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Need a laptop for school? Consumer Reports has recommendations

First step: Check with your school for requirements

SAN ANTONIO – Erika MacMaster is still reeling from how the last school year ended for her five kids.

“I felt frustrated,” she said. “At home, I have only one computer. I’m thinking of buying two more or three for my girls.”

Laptops top the back-to-school shopping list for many families gearing up for an uncertain semester. Before shopping, Consumer Reports recommends checking with your school for any technology requirements. Choosing a laptop can be confusing and pricey, but there are affordable options.

“For most school-aged kids, a Chromebook is fine — pretty much any Chromebook. That’s because students are going to be using web apps, and you don’t need anything special to run these apps,” said tech editor Nicholas DeLeon.

Consumer Reports recommends the Google Pixelbook for $649 or the Lenovo Chromebook C340-15 for $399.

When shopping for a laptop, there are many factors to consider such as budget, screen size, weight, battery life, speed, keyboard fit and memory, or RAM.

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For younger users, 4GB of memory is plenty, but older students who multitask may want more.

“Eight gigabytes is a good place to start,” Consumer Reports’ Samantha Gordon said. “But if kids are going to be playing games or using music, 16 GB is a better option for that.”

College students’ needs will probably depend on their course of study, and they should check with their school for specific computers, specs and programs.

For college, CR’s recommendations include a MacBook Air for $899 or the $896 Lenovo Flex 15 for those who prefer Windows.

To help with focus and concentration, headphones with a built-in microphone can come in handy, and you don’t need to spend a lot. CR recommends the Monoprice BT300 headphones for $39 or the in-ear Panasonics RP-TCM125 for $15.

Some retailers offer student discounts on laptops and some colleges offer discounts if purchased through the school.

If a new computer isn’t in the budget, there is a free software program that can turn an outdated laptop into a Chromebook. Consumer Reports provides step-by-step instructions here.

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