Product Focus: ‘Back to school’ laptops

Gone are the days when children were sent off to school with nothing in their bag other than a packed lunch, some books and maybe a catapult.

According to survey data released this week from uSwitch the average UK child’s school bag now contains £270 worth of gadgets. More than 20 per cent of those surveyed are carrying more than £400 worth of electronic gear.

And what’s more, 50 per cent of parents will buy new gadgets for their kids this autumn as the new school year gets started, spending an average of £134 per household.

Putting aside the obvious concern over what happens when one of those bags inevitably gets left on a bus (pro tip: insurance is essential), that represents a significant opportunity for the IT trade.

Obviously, there’s a whole gamut of devices that account for that spend – the rise of tablet use at schools and among students is well-documented.

But iPads are expensive and not the most practical of tools when the task at hand is to hammer out a 3,000 word essay.

So what will the more prudent and practical-minded parents with the best interests of their children in mind likely be on the hunt for? That’s right, laptops. There’s a clutch of machines on the market right now that tick those boxes – here’s our pick of the best to focus on for those ‘Back to School’ in-store promotions…

HP Stream 11

If the main activity is going to be writing words, sending emails and browsing the internet, then a student can’t really go wrong with the HP Stream 11. Yes, there are performance compromises in a machine that costs just £180, but it looks good and comes bundled with a year of Office 365. A no-brainer.

Acer Chromebook 15

Cheaper than its fatter cousin below, reflected in its lesser spec, the Acer Chromebook 15 can’t be ignored at £230 and represents huge value to students parents looking for a compromise between form, functionality and price.

Acer Chromebook 15 C910

Google’s Chromebook platform is gaining traction because the machines are getting more powerful and stylish. While the latter is certainly not the case with Acer’s Chromebook 15 C910 – it’s heavy and a wee bit unwieldy-looking – it packs in an impressive spec for under £250.

Toshiba Chromebook 2

Pitched at the same price point as Acer’s Chromebook 15 C910, the Toshiba Chromebook 2 does a better job at combining productivity tasks with entertainment and a long battery life. It’s easier on the eye too.

Lenovo ThinkPad E555

Ah, the ThinkPad. That most durable and practical of computing brands is a long-established education favourite. However, at under £300, Lenovo’s E555 represents stunning value for those shopping for a higher-end brand on a budget.

Microsoft Surface 3

Ok, we know we’re supposed to be focusing on laptops, but Microsoft’s entry-level Surface hybrid can’t be ignored at £420. For students, it offers that dream combo of keyboard-equipped practicality and tablet portability – perfect for switching between serious study and entertainment.

And to target those with a slightly higher budget…

Asus Zenbook UX305

If you take things into the £500+ range the Asus Zenbook UX305 stands out from the crowd, not least because of its MacBook Air-inspired good looks. It shares the Apple machine’s lightweight construction and at £600 is still good value within the ultrabook segment.

Acer Aspire V7

Loved by reviewers for its smart design and keen all round performance as much as for its £650 price tag, the Acer Aspire V7 can already be found in plenty of dorms around the country.

Asus ROG GL551

The life of a student isn’t just homework, essays and dissertations. Sometimes a little downtime is required, which is where the Asus ROG GL551 comes into play – quite literally in fact, given this is probably the cheapest gaming laptop money can buy at £850.

PCR’s Sector Spotlight on Education is running throughout August – click here for more articles

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