I Need a Cheap, Reliable Chromebook for My Kid! What Gadget Should I Buy?

I Need a Cheap, Reliable Chromebook for My Kid! What Gadget Should I Buy?

In this edition of “What Gadget Should You Buy?” we recommend the best budget Chromebook for a school kid.

I’ve tapped our lovely readers in past articles for this series, but today I have the pleasure of helping a colleague. Gizmodo senior reporter Andrew Liszewski is in search of a laptop for his six-year-old son who will primarily use it for homeschooling.

As this system is meant for a K-12 student, it won’t need to run demanding tasks; in fact, Andrew tells me the laptop will be perpetually running Google Meet and otherwise uploading documents. Besides enough performance to power simple tasks, the laptop needs at least a 13-inch display, a durable chassis that can withstand a few knocks, and preferably a convertible form factor (or at least a touchscreen). Andrew, who is replacing an old MacBook that stopped charging, would like to spend no more than $US400 ($555).

Given their ease of use and lower cost of entry, my instinct is to recommend a Chromebook, a laptop that runs on Google’s lightweight, cloud-centric Chrome OS. Decent budget Windows machines exist, but if you want an inexpensive laptop that is simple to use and performs reliably over time, Chromebooks are generally the best place to start.

With that said, the Acer Chromebook Spin 513 is a strong option. At $US350 ($486) to $US400 ($555), the Spin 513 sneaks into Andrew’s budget and checks all the right boxes. It flaunts a modern design and has a crisp 13.3-inch, 1080p display, a convertible chassis, and long battery life. The screen is rather dim and this isn’t the quickest machine due to its Qualcomm Snapdragon 7c, but it’ll get the job done so long as Andrew’s kid doesn’t sprout dreams of becoming a famous YouTuber.

Image: Lenovo
Image: Lenovo

If Andrew can find one in his budget, the Lenovo Flex 5 Chromebook is a similar option with fast performance, a handsome design, and a webcam Monica Chin at The Verge calls “surprisingly usable.” It can be purchased on Amazon for $US400 ($555) but I can’t guarantee our resident Canadian will find one for the same price.

These are, admittedly, on the edge of Andrew’s budget and probably more premium than they need to be. If we’re looking at the cheapest Chromebooks that’ll get the job done, Acer’s Chromebook 315 Touch costs only $US229 ($318) and packs a large 15.6-inch, 1080p touchscreen display, and a decent Intel Celeron N4000 processor; HP’s Chromebook x360 14 has good performance and a sleek design (though a part of me dies suggesting a laptop with a 1366 x 768-pixel display); and the Asus Chromebook C424 costs only $US250 ($347) and has a 14-inch, 1080p display, but lacks touch support.

Andrew told me he’d prefer a convertible over a detachable but if the latter isn’t completely out of the question then Lenovo’s Duet 5 Chromebook should be a contender. It has an OLED display, an attractive design, and the included keyboard is surprisingly usable. Is it overkill? No doubt. But unfortunately, the cheaper version of Lenovo’s hybrid tablet is too small, as is the direct Asus rival, the Chromebook Detachable CM3.

Photo: Alex Cranz
Photo: Alex Cranz/Gizmodo

Put down your pitchforks Windows users, I won’t exclude budget PC options entirely. Microsoft’s Surface Laptop Go has a small 12.3-inch display and few ports, but the build quality is excellent and you can get one on sale with a 10th Gen Intel Core i5 for just $US399 ($554). Asus’s Vivobook 15 is even cheaper and comes with surprisingly capable components, but again, no touchscreen.

If I had to recommend only one device to Andrew, it’d be the Acer Chromebook Spin 513 (or this on-sale Spin 514) for its sleek, versatile design and long battery life.

Would you recommend something else? Let us know in the comments! And if you need help deciding on which gadget to buy, then fill out our simple questionnaire.

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