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Best laptops for kids and teenagers 2023, tried and tested

Whether they plan to study, stream or play, these are the best and safest child-friendly laptops to buy

Steve Hogarty
Wednesday 02 August 2023 09:57 BST
We were on the hunt for durable, affordable and portable devices with a battery that wouldn’t run out of juice during the school day
We were on the hunt for durable, affordable and portable devices with a battery that wouldn’t run out of juice during the school day (The Independent)
Our Top Picks

It’s officially back to school season, and if your kid’s old laptop isn’t ready to tackle another term it might be time to upgrade to something new.

Whether it’s for homework, remote lessons, online learning or just watching YouTube videos, the best laptops for kids are ones that combine security, affordability, durability and performance.

While everybody’s circumstances and needs are different, price is usually the major factor when choosing a laptop for children. Essential schoolwork doesn’t require a very powerful device, and brands like Lenovo and Acer make great entry-level laptops at affordable prices.

But for older kids and those with an interest in developing their digital creativity skills, it might be worth investing in a premium laptop, one that can handle more demanding software like Photoshop, Illustrator, Serato and Blender.

More powerful laptops will also last a lot longer before becoming obsolete, so they’ll support young students beyond graduation and into whatever they choose to do next.

How we tested

We’ve curated a list of the best laptops for kids in 2023. These are all laptops we’ve tested extensively, taking into account the specific requirements many students have as well their affordability, accessibility, portability and durability.

The best laptops for kids for 2023 are:

  • Best cheap student laptop – Lenovo Ideapad 3i: £300, Amazon.co.uk
  • Best Apple laptop – MacBook Air M2: £1,059.97, Amazon.co.uk
  • Best kids laptop under £300 – Acer Aspire 1: £199, Currys.co.uk
  • Best Chromebook for students – Lenovo Ideapad Duet: £299, Amazon.co.uk

Lenovo ideapad 3i

Lenovo ideapad 3i, best student laptops
  • Best: Cheap student laptop
  • CPU: Intel Celeron
  • Graphics: Integrated
  • Display: 14in, Full HD
  • Storage: 128GB
  • RAM: 4GB
  • Why we love it
    • Top value for money
    • Runs on the latest Windows 11 OS
    • Comes with one year of Office 365
  • Take note
    • Relatively underpowered

Laptops don’t get much more affordable than the Lenovo IdeaPad 3i. Perfect for churning through written homework, watching the odd YouTube video and firing off emails, this Windows 11 laptop keeps things simple with a cheap and cheerful Intel Celeron processor and 4GB of RAM. That means you won’t be playing Call of Duty on this thing – which could be a positive, depending on your perspective – but the slim design and 1.4kg weight make the Lenovo IdeapPad 3i perfect for chucking in a backpack.

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Apple MacBook air M3

macbook air 136in m3
  • Best: Apple laptop
  • CPU: Apple M3 chip
  • Graphics: Integrated M3 GPU
  • RAM: 8GB to 16GB
  • Screen: 13.6in, 2,560 x 1,664px
  • Storage: 256GB to 512GB
  • Why we love it
    • Great display
    • Lightweight and thin design
    • Fast M3 performance
  • Take note
    • Limited number of ports

Apple’s thinnest, lightest MacBook transcended the tech world to become an instantly recognisable design icon, the profile of which many rival laptops have since followed. If you’ve ever held one of these machines, you’ll understand why it’s such an alluring device: the MacBook air is an elegant piece of engineering, weighing just 1.24kg and measuring 1.13cm thin. The 2024 model is powered by Apple’s latest M3 processor, an ARM-based chip that unlocks notable performance boosts and better battery efficiency over the older Intel CPU seen in previous generations.

Read our full MacBook air M3 review

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Acer Aspire 1

acer aspire 1
  • Best: Under £300
  • CPU: Intel Celeron N4500
  • Graphics: Integrated
  • Display: 14in, 1080p
  • Storage: 128GB
  • RAM: 4GB
  • Why we love it
    • Lightweight
    • Comes with a year of Microsoft 365
  • Take note
    • Not powerful enough for gamin

The Acer Aspire 1 is a no-frills laptop for less than £200. It runs on a basic Intel Celeron processor, which is perfectly adequate for everyday tasks like note-taking, writing and researching, and it has plenty of storage in its 128GB solid state hard drive. Compact at 14in and weighing just 1.4kg, it’s ideal for carrying to and from school without any bother. The eight hour battery life will fuel a full day of work without needing to be plugged in, while the 1080p screen is great for watching videos in your spare time.

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Lenovo ideapad duet Chromebook

Lenovo ideapad duet Chromebook, best student laptops
  • Best: Chromebook for students
  • CPU: MediaTek Helio P60T
  • Graphics: Integrated
  • Display: 10.1in, 1,920 x 1,200px
  • Storage: 64GB
  • RAM: 4GB
  • Why we love it
    • Sharp, vibrant screen
    • Magnetic keyboard included
    • Doubles as a tablet
  • Take note
    • You’re limited to web apps and ChromeOS software

An affordable two-in-one from Lenovo, the IdeaPad Duet is a zippy little Chromebook-tablet that doubles as a laptop, thanks to its included magnetic keyboard cover and stand. Because it’s a Chromebook, it runs on ChromeOS software, meaning you can’t install Windows or MacOS applications on here. That’s fine for everyday use – word processors, spreadsheets, even photo editing can all be done in a browser window – but it could be an issue if there are any specific Windows applications you need to install as part of your work or study.

The crisp 1,920px x 1,200px resolution screen is pretty much unheard of at this price, and is excellent for getting some work done while on the go or watching Netflix shows in your downtime. We chose the Lenovo IdeaPad Duet as our best buy in our list of the best Lenovo laptops, where our reviewer described it as “a quick, sleek and versatile piece of kit.”

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Acer Swift 3

Acer Swift 3, best student laptops
  • Best: Everyday student laptop
  • CPU: Intel Core i5
  • Graphics: Integrated
  • Display: 14in, 1080p
  • Storage: 512GB
  • RAM: 8GB
  • Why we love it
    • Great value for money
    • Long battery life
    • Lots of ports
  • Take note
    • Average performance

The Acer Swift 3 is a lighter and more portable alternative to the Acer Aspire , but still manages to pack in all of the features you might need in a Windows 11 laptop. Weighing just 1.2kg and measuring 16mm thin, it’s straightforward to pop into and out of a bag when you’re working on the go. The Intel Core i5 processor and 8GB of memory keeps performance fast, even while you’re juggling dozens of open Chrome tabs.

The mid-range processor isn’t the latest chip on the market, but it’s fast enough for this price range and more than capable of handling everyday tasks. The all-day battery life, the option to upgrade to a generous 512GB of SSD space and the plentiful array of connectivity options makes the Acer Swift 3 a versatile piece of kit.

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Acer Chromebook Spin 514

acer chromebook spin 514
  • Best: 2-in-1 Chromebook
  • CPU: Intel Core i3
  • Graphics: Integrated
  • Display: 14in, 1080p
  • Storage: 128GB
  • RAM: 8GB
  • Why we love it
    • Versatile 2-in-1 design
    • Bright 1080p screen
    • Decent webcam quality for the price
  • Take note
    • Limited to Chrome OS softwar

Chromebooks are more secure than traditional laptops, and come with parental control options to let you choose which sites and apps your child can access. Just keep in mind that Chromebooks can only run apps downloaded from the Google Play store, so if there are specific Windows apps you or your kid needs, they won’t be compatible here.

This Acer Chromebook combines the performance of a mid-range laptop with the flexibility of a touchscreen tablet. It has a sleek and modern design, weighs just shy of 1.4kg and has a tough chassis that should be able to withstand a few bumps. The 1080p display is also bright and vibrant, and the keyboard is comfortable. Battery life is excellent too, lasting around 10 hours with rigorous use.

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Dell XPS 13, 2022

Dell XPS 13, best student laptops
  • Best: Student laptop overall
  • CPU: Intel Core i5 (12th gen)
  • Graphics: Intel Iris XE
  • Screen: 13.4in, 1,920 x 1,200px
  • Storage: 256GB SSD
  • RAM: 8GB
  • Why we love it
    • Incredibly fast
    • Stylish design
  • Take note
    • Poor quality webcam

The 13in variant of Dell’s flagship laptop is a showcase of everything the manufacturer can pack into a single device. The Dell XPS 13 is one of the best Windows laptops you can buy, and pairs a minimalist, no-fuss design with top-level functionality and performance. The bright, crisp touchscreen is one of the best displays on any laptop, while, under the hood, the 12th-generation Intel processor packs more performance than the average desktop computer.

In our review of the 15in model, we said “if you’re in the market for a high-performance and productivity-focused Windows laptop with a spectacular next-generation display, the new Dell XPS 15 is the best you’ll find. This is about as close to perfect as laptops get.”

  1.  £999 from Dell.com
Prices may vary
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Kids laptops FAQs

Which laptops have built-in cyber security software?

Every new Windows and Apple laptop comes with strong antivirus and anti-malware measures already built in, so it’s usually not necessary to splash out on any additional antivirus software. Out of the box, you’re actively protected from most online threats.

Your best defence against online threats is to teach your kid how to safely navigate the internet. For example, Be Internet Awesome (a Google initiative) offers a free and interactive course designed to help children and their families stay safe online.

How can I set up parental controls?

Setting up parental controls on a laptop depends on the type of laptop you have.

  • Windows – Parental controls can be set up in an app called Microsoft Family Safety. This app lets you set screen time limits and content filters, sends you daily activity summaries, and can let your kid share their location with you at any time. It works across Windows laptops, Android phones, and the Xbox games console.
  • MacOS – For parental controls on a MacBook, it’s easiest to set your kid up with their own child account on the device. Then, from your own account, set up Family Sharing to give you control of their account settings. From there the Screen Time settings menu lets you limit which apps are available and when, as well as restrict access to certain kinds of online content.
  • Chromebook – On a Chromebook you can set up parental controls using Family Link. This lets you limit screen time, block apps and inappropriate content, manage their privacy settings, share a live location, and get notifications when your kid arrives or leaves a location.

When is the best age to give a child a laptop?

According to YouGov, most children in the UK use a family PC or a shared laptop until the age of 12. Kids under the age of 10 generally won’t need their own computer, but as they get older and start to enter secondary school, a laptop can be an important tool to support their education and help them develop digital skills they’ll need later in life.

The verdict: Laptops for kids

If you’re set on getting your kid a MacBook, your choice is straightforward: the MacBook Air is the best student laptop Apple makes. Suitable for all ages, it will remain an important and powerful tool in their education for years to come.

But you’ve got excellent options on the Windows side too. The Lenovo Ideapad 3i strikes the ideal balance between affordability and quality, and offers all the performance a young student might need.

Shopping for yourself? Check out our list of the best laptops of 2023 for every budget

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