The newest Floor is a $ 250 laptop computer that goes together with low-cost Chromebooks

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Enlarge / Microsoft’s Surface Laptop SE.

Microsoft

Microsoft’s next Surface device is the company’s latest and most direct attempt to compete with Chromebooks in schools. The $ 250 Surface Laptop SE is a lower-priced 11.6-inch laptop designed for basic browsing, document editing, and distance learning. The Surface Laptop SE runs Windows 11 SE, a cloud-focused version of the operating system that maintains the basic look and feel of Windows 11 but allows school IT administrators to control which apps are installed and most files and Store user settings in the cloud rather than on the device.

The Surface Laptop SE’s specs are uninspiring, and I have my doubts whether its processor will be enough for zooms in the classroom with dozens of students. But the hardware is also roughly what you would expect from similarly expensive Chromebooks. The machine has a dual-core Intel Celeron N4020 or quad-core Celeron N4120 processor, integrated graphics, 4 or 8 GB RAM and 64 or 128 GB storage. It weighs 2.45 pounds and has a USB-A port, a USB-C port, a headphone jack, and a proprietary power connector. A netbook-like 11.6-inch screen with 1366 × 768, a 720p webcam, 802.11ac WLAN and Bluetooth 5.0 connectivity round off the most important specifications. All of this is largely in line with leaks from late last month.

One detail that Microsoft provided more information on was repairability. While newer Surface devices have used user-removable storage and a few other parts, the Surface Laptop SE is said to be easy to repair. According to Microsoft, “vital components such as the display, battery, keyboard – even the motherboard – can be easily repaired on site, saving IT administrators and schools time and money.”

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  • Microsoft says the Surface Laptop SE offers a “best-in-class typing experience,” although the “class” of “$ 250 laptops,” the bar is still pretty low.

    Microsoft

  • The laptop has a power port, a USB-C port that can also charge the laptop, a USB-A port and a headphone jack.

    Microsoft

  • The notebook is made of plastic, but the design language of the Surface is still intact.

    Microsoft

The Surface Laptop SE includes Windows 11 SE, Microsoft’s latest version of a stripped-down version of Windows to compete with Chrome OS. Not to be confused with Windows 11 in S mode – which is still a thing and can easily be switched to a normal Windows 11 installation – Windows 11 SE is intended to run exclusively in schools on hardware that is managed by school administrators. Microsoft says it runs better on lower-end devices like the Laptop SE, and it’s removing a handful of features that come with a standard installation of Windows 11 to create a streamlined, distraction-free experience. The version of Microsoft Edge in Windows 11 SE will also be configured by default to run Chrome Extensions to ease the transition for schools that currently rely on ChromeOS Extensions.

Administrators have exclusive control over which apps are installed and run on Windows 11 SE laptops through Microsoft Intune for Education. And like Chrome OS, user profiles and files are linked to user accounts and stored in the cloud by default, although Microsoft Office and other apps can use local storage when offline and upload them to OneDrive when internet connectivity is restored. And unlike Windows, which runs in S mode, Windows 11 can run third-party apps “including Zoom and Chrome” instead of being limited to offerings from the Microsoft Store.

The Surface Laptop SE won’t be the only laptop running Windows 11 SE. Microsoft is working with the usual suspects to ship similarly inexpensive laptops under the aegis of Windows 11 SE, including HP, Dell, Lenovo, Dynabook, Acer, Asus, and others. These devices start at $ 219 and cover a wider range of processor types and screen resolutions and sizes. They will be introduced during the rest of 2021 and through 2022.

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