Monday, March 28, 2016

Review: The Extremely Rugged CTL NL6x Chromebook

As Chromebooks have evolved over the years, one feature that has improved significantly is durability. Early Chromebooks were often challenged to stand up against the use (and misuse) of students, resulting in many broken screens.

Now ruggedization has become the norm for Chromebooks, and CTL has released a new model that aims to set a new standard for durability.

CTL was kind enough to lend me a demo of their new NL6x Chromebook and I will share the details and my impressions below.

The Normal Stuff

We’ll get the standard specs out of the way first. Much like many typical Chromebooks, the CTL NL6x has the features you would expect:
  • Display - 11.6 inch screen, 1366 x 768
  • Processor - Intel Celeron N2940U
  • Memory - 4GB
  • Storage - 15GB SSD
  • Battery - 9+ hours
Nothing too surprising there. So far just a good solid Chromebook. Let’s keep moving...

What Makes it Different

So what sets the NL6x apart from the dozens of other Chromebooks currently available? Below are its distinguishing features.


Back in 2014 CTL was one of the first companies (if not the first) to begin releasing ruggedized Chromebooks. I also have their original rugged Chromebook, the NL6, and have been very pleased with it. With the new NL6x the Chromebook is now extra ruggedized. As described on their website, these features include:
  • New Ultra-protective cover
  • Drop resistant - tested up to 70 cm
  • Non-slip texture 
  • Reinforced ports, hinges and power plug
  • Stronger, thicker rear cover plus a frame around the screen, sides and corners help absorb shock
  • Anti-peel keys and water resistant keyboard
  • 180 degree hinge to open flat
Many of these features are carry overs from the earlier NL6 model, but the big difference is how much weight the Chromebook can take without breaking. In tests at CTL they have been able to apply as much as 365 pounds of weight on the device with no damage.

This increase in durability comes from the reinforced frame and the new extra cover that is attached to the main cover. In school settings where broken screens are far too common, this level of ruggedization is certainly welcomed.


Speaking of the new ultra-protective cover, it actually serves two purposes. In addition to providing durability, it also doubles as a whiteboard. Students can write on it with any normal dry erase markers.

It is becoming more common for students to have some sort of slate or personal dry erase board at their seats for classroom activities. With the CTL NL6x they can simply use the case of their Chromebook for this purpose.

Built-in Handle

Not only does the CTL NL6x remove the need for a personal whiteboard, it also removes the need for another common item … a case for the Chromebook. When schools buy Chromebooks they usually have to purchase a case for them as well, which adds protection, but also cost.

The CTL NL6x is already durable enough to not need a case, but it adds one more feature to seal the deal. The Chromebook has a built in handle that pops out of the back of the device between the hinges. The handle is strong, comfortable, and easy to use when carrying the Chromebook.

Rotating Webcam

A final feature that makes the CTL NL6x different from most other Chromebooks is the webcam. Instead of just being the typical front facing webcam, this device has a camera that can rotate 180 degrees to face forwards or back.

When the camera crosses over the 90 degree mark, a built in hardware switch flips the image over so you always have a properly oriented picture no matter what program you are using with the camera. This opens up new options such a running a Google Hangout while pointing the camera at the class.


So for all the positive features the NL6x has, are there any negatives? For most schools I would say there are two potential concerns to consider.


With all the extra durability comes extra weight. The CTL NL6x weighs in at 3.04 pounds. It is still a comfortable amount, but is noticeably heavier in my hand than the earlier CTL model or other modern Chromebooks. However, compared to my 13 inch Macbook Pro, the NL6x is still half a pound lighter.


Just like the extra weight, the NL6x has a beefier price tag. The list price is $299, but the device actually sells for $259 (including one free year of accidental damage warranty). Other new rugged Chromebooks are closer to the $200 mark, so the NL6x is on the higher end of the price spectrum.


The new CTL NL6x Chromebook does weigh a bit more and cost a bit more, but it certainly has features to account for that. With durability up to 365 pounds, dry erase surface, built-in handle, and rotating camera, it stands out from the crowd with several unique features.

As more and more schools put money into Chromebook deployments, they understandably want their investment to last for the long haul. Schools would be wise to consider many of the newer ruggedized Chromebooks, including the CTL NL6x.

To learn more visit the CTL website at:


  1. I'm Pretty sad that it is identical to the Lenovo N21 chromebook, just added a whiteboard on top. We went 1:1 with the n21 this year, and have had major hardware defects between dead screens and bad keyboards/trackpads.

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