I Went Laptop Shopping with My Son for School. Here’s What Surprised Me

My son started second grade in September, and his school provided him with an old, worn-out Chromebook as his first laptop. I couldn’t accept that! As a tech enthusiast and writer, I couldn’t settle for what the school offered. So, I did what any tech-loving father would do – I took my son shopping for a new Chromebook.

However, I quickly realized that the world of Chromebooks can be overwhelming. If I wanted to find the perfect option for my kid, I had to set aside my own tech knowledge and preferences.

Too Many Choices

To begin with, there is an abundance of Chromebooks available. I didn’t fully grasp the extent until I started shopping. My first stop was Amazon, and I made a mistake. There were over 200 pages of Chromebooks. I found well-known brands like Lenovo, Acer, and Asus, but there were also unfamiliar names like Mighty Skins and VEIKK. I was skeptical about the Basrdis Chromebook, to say the least. Even reputable brands have a vast selection of machines. Asus alone had six pages of Chromebooks with prices ranging from $57 to over $700, while Samsung had a whopping 17 pages on Amazon.

Realizing Amazon wasn’t the best option for me, I turned to our own Chromebook reviews for guidance and decided to visit Best Buy with my son. I assumed they would have a decent range of Chromebooks to see and compare in person, right? Well, my local Best Buy had 17 Chromebooks on display, right across from the Windows laptops. That’s a lot of Chromebooks! Their prices ranged from $200 to over $1,000, which was an improvement compared to Amazon’s overwhelming options, but it still left me feeling somewhat daunted by the choices.

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Specs Aren’t Everything

As I wandered through the displays at Best Buy, I found myself scratching my head, wondering how my own tech experiences would help me make the right decision for my son’s new Chromebook.

Intel Celeron! 4GB of RAM! Two-in-one functionality! That must be a great deal, right? Well, not necessarily.

Chromebooks don’t require a lot of processing power for most tasks, and Chrome runs smoothly regardless of memory. It was surprising to learn that specs alone don’t tell the whole story. It’s essential to consider the overall package rather than individual numbers. For example, a baseline Core i3 might offer decent performance, but what if the device has a high refresh rate OLED touchscreen display with no dedicated graphics processing unit (GPU)? Will that small 10th-gen Core i3 be sufficient for all your needs?

This was the issue I faced with my son. At first, we settled for a relatively inexpensive Samsung Chromebook. Samsung makes several reliable Chromebooks, and even though this one was slightly older, I thought it would suffice for school. It had an Intel Celeron CPU, 4GB of RAM, and 64GB of storage. It was a significant upgrade in terms of appearance compared to the school-issued Chromebooks. However, as we discovered, it lacked the necessary performance.

The poor CPU barely powered the machine, and my son’s school websites contained heavy animations and interactive videos. While his classmates moved ahead, my son had to wait for minutes as the video froze or lagged.

That’s when we went back to Best Buy, determined to find something with more power.

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You Usually Get What You Pay For

After returning the largely useless Samsung Chromebook, I made a difficult decision and purchased a much pricier HP machine for my son. It cost over $500, compared to the $180 I spent on the Samsung Chromebook.

HP is well-known for its excellent Windows laptops, and I’ve always appreciated their design aesthetic, which they carry over to their Chromebooks. My son had no complaints about the new Chromebook. It featured an 11th-gen Intel i5 processor, 6GB of RAM, and 120GB of storage. The screen was a standard 1080p 60Hz LED display, but it could also fold backward to become a tablet.

I was confident that I had finally found the right device for my boy, but there was one drawback. The HP Chromebook was fragile. Considering it would be in the hands of a seven-year-old using it all day at school, I felt uneasy about its durability.

Moreover, the HP Chromebook looked more suited for a professional, not a kid with a Minecraft hat. One night, I explained to my son that the Chromebook wasn’t working correctly, and I had to take it away. He shrugged and didn’t show any interest. To him, it was just something he used at school and nothing more. As much as it hurt my tech-loving heart, it made me realize that my pursuit of the perfect Chromebook for him may have been misguided from the start.

The Lesson I Learned

I never returned the HP Chromebook; I kept it for myself. After all, I liked the machine, and Chrome OS is a delight to use on a well-performing device. If you’re looking to buy a Chromebook, make sure it has a decent processor and sufficient RAM to handle your tasks. Chromebooks have come a long way, and our expectations of them have grown.

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However, my son was content to return to using the school-provided Chromebook. It was sturdy, easy for him to use, and got the job done. Ultimately, that’s all it needed to be. Despite our tendency to underestimate these bulky plastic laptops, perhaps school administrators know what they’re doing.

I’m sure there will come a day when my son desires something more sophisticated – a device he truly enjoys using. But for now, the school Chromebook is all he needs.

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