Back-to-School: How to Buy the Right PC for Your Kids
Back-to-school season is right around the corner. These days, getting ready to send the kids back-to-school means more than just buying them new sneakers, notebooks, and pencils. Today, kids of all ages also need a little bit of technology to help them learn efficiently—whether they’re back in the classroom or learning online.
Not sure what your kids need to get ready for the new school year?
Here’s your PC buying guide with everything you need to know about the best back-to-school PCs for kids:
Laptop or Desktop?
First things first: When it comes to the best PCs for kids, should you look for a laptop or a desktop?
For most students, a laptop will likely be the best choice. But desktops can be a great option for younger kids, too.
For one, because the desktop will be a permanent fixture in your home, it’s easier for parents to keep an eye on what they’re up to online. Their immobility also makes it harder for kids to break them.
Desktops are also advantageous because they’re usually cheaper than laptops. But if your kids will need to shuttle their tech back and forth between school and home, then a laptop is your best bet.
Need-to-Know Tech Jargon
You don’t need to be a computer engineer to pick out the best kids computers. But understanding some basic tech jargon will go a long way in helping you make an educated choice.
These are some of the basics you should pay attention to when shopping for the best laptops for kids:
- RAM: This is the computer’s memory. If your kid needs to work on more data-intensive tasks (e.g., video editing), then more RAM is always better. As a general rule, though, you should aim for at least 4GB of RAM.
- SSD: This refers to the size of the computer’s hard drive, which is where all documents, photos, apps, videos, etc. are stored. While your child may use the cloud for storage as well, they’ll likely be working with a lot of documents while at school, so shooting for a larger hard drive will definitely help them out. Best practice recommends at least 64GB.
- Connectivity: It’s likely that your kid will also need a few accessories with their laptop, so you’ll want to make sure it has the proper connectivity. For example, need-to-haves often include a 3.5mm headphone jack; USB ports (shoot for USB-C), a microSD card slot (for memory cards), and Bluetooth for wireless connections.
Must-Have Features for Back-to-School
Do your eyes glaze over a bit when reading about RAM or SSD? You’re not alone. Understanding the basic tech jargon is one of the least fun parts of learning how to shop for the best laptops for kids—but now it’s time for the fun stuff.
Here are other things to look for when picking out PCs for back-to-school:
- Durability: One of the most important features when shopping for a laptop for kids is durability. Today, many laptops come with spill-resistant keyboards, drop-proof bodies, or reinforced rubber edges. And anyone with a cracked screen or soggy keyboard will tell you that these upgrades are always worth the price when it comes to kids.
- Portability: Even while shopping for durability, you still want to try to find a laptop that is as portable as possible. An 11- or 12-inch screen is a good compromise between being large enough to comfortably work on while still fitting comfortably in a backpack for daily use.
- Battery life: Battery life is another top feature for kiddos. Ideally, their laptop will be able to last them through the entire school day and then some, so they can easily complete all their classwork and homework on a single charge.
- Parental Controls: Laptops are, of course, a vastly important tool for supporting kids’ education—but they also come with risks. To help keep your kids safe while they’re online, it’s best to look for a laptop that has robust parental controls so you can get activity reports, check their Internet browsing, track their gaming, etc.
Nice-to-Have Features for Back-to-School
When it comes to shopping for a new laptop, the list of features to consider can go on and on. Above all, you want to look for a computer that is durable, portable, fast, and secure. But as you help your kids get ready to go back to school, there are also some nice-to-have features to consider, too:
- 2-in-1 Convertible Laptops: With a 2-in-1 convertible laptop, the screen doubles as a tablet. Not only is the screen a touchscreen, but you can bend the screen all the way back to convert the laptop into a tablet. While a cool feature, this may not always be necessary. In practice, most kids barely bother to make the switch, so this feature may not be worth the extra money.
- Touchscreens: Even if it’s not convertible, many laptops today have a touchscreen. This can be a useful feature for kids at school. For example, they can use their finger or a stylus to practice handwriting or draw out math equations. Be careful, though, as touchscreens usually incite kids to spend more time gaming.
Should You Go Refurbished?
A big question when shopping for laptops for back-to-school is wondering whether or not to buy a refurbished computer.
This is definitely a great option if you’re looking to save a little cash. Instead of buying a brand-new laptop, you can buy a used laptop that has been restored to “like-new” condition.
Of course, the definition of “like-new” can be different for everyone. If you choose to go the refurbished route, make sure you buy a certified refurbished model, which you can often find directly from the manufacturer. Certified refurbished models also often come with extended warranties.
Buy Tech They Can Grow Into …
Renowned tech journalist Marc Saltzman says, “Purchasing a computer should be like buying kids clothes: go a little bigger than you need today, so you can grow into it for longer-term savings.”
This is sage advice. While it’s wise to shop around and get the best deal you can for your kid’s back-to-school laptop, buying a quality device that they can use for years to come will save you money in the long run, as it will last you longer.
About Dan VanPatten: Dan is a full-time technology writer with interests in gaming, gadgetry, and all things PC tech related. He writes about a variety of topics including technology news, product reviews, and software. His experience stems from years of experience writing & producing content for technology newsletters & publications.