Choosing the best student laptops can present a challenge for even the most tech-savvy families. A back-to-school laptop typically needs to balance durability with price, portability, and performance. Naturally, the student's age, specific school requirements, and even preferences will probably factor into the decision.
To get started, look at some great choices that can suit the needs and tastes of many kinds of students and their families, organized by price range. While this list can't include every good back-to-school computer on the market, it should provide a starting point to help students understand what they can expect to buy within their budget.
Many families, especially those with multiple children, may need to stretch budgets. It's possible to find very serviceable laptops under $400 that can meet the general needs of most students and even other family members.
In some cases, these cheaper computers won't have all of the features of top-end models; however, they may also be simple to use. For younger or struggling students, simplicity may be one of the most important features of all.
Starting at only $229, the HP Chromebook 14 provides a surprisingly good experience with its ample, vibrant display screen and good keyboard and trackpad. It performs well for most tasks. The base model comes with 4 GB of memory and also offers an 8 GB upgrade. Expect average battery life.
For students who prefer Windows 10 over Chrome OS, there's a budget-friendly Microsoft Surface Go 2 for that. Starting at just $399, it comes with 4 GB of RAM that can be upgraded to 8 GB. It also provides 128 GB SSD storage and an HD display. Plus, the Go 2 offers Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and LTE connectivity.
At the base level, it won't perform like more expensive versions of the Microsoft Surface series; however, it's a good choice for an affordable Windows laptop.
With the Spin 311, Acer offers a versatile 2-in-1 Chromebook that works well as a laptop or a tablet computer. Besides its versatility as a laptop-tablet computer, some positive features include a durable build, a usable keyboard, and good battery life. The rather small HD display may not satisfy everybody; however, with a starting price of $265, it's a good value.
Asus actually had students and educators in mind when they designed and built the Flip C214. The 2-in-1 can run for up to 12 hours per charge. Students can take notes or sketch ideas with a stylus. All this starts at a retail price of about $365.
Even better, DigitalTrends says that Asus designed the laptop to military-grade specifications. A spill-resistant keyboard, rubber bumper, and an anti-scratch finish combine to make this Asus model much more durable than average laptops. In tests, it has survived four-foot drops and up to 66 pounds of force. This makes the laptop a great choice for active, mobile students.
A budget for a back-to-school laptop from about $500 to $700 opens many great choices. Sometimes, spending a little more money can help provide future-proof features, a more robust design, and even a greater resale value. That way, the laptop's longer lifespan might even help save money in the long run over a very cheap computer.
TechRadar called the C13 Yoga from Lenovo pricey but nearly perfect for a Chromebook. In general, people tend to think of a Chromebook as much more affordable than a MacBook or Windows 10 computer, and the base model starts at about $575. This 2-in-1 laptop-tablet comes with a great display and a processor from the new AMD 3000C-series.
Computer users who need to go a long time between charges might consider this Lenovo computer's relatively short battery life a drawback. On the positive side, TechRadar reviewers mentioned that this model's processing power and versatility make it a good choice for people who plan to keep their laptops for years.
Starting at about $678, the Acer Swift 3 delivers a 10-Gen Intel Core processor, full HD, 8 GB memory, and 128 GB SSD storage with the base model. It's also very light and portable. Plus, the keyboard folds back to enable tablet mode easily.
Some people say they might even mistake the stylish design of the Acer Swift 38 for an Apple MacBook at first glance, but the Acer Swift 38 runs on Windows 10. Potential drawbacks might include mediocre speakers and the fact it's not a great choice for off-hours gaming. On the other hand, it's great for multitasking and offers a decent battery life.
Older students or families that plan to hang onto their laptops for many years may want to consider investing in processing power, sturdy builds, upgraded memory, storage, or other specific features. A budget between $700 and $1,000 provides plenty of good choices for a high school or college student and even other people in the family.
It's impossible to omit the Apple MacBook from a consideration of great student laptops. CNET called the Apple MacBook Air the best choice for students who want an Apple laptop.
This model starts at $999, but an Apple student discount may even shave $100 off of that price. The CNET reviewer did suggest upgrading to the Core I5 processor for an additional $100. That puts student buyers back at the original $999, but the purchase also includes free AirPods.
Fantastic display capabilities, the Apple Magic Keyboard, and solid parts all contribute to Apple MacBook Air's recommendation for Apple fans. Unlike some laptops, the MacBook Air also runs very quietly. Expect good performance from the battery and processor.
The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga might offer one of the best choices for students who prefer a high-end, versatile Windows 10 machine. It's a high-quality laptop-tablet 2-in-1 that starts at $999. The keyboard folds back to act as a stand or use the computer's touchscreen in tablet mode. It has a bright 14-inch display, and even the base configuration generally performs well.
This Dell Inspiron 13 7000 comes as a 2-in-1 laptop-tablet. It also provides a configuration that makes it very competitive with the top-end Dell XPS 13. Prices start at just about $700, and that includes a 10-Gen Intel Core processor, 8 GB memory, 4K display, active pen support, and 1 TB SSDI storage. On the downside, the 4K display is a bit of a battery drain, and the speakers aren't impressive.
On the positive side, manufacturers make computers to suit the needs and budgets of almost everybody. Of course, sorting through all of the choices may present a big challenge. Besides choosing between Chrome OS, Windows 10, and iOS, people will see products from such brands as Apple, Microsoft, Lenovo, Acer, Asus, and more. For others, the brand might not matter so much as such features as getting a 2-in-1, premium display, high-performance chips, and so on.
Also, for students of all ages, the build's durability might factor into the decision. Families might not reasonably expect their younger students to take care of their laptops as responsibly as an older high school or college student. Even older students might need to carry their laptops around in backpacks and unpack them in crowded cafeterias and coffee shops.
Prudent families will account for the chance of accidents by considering an extended warranty or even leaving room in the budget for an emergency backup laptop --- or even both. If students need to carry their devices around frequently, it's probably also wise to invest in a protective sleeve or case.
To make the most satisfying decision:
Naturally, the choice of the best back-to-school laptop will vary wildly for different students and their families. Because today's students rely upon their computers so much, having the right computer can impact students' enjoyment of and performance at school. Still, even very affordable computers can perform well for general use, and some cheaper models can provide a very good value.