Our daily lives are becoming more and more inundated with technology, but it’s easy to forget where it all comes from. Coding is a valuable skill that’s often overlooked by educators. When I was coming through school, which wasn’t too long ago, learning anything about programming was a pipe dream. It simply wasn’t an option. If you find yourself in the situation where your child shows interest in coding, but there are no resources available to them, at least there’s a product like the Hack Computer that can help introduce them to it.
Hack Laptop Review | Hardware
The Hack Computer isn’t so much a computer as it is an educational system. However, for now, it’s available via the Hack Laptop, which is a low-cost Asus laptop onto which a custom variation of Endless OS has been installed.
The laptop is an ASUS E406MA with a 14-inch 1920x1080p display. It features 4GB of DDR4 RAM and G4GB of EMMC storage. Its CPU is an Intel Pentium Silver N5000 quad-core processor with a base frequency of 1.10 GHz and a burst frequency of 2.70 GHz, and visuals are provided via the integrated Intel UHD Graphics 605.
Though the software is the real magic of this package, the laptop itself is really lovely for the price. Considering that a similarly equipped computer is around $250-300 new minus any software you’re getting a good deal seeing as the whole Hack Laptop kit is only $299.
The Hack Laptop is meant for ages 8-14, and this computer is just about perfect for that. It’s lightweight, has excellent battery life, and is loaded with the basic necessities. Since Endless OS is built around the Linux kernel, you can rest a little easier since Linux isn’t the virus magnet that Windows is.
There are also parental controls on the Hack Laptop that allow you to keep all the bad stuff out when your kid is browsing the net. The system itself is locked down pretty tight, so you don’t have to be afraid your child will accidentally delete something they shouldn’t.
If you want to make the Hack a family activity, it’s easy to do so as well. Two USB ports make it easy to hook up a Bluetooth mouse or keyboard, and the laptop has HDMI out so you can mirror the display onto your TV or an external monitor.
Hack Laptop Review | Software
The big draw to the Hack Laptop is the software. The Hack service makes the whole laptop a little lesson. You start by learning about the components of the operating system and get to know the little characters that will take your kid through their learning journey, and within 30 minutes or so your child will be making their way through their first introduction to coding.
The Flip to Hack experience lets kids change variables in the myriad of games included with the Hack Laptop and see the results in real-time. The lessons start easy, gradually introducing you to the idea of game physics and how the numbers behind the scenes affect what’s happening on the screen. Eventually, though, it gets you in the middle of the code.
Instead of abstracting the process of coding with a drag-and-drop editor or something like that, Hack puts kids into a text editor. This gives them a more realistic view of what coding is like and gets them started the right way. There’s no use in having them learn to code via one interface and then have to learn it all again later on.
The Hack services costs $9.99 a month and will continue to release lessons for the Hack as time goes on. One thing I would have liked to have seen with the Hack is something that encourages kids to review the lessons they’ve learned already a bit more. Coding isn’t something that’s easy to drill, but that’s usually the best way to learn a language, even if it’s a computer language.
The Hack Laptop is an impressive kit that really gives you your money’s worth. It’s not just some Raspberry Pi with a cheap screen that’s been marked up to an outrageous degree because it has a nice box. For $299 you get a great little laptop that’s perfect for starting kids out on their coding careers.
Hack Laptop Review | Verdict
I think one of the things I enjoyed most about the Hack is that it’s cute. The little characters are fun, and everything is bright and friendly. It made me feel good and calm. The Hack creates a peaceful digital environment that makes everything really low pressure. There are no failure states, and it’s a great way to learn coding in a low-pressure environment.
If your child wants to learn how to code, there are few better places to start than the Hack Laptop. They get their own computer, and they get to learn about what makes it tick. The best part is that for $299 it won’t break the bank and they can have a first computer they can be proud of.