Australian technology news, reviews, and guides to help you
Australian technology news, reviews, and guides to help you

The Wrap – Back to school laptop help for parents

This week on The Wrap, we’ll help parents make sense of buying a laptop as their kids go back to school, and only in five minutes. From specs to sizes to BYOD, we’ve got parents covered in a fast podcast.

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It’s the beginning of the school year in 2022, and you’re listening to The Wrap, Australia’s fastest technology roundup, and as schools begin to find some sense of normality despite the weekly rapid antigen tests and dodging of COVID, one consistent mood parents may well share is that of buying a laptop for the back to school season.

With more schools in Australia going back for face-to-face learning rather than the remote work-from-home approach we’ve had for the past year or so, getting your kids equipped for the 2022 school year seems like a topic that’ll be on the mind of more parents this year, so let’s talk about it.

It’s a bit of a mess out there as far as laptops go, with a lot of choices and not a lot of explaining, so let’s talk laptops and tablets and the sort of questions you need to ask before you go spending big bucks on kids computers.

First things first: check with the school, because regardless of whether you’re going to primary school for K through 6 or to high school for 7 through 12, your school is very likely going to have some recommendations about what you should look for.

For early kids in primary school, it might be nothing at all, while grade 2 through 6 might have an expectation of laptop or tablet. In high school, ask for your school’s BYOD information. That stands for “Bring Your Own Device”, and is basically going to be a list of recommended specs schools are suggesting you’ll need. It won’t likely be a blatant “buy this specific computer”, because there are so many types, so they’ll instead suggest what specs to look for, because they matter.

While that can be confusing, our recommendation for high school laptop specs would be to look for 8 gigs of RAM, at least 128 gigs of storage if you can. You’ll want at least 128 gigs of storage if you plan to keep a laptop for the next few years, though a minimum of 256GB is preferred, while memory needs to be considered as well.

People often get memory and storage confused because they use the same words for storage, but you’ll think about big storage for holding all those files, while memory lets you run apps and lots of web browser tabs at the same time. Anything below 8GB will likely struggle, and anything more and you’re starting to look at expensive laptops.

The screen size is also crucially important, especially if you’re buying for high school or the little kids in primary school.

At primary school, you’ll want to keep the size down, so no 15, 16, or 17 inch computers. Remember that the bigger the screen, the heavier the laptop is likely to be, so if you’re buying for kids, think 10 or 11 inches, though 13 or 14 might be fine.

In high school, that size is less likely to be a problem, but you don’t want to hurt your kids’ backs either, so plan carefully. A 13 inch computer is the norm for most students and adults, though a 15 inch can be good, as well.

The choice of operating system is an important decision, because some schools will prefer some over others. This is yet more of why you need to check that Bring Your Own Device document from your school, because you might be told to buy an iPad, a Chromebook, a Mac, or even a Windows machine. While high schools are less likely to be fussy, some primary schools will flat out tell you what you need, so check before you buy.

And remember that you’re probably buying for a few years, so buying for versatility is a good idea.

A primary school laptop doesn’t need to be super versatile, and will likely just be for productivity, school work and such. But in high school, if you have students getting into design or game development or film editing, you may want a laptop that has a little more to it, so talk to your kids to find out what they want to do, and work out your computer needs between that, school, and your budget.

There are lots of choices out there in the world of laptops and portable computers, and you might even end up on a tablet at times, as well.

As much as we’d love to say “buy this computer” specifically, there is no one computer for every school needs, nor for every price point. Laptops can start from as low as $300 and as high as, well, the sky is really the limit. Buy for a price point you’re happy with, but match it to the specs you need.

And if you’re buying used – and that’s fine – make sure to ask how old the computer is, if the memory or storage has been replaced, what the battery performance is like, and if the amount being saved is justifying the purchase. You’d hate for an old computer to conk out on your kids while they’re working in school, and that might make a new laptop an easier deal than an old one.

But ultimately, talk to both your school and your kids, because what you learn from each will help you make that decision, with a purchase that works not just for this year, but next year, as well.

For now, you’ve been listening to The Wrap, Australia’s fastest technology roundup. A new episode appears every week on LiSTNR, Spotify, and Apple Podcasts, but otherwise, have a great week. We’ll see you next time on The Wrap. Stay safe, stay sane, and take care.

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