GadgetGuy’s back-to-school computer guide for 2016

With the school holidays nearing the end, it’s time to think about what to do about the sproglets and their technology needs. What should you buy? We’ll tell you that, and then some, covering where you can even score free software from.


Across the country, Australian families are dealing with the knowledge that students from grade 7 and higher now need their own computer, and this can’t just be the thing they use at home in the living room.

No, kids these days need a laptop for the regular day to day, the school work, and the general times when they’re done and just keen to Facebook with their friends.

That means they probably need a keyboard, a screen, and a decent processor and battery. Meanwhile, schools tend to prefer Windows and Mac, meaning you’ll probably want a laptop of some sort, though certainly some tablets qualify.

Ultimately, you’ll want to check with the school as to what your kids specifically need, but we suspect the list below will help in your search for the best laptop for a student you happen to be buying for.


A question of size

When it comes to shopping for the best laptop, make sure to pick a size that will work best for the person you’re buying for, not just because they have to look at it, but because they have to carry it, too.

Screen size affects both of those things, because the bigger the screen, the more real estate you might have on screen, and yet the larger the laptop it might end up being.

For kids, we generally recommend 11 and 13 inch computers, with the 11 inch machines made for kids in grades 6 to 9, and 13 inches being for above this.

These days, 13 inch laptops are the recommended notebooks for most people, adults particularly, as they tend to offer a good middle-ground in the laptop world, providing as much screen and resolution real estate as a 15 inch laptop, while also cutting back on the size and weight.

Kids, however, probably want the least amount of weight possible, and for that, we’d point to the 11 inch computer, which will match the smaller size well and still sit on the desk, providing enough space to work and view what they need to set their eyes upon.

Budget: up to $500

This year, budget offerings are in full swing, and if you need a computer for someone but don’t need all the bells and whistles, just the ability to run word processing, web surfing, and a few other apps, plus lasting through the day, you’ll find you only have to spend three or four hundred bucks. Easy.

Acer Cloudbook 11


Price: $299

Acer’s Cloudbook starts the budget computers, and while we haven’t seen it in the flesh, the specs check out, and it’s pretty hard to mess up this formula, with a sub-$300 price tag delivering a high def 11 inch screen, a Celeron processor, and support for an SD card.

Windows 10 is included in the package, as is a year subscription to Office 365, and while it’s made for a little school work and web surfing, we bet you could get a little Minecraft action on this one, too.

Read our review…

HP Stream 11


Price: $299

One of last year’s better selections for a student laptop is back in 2016, and while it retains the pink and blue casing and matte screen, it does get an upgrade to Windows 10, which makes the computer even more usable.

Hey, we hear it comes in purple now, too. Neato.

Read our review…

Lenovo IdeaPad 100S


Price: $299

Another of these $299 machines, Lenovo’s switches out a Celeron for an Atom, but pretty much keeps everything else the same.

If you like your laptop in black and trust the Lenovo name more than the others, this sub-$300 is probably worth a look in.

Asus Transformer Book Flip TP200S


Price: $499

A good middle-ground option, the 11.6 inch Asus Transformer Book Flip is a surprising little box with a decent screen and a hinge that turns this laptop into a tablet in a second.

There’s also a new USB Type C port included for high-speed data transfers and the display is good enough that it won’t make your kids want to find that right angle for viewing that cheap laptops often succumb to. The casing could do with some work, but hey, it comes with a one year subscription of Office 365 and a 32GB microSD card in case the storage inside isn’t big enough.

Read our review…