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Best back-to-school computers

On the market for a computer for your child or teen? Check out our back-to-school lineup.

By Christina Tynan-Wood

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Mac mini

Ages: Kindergarten and up

Young kids should really be supervised when using an Internet-connected computer, so a laptop they can squirrel away to a bedroom is not the best call. But who says an oversized home PC has to ugly up your family room? Enter the Mac mini (starting at $599), so tiny and cute you can tuck it just about anywhere — be it a corner of the kitchen so kids can surf while you cook or the family room, where it can serve as an entertainment system. Even the plug is small and cute. Measuring a mere 7.7” x 7.7” x 1.4” and looking more like a trivet than a computer, don't let its small size and sweet looks fool you. This is a powerful machine with an Intel i5 processor, 2 GB of memory, and a 500 GB hard drive — tech perks to make the whole family happy.

Bottom line: A family computer dressy enough for your living room without wreaking havoc on the college fund.

Christina Tynan-Wood has written for Better Homes and Gardens, Popular Science, PC World, PC Magazine, InfoWorld, and many others. She currently writes the "Family Tech" column in Family Circle and blogs at GeekGirlfriends.com.

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