Friday, May 29, 2015

CTL J2 Chromebook for Education Review

 I was able to get my hands on the new CTL J2 Chromebook for Education.  It is another Chromebook to use the new Rockchip series processor.  How well does this new Chromebook hold up to other educational options currently available?





Specs:

-  Rockchip 3288-C 1.8GHz Quad-Core processor
-  An 11.6" anti-glare TN panel with a 1366x768 resolution
-  2GB of RAM
-  16GB SSD
-  2x USB 2.0, 1x HDMI, 1x Micro SD slot
-  VGA webcam with integrated microphone
-  Dual-channel integrated audio
-  Wireless 802.11ac and Bluetooth 4.0
-  Height: .76" x Width: 11.42" x Depth: 8" and weighs 2.46lbs
-  Battery rated for 9 hours of use


Overall Build Quality:

When you first look at the CTL J2 Chromebook for Education, it looks like a mirror image of the Hisense Chromebook that is exclusive to Walmart.  Even the power adapter is identical.  However, from reading various reviews on the Hisense Chromebook, the CTL J2 does seem to be different in some areas of build quality.




The lid and bottom of the CTL J2 are encased in a black plastic that has a slight weave texture to it.  This design does give a nice look to the Chromebook.  The bezel around the screen and casing around the keyboard is a flat matte black plastic with a very fine texture to it.  The casing around the trackpad is an actual brushed metal that gives the J2 a nice feel when you rest your palms on it to type.



The CTL J2 is not as rugged as a number of newer Chromebooks available, but it does have a reinforced frame that can handle a drop from about 70cm (2.3 feet).  This is the same drop range seen on the CTL N6 and Lenovo N21 Chromebooks.  This frame also gives a very solid feel to the CTL J2.  The hinges only go back 135 degrees, which could still allow for damage to occur to them if the lid is pushed too far back.  There are also dual speakers on the bottom of the CTL J2 that are not as good as some recent Chromebooks I have reviewed, but are acceptable for student use.  


Processor/Speed:

The CTL J2 uses the new Rockchip 3288-C processor.  It is an ARM based processor that is designed specifically for Chrome devices.  The CTL J2 with 2GB of RAM scored a 7115 when I ran the Octane benchmark on it.  In my usage of the CTL J2, it worked just as well as it did on the Asus C201 and is pretty much on par with Chromebooks that use a Bay Trail processor.  Even with only 2GB of RAM, I was able to do a number of tasks without an issue and was able to have 6-7 tabs running before I started to notice any slowdown.  Having more RAM would help with that.  The Rockchip processor also allows for a longer battery life and fanless design, which is great in a school setting.


Screen:

The screen is an 11.6" anti-glare TN panel with a 1366x768 resolution that you find in most Chromebooks in this price range.  The quality is acceptable for student use, but they do not have great viewing angles.  In an education setting, it is nice to have these screens in student devices though as they are usually cheaper to replace if broken.


Keyboard/Trackpad:


The keyboard and trackpad on the CTL J2 are not spill resistant like on some other recent Chromebooks.  However, using the keyboard and trackpad on the CTL J2 felt good and I had no issues using them.  The keyboard keys are recessed in some, but students could still wedge something under a key to pop one off if they tried.  The trackpad is a nice size and was smooth to the touch when moving your finger across it. 

Power Adapter:

The power adapter for the CTL J2 has the outlet plug built into the brick.  This helps save some space if it is in a carry case, but can possibly cause some problems when trying to plug them into a charging cart.  In that situation, you will likely need some small extension cables such as these.  CTL also offers extenders to help with this.  Similar to a number of Chromebook models, it also uses a thinner connector that could bend or break easier under student use.



Battery Life:

CTL claims that the J2 can provide up to 9 hours of battery life.  In my Nyan Cat test to gauge the battery under a heavier use situation, I found the CTL J2 to get 8 hours and 13 minutes on a full charge with the screen at a 75% brightness.  I think you should get around the claimed battery life with standard classroom use and the screen being dimmed.  It is not as good of a battery life as I saw on the Asus C201, but it is on par with a number of current Chromebooks.
  

Conclusion:

For the price point, I am really impressed with the CTL J2 Chromebook for Education.  I would like it to have a better power adapter, but that is really the only complaint I have with it right now.  Over the last few weeks, I have found it to be my daily driver for when I want to take a Chromebook to a meeting, etc.  For a 1:1 where students take devices home, you may still want to consider a more rugged device such as the CTL N6, Lenovo N21 or the new Dell Chromebook if your budget allows for it.  In any other situations, the CTL J2 could definitely be a Chromebook to consider for classroom use.

The CTL J2 Chromebook for Education starts at $179.  You can also bundle it with the Chrome Device Management license for $199.  Discounted pricing is available on bulk purchases.