Once upon a time, must-have school supplies were things like ball point pens, pencils, notebooks, and maybe a really expensive item like (gasp!) a calculator. My how times have changed. Now a tablet or laptop is a standard item for students from elementary school all the way through graduate school!
What used to seem like a luxury is now the workhouse of learning, powering everything from simple math lessons to complex research projects and multimedia presentations. So selecting the right tech requires some homework. And since I just went through the process of educating myself on the ins and outs of laptops and tablets before I bought one for my college-bound daughter, I’m here to share some of the critical parameters with you.
First, look for at least 4 GB of memory (also called RAM)—it’s what helps your computer run fast even when you are multi-tasking. For storage, look for SSD, a.k.a. solid-state drive, which runs faster than a traditional hard drive. Battery life is also important. Look for laptops and tablets that can go without a charge for at least eight hours, which is long enough to get most students through the school day. And when comparing similar products, go for the one that weighs the least. Those backpacks they carry are heavy enough already! We’ve rounded up six great options so you are sure to find one that fits your student just right.
Asus ZenBook UX330UA
This Asus laptop may represent the sweet spot in form, function, and cost. Name a feature, and it’s likely in there: backlit keyboard; 10+ hours of battery time; 256GB SSD hard drive; Intel CoreI5 processor; fingerprint reader with one-touch login; and lightweight (just 2.7 pounds). And at less than $700 you can feel very smart sending your son or daughter to class with this all-purpose powerhouse!
Acer Chromebook 11
If value is a top priority, look no further than this chromebook from Acer. Instead of using a standard operating system like Windows 10, chromebooks use Google’s Chrome OS so most applications and documents live in the cloud. That’s why this one only has 16GB of storage. Nowadays many schools are using Google’s web-based office suite (Docs, Sheets, Slides, etc) so this may be a perfect fit for your student. It still comes with all the other features you’d want—HD webcam, Intel HD graphics, two speakers, and nine hours of battery life. And it weighs less than two pounds.
Samsung Galaxy Tab S3
Use the included S Pen stylus to type on the screen, or add the keyboard (sold separately) that attaches on contact and auto-pairs. In addition to offering the features of a standard laptop, this tablet also has a 13-megapixel rear camera that takes beautiful photos. The screen is incredibly clear and with four speakers, it’s a great option for watching videos and movies.
Apple MacBook Air
If you’re an Apple aficionado, this is one of their newest laptops. It has a 13.3-inch screen, 8GB of memory, a fifth-generation Intel Core processor, and the latest Mac operating system. The battery can last an amazing 12 hours between charges (from morning classes through nighttime movie watching!). And of course it has all the other features Apple is known for—a bright, beautiful display, fast processing speed, and sleek, lightweight design.
Microsoft Surface Pro 4
Here’s a 2-in-1 that rivals many traditional laptops, with an Intel Core i5 processor, 4 GB of memory, 128 GB SSD hard drive, and 12.3-inch screen. But it packs all that power into a super lightweight—just 1.73 pounds—compact design that can easily slide into a purse or backpack. Use the Surface Pen to take notes on the screen or purchase the keyboard for more complex writing projects.
Lenovo ThinkPad T450s
If the thought of giving your son or daughter a delicate piece of expensive equipment seems absurd, this laptop from Lenovo may give you some peace of mind: it’s been tested to military specifications for ruggedness and durability. That means it can withstand humidity, vibration, high and low temperatures, dust, fungus (eww!) and the keyboard is spill-proof. It’s also got feature such as an Intel Core i5 processor, 8 GB of memory and a 180 GB SSD hard drive.
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