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Expert Shopper Electronics

Our tech expert shares why now is the best time to buy your back-to-school laptop

Expertly reviewed by Jaime Vazquez

Is now the best time to buy a back-to-school laptop?

When it comes to school shopping, laptops are just as important as pencils these days. Still, choosing the right one for your kid can be challenging. You’ll want to consider the device’s size, parental controls and computing power. Additionally, it’s essential to consider how your child will use it. We sat down with our tech expert, Jaime Vazquez, to better understand why now is the best time to buy a school laptop and what you need to know before buying.

What to consider before purchasing a back-to-school laptop

Why is now the best time to buy a back-to-school laptop?

In general, there isn’t a wrong time to buy a computer. You can find great deals throughout the year. Still, there are numerous reasons to consider buying one sooner rather than later.

According to Vazquez, “The supply chain is opening up, and the economy's future is uncertain. Right now, we have a solid number of high-end machines that people have been waiting for, resulting in solid discounts.”

Chromebooks vs. laptops 

Chromebooks are similar to traditional laptops but run on Google’s ChromeOS, an operating system that’s essentially a browser with local file storage. They’re often affordable, and there is a vast selection of Chromebooks available from numerous brands.

The biggest drawback to using a Chromebook is the lack of application capabilities. If you’re buying a device for a college student who needs to run video- or-photo-editing programs, a Chromebook isn’t the best choice.

When asked which is better for students, Vazquez said, “People used to think Chromebooks were underperformers because the initial hardware was underpowered. If you’re a parent who thinks of Chromebooks as a level above a speak-and-spell, think again. They’ve taken a huge leap in speed and power. Still, there is a subset of people who Chromebooks aren’t right for; the litmus test is, ‘can you do everything in a browser?’ If so, a Chromebook is an excellent choice.”

Parental controls

When buying a laptop for a child, you may want to consider parental controls. These controls often let you monitor your child’s online behavior and restrict certain websites. In many cases, parental controls have features for limiting screen time.

Thanks to Google's Family Link feature, Chromebooks tend to have better parental controls than traditional laptops. Family Link lets you view your child’s activity, restrict private browsing and automatically block a wide range of explicit sites.

When considering parental controls, adding a network filter to your Wi-Fi router is essential. Additionally, you’ll want to read the manual for your device to understand its parental-control features.

Laptops vs. tablets

In most cases, laptops are the best choice for students. They make it easier to take notes, tend to have more storage and integrate with schools’ tech environments more efficiently. Still, there are situations where a tablet is an ideal back-to-school device. For example, if you’re buying a device for an art major, tablets may provide the best experience. 

Still, it’s essential to consider your child’s preferences as well. Some students prefer writing over typing, and tablets often have apps that allow them to take notes with a stylus.

Screen size

Typically, 13-inch laptops provide the most value and durability. Still, larger laptops take up more backpack space and can be heavier. 11-inch models sacrifice screen real estate to save space; many can comfortably fit in a small backpack. 

According to Vazquez, “The student’s needs and preferences should be the guiding factor. The age of the student and durability needs of the laptop should be considered. You can always change the screen resolution, but most users will prefer 13-inch models.” 

Back-to-school laptops and Chromebooks our expert recommends

Lenovo Chromebook S330

This features a lightweight design that makes it easy to carry around campus. Its performance is ideal for most tasks, and its battery life is impressive. It features a 14-inch screen, 4 GB of random access memory and 64 GB of storage.

Sold by Amazon and Lenovo

ASUS Chromebook Flip CX5

The 360-degree hinge allows you to use this as a laptop or tablet. Although it is relatively expensive compared to other Chromebooks, it has a good central-processing unit and touchscreen capabilities. It has 8 GB of RAM, making it ideal for multitasking.

Sold by Amazon

2020 Apple MacBook Air

The Macbook Air is an excellent device for college students. It has top-notch multitasking and media capabilities. This option features a powerful processor and a vivid display. It’s slim and lightweight. The battery lasts up to 18 hours on a single charge.

Sold by Amazon

Lenovo Chromebook Flex 5

This features an HD display with touchscreen capabilities. You can use this option as a tablet or laptop. It has up to 10 hours of battery life on a single charge. The Lenovo Chromebook Flex 5 has two USB-C ports, one USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-A port and an audio jack.

Sold by Amazon

Acer Aspire 5

This affordable device has an impressive screen and a backlit keyboard. The processor is top-notch, and it features 8 GB of RAM. It has USB, USB-C and HDMI ports. The battery lasts around 11 hours when fully charged.

Sold by Amazon

Back-to-school laptop accessories recommended by our expert

Vaschy Leather Laptop Backpack

When buying a pricey device for your kid, it’s essential to make it easy for them to protect it. This bag features a canvas exterior with leather accents. It fits most laptops up to 15 inches and has a stylish design.

Sold by Amazon

Amazon Eero Mesh Wi-Fi Router

This router is easy to set up and has built-in network-level parental controls you can manage with your phone. It works as a standalone router but can be combined with other Eero routers to form a mesh Wi-Fi system. It has a sleek, compact design.

Sold by Amazon

Screen Mom Screen Cleaner Kit

Laptop screens get dirty quickly, especially those with touchscreen capabilities. This kit features everything you need to keep screens clean without scratches. 

Sold by Amazon


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Cody Stewart writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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