Microsoft launches new sub-$300 laptops to fight Chromebooks for the classroom

With classrooms still highly dependent on remote learning, Microsoft has announced a series of new and extremely cheap Windows 10 laptops. The devices include laptops under or around $300, some of which even support LTE connections to improve videoconferencing and online collaboration.

The devices include the $239 Acer TravelMate B3, $329 Acer TravelMate Spin B3, and $279 Asus ExpertBook BR1100. Microsoft is also announcing two Intel NUC-based laptops, the $229 JP-IK Leap Connect T304 and the $185 JP-IK Leap T304. These are built around the NUC element, which contains the processor, memory and connectivity all in a single module.

Microsoft also pointed to the Dell Latitude 3120 2-in-1, a cheap laptop announced just at CES. This education-focused 2-in-1 features 4GB of RAM, the latest Intel Celeron processor, and 64GB of storage.

Microsoft says many of these new laptops use the recently announced Intel Celeron processors, which are based on the company’s faster 10nm architecture. It didn’t, however, provide specifics about the specs and configurations for each laptop.

Acer TravelMate Spin B3
Acer TravelMate Spin B3 Acer

Cheap Chromebooks are the devices that hold a large percentage of this market, primarily because of their ease of use and highly affordable prices. Unlike those Chromebooks, these new Windows 10 laptops are variations on business laptops, configured down to hit these budget-tier prices.

The company also announced a new stylus, the Microsoft Classroom Pen 2. This is an update to the original kid-sized stylus that launched in 2019 for $40. The new model only costs $20 and features a longer enclosure. In the announcement, Microsoft emphasized recent research that showed that student performance “improved as much as 36 percent when using a pen interface, compared to only a keyboard.”

Lastly, Microsoft announced an education-based feature for Teams. Called Reflect, it will be integrated directly into Microsoft Teams and Education Insights starting this spring. Microsoft says Reflect is made to help teachers check in with individual students on topics beyond the classroom, including “learning from home, an assignment, current events, or a change within their community.”

Microsoft says its education products are already used by more than 200 million students and faculty, “with Teams for Education as the hub to engage students in remote and hybrid learning.”

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