Best laptops for children: from study sessions to gaming with friends

·11 min read
 (Acer-Chromebook-314)
(Acer-Chromebook-314)

Fed up of the arguments over who needs your laptop every evening and weekend? Buying a device for your children can be an expensive investment, but the peace of mind from no longer having to share yours could well be worth it.

Gifting an old laptop is a viable option if you’ve got one handy; if not, we’ve looked at computers that are the ideal fit for small sticky fingers, as well as those designed to match the demands of studying (and gaming) for older teens.

For younger kids, durability is a key concern, whether that be through a robust plastic or metal shell; either way, investing in a robust rubber case can enhance the lifespan of most devices. Budget was also a high priority here, with our focus on affordable devices that can be upgraded as your child’s tech needs change.

Older children will need something with enough power to handle the demands of homework, video calls and gaming. Battery life and portability are further considerations if they’ll be travelling with the device between home and school.

Another key factor is the operating system (OS) of a laptop. This can make it work seamlessly with - or become an impossible barrier against - technology used at school. Before investing, check any software required for homework and whether it’s tied to a specific operating system.

We’ve focused heavily on those using Google’s Chrome OS, which are designed with ease of use at the forefront. Built around Google’s suite of cloud apps (Chrome, Gmail, Google Docs, Google Sheets etc.), they also have access to all Play store Android apps designed for smartphones and tablets, including Microsoft Office.

While Chrome OS is a great fit for many kids, if you’ve got a budding photographer, music producer or gamer on your hands, sticking to Windows 10 or macOS may make more sense, as they can handle larger and more complex software than Chrome OS.

Ranging from budget computers designed for word processing and streaming, through to high-end powerhouses that’ll take heavy duty gaming and editing in their stride, here are the best laptops for children.

Microsoft Surface Go 2

  • Screensize: 10.5in touchscreen

  • Operating system: Windows 10

  • CPU: Intel® Pentium® Gold 4425Y or 8th Gen Intel® Core m3

  • RAM: 4GB or 8GB

  • Storage: 64GB to 128GB

 (Surface-Go-2)
(Surface-Go-2)

Weighing in at only 544g for the base model and with a 10.5” screen, this is one of the smallest and most portable choices of laptops for children. Size can be deceptive, though: the Microsoft Surface Go 2 punches above its weight thanks to its Windows 10 OS and - in more expensive models - powerful Intel Core processor.

In design, it’s a tablet with keyboard connectivity, and in its element as a starter laptop for children who’ve found their technological feet with smartphones or tablets. We also found it to be a great choice for teens who need to install more complex software for home study.

Configuration options abound, and for kids who play Fortnite, Roblox or other games, it’s a wise investment to start out with the more expensive 8GB RAM and 128GB of storage to ensure they don’t grow out of this device too quickly. We also found the battery life impressive - ideal for preventing disappointment if they forget to plug it in every once in a while.

That said, it’s worth noting that while the images used for the product show the Type Cover (a backlit keyboard, trackpad and protective cover) and stylus (which enables you to draw on the touchscreen), these aren’t included in the base price. They’ll set you back £129.99 and £99.99 respectively. We think they’re a great addition to this functional and powerful laptop that’s sure to hit the mark with your kids.

£359 | Microsoft

Lenovo IdeaPad Chromebook Duet

  • Screensize: 10.1” touchscreen

  • Operating system: Chrome OS

  • CPU: MediaTek Helio P60T

  • RAM: 4GB

  • Storage: 64GB to 128GB

 (Lenovo-IdeaPad)
(Lenovo-IdeaPad)

With the ability to switch between a tablet and a laptop in an instant thanks to its plug-and-play keyboard, this Chromebook is sure to be a winner with your kids. At only £219 for the base model, this 10.1-inch touchscreen laptop is impressively affordable, a characteristic Lenovo has achieved without scrimping on other core features, such as memory and usability.

64GB internal memory for the base device should be enough for younger children who’ll be using this laptop for more basic tasks, such as browsing, video streaming and playing app-based games. For older kids needing a bit more space to store projects and essays, this laptop comes with a free one-year trial of Google One that equates to an extra 100GB of cloud storage at your fingertips.

It also has remarkable battery life (over a day of video in testing), which is likely a result of the slightly underpowered processor. This is the only potential hurdle with this device and can be easily solved: keep a limit on the number of tabs your kids have open at one time to prevent things running slow.

From our testing, we recommend buying a stylus (£89.99) to allow your kids’ creativity to run wild as they sketch and doodle.

£219.99 | Lenovo

Google Pixelbook Go

  • Screensize: 13.3” touchscreen

  • Operating system: Chrome OS

  • CPU: 8th Gen Intel® Core m3 to i7

  • RAM: 8GB to 16GB

  • Storage: 64GB to 256GB

 (Pixelbook-Go-Full-View)
(Pixelbook-Go-Full-View)

Slimline, lightweight and simple to use, the Google Pixelbook Go is a laptop that you and your kids are destined to fight over, packed with handy features and an incredible battery life. The 8GB of RAM is a step up from most laptops on Google Chrome, allowing you to switch between applications with ease, while the Intel Core processor is ideal if your kids watch a lot of educational (and not so educational!) videos.

A magnesium alloy makes this laptop extremely robust and the rippled plastic ensures even smaller hands can get a firm grip when moving it around. The Google Pixelbook Go is also magically quiet: Google’s “Hush” keyboard is satisfyingly silent - as a result, this laptop won’t disturb others during long stints in the library or in a corner of your office.

We were also extremely impressed with its battery life, which saw the Google Pixelbook Go last more than 14 hours on a single charge in testing. For younger kids who need a bit of distracting when you’re out and about and older students who need reliable charge, you’ll be hard pushed to find laptops at this price range and specification that can compete.

£629 | Argos

Acer Chromebook 314

  • Screensize: 14” screen

  • Operating system: Chrome OS

  • CPU: Intel® Celeron® N4020

  • RAM: 4GB

  • Storage: 32GB to 64GB

 (Acer-Chromebook-314)
(Acer-Chromebook-314)

Offering exceptional value and higher performance than you would normally expect in a sub-£300 device, plus a large 14-inch screen with bright resolution, this Chromebook is an affordable investment that should last you kids through their next few years of schooling.

Acer aren’t trying to doing anything flash with the Chromebook 314: everything is well-measured, ensuring your child gets good performance and excellent battery life whether they’re streaming videos or buried deep in an essay.

We were highly impressed by the quality of the roomy screen, even though it lacks touchscreen functionality. If this is a deal breaker for you, we recommend opting for the equally good Acer Chromebook Spin 311. That said, for older children who won’t find this as much of an issue, they’ll love its easy-to-use nature.

£249 | Acer

Acer Chromebook Spin 311

  • Screensize: 11.6” touchscreen

  • Operating system: Chrome OS

  • CPU: MediaTek MT8183

  • RAM: 4GB

  • Storage: 64GB

 (Chromebook-311)
(Chromebook-311)

Robust in design and with processing speed that’s surprisingly fast for its specification, this laptop is a fantastic alternative to the Lenovo IdeaPad Chromebook Duet, particularly as it feels a little more solid and sturdy in design.

Performance and battery life is lower than many of the others on this list and it’s got a far smaller screen than the comparable Acer Chromebook 314, and one that’s nowhere near as bright. That said, the inclusion of a flippable touchscreen strengthened with Gorilla glass is likely to appeal strongly to younger kids who enjoy tactile technology but need something more robust than standard. They’ll love the fact that the Chromebook Spin 311 can be propped up for video watching or can use it like a tablet.

The keyboard is also perfect for smaller fingers and there’s an audio jack to ensure that other members of the family are left in peace.

£229 | Currys

Apple MacBook Air M1 2020

  • Screensize: 13.3” screen

  • Operating system: macOS

  • CPU: Apple M1 chip

  • RAM: 8GB

  • Storage: 256GB to 2TB

 (Apple)
(Apple)

Coming in at just shy of £1,000, the Apple MacBook Air M1 2020 isn’t what we’d call an affordable choice, and it’s not a wise investment in households where technology needs to be robust and built to last. However, it is a game-changing purchase for older kids in search of a highly-powered and responsive laptop.

It all comes down to the Apple M1 chip, which is fast and nimble and provides much more processing oomph for your money than other competitors in this price range. It also allows you to run any iOS app or game on this device, which will be appreciated by kids already familiar with Apple products.

For working with or watching videos, the LED backlit display uses Apple’s True Tone technology to adjust the display according to the ambient light, so if your child has a tendency to work in the dark with the lights dimmed then you can be confident they won’t be straining their eyes. It also means punchy, crisp and extremely true-to-life graphics.

Its fanless design keeps it silent and the streamlined design - so typical of Apple products - combined with a sturdy aluminium shell makes it effortlessly portable. Battery life is also excellent. All in all, this is an impressive machine that, if treated carefully, will be an excellent addition to any teen’s tech toolbox for years to come.

£949 | John Lewis

HP 14-db0500sa 14” Chromebook

  • Screensize: 14”

  • Operating system: Chrome OS

  • CPU: AMD A4-9120

  • RAM: 4GB

  • Storage: 32GB

 (HP)
(HP)

HP have made huge strides in recent years when it comes to designing good-looking and exceptionally functional laptops. This 14” Chromebook, despite its astonishingly affordable price tag, is no exception.

The most impressive feature of this laptop is its sharp, bright display that works very well in different lighting conditions; given it only weighs 1.7kg, there’s a strong likelihood your kids will be wanting to take it everywhere with them.

Storage is tiny at only 32GB, but it’s more than enough for light usage, including space to save homework files. The processor is also powerful enough to support browsing and word processing, particularly as its satisfyingly comfortable keyboard makes the latter a joy to do.

£179 | Currys

Dell G5 15 5500

  • Screensize: 15.6” screen

  • Operating system: Windows 10

  • CPU: Intel® Core™ i5-10300H

  • RAM: 8GB

  • Storage: 512GB

 (Dell-G5-15)
(Dell-G5-15)

While Dell might be better known for their workplace laptops, they’ve eked out a comfortable position in the market when it comes to gaming laptops and PCs. The G5 15 5500 certainly isn’t at the high-end of the spectrum, but neither does it have a price to match. Instead, it’s a solid laptop that’ll help any pre-teen gamer get their fix and be more than capable of meeting the demands of school tasks.

With a large and exceptionally crisp 15.6” screen that loads in 1080p resolution and 144Hz refresh rate, you can expect any game to look good and work in Full HD without any irritating stutters. The NVIDIA GTX 1660 Ti graphics card is more than good enough for most games, too.

At the higher end of most budgets for children’s laptops, this is a device that should see your offspring through their formative years, particularly as Dell are lauded for their ability to create computers with a lifespan that exceeds most other companies.

Solidly built using hard black plastic, it does tend to run a little hot, so time limits for gaming might well be necessary - and provide a welcome excuse to kick them off Mario Kart and back onto their homework.

£849 | Currys

Verdict

Small in stature but big in functionality, the Microsoft Surface Go 2 is an affordable and robust addition to your children’s technology toolbox. For battery life that will survive a few trips out without a charger and enough processing power to handle everything from games through to more complex software, the Google Pixelbook Go is a mid-range option with plenty of appeal for children of all ages.

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