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Best laptops for online Zoom learning

Hand-me-down laptops may not do the job
Posted at 9:24 PM, Aug 04, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-05 11:02:19-04

Back-to-school shopping is off to a slow start this pandemic year, with many parents unsure if their children will be in the classroom at all.

But one thing is selling fast: laptops for online learning.

Sarah Cox is like a lot of parents right now, holding off on her back-to-school shopping.

"I don't know what we are going to need at this point," the Northern Kentucky mom said. "I'm not 100% sure what our school year will look like."

But there's one thing almost all kids will need this year: a good laptop for online classes.

If your child needs one, the important thing to remember is that this year, any old laptop won't do.

Tom Brant, senior analyst at PCMag,cautions about a hand-me-down model from an older brother or sister.

"Anything that is 3 to 5 years old," he said, "that's where you want to consider upgrading to a new model."

Brant says if you have an entry-level 5-year-old laptop, your child could end up frustrated. Zoom classes will probably require something newer.

"It does require a bit more computing power than just watching a video," he said.

How much do you need to spend?

The good news: Brant says plenty of new laptops in the $300 to $500 range will work for online learning.

But he cautions you to avoid a screen that's too small, such as an 11-inch screen.

Brant says the ideal screen for a student laptop is 13 to 14 inches.

He suggests you also consider a convertible laptop that doubles as a tablet.

But if your budget is just $200, he suggests avoiding super cheap laptops, and instead sticking with a Google Chromebook.

"If you are are really budget-oriented, you will want to look at Chrome in addition to windows," he said.

Brant also says an iPad or Surface tablet will work, as long as you avoid super-cheap Android tablets.

Sarah Cox decided on a higher-end tablet.

"We just bought an iPad for her instead of a laptop, the iPad pro," she said.

CLICK HERE for PCMag's report on best laptops for younger children in 2020.

CLICK HEREfor PCMag's report on best laptops for college students in 2020.

Finally, Brant says Apple MacBooks are great for high school and college kids.

But he says MacBooks are overkill for younger children, especially with their $1,000 and up price tag.

That way, you don't waste your money.

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