The question of whether (and when) to buy your son or girl a smartphone is fraught with concerns over responsibility, online safety, and much more. The same goes for buying a laptop, except for 1 very of import difference: Many elementary and middle schools consider them essential educational tools, and equip classrooms with machines for their students. Other schools require parents to purchase laptops, offer a selection of recommended models.
The upshot is that your kid might need to apply a laptop at schoolhouse or for schoolhouse whether you like it or not, especially in these uncertain times that may mandate distance learning. Regardless, they will almost certainly want to use that figurer at domicile, likewise, both for fun (messaging their friends, watching videos, playing Fortnite) and homework (looking up information, typing book reports).
Kids existence kids, the list of factors to consider doesn’t end there. Don’t forget nearly parental controls, durable plastic, and h2o-resistant keyboards. At to the lowest degree y’all won’t have to worry about the price. Buying a kid-friendly laptop need not break the banking concern—all of our recommended models cost less than $700, and nigh are well under $500—and the even better news is that just considering they’re inexpensive doesn’t hateful that they are necessarily boring or poorly made.
Our focus here is on younger kids. If your child is at the university level, check out our roundup of the best laptops for college students. And you’ll find even more choices in our overall roundup of the best budget laptops. Also check our top picks for the best Chromebooks for kids for more on Chrome OS concerns and instruction aspects, specially for the lower grades.
If your kid is also of the age that they may be looking to play PC games on the same machine that they’ll use for schoolwork, that is a whole other set of considerations. Nosotros’ll address that in a section nearly the end of this article, but know that gaming machines cost more than our other picks here.
Which Operating Arrangement Is Best?
Before you begin to evaluate features, you’ll start with the essential question that has plagued PC shoppers for decades: Which operating system should I cull?
This is non the Mac vs. Windows debate of onetime. New Apple laptops aren’t available for less than $500—non even close. The MacBook Air, Apple tree’s to the lowest degree-expensive notebook, starts at $999 and is still overkill for an elementary- or middle-schoolhouse student. If you’re an Apple fan and want to raise your son or daughter to be one too, y’all’re all-time off giving them a hand-me-down and buying a new MacBook or MacBook Pro for yourself.
Reused Macs aside, nigh parents will choose betwixt Windows and Chrome OS, the operating system from Google. In addition to running web apps within the Chrome browser, Chrome Bone tin can also run apps from the Google Play shop designed for Android smartphones and tablets, including Microsoft Role. If you’ve decided against buying a smartphone for your kids but they talk your ear off about wanting to play mobile games, buying a Chromebook might be a adept compromise.
Windows 10 and Windows 11 have also become more useful for kid-oriented laptops thank you to Southward Style, which is aimed at the education market and, among other security enhancements, prevents apps from being installed unless they’re available on the Microsoft Store. This means you’ve got the power to block games and apps based on their content ratings (something you can also practise with Google Play apps). When your son or girl gets older and more than responsible, you tin can easily upgrade to the full version of Windows to remove these limitations.
If your kid’south school has specific software that runs only on Windows, your operating system choice will be decided for yous. If non, y’all’ll want to accept a close expect at Chrome OS, since a few Chromebooks include incomparably kid-friendly features (such as easy-grip coatings, or display lids that double as whiteboards). Over again, check out the Chromebooks-for-kids story for more on the specifics around this Os.
Built for Backpacks: Assessing Ruggedness
Unique features like these are what transforms an ordinary cheap laptop into a school-friendly machine that kids won’t outgrow or destroy in a few months. Arguably the nearly important is how rugged the instance is.
A few Chromebooks and inexpensive Windows laptops have spill-resistant keyboards, which means that they should survive splashing with an ounce or so of h2o unscathed. Information technology’south much rarer to notice entire laptops that are waterproof; the rugged ones that are (models similar Panasonic’s Toughbook line or Dell’due south Latitude Rugged Extremes) typically cost several m dollars and aren’t geared toward kids at all, merely rather workers in outdoors or shop-flooring professions. Also, it’s relatively like shooting fish in a barrel to find reinforced lids or cases made of rubber to aid absorb drops from a few feet, but you only won’t find fully ruggedized machines anywhere close to this cost range.
Portability is another key business, particularly for middle- and high-schoolers who walk to schoolhouse with backpacks laden with heavy textbooks. Most laptops in this category with screen sizes from 11 inches to xiii inches weigh about two.5 pounds. Get above 3 pounds, and you’re putting a real burden on your child’s shoulders.
Battery life is important, too, but it’s no longer the limiting factor that rendered the laptops of a decade ago useless if they spent more than a few hours away from a power outlet. Even some of the cheapest laptops now avowal times of most 10 hours on PCMag’s battery rundown examination, thanks mostly to their ability-sipping Intel processors.
What Specs Should My Kid’southward Laptop Have?
The final consideration is how your kids will use the laptop, which in turn determines the processor, storage, and memory configurations you should select. Tasks such equally taking notes, writing papers, or making PowerPoint slides crave lilliputian more than the blank minimum, which means that an Intel Celeron or Pentium processor volition suffice; a few budget Chromebook models at present likewise use AMD or MediaTek mobile processors. These collectively are the lowest functioning tier in budget laptops. (The exception to that: AMD’s Ryzen C series chips, much peppier AMD processors that are purpose-built for Chromebooks.)
The next footstep up is an Intel Core i3, which you should consider if your kid’southward teachers regularly accept them stream online educational videos. An Intel Core i5 or i7 is all merely impossible to find on a laptop or Chromebook that costs about $300.
If you opt for a more powerful processor then your kids can stream videos, y’all might likewise want to consider a 2-in-1 convertible or detachable laptop, which tin can double as a tablet thanks to a hinge that rotates 360 degrees, or a screen that detaches completely from the keyboard base. Almost hybrids and convertibles are more expensive than the price range we’ve discussed to this point, simply you lot can find a few high-quality models for less than $500. These are best for middle-schoolhouse-age children or older, since these machines are by nature less durable than a conventional laptop.
As for memory and storage, a common minimal configuration is 4GB of RAM and 64GB of flash memory. The former (retentiveness) amount is adequate in a budget Chromebook just skimpy in a Windows car; 8GB is really the best baseline for anything running Windows. You’ll definitely desire to consider bumping up the storage capacity to 128GB, since the operating system files on a Windows PC can take up more than 20GB, leaving your child with a paltry 40GB or so of built-in storage.
The exception is if you choose a laptop that has a roomier but slower (and more than easily breakable) spinning hard drive, or one with a built-in SD menu reader. (Hard drives have pretty much disappeared from Chromebooks, though, barring some older models.) In the latter case, yous could stick with the base configuration and ask your kids to store their bulkier files on SD cards if needed, which you tin can buy in 32GB capacities for about $20 each.
Time for Fun: What Most Graphics and Games?
Just considering you’re selecting from amongst relatively slow processors and limited memory capacities doesn’t hateful that gaming is out of the question when your child is washed with his or her schoolwork. Some games are, of course, even educational. For instance, Microsoft has an education version of its immensely popular open-world construction game Minecraft. Students tin can use it to explore existent-earth history similar the Oregon Trail, solving math problems every bit they begin to understand how long and challenging the trail was, researching fur-trading companies to acquire about the economic concepts of monopolies and supply and need, and more.
Minecraft and other similar games will run on Core i3 systems with every bit petty every bit 4GB of RAM, merely if your kid is looking forward to playing them, you’ll make the experience much more enjoyable by selecting a laptop with 8GB. If your kid is planning on doing more intense gaming, y’all’ll need to step up the power and the price to a total-fledged gaming laptop or gaming desktop. These are laptops with a dedicated graphics chip, which will be dubbed GeForce GTX, GeForce RTX, or Radeon RX.
You won’t find current-generation gaming laptops for less than $700. However, $750 to $800 is really the on-ramp for machines with game-worthy GeForce or Radeon dedicated graphics chips, and prices rise rapidly from there as you add features and power. Most kids will exist satisfied with a budget model under $1,000, notwithstanding. (Come across our guide to budget gaming machines.)
So, Which Laptop Should I Purchase for My Child?
Giving your son or daughter a laptop endows them with a portal into the immensely powerful net, even if the laptop itself may not be the most potent you can buy. It’s upward to yous (and your kids’ teachers) to make sure that tool isn’t harmful. Fortunately, both Chromebooks and Windows laptops have parental control features, and a laptop’s size relative to a smartphone makes it easier to both monitor activity and set ground rules similar disallowing calculator use after homework is finished.
Cheque out our top picks for laptops designed for school-historic period kids below. You can also cheque out our roundup of our favorite tablets for kids, as well as our top phones for kids.