We have our guides for the best laptops for high school students and the best laptops for college. But what about younger kids? Those of elementary and middle school age need laptops too, just as much as their older siblings — and they need good laptops that can keep up with their schoolwork and even do some other tasks on the side, like web browsing, media consumption, and creative tasks for the aspiring artist.
The best laptop for kids is Microsoft’s Surface Go 3, thanks to its robust construction, small size, and good performance, all for a reasonable price. But there are a few other laptops to consider, some of them in the budget range but some more expensive models as well. After all, just because you’re a kid, that doesn’t mean you have to have a cheap computer.
Microsoft Surface Go 3
Why you should buy this: It’s the best laptop for kids you can buy.
Who it’s for: Any kid who wants a compact, well-built, and fun laptop for homework and play.
Why we picked the Microsoft Surface Go 3:
The Surface Go 3 is Microsoft’s smallest and least expensive detachable tablet, but that doesn’t mean it’s subpar. Quite the opposite. It was the most surprising laptop of 2021 for its comfortable size, solid construction, and good enough performance. And yet it starts at just $400, making it an affordable option for parents who want to equip their kid with a tablet that runs the full Windows 11 and can get all their homework done. There’s an investment to be made in the excellent $130 Type Cover detachable keyboard that’s essential for getting work done, and the $100 Surface Pen enables Windows inking for handwriting and artistic works.
The diminutive tablet can be configured with either a Pentium 6500Y or an Intel 10th-gen Core i3-10100Y CPU, with up to 8GB of RAM and a 128GB PCIe solid-state drive (SSD). The 10.5-inch display in the productivity-friendly 3:2 aspect ratio has a sharp resolution of 1,920 x 1,280 and the kind of brightness, colors, and contrast you’ll find on laptops costing three times as much.
You won’t be able to run modern AAA titles on the Surface Go 3, but it’s fine for casual gaming. For homework and everything else a kid needs to do, though, the tablet will fit the bill and then some.
Read our in-depth Microsoft Surface Go 3 review
Microsoft Surface Laptop Go
Why you should buy this: It’s an affordable Surface laptop that provides a solid build and good performance.
Who it’s for: Any kid who wants a quality laptop that’s comfortable to use and won’t break the bank.
Why we picked the Microsoft Surface Laptop Go:
Microsoft’s Surface Laptop Go is its least expensive clamshell machine, but that doesn’t make it cheap. It’s constructed of a mix of aluminum and plastic and demonstrates no flexing in the lid or keyboard deck, while it’s thin and light at just 0.62 inches thick and weighing 2.45 pounds. That fits in a 12.4-inch 3:2 display at 1,536 x 1,024 resolution, which is lower resolution but still good enough for productivity work. Brightness, colors, and contrast are excellent, making the Surface Laptop Go a pleasure to use.
You can configure the laptop with a 10th-gen Intel Core i5 CPU with up to 8GB of RAM and a 256GB PCIe SSD. That’s good enough for homework and everything else a kid might need. The keyboard and touchpad meet Microsoft’s high standards, and the display is touch-enabled as well.
The Surface Laptop Go is a great choice for an entry-level machine that’s small enough to be comfortable but big enough to be productive. And it’s not too hard on the parents’ wallet, either.
Read our in-depth Microsoft Surface Laptop Go review
HP Envy x360 13
Why you should buy this: It provides a ton of performance in a sleek and attractive 2-in-1 package.
Who it’s for: Any kid who needs more performance from their laptop for demanding homework and creative tasks.
Why we picked the HP Envy x360 13:
The HP Envy x360 13 is a well-built and attractive convertible 2-in-1 that runs on AMD Ryzen CPUs for some of the best processor performance you’ll find in a Windows laptop. We reviewed the machine with an AMD Ryzen 4000 chip that’s since been upgraded to Ryzen 5000, meaning it’ll only be faster than our review results would indicate. Right now, the Envy x360 13 is available with 16GB of RAM and a 512GB PCIe SSD, providing plenty of memory and storage for demanding tasks.
The 2-in-1 offers a sturdy design and can morph through four modes — clamshell, tent, media, and tablet — with support for an active pen. Several touch display options include a low-power 13.3-inch Full HD (1,920 x 1,080) IPS panel that provided good brightness, colors, and contrast in our testing while improving battery life to stellar levels.
The Envy x360 13 is a laptop that punches above its price, and it will keep any kid working productively and would even do well in high school. Add an active pen, and it also makes for a great digital drawing platform.
Read our in-depth HP Envy x360 13 review
Apple MacBook Air M1
Why you should buy this: You prefer Mac OS or simply want a fast and efficient laptop.
Who it’s for: Any kid who likes Apple’s ecosystem or attends a school that uses the Mac.
Why we picked the Apple MacBook Air M1:
Apple has switched from Intel CPUs to its own Apple Silicon chips, resulting in faster performance and better battery life. The MacBook Air M1 was one of the first to make the switch, and its Apple M1 processor makes the thin and light laptop a superior performer. If your kid attends a school that uses Macs or simply prefers Mac OS, the MacBook Air M1 is the least expensive option.
In addition to the M1 CPU, you can configure the Apple MacBook M1 with up to 16GB of RAM and up to 2TB of PCIe SSD storage. Its 13.3-inch display at a sharp 2,560 x 1,600 resolution meets Apple’s excellent standards with wide and accurate colors, good brightness, and deep contrast.
The MacBook Air M1 also uses Apple’s latest keyboard with scissor switches that’s one of the best you can buy, and its haptic touchpad is large and precise. It’s not the least expensive laptop on our list, but it’s worth it.
Read our in-depth Apple MacBook Air M1 review
Google Pixelbook Go
Why you should buy this: You want the best clamshell Chromebook on the market.
Who it’s for: Any kid who wants to use a traditional Chromebook laptop and doesn’t want to cut corners.
Why we picked the Google Pixelbook Go:
It’s getting a little long in the tooth, but the Google Pixelbook Go remains the best clamshell Chromebook money can buy. Given the prevalence of Chrome OS on school campuses, including the platform on this list makes sense, and the Pixelbook Go is a natural candidate.
It still runs an 8th-gen Intel Core CPU, but that’s plenty fast for Chrome OS — especially when configured with up to 16GB of RAM and up to a 256GB SSD. The display is a 13.3-inch IPS touchscreen running at Full HD, making it sharp enough for getting homework done and consuming media. It offers excellent brightness, colors, and contrast and should be a pleasant overall panel.
The keyboard is smooth and quiet, with Google calling its mechanism “Hush Keys,” and it’s comfortable for long typing sessions. The glass touchpad is smooth and responsive as well. The Pixelbook Go is a great Chromebook choice for any kid looking for a solid Chrome OS machine.
Read our in-depth Google Pixelbook Go review
Lenovo IdeaPad Duet 5 Chromebook
Why you should buy this: It’s a no-compromise Chrome OS detachable tablet.
Who it’s for: Any kid who wants a full-size Chrome OS tablet with an awesome OLED display.
Why we picked the Lenovo IdeaPad Duet 5 Chromebook:
Chrome OS comes in tablets too, and they can provide the same kind of flexibility as with Windows tablets. The Lenovo IdeaPad Duet 5 Chromebook is a recent introduction that offers a Chrome OS tablet first — an OLED display. The 13.3-inch Full HD panel is beautiful, offering tons of brightness, dynamic colors, and deep blacks. It’s great for consuming media, and black text pops on white backgrounds for more comfortably writing essays.
Performance is also good enough for homework and other typical kid computing tasks, thanks to a Qualcomm Snapdragon 7c Gen 2 ARM processor that also offers excellent battery life. Up to 8GB of RAM and a 128GB eMMC drive provide plenty of storage and room to open tons of Chrome tabs and Android apps.
A detachable keyboard and kickstand are included in the package, and they both work well, while an active pen is optional. The IdeaPad Duet 5 Chromebook is the best Chrome OS tablet for kids, and it doesn’t cost an arm and a leg.
Read our in-depth Lenovo IdeaPad Duet 5 Chromebook review
Lenovo Chromebook Duet
Why you should buy this: It’s an incredibly affordable yet functional Chrome OS tablet.
Who it’s for: Any kid who wants a Chrome OS tablet but doesn’t have a lot to spend.
Why we picked the Lenovo Chromebook Duet:
Not every family has a lot of money to spend on a laptop for the kids, and that’s where the Lenovo Chromebook Duet comes in. It’s essentially a smaller version of the IdeaPad Duet 5 featured above, only with a 16:10 10.1-inch IPS display at a sharp 1,920 x 1,200 resolution. It’s not quite as bright and colorful as the larger version’s OLED display, but it’s still great for homework and media consumption.
The MediaTek Helio P60T processor and 4GB of RAM provide plenty of performance for kids’ needs, including the ability to run casual Android games. Storage can be configured up to 128GB for just an extra $20. There’s a newer version of the tablet listed on Lenovo’s website, but it’s essentially the same design.
The keyboard and kickstand are included, and they’re comfortable for long typing sessions while fitting smaller hands well. An active pen is optional. The Chromebook Duet provides plenty of performance and battery life in a smaller package, and at an extremely low price.
Read our in-depth Lenovo Chromebook Duet review