This blog is a good resource for parents searching for a budget laptop capable of handling primary to secondary student schoolwork. The content here is only a means to an end, as new models of laptop constantly emerge.
I bought a new lightweight & branded laptop for my kid’s schoolwork at $404!
We are a family of 3 kids with 2 in the upper primary this year. Raising a family of this size in Singapore is expensive. We strive to be responsible parents which entails spending a sheer amount of time and effort.
Just when HBL was around the corner, my daughter’s refurbished laptop decided to break down. The first thing that crosses my mind was whether I should repair or buy a new computer.
After careful consideration, I decided that buying a new laptop would be preferable to repairing a $280 laptop that was already 9 years old.
As I scrambled to find the right laptop at the right price, I realised it was time consuming and challenging . I believe it will be a daunting task for most parents.
If you urgently need to buy a new low-cost laptop for your child, scroll down to “Which laptop should I buy?” heading. You’ll find my recommended model there. Don’t forget to find the additional discount voucher.
Continue reading as I take you to uncover how I purchase a low-cost laptop at $404 for my child’s schoolwork.
I’ll be bringing you through the following topics.
- How much does a laptop cost nowadays?
- Are cheap laptops cheap stuff?
- Should I get a refurbished or a new laptop?
- What is a SSD and SATA?
- What to consider before buying a laptop for your kid?
- What is Windows 10 or 11 in S mode?
- Which laptop should I buy?
- Budget laptop requirements chart
- Where to find an additional discount?
- How to make your laptop last longer?
- What are the optional but useful accessories?
1. How much does a laptop cost nowadays?
I was mistaken in thinking that a new, lightweight, branded laptop with adequate capability for my child’s homework would cost more than a thousand dollars.
How much does a laptop cost nowadays?
I was ecstatic to discover that some top brands are selling lightweight laptops for under $500. I learned that these low-cost laptops are targeted at students and large enterprises like how a basic calculator is for common users.
I would define a low-cost or budget laptop to cost less than $500. This does not imply that you should go out and buy any of the model you see. You still need to be selective.
For example, some models of the laptop come with a good screen resolution, which cost a little more but it is worth spending that extra for the sake of your child’s vision.
2. Are cheap laptops cheap stuff?
To keep the laptop affordable, manufacturers use lower-cost components or parts, which compromises the durability of the laptop.
However, I believe that the quality of these laptops from top brands has to meet certain standards to maintain global market ranking,
I would estimate the average lifespan of these branded laptops to be 2 to 3 years if higher-priced laptops are estimated by most experts to last 3 to 6 years.
I think the lifespan of these low-cost or budget laptops is justifiable when you consider how most children would handle the laptop,
3. Should I get a refurbished or a new laptop?
A refurbished laptop is basically a used laptop which underwent some testing, repairing, and cleaning.
With the introduction of low-cost or budget laptops that cost less than $500 with one year warranty, buying a refurbished laptop is no longer worthwhile.
Every electronic components in a laptop has a lifespan. Therefore, you never know how frequently you may need to repair a refurbished laptop.
Prior to my search for a new laptop, I bought a 9-year-old refurbished laptop at Sim Lim Square for $280. It came with a 30-day local warranty, a new USB mouse, and a new computer bag. I was actually attracted to the SSD (Solid State Disk) storage device, which is a critical component that drastically improves the laptop performance and it has a longer lifespan.
The original storage device of this laptop is a SATA hard disk drive. It is an older type of storage drive. I guess it must have become faulty and replaced by a SSD. I’ll be explaining what is SSD and SATA later.
I was rather pleased with my purchase of the refurbished laptop which looks almost new except for a little dent at a corner. I thought it was a good buy and I hoped it would last for 1 to 2 years.
My initial disappointment came when I had to return to the seller twice to fix some faulty parts. Nevertheless, I got the parts replaced at no cost because of the 30-day warranty. My children were very happy with the laptop for 6 months before it broke down.
Despite fixing the initial faulty parts, it still broke down after 6 months. I suspect the heat generated by this model of laptop and the lifespan of the electronic parts might be the culprits. Now, I have to pay for the repair because the warranty has expired.
The repair cost for the broken component may be cheaper than the price of a new laptop with adjacent performance. However, the total amount spent (laptop price + repair cost), the hassle and the warranty period, encourages me to look for a new laptop.
I wouldn’t like the idea of my schedule to be frequently disrupted to manage the repair of the laptop. A new laptop has a 12 months warranty which you can extend to 2 or 3 years for a fee compared to a 30-day warranty for refurbished laptops.
My advise? Buy a new and branded laptop for peace of mind!
4. What is a SSD and SATA?
SSD (Solid State Disk) is a newer type of storage device or hard disk drive with no moving parts compared to SATA (Serial Advanced Technology Attachment) hard disk drive which requires mechanical parts.
A hard disk drive or HDD is a data storage device that lives inside the computer. Both the SSD and SATA are storage devices that store computer data files.
We can view the SSD as a laser metal cutter while SATA as the conventional metal cutter with mechanical parts. Both cutters will cut metal but the laser metal cutter will cut much faster, more accurately, and more reliably.
SSD performs much faster, more reliable, and has a longer life span of up to 10 years. On the contrary, SATA hard disk drive only lasts 3 to 5 years because of the mechanical components.
SSD can withstand accidental drops and other shocks, vibration, extreme temperatures, and magnetic fields better than SATA HDD.
When given a choice, choose a laptop with a SSD. It will make a low-end laptop run faster and increases the laptop’s longevity.
5. What to consider before buying a laptop for your kid?
Here are 2 primary questions that can help you to uncover your laptop requirements.
- Who will be using the laptop?
- What is the purpose of the laptop?
5.1 Who will be using the laptop?
In my case, my 10-year-old girl, in primary 4, will be the main user of the laptop. Occasionally, the laptop will be shared with her 12-year-old sister when it is used at the student care center.
Both kids are familiar with Windows 10 which is the laptop operating system (OS). The school which both of them are attending doesn’t use Mac computers.
They are both comfortable with Zoom, Google Chrome and Google Workspace for Education for their schoolwork. It is the same with most students and the teachers in school.
Google Workspace for Education comprises Gmail, Chat, Meet, Calendar, Classroom, Drive for storage, Docs, Sheets, Slides, Forms, and Sites for collaboration, which works seamlessly in Google Chrome.
- Operating System (OS) – laptop is installed with Windows 10 or 11
- Software Applications – laptop allows installation of Google Chrome and Zoom
5.2 What is the purpose of the laptop?
Here are the 5 main considerations with regard to the purpose of the laptop.
The laptop will be used for schoolwork, online SLS (Student Learning Space), Zoom meetings, Google Meet, YouTube, light gaming, online learning, kid’s entertainment and HBL (Home-Based Learning).
If the child is using the laptop touchpad for long hours, the child may begin to get uncomfortable on the forearm and become unproductive. Eventually, the child will experience fatigue, discomfort and stress as muscle activity on the neck, shoulder, and forearm increases. Replacing the use of the touchpad with an external mouse will help the child to be more productive and faster. It is also more ergonomic than a touchpad.
- Performance – laptop performance cannot be too slow, therefore, Tablet and Chromebook are out of the consideration.
- Hard Disk – the internal hard disk storage size of the laptop is not critical because the schoolwork will mostly be saved in Google Drive. Moreover, you can complement the storage size with a USB thumb drive or an external USB hard disk for large storage capacity.
- MS-Office – there is no need for Microsoft Office (Word, Excel, PowerPoint) to be installed because students use the Google Suit, which consists of word processor, spreadsheet and presentation application software.
- Communication – laptop will need a built-in webcam and microphone
- Controller – an external mouse to replace the use of the laptop touchpad
5.2.2 Screen Size & Webcam
During the Zoom meeting, the teacher would need to share content to the students. Therefore, you wouldn’t want the size of the laptop screen to be too small.
Paying a little more for a good screen size is worth the investment so that your child doesn’t have to frequently strain the eyes. Especially, when considering the amount of time your child may spend on the computer.
When the webcam quality is bad, it is equally straining on the eyes and frustrating. Imagine watching a low resolution movie quality of 144p on YouTube. I would stopped watching it after a few minutes because it is simply stressful and frustrating.
- Screen – laptop screen size is at least 14”
- Webcam – laptop built-in webcam video resolution is at least 480p or 0.3MP
During HBL, my child would need to bring the laptop to and fro the student care center because the center hasn’t got enough computers or tablets for all the students.
When it comes to carrying a heavy schoolbag to school, my girl is rather unenthusiastic about it. Imagine carrying a heavy laptop.
- Weight – laptop weight should be less than 1.5kg.
At the student care center, which my child is attending, it hasn’t got the leisure of space.
Students are seated 1 meter apart without partitions. Therefore distraction is inevitable during conversations in HBL between the student and the teacher.
You will need a pair of earphones and ideally with built-in microphone to manage and minimize such distraction.
Here is the good news! The earphones with a microphone you used for your smartphone will work on most budget laptop.
Almost all low-cost or budget laptops come with a 3.5mm headphone jack port which merged separate microphone and audio lines into a single 3.5mm line. Therefore, there is no need to purchase a separate external microphone or a USB headset with microphone.
- Port – laptop needs to have a 3.5mm headphone/speaker jack, supporting headsets with built-in microphone. It is also called a headphone/mic combo. Look for the combo symbol.
- Earphones – a smartphone earphones with microphone
Finally, the budget. I have 3 children to raise so I have to be careful with my spending. Therefore, I’ll set my budget to be from $380 to $450 for a new laptop.
- Laptop – costs less than $500
6. What is Windows 10 or 11 in S mode?
Windows 10 or 11 in S mode is a version of Windows which is streamlined for performance and security.
It has been configured by Microsoft to be able to run efficiently on low-end computers thereby making laptops more affordable to students and businesses that don’t require a very fast laptop.
To enhance security, you are restricted to only install apps from the Microsoft Store, and require Microsoft Edge for safe browsing. This means you cannot install Google Chrome, Zoom, and other software, unless they are listed in the Microsoft Store.
The good news is that you can easily switch out of S mode to a full version of Windows for free. This will set you free to install any software.
Once you have switched out of S mode, the Windows security is comprised. Therefore, it is essential for you to install a free version of antivirus software. My favorite is Avast Free Antivirus. If your budget permit, the paid version is preferred.
When installing free software, it is important that you don’t rush it. Always remember not to be too quick to click the Next button. Instead check to uncheck unwanted options to prevent installation of unwanted software.
7. Which laptop should I buy?
Low-cost or budget laptops have the following common characteristics.
- Selling price – $600 and below
- Processor – Intel Celeron N4020 processor
- Operating System – Windows 10 or 11 in S mode
- Display size – 11″ or 14″
- Webcam quality – 0.3MP or 480p
- RAM – 4Gb of internal memory
- Storage disk or hard disk size – 128Gb or below
- Weight – 1.5kg or below
Don’t be intimidated by the technical terms used, you just need to know that they exist.
However, only Lenovo and Acer meet our laptop requirements. I excluded Apple, ASUS, Dell, and HP because they did not meet our requirements.
Apple, Dell and HP are above our price requirement of $500 and below.
I would have chosen ASUS over Acer if it has 14″ screen or display size. So far, all low-cost ASUS laptops only have 11.6″ screen size.
After you have started your internet browser, eg. Edge, Chrome, etc, go to Google homepage. At the search entry enter the search phrase or commonly known as keywords.
- If you are searching on the Brand, type “lenovo review singapore” without the quotation marks. Replace “lenovo” with another brand you want to search for.
- If you are searching on the Laptop model, type “HP Laptop 15s-fq0500TU review” without the quotation marks. Simply replace the laptop model name with another model you wish to check.
After spending a significant amount of time researching on the best laptop for my daughter, I finally decided on Lenovo IdeaPad Slim 1i 14”. With an additional discount coupon, I paid only $404.10. I saved $94.91!
Lenovo IdeaPad Slim 1i 14″
8. Budget Laptop Requirement Chart
I’ve created a chart below to ease you from the painstaking task of researching, .
The chart has a collation of the laptop requirements derived from “What to consider before buying a laptop for my kid?” in earlier section. You’ll also find my recommended laptop models there.
With this chart, you can simply use the listed laptop requirements highlighted in bold to match against the technical specifications of the laptop during your selection process.
Budget Laptop Requirement Chart
Updated on Jan 2022
|1.||Ranking||–||* * *||*|
|2.||Price range||$400 to $500||$431.59 to $476.4||$418 to $498|
|3.||No. of models that meet requirements||–||3||5|
|5.||Price tag||below $500||$461.14
(before additional discount voucher)
|6.||Stock availability||–||Available||Out of stock|
|7.||Processor||Intel Celeron N4020 or above||Intel® Celeron® N4020||Intel® Celeron® N5100|
|8.||Color||–||Platinum Grey||Pure Silver|
|9.||Operating System||Windows 10 or 11 in S mode||Windows 11 Home in S mode 64||Windows 10 Home in S mode|
|10.||Display||14.0”, HD or FHD||14.0″ HD, TN, Anti-Glare, LED Backlight, Narrow Bezel, Non-Touch||14″ FHD LED backlit TFT LCD Ultra-slim design|
|11.||Memory||4Gb or more||4GB DDR4-2400 MHz (Onboard)||4GB DDR4 RAM|
|12.||Storage||64Gb or more||128GB SSD, M.2 2280, PCIe NVMe, TLC||64GB eMMC|
|13.||Audio||Built-in speakers||2 x 1.5W speakers with Dolby Audio™||Two built-in stereo speakers|
|14.||Dimensions||–||Starting at 327.1mm x 235mm x 20.9mm / 12.87″ x 9.25″ x 0.82″||328 (W) x 236 (D) x 19.9 (H) mm (12.91 x 9.29 x 0.78 inches)|
|15.||Weight||1.5kg and below||1.2kg / 2.64lbs||1.45kg|
|18.||Camera / Webcam||480p / 0.3MP or above||480p / 0.3M CAMERA WITH 2 MIC||480p / 0.3MP|
|19.||Warranty||1 Year or more||2 Year PremiumCare||1 Year Carry-In Local Singapore Warranty|
9. Where to find additional discount?
Shop wisely! Don’t just settle for a good deal and credit card reward. Scout for appropriate coupon, discounts, voucher, and deal sites in Singapore for bigger savings.
I got my additional discount on top of the given discount by Lenovo from Couponation.
Cuponation is a major website that offers a myriad of promo codes on different online platforms and e-commerce sites. Unfortunately, Acer is not on their list.
Below is a list of more Singapore online platforms with discount codes. A description for each of these platforms can be found at “How to Shop Wisely Online?“.
10. How to make your laptop last longer?
Here are some practices your child can observe to stretch the lifespan of the laptop.
- Avoid using the laptop for prolonged hours.
- Don’t use the laptop on your lap or in bed, or set on pillows or blankets. This will obstruct the laptop vents, reducing the intake of cool air, resulting in poor heat dissipation and causing overheating. This also is true for laptops in sleep mode.
- Use a good quality laptop cooling pad to help bring down the temperature of the electronic components inside the laptop during usage.Check out my choice of a budget and good quality laptop cooling pad in “Useful but optional accessories” below.
- Don’t leave the laptop sitting in hot sunlight.
- Keep animals away.
- Don’t leave the laptop hanging off the edge of a table, couch, chair, and so on.
- Don’t eat around the laptop.
- Wash or sanitize your hands before using the laptop to minimize dirt and oils transferring, which can build up over the years.
- If you only use the laptop sporadically, keep it in the most dust-free location available.
- Don’t leave the laptop charging 24/7.
- Don’t smoke around the laptop.
Now that you know how to maximize your laptop lifespan, do you know “How To Tell If Your Laptop Is Dying?”
11. What are the optional but useful accessories?
Below are some optional accessories which I find it useful for the laptop.
1. Laptop Cooling Pad
Also known as laptop cooling stand. A good laptop cooling pad will bring down the temperature of the laptop during usage.
Don’t be tempted to purchase a cheap model, ie. anything below $10, unless it has good reviews from buyers. Otherwise, it is simply a waste of money.
My choice is the “Cool Cold Ice Troll 2 15-17 Inch Gaming Laptop Cooling Stand Powerful Pad with 4 Fan” at $17.90 from Lazada with free shipping to collection point.
2. USB 3.0 Hub
If your laptop is like mine which has only two USB 3.0 ports, don’t fret. This is common for most of the budget laptops. Getting a USB 3.0 hub will overcome this issue.
A USB hub is a handy way of adding additional USB ports to your laptop.
A word of caution about USB 3.0 hub. If you purchase a cheap hub, maybe below $10, chances are some of the devices connected to it may not work.
A USB 3.0 hub will not work with USB-C port on the laptop.
The USB 3.0 hub that works well for me is the “Vention Network Card Ethernet 10M/100M/1000M USB to RJ45 USB 3.0 HUB Converter LAN Wired USB Internet Adapter” at $33.99 from Shopee with free shipping.
It comes with three USB 3.0 ports and a network or RJ45 port which allows me to connect to my home internet using a network cable instead of using WiFi. So that, I’ll have a more reliable and about 10 times faster internet speed compared to WiFi.
You’ll need a network cable to connect between your home internet router and the hub.
You can purchase a USB 3.0 or USB-C hub with only additional USB 3.0 ports instead of what I have recommended. You can choose from these two popular China made brand – UGreen and Vention.
3. USB Mouse
Personally, I prefer my children using an external mouse rather than the touchpad on the laptop. So that, they don’t easily stress their forearm, neck and shoulder muscles.
When given a choice, I would use a USB mouse instead of a wirelss mouse. For a simple reason that I don’t have to spend money buying batteries. I also don’t have to worry about my children not knowing what to do if the wireless mouse’s battery runs out.
If you don’t wish to spend a lot on a USB mouse, I recommend the “(Original) Logitech M100 Mouse USB M100R 3 Years Singapore Warranty 910-005005” at $8.99 from Shopee with $1.49 shipping fee.
For those who prefer a better mouse, I recommend the“Adesso Imouse W3 Waterproof Mouse with Magnetic Scroll Wheel” at $36.91 from Amazon.sg.
When you are at Amazon website ensure you select “Buy it on Amazon.sg” if you are on Amazon.com instead of Amazon.sg.
Adesso USB mouse is made with antimicrobial materials to resist the growth of bacteria. It’s also waterproof, meaning it will stand up to spills or sneezes! The magnetic scroll wheel with four built-in magnets ensures smooth scrolling, and optical sensor technology means that students can work on just about any surface without a mouse pad.
Tablet is good for children age 6 and below, or kids getting exposed to computers.
Chromebook is suitable for younger students. It is technically a laptop, just with a different operating system, and has lower performance compared to laptop.
You can now purchase a new and branded laptop for under $500. These are low-end laptops targeted at students and large enterprises.
If you are considering buying a refurbished laptop, consider the lifespan of electronic components, and weigh the failure rate between used components in refurbished laptops and new components in new laptops. Don’t forget the hassle of repairing it.
Low-end or budget laptops come with cheaper components. Therefore, it’ll not be as durable as the pricey laptops. If higher-end laptops are estimated to last 3 to 6, I would estimate the lifespan of these budget laptops to be around 2 to 3 years.
I eventually decided on Lenovo IdeaPad Slim 1i 14” after spending much time researching. It is light, slim and only cost me $404 with a year warranty.
If you are drafting your requirements for a laptop, try answering this question:
“Who will be using the computer and for what purpose?”
Don’t worry about Windows in S mode. It can easily be upgraded to the full version of Windows for free. When using the full version of Windows 10 or 11 Home, remember to install an antivirus software. My favorite is the free version of Avast which is good enough for now.
You can use the “Budget Laptop Requirements Chart” in this blog to match the laptop requirements listed in bold against the laptop specifications during your research.
Let me know what you think. If you find this blog post helpful, please share it with other parents or give a Like!