Due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic many schools have decided to stick with distance-learning or hybrid models, at least for now.
But distance learning requires certain devices and capabilities, namely a computer and internet connection. Many school districts are providing laptops for students, usually small-screen Chromebooks. These are affordable, easily managed for schools, portable and easy to use for students. If your kids will be taking some or all of their classes remotely this fall in front of a computer screen and you can afford it, you may want to invest in a larger, more powerful laptop than what your school district is offering.
The most affordable way to learn from home is with a Chromebook laptop. Not only do they cost hundreds less than a traditional laptop like a Windows laptop or MacBook, but they’re also easier to use, thanks to the streamlined Chrome OS (operating system). And you can find Chromebook models with displays larger than the undersized 11.6-inch Chromebooks that school districts typically issue. If you aren’t lugging the laptop to school every day, you could spring for a roomier display that means less scrolling through web pages and more room to work in Google Classroom and other online learning tools. The picks here all have large, 15.6-inch displays.
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Chromebooks range in price, from less than $100 to more than $1,000, but you don’t need to spend that much to get up and running for distance learning. Our favorite Chromebooks fall mostly in the $400-to-$650 range. If those don’t suit you, here are five additional budget Chromebook models that are currently priced at less than $650. We took into account factors and features like cloud storage, the quality of the keyboard, battery life, ease of web browsing and even the inclusion of a headphone jack. If you’re looking to find the best Chromebook for students, this list should help.
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The entry-level Samsung Chromebook 4 costs only $300 and features a 15.6-inch display powered by an Intel Celeron processor and 4GB of RAM. The downside? This traditional laptop supplies only 32GB of solid-state storage. The upside? It boasts a full HD 1,920×1,080-pixel resolution display for a sharper picture and more work space than you’d get with the 1,366×768-pixel resolution found on other low-end Chromebooks. Samsung also sells two step-up models. For $350, you can upgrade the memory to 6GB and the storage to 64GB. And for $380, you can get 4GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD.
This basic Chromebook features an Intel Celeron processor, 4GB of memory and 64GB of storage. Those specs are nothing to get excited about, but they will let you run Chrome OS smoothly as long as you don’t leave too many Chrome tabs open at once when web browsing. And 64GB is better than the 32GB of storage in the above Samsung Chromebook. While you gain in storage capacity, you must sacrifice display resolution. This 15.6-inch display has a 1,366×768-pixel display resolution, which will look crisp enough for school work but isn’t as sharp as a 1080p panel.
This $390 refurbished Acer Chromebook is both a laptop and tablet. The 15.6-inch touchscreen display on this Acer Chromebook can rotate 360 degrees into tablet mode. Such versatility could make it a good Chromebook during a quarantine. Inside, this Acer Chromebook device features an Intel Pentium CPU, 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage.
As you move up in price, you start seeing touchscreen displays that let you navigate Chrome OS with your fingertip and play Android games — once homework is done, of course. This Lenovo C340 2-in-1 Chromebook costs $445 and features a 15.6-inch touchscreen display with a 1,920×1,080-pixel resolution that can rotate 360 degrees into tablet mode. Inside, it offers an Intel Pentium Gold CPU, 4GB of RAM and a 64GB SSD.
The HP Chromebook 15 offers a touch screen display but can’t rotate all the way around into tablet mode. If you care more about power than your Chromebook doubling as a tablet, then you need to know that this model features an Intel Core i3 CPU, which is more powerful than Intel Pentium and Celeron chips commonly found in Chromebooks. It also supplies a generous 128GB SSD, which is double or quadruple the capacity on lower-priced models. In addition to touch support, the 15.6-inch display offers a full HD 1,920×1,080-pixel resolution.
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