Buyer’s guide to budget laptops

While desktops still have a place in most schools, many ICT co-ordinators now look to laptops as the mainstay of their ICT provision. This, like everything else, is a matter for the school’s ICT vision. Desktops can be a more robust solution, with peripherals and components that can be easily upgraded or replaced.

Buyer's guide to budget laptops

Weighing up the options

However, laptops are portable, and so can be easily conveyed from class to class. They’re compact, taking up less desk space, and can be more easily stored and locked away at night. Desktops are often cheaper, and provide more performance per pound, but laptops allow schools to be more flexible, and can transform the way you use ICT in the classroom.

Of course, laptops used to have two major disadvantages: with their smaller screens they could only really be used by one pupil at a time; and a single laptop would always cost more than the equivalent desktop setup. However, these factors are no longer an issue. This month, we’re looking at classroom-ready laptops that can be bought for less than £600, and with larger screen units available at this kind of money, you’re no longer so restricted when sharing.

Before looking at the technology, however, it’s important to ask yourself some questions. Will the devices be kept in one place, or will they be borrowed by pupils and used in different locations? Will pupils be taking them home? If so, you’ll need to look at lighter devices, and possibly invest in cases or bags that don’t scream “mug me”!

Will they be used for more demanding tasks, such as 3D graphics or video editing? If so, you’ll need a machine with more power. Above all else, this decision is about purchasing the most appropriate technology to support the school’s preferred style of learning.

There are advantages to going large. The larger the screen, the easier it is to edit and watch videos, the less need there is to scroll around while browsing web pages, and the more pupils can collaborate. To counter this, a big-screen laptop will be heavier, and the display will inevitably drain a battery faster.

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