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Buying notebooks for kids

Question : We're going to purchase notebook computers for our two kids this year - 12 and 13 years old. What should we be looking for?

Answer : The kids might be focusing on screen size, brand name, or maybe even some technical specifications, such as processor type or whether there's a built-in Webcam. But as the parents of two youngsters, your focus should be on two things: durability and warranty.

Put simply, most kids are tough on notebook computers. And to make matters worse, many notebooks today aren't exactly built for the rough treatment they can receive in the hands of kids. A short fall to the floor can irreparably damage a notebook's screen, for instance, and being anything but gentle in closing a notebook's lid can, over time, cause the plastic around the screen in some notebooks to crack.

So whichever model you consider purchasing, be sure to budget for "no fault" warranty coverage, if offered by the vendor. In fact, if a "no fault" warranty is not offered by the dealer, you might want to look elsewhere. No-fault warranties cover the equipment if it fails to operate correctly for just about any reason - even if it's because one of your kids drops the notebook onto concrete. Yes, this type of coverage will cost a bit more, but it's generally well worth the piece of mind.

You could also be on the lookout for models that are advertised as "durable" or "tough." Panasonic makes a Toughbook series of notebook computers that consistently win "torture tests" published by trade journals. Lenovo Thinkpads are reported to be quite durable, as well, and some of Dell's business notebooks have sturdier cases.

But you'll generally pay more for these road-ready notebook computers than you will for the budget-line models generally aimed at students. So if money is an issue, you'll have to weigh the cost of getting a less expensive notebook with a no-fault warranty against the higher cost of a rugged notebook without one.

No matter which model you purchase, also budget for protective notebook carrying cases, and spend some time with your kids discussing how to take care of these machines. With careful handling, a notebook computer can last for many years.



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Buying notebooks for kids


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