Reader question: What’s a good Chromebook for a 10-year old to learn programming?

I received a great question from Kent, who’s interested in getting a Chromebook for his 10-year old daughter and wants to keep the price at or under $300. There are still plenty of choices in that price range but you’re looking at low-powered processors, minimal memory and storage capacities and typically, 720p displays sized at 11.6-inches.

Even so, for online programming activities, a low-cost Chromebook is up to the task. Here are Kent’s requirements:

Looking to get my daughter a Chromebook for Christmas as we’ve started doing some beginner programming together with things like Hour of Code and I want to keep that momentum going for her. And with the new Family Link controls I “think” we’ll be able to look it down to a degree I can feel somewhat comfortable with.

Looking to spend <$300 but am a little nervous with a 2Gb RAM device. Probably ok for a kids first computer, but ideally would like something that can also do Android Apps for little future capabilities for her.

Any suggestions or directions to look in?

My recommendation is to consider a Chromebook specifically made for the education market; it should meet all of these requirements and doesn’t require a big cost investment. Specifically, I think the Dell 5190 series of devices would work well here. Depending on specifications, there are four models ranging in price from $259 to $309; the differences are upgrades to storage, slight processor variances (all are Intel Celerons though), and touch vs non-touch screen displays.

If you don’t want a touchscreen, I think the sweet spot is the $279 model, which includes 4GB of memory and 32 GB of storage. Choosing the touch option adds $30 to the cost if that’s important; and for Android apps, it might be.

All of these fully support the Google Play Store so you’re covered there. In fact, the Dell 11 Chromebook 5190 is even on the list of supported Chromebooks that work with Linux apps, although performance won’t likely be fantastic. Even so, that’s a future option as the kids outgrow coding in a browser through Hour of Code or Scratch, for example. A little Python never harmed anyone!

A much less expensive but similar option is the Asus Chromebook C202SA-YS04 for $189 on Amazon (affiliate link), which is ruggedized to handle wear and tear of everyday life in younger hands.

It too supports Android apps although there is some type of file migration activity that has to first take place. I wouldn’t be too concerned about it though. This device has the same 4 GB of memory as most of the Dell choices and uses a similar Celeron chip. At this price, you only get 16 GB of storage; to get the same 32 GB as the $279 Dell, you’ll pay $269 for the Asus. The C202 also brings Linux support through Project Crostini.

In either case, Kent can take advantage of the new Family Link settings for Chromebooks to allow or deny access to the Google Play Store in general, or he can allow only certain apps to appear in the store. And individual websites can be whitelisted so that his daughter sticks to browsing the coding sites only if he prefers. With a relatively small investment then, his daughter can learn to code and use a few Android apps without worrying about opening up the entire world wide web to his 10-year-old.

6 thoughts on “Reader question: What’s a good Chromebook for a 10-year old to learn programming?

  • December 17, 2018 at 1:42 pm
    Permalink

    I would also take a look at some of the used and refurbished models on Amazon and eBay. Amazon warehouse is a great option as they will still offer Prime, if they are a subscriber. This may allow them a slightly upgraded model at the <$300 mark. Also, they keyboard is a huge factor for someone getting into development. I definitely agree with Dell as a choice, the Lenovo Chromebooks also sport an excellent keyboard and good budget options.

    Reply
  • December 17, 2018 at 2:45 pm
    Permalink

    You say about your alternate recommendation, the Asus C202-SA that “The C202 also brings Linux support through Project Crostini.” That is not completely accurate, is it? I have the Asus C202-SA, and the first thing that I did was to install Ubuntu via crouton. When I learned about Crostini, I took a look at it. Right now, maybe not in the future, crouton leaves Crostini in the dust. It is fully functional and Crostini is not. I don’t know why you mentioned Crostini and ignored crouton. I don’t know the type of programming Dad wanted daughter to learn, but I am pretty sure she could be doing it right now with crouton while being able to use Crostini for programming seems to be some indefinite period off in the future.

    Reply
    • December 17, 2018 at 3:18 pm
      Permalink

      Using Crostini vs Crouton is a personal choice of course, but for a parent that wants to manage his child’s use of a computer, Crouton is certainly not the way to go.

      Reply
  • December 17, 2018 at 4:03 pm
    Permalink

    The low end Celeron based devices are to be avoided in my view. The Celeron N3450 based Dell Chromebooks are good though. For as long time I think it is Lenovo that has offered the best bang for your buck in education Chromebooks. In Lenovo’s current range the MediaTek MTK8173C based C330 is the model that stands out in that regard. But the C330 has a rather dim display. Go for the Dell for better (but not great) screen brightness. Or, perhaps, just wait for major sales discounts on the Samsung Chromebook Plus v2.
    https://www.lenovo.com/us/en/laptops/lenovo/lenovo-n-series/Lenovo-Chromebook-C330/p/88LGCC31078
    https://www.androidpolice.com/2018/11/18/lenovo-c330-review-best-cheap-chromebook-money-can-buy/

    Reply
  • December 17, 2018 at 9:07 pm
    Permalink

    Get a Lenovo 500e. My 7 year old son and I both have one and they are excellent and durable devices with a touch screen and stylus. It isn’t as sleek as my wife’s Chromebook flip c302, but not many Chromebooks are. There is currently a 20% off coupon on lenovo.com so you can get it for significantly less than it’s $319 MSRP. You can get an extra 3% off using Ebates (it was 14% the other day).

    Reply
  • December 20, 2018 at 10:54 am
    Permalink

    I bought a Samsung Chromebook 3 back in July (2018 4gb ram 32 gb hdd) that I’ve been learning Angular on. I started with termux which worked very well but now I’m using Visual Studio Code in the Linux container and it’s even better. The laptop at the time cost me about 225$ and I’ve been very happy with it. I’ve been programming for most of my life and while this machine obviously has it’s limitations, I’ve been able to build c/c++/javascript/go on it without issue. It doesn’t win any land speed records but it’s more than adequate for most of what I’ve done with it and I think it would be a great starter for anyone getting into programming.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.