Your first consideration, when buying a laptop for your child, should be exactly what they’ll be using it for. Homework? Gaming? Watching the latest Disney movie? Keeping in touch with their global network of friends? Acting as an aid to SEN? After all, different laptops excel in different areas.
If you want it for movies, gaming or SEN, for instance, a laptop with a bigger screen size (which is measured diagonally across the screen) may serve you best. If, on the other hand, you’re looking for a laptop which suits a plethora of uses, a model such as the Dell Inspiron 11 3000 Series 2-in-1 boasts a 360 hinge to provide four different modes.
“Ideally you want to invest in a model which is easily mobile and can be slipped into a family bag or school bag with limited effort,” adds Rebecca Williams, a buyer at John Lewis for tablets and computing. Parents should look at models which weigh around 1.5kg or less to ensure it’s easy to transport around, she says.
Also consider storage. “Required storage will depend on what your child will be using their laptop for, but they shouldn’t require more than 32GB,” says Williams. “If you prefer to err on the safe side of caution, you might want to consider models such as the HP Stream 14-ax000na which comes with a multi format SD media card reader, enabling you to top up if necessary.”
1. HP Stream 14: £199.95, John Lewis
This is a 14-inch Windows laptop, which performs particularly well for the price, and looks good. Weighing 1.44kg, it’s reasonably light and easily slips into a thin bag. The battery will last around eight hours there is 32GB storage that can be topped up with an SD memory card. Kids will love the HD webcam with built in microphone, and it comes with software including McAfee LiveSafe, Netflix and a one-year trial of Office 365.
2. Venturer Bravowin S: £199.99, Argos
First off, this affordable, 10.1-inch laptop is incredibly robust, having survived factory drop tests of 1.2 metres from all angles, which means it’s safe even in the clumsiest kid’s hands. Secondly, it’s both a tablet and laptop, with the screen easily detaching from the keyboard for movies or games. There’s an eight-hour battery life and it comes equipped with Microsoft Office Mobile (the version adapted for smaller screens) so kids are all set up to use Word, Excel or PowerPoint Mobile. It’s light at just over a kilo, and is 24.6mm thick.
3. Lenovo The Yoga Book: £449.35
The creative potential of the Yoga Book makes this is a stand-out option for all ages. Whether they’re very young and want to practise drawing, or a bit older and want to do handwriting or take notes in class, this laptop lets them draw directly onto the touch-sensitive screen (that also works as keyboard) with the special pen, or on the notepad that comes with the Yoga Book, which then digitises their work simultaneously – it is very accurate. There’s a whopping 15 hours battery life and it’s just 4.05mm thick when open (9.6mm when folded) and weighs
690g, making it as easy to carry around as a normal paper notepad. It uses an Android operating system, but is also available with Windows.
4. Acer ChromeBook R11: £249.99, Very
This one is great from primary school upwards because it’s so resilient and easy to use. Although the touchscreen doesn’t actually detach, the fact that you can fold it round on itself means it can still work just like a tablet. We found it survived more knocks than most, although it’s not the lightest, at 1.6kg, it’s still fine for most kids and is thin at just under 20cm. It’s compatible with Google Play (a service that combines Google Music, Books, Movies, and Apps into one entertainment hub), has a particularly responsive touchscreen, pretty decent sound and an impressive 12 hours’ battery life. The 32GB of storage can be boosted with an SD card.
5. Dell Inspiron 11 3000 Series 2-in-1: £209.99, John Lewis
The colour alone means that even the most absent-minded youngster can’t lose this in a hurry, while the 360-degree hinge supports four different modes – tablet (good for social media), upright (good for games), tent (good for movies) or laptop (good for homework). The 11.6-inch display is pretty decent and it weighs little more than a kilogram, with a 10-hour battery. It includes a McAfee 30-day trial and MS Office trial. Because it’s not as fast as some, it’s better for more basic tasks such as word processing and internet browsing.
6. Asus Chromebook C300SA: £229.95, John Lewis
This laptop – which is available in various colour combos – has a bigger screen than many of its competitors at 13.3 inches, and it will give you eight hours of battery life and 32GB of solid-state storage. The HD camera and LED backlit HD display was a hit with our young testers. It weighs 1.35kg and it’s 2.2cm thick – easily thin enough to carry around in a schoolbag. It has a Chrome OS, which mean the whole thing works on the Chrome browser, giving you access to Google Sheets, Docs and more (around 25 per cent of schools now use Google Suite).
7. Dell Inspiron 15 3000: £229, Dell
You’ll struggle to find any other child-friendly laptop with as big a screen and as much battery life for under £300. It has eight hours of battery life, particularly good sound clarity and performs better than its competitors in multimedia tests, making short work of the likes of Photoshop and Handbrake. It’s quite heavy at 2.14kg – heavier than we’d normally recommend, but it has a slim 22mm edge, so you can slip it into your laptop bag or rucksack and the big screen and extra battery life definitely makes it worth considering.
The Verdict: Laptops for kids
Taking into consideration value for money, robustness, performance, memory and good looks, our top vote goes to the HP Stream 14. Still too expensive? Check out the Venturer Bravowin S, which – at well under £200 – gives you a lot of bang for your buck. At the other end of the spectrum, the Lenovo The Yoga Book is pricey, but an absolute dream to use for kids of all ages.
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