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Many families suddenly find themselves trying to balance work and keeping their kids' education on track due to school closures from the coronavirus. While you might have been able to get by with a single family computer at home, the current situation may demand buying something to supplement it. Or maybe you're just in need of some accessories to make what you've got do more. Either way, we're here to help.
If you're simply looking for new laptop suggestions, however, here are our best laptops for 2020. If you're looking for a specific style of laptop, here are our best gaming laptops, 15-inch laptops, two-in-ones and Chromebooks, as well as the best choices for college students, creatives and MacBook Pro alternatives for the Windows set. Plus, if you just want pure power or battery life, our rankings of battery life and performance are for you. Need to stay as low as possible on price? Check out our picks for budget laptops and budget gaming laptops.
A good, inexpensive Chromebook
Asus Chromebook C223NA-DH02
Many school districts switched from iPads and Windows laptops to Chromebooks. The best part about this is you can get a good, reliable one for your kids for less than $200 such as this Asus. They also make great secondary or tertiary computers for this reason. If you're not sure how they differ from a Windows PC or MacBook, here's our breakdown of what Chromebooks can and can't do and basic Chromebook buying advice. Here are some additional Chromebook deals, all for less than $400 each, or you can check clearance site Woot, which regularly has great Chromebook bargains.
A refurbished iPad
Apple iPad (5th gen or newer)
In need of an iPad? If you want to buy a new one, here's where you can find the best prices on iPads. You can, however, find better deals on refurbished or renewed models direct from Apple as well as Amazon, Walmart, Best Buy and Gazelle. And, in case you're concerned, buying a refurb iPad is a great idea. What's most important is that the model you buy supports the apps you need. Apple has a list of all the models that support the current version of iPadOS. You should also pay attention to the warranty that comes with it.
A multifunction printer
A small multifunction printer comes in handy for printing everything from worksheets to coloring pages. This one from Brother might be more than you need, but it's our top pick for a home printer and it supports wireless printing — important for Chromebook and iPad users who can't install drivers or easily directly connect by a cable.
A digital assistant
Google Nest Mini
My Nest Mini is getting a workout this week (which is more than I can say for myself). It's doing the usual things like keeping track of my shopping lists, setting timers, playing music and reminding me what day of the week it is. But it's also answering many of my kids' schoolwork questions as well as keeping them entertained while I get work done. There are more than 30 kid-friendly options from quizzes and trivia to games like freeze dance and musical chairs, though a family favorite is Mad Libs. Read our Google Nest Mini review.
An external display
27-inch HP Pavilion 27xw LED monitor
The biggest downside to trying to get schoolwork done on a Chromebook is workspace, since most have tiny 11.6-inch screens. Getting your student something larger will make working so much less painful. While one of our top picks for monitor upgrades is the 27-inch HP Pavilion 27xw LED display, it's big and costs $200. HP makes a similar smaller model, the HP Pavilion 22cwa, that's 21.5 inches and comes in at less than $100.
Everyone needs headphones
Puro Sound Labs PuroQuiet Kids Bluetooth Headphones
My house has essentially become an open office and, like every open office I've worked in, headphones have been crucial for my whole family. The PuroQuiets are essentially adult headphones sized for a child's head with built-in volume limiting to help active noise canceling and to protect hearing. They're great, but they're also expensive. For less expensive options, check out the $28 iClever Bluetooth volume-limiting headphones. We haven't tested them, but they are well reviewed on Amazon. Read our Puro Sound Labs PuroQuiet Kids Bluetooth Headphones review.
A lap desk
LapGear Designer Lap Desk
Workspace in short supply? LapGear's desk fits a 15.6-inch laptop and has a bar at the bottom to keep your laptop from sliding forward off the top. Its phone holder works well for holding pencils, too.
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More work-from-home essentials
- 9 must-haves when working from your home office
- 5 monitors to upgrade your home workspace
- Turn an old laptop into an awesome classwork Chromebook