questionswhat's the best laptop for an online school…

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I don't have a specific recommendation as I don't know all your needs hopefully this helps with your shopping though
A 14 or 15 in screen should be good enough for anything as student needs.I don't think the maker matters as much as the processor under $500 you will see mostly Intel Pentium processors.The P- and T-series Pentiums are older, Core 2 Duo chips. They will work for email and most studying tasks. Steer clear of the SU chips. Those are single-core chips. The B-series chips are based on the latest Intel Sandy Bridge architecture. they have similarities with the powerful Core i5 and i7 . Finding a laptop with the B-series is your best bet. You may also come upon some AMD chips. Turion II, Athlon II, Phenom II families are all fine. Avoid the Sempron, AMD's budget chip. AMD also has the A series. This is its latest chip that competes with Intel's Sandy Bridge chips. You may occasionally find one of these on a sub-$500 laptop. That would be a good choice as well as a good buy.

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And whatever you decide to get, for any child's laptop I recommend a program like safe eyes.
http://www.internetsafety.com/

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I'd target around $350-400 for one with at least a dual-core Pentium or an AMD A-series processor, 4gb of ram, and a 320gb HDD or larger. State-of-the-art it won't be, but it'd be reasonably fast enough to stay relevant for at least a couple years.

Unless it's under $280, I would not bother with one that has a Celeron or E-series processor. The hit in performance isn't worth the typical $30-40 price difference.

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Save money on the laptop and send her to real school so she can learn some social skills.

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Thanks for the very informative answers.

@wootbretz - I actually teach adult education online and if you do the research you'll see that students learning in virtual environments greatly out perform their brick and mortar counterparts. In regards to the social aspect, I intend to have her enrolled in several activities to promote social interaction. I've never really been a fan of the "social interaction" of middle or high schools, so I'm not sure she would be missing much besides bullying and drug use.

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I agree with @narfcake on what kind of laptop to get. In addition, I recommend Acer, Asus, Sony, and Toshiba brand laptops. They generally don't have problems.

Try checking Amazon and TigerDirect for laptop prices, and keep checking for a few weeks - you'll see some of them go on sale, and you can get a good deal.