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9 best laptops for kids that have good storage, battery life and speed

David Phelan
It's worth checking with your child's school to make sure there's no requirement for particular programs or operating system: The Independent/iStock

As with any computer purchase, the best prep you can do when choosing a laptop for children is to work out exactly what it will be used for. And in this case, what you want it to be for, as well as what your child wants. Is it just for educational purposes or are you happy for them to play games and watch movies, too?

Laptops use operating systems like Microsoft Windows, Google’s Chrome OS and Apple’s macOS. Windows is the most common, working with the most applications, Chrome laptops are usually especially cheap but have an operating system with fewer applications, often with access to the same Android apps found on smartphones.

Although they still work best when connected to the internet, there is enormous offline versatility, too. Apple’s macOS is the most intuitive, but its hardware is not cheap.

It’s worth checking with your child’s school to make sure there’s no requirement for particular programs or operating systems. Screen size is the most immediate way to interact with a laptop, and if your child is planning on watching movies as well as doing homework, then a bigger screen is better.

You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps us to fund journalism across The Independent.

Microsoft Surface Go: £379, Currys PC World

Screen size: 10in​
Storage: 64GB​
Operating system: Windows 10 in S mode

This lightweight but effective tablet can be combined with a type cover (£124.99) to create a completely effective but still super-portable laptop. A mouse and stylus are also available. The tablet has a useful kickstand that folds out of the back to hold it steady in your chosen position. Build quality is exceptional, only bettered by the much pricier MacBook Air below. Battery life is strong, too.

Although it’s primarily a tablet, it runs full Windows, though note that this arrives in S mode, which means it only uses programs available through the Microsoft store, rather than third-party apps from elsewhere. You can switch out of this, but once you have done so, you can’t go back. Windows remains the choice for many schools and continues to offer the widest range of mainstream programs.

Buy now

Apple MacBook Air: £1,099, John Lewis & Partners

Screen size: 13.3in
Storage: 128GB​
Operating system: macOS

It’s hard to overstate how handsome and effective this laptop is. Oh, and it’s super-thin and preposterously light, so it won’t weigh down the school bag. The display is high-resolution, the keyboard is very comfortable – easily the best on test – and the battery life is way more than a full school day. It’s not cheap, of course, but actually still represents good value thanks to the cutting-edge components inside.

It has a lot of neat extras such as a fingerprint sensor so you don’t need to remember a password. Note that this sensor can also authorise payments so it’s wise for parents to ensure their credit cards are not linked to the child’s fingerprint! Be warned: buy this and your child may not take kindly to another computer later – it’s like flying them business class.

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HP 11-v001na Chromebook: £179.99, Argos

Screen size: 11.6in
Storage: 16GB​
Operating system: Chrome OS

The display here is small, just 11.6in, but that adds to the portability of the HP Chromebook. It’s tremendous value, too. This model is especially suitable for children because the keyboard, though potentially cramped of adult hands is a good fit for smaller fingers. The storage on board is minimal – especially when you take into account what’s required by the Chrome OS, though at least that’s smaller than the space Windows would use on a Microsoft laptop. But this is a speedy performer that works well. It’s worth investing in a microSD memory card which will fit the card reader socket, to bulk up the space at your disposal.

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Lenovo Ideapad S130-11IGM: £199.99, John Lewis & Partners

Screen size: 11.6in
Storage: 64GB​
Operating system: Windows 10

If you’re after something small and light for your child that runs on Windows and not Chrome, then Lenovo’s ideapad is a great option. It weighs just a little over 1kg and lasts for a full school day on one charge. The display is small, at 11.6in, but perfectly usable. It also has greater storage (64GB) than many laptops in this price range and enough RAM to make it fast and effective. It’s a decent performer unless you start taxing it with heavy multi-tasking. Like the HP above, the small keyboard is better suited to smaller hands than a grown-up’s, which obviously isn’t an issue here. It looks reasonably stylish too as it’s thin and well-designed.

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Acer Chromebook 514 CB514-1HT: £279.99, Acer

Screen size: 14in​
Storage: 32GB​
Operating system: Chrome OS

The aluminium chassis here is solid and lightweight, making it a resilient laptop that will be easily portable. The 14in display is big enough to satisfy most kids, whether it’s so that multiple documents or programs can be viewed at the same time or to stream a movie (it’s a full HD resolution). This model has a touchscreen, which is useful, though it’s also available for less without it, and you can choose one with a lower-resolution display. The keyboard is responsive and easy to use, and is even backlit, which is handy for typing in a dimly lit bedroom, for instance.

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Microsoft Surface Laptop 3: From £899, Microsoft

Screen size: 13.5in or 15in​
Storage: 128GB​
Operating system: Windows 10

This laptop is Microsoft hardware at its best, with a slick design, range of colours and solid power. The feel and look are tremendous and because it’s built by the company that makes the Windows software that runs it, everything works smoothly and fast. The keyboard is very comfortable and battery is outstanding – easily a full day. Like the other surface model above, build quality is tremendous, too. This is a solid, effective and highly enjoyable laptop for all ages. Note that Microsoft offers a 10 per cent discount to students and parents on selected products.

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Lenovo S330 81JW000BUK Chromebook: £219.99, John Lewis & Partners

Screen size: 14in​
Storage: 32GB​
Operating system: Chrome OS

The Lenovo stands out because it has a bigger display (14in) than might be expected at this price, and despite the extra size it’s still lightweight and easily portable. Because it uses Chrome it has access to Android apps, as found on smartphones and tablets, and currently offers free access to Microsoft office apps like Excel and Word. This model also has decent build quality which will survive a young user’s most heavy-handed efforts.

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Asus vivobook E406: £199.99, Argos

Screen size: 14in​
Storage: 64GB​
Operating system: Windows 10

Strong specifications mean this highly affordable laptop is a great choice. It also offers a larger display than many here (14in) and excellent battery life. At up to 10 hours it should mean there’s enough power for the school commute as well as a full day. Storage is also good, and there’s a memory card reader so you could store movies and other bigger files there. Build quality is adequate rather than exceptional, but enough to survive a young user’s less-than-delicate pounding.

Buy now

Apple iPad: £299, John Lewis & Partners

Screen size: 10.2in
Storage: 32GB​
Operating system: Apple iPadOS

Yes, this is a tablet and not a laptop, but before you stop reading, if you add the excellent Apple Smart Keyboard (£159), the latest iPad software means it’s a highly competent alternative. Compatibility with the keyboard arrived for this entry-level tablet in the last few months, along with a larger display (10.2in). The iPadOS system has been enhanced in the last year or so to offer multi-tasking, clever file storage and more.

Since September, the entry-level iPad has been completely upgraded to offer an experience very similar to a regular laptop. The million-plus apps that are optimised for the iPad give real versatility and school essentials like Microsoft Word are available, too. The touchscreen is also compatible with the Apple pencil stylus. Apple’s security, ease-of-use, build quality and good-looking design are second to none.

Buy now

The verdict: Laptops for kids

For Windows machines, we’d opt for Microsoft’s Surface range, such as the Surface Go: its immaculate build quality and reliability make it the best buy here. Other favourites include the HP 11-v001na Chromebook or Apple iPad and Smart Keyboard as they are comfortable for smaller hands.

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