With the economy in the toilet, our school has 1300 Apple laptops but our budget has run dry. We are exploring other options if we have to abandon Apple. I was looking into the XO laptop (one laptop per child) and a few minis: Dell Mini, Acer, MSI. Is there any laptops good enough for a middle schooler grades 6-8 for doing word processing, networking, goup work and project creations?
The most economic way is to entirely avoid the laptops, and get a much smaller number of desktops for a computer lab (and then if a teacher needs computers for a particular period, that class can go to the computer lab). If you absolutely must have computers, don't get the dinky little laptops, as they are somewhat weak, and not good general purpose. Instead, I would go with fairly cheap 15" or so notebooks, which are still half the cost of the cheapest apple notebooks, but similarly configured and decently sized.
I wouldn't recommend those mini laptops at all, they're cheap but very very fragile and performance is low. those are for people on the move who just want to use the internet nothing else. they lack CD drives and usb ports ect and they come with linux.. my recommendation is Ei System 1412 (with 15" screen and only £269 from pc world with dual core processor) this is great for anything even video editing and photoshop. Apple are not recommended yes because of the price but in the industry most use pc but in the media industry like designers and film makers they need apple because of the quality of the media out of it. so you must have few macbooks in the school about 3 or 4.
those one child per computer things run on linux, small screen and lack of power and options. your students wont like linux a this age.
If I was you I'd get dual core desktops. cheap, poweful, upgradable anytime.