It’s not an easy time for parents. Gone are the days of a “book list” being a literal list of books and pens for kids heading back to school. Today, your list might include laptops and more, so let’s break down some advice and options for your Back to School Laptop shopping.

Back to School Laptop Buying Advice

The kids will always want more, stick to what you need and can afford.

Your kids will want a multi-thousand dollar powerful gaming laptop so they can play everything from Minecraft to Call of Duty when they aren’t doing homework – if they even do any homework. But that simple feature “Gaming” is going to add cost. Pure and simple.

If you are budget conscious, then Gaming will blow things right out of the water. And while it’s hard to say no to your kids, you just have to do it.

In our house, I said simply “we have an Xbox, that’s what you play games on”. Now whatever device that is for your kids from an iPad to a Nintendo Switch, that can still be their gaming device, even after they get a School laptop.

Now there are some games, in fact Minecraft is one of them, that might run just ok on your School Laptop, but – be warned, it’s always the thin edge of the wedge.

Budget Back to School Laptops

Over just the last five years the options under $500 or $1000 for Laptops has become so much more usable, and much less the obvious cheap choice.

Here’s two examples.

Firstly, this ASUS Chromebook Tablet. The ASUS CM3 is a small 10.5 inch tablet, but in the box is a cover, and keyboard cover. This means it can be propped upright, with a keyboard attached, and it runs like any other Chromebook.

At JB HIFI it’s $379 (Normally $689) that’s ridiculous value. A Chromebook is a cop out in some ways, neither Windows or Mac, it’s really a computer running a Chrome Browser. But Google is where Schools operate. Everything is in the cloud. Their lessons, homework, email and even the applications they get to use like Canva.

Before getting a Chromebook, check with the school as to what if any restrictions this might place on your kids.

Officeworks have this cracking HP Pavillion Plus 14 inch Windows Laptop which may be the deal of the year quite frankly.

Running Windows 11, it’s just $897. It’s an Intel Core i5 powered device, with 16GB of RAM and 256GB of storage. Honestly, those are specs I suggest to people – anyone, looking for a laptop.

This is without question my pick of the bunch.

The sweet spot for School Laptops

For a decent life-span and performance, I would normally say $1000-$1500 should be the sweet spot of the range. So here’s three great examples of that.

Lenovo’s IdeaPad Flex 5 is so good, I bought two of them for my kids in year 6 and 7 – now in year 7 and 8. They are a good looking unit, solid, but light weight. Touch screen and great performance and a 16 inch screen!

ASUS has a bigger more powerful Chromebook in this price range which packs a bigger punch, is more robust and of course a much larger screen – more laptop, less tiny tablet.

Meanwhile, that stunning HP I mentioned earlier – want that with a bigger hard drive and more powerful processor? Done, It’s available under $1500 at JB HiFI

If you want an Apple Laptop which one?

I know I know, I hear it all the time. “We’re an Apple family” – or “But he wants a MacBook”. Well, aside from harden up and put your foot down, I get it, sometimes that’s the argument.

For my eldest, we used a Windows Laptop for the later part of Primary School and early High School Days, then I set a budget for his next laptop, and told him it was 100% going to be the last laptop I buy and that it had to get to Year 12 and the HSC. Given he was doing Multimedia and Software subjects there was a strong argument for performance. We went with a MacBook Pro at $1,999 – this was just months before Apple introduced the Apple Silicon which now blows it away.

That said, there’s a bargain out there.

$1,349 for the MacBook Air 13 inch with M1 processor. This is now almost two years old, but who cares, still great power and performance and of course – MacOS. This is the original wedged shaped design.

Add the M2 processor and you are adding $600+ but perhaps for performance that’s necessary, I’d say not unless there is video, photography or software design in their schooling future.

It’s a flatter more Pro like design, and comes in newer colours, but is the top end of what I’d be even thinking about in the early days of High School for sure.

First Smartphone Options

Do not overspend. They will break it. You will regret it.

And again, do not let them pressure you into a brand. All three of my kids were given low-price Android smartphones and it did everything we needed.

Here are FIVE Great phones under $500, in fact three of them are under $300. Go and have a look at them, feel them, look at the textures and colours – you don’t get this in flagship big-brand phones.

Honestly these stand out, and are bloody great phones.

Alternatives to Smartphones for School Kids

If you’re not ready for the kids to have a smartphone, but want them to be able to call you or you call them on the way to and from school – sorted.

Nokia has you covered with simple phones and flip phones.

There’s the 8210, the 2660 Flip and the 110. Classic to you, boring to the kids.

Best Mobile Phone Plan for Kids

Don’t even think of putting them on a mainstream plan month to month. In fact, there’s also very few decent family bundles out there too.

Go for a 12 month pre-paid plan. And don’t worry about how much data it has. They need to learn early about usage vs allowance, budgeting data and understanding the value of data.

The only three Mobile plans you need to consider for your kids:

Thank me later.

Accessories for School Laptop users

And finally, a couple of things to consider.

These new Belkin headphones are awesome. Wireless but also with a mic for calls/zoom calls. Belkin SoundForm Inspire available from Belkin.

And for under $100 this Flash drive is CRAZY value, teach them to save data to this, so the Laptop is low on used storage and you’ve got the data you need on a keyring all the time! Sandisk Ultra Dual Drive is a 256GB USB-C flash drive available from JB HIFI