Wednesday, 16 November 2016

A First Laptop for an 8 Year Old Girl or Boy


So you need to choose a first laptop for an 8 year old girl or boy? Let's take a look at what you need to consider to get the best value for money.

8 is around the age when kids really want a laptop of their own to do homework, play games and of course watch YouTube videos! We often get asked about the best first laptop for a child this age. I have an eight year old myself and so does Elbrie and we see lots of children and their laptops at the events we run.

There's no single best laptop for an eight year old as there are lots of things to take into account. If your child or family has very specific requirements then you'll need to do a bit more research (we'll cover other specialist questions separately.) But we've used our knowledge to offer a small number of choices that you can pick from based on which key features are important to you.

To answer the question we're going to make some assumptions / suggestions about how your child will use the laptop.
  • You have a limited budget and want to get a laptop that is 'good enough'. You understand that this means it's not going to be able to run games that have advanced graphics requirements (those laptops cost many times more!)
  • A laptop with an 11-14 inch screen is big enough for an 8 year old. Children have smaller hands and while a smaller device can be annoying for an adult, it's actually a better fit for a child. It's easier for them to move it around too.  A 14 inch screen offers a bit more space without being too enormous. 
  • It needs to come with Windows 10. Windows 7 is getting old now and 8 didn't really take off. The free upgrade to Windows 10 has ended so it makes sense to get a laptop that comes with Windows 10.
  • If your child plays Minecraft then they'll be content with Windows 10 Edition or low settings on the PC version (most kids are at this age.) Kids that get really into Minecraft and want to run a ton of complex mods and the highest settings will need a more powerful laptop. 
  • You'd like to encourage your child to program robots or other devices at some point. Well we think this one is important! 
  • The design and color of the laptop is important. That's fair enough. These things can be important to children. 
  • You don't need a CD/DVD player. These are less important now that media has gone digital (it's still handy to have one computer in the house that can use them but it probably doesn't need to be your 8 year old's laptop)


What Specification?

Unless you are on a very tight budget we'd recommend you go for laptop with 4GB of RAM memory. This would have been expensive last year, but this year we're seeing newer models come with 4GB and it's going to future-proof your purchase a little.

This is a real oversimplification, but if you don't want to wade through technical specifications, it's likely that a new model of laptop that comes with 4GB will have a reasonable processor to match it. In our experience the RAM makes the most difference for your money.

Ultra Budget Option - Lenovo IdeaPad

If your budget is really tight then the Lenovo - IdeaPad 100s 11.6" Laptop is a good choice. 

This small laptop from a well-known brand runs Windows 10, it's light, has good battery life and will be fine for homework, web browsing, watching videos and some basic game playing. 

It comes in an appealing bright red colour (as well as blue and a stylish white) and will do a perfectly adequate job if it's all your budget will stretch to or if your child really doesn't need anything more fancy. 

Value for Money Option - HP Stream

The HP Stream laptop has made a real impression at the low-end of the laptop market.

This laptop offers excellent value for money. You're not going to get high-end features but you're going to get a 'good enough' laptop that will meet the needs of most 8 year olds.

The HP Stream comes in a choice of bright colors and 11 and 14 inch screen sizes.

The newer models offer 4GB of RAM memory which will make a big difference. But there are also 2GB models which are still pretty good if your budget won't stretch that far.

Be aware that you don't get a lot of storage for storing videos, photos or lots of software. This is probably not an issue for children's use. If they are fond of taking lots of photos and videos then make sure you sort out some cloud storage.

Touchscreen Convertible 2-in-1 Option: Dell i3168

Your child may have mostly used a tablet up until now and may not have good keyboard and trackpad / mouse skills. A touchscreen will ease the transition in this case (though do encourage them to learn to touch type on a keyboard!) Touchscreen input makes sense for lots of things (it's great for drag and drop coding!)

The Dell i3168 has a 11.6" screen and can be used as a Windows 10 laptop or you can flip the keyboard and use it tablet style. This is great when kids want to sit on the couch and play a game or read a book.

You can get a cheaper model with 2GB of RAM or pay extra for 4GB which will make it possible to run more programs at the same time and should make the laptop last a bit longer before you need to upgrade.

What About Chromebooks?


Chromebooks are superb value for money but they are not suitable for all 8 year old's. You really need to understand what you're buying. Don't choose one of these if you don't understand what it is.

A Chromebook basically offers a cloud and web-browser based experience. It works well with cloud-based applications, but not all of these are available to children under 13 so you'll need to do some research.

You can't download software onto a Chromebook so you can't run Minecraft (there is a workaround but it's not for the average family.) If you want to be able to program robots and other hardware then you may find that there's not a solution for the Chromebook or that support lags behind other platforms.

Chromebooks are great for coding in Scratch and other web-based editors and there's a lot that kids can do with them. Chromebooks are increasingly popular in schools so they may be familiar with them or even encouraging to bring their own device.

Verdict

Kids these days are pretty lucky! Low-end laptops are actually very usable for everyday homework, gaming and entertainment. This means that many families will be able to justify the cost of a laptop per child.

In our house sharing just doesn't work well. When my boys were little we managed with a shared desktop that they could use, but we've found that they want to use their laptops at the same time. They also want to play LEGO together and play outside together so taking turns doesn't work very well for encouraging a balance of screen time and other activities.




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