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Dell’s new Chromebook, Latitude laptop and Venue tablets are made to last

Affordability has always been the main concern of Chromebook producers, and many sacrifices were made to undercut Windows laptop prices. But with the education sector so open for Chromebook growth, build quality has become a matter almost as important as low retail costs.

“Designed for the modern classroom with school yard durability” is Dell’s central publicity angle for the newest Chromebook 11. Forced to cut corners in the performance department, Dell went with Intel Bay Trail-M Celeron processors and a modest 2GB RAM starting configuration for the rugged 11-incher.

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The display is as low-resolution as you’d expect, at 1,366 x 768 pixels, but in a refreshing twist, touch interaction can be enabled for a bit of extra cash. A humble 16GB SSD comes standard, and doesn’t appear to be upgradeable, while an additional two gigabytes of memory costs $50 on top of the $249 starting price.

That’s a pretty decent deal, given how robust the Chrome OS notebook looks, thanks to a 180-degree “stress-free” hinge, and a frame subjected to military testing for shock, vibration, low pressure and extreme temperature resistance.

In theory, you can drop, bump, kick and punch Dell’s Chromebook 11, and it’ll survive with no visible scars. Also, it has a liquid-resistant keyboard, so don’t be afraid of sipping the coffee you so badly need to pass all the exams near it.

In the market for an inexpensive little study sidekick similar to the Chromebook 11 but powered by Windows instead? The Latitude 11 Education is virtually identical to its Chrome OS-running cousin, and it’s only $50 pricier.

Due out on March 3, its durable, muscular, supports both Win 7 and 8.1, has an Intel Celeron chip inside, and 250GB hard drive. An optional touch version will of course cost extra, and the 11.6-inch screens are to be covered in Corning Gorilla Glass.

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Last but not least, Dell wants to cater to the needs of students and teachers primarily interested in portability. Enter the Android-based Venue 10, and Windows 8.1-based Venue 10 Pro, the latter of which will go on sale in early March.

Available as a standalone tablet, at $330, or bundled with an attachable and reversible keyboard, this thing isn’t exactly a powerhouse, with 1,280 x 800 resolution standard and, presumably, two gigabytes of RAM tops. But if it’s productivity, endurance and versatility you want, the Venue 10 Pro could be a go-to convertible.