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Apple MacBook Air, Chromebooks, more: Deals on laptops for middle-school students

Apple Macbook Air in Rose Gold keyboard shot
You don't need to spend $1,000 or more on an Apple MacBook Air or similar fancy back-to-school computer -- there are plenty of great Chromebook options under $250 and hyper-portable Windows 10 convertibles for middle school students that won't bust a budget. Apple via Amazon

Computers, once an optional part of childhood learning, have become all but mandatory in many schools. Whether it's used to access lesson plans and homework, connect for online learning, or just research school projects, having the right computer for your kids can be essential their to success.

The good news is that these school-ready laptops don't need to cost a lot of money. While some parents may prefer a higher-priced option such as a MacBook, many students will perform just as well with a Chromebook at less than a fifth of the price. And there are plenty of solid options in between, in case the school notebook will also be used for Roblox, Fortnite and other after-school activities.

Take a look at some affordable laptop options for middle school students, all currently on sale for back to school.

Chromebooks Under $250

Positioned somewhere between a full-functioning notebook and a tablet, a Chromebook is more than enough computer for most middle school students. Chromebooks offer access to popular apps such as Google Classroom, Chrome, YouTube, Docs and more. They're not ideal for older students, who may need a more powerful machine for creating digital art or editing video, but a Chromebook will handle most school basics and online tasks without busting the family budget.

14-inch HP Chromebook 

HP 14-inch Pentium chromebook
HP via Walmart

This particular 14-inch HD Chromebook from HP, currently $50 off during Walmart's back-to-school sale, features 64GB of SSD storage, 4GB of RAM, an HD webcam and a quad-core Intel Pentium Silver N5000 processor. Its battery, meanwhile, lasts a full 13 hours and 30 minutes -- more than enough for even the toughest school day.

Lenovo Chromebook Flex 3 convertible

Lenovo Flex 3 Chromebook
Lenovo via Amazon

Another solid Chromebook option is the 11.6-inch Lenovo Chromebook Flex 3, currently rated 4.5 stars at Amazon. The touchscreen has a 360-degree hinge that converts it between laptop mode, tent mode, tablet mode and stand mode. It has 4GB of memory, 64GB of storage and a battery that lasts 10 hours on a charge.

Regularly $320, this convertible Lenovo laptop is currently $250 at Amazon.

Lightweight Windows 10 laptop: Microsoft Surface Go 2

Microsoft Surface Go 2
Microsoft via Amazon

The highly portable Microsoft Surface Go 2, starting under $400, is another solid option for students on a hybrid learning schedule. Weighing in at just 1.2 pounds, the Surface Go 2 can be used as a Windows 10 tablet, or, with the optional Type Cover with built-in keyboard and mouse ($59), as a Windows 10 laptop.

This model comes with an 10.5-inch touchscreen, rear- and forward-facing cameras for remote learning, 4GB of memory, 64GB of storage, 10-hour battery and an Intel Pentium Gold processor. It's got enough power for school tasks, with a little bit of oomph left over to run popular games such as Among Us and Roblox.

Regularly $400, you can get this convertible Microsoft laptop for just $381 right now on Amazon.

Lightest Apple laptop: MacBook Air

Apple MacBook Air
Apple via Amazon

Kids probably don't want you to read this sentence, but here it is anyway: Most children don't need an Apple MacBook computer. While they may be a good fit for high schoolers and college students, especially those interested in graphic design and video editing, they're somewhat overpowered for the more basic needs of a middle school student.

Still, if your family is already deep into the Apple ecosystem, there's some value in opting for the familiarity of macOS, as opposed to learning how to use a new Chromebook or Windows 10 computer. The least expensive MacBook option -- aside from picking up an older, refurbished MacBook model, of course -- is the MacBook Air. Powered by the Apple M1 chip, it's a fast machine in a tiny package. It has a silent, fanless design and, of course, Apple's signature Retina display.

The $899 MacBook Air (reduced from $999) features a 13.3-inch screen, 7-core GPU, 256GB of SSD storage, 8GB of memory, a backlit keyboard and Touch ID. It's available in gold, silver and space gray. Note that it only has two Thunderbolt/USB 4 ports, one of which will be used for charging.

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