Top 10 Laptops For Students – What is the best student laptop? We asked students / The best laptops for students, from kindergarten to college
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Top 10 Laptops For Students
Buying a laptop can be stressful – doubly so if you or your children are learning online for the first time. Children of different ages have a variety of different laptop users and different needs. And as the choices for best laptop and best Chromebook evolve, so do the needs of students. So I spoke to some experts on the subject: the students themselves.
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My recommendations here are intended to accommodate a variety of preferences and price ranges. But they are a starting point rather than an exhaustive list: every student is different. Before making a decision, make sure you read reviews and try out devices for yourself if you can. I will do my best to keep this article updated with items that are in stock.
Google’s Pixelbook Go has solid battery life and a rippled base that’s easy to grip, making it a great choice for kids.
For younger students, a touchscreen device is easier to use than a keyboard and touchpad, says Michelle Glogovac. Glogovac’s five-year-old son uses an iPad for Webex meetings with his kindergarten class. He’s got the hang of it; Glogovac says he has already learned how to calm down and beat himself up, “a skill that many adults are not familiar with.”
That said, it might be worth investing in a keyboard cover if you’re going the tablet route. Glogovac has to enter his son’s meeting codes and passwords for him, which can be cumbersome on the iPad’s flat screen.
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As children get older, their best laptop choices will vary depending on their needs. As a parent, it’s important that you and your child are in sync about how they intend to use it and the size of the programs they want.
Kristin Wallace bought a cheap HP laptop for her daughter Bella, but didn’t realize how quickly the nine-year-old would fill up the 32 GB of storage space. “It is very slow and has no room for games. I need a computer with more storage,” said Bella, who uses the laptop to Zoom with friends and take virtual guitar lessons and math enrichment classes. Wallace plans to buy Bella a better device in the next few weeks.
Sound quality is an important factor for children’s laptops. Lisa Mitchell, an elementary library media specialist, says her students use their devices to watch YouTube videos in addition to the online courses. Battery life is also a plus, even for remote students who may not be far from an outlet. Bella likes to use her laptop around the house and doesn’t want to carry the cord with her.
Durability is also worth paying for, according to Mitchell. If you use a tablet, get a protective case. “If a reasonable insurance or replacement policy is available, it’s usually worth the extra cost.”
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The middle schoolers I spoke to don’t use laptops for much more than online school work and surfing. Don’t worry too much about electricity – prioritize a machine that is comfortable and easy for your child to use.
“We just got the most basic Chromebook, and it’s absolutely perfect,” says Gabrielle Hartley, attorney and mother of three. “The most basic Chromebook covers all the needs of the basic middle schooler.”
Hartley’s son Max, who is in the eighth grade, agrees. “I’d really like to have a gaming PC or gaming laptop that can connect to a monitor and run video games at 120 frames per second, but I really don’t need it,” says Max. “Most eighth graders aren’t going to run any video games on their laptops or any software that requires a lot of power.”
Max mostly uses the laptop for Google Classroom applications, including Gmail, Slides, Google Docs, and Google Sheets. They’re very easy to use on his device, which he describes as “a run-of-the-mill Samsung Chromebook.” That said, if your child is starting middle school this year, it might be worth checking with their teachers to see which operating system is most compatible with their workflow. Caspian Fischer Odén, a ninth grader from Sweden, told me that he is having problems with his Chromebook because his school has blocked downloading apps from the Google Play Store.
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Even kids with more demanding hobbies think a budget device can get the job done. Sam Hickman, an eighth-grader from the UK who uses his laptop for photo and video editing, says, “For most middle schoolers, any processor developed in the last two years will be able to handle any task they can throw at it .”
Worth paying for? A comfortable keyboard, several students said. Many secondary school children are not used to writing for long periods of time. You should also look for a device that is compact and easy for them to carry around, especially if they are preparing for in-person school. Shoot for an 11- to 13-inch model—certainly nothing larger than 15 inches.
High school students’ laptop needs may vary based on their interests, but most don’t need powerful machines with lots of bells and whistles—especially if they have bugs or serious drawbacks that could interfere with school work. Miles Riehle, a student at Laguna Beach High School, has a high-end Surface Pro 7 but finds it overwhelming. “There’s so much else I don’t use very often,” he said. “Something simpler can be a little more simple.”
The best operating system may depend on what your child is used to. Aryan Nambiar, a student at Barrington High School in Illinois, has an iMac at home and likes to use an iPad for schoolwork. Riehle says he prefers a Chromebook because he has an Android phone and often uses Google services.
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But almost every student I spoke with agreed that the most important feature of a high school laptop is portability. Children participating in in-person classes can carry the device around for much of the day along with a stack of other books. Look for a 13- or 14-inch screen, or a lighter 15- to 17-inch model.
The students also recommend something solid. “Most high school students I’ve seen will throw their laptop in their bag without too much care,” says Moses Buckwalter, a student at Penn Manor High School. Backpacks can also be pushed in the hallway. Children can also have problems at home. “Anything can happen,” says Aadit Agrawal, a high school student from India. “My own brother scratched up my laptop with his fingernails.”
Battery life is another key feature. “It can be a real struggle to find a place to charge while in class,” says Cas Heemskerk, another student from the Netherlands. Unlike college students, many high schoolers don’t have frequent breaks to juice up their devices, so try to find something that can last a full day.
Many students recommend a touchscreen with touch support. Nambiar uses the feature for his biology class, where he does a lot of visual modeling. “The touch screen is always a bonus for drawing diagrams, whereas if you’re using a laptop, submitting a diagram you’ve drawn would be a whole process,” says Nambiar. Riehle uses a Surface Pen to fill out school forms and annotate PDFs. Agrawal finds it useful to take notes on the same screen as his online lessons.
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Depending on the broadband situation in your area, you may also want a laptop with multiple connectivity options. Agrawal’s online courses are sometimes interrupted by power outages, so he recommends an LTE model. Matej Plavevski, a junior at Yahya Kemal College in North Macedonia, recommends looking for an Ethernet port in case slower connections disrupt meetings. It’s hard to find on smaller laptops, but there are a number of affordable dongles and docks to consider.
The Chromebook Spin 714 is one of the most powerful Chromebooks you can buy, and the price isn’t too bad.
College children are entitled to spend a little more money than other age groups. Some (especially in STEM courses) can expect to do some pretty demanding work. Assad Abid, an electrical engineer from Pakistan, needs to run simulation software for his assignments. Aakash Chandra, a student at New Horizon College of Engineering in India, does a lot of coding, in addition to creative work in Premiere Pro and Photoshop, and gaming. Students also noted that it pays to pay for a laptop that will last for a few years after graduation. That means you don’t have to worry about finding and financing your next device until you’ve (hopefully) found a job.
But among high-end, capable devices, there’s still a wide range of options. Students emphasized that a laptop should be lightweight. Expect to bring it between classes, meals, meetings, the library and other places on campus. “It’s a blessing that I can carry my laptop as well as some laptops without feeling like I’m carrying too much for six hours a day,” says Haseeb Waseem, a senior at Villanova University.
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