With high-end laptops such as the Apple MacBook Pro and Google Chromebook Pixel grabbing the attention of techies and teachers alike, it’s easy to get distracted by technology hype. Although educators can’t always afford the best equipment, that doesn’t mean there aren’t less-expensive laptops and netbooks that will get the job done both in and outside of the classroom.
A variety of personal computers boast high quality for $300 or less. Deciding on the model that’s best for you will depend on factors such as speed, dependability and battery life—the things on which teachers depend in the fast-paced world of education. EducationWorld therefore offers this educator’s guide to selecting the perfect personal computer.
This stylish computer scores high in terms of looks, but lower in terms of function. The first issue with this sleek, lightweight laptop is that users can’t upgrade the RAM. (If graphics are important, this machine will disappoint.) In addition, the screen is far below par, which could be a deal-breaker for some. Finally, this ASUS model lacks a USB 3.0 port, which is standard on just about any computer.
Bottom Line: An average price of $290 seems steep considering the negatives of this laptop. The battery life is far above average, a major plus if you want to use this computer primarily for word processing. If you want the total package, however, keep looking.
This compact computer is a solid purchase for those looking to browse the Web, use word processing or do anything that doesn’t require too much RAM. (Many might eventually want to upgrade to 2GB of RAM.) This laptop doesn’t come with a DVD-Rom, which might irk some teachers hoping to project movies. Also, the keyboard doesn't light up, meaning that a well-lit work area will be needed.
Bottom Line: This cheap and easy-to-use laptop is compact and fast, with a good battery life. At about $299, however, the machine is on the pricier side.
Fast, sturdy, highly portable and inexpensive, this laptop is comparable to Gateway’s model except when it comes to weight and battery power. This machine is lighter, but its battery power is nothing to brag about. It does have excellent Wi-Fi reception, which is great if you’re planning on moving from outlet to outlet. Users who want to upgrade the RAM to 2 GB probably won’t regret the investment. The boot-up time and load time are both fast, making this reliable and lightweight netbook a worthwhile contender.
Bottom Line: This laptop typically costs about $230 and will make a great personal computer for anyone who won’t stray far from a power source.
A full-size keyboard, extra-large touchpad and bright LED screen make the Toshiba Mini a great buy. The laptop is perfect for those looking for a keyboard that enables fast typing. Adding to its appeal, this model sports three USB drives (as opposed to the traditional one or two), making it great for data transfer and multitasking with storage devices and smartphones. At 8.3 hours of running time, the battery life is long enough to catch the eye of those who expect to be away from outlets for long periods. Generally, this is a fast-running, dependable computer for under $300.
Bottom Line: At around $235, this lightweight computer and its long battery life are a good choice for those who primarily work away from power sources.
This Amazon bestseller is great for those who already use Google products, as well as those seeking good battery life, reliable solutions for browsing while traveling, and fast and accurate word processing. This isn’t the best computer in the world, but for the money, it’s a steal. This quality laptop is a perfect, low-cost solution for any educator on the go. The screen and audio are above average for such an inexpensive computer. The machine runs quietly without heating up too much. It features all of the applications with which Google users are already familiar and runs outside online applications smoothly.
While the device syncs perfectly with Google accounts, the big downside is that users can’t install software packages from many outside developers. Unfortunately, this means no Microsoft or Adobe products. If you’re okay with primarily using Internet services for your video and audio editing, photo editing and other sophisticated processes, this won’t be a major issue.
Bottom Line: While it might feel limiting to use applications mostly featured in the Chrome browser, at $249, this machine offers fantastic value.
Finding a quality computer for under $300 can be quite challenging. In today’s tech-as-you-go world, educators want a lightweight laptop with long battery life. This killer combo has to be backed up by the speed and efficiency they expect and need. Although it may require making some sacrifices, finding a cheap machine that meets your requirements isn’t impossible.