Best Computer for Kids Windows Central 2021
Computers are now an integral part of daily life for work, for leisure, and for education. So you're probably thinking it's a good idea that your kids have their own computer to learn with, do homework on or even relax and enjoy some home entertainment or games. There are so many good PCs out there suitable for kids that don't cost a lot, and our favorite is the Microsoft Surface Go.
- Best Overall: Surface Go
- Best Desktop: Dell Inspiron Small Desktop
- Best Gaming Laptop: Acer Nitro 5
- Best Gaming Desktop: HP Pavilion Gaming
- Best Budget Laptop: ASUS VivoBook L203
- Best for Learning: Kano Computer Kit
Best Overall: Microsoft Surface Go
The Surface Go is a stellar piece of technology. It's a 2-in-1, tablet-laptop hybrid that can be used in a variety of scenarios. This makes it ideal for kids who may want to do a little homework at the table, followed by some reading or light gaming in the bedroom after that. They can even draw on the touch display with a supported pen!
You get a great looking display, as well as 4GB of RAM on the entry spec model, but also higher-end versions with 8GB of RAM and SSD storage. With a USB-C dock or the Surface Dock attached, too, this compact 2-in-1 can transform into a home desktop PC with ease, making it an ideal machine for at home or at school.
It also looks stunning, as all Surface hardware from Microsoft does. It's well made, sturdy as can be, and has enough battery life to get through a day and beyond. It's a shame, though, that the keyboard is still an additional purchase.
- Proper Surface experience
- Versatile kickstand
- Touch display also supports pen
- Pen and keyboard not included
- SSD models get expensive
Best Desktop: Dell Inspiron Small Desktop
If you're looking for an excellent desktop PC for the kids, Dell's Inspiron 3471, or the Small Desktop, is a great buy. For one, as the name implies, it's small, so it'll take up next to no space in a bedroom or home office environment. But it's also got some great spec options for various needs.
The entry model is really well priced but hampered by slow storage. A little further up the tree, though you can get an Intel Core i3 or i5, 8GB of RAM, and importantly, SSD storage. All come with an optical drive, too, which makes it great to double up as a home entertainment PC.
There's only one HDMI output so that multi-monitor setups might require adapters, but it's got tons of USB ports and even an SD card reader on the front for easy access. It's ready to go out of the box with a mouse and keyboard included, and the power supply is internal despite its small size, so no worrying about a massive power brick.
- Good CPU options
- Tons of USB ports
- Keyboard and mouse included
- Only one HDMI output
- Entry models hampered by slow storage
Best Gaming Laptop: Acer Nitro 5
Gaming laptops get expensive fast, but Acer's Nitro 5 manages to remain well within the budget range while still offering an excellent gaming experience. The black plastic chassis has some red accents and a red backlight for the keyboard, but more importantly for younger gamers, it's sturdy.
This is a laptop cut out for 1080p gaming thanks to an AMD Ryzen 5 2500U CPU, 8GB of DDR4 RAM, and AMD Radeon RX 560X GPU with 4GB of GDDR5 VRAM, and while the display won't win any awards for color accuracy or viewing angles, it's fine to play games on, or more importantly, get the homework done before playing games.
It's also effortless to upgrade, so even though it's affordable now, you're easily able to add some more RAM or storage down the road to prolong its life, even further offering a real value package.
- Affordable price
- Easy-access RAM and storage upgrades
- Generous port selection
- Performance for 1080p gaming
- Slow HDD
- Maximum 60Hz refresh rate
- Average viewing angles
Best Gaming Desktop: HP Pavilion Gaming
Getting an excellent pre-built gaming PC doesn't have to cost the earth anymore, and HP's Pavilion Gaming is perfect for the younger audience. It's compact, well-equipped, affordable, and powerful enough to play all the games that kids today enjoy, yes, including Fortnite.
It's a fairly nondescript black box but with flashes of green accents to give it just enough to stand out from the boring box that the parents might have at the office. There are a bunch of different specs, but our favorite right now is the Core i5-9400F and NVIDIA GTX 1660 Ti combination with 8GB of RAM. This is a 6-core CPU and a strong mid-range GPU that will certainly last the course as the kids grow.
Storage is fairly limited out of the box at only 256GB, but desktop PCs are super simple to add to, so you'll be able to toss another SSD or a cheaper HDD in with ease, likewise adding more RAM as and when is necessary. There's even an optical drive when they want to relax and watch a movie.
- Affordable price
- Great GPU
- 6-core CPU
- Compact size
- Limited storage as standard
- Lower spec models worth ignoring
Best Budget Laptop: ASUS VivoBook L203
This 11.6-inch notebook from ASUS brings some of the styles of the company's more expensive models at an affordable price. The basic form factor has been around for a few iterations, but it's retained all of what makes it a solid laptop for school-age kids in particular.
Inside, you'll find an Intel Celeron processor, 4GB of RAM, and 64GB of internal storage, paired to an 11.6-inch 1366x768 resolution display. The display is small, but it still looks perfectly fine, though viewing angles could be better.
Despite the size, there's still a full-size keyboard, a MicroSD slot, HDMI out, USB-C, and full-size USB ports. And with up to 13 hours of battery life, you'll be able to head out for the day and leave the charger at home. To make the deal even better, you're getting a free year of Office 365 tossed in as well.
- Great price
- Full-sized keyboard
- Generous port selection
- Small form factor
- Free year of Office 365
- Slow storage
- CPU only good for lighter tasks
Best for Learning: Kano Computer Kit
The Kano isn't your typical computer, in so much as it doesn't run Windows, and it's probably not the sort of thing you're going to buy your kids to do their homework on. What it is, is a learning tool, designed to teach the younger audience about making and coding.
The heart of the Kano is a Raspberry Pi 3 with a custom OS, so you put this computer together yourself, and from there on out, there's a whole world of possibilities. There's even a dedicated version of Minecraft, not only to play but to code with.
It comes with lifetime care, a heap of apps and coding challenges to tackle, and a massive community in the wider world making this a kit that your children can enjoy learning something new with every single day.
- Massive community
- Child-friendly approach to making and coding
- Simple to put together
- Doesn't run Windows
A computer is going to be an integral part of your child's life as they grow up; the modern world virtually demands it. But, getting the right machine is key, and you really can't go wrong with a Surface Go.
It's a true go-anywhere PC and has so much flexibility. It can be used as a tablet for entertainment or games, or for handwriting or drawing on. But attach a keyboard, and it's a full, but incredibly compact, Windows laptop. Over Surface Connect or USB-C, it becomes a home desktop machine with a single cable.
For the older kids, it's small enough to fit inside a school bag while being durable enough not to fall apart when the inevitable happens, and it takes a bump or three. It truly is a remarkable little PC.
Credits — The team that worked on this guide
Richard Devine is an Editor at Windows Central. A former Project Manager and long-term tech addict, he joined Mobile Nations in 2011 and has been found on Android Central and iMore as well as Windows Central. Currently, you'll find him covering all manner of PC hardware and gaming, and you can follow him on Twitter and Instagram.
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