Laptop vs. Desktop: Which Is Best for Home School?
July 17, 2020
Homeschooling has grown in popularity over the last decade, with estimates suggesting that 3% to 4% of students in the U.S. now receive an education at home. There are many options for curriculum, and many educational companies actually place their studies completely online or through another homeschool computer method.
Plus, companies that rely on traditional textbooks often provide online resources and activities to help kids with their research and to stay connected.
Knowing this, how do you choose the best laptop or desktop for your home school? The answer depends on your unique family situation. In this article, we’ll help you understand how to tell which is best for you and why picking the right computer matters to your child’s education.
How are homeschool computers used?
Think of all the ways you use a computer in your daily life. Homeschool students do many of the same tasks but in a home classroom application.
Examples include checking emails from teachers and peers, creating word documents for written assignments, and using YouTube to research a science project. Even games and chat apps are used either formally through a third-party virtual classroom or casually to expand upon what they’ve learned at home.
Also, if you don’t teach your student every subject yourself but rely on tutors or live courses, a computer also acts as the “interface” for live or recorded lectures between your child and their instructor.
Trying to get through the homeschool year without a computer just isn’t impossible anymore. From creating art to streaming music, the home computer has a valuable place in a child's education, especially for homeschoolers.
As a student progresses in their studies, a computer becomes essential for providing access to the more advanced tools they need for learning. A quality desktop or laptop PC also prepares them for the skills they need to function as productive adults in our tech-savvy world.
Advantages of a homeschool laptop
If you have your eyes on a shiny new laptop, you’ll be pleased to know that they are ideal for students who:
Need to move from room to room for privacy or networking reasons
Have limited desk space
Want the advantages of a foldable laptop that doubles as a tablet, such as the HP Pavilion x360 laptop
Benefit from schooling on the road, at the library, in co-op spaces, or in collaborative learning settings
Laptops no longer suffer from limited processing power or storage capacities. They can perform just as well as their desktop counterparts, provided you’re able to invest in a good model.
Families with more than one student will find laptops to be a good fit, too, because they can be shared, moved, and stored just about anywhere. Today’s laptops are sturdy and light as well, making them ideal for “road schoolers,” military families, or those who learn everywhere they travel.
Best homeschool laptops
Like many gadgets, there are different levels of laptop offerings, ranging from entry-level models that meet smaller budgets to more powerful learning machines at a higher price point.
Here are some of the best laptops for homeschoolers. Larger families may choose to have more than one laptop or even a laptop and a desktop PC, especially if they have several ages of students at home. You can start by focusing on a laptop from this list that best meets your needs and financial priorities.
1. HP Chromebook 14a G5 notebook - affordable & intuitive for any age
The Chrome OS makes using Google apps seamless, which in turn makes it easy to get these laptops up and running in no time. Plus, the 14-inch screen size is ideal for those who want to save space while viewing quality multimedia images.
Your student can charge it quickly thanks to the universal USB-C compatible port, and the battery lasts up to 9 hours. From surfing the web through the pre-installed Chrome browser to launching the best Google-powered apps, this customizable laptop features up to 64GB eMMC storage, reliable WiFi connectivity, and an HD webcam with a mic. It offers some of the best value as a laptop for all homeschool budgets.
If you can’t decide between a laptop or tablet, guess what? You don’t have to. The HP Pavilion x360 gives you the choice of working with the removable full-sized keyboard or putting it aside for a touch screen experience in tablet mode. It’s built with the power of an Intel® i5 or i7 processor (your choice), so your student can easily perform multiple tasks without lag. You can also add up to 16GB RAM and a massive optional storage capacity of up to 1TB so your student can share and save all their projects, too.
Recommended uses include creating videos, editing photos, using learning apps, and viewing live-streaming courses. This flexible laptop can be taken anywhere, too, because it weighs just 3.5 lbs. If your student gets just one device to handle all their learning and entertainment viewing needs, this should be it.
Sometimes, you just need a reliable laptop that gets the job done. The HP 15t laptop is a good choice for your all-around learning computer and has a slightly larger screen (15 inches) than the previous options.
It also comes with the Intel i5 or i7 processing choices, as well as a number of configurations for storage, memory, and keyboard style. Your student can personalize the look of this laptop, too, because it comes in three colors (Natural Silver, Pale Gold, and Snow Flake White).
Add on an optional external DVD drive at purchase so you can use this laptop for watching DVD video courses or playing educational games. Whatever learning activities you do, this homeschool laptop will showcase them in brilliant color with your choice of a High Definition (HD) standard screen, HD touch screen, or Full High Definition (FHD) screen (no touch).
Four color options
Powerful Intel i5 or i7 processor
Great overall value
Multiple ports for accessories, external DVD drive, and additional monitors
Advantages of a homeschool desktop
If you already have a place for “doing schoolwork,” a desktop computer can make an ideal learning tool. Here are some of the most common reasons to choose this stationary solution:
You need more computing power for gaming, design, editing, or rendering at a lower price point
You enjoy the expandability of a desktop for future needs
You want built-in components, such as extra USB, HDMI, DVD-ROM, card readers, etc. for numerous accessories that might not fit on a laptop
You plan to create a single workspace for all your homeschool students to share
Desktop computers have become smaller and lighter over time. If you haven’t shopped for one in a while, you may still assume they’re large, clunky things that sit on the floor. The newest models, however, are rather slim and can often sit on the desk next to your monitor without crowding your workspace.
Remember how we said that desktops were taking up less space these days? The HP Slim desktop makes that clear with its name. Beyond the sleek looks, this PC comes with the powerful hexa-core 9th Generation Intel Core™ i5 processor. So yes, this desktop computer is light on square inches but lacks nothing in features.
The included 12GB memory (upgradable to 32GB) and integrated graphics ensure online apps work without glitches and that live video webinars come in crystal clear. Kids will love working on this desktop when you pair it with a monitor that works best for your space.
The DVD writer, memory card readers, and lots of ports and HDMI slots make it easy to attach accessories for a robust educational experience. It’s also incredibly affordable.
If you don’t feel like shopping for a monitor, skip it altogether and go with the HP Pavilion AiO. The computer’s components are built into the 13.8-inch FHD, so you can pick one product and get started. This savvy desktop has everything you need to start learning right out of the box including a mouse, keyboard, webcam, and speakers, so you can set this up for your student in minutes.
With an Intel i5 processor, up to 16GB memory, and 1TB of storage (with more available), you can rely on this desktop for years of homeschool activities. While this AiO works like a desktop and needs to be plugged in during use, since it’s just over 12 lbs, moving it to a new location isn’t out of the question.
Monitor, PC, webcam, speakers, keyboard, and mouse in one box
Starts working within minutes
Up to 1TB of storage
Intel UHD graphics for brilliant display
3. HP Pavilion gaming desktop - multi-purpose performance PC
If there’s one thing that homeschoolers love to do with their leisure time, it’s gaming! A solid pick for work and play, the HP Pavilion gaming desktop is built to do what ambitious students need it to do, plus all the extras that pro gamers love, too.
This PC features a cool geometric design and powerful components, like up to 32GB memory, 3TB HDD storage, and NVIDIA® GeForce® RTX 2060 Super 8GB graphics. Plus, it runs quietly and coolly thanks to the AMD Ryzen™ 5 or 7 processor.
Whether your kids watch YouTube videos to learn the best way to design amazing 3D graphics or choose to code their own Minecraft mods to share with friends online, there is no end to the way kids can learn and create with this desktop.
And since it’s rated as a gaming computer, it can handle whatever homeschool requires of it, but it’s also great for families who love to have fun together.
Powerful AMD Ryzen processor
Optional SSD storage
EPEAT® Bronze registered
HP 3-in-1 media card reader
Tips for shopping
It can be hard to know exactly what you’ll need in a homeschool computer, especially if it’s your first year teaching at home. Even experienced home educators make buying mistakes. Here are some things to consider before you begin your search:
Consider getting more memory, storage, and processing speed than you estimate you'll need. Storage fills up fast, especially if you download multimedia projects often or save learning apps to your computer. Memory and processing are essential for keeping many apps working well at once. If your child plays games or does anything in the creative arts, look at upgrading the specs up to the most you can afford.
Prepare for the worst with an HP Care Pack. These protection plans can save you money on unexpected repairs, accidents, spills, and more. Kids are kids, after all, and you can save money and limit interruptions to their learning when you know your brand-new computer is covered.
What’s the best homeschool computer for you?
It’s tempting to make a list named “pros and cons: laptop vs. desktop,” and if this is how you make decisions, go for it! Our guide can give you a jump on your list.
For many families, this is the best way to start, especially if you can only afford one homeschool computer right now. If you have many kids in the family, it’s sometimes best to have more than one, so you may want to keep that list handy as you plan for each child’s needs and learning style.
The convenience of a laptop is undeniable, but desktop PCs serve as sturdy workstations for a family who plays games or uses virtual reality and wants more computing power for the price. The best computer for homeschooling will be the one your family can rely on for years of learning at home.
About the Author: Linsey Knerl is a contributing writer for HP® Tech Takes. Linsey is a Midwest-based author, public speaker, and member of the ASJA. She has a passion for helping consumers and small business owners do more with their resources via the latest tech solutions.
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