good and comfortable to type on.”

When the Microsoft Education Audience Manager Mandeep Atwal rang me and said ‘Kevin can you road test this new device for me?’ I was indeed a tad sceptical.

Having read a brief spec of the device I wondered if we were about to see the relaunch of the Netbook. The idea of a Cloudbook means it’s a device that connects to the cloud to allow your documents to be stored, you may choose to edit those documents with the traditional Microsoft Office Win32 apps, or the Office Mobile apps – it doesn’t matter.

I decided to put my trusted Surface Pro 3 away and work for a whole week on the Acer One 11 Cloudbook.

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Unboxing the device – I was pleased with the device as a whole, it took me a few minutes to get use to the zesty blue colour. On closer inspection, I found it had two USB ports (of which one is USB 3), a HDMI out (considering it really is a consumer device is acceptable) and oddly a full SD Card slot. Oddly, because as one student pointed out ‘‘what kind of phone does that fit into!’’, I would have liked to have seen a Micro SD slot like the Surface.

The screen sharpness was really pleasing; text quality was on a par with the Surface 3 and the keyboard layout was good and comfortable to type on, with the mouse / trackpad positioned well.

I was almost ready to go.

The first job was to create a new install of Windows 10 using the Windows 10 Media Creation Tool, and once installed this moved my free space up to 18 GB*.

I then had to decide if I wanted to use more space by installing Office 2016 (which is free as part of the Office 365 ProPlus benefit) or did I use the Office Mobile apps from the Store?

I decided to use the mobile versions of Office from the store**. These are extremely small footprint versions of Office found in the Windows store, therefore the same app will work on a Windows 10 mobile phone giving you exact same functionality as working on a desktop and only taking MB’s instead of GB’s. I installed Word, PowerPoint, Excel and of course OneNote.

The last app installed was Power BI – as a school we are now doing a lot of work based around PowerBI.

Power BI empowers staff to create visual reports to analyse student attainment and progress, this is a massive benefit to Microsoft Office 365 users and of course free for schools.

My last job was to sign in using Azure Active Directory on the device.   Azure Active Directory is a cloud version of your on premise AD and is ideal for managing devices in your estate.

It neatly synchronised all of my work settings and automatically enrolled into Windows Intune - my setup was done. So all in all it took about an hour to get the device working to how I wanted it to.

Now let’s see what it can do!

First stop was a normal day at Wymondham High Academy, using Office 365 to prepare for a presentation I was making later in the week. Office mobile apps proved a great way not to overburden a low end device. I can do all I needed to do on the Acer One 11 Cloudbook.

Next, I was off to East Harling School to run a training session on the new BBC micro:bit for the Code Club members of the school. Again the Cloudbook was more than happy using the Microbit website and running Office Sway at the same time.

During the rest of my week I used it to take notes at Simon De Senlis Primary during the Redefining Learning event using the OneNote app.

Lastly, I travelled to Kew House School on Friday to spend some time with students working on technology projects and deliver an assembly to them on the future of technology.

At this point, I will confess I did pack the Surface in the bag. However, on arrival I found out that the school only used HDMI connection, so as the Surface Pro 3 has no native connection, I opened up the Acer, connected the HDMI up and presented from it using Office Remote on my phone, to a packed audience of 200 children.

This £150 device was quite happy being used to present from and run full video from Office 365. I must confess after my week I was really beginning to sing the praises of this small device.

I think you have to be aware of the nature of a Cloudbook as a school. Don’t expect to buy some Acer One 11’s to replace laptops, because it won’t work. If you are a school with a vision of utilising the cloud to allow students to share, communicate and collaborate and are looking for a low cost device to facilitate that in the classroom then the Acer One 11 could well be the device for you.

We have recently taken delivery of twenty Acer Cloudbooks at Old Buckenham High School.

These devices will allow students to use Office Mobile Apps in the classroom saving directly to their OneDrive for Business.

In summary.

The Acer One 11 is a great Windows 10 device, and really fits into the BYOB/ BYOD environment for schools. It isn’t touch, it doesn’t have a pen but it offers a great specification for the price.

If you were looking at an affordable device for students, you would not go far wrong in choosing this device from Acer. As I mentioned before, these devices need to be deployed as part of an in-school vision to utilise what the cloud has to offer to help transform teaching and learning in the classroom. Don’ think about a cheap device that will replace my domain joined laptop, this is about thinking differently!

Is it a teacher device? The answer is no, is it a personal student device that might be part of a school strategy with some parental input, most definitely.

The power of this device comes with the productivity software that you use, again think differently remember you only have limited storage talk to your IT team about Azure Active Directory.

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How would I rate this device?

Out of Box Experience - 5
Specification - 8
Speed - 8
Screen Quality - 9
Build Quality - 8
Overall Value for Money - 8

*The Acer only has 32GB of internal storage with bloatware that gets it within 5GB of its limit

**Apps were installed from our own business store at Wymondham High Academy. The business store allows schools to have their own App Store for students to download Apps at any time.

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