Laptops. We expect more from our computers, and the school laptop is no exception, as more learning resources become available online. Laptops – the power to play, create and educate.
When choosing the right school laptop, it might be tempting to settle for the minimum system requirement. But if the last year has taught us anything, it’s how we rely on our portable computers and appreciate their flexibility. So, taking into account your child’s lifestyle and how they might use it out-of-school could ensure they are more likely to cherish and look after their laptop.
All schools will have individual BYOD guidelines and programs in place. So the first stop in any BYOD purchase decision should be the school website or portal. Generally, schools will also send this information out to new students and parents. A school BYOD checklist might include device operating system, as well as minimum and recommended hardware requirements. These may also vary depending on the grade the student is embarking on – for example, a stylus and higher storage might be required for later years.
Laptop screen size can stretch as far as 17-inches, but hanging around the 13-inch to 15-inch mark is a great midpoint between portability, price and plenty of screen real estate to see what’s going on. Not to mention battery life. It also helps that there’s a trend towards minimalist screen bezels, which means bigger screens in smaller chassis.
Screen resolution is an important consideration alongside screen size, too: the higher the resolution, the easier it is on your pupil’s pupils. Just be sure to get your kid to tweak default icon sizes and zoom levels in display settings if things are looking a wee bit too small on high-res screens. Another key consideration is screen brightness, which makes everything easier to see, as well as detail clearer in darker areas, but bear in mind that the brighter you make the screen, the more it drains the battery.
If the laptop will be used for streaming and gaming, a higher refresh rate will improve the experience. The standard refresh rate for most laptops is 60Hz. You can get laptops running 120Hz and gaming laptops running even higher, although be prepared to pay for a better CPU.
Windows 11 is the just-released operating system from Microsoft. The latest laptops shipped to stores will be Windows 11 ready. If you are looking at an older model that comes with Windows 10, fear not, most should still be eligible for a free upgrade to Windows 11. If you’re not sure, check with your JB Hi-Fi staff member.
Much of school-based learning and homework will require reference to online material. There’s also the chance for remote learning opportunities over Zoom, Teams or Webex. Smooth constant connectivity is becoming a priority, so a laptop that’s Wi-Fi 6 capable is a worthwhile consideration.
Wi-Fi 6 became available in 2019, with devices shipping the protocol from 2020, so there should be plenty of devices to choose from now. Though Wi-Fi 6 has a higher theoretical download speed than Wi-Fi 5, most networks won’t be fast enough to take advantage of that. However, Wi-Fi 6 introduces new ways for a laptop to talk to a router, when there are many other devices on the network that might otherwise lead to congestion.
To get the most out of it, Wi-Fi 6 devices need to be paired with a Wi-Fi 6 router. Wi-Fi 6 devices are backwards compatible with older Wi-Fi standards, though, so Wi-Fi 6 devices can still connect seamlessly today.
In a nutshell, a laptop with Wi-Fi 6 is a future-facing feature. The average number of online devices in the household are only rising, so a laptop and router running Wi-Fi 6 can be a combo in your house for optimal connectivity, for online school course work or assignments.
We’ve touched on Wi-Fi 6 and the improvement it brings when multiple devices are connected online at once. To get the benefit of a laptop boasting Wi-Fi 6, you also need to upgrade to a router with Wi-Fi 6. There are already plenty on the market. It can get hectic during homework time, especially if other members of the family are enjoying some bingeing or gaming, so it might be worthwhile looking at a mesh router incorporating Wi-Fi 6. With a mesh network, you have a main router connected directly to your NBN broadband, and then a set of “satellite” routers that you position around your home. These all work together as a whole-home wireless network to make sure you have fast, reliable internet that you can count on, no matter where you are in the house. It just might help lower those stress levels, when online homework assignments are due while the rest of the family want to get on Netflix and Disney+.
Entry level picks:
HP 50R82PA 15.6″ HD Laptop (256GB) [AMD 3050U]
A budget-friendly model that still has a generous 15.6” display, Bang & Olufsen audio and 256GB SSD drive for quick boot ups. The AMD processor is geared towards current office and home use, and will reliably handle web browsing, emails, word processing and presentations.
• 15.6″ HD (1366 x 768) brightview SVA display • AMD Athlon™ Silver 3050U processor (2.3 – 3.2GHz) • 256GB SSD storage • 8GB RAM • AMD Radeon™ Graphics • 1 x HDMI port • 2 x USB-A 3.0 ports • 1 x USB-C 3.1 port • HP micro digital media card reader • Webcam • Bluetooth v5.0 • Wi-Fi 5 • Audio by Bang & Olufsen • • Windows 11 operating system
Dell Inspiron 3515 15.6″ Full HD Laptop (256GB) [Ryzen 5]
The Inspiron 3515 has an Anti-glare 15.6” LED display that’s Full HD (1920 x 1080), which means great value in this price range. The screen also employs Dell ComfortView technology that reduces blue light emissions for optimal comfort. Inside, the 3515 has a Ryzen 5 3450U Mobile Processor, based on AMD’s Zen architecture, which is built for performance as well as energy efficiency – so it can handle multimedia tasks without draining the battery.
• 15.6-inch FHD (1920 x 1080) Anti-glare LED • AMD Ryzen™ 5 3450U Mobile Processor (2.1 – 3.5GHz) • 256GB SSD storage • 8GB RAM • AMD Radeon™ Vega 8 Graphics • 1 x HDMI port • 2 x USB-A 3.2 ports • 1 x USB-A 2.0 port • SD Card reader • Webcam • Bluetooth v5.1 • Wi-Fi 6 (802.11 ax) • Windows 11 operating system
HP Pavilion x360 14″ HD 2-in-1 Laptop (128GB) [Intel i3]
This 2-in-1 combines the productivity of a laptop with the interactivity of a tablet. An optional HP pen adds further to the functionality, while an Intel i3 ensures things run smoothly for your general use.
• 14″ HD (1366 x 768) multitouch-enabled display • Intel® Core i3-1125G4 processor (3.4 – 3.7GHz) • 128GB SSD storage • 8GB RAM • Intel UHD graphics • 1 x HDMI port • 2 x USB-A 3.0 ports • 1 x USB-C 3.1 port • Webcam • Bluetooth 5.2 • Wi-Fi 6 • Windows 11 operating system
Speedy all rounders:
Lenovo Yoga S7i Pro EVO 14″ 2.2K Laptop (256GB) [Intel i5]
A school laptop will most likely be used for other fun stuff – and that likely involves gaming. If that’s on your checklist, then take a look at the Yoga S7i from Lenovo. 11th Gen Intel with Evo benchmarking means this laptop meets or exceeds today’s standards for a great computing experience. And the integrated Iris Xe graphics will deliver a rich experience on popular multiplayers.
The Yoga S7i is a great looking machine. The 14” display boasts a 91 per cent screen, and you enjoy more precise control with a 33 per cent larger touchpad.
• 14″ 2.2K (2240 x 1400) IPS display • Intel Core i5-11300H processor (3.1 – 4.4GHz) • 256GB SSD storage • 8GB RAM • Integrated Intel Iris Xe Graphics • 1 x USB-A 3.2 port • 2 x Thunderbolt 4 ports • Webcam • Bluetooth v5.1 • Wi-Fi 6 • Windows 11 operating system
ASUS VivoBook Flip 14″ Full HD 2-in-1 Laptop (512GB) [Intel i5]
The VivoBook is a 2-in-1 that you can flip from laptop to tablet. There is an optional ASUS pen for use on the touchscreen display. And the 11th Gen Intel i5 processor provides a seamless experience when creating and editing with the pen in Full HD (1920 x 1080). You also get a generous 512GB storage in SSD no less, which means instant retrieval and saving, even when working on large files.
• 14″ Full HD (1920 x 1080) touchscreen display • Intel® Core™ i5-1135G7 processor (2.4 – 4.2GHz) • 512GB SSD storage • 8GB RAM • Intel Iris Xᵉ graphics • 1 x HDMI port • 1 x USB-A 2.0 port • 1 x USB-A 3.0 port • 1 x Thunderbolt 4 port • MicroSD card reader • Wi-Fi 5 • Bluetooth v4.2 • Windows 10 Home operating system
Top of the class laptop:
Lenovo Yoga 7i EVO 14” FHD 2-in-1 Laptop (512GB) [Intel i7]
As a 2-in-1, you can adapt the Yoga 7i to different learning styles and needs. And its top specs mean no worries, no matter how challenging the assignment or how ambitious the school project. You get an 11th generation Intel Core i7-1165G7 processor together with 16GB of RAM, so it can effortlessly handle large picture files, music production and video editing. EVO certification ensures quick power-up, AI-enhanced productivity, and the very best possible experience from a modern Windows device. And the Yoga 7i will keep you fully entertained with a Full HD display and Dolby Atmos front-facing speakers.
Processor and graphics are integrated in an energy efficient system-on-a-chip for up to 16 hours battery life. The aluminum casing adds durability, and it’s surprisingly light at around 1.43kg, which is a benefit in transit to school and back. Digital pen also included.
• 14″ Full HD (1920 x 1080) touchscreen display • Intel Core i7-1165G7 processor (2.8 – 4.7GHz) • 512GB SSD storage • 16GB RAM • Integrated Intel Iris Xe Graphics • 1 x USB-A 3.2 port • 2 x Thunderbolt 4 ports • Webcam • Bluetooth v5.0 • Wi-Fi 6 • Windows 11 operating system