What the Tech? How to Choose the Best Laptop for Teens
Not every student needs their own laptop. But by the time they’re in middle school, a computer for homework is more important.
But there are lots of choices. Don’t pay too much.
Middle and high school-age students may ask for a MacBook Pro, but do they really need it? Probably not.
“If you’re looking for something in the $300-$400 range, we would probably or usually recommend something over here,” said Terrance Cole of Best Buy. He walked past shiny new MacBooks and Surface laptops and to a collection of budget or value-priced laptops.
“These are better, in my opinion for high school students. College students, I’d usually recommend something with a little more longevity,” he said.
Not that PC laptops can’t live up to daily use, it’s just by the time students go to college they may need a more powerful computer. These value PC laptops from HP, Dell, and Asus will be enough for 8th grade through high school graduation.
There are exceptions.
High School students who edit photos or videos may need a laptop with more processing power. Check the recommended specs of any software they use to make sure it has enough processing speed, RAM, and storage.
But for students who’ll be doing pretty basic computer work such as writing papers, doing research, and giving in-class presentations, a value computer in the $300-$500 range will be fine.
“Totally sufficient machine to be able to run basic usage, very similar to Word, PowerPoint, Excel and things like that,” said Cole.
When it comes to middle school students, a PC will be fine, but so will a Google Chromebook. If you haven’t seen these before it’s likely because they were hard to find in the early days of the pandemic as students began doing school from home.
“Imagine having an Android table, basically in a laptop form,” Cole explained.
Chromebooks are lightweight and even less expensive than the value PC laptops. Capable Chromebooks Asus, SAMSUNG, Google, Dell, and HP can be as low as $189. But, and this is important: they don’t run software, everything is web-based.
“Everything has to be bought through the Play Store. You can still get PowerPoint, you can still get Word, you can still get Excel,” says Cole. Chromebooks are also great for anyone using Google products such as Docs, Sheets, and email. Many teachers, even college professors accept or require papers to be turned in using Google Docs.
Another positive with the Chromebooks is that many elementary schools provide students Chromebooks in the classrooms so middle school students may already be familiar with them.
And in their off-time, they can play games from the PlayStore.
Chromebooks don’t have many moving parts inside either and can withstand some bumps and drops and can certainly be plenty for middle school students. But before buying anything, check with your school to see what they recommend. Don’t pay for more computers than they really need.