You don’t have to spend a fortune to outfit your kids with a solid laptop for school. Here are my top picks based on price, power, and overall value.
$100-$200: HP Chromebook 11 G4 EE
Chromebooks are the superstars of college campuses from coast to coast thanks to their incredibly affordable prices, and HP’s Chromebook 11 G4 EE is a great option if you’re in a back-to-school cash pinch.
Pros: Extremely budget-friendly, speedy wifi, and compact form factor. It’ll tuck into a backpack or book back with ease, and its battery should get you through a school day without much trouble.
Cons: Storage space of 16GB is quite small, as is the case with most Chromebooks. At 1366×768, the display isn’t terribly sharp.
Bottom line: If you absolutely need a computer and don’t have a ton of cash to spare, this modest Chromebook will get the job done.
$200 – $300: Samsung Chromebook 3
A small step up in terms of power and price, Samsung’s Chromebook 3 is the next logical step up if you have a bit more cash to spare. It’s still not a full-fledged Windows laptop, but it’s great for web research, writing papers, and keeping up on all the social media chatter.
Pros: Durable construction and compact size, with a spill-resistant keyboard will keep your computer from getting fried in the event of an unfortunate accident. Up to 11 hours of battery life before needing to recharge.
Cons: Same 1366×768 display as the HP Chromebook above, with the same 16GB of storage.
Bottom line: For such a low price, you can’t ask for much more than a spill-proof Chromebook with nearly half a day of battery life, and that’s exactly what you’re getting here.
It might not have the most catchy name around, but HP’s entry-level Windows 10 laptop is an incredible value at a mighty attractive price.
Pros: Windows 10, quad-core processor, and a beefy 500GB hard drive to tackle any task.
Cons: Non-HD screen isn’t going to win any awards, and just one USB 3.0 port (along with 2 USB 2.0 ports) might pose a challenge if you’re going to be moving lots of files.
Bottom line: As an entry-level Windows laptop, this HP offers a lot, especially for students. Its processor isn’t exactly a beast, but it’s worthy of a college workload.
$300-$400: Acer Aspire E 15
Acer’s Aspire E 15 checks all the marks for a “true” HD laptop, and at a price that won’t make you wince.
Pros: 7th Generation Intel Core i3 processor is plenty powerful, and the 15 inch widescreen display is full 1080p, making Netflix marathons a treat. Its battery will last up to a full 12 hours, and the laptop features a built-in USB Type-C port. Huge 1 terabyte hard drive.
Cons: 4GB of memory is a little bit on the low side, but it can be easily upgraded if you choose to down the road.
Bottom line: For pure value, this Acer is probably the best deal on this list, and upgradable hard drive and memory is a huge bonus.
$400-$500: HP Pavilion X360 2-in-1
2-in-1s are the ultimate do-it-all workhorses for students, effortlessly switching between laptop and tablet modes and offering the best of both worlds.
Pros: Responsive touchscreen makes creative tablet tasks a breeze, while 6GB of memory should be plenty for any school work. Windows 10 works great in both laptop and tablet modes, and the built-in webcam is a must for video calls.
Cons: Less-than-HD display is a bit disappointing, and 8-hour battery life might be cutting it short if you’re doing a marathon study session without a power outlet in sight.