There’s always a mad dash around this time of year to stock up on back-to-school staples. That much hasn’t changed ahead of this very weird school year. What is different is what those staples are, as the continuing disruption of COVID-19 means millions of kids are starting the school year either completely or partially online. A solid kids laptop that makes remote learning relatively painless is very important. Because in 2020, the best computer for kids is no longer just a fun machine; it’s an essential educational tool.
The best computers for kids are compatible with applications they’ll be most frequently using for school, have a long battery life so they don’t die mid-math class, and are lightweight enough that kids can tote them around easily. And because kids tend to be rough on their belongings, you’ll want their laptops to be durable enough to take some abuse and cheap enough, $500 or less, to be be replaced when necessary.
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.” A tablet will suffice, as long as you can get a keyboard to make typing easier for little fingers.
Still, there’s an enormous range of laptops out there, and shopping for one can be overwhelming, especially considering just about everything about the future is uncertain right now. Whether you’re looking for the bare minimum or seeking a machine with a few bells and whistles, there’s something for you (and your kid) on this list. Each of our picks for the best laptops under $500 is functional and durable enough to make it through the school year.
The Best Back-to-School Kids Laptops for Under $500
One of the biggest fears when it comes to parents and kid-friendly tech is durability. Sure, it looks good in photos, but how will it handle day-in, day-out use and abuse from? If it’s the ASUS TUF FX505DT-UB52 Gaming Laptop by Microsoft, the answer is pretty well. It’s built to military specs to handle bumps and bruises, along with less-likely scenarios involving radiation exposure and extreme temps. But while the exterior is a chunky beast, inside this $500 gaming laptop is beautiful. It has a 15.6-inch NanoEdge display powered by a NVIDIA GTX graphics card, color-customizable keyboard with an always-useful numeric pad, and a dependable 256-GB solid-state drive. The 7.1-channel virtual surround-sound system menas it also sounds good whether kids are blasting tunes or class Zoom.
Tons of schools rely on Google Classroom for remote learning, and because Google also makes the OS contained in this lightweight laptop you know that integration will be seamless. It has a sizable 15.6-inch screen, 4GB of system memory, and built-in 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 with a ten-hour battery life, it earns high marks , it's light enough for kids to carry around.
- 15.6 inch Full HD (1920x1080) 4-way NanoEdge bezel display with a stunning 88% screen-to-body ratio
- Compatible with Google Classroom; run Google Classroom on Microsoft Edge or Internet Explorer 11
- Latest 10th Gen Intel Core i3-1005G1 CPU (4M Cache, up to 3.4 GHz)
- 8GB DDR4 RAM and 128GB PCIe NVMe M.2 SSD
- Ergonomic backlit keyboard with fingerprint sensor activated via Windows Hello
- Exclusive Ergolift design for an improved typing position
- Comprehensive connections including USB 3.2 Type-C, USB 3.2 Type-A, USB 2.0, and HDMI; Gigabit Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac) (USB Transfer speed may vary. Learn more at ASUS website)
- Windows 10 in S mode exclusively runs apps from the Microsoft Store. To install an app that isn't available in the Microsoft Store, simply switch out of S mode in three easy steps. There's no charge to switch out of S mode!
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.
Sure, the Dell Inspiron 15 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, but a sizeable 15.6 inch display with anti-glare technology. 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 model gets the job done.
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