The best laptop for kids can be a challenge to find, after all a hand-me-down tablet or smartphone is probably more likely to be the first device your child gets to call their own. However, once they are of school age, that changes pretty quickly as computers are part of the curriculum at the earliest stages and it can be a big advantage for them to have some familiarity already.
Identifying what makes the best laptop for kids is a bit different than for most buyers due to their unique needs and perhaps slightly less careful handling of the laptop. That makes durability a higher priority than for most others and ideally, it shouldn't be too expensive either in case something should happen to it. Naturally, those don't pertain to every child, so we haven't eliminated any laptop that doesn't fit those criteria, but we did let them guide us. We've spent hours researching and reviewing the laptops on this list so we are confident that we've got the right one for your child — at least, after you make one big choice.
- The best Chromebooks in 2021
- The best laptops for remote learning in 2021
- The best cheap laptop deals in 2021
That one big decision is the operating system (OS) and, in most cases, you should probably go with Chrome OS. Google’s OS is easy to use, secure, and the most popular choice in schools today, so it should be familiar to kids and will help them to further excel in class. Modern Chromebooks, including those we have selected here also support Android apps and feature touchscreens, expanding the capabilities of these laptops and making them easier for kids to use. There are certainly some limitations to Chrome OS, for example, high-end gaming and video production are two categories that aren’t well served, still, a Chromebook is a great fit for most kids.
If you have a gamer on your hands or your child is interested in some more intensive tasks that require specific software, like videography, game development, music creation, or things along these lines, then Windows 10 or macOS laptops are going to be the better fit. For younger kids, these operating systems will typically be more than they need, but for older kids or teenagers who have started to explore these topics in school already, it can be worth it. In virtually all cases, we would recommend Windows 10 over macOS at this stage as there simply aren’t any truly affordable macOS laptops. And with the exception of app development for iOS or macOS, there is nothing that cannot be achieved on either OS.
Once you have determined which OS is right for your child the hard work is over. Here are the best laptops for kids based on our reviews — each of these is an excellent option for your child.
Dell has been producing small and durable laptops like the Chromebook 3189 for longer than anyone else on the market, and it shows. The MIL-SPEC certified laptop will handle basically anything a kid can do to it; it'll even hold up to getting drenched by an accidental beverage spill. Coupled with its $300 price, you won’t have to worry every time they are walking around the house with the laptop.
While the headphone/microphone jack will allow kids to plugin for the best possible audio experience, the speakers on this laptop are quite excellent considering its size, so when they don’t want to plug in, the audio will remain crisp and clear. The Dell Chromebook 3189 managed 9 hours and 9 minutes in our continuous web surfing over Wi-Fi battery testing, which was about an hour better than the category average and should be plenty to get most kids through the day.
For teenagers, the performance may come up a little short, but the Intel Celeron N3060 processor and 4GB of RAM is plenty to allow kids to stream video, do video chats with friends or for school, and make use of most Android apps.
See our full Dell Chromebook 3189 review.
The Asus Chromebook Flip C434 may at first seem expensive for a Chromebook, at over $500, but it is one of the best Chromebooks on the market. The advantage of this laptop is that it should easily stay with your kid through years of use as they will not outgrow its capabilities. The 14-inch touchscreen looks phenomenal and is an excellent match both for engrossing younger kids who are viewing more content while for older kids it allows for easy multitasking.
Support for Android apps is present and, with the more powerful Intel processor found in the Asus Chromebook Flip C434, there is no Android app or game that it won’t be able to handle. Unless your child needs some specific Windows 10 or macOS software, there simply isn’t a need to look beyond the Asus Chromebook Flip C434.
See our full Asus Chromebook Flip C434 review.
If you are trying to make up your mind between getting your child a tablet or a laptop, the Lenovo Chromebook Duet is an excellent middle ground choice with its detachable 10.1-inch touchscreen that will be easy for small hands to use. And, in a moment, the keyboard can be reattached to return back to laptop mode.
While the other Chromebooks can fold flat, they are obviously still bulky in that position due to the keyboard. With Android app support on the Lenovo Chromebook Duet, you are really getting two devices in one with a solid Android tablet and Chromebook experience. And while adults or teenagers may find the keyboard a bit cramped, elementary school kids in particular are going to find the keyboard to be exactly the right size for them.
Another bonus with the Lenovo Chromebook Duet is that, due to its tablet form factor, it features an 8MP rear camera, not something you are going to find on any other laptop. Kids love being able to snap photos and take little videos and this laptop will be miles better for those tasks than the webcam found on most notebooks. Finally, the battery life on the Lenovo Chromebook Duet is second to none at roughly 13 hours in our testing.
See our full Lenovo Chromebook Duet review.
The Google Pixelbook Go is one of the most premium Chromebooks on the market and while it's overkill for most kids, it's a great option for older children who don't need Windows or macOS. This laptop is thin and light enough to take anywhere and delivers fast performance that makes it an excellent laptop for years to come.
The battery life is similarly solid with 11 hours and 29 minutes in our testing, which should be enough to get most kids through at least a couple of days of use. The magnesium-alloy build and textured bottom of the laptop make it durable and easy to carry around.
The 13.3-inch 1080p touchscreen display on the Pixelbook Go is bright and colorful, particularly when compared to most other Chromebooks on the market. Our reviewer was disappointed with the speakers, but the headphone jack allows user to plug in when they need a better audio experience.
See our full Google Pixelbook Go review.
While the HP Envy x360 (2020) is on the pricier side when compared to most of the laptops on this list (with the exception of the MacBook Air), it would be a mistake not to include it. For older kids, this is just a flat-out exceptional laptop and a great value. That’s why you will also find it among our best 13-inch laptops and best college laptops.
The AMD 4000-series processor will run circles around any of the other laptops here, including the more expensive MacBook Air. If your kid is looking to do some light gaming or heavier content creation, like video editing on their laptop, this is going to serve them well.
Battery life is excellent at 11 hours and 52 minutes in our testing and the 13.3-inch touchscreen is bright, vivid and offers a crisp 1080p resolution. While it might not be durable enough for young kids, the aluminum construction should hold up well to the kind of occasional bumps that will still happen with older kids.
See our full HP Envy x360 13 (2020) review
If your kid has to have a MacBook due to either software needs or strong preference, then the MacBook Air is really the only logical choice. The hardware reliability with the keyboard is back up to Apple’s old standards with the move to the Magic keyboard, and the aluminum construction is as solid as ever.
While the $899 (with the education discount) starting price is outside of what we consider reasonable for a kid's laptop, with the new Apple M1 chip this laptop is worth it if you feel that macOS is the way you want to go. It outperforms most everything in its class and delivers endless battery life (14 hours and 41 minutes in our testing) which is nice for a kid that may not always remember to plug it in.
The webcam on the MacBook Air still isn't amazing, but it's a significant improvement over previous years and more important the mic and speakers are excellent so they'll be able to hear everything and be heard.
See our full MacBook Air (M1, 2020) review.
The HP Stream 11 is not perfect by any stretch of the imagination but for right around $200 it is an amazing deal and an excellent Windows laptop for kids. The two most significant trade-offs are that the screen is kind of washed out and the webcam is terrible, but depending on their usage, the former won’t bother many kids and the latter is true of many webcams on even expensive laptops.
The relatively tiny size (2.5 pounds with an 11.6-inch screen) of the HP Stream 11 makes it a great fit for kids. Naturally, the smaller overall size of the laptop dictates a smaller keyboard, but this shouldn’t be a problem for little fingers, and the key travel is quite nice according to our reviewer, so it should be a pleasant experience even for more adept young typists.
While it won’t be up for gaming like the HP Envy x360 13, the HP Stream 11 can handle a 1080p YouTube stream and a collection of browser tabs without an issue. Battery life is similarly impressive for the price at 9 hours and 19 minutes in our testing.
See our full HP Stream 11 review