Melissa asked: “I have a son who is turning 13 and going into 7th grade. We’re told to bring a laptop to school in the fall and I have no idea what to get. Can you give me advice as to what type of laptop would be appropriate. We’ve been given no guidance on this. What’s a good, solid, appropriate laptop for a middle school student that would use it for day to day school, would be strong and sturdy enough to go back and forth from home and school and would have all the technology and features that one would need for a day to day school classroom. Thank you so much. Your show is awesome!”
Melissa, you should definitely get some sort of guidance from the school to make sure whatever computer you buy will be up to the task. It’s probably a good idea to talk to them and tell them you don’t want to have to buy two computers if they first one won’t work for what they need.
Having said that, the most likely case is that most Windows laptops will do the job. These are 13 year olds, they won’t be running complex 3D architectural design software, they probably won’t be doing professional video editing, they won’t be doing anything too complex really.
Odds are that they will have to run some kind of word processor, and probably access online resources. If that’s the case, you don’t need to buy a particularly expensive laptop. You asked about a computer that is sturdy enough to survive being carted back and forth, to be honest all should if they’re not mistreated.
More expensive laptops do tend to do better in the long run, as you’d expect, but all laptops are expected to be moved around.
Just to give you an idea, a Lenovo IdeaPad 100 can be had for $345 online, it comes with Windows 10, a Core i5 processor, 4GB of RAM, integrated Intel HD 5500 Graphics, and 500GB of hard drive space, it’s hard to imagine that whatever software the your son’s school needs him to run would require more than that. It’s even described as “perfect for the on-the-go lifestyle” because it’s light, so it should be designed to be carried around regularly.
If you want to be ever more sure that his needs will be covered, an ASUS X555UB has twice the RAM, twice the hard drive storage and the same processor and it will cost you $500. You shouldn’t have to spend thousands.
Having said that, the school should absolutely give you some basic idea of what they need you to buy or what they intend to use it for, otherwise you’ll always be guessing. You might even be able to get away with getting an inexpensive Chromebook if all they need is for him to get online. A Chromebook would be cheap and maintenance free.
Generally speaking, though, if a school is going to focus on web based curriculum and support Chromebooks, then they will tell you to buy a Chromebook–not a laptop. So we would be surprised to hear that a Chromebook would work in this situation. There must be some Windows apps in the mix somewhere, and that’s what’s driving the laptop vs. Chromebook decision.
Think of the backpack too…
We already recommended a couple good, affordable laptops to you, now let us recommend something else. A good backpack that is designed to carry your laptop. There are backpacks for $50 or $60 that are okay, but if you want one that is truly designed to protect the laptop when the bag is casually dropped on the ground, you’re going to need to spend more.
For around $150, the Ogio Renegade RSS Laptop/Tablet Backpack is an excellent choice. It handles laptops up to 15 inch screen size and its internal pocket suspends the laptop and protects it against drops. That’s important because a laptop that’s simply resting against the bottom of a backpack will still be damaged when the backpack is slung to the ground. We ARE talking about middle school students here, right?
If you live in an area with bad weather, you should also consider getting a waterproof bag. For $45, the CLELO Waterproof Laptop Backpack School Bag will protect against rain or snow. It does not protect the laptop as much as the Ogio backpack does, meaning that it uses padding and doesn’t suspend the laptop off the bottom of the backpack, but the CLELO does seem to have a decent amount of padding. You might consider putting the laptop into an inner sleeve also, to protect it further against drops.
We hope this advice helps you get your student well equipped!