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Best laptops for secondary school

Best laptops for secondary school
Thinking of investing in a laptop for your Year 7 child? We asked Y11 computing student Tom to test a few different secondary school laptop options so you can get the best model your budget allows and set your child up for efficient homework and remote learning (at the right price!).
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Best secondary school laptops: best budget option

Acer Chromebook 311

From £189.99

A fast, budget-friendly Chromebook which offers all the computing power most secondary students will need. "This was light but tough and apparently the moisture-resistant keyboard is designed to withstand spills (though I decided not to test that myself!). Because it's a Chromebook it runs the web-browser-based Chrome operating system instead of Windows or Mac OS, but this won't be a problem unless your child needs to work on applications offline," says Tom. (Most secondary school students use free online word-processing systems like Google Docs, but they are harder to use offline which could be an issue if your internet connection is not reliable.)

"In terms of homework and remote learning its performance is excellent and the battery can last up 10 hours on a charge. There's only one USB port, which isn't ideal if you want to plug in a wired mouse because you won't be able to use the port for anything else at the same time. It felt very sturdy which could be good for younger secondary school children. The built-in webcam in useful. This is not a machine for a gamer, but for school work it's great for the price." 

Best for upgrading your child's current device

If your child already has a tablet or iPad, consider buying a compatible Bluetooth keyboard to allow them to use it as a laptop.

There are lots of different keyboard options (the OMOTON 7-Color Backlit Rechargeable Ultra-Slim Wireless Bluetooth Keyboard for iPad, pictured here, is £16.99 and kids love the colours) but in general Bluetooth keyboards are light-weight, the built-in battery is efficient and they allow your child to access Google Classroom and other homework portals and work on documents. 

A low-cost, high-reward "hack"!

Best secondary school laptops: best for all-round value for money

Lenovo IdeaPad 3

From £289

An affordable, durable entry-level laptop that's perfect for secondary school day-to-day computing. "My first impressions were that this looks amazing and feels sturdy," says Tom. "Fast boot-up and download speed, fast charging and it has three USB-A ports, a HDMI-out port, a headphone jack and an SD card slot, so it's easy to add peripherals or gadgets. The battery life is only 3-4 hours, but I think most secondary students would be using this laptop at home so it's not a big issue. I liked the built-in webcam and the privacy shield and the keyboard feels great to type on. The mousepad is responsive, too. The screen colour and resolution could be better, but for homework, internet searching and watching TV or movies it's fine. I think this is fantastic value for money."

The IdeaPad 3 comes with Windows 10 in S mode enabled, which may offer extra peace of mind in terms of security for your child. S mode can be disabled if you want your child to have access to apps that aren't available in the Microsoft Store.

Best secondary school laptops: best two-in-one laptop + tablet

Acer Chromebook Spin 311

From £229

If your child is hoping to use the device you're investing in to binge-watch Netflix as well as do their homework, this is convertible laptop is a great way for them to do both (though good luck separating them from their favourite-ever possession!). The Chromebook Spin has 360-degree hinges so the keyboard and trackpad rotate around to the back of the display.

"I used this laptop for over a week and really liked it," says Tom. "It was easy to set up, really light and fast and the screen was excellent. It felt and looked a lot more expensive than it is. The battery life is 15 hours and the touchscreen is brilliant if you are using it as a tablet."

Best for educational access without the spend

If you're looking for ways for your child to access educational resources online without buying them their own device, don't forget that they might already have online access for gaming.

Both PlayStations and Xboxes can be used to access web-based applications such as Google Classroom and Microsoft Teams through the browser.

Click the image on the left for a step-by-step guide to using your child's games console for educational access.

You might also want to consider buying a second-hand, refurbished device for your child. Did you know that 155,000 tonnes of electrical waste are sent to landfill each year in the UK? Refurbished technology is given a new lease of life and can offer huge savings compared to buying new. Stores like CEX can be found on many UK high streets, or look at refurbishment specialists like Stone Refurb.