While there’s always a mad dash around this time of year to stock up on back-to-school electronics, 2020 has its own set of unique circumstances thanks to COVID-19. With many schools moving all or most of their classes entirely online, it’s now almost essential to invest in a solid laptop for remote learning.
The best laptops for kids are compatible with applications they’ll be most frequently using, like Zoom, have long battery life so they don’t die mid-math class, and are lightweight enough that kids can tote them around from room to room. And because kids drop things and generally beat them up, you don’t want to spring for anything too high-end.
As for the specs, you don’t need to stress too much. “Everything today that is consumer-grade is good, with good resolution,” says remote learning expert Michael Flynn, the director of the Mathematics Leadership Programs at Mount Holyoke College. “The thing for distance learning that’s most important is internet connectivity. Invest money in better internet service,” he advises. “Upgrade your hardware and your service.”
Still, you do need a laptop so kids can do their schoolwork. (A tablet can also suffice, as long as you can get a keyboard that attaches to it to make typing easier for little fingers.) Whether you’re looking for the bare minimum or something that has a few bells and whistles, these are the best kid-friendly options that cost less than five Benjamins.
Kids don't know how to type, for the most part, which is why this laptop is a good option. It has an ErgoLift hinge, which tilts up the back of the keyboard by three degrees for an easier typing experience as kids peck out homework assignments and papers. Another bonus: The Asus has a frameless NanoEdge display for solid visuals. The operating system is Windows 10 in S mode. This is a nice laptop, for a nice price, and will last through the school year and beyond. You do need to keep a charger handy: The battery life is roughly seven hours.
Many schools use Google Classroom for remote learning. Because the Chromebook runs on the Google operating system, that means seamless integration with the apps most kids need. It has a sizable 15.6-inch screen, 4GB of system memory, and integrated access to Google Drive for storage. It has a built-in HD webcam with microphone, so kids can speak up in class. And at under four pounds, it's light enough for kids to carry around. You get 10 hours of battery life.
For the student who's also a budding gamer. The HP 17z-ca200 handles its double duty with aplomb, easily running word processors, crunching numbers, and digging through stacks of online journals with eight gigs of RAM and storing it all in a cavernous two terabytes of memory. But when the last paper is turned in, it swivels to gaming mode with ease. Are there devices superior to its AMD Athlon Gold processor and AMD Radeon Graphics card? Surely, but not for this price. Games are clearer, sharper, and better on its massive 17.3-inch HD+ display. A DVD drive, SD card reader, and dual speakers round out this multi-purpose device.
Look, there on your child’s home desk! It’s a laptop! It’s a tablet! No, it’s the Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 5 14 (Intel) 2 in 1! Its swivel design makes it great for kids who will be working on a variety of surfaces, while a touch screen feature allows tactile learning for those kids who just can’t keep their hands to themselves. A generous 14-inch screen is right about middle of the pack on this list, while the four gigs of RAM and 128gb solid-state drive storage also fits somewhere in the middle. The real attraction, of course, is its bendable action, but it also has some nifty security features, including a fingerprint reader and a privacy shutter on its webcam so that you can rest assured you child is safe even when you’re not watching over their shoulder.
Sure, the Dell Inspiron 14 3000 Laptop may not turn any heads, but it’s a solid performer from a stalwart company that’s been kicking out dependable laptops for decades. It has a 128gb solid-state drive, which might have been bigger, and a 14-inch screen that could be wider. But really, what more does your child need? We think of this laptop like a a WFH outfit: Eventually your child will need something more, but for the foreseeable future, this is all they need, and then some, for now.
You won’t find a lighter laptop in this price range than the Swift. Despite a generous 14-inch full HD display, the Acer Swift 1 barely tips the scales at 2.87 pounds, making it the perfect choice for the parent that’s thinking beyond remote learning. What it sheds in bulk, it makes up for with battery life: It has a max 17 hours of juice away from an outlet. Is this the best gaming laptop? Hardly. And with 128gb of storage, you’ll need to make sure your child doesn’t need to download much. But for the lean and mean student dedicated to writing, reading, and arithmetic, this product is so light they'll hardly notice it’s there. And it's Google Classroom-compatible.
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