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Why a Chromebook might be the smartest laptop choice for kids

Why a Chromebook might be the smartest laptop choice for kids

Not all kids’ laptops are Chromebooks, but all Chromebooks are good for kids. These cloud-based devices have security features that most antivirus software can’t even achieve — plus, they’re usually ultra-portable and super cute. Here are the best ones for kids of all ages.

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The assumption that Chromebooks are specifically kids laptops makes sense. They’re typically smaller and more lightweight than traditional laptops, and can hold up well against drops or spills. They usually don’t have fast processors, 4K screens, or many other high-end specs that kids just don’t need, which slashes the price big time.

But there’s a more serious aspect that makes Chromebooks a no-brainer for cautious parents: They’re some of the most secure devices on the market. On top of traditional “stranger danger” worries, parents are likely concerned about their family’s data getting into the wrong hands.

Actually, parent or not, every paranoid internet user should have a Chromebook. Don’t @ us. 

The most obvious reason is that Chromebooks are cloud-based. Almost anything you do is automatically backed up on Google Drive, so you won’t lose all of your files if your Chromebook breaks — or if your kid forgets to save a school paper. Updates are automatic as well.

SEE ALSO: Which tablet to buy for your kid: These are the best right now

Google’s Chrome OS is a hardcore bodyguard in itself. Every web page or Chrome app runs its own sandbox, essentially ensuring that other parts of the computer won’t be compromised even if that page gets hacked or “infected.” However, a Chromebook probably won’t get a virus: Most malware is designed for Windows or Mac and ignore Google’s OS (for now). If something sketchy were to happen, the threat can be wiped out by closing the page or reverting to factory settings. These security features are a huge part of why nearly three out of every five machines in schools use Chrome OS.

Monitoring kids’ usage on the cloud can’t be done with downloadable parental control software. The easiest way to set limits is to take advantage of your router’s parental control features (Google Nest and Eero are great) or invest in a filter for your home network, like Circle with Disney. These let you manage things like screen time and blocked sites on every device connected to your home WiFi. Upon setup, it’s suggested that parents be the first person to create an account. The first account to log in is seen as the “owner” of the Chromebook, and the owner is who gets to control the settings on other accounts.

How to choose the right Chromebook for your kid

Some Chromebooks are lightweight and some are bricks. Younger kids will probably do better with compact laptops with military-grade durability that can handle a drop from the table.

Storage isn’t a huge deal when most everything is stored in the cloud. (Google Drive comes with 15GB for free.) However, if your kid will be downloading something like textbooks, you might consider a Chromebook with more storage or with an SD card slot to expand storage. Most have 32GB, basic models have 16GB, and nicer models stretch to 64GB.

If your kid uses Microsoft Office for school, you’ll need a Chromebook that can run Android apps from the Google Play Store. Most are Android-compatible, but some fumble with non-Chrome apps.

Chromebooks for entertainment versus Chromebooks for actual work

No one is buying a Chromebook to use power-sucking software like Photoshop. That means that Chromebooks don’t need a lot of RAM, which is what determines how many tasks your computer can keep track of at once. But even with the draining apps reserved for MacBooks out of the picture, Chromebooks still aren’t one-size-fits-all when it comes to daily tasks. When is it time to bypass the average Chromebook 4GB RAM for 8GB or 16GB?

Kids using a Chromebook primarily for media consumption — streaming Disney+ or Youtube, playing games, or using light educational programs — could easily scoot by with 4GB, which is more than capable enough to handle anything that’s not super involved when it comes to data or graphics.

Bumping up to a beast like the Google Pixelbook Go or Slate and their 8 or 16GB RAM is the wise move if your kid is regularly using the Chromebook for more than entertainment purposes. We’re talking demanding programs like statistics software or storage of huge textbooks — any heavy-duty stuff outside of the Microsoft Word or Google Docs realm. Bigger workloads require more RAM to allow the computer to operate smoothly and avoid the ominous frozen screen. Such desktop-esque models are also more likely to have juicier displays and processors, more versatile ports and memory card slots, and backlit keyboards.

Here are the best Chromebooks for kids in 2021:


Boots up in 10 seconds or less • Super lightweight • Compact keyboard for small hands • Comes with a free one-year trial of Google One • One of the only decent Chromebook tablets on the market

Only one port (USB-C) • No headphone jack

A surprisingly capable Chromebook for the price that’s safe to carry around.

Lenovo Chromebook Duet

Lenovo’s true detachable Chromebook has impressive specs for its price, and you don’t need to buy a separate keyboard.

  • Battery life:
    10 hours
  • Weight:
    2.03 pounds total (0.99 pounds without keyboard)
  • Display:
    1920 x 1200
  • RAM:
    4GB
  • Storage:
    128GB
If it feels like someone’s always hogging the family desktop, it wouldn’t hurt to grab a laptop specifically for homework time. Enter: the , a remarkably lightweight 2-in-1 laptop with a solid general-purpose processor, a built-in kickstand, and a compact, detachable keyboard that’s perfect for small hands. (Many laptop-tablet hybrids don’t come with their own keyboards — see: the and its separate — making the Chromebook Duet a stellar value at under $300.) Its 10.1-inch touchscreen display is also compatible with Universal Stylus Initiative (USI) pens for drawing and doodling, but you’ll have to buy one of those separately. 
The really great thing about the Chromebook Duet is that it comes with a free one-year trial of Google One on top of 128GB of internal memory. (That alone is a ton of storage for a Chromebook.) That’ll get you an additional 100GB of cloud storage for assignments, essays, study guides, and notes. 

SSD over eMMC storage • Acer VertiView display is super sharp • 3:2 aspect ratio looks stunning

No stylus included, but is compatible with some separate pens • Not super lightweight

Acer Chromebook Spin 713

glorious hi-res with unique aspect ratio that blows competitiors out of the water

  • Weight:
    3.02 pounds
  • Display:
    2256 x 1504

Of the million 2-in-1 iterations with near-indistinguishable differences the Chromebook market has to offer, tech publishers have been able to agree that one beats the rest: Acer’s Chromebook Spin 713. 
This particular Spin model sets itself apart with a rare 3:2 aspect ratio (a small layout change known as a productivity boost) and crisp VertiView display, which makes colors pop and tiny words legible. A laptop over three pounds might be a struggle for some youngsters, but it’s an expected weight jump for 13.5-inch screen.
The of an included stylus is annoying for a price point like this. But it hasn’t been enough to squash the internet’s love for this Chromebook, especially because it is technically compatible with a few USI pens. 


Great with Android apps • Terrific battery life • A breeze to carry around • Keys are well-spaced and comfortable • Great choice for internet safety while studying abroad

Touchscreen with no 360-degree hinge is odd

Google found a way to revamp the Pixelbook by adding a faster processor and *really* satisfying keyboard.

Google Pixelbook Go

Arguably the best bang for your buck on the market, the Pixelbook Go is lightweight and a total powerhouse.

  • Battery life:
    Up to 12 hours
  • Weight:
    2.2 pounds
  • Display:
    1920 x 1080 touchscreen
  • RAM:
    8GB
  • Storage:
    64GB eMMC
The world has its share of Chromebook non-believers. The sluggish plastic ones aren’t changing any minds, but Google’s Pixelbook Go will. Under the hood, features like an 8th gen i5 processor (the same CPU that powers the 2018 MacBook Air) and up to 16 GB of RAM give the Pixelbook Go significantly more oomph than casual Chromebooks.
The Samsung Galaxy Chromebook is the only sensible competition here. But let’s be real: kids (and most adults) don’t need that 4K screen or that much power, especially for Samsung’s $1,000 price tag. The Pixelbook Go is certainly beastly enough for school projects and running multiple energy-sucking apps at once.
Google opted out of the 360-degree hinge, but tech bloggers agree that the traditional notebook design feels sturdier and more professional. The rounded corners and muted colors scream ~maturity.~

Frequently on sale for $349.99 • Selfie camera • Built-in battery-free stylus • Two USB ports and a microSD slot • New Intel processor offers speed boost

Too expensive when it’s not on sale • Keyboard isn’t backlit • No HDMI

It’s compact and comes with a stylus that never needs to charge, so kids are set while traveling.

Samsung Chromebook Plus V2

The included battery-free pen will be a game changer for school and creative projects alike.

  • Battery life:
    9.5 hours
  • Weight:
    2.98 pounds
  • Display:
    1920 x 1200
  • RAM:
    4 GB
  • Storage:
    32GB eMMC
Foldable Chromebooks with stylus support are solid outlets for creativity. There’s just something fun about paperless writing or drawing, whether that’s designing in Adobe or highlighting a virtual textbook. Not only does Samsung’s Chromebook Plus V2 support styluses — it comes with one that never needs to be charged.
The second generation of Samsung’s budget 2-in-1 Chromebook ain’t no Galaxy Chromebook, but it’s a hell of a value for its price range. A new Intel processor gives it an edge over the original, but it keeps the same aluminum clamshell design and sturdy 360-degree hinges.

Spill-resistant keyboard • Sturdy build with rubber bumpers • 2-in-1 touchscreen adds fun flare • Safe and easy to throw in a backpack • Headphone jack

Dinky touchpad • Display isn’t FHD

Dell’s sturdy 2-in-1 nails the kid-ready checklist with drop and spill resistance.

Dell Chromebook 11 3100

A flippable touchscreen puts a fun, modern touch on Dell’s durable little laptop.

  • Battery life:
    10 hours
  • Weight:
    2.85 pounds
  • Display:
    1366 x 768
  • RAM:
    4 GB
  • Storage:
    32 GB
Handing a device to a kid is like watching a drop or spill flash before your eyes. Designed to withstand the rigors of daily life in the classroom, at home, and in between, this 2-in-1 Dell Chromebook nails the kid-ready trifecta: rugged, affordable, and ready for streaming. Its lack of curb appeal is supplemented with 360-degree hinges to switch to tent mode or table mode — automatically more fun.
At just over 11 inches wide and less than three pounds, the 3100 can be carried safely in little arms or little backpacks. The sturdy chassis is supported by rubber bumpers for absorbing shock and a spill-resistant keyboard that can handle 12 ounces of liquid.

Audio is surprisingly clear • Can handle multiple tabs without lagging • Lightweight and grip-able • Supports Android apps • Often on sale for under $200

No HDMI, SD card slot, or USB-C • Screen is dim and washed out • Not much storage

Web browsing and educational apps are probably the extent here, but battery life makes up for it.

HP Chromebook 11

There’s not much power under the hood, but this little guy will surprise you with how it handles tabs and online games.

  • Battery life:
    Up to 12.5 hours
  • Weight:
    2.3 pounds
  • Display:
    1366 x 768, non-touchscreen
  • RAM:
    4GB
  • Storage:
    16GB eMMC
Kids are expensive even before they ask for a computer. If you’re looking for a decent Chromebook that won’t make you pay extra for specs your kid won’t even notice, the HP Chromebook 11 is a classic choice. 
This fun little laptop packs a punch for its size and price. It boots up quickly, plays audio loudly and clearly, and the keyboard isn’t cramped. Laptop Mag’s reviewer was able to open 16 tabs (including YouTube) before load times started staggering. The biggest advantage to basic devices is that the batteries are troupers. You could probably get away with not charging it for a day or two.
Important ports like HDMI and an SD card slot are lacking on top of the underwhelming processor. The CPU should have enough juice to cast videos to the TV via Chromecast, though.

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