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It can be tricky to choose the right laptop for a child. If they’re very young, it’s a matter of balancing the laptop’s performance with its physical size and durability. If the laptop is too big and heavy, it may make it difficult for them to type on or carry around, which increases the chances that it’ll get dropped. Look for enhanced durability features like those seen in the ASUS Chromebook C202SA at Walmart. Spill-proof keyboards and impact-resistant frames—you don’t want a single tip-off the table or a spilled cup of juice to wipe out your investment. Some kid-friendly laptops like the ASUS VivoBook S15 at Amazon also come with features like tamper-proof keys and lay-flat hinges to protect against common types of mishandling. In terms of software, you can keep an eye out for parental control features like content filtering and screen time limits. And no matter the age of the child, automatic security updates are always a plus.
If you’re buying a laptop for an older child, then rubber bumpers probably aren’t a priority. Speed, performance, and price are likely your top concerns, and you want to make sure their laptop has the right kind of specs for effective multitasking. For more deals on laptops and other remote learning essentials, make sure to head over to our guide to deals on homeschool supplies. The best laptops for kids will incorporate a powerful processor and a decent amount of memory to facilitate quick app switching and smoother performance when they’re browsing the internet, running complex applications, or attending virtual classes.
Automatic security updates
Only one USB-C port
The Chromebook Duet from Lenovo is a 2-in-1 device that does double duty as both a laptop and a tablet. The full keyboard is detachable and the screen is touch-sensitive. A folding kickstand on the back of the device props up the screen when it’s in laptop mode. Like other Chromebooks, the Duet runs Google’s Chrome OS. This is a somewhat limited operating system, but it’s very streamlined to use when you have a Google account and is actually an advantage if you’re shopping for a kid. This device has 4GB of memory, which should be sufficient for both schoolwork and media streaming, and 64GB of onboard storage. That’s not a lot, but Chromebooks tend to have limited storage on the assumption that users are relying on the cloud—the Duet actually comes with a one-year free trial of Google One for just this purpose. The downsides to this device are the same downsides for most 2-in-1 devices: the screen is small for a laptop (10.1 inches) and the port options are very limited. The Duet only has a single USB-C port, but this can be remedied with a good USB-C hub.
Good port options
Limited onboard storage
The Chromebook C202 from Asus was designed as a laptop for schools, making it a great choice for kids doing homework or attending remote classes. The features that make the C202 classroom-friendly—rugged design, an optimized Wi-Fi antenna, and a kid-friendly interface—also make it a great option for kids learning at home. Its most unique feature is its durability. The C202 has reinforced rubber edges, a drop-proof body (up to four feet), a spill-resistant keyboard, and a lay-flat design that helps protect against breakage if young kids push on the 11.6-inch screen. It also has a surprising number of port options including two USB 3.0, HDMI, a headphone jack, and an SD card reader. The keyboard has larger letters and a shorter travel distance to make things easier for beginner typists. Like other Chromebooks, the C202 runs the streamlined Chrome OS and has very limited onboard storage—just 16 or 32 GB depending on the configuration. This forces users to rely on cloud storage for their files, which Google’s One and Drive applications will happily facilitate. It’s available with either 2 or 4GB of RAM, which is also pretty limited but should be fine for kids’ productivity tasks.
Keyboard sold separately
The Microsoft Surface Go 2 was designed with kids and parents in mind. This super-slim device is our pick for most portable because it’s essentially a 10.5-inch tablet with an attachable keyboard. But despite its looks, it actually has several features that are much more like a laptop than a tablet. It runs the full Windows 10 OS rather than a pared-down Chromebook system and has built-in parental control features including screen time limits and content filters. The Surface Go 2 also has specs that surpass the processing power of your typical tablet, making it a versatile and lightweight device that’s great for both homework and play. The Surface Go 2 can be configured with either an Intel Pentium 4425Y or Intel Core M3 processor (the Core M3 is more powerful but also more expensive). It can also be configured with either 4 or 8GB of RAM and either 64 or 128GB of storage. The most expensive model has LTE connectivity for internet access away from Wi-Fi. Unfortunately, Microsoft does not include the Type Cover keyboard in the box. This needs to be purchased separately.
11-hour battery life
Impressive 13.3-inch display
Lots of onboard storage
Only USB-C ports
If you have an older kid or teenager with more demanding laptop needs (running more complex programs, multitasking, etc.) then the Macbook Air is worth looking into. Unlike some of the pared-down Chromebooks on this list, the Air is a full-featured laptop with syncing features for iPhones and iPads that older children will be able to enjoy. The 13.3-inch display is beautiful and detailed, with a high-definition camera for crisp video calls and an 11-hour battery life to get them through a full school day and beyond. The aluminum body weighs only 2.8 pounds and measures a mere 0.63 inches at its thickest point. The Macbook Air is definitely one of the more expensive options on this list, but it’s also a pretty powerful laptop that can be shared with the whole family. Several configuration options let you choose your processing power (up to an Intel Core i7 with 16GB of memory) and storage capacity (up to 2TB SSD). Only the base model has a sub-$1000 price tag. It’s available in gold, silver, and gray.
Lots on onboard storage
May be a little large for young kids
If you’re shopping for an older child who needs more power and multitasking capabilities, a bigger screen and a better processor can go a long way. Most mid- and budget-priced laptops have small displays. But the ASUS VivoBook manages to offer a spacious 15.6-inch screen while staying in an affordable price range. The secret is super-thin “NanoEdge” bezels that maximize the size of the display without adding unnecessary bulk to the laptop body. A larger screen makes it easier to open multiple windows at once, and the VivoBook 15 supports this kind of multitasking with impressive processing power. It can be configured with an Intel Core i3, i5, or i7 processor, up to 16GB of memory, and up to 1TB SSD. Also, unlike the many Chromebooks on this list, the VivoBook 15 runs the more full-featured Windows 10 operating system. With fun color options, a plethora of ports, and impressive performance for the price, the VivoBook S15 is an all-around great value and a solid choice if you need a laptop that’s a little more sophisticated.
The Lenovo Chromebook Duet is a great option for most kids because it combines affordability and easy-to-manage security features with a versatile 2-in-1 design. If you’re shopping for a younger child, we’d recommend the Asus Chromebook C202 for its ultra-durable build and kid-friendly keyboard.
Emmeline Kaser is a former editor for Lifewire’s product round-ups and reviews. She is an experienced product researcher specializing in consumer tech.