Because of the pandemic and changes in school calendars, parents are expected to make sure their child can go online for at least some of their classroom work. Since many homes only have a couple of computers for the family, parents are being asked to make laptops available for their child during school hours. Of course, since mom and dad may still be working from home, that means shelling out a few hundred bucks for their child a laptop.
There are lots of choices, so let’s talk about who might need a PC laptop.
For elementary and middle school students, a basic PC laptop will handle most of what they’ll need to do for school. Some of the cheapest PCs will be too heavy for younger students to carry around. A 15″ laptop is about as big as you want to go.
A PC laptop is good if your school does its work on the Microsoft platforms and if you need to run software programs. You can find these for about $500 from good brands like Lenovo, Asus, Dell, and HP.
Older students may beg for a Macbook, and they are excellent computers, but there’s no reason to purchase an expensive Macbook Air for $1,000 for elementary, middle or even some high school students. They’re very trendy but not very sturdy for tossing in a backpack without some type of case.
A Microsoft Surface is also on the expensive side, clocking in at $1,000 and up. These are lighter than PC laptops and are good for older students who work on graphics and design projects. They’re great computers but not the best choice for school-age kids unless they’re doing heavy graphics work that requires more speed and storage. They’re all made by Microsoft.
You’ve heard quite a bit about Google Chromebooks this year and for good reason — they’re less expensive than all the other laptops. They do not run Windows or Mac software. Chromebooks only access the internet using the Google Chrome browser which means they’ll always need a WiFi connection to access their schoolwork.
They can use Google programs like Gmail, docs, sheets, and the video conferencing tools Google Meet and Zoom, which some teachers are using for virtual classes. The good news is that most applications students will be using are web-based and they’ll turn in work to the cloud or by email.
If they’ll need to download and store work on a hard drive, look for Chromebooks that have a USB port. Some high-end Chromebooks have touchscreens and will run gaming apps from the Google Play store. They’re lightweight and inexpensive; starting at around $200. Good brands are Acer, Samsung, and Asus.
Google’s Pixel Book is top of the line and cost well over $1,000. At that price, you can buy 5 Chromebooks for the price of 1 Macbook Air laptops. But while Chromebooks will be good for most students, check with your school’s teacher for what they’ll be doing.
If you haven’t purchased a laptop for your child yet, look at it as an investment. If they take care of it, any of these laptops will last for at least 5-8 years