Help Me, Laptop: I Need a Notebook for a 10-year-old

In the twenty-first century, even elementary schoolers need their own portable PCs, but most notebooks aren't appropriate for fourth graders. Forum user lobsterboy_47 is looking for a laptop to purchase for a 10-year-old and we have some advice.

Durability is Most Important

If you're shopping for a laptop for a child under 12, durability is extremely important because kids tend to drop things. You probably also don't want to spend a ton of money in case the laptop does fall on the floor and crack in half. Several education-focused laptops such as the Asus Chrome C202 and Lenovo Flex 11 Chromebook are designed to withstand drops that would smash most mainstream systems.

Screen Size: 11 Inches is Ideal

It's equally important to get a laptop that's small and light enough for someone with child-sized hands to carry. While you can get by with a 13-inch laptop, we strongly recommend choosing one with an 11.6-inch display instead. Definitely avoid anything with a screen that's 14 inches or larger.

Chrome OS or Windows?

Chromebooks, which run Google's browser-centric operating system, are extremely popular with parents and educators because they're easy to use and hard to infect with malware. However, if a kid needs to use a specific Windows application or wants to play games, they're out of luck with Chrome OS.

Windows 10 is also simple enough for kids and offers the ability to install millions of apps (a new kid-friendly version called Windows 10 S is rolling out too). Windows computers also work flawlessly with a huge library of peripherals and STEM kits that young students might use. However, there are few durable student PCs for Windows compared to the Chrome-based alternatives.

So, all of that said, what notebooks do we recommend for 10-year-olds today?

  • Asus Chromebook C202 (Buy): This $199 Chromebook doesn't have the sharpest screen or the most powerful CPU, but it can sure take a beating: We were able to drop it from nearly four feet onto concrete without it suffering permanent damage. It also has a surprisingly excellent keyboard that's on a par with those on the best adult notebooks.
  • Dell Chromebook 3189 (Buy): Dell's $329 Chromebook 2-in-1 can bend back into tablet or tent modes so children can easily prop it up on a desk or tap on it while standing up. When Chrome OS finally supports Android apps, this laptop should have no trouble running them. The 3189 lasts over 9 hours on a charge and is rated to survive 2.5-foot drops.
  • Dell Inspiron 11 3000 2-in-1 (Buy): Starting at $259, this attractive Windows 10 convertible has enough performance for younger students and comes in vibrant colors such as candy apple red and bright blue. Its lid bends back a full 360 degrees to change into tablet, tent or stand modes. However, it’s not designed to take as much abuse as the other notebooks here.
  • Lenovo ThinkPad 11e (Buy): Built to withstand drops from 2.9 feet, this rugged Windows 10 system should survive whatever your clumsy student or child can dish out. Rubberized bumpers and reinforced ports and hinges only make it stronger. Starting at $569, the 11e is a bit pricey but promises long battery life and a great keyboard to go with its durable design.
Avram Piltch
Online Editorial Director
The official Geeks Geek, as his weekly column is titled, Avram Piltch has guided the editorial and production of since 2007. With his technical knowledge and passion for testing, Avram programmed several of LAPTOP's real-world benchmarks, including the LAPTOP Battery Test. He holds a master's degree in English from NYU.