There is a rising trend to provide low-cost laptops to children in developing countries. Notwithstanding strong claims about the educational effectiveness of these programs, there is very little systematic evidence. Given the level of modernization and the teacher-led learning environment in developing countries, the usage of laptops in such contexts may affect children in ways that are quite different to how they would affect children in developed countries. A field experiment was conducted to compare abstract reasoning of Ethiopian children equipped with a laptop (n = 203) with a matched control group (n = 210) after 6 months of usage. Children with a laptop had significantly higher scores on finding analogies and categories. Effects were significant among children in grade 6 and 7, but not in grade 5. Different laptop activities may boost children's abstract reasoning. Theoretical and practical implications and the implemention of laptops in developing countries are discussed. (c) 2012 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.