Between Jan. 21 and Feb.18, every STA student will be issued a new laptop computer. Students are switching from the Microsoft Surface Pro 4 tablet to the Dell Latitude 7400 2-in-1 computer.
According to STA technology coordinator Matt Stewart, the process for deciding which new computer to give students started with a variety of options. Ultimately, the decision was between 5 different computers.
“We first started researching the new models of computers that were available,” Stewart said. “Then we made a list of items that we knew we had to have, like better battery life, digital inking, touch screen functionality, etc. Then we reached out to our vendors and other colleagues in the tech field and narrowed it down to around five different models.”
Over the summer and into this school year, a group of 12 students tested computers to decide which model to implement at STA. These students tested three different computers, including the Dell Latitude and two versions of the Chromebook. Senior Caroline Willis was one of the students involved in this group who tested the Dell laptop.
“I basically used it during the school day,” Willis said. “I completed reviews of it. We had little group discussions over it. There were about three different computers, and we all came together and chose this one.”
Stewart believes that the involvement of students was important to the decision making process.
“The student involvement in this process was really incredible,” Stewart said. “The students who helped test the new devices were really amazing, and the feedback they gave us was crucial in our decision making process.”
According to Willis, the students who tested computers were looking for a variety of characteristics in their laptops, including an attached keyboard, no overheating and better connectability to classroom technology.
“A big issue was, as [STA network administrator Jeff Zimmerman] would say, the ‘lapability,’” Willis said. “A lot of people, including myself, would have issues using the Surface Pro in their car if they were on a road trip or on a plane. The keyboard would disconnect a lot and it was really frustrating to use it when you don’t have access to a desk. The attached keyboard was definitely a big pro.”
Battery duration was also an issue with the Surface Pros, so the search group looked for a computer with better battery life.
“I could wake up [at 7:45 a.m.] and turn [the Dell computer] on and it won’t be dead until maybe midnight that night, even if I use it all day during school, come home, do more homework,” Willis said. “I’ve never had it die, which is crazy, when I’m in a math class and then 10 people start reaching for chargers. You never have to worry about that.”
Ultimately, Stewart says that STA decided to implement the Dell computer because it seemed like a better fit for the students and the school as a whole.
“Aside from the fact that the Dell was the unanimous favorite amongst the students, it was also our favorite device,” Stewart said. “Also, the warranty and support options that Dell had to offer was a much better fit for us than the others.”
Students are receiving their computers based on their advisory. Junior Kate Gibson, who is in the Blake advisory, received her computer Jan. 21. In Gibson’s experience, students returned their Surface Pros, then were given their new computers and were helped to set them up.
According to Stewart, distributing new computers at the start of the next school year was an option, but they decided to implement them at the beginning of this semester instead.
“The main reason that we chose to roll out new machines during the school year instead of the summer is because the Surface Pro devices were not holding up as well as we hoped in their fourth and final year with students,” Stewart said. “Plus we wanted to give everyone the new devices before this school year ends so that the students could have them over the summer.”
There are multiple differences between the old Surface Pros and the new Dell computers. According to Gibson, the biggest initial differences she sees are in the pen and the stand. In addition, the screen on the new computers is 14 inches, compared to the Surface Pro’s 12.3 inch screen.
“The pen is smoother to write with, I found out,” Gibson said. “There’s no backstand for the computer, you need to hold your hand back on it, but I really don’t mind that. The screen is so much bigger, so you can fit a lot more, it’s a lot easier.”
Willis agrees that the larger screen is an improvement, especially in her math class, as the bigger screen makes taking notes easier. She also sees a positive change with graphic design on the new computers.
“I was in graphic design last semester,” Willis said. “I used to have tons of problems with the [Adobe Apps] last year, crashing in the middle of a project. I have never had anything crash on here. I was doing a bunch of Illustrator stuff and nothing crashed, so that was awesome.”
According to Gibson, the new computers will take some getting used to, but she does not foresee any issues in adapting.
“One of the biggest [differences] is the pen because the eraser is a lot different,” Gibson said. “You have to click a button on the front. So, it’s a little different, but muscle memory will kick in, and it’ll work better.
Ultimately, Willis likes the new laptops and would like to continue to use a similar model in college. Stewart agrees, stating that student opinion so far has been, “Overwhelmingly very positive.”
“Honestly, I think it’s a really great option that sort of gets you outside of the comfort zone of just a standard laptop,” Willis said. “It’s like the Surface Pro got major upgrades.”