There are plenty of options out there for those looking to get their hands on a rugged educational Chrome device. Nearly every Chromebook OEM has an Apollo Lake-based product available in some shape, form or fashion but not all EDU devices are created equal.
Thankfully, there are a few companies that have set out to create Chromebooks designed specifically to withstand the rigors of not only the classroom but the continual abuse dished out by our younger generations.
Sector 5 is one of those aforementioned OEMs and their latest addition to the Chrome space leads the pack when it comes to picking the best overall rugged device.
The Sector 5 Chromebook E3 offers similar specs as others in its class with an Intel Apollo Lake processor, 4GB RAM and a respectable 32GB of eMMC storage. While these features don’t set it completely apart from Chromebooks like the CTL NL7, the Sector 5 brings the best build quality we’ve seen in a device of this type and gives users the added boost of the quad-core N3450 processor.
In single-core benchmarks, the two Apollo Lake chips (dual-core N3350 and quad-core N3450) share nearly identical marks but thanks to the double thread count of the N3450, it scores significantly higher marks than its dual-core sibling. Long story short, the Sector 5 will outperform any EDU Chromebook powered by the dual-core N3350.
Around the outside, the Sector 5 offers a good variety of ports including 2 x USB-C, 2 x USB-A and a MicroSD card slot. While not a convertible, it does come with a 180-degree fold-flat touch display that can take full advantage of Android apps. The N3450 processor also supports Linux apps.
Back to build quality, we don’t put a lot of stock in “rugged” Chromebook offerings from the major OEMs. Apart from Lenovo, most consumer Chromebook makers have given us well, garbage in the educational Chromebook department.
Lenovo’s rugged Chromebooks are hearty and they do offer an N3450 model but even with features like spill-resistant keys and a reinforced chassis, it lacks the built-like-a-tank quality you’ll find in a Sector 5 or even a CTL Chromebook.
The Sector 5 E3 is not only built tough, it’s actually pleasant to use. We work daily from devices such as the Pixelbook, Acer Chromebook Spin and HP Chromebook x360 14 so it’s easy to dismiss educational Chromebooks as inferior or even dismal to use. (I’m looking at you HP. The Chromebook x360 11 for education is insulting.)
Don’t get me wrong, there isn’t an educational device on the market that is going to give you a high-res 350+ nit display, glass trackpad or other “premium” features a lot of users are accustomed to but we’re talking Chromebooks for the classroom and the Sector 5 does everything it should and it does it well.
Now, we get down to the nitty gritty. Price.
Many would argue that EDU devices geared towards kids shouldn’t cost more than a couple of hundred bucks but let’s not forget that these Chromebooks are designed to take a beating and do so repeatedly, for years. That type of sturdiness comes at a price.
This is another place where the Sector 5 Chromebook E3 shines. Yes, there are cheaper devices on the market but I would argue that this Chromebook is the best value available with the Lenovo 500e coming in a close second due to its garaged stylus and availability of 8GB of RAM.
The Sector 5 E3 retails for $349 but recently has been reduced to around $320 but thanks to a New Year’s Special, has now dropped to $299. On top of the savings, Sector 5 will be extending their 2-year EDU warranty to public consumers for a limited time.
All of this combined makes the Sector 5 E3 my top pick for “Best in Class” rugged EDU Chromebook. Sector 5 will be at CES next week and we are expecting to get a glimpse at some more of what these guys have been up to lately. Stay tuned later this month with some hands-on of the Chromebook E3 and some exclusive content from CES 2019.
You can grab the Sector 5 Chromebook E3 from Amazon or directly from Sector 5’s website. To get the 2-year warranty, register your Chromebook at the link here.