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Best Family-Friendly Desktop and Laptop Computers
From budget to space-saving options, check out our favorite computers and laptops for a variety of family needs
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You and your family use your computer for just about everything, from staying in touch with Grandma to managing finances to storing all your favorite family photos, so it's important to buy the right computer. If you're in the market for a new system, consider what your primary needs are and what each family member wants. There are so many choices on the market right now with varying prices, but who has the time to do the research? We've done it for you: check out our list of 10 great choices for desktop and laptop computers for a variety of family needs. Happy computing!
BEST PERFORMANCE DESKTOP:
HP TouchSmart 600-1055 Desktop PC
Good for: All around supercomputing and handling the requirements and needs of every family member
This cool machine utilizes touch technology—a fairly new feature on desktop computers—which allows simple finger swipes to manage photos, videos, music, games, email and desktop applications. Touch makes it easy for parents-on-the-go to quickly check calendars, schedules for the day, or virtual sticky notes as they're running out the door. The PC also comes integrated with a Blu-ray player and DVD burner for family movie night.
MOST PORTABLE LAPTOP:
HP Mini 210
If you don’t want to spend a fortune on a new computer for your older kids, or risk having them break yours, the HP Mini 210 is a compact and cost-efficient option. The Mini comes with an impressive 8.75 hours of battery life, 250 GB hard drive, 10.1” screen, built-in webcam and more. Plus, it comes in five snazzy colors.
HP Mini 210 from hp.com
Toshiba L635 (Kids’ Spark PC line)
If a kids’ laptop isn’t feature-rich enough, and a traditional PC offers too many bells and whistles for your child, consider the Toshiba L635, a dedicated kids’ PC sold exclusively through Best Buy. This is a full-sized laptop that provides the features they need (such as a 250GB hard drive, 13” screen, games, word processing and more), as well as features to put parents’ minds at ease (Net Nanny internet filtering software and safe Internet browsing).
BEST PERFORMANCE LAPTOP:
Lenovo ThinkPad T410
Good for: Incredible performance and power in a sleek design
Built with performance and functionality in mind, this laptop has a six-hour battery life and includes Wi-Fi and built-in mobile broadband, for connectivity anywhere. We like the built-in webcam, perfect for Skype sessions with the grandparents.
BEST VALUE LAPTOP:
Acer Aspire AS5745-7247
Good for: Portable fun and functionality and high-quality sound and display
A cool differentiator of this laptop is its whopping 640GB hard drive—which is larger than some desktop systems. Four built-in USB ports support gadgets for the whole family, allowing multiple devices to be plugged in or charging at the same time. The computer also has a 5-in-1 card reader, which accepts different memory-card formats (flash, compact, XD, etc.), offering immediate and easy access to all the photos on your camera.
Acer Aspire AS5745-7247 at staples.com
BEST MULTIMEDIA/GAMING DESKTOP:
Gamer Paladin F875-SB
Good for: Blow-your-hair-back audio and visual effects
Hardcore gamers and multimedia consumers in your household will love the iBuypower Gamer Paladin F870-SB. It's definitely on the expensive side, but the crisp, vibrant audio and visual technology make the price worth it for gaming. And for movie-watching, the built-in Blu-ray/DVD player and huge LCD screen really make you feel like you're at the theater.
BEST MULTIMEDIA/GAMING LAPTOP:
Toshiba Qosmio X505
Good for: Stunning visual display with high-performance features
With a huge high-def 18.4" screen, Dolby surround sound and incredibly fast processing speeds, the gamers in your house can go to town with their fast-paced 3D chases on this portable gaming system. The computer features all the bells and whistles of a high-performance laptop, including desktop applications, fast processing speeds and a large memory, which non-gamers will appreciate.
BEST SPACE-SAVING DESKTOP:
Gateway One ZX4300-01e
Good for: Families who want the power and speed of a desktop computer, but don't have the space for it
Mixing form with function, the Gateway One ZX4300-01e features a sleek, space-saving design that will fit into almost any nook. Gateway still managed to include a 20" display in this model for your high-definition viewing pleasure, and the machine offers touch-screen technology with a variety of apps (photo, video, music) to entertain and manage daily household tasks.
Gateway One ZX4300-01e at gateway.com
BEST SPACE-SAVING LAPTOP:
Good for: Powerful (and beautiful) computing with streamlined design
You've seen the latest Apple commercials that show off the thinness and incredible design of the new MacBook Air. Thin as air, literally! Using an incredibly fast processor, you can do any task, big or small, on what Apple says, "weighs less than a Sunday paper." It also includes a multi-touch trackpad for navigation, which means that all those little finger swipes, pinches and drags your kids have perfected from using your iPhone will come in handy.
BEST TRENDY DESKTOP:
Good for: Powerful computing with a modern aesthetic
Apple takes the cake again for its incredible design sense with the iMac: a processor is built into the monitor, and the system uses a wireless keyboard and mouse. Plus, you can choose either the 21.5" or the 27" display for in-your-face HD graphics. Everyone will enjoy using iPhoto, iChat and iMovie, and the whole family can even learn to play guitar or piano with the built-in GarageBand software.
BEST TRENDY LAPTOP:
Good for: Eco-conscious users
Combine an elegant bamboo finish with Altec Lansing speakers and you have one trendy laptop, though there's more to this machine than looks alone. The incredible battery life of 10.5 hours allows every family member to take a turn before the machine needs a charge. We like the "super-speed" USB 3.0 connection, which Asus claims is more environmentally friendly because it charges peripherals, like phones or cameras, quicker on less power.
PeeWee Pivot 2.0 Laptop
This computer isn't the best option for the whole family, but it's a fantastic "starter" for younger kids. Light enough (3.7 lbs) for them to comfortably carry around, it comes fully loaded with games and Microsoft XP, and includes important security software to ease parents' concerns about safety. Plus, kids will love the convenient removable carrying handle, water-resistant keyboard and rotating touch screen.
Jeana Lee Tahnk is a writer focusing on parenting, technology and business, or some combination of all three. She contributes regularly to Cool Mom Tech, The Huffington Post and Mashable, and lives in the Boston area with her husband and three young kids.