Best laptop for school: ‘I’m the parent of a teen and here’s how we chose his laptop’

Is it possible to find a great deal on the best laptop for school this Black Friday? One mum is on the hunt…

best laptop for school
(Image credit: Future)

Finding the best laptop for school can make buying for tween boys a bit easier, and with all the Black Friday deals around there’s got to be something that's perfect. One mum, Jayne Cherrington-Cook, shares her experience of finding the best laptop for school for her 12-year-old son and how she found the best deal. 

The tween stage is tricky. They’re too old for toys, but a bit too young to appreciate cool clothes and trainers. One thing they do love though is technology. My son Milo is tech-obsessed. If he’s not on his phone making videos, he’s playing FIFA 23 on his PlayStation. However, when it comes to Christmas gifts, this year, he pretty much has everything he needs. Or so I thought…

Finding the best laptop for school

Last night, after hearing a series of dramatic sighs coming from my son’s room, I went to investigate. Seemed my 12-year-old MacBook Air, which Milo uses for homework and streaming, had finally given up the ghost mid-way through a science test. Not ideal, however, that elusive Christmas gift now seemed within reach.

The boy lit up with joy when I mentioned it as a possible present and immediately began sending me links to gaming PCs that light up and cost a fortune! I quickly call a friend of a friend who builds them to see what price we’d be looking at. Thousands it seems, plus thanks to a shortage of high-quality gaming chips in China, there’s also a huge waiting list. I say a little prayer to the gods of Christmas that my son no longer believes in Santa as I didn’t fancy having to lie through my teeth about how the elves weren’t technical enough to create such a machine, when in reality the cost of living crisis means it’s way out of my price range.

After further discussion, where we talk about desktop computers verses laptops, we decide to search for the best laptop for school. Milo likes to watch his favourite niche anime shows in bed, and the portability of a laptop means he can also do his homework wherever he fancies.

Job done. Or so I thought. Have you ever googled ‘best laptop for a 12-year-old’? Don’t. You’ll get an overwhelming 628,000,000 results, which talk about CPUs, RAM and screen resolution, but don’t answer the question of will this be good for homework, streaming and some light gaming? I’m a techy as well — my whole family all know that I’m the official IT department — but even I struggle to grasp what is going to work best for my child.

So, I reach out to an expert. Abdul Rahim has a Masters in Computer Applications and is the CEO of Software Test Tips. When I approach him about where to start on my search, his response surprises me somewhat — there’s no mention of RAM, but instead he talks about going back to basics and working out my son’s ability.

“Children this age are still in the developmental stage, meaning they need laptops that are easy to use and have plenty of features,” he tells me. 

“They will also want a lightweight and durable computer so they can take it with them wherever they go.”

I’m also thinking about longevity. Sadly, we do live in a world where children need laptops at secondary school. Some schools provide these, my son’s does not, however, so much of what they need to do at home requires a device. Homework is set on Teams, tests are taken on various websites and many, many files are downloaded to view on screen. This is only going to increase over time, so Abdul tells me to make sure to buy a laptop with a larger screen.

“The screen’s resolution should preferably be at least 1920 x 1080 pixels, so as to not experience pixelation later on in life,” he says. 

Abdul’s recommendation is the Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 2, as it’s light, has a long battery life and is ideal for school and fun. 

Depending on screen size, these start at £389 and go up to almost £800, so I start wondering whether buying an expensive one is really worth it, especially as Abdul tells me the life of a laptop is between 3 to 5 years. This means it may not even last Milo his entire time at school!

The best Microsoft laptop Black Friday deals 2022: 

MICROSOFT 10.5" Surface Go 3:   WAS £369

MICROSOFT 10.5" Surface Go 3:  WAS £369, NOW £349, SAVE 5.4% | Currys 

Combines an ultra-light portable tablet with all the performance of a laptop, it's perfect for working, creating and editing wherever you are.  Has 11 hours of battery life and a HD touchscreen.

MICROSOFT Surface Pro X:   WAS £829

MICROSOFT Surface Pro X:  WAS £829, NOW £659, SAVE 20% | Microsoft

The perfect laptop for those on the go, weighing in at just 1.7 pounds. It comes with a detachable keyboard and charging plus optional Gigabit 4G and all-day battery life. It can also be used with a pen. 

MICROSOFT 13.5" Surface Laptop: WAS £999

MICROSOFT 13.5" Surface Laptop: WAS £999, NOW £749, SAVE 25% | Amazon

A bigger screen is great for doing more detailed work or streaming your favourite show, all of which this 13.5" screen size. It's still super light and can be used as a touchscreen as well. 

Time to get one more final opinion and this time, it’s from the horse’s mouth — well, actually the teen’s mouth, a friend’s son who, at 16, can give me some insight into what’s worked for him.

He has an Asus E210, which comes in well under the £150 mark. It’s been fine, he says, for schoolwork and streaming, but not much more. However, he doesn’t think we should be splashing the cash, as he says operating systems and technology change so much that laptops can become obsolete quite quickly.

He’s right. One of the main problems with my ancient MacBook is that it can no longer be updated to the latest software, which means some apps don’t work anymore, an extremely frustrating issue when you’re 12 and just want to play a game!

Abdul says that while expensive is not always better when buying the best laptop for school, there are often reasons for a higher price tag on products.

“It may be better materials or software,” he says. “Keep in mind that it’s a costly device and you need to make sure that the features you want are covered in the laptop’s price range.”

The best budget laptop Black Friday deals 2022: 

ASUS E210MA 11.6" Laptop:   WAS £159

ASUS E210MA 11.6" Laptop:  WAS £159, NOW £99, SAVE 20% | Currys

Proving that basic isn't always bad, this ASUS laptop is perfect for school work, streaming and general web browsing. It also comes with Office 365 Personal for a year. 

Acer Spin 311 11.6" Chromebook Laptop: WAS £280

Acer Spin 311 11.6" Chromebook Laptop: WAS £280, NOW £179, SAVE 36% | AO

It is possible to get a  360° design for cheap as this Acer model shows. Not only can it be used as a laptop and tablet, but it also has an impressive 16 hours of battery life. 

Lenovo IdeaPad 5i Chromebook: WAS £449

Lenovo IdeaPad 5i Chromebook: WAS £449, NOW £279, SAVE 38% | Amazon

With a good sized screen, which is also a touchscreen, this is a great all-rounder laptop, perfect for work, play or school. Also comes with a good amount of storage so great for saving those precious photos.

Finally, I decide to go to the tween and chat about what he really wants from this dream gift, after all, he’s the one who’s going to be using it. Once we’ve established that laptops don’t come with flashing LED lights, he tells me he wants it to be easy to use, not lag (which is a delay between the user doing something and the computer reacting to it), able to run the right software he needs to edit videos and make music, and has a touch screen. 

The last bit is actually a surprise to me, but then I remember this is a kid who’s grown up with touch screens. As he’s autistic, he does also struggle with keys and typing, so if he can do things quickly via the screen, it’s likely to make doing his homework easier and cause less sensory meltdowns. 

Taking this all on board, I do a bit more research online before deciding upon my final choice – the Galaxy Book 2 360, one of the newest additions to their computing range. It’s definitely not what I thought I was going to get, but I love the 2-in-1 design, which means Milo can use it as a laptop or as a tablet, something which he is much happier using. 

Best laptop for school: Galaxy 360 tablet

(Image credit: Future)

The HD screen means he can also watch his favourite shows in top notch quality, while it very much seems to have all the tech specs to ensure it keeps up with him! The Intel® Core™ i5 processor allows it to have lots of tabs or apps open without slowing down and the 8GB of RAM means none of that dreaded lag, which Milo gets very frustrated with on my old laptop.. Turns out, it may also be more than OK for him to play his beloved Minecraft on so that’s another box ticked!

It’s also super lightweight and really compact so can easily fit into a school rucksack, if needs be — even the plug is super dinky, which is great if you need to carry it around with you. One of the major deciding factors with my somewhat clumsy son though, was it’s super durable and can withstand the inevitable knocks and bumps from having a 12-year-old boy as owner.

It also shares similar styling with the MacBook, which my son is used to. The keys only need a light touch and it looks super sleek and very stylish.

Thankfully for Milo, the Black Friday deals mean we can actually afford it as this beauty normally retails starting at £999, well out of our price range. Curry’s comes to the rescue, with a whopping £400 off. The official Samsung site has £100 off the price, however, they are running a special price promise this November, where if you do buy it from them and then find it cheaper at selected online retailers, they’ll return the difference.

The best Samsung Galaxy Book 2 Black Friday deal 2022: 

SAMSUNG Galaxy Book2 360 13.3" 2 in 1 Laptop: WAS £449, NOW £279, SAVE 37% | Currys
The 360° rotating hinge lets you use the Galaxy Book2 as a laptop, a tablet or anything in-between - which is great for kids who love a touchscreen. As well as looking good, it works well with a Intel® Core™ i5 processor that will ensure you can work lag-free. 

SAMSUNG Galaxy Book2 360 13.3" 2 in 1 Laptop: WAS £449, NOW £279, SAVE 37% | Currys

The 360° rotating hinge lets you use the Galaxy Book2 as a laptop, a tablet or anything in-between - which is great for kids who love a touchscreen. As well as looking good, it works well with a Intel® Core™ i5 processor that will ensure you can work lag-free. 

Job done. I feel happy that I’ve got the best laptop for school - one that will not only fulfil Milo’s requirements, but that will also last a bit longer than the cheaper option I was originally going for. The fact that it’s also a snazzy tablet come laptop, will bring Milo lots of delight. I’ve also bought a special stylus that works with the laptop, so Milo, an aspiring and very talented artist, can start to create some digital artwork, something I know he will love. Now, all that's left to do is wrap it ready for Christmas day... 

Packing away the best laptop for school

(Image credit: Future)

Tips to bag the best laptop for school

  • Research, research and research. Narrowing it down really helps you grab a deal rather than buying something that’s heavily discounted, but not right for you child.
  • Create a Google Alert. If you know what make or model of laptop you want, of course. You’ll then get sent any mentions of it, which at the moment, includes all the Black Friday deals available.
  • Use an independent site like Price Runner to keep up tod ate of all the deals available. You can also see what the products went for previously to see if you’re really getting a good deal or not.
  • Check out price match promises. Samsung’ and other retailers will sometimes have these where you can get a refund on products if you’ve found them cheaper elsewhere.
  • Create wish lists. If you’ve found your dream product, and you’ve got an account with that website, create a wish list with those favoured items in there. That way, you’re not wasting time searching for it when the deals drop. It also means you can go in and check the prices regularly.

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Jayne Cherrington-Cook
Family Writer

With over 22 years’ experience in journalism, she’s written about a variety of subjects and is just as at home interviewing A-list stars as she is testing nappies. Having started her career writing about Pokémon, ponies and wrestling, Jayne moved into the world of film journalism, where she spent the next eight years pinching herself while she got paid to interview Hollywood film stars and attend premieres. Since then, she’s launched websites for major magazines, worked with top brands such as Westfield, LK Bennett and Hunter, and had her own tech column in Women’s Own.