Affordable back-to-school technology options as unusual year begins amid COVID-19 pandemic

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Families are gearing up for an uncertain school year, and it could push back-to-school spending to record levels, but not necessarily for clothes and backpacks.

Consumer Reports has revealed the affordable technology that could get your child to the head of the online class without breaking the bank.

"I felt frustrated. Sometimes I feel like crying," mother Erika Mac Master said.

Master is still reeling from how school ended for her five kids.

"At home, I have only one computer. I'm thinking of buying two more or three for my girls," she said.

Eighty-eight percent of consumers have said the coronavirus will affect their back-to-class shopping this year, with parents of school-aged children planning to spend an average of $789, and families of college students, $1,059.

The top item both groups will be buying is a laptop. But before you buy, check with your school, since technology recommendations might be different this year.

"For most school-aged kids, a Chromebook is fine, pretty much any Chromebook." Consumer Reports Tech Editor Nicholas DeLeon said. "That's because students are going to be using web apps, and you don't need anything special to run these apps."

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The transition from classroom to in-home learning was abrupt for many parents and students.



Consumer Reports recommends the Google Pixelbook Go or the Lenovo Chromebook.

"College is a different story, and often that's because it depends on what your child is studying," DeLeon said. "Often the college will recommend specs or programs or just give you a list of computers to choose from."

You may be given a discount if you buy through the college.

Consumer Reports has said it's hard to go wrong with a MacBook Air. Or if you prefer a Windows Computer, the Lenovo Flex 15 is a good choice.

Make sure to add a pair of headphones with a built-in microphone to your school supply list.

"This is one of those situation where you don't need to spend extra money for audiophile sound quality," DeLeon said.

Consumer Reports recommends the Monoprice headphones for under $50, or for in-ear headphones, try affordable Panasonics.

But if now's not the right time to drop a lot of cash on a new computer, look into free software that can turn an outdated laptop into a Chromebook.
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