A laptop is becoming the new pen and paper at school. More and more of our school kids are being asked to bring in their own device (laptop or tablet) for lessons.
Often it’s not any device – it needs to be a Windows one, ruling out cheap Android tablets. And the majority of parents are being asked to foot the bill.
And of course, how many times do you have tussles over who needs the home computer the most? Just how many devices does one family need? And how many can we actually afford?
That’s where the new breed of hybrids – a combination of tablet and mini laptop – comes in, with Venturer one of the leading manufacturers of affordable hybrids.
In early 2016, Venturer launched two entry market computers – the EliteWin 11KT at £199.99 and the BravoWin 10.1 at £149.99.
Perfect for teens and pre-teens who need to use both a portable computer and have a tablet to accompany their every activity, from watching TV, having friends round or taking a bath – or is that only in our house?
Now it’s upgraded the EliteWin to the Elite S 11K at £249.99. So how did this new improved hybrid fare against the demanding standards of two teens (and a borrowed pre-teen)? Surprisingly well…
How easy is it to use?
Very easy. It comes with Windows 10 pre-loaded plus you get Microsoft Office 365 bundled in free for one month. It means you can get it out the box for the first time and be working on a Powerpoint presentation within five minutes.
We loved the fact that the computer starts up very quickly and opens multiple programs speedily. Plus it’s easy to separate the tablet and click it back on the keyboard with the magnetic connections. And the connections are strong – even when you hold it up by just the keyboard.
So how does the Elite S differ to the EliteWin 11KT?
The EliteWin is a great lo-cost hybrid. At just under £200, it’s a real trailblazer mini laptop, so what do you get with the S for the extra £50? The big difference is that the Elite S has 96GB storage, compared to 32GB for the EliteWin – a big step up. Plus my teens found the wifi receiver considerably better.. And lastly, but not least, it’s a cooler looking device.
What’s it like for homework?
Excellent. The Venturer had no problem coping with multiple applications open, and we were able to seamlessly switch between Powerpoint, Excel and Word documents all open at the same time.
Plus it’s easy to download the Photoshop Express app, which gives you cropping and filtering tools for free.
The keyboard is a really good size with enough space between each key to remove the fat finger problem of small keyboards. The touchpad was very sensitive, but you can’t right and left click on it. However, the Venturer has a USB port, which means you can add a mouse if clicking is important.
What about gaming on the Elite S? And let’s face it, can you play Minecraft?
My 15-year-old gamer was at first a little sceptical of Venturer EliteWin’s specs (2GB RAM, Intel Atom 1.83GHz processor) but 30 minutes of gameplay later he came back impressed. He and the 12 year old had tested a number of games including Minecraft and Runescape and the Venturer had done a great job. Although the graphics were never going to match a more powerful PC, they felt the laptop offered a really good experience.
What about YouTube and movies?
No problems with streaming videos from YouTube and movies from Netflix and Amazon Prime. We tested animation (Brave) and action (The Hobbit Five Armies) and the picture quality was good. The colours weren’t quite as intense as the iPad Mini but still clear and no juddering or pixelation. The only weak point was the speakers – a light, tinny sound – although your kids are probably going to be using headphones.
What about social?
You can download apps for Facebook and Twitter, but given this is a Windows laptop, there are no apps for many other social teen necessities such as Snapchat and Instagram. This is a Windows issue, not a Venturer one and all three testers said they’d use their phones for this kind of social stuff. But it does reduce the versatility of a Windows tablet.
How portable is it?
It’s not the lightest or slimmest – but then it is one of the cheapest. While the tablet screen is 780g, the keyboard is an additional 598g, so that’s 1.378kg in total. Still it’s small enough to fit in a school bag, which are usually rucksacks, and it’s no heavier than a PE kit with trainers.
But how robust is it?
Now this is the impressive bit. That chunkiness actually makes it super-robust, which is one of the most important things if it’s being used by a person of younger years, and most likely, less loving care.
And the Venturer Elite did brilliantly in a drop test (as did its smaller cousin the BravoWin). The laptop was dropped from two heights: 0.7m (roughly table height) and 1.2m (roughly dropping from standing). The other laptops tested were the Surface 3, Lenovo and Asus hybrids and the Venturers were the only two laptops to survive the 1.2m drop (they’re dropped on at least 6 different sides and corners, not just one). That’s robust.
What about looks?
Looks wise, the Elite S is definitely an improvement on the EliteWin. Gun-metal grey, rounded corners and a smoother, sleeker casing, my 17 year old took it straight out of my hands.
What about battery life?
Surprisingly good. We played two back-to-back movies and it still had 20% left. Maximum battery life is 8 hours, but teens are going to want to stream, use the internet and play games, which will burn up more of the battery, but in its two months it has kept its power well.
How good are the cameras?
OK, a value hybrid is not going to win on every front. The cameras (front and back) are 2 MegaPixels each and manage OK but don’t shine. The Venturer images were not as sharp, bright or colour accurate as an iPad mini – see images below. But the cameras were certainly good enough for Skype and homework projects. And all my testers would rather use their phone cameras anyway.
Using the front camera…
Using the back camera…
How well does the wifi work?
We found the Elite’s wifi receiver a big improvement on the EliteWin. There were no complaints from my teens about dropout or speed.
Families looking for high-performing good-value laptop for their children.
A great budget hybrid laptop that will satisfy picky pre-teens and teens looking for a device for watching videos, checking Facebook and even playing games such as Minecraft, oh, and doing homework. And it’s a tough, robust cookie – which makes it great for school bag rough and tumble.