What Are the Best Computers and Tablets for Seniors?

What Are the Best Computers and Tablets for Seniors?
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What Are the Best Computers and Tablets for Seniors?

Emily Long
April 1, 2021

Digital devices are not one-size-fits-all. The perfect computer or tablet for a college student in their early 20s may not be the ideal choice for an older adult in their 70s. When choosing the best computer for seniors, it’s important to consider things like screen size and resolution, accessibility features and device weight. Here are a few top picks.

What to consider when shopping for computers for seniors

The best computers for older adults are those that meet each user’s unique needs—but there are a few factors that all consumers should weigh when choosing a device:

  • Functionality: The first (and perhaps most important) question is, how will you use the computer or tablet? Are you mostly accessing work documents, sending emails and browsing the internet? Are you joining a lot of Zoom calls with family and friends? Are you gaming and streaming? You may prefer a simpler device for the former and a more powerful one for the latter. And if you read a lot of e-books, you may look for a tablet instead of a computer.
  • Accessibility features: Visual and auditory assistance—such as talk-to-text and high-res screens—may be especially beneficial for older users.
  • Operating system and software: If an older adult is already familiar with Windows or MacOS, it will likely make sense to stick with the same operating system over learning a new one.
  • Size and weight: Portability may be an important factor for older adults. Sarah Johnson, a registered nurse and health ambassador with Family Assets, advises users to consider how easy it would be to pack their computer or tablet and carry it through an airport.
  • Security: Older Americans may be at particular risk for financial fraud, scams and cybersecurity threats like phishing attacks. Kristen Bolig, founder of SecurityNerd, says that newer devices with the most up-to-date operating systems and security features like encryption can help keep senior users safe.
  • Price: Computers and tablets come at a wide range of price points, so you can find a good fit without paying for more than you need.
  • Ease of use: Your device should support your needs, not complicate them.

What are the best computers for seniors?

From Windows to Apple devices and everything in between, here’s a selection of laptops and tablets for seniors to consider.

Windows-based laptops

If you’ve been using Windows for years and want to stick with what you know, there are dozens of devices running Windows that also come with features beneficial for older users. Any machine with Windows 10 comes with great accessibility settings, from a screen reader app to eye control to lots of options for adjusting text size and color palettes.

Some top brands to consider include Acer, Dell and HP.

Windows laptop pros

  • Price range to fit all budgets, starting as low as $200.
  • Tech specs and software to meet all needs, from web browsing to word processing
  • Options for backlit and large-text keyboards

Windows laptop cons

  • Inconsistent specs and performance across manufacturers
  • Some devices are heavier and less portable

Apple MacBook Air

Those already familiar with MacOS could find a lot of value in the MacBook Air—the lightest of Apple’s laptops. It’s easy to travel with or to simply carry from room to room. It’s also powerful for those who do a lot of Netflix streaming in addition to web browsing and Zoom calling.

The main downside? The price tag. Prices start at $999 for new models.

MacBook Air pros

  • High-res display, backlit keyboard and excellent sound
  • Long battery life
  • Lightweight
  • Built-in voice commands with Siri
  • Wide range of physical and visual accessibility options
  • Excellent customer support

MacBook Air cons

  • Expensive if purchased new

Google Chromebook

Chromebooks run on Google’s Chrome operating system—not Microsoft or MacOS. It might require a bit of learning if you’re not already familiar, but Chromebooks are generally affordable and integrate well with Google’s other products like Drive, Docs and Calendar. If you use your device primarily for web browsing, a Chromebook may be a good choice.

Acer, ASUS, HP, Lenovo, Samsung and Google all make versions of the Chromebook in various sizes and with a range of features.

Chromebook pros

  • Affordable, especially compared to Apple’s MacBook line; prices start around $200.
  • Quick to start up
  • Lightweight
  • Web-based software is secure
  • Built-in voice commands using Google Assistant
  • Many models convert from laptops to tablets
  • Large-font keyboards on some models

Chromebook cons

  • Less intuitive for MacOS and Windows users

Microsoft Surface Pro/Go

Microsoft has its own line of laptop-like tablets, making it a good crossover between the two categories. Most Surface models function like laptops with detachable keyboards—so they’re a bit lighter and more portable than Chromebooks. If you’re considering an iPad but prefer a Windows experience, a Surface may be your best bet.

Microsoft Surface pros

  • Windows-based, 2-in-1 computer and tablet
  • Lightweight and portable
  • Long battery life
  • Large touchscreen display
  • Windows 10 accessibility features including screen reading, closed captioning, color contrast and keyboard shortcuts
  • Detachable keyboard

Microsoft Surface cons

  • Expensive (Surface Go starts at $399)
  • Keyboard and stylus not included

Apple iPad

If a true tablet is more your speed, the iPad is a great pick. It’s portable and easy to use (and easy to learn if you aren’t already familiar with Apple’s interface), it has a ton of apps and it is relatively secure against many cyberthreats. If you’re sending a lot of emails or need word processing, you can get a detachable keyboard.

Apple makes a few models in a range of sizes. But like the MacBook Air, the iPad is pricier than many of its competitors.

Apple iPad pros

  • Portable and lightweight
  • Fast and always on
  • Quality native apps for word processing and presentations
  • User-friendly
  • Accessibility settings include VoiceOver, zoom and magnification, hearing device pairing and text size
  • Built-in voice commands with Siri
  • Compatible with keyboards and a stylus (not included)

Apple iPad cons

  • Expensive (the iPad mini starts at $399)

Amazon Fire

Amazon’s Fire tablets are a less expensive alternative to the iPad. They run on apps from Amazon’s Appstore, and you’ll get a lot of the same basic functionality and experience as with other tablets. Plus, like the iPad, you can attach a keyboard for a laptop-like experience when browsing the web or use your Fire more like an e-reader.

Amazon Fire pros

  • Cheap (models start at $39.99)
  • Long battery life
  • Lightweight
  • Accessibility settings: VoiceView screen reader with text-to-speech, screen magnifier, closed captioning, font size, contrast and color
  • Built-in voice commands with Amazon Alexa

Amazon Fire cons

  • Not as powerful as a laptop
  • Not as user-friendly as the iPad

The first big decision you have to make when choosing a computer is whether you want a laptop or a tablet (or a hybrid). From there, weigh the features that are important to you, whether you’re familiar with the operating system, and how easy the device is to navigate.

Disclaimer: The above is solely intended for informational purposes and in no way constitutes legal advice or specific recommendations.