The needs of learning environments is significantly different from that of the enterprise – so why make the learning device the same? This is the starting premise of Microsoft’s new Surface Laptop SE. This newly released, education-only device has pared-back specs and entry-level pricing, making it an ideal choice for student fleets, particularly primary. It’s been on the market in the US for a while now (Nov 2021), but the first-generation SE Laptop is now heading to the Australian market in August. Educators should take note because there are several considerations that make Laptop SE a worthy contender beyond the competitive pricing.
Let’s begin with a run down of the device hardware and how these specs support student learning. We’ll then cover the features that make Laptop SE an attractive choice for IT teams. You’ll quickly see why, at Data#3, we think it’s filling a gap in the education market.
The first things to note is that Laptop SE is a small, lightweight and budget-friendly clamshell laptop – with pricing starting at just $AU399! So, while you won’t get the flashier specs of premium Surface devices, Laptop SE really is an economical and tailored learning tool for students.
Display | The non-touch liquid crystal display measures 11.6” inches. A new 16:9 aspect ratio has been introduced rather than the traditional 3:2 seen in other Surface devices. This new ratio is more akin to the sizing of a sheet of A4 paper, making it a more familiar viewing experience that enhances student productivity. The bezels are also a little thicker than other Surface devices, a design feature no doubt added to keep sticky fingers off the display.
Weight | The device weighs in at 1.1 kg, making it easy for students to carry around in their backpacks. Given it’s a clamshell, it does top the weight of, say, the Surface Go 3 which comes in at 544gms, but is equal in weight to the Surface Laptop Go 2.
Chassis | The kid-friendly plastic chassis comes in a glacier white colorway. It’s smooth and minimal, however we’re still to be convinced if white is the best colour choice for a laptop that is likely to endure more than its fair share of bumps and scrapes. If the chassis does get damaged, schools are provided with ‘fixer tool kits’ to help repair the plastic casing. There are also visible screws on the case so IT can quickly replace major components such as the keyboard, without disrupting learning time.
Keyboard | The keyboard is not backlit, but the keys have a slight texture that makes typing easy and the touchpad is accurate. While it’s not premium like you’d find on other Surface devices, it’s great for the price point.
Battery life | Microsoft claims 16 hours run time but in real life situations this doesn’t always measure out. Even so, there is plenty of juice to keep students online and learning all day long.
Processing | Laptop SE is powered by either an Intel Celeron N4020 Processor or an Intel Celeron N4120. Both are Intel’s low–budget, low-power processors but enough to cope with the demands of classroom learning.
Storage | There are two memory options – 4GB AM with 64 GB storage, or an 8 GB with a 1287 GB option.
Camera and audio | Cost-savings were certainly made on these features, so don’t expect anything too fancy. The device comes with a single 1-megapixel front-facing webcam perfect for Zoom calls, a digital microphone and 2W speakers ensuring the device will adequately power remote learning. Just don’t expect the immersive experience offered by better-spec’d, and higher priced, Surface models we’re used to seeing in enterprise level devices.
Connectivity | Ports are minimal but will more than meet the needs of any younger student. There’s a USB-A and USB-C port, a 3.5 mm headphone/mic jack and a barrel-type charging port that tends to be stronger than the Type-C, which has been known to snap. Wi-Fi 6 is also enabled.
Usability & accessibility | While Laptop SE does not include biometric logins, the UI provides streamlined Start Menu and windowing. When the screen closes, the operating system auto locks the device to help with security.
Laptop SE is powered by a new cloud-first education edition of Windows 11 (SE), tailored to deployment in the school environment. For IT teams, Windows 11 (SE) offers low-touch management and deployment with Microsoft Intune and Windows Autopilot, the cornerstones of modern deployment and management.
While Windows 11 (SE) has a particular focus on remote management, it is also a student and teacher-focused operating system that promotes a distraction-free environment. Case in point, the controlled app installation. Windows 11 (SE) allow admins to maintain complete control of all device apps. Using Microsoft Intune for Education, only administrators can download, manage and approve installed apps. This means no more sneaky app downloads of non-educational software by students.
Speaking of apps, Laptop SE comes pre-installed with a mix of specific apps for education such as Microsoft Teams, Minecraft for Education and OneNote. There are also numerous optional apps offered within six categories – content filters, test-taking solution, accessibility tools, classroom communications, management, browsers and support tools, such as essential diagnostics, management, connectivity and supportability apps. The number of apps is far too comprehensive to list, but you can view the full range here. In addition, apps that haven’t made the cut but can be accessed through a browser – such as Spotify or Messenger – are still easily accessible to administrators.
Security-wise, the Windows 11 (SE) operating system auto-locks when the device closes, helping to control physical access to the device. Meanwhile, Microsoft Endpoint Manager and DFCI enable IT to control or update the device down to the firmware. Importantly, users are unable to change any of the settings in the operating system – only admins can do this remotely. This includes the option to completely wipe a device should the device go missing or get into the wrong hands.
Together, these capabilities allow IT to limit how the devices are used, which apps are installed, and to roll out, maintain and secure the devices in any type of learning environment from the cloud.
Laptop SE delivers all the functionality needed for K-6 students at a very attractive price point – $AU399 for the lowest model, to AU$499 for the top – dependant on storage.
This is not a device that will be available to the public, so don’t expect to walk into any retail outlet and purchase one. Data#3 has a pool of demo stock available for schools to test drive; get in early to reserve your units!
We’ll have more device updates to share in September and October when Microsoft do their much bigger, much anticipated, annual release!
If you have, or are considering purchasing Microsoft Surface devices, be sure to have a deployment and adoption plan in place. With up to $20,000 funding* available to assist your school’s Surface deployment, Data#3 can help you fully leverage your Microsoft Surface investment. Learn more about Data#3 Deploy Assist for Surface and enquire today to see if your school is eligible.
* Conditions apply. Enquire today to see how much funding your school could be eligible to claim.