I'm starting to think that the best laptop for teenagers isn't a laptop any more, it's a tablet: the Windows Surface Tablet. You can get it with a cover that doubles as a keyboard. It is capable of everything you want your teen to do on their laptop, it's lighter than most laptops and you can use USB as well as Micro SD to connect with it.
Best laptops for teenagers 2014
Lightweight, sturdy and able to go online, that's the basic feature list of a back to school laptop for teens, so which laptop should you get?
Chromebook, Netbook, 13 inch laptop, Macbook or tablet / iPad?
What's the best laptop for your teen going back to school? I've done the research, so you don't have to!
When you're deciding to get a teenager a laptop, there are bascially four types of laptops you might end up getting, though there is some overlap in my categories here:
- The classic easy to carry around and good enough for email, wikipedia and typing laptop is the netbook. Netbooks are characterized by 9, 10 or 11 inch screens and low end hardware.
- The alternative to the netbook is the Chromebook: the Google laptop that does everything different: everything goes online.
- Personally I prefer a 13 inch laptop: not quite a netbook, and the hardware is just a tad bit better too. You can find a 13 inch laptop with a full featured Windows 7 operating system.
- If you or your teen is an Apple fan, they'll love getting a Macbook. They start at 11 inch.
- If you're considering buying your teen a netbook, they may be better off with an iPad or a Windows Tablet (when it comes out this winter).
More details below.
Remember that your teen still has a growing body: don't weigh them down with a laptop that is heavier than necessary. Do get them a good backpack to go with their laptop.
A netbook is still the most affordable option for your teen laptop.
The 10.1 inch Toshiba netbook shown here is less than 3 pounds, has a 250GB harddrive, and a Windows 7 Starter operating system. Windows starter is a decent minimal installation of Windows 7.
Unless your teen is a gamer or a techie, they'll likely be able to do everything they need to on this laptop: email, facebook, writing essays for school, check the internet for facts and opinions etc.
Since most teenagers are not very careful with their stuff, getting a higher end option may be a mistake.
This may be a comfort for the parent who worries that their teen will lose all their work by ruining their laptop AGAIN.
Fortunately, the current generation of Chromebooks CAN in fact be used to save and edit documents OFFLINE. That makes all the difference to my recommendation - after all, however handy it is to be able to work online, the internet simply isn't always available. Your teen should not be able to use internet access as an excuse to avoid their homework. Don't you agree?
The Chromebook is availabe on a monthly plan with your local mobile provider.
Do check whether your school has wifi all over, if not, your teen will need the 3G version.
3G = mobile internet through a mobile phone connection
Wifi = wireless internet you probably (depending on where you are) don't need to pay for.
This Chromebook is 2.4 pounds.
Google Chromebook: recommended for your teen going back to school
While things are moving into the cloud more and more, your teen will still need to store their papers and research on their laptop / device
|HP 14-q070nr 14-Inch Chromebook (free T-Mobile 4G)|
13 inch laptop
Compared to a netbook, a 13 inch laptop is going to be just a bit better equipped in terms of both hardware and software.
A netbook will never come with a built in DVD player, where a 13 inch laptop may or may not have one.
A netbook will come with Windows 7 starter edition, a 13 inch laptop will have the full home edition, perhaps even the 64 bit Windows 7 edition.
A good 13 inch laptop can be as fast as your average desktop - in fact that's what I use my 13 inch laptop for.
Give your teen girl or guy one of these and they won't be bothering you at your PC any more.
This Samsung 13 Inch Laptop weighs only
Light and fast: this Samsung Ultrabook is just what I need.
|Samsung Series 5 NP530U3C-A01US 13.3-Inch (Light Titan)|
Whether you get your teen a Macbook Pro or a Macbook Air, they'll be the envy of the school
We're now very much in high end laptop territory. In fact, these are the most expensive laptops I'll cover, because I'm not going to go into gaming laptop territory.
The Macbook Air is, as the name suggests, made to be carried around. Like most smaller laptops it does not have a DVD player, but otherwise it's loaded with the best hardware you could wish.
Get your teen a Macbook Air 11 inch and they get a high quality, fast and safe laptop that is also lightweight and not too much of a strain on their growing spine.
|Apple MacBook Air MD223LL/A 11.6-Inch Laptop (NEWEST VERSION)|
The 11 inch Macbook Air is only 2.3 pounds, so it's really almost a netbook.
However, unlike your average netbook, this laptop has fast processors and a decent size hard drive. In short: the 11 inch Macbook Air has the advantages of a netbook (light) but none of the disadvantages.
The Macbook Air is also available in a 13 inch variation.
The Macbook Pro starts at 13 inch and goes all the way up to 15 inch. The 13 inch version weighs in at 4.4 pounds, which makes this the heaviest laptop on this page. Not perhaps the best laptop to weigh down your teenagers growing back with.
However, it does have a DVD player and a lot of calculating power.
Do consider a Microsoft Surface Windows Tablet as a laptop replacement for your teen
Though they may need a bluetooth keyboard to do their homework on there
|Microsoft Surface with Windows RT 32 ...||Apple iPad MD328LL/A (16GB, Wi-Fi, Wh...||Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 (32GB, Deep ...|
Tablet instead of laptop?
Well, yes - tablets are the future, after all...
An iPad or Android Tablet can do everything most high school students need to be able to do on their laptop:
- Online research
The iPad starts up faster than most laptops, so it's actually better for online research.
- Reading their school literature
Because it's smaller an iPad works way better as an e-reader than any laptop could. I read loads of PDFs on my iPad.
- Typing school reports and essays
This is where it does get a bit tricky. Nothing like a physical keyboard for longer typing sessions. However, with an external keyboard that problem is gone for good.
- Taking notes in class
With that faster start up time, an iPad may be better for taking notes in class than a laptop is. But there is still a lot to be said for pen and paper as well. This one really depends on the teen, and on the presence of wifi at school (or your willingness to pay for a 3G connection).
- Teen proof
No joke: the iPad is so simple in it's design that it's seriously difficult to break. I had an iPad and a smart phone in a tent this summer. The smart phone got into trouble because of the moist (it rained a lot, though the tent stayed dry, the air was saturated), but the iPad kept on going.
- Better battery life
What laptop is going to beat 10 hours of computing without plugging in?
Remember that weight issue I started out with? Well, an iPad weighs only 1.4 pounds. A netbook may compete, but it's actually likely to be slower. Laptops are, by definition, heavier than that. The lightest you'll find is about 3 pounds.
A Microsoft Surface Tablet is even better: you can type on the screen cover and work on Excel files as well as MS Office files with ease.
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