Best Laptop for High School Students in 2023

Student Laptop Recommendations

For the 2022–23 academic year, AAP strongly recommends that all students have a personal laptop computer powerful enough to support the demanding video and computational requirements necessary for coursework, as well as adequate storage to accommodate new software releases. Most students will build digital portfolios and render using Rhino/VRay in addition to writing papers and email. Some AAP classes make extensive use of Canvas for class management and syllabus distribution. The college provides and maintains two high-end computer labs for classes, but is moving steadily toward a mobile computing environment. Following COVID-19 protocol, AAP offers some of the lab equipment through a virtual connection.

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Recommended Specifications

It is strongly suggested that each student own the recommended laptop computer, accessories, and base software listed below. The mobility of owning a laptop is essential as much of the work is collaborative and happens in a variety of locations. Please note that the AAP IT Solutions service team is available to provide free support for student-owned laptops.

A lightweight alternative: Students looking for an ultrabook that meets the recommended laptop specs should consider the Microsoft Surface Laptop (CRP only). These devices exist with several options but can be found with AAP's specific recommendations.

Gaming branded laptops: Most new gaming laptops will work well if the specs below are followed. We've had great luck with Razer. These are sometimes less expensive than workstation branded laptops but unfortunately, sometimes have lower build quality (plastic).

The Cornell Store: The Cornell Store provides laptops at a discounted rate that meet the specs below. The store offers both Windows-based and Macintosh.

Architecture Students

Laptop Specs

Intel i7 or i9 processor

Windows 10 or 11

16 - 32 GB of RAM

Dedicated video processor should be one of the following or greater: Nvidia Quadro, Nvidia® Geforce 1660, 2060, 3060 or greater.

At least a 500 GB hard drive (SSD hard drive)

Wireless networking adapter (for internet)

Three-year warranty (recommended)

Theft and damage insurance (recommended)

Total estimated cost for a high mid level Razer laptop (base model, just meets suggested specs): $1,799 at Razer.

WARNING: With the release of the new ARM chip by Apple: M1 Macs are indeed fast but will NOT run Windows via bootcamp. This means that you will not be able to run some apps required by your professor (ArcGIS, Software for Environmental Systems, VRay for Rhino). It is suggested that if you still want to purchase a Mac for your computing needs that you are aware of the limitations. Rhino will run but runs via Rosetta 2 (Apple's translation layer, not natively).


USB thumb drive (32 GB)

USB storage hard drive/backup (500 GB–1 TB)

All architecture student desks in Milstein and Sibley halls, Cornell in Rome, and AAP NYC are equipped with 27" LCD monitors

Art Students

Laptop Specs

Apple MacBook Pro

Apple Silicon (M1 Arm CPU)

16 GB of RAM

Mac OS 12

512 GB SSD hard drive

13" built-in LCD

AppleCare three-year warranty: $269

Total estimated cost: 14" MacBook Pro: $1,849 at the Campus Store (NOTE: RAM in the retina series MacBook Pro cannot be upgraded as it is soldered to the motherboard. Due to this, AAP IT Solutions recommends selecting at least the 16 GB version)

NOTE: The use of Mac computers in art-related professions is rooted in the culture. However, for a lower price, a student can purchase a Windows-based computer with similar or more powerful specs. All but a few pieces of software will run on both (Final Cut Pro is Mac only but Adobe Premiere is cross-platform). If students purchase a Windows-based computer and need the use of Final Cut Pro, there is a 13-seat, high-end space with Mac Pros available for student use (Not during COVID-19). AAP IT Solutions suggests determining the need to run Final Cut Pro on a laptop and purchasing based on that need (students can also check with their advisor).


USB or Thunderbolt storage hard drive (1 TB)

Antivirus software installed and properly configured

CRP Students

Laptop Specs

At least an Intel Core i5 processor (i7 preferred)

Windows 10 or 11

16 GB of RAM

500 GB hard drive

Wireless networking adapter (for internet)

Three-year warranty (recommended)

Total estimated cost: The price of laptops with these specs can range from $500–$1,500. AAP IT Solutions recommends investing in a better laptop now that can last a student through their years at Cornell. Less expensive models tend to be less durable and unreliable. Lower end M1 Apple MacBook Pro's/Air's could be a good option for CRP students that are NOT needing to run Windows programs such as ArcGIS.


USB thumb drive (32 GB)

USB storage hard drive (500 GB)

Software Used at AAP

Below is a base list of software typically used at AAP. This list is never complete, nor is all software required by each discipline since curricula change as students move through their educational years. Use of nonbase applications by instructors will be screened for cost and support issues by the chair of the department, and, if approved, the college/department will purchase the nonbase software on behalf of the students affected.

Architecture Students

Microsoft Office (free for Cornell students)

Adobe CC (Adobe subscription, Cornell Store)

AutoDesk Suite (free student edition)

Rhino (Cornell Store)

Total estimated cost: $99 (plus $19.99 per month Adobe CC subscription)

Art Students

Microsoft Office (free for Cornell students)

Adobe CC (Adobe subscription, Cornell Store)

Total estimated cost: $19.99 per month Adobe CC subscription

CRP Students

Microsoft Office (free for Cornell students)

Adobe CC (Adobe subscription, Cornell Store)

Rhino (for certain students) (Cornell Store)

Total estimated cost: $19.99 a month Adobe CC subscription (plus $99 for Rhino if needed)

Other Non-Base Software

This software is currently available on AAP teaching computers:







Arc GIS (we also offer a free student edition)

Final Cut Pro X

Google Earth Pro

Google Sketchup Pro

Global Mapper


Community Viz



Purchasing Software and Hardware

The Cornell Store carries equipment that matches some of the specs above. The Cornell Store sells a variety of software from Adobe and others at a discount specifically for higher education.

Internet Access and Printing Services

Cornell has a wireless network that covers most of the campus, including AAP's buildings, so network access is easily obtainable. Cornell also offers network-based printing services for a small fee per page. AAP has numerous Net-Print printers throughout its buildings; however, printing in a student's dorm room may require a personal printer.

Computer Security at Cornell

Keeping personal computers secure takes far less time than recovering from a security breach. If a computer is compromised, the user will likely lose access to it for at least a few hours, and possibly several days. Users may also lose any work done since the last computer back up. If the security problem puts sensitive data at risk, or if a computer is lost or stolen, the effects can be far-reaching. Any unsecured computer puts the entire network of users at risk. Please review Cornell's recommended antivirus software.

10 best laptops 2023: Best brands for gaming, students and more

Laptop FAQs

Which is the best processor for a laptop?

The range of CPUs on offer can seem bewildering, but don’t sweat it. Unless you really know what you’re doing, you don’t to worry too much about the differences between the two main brands. These are AMD and Intel, and they both make roughly similar versions of one another’s CPUs.

What’s the difference between AMD and Intel?

Intel’s most popular range is called Core series. These include the affordable Core i3, the mid-range Core i5, the high-end Core i7, and the specialist Core i9. The bigger the number, the faster the processor. For most users, the Core i3 is more than enough power. For gaming and processor-intensive tasks such as rendering large files and video editing, the Core i5 or Core i7 can be a useful upgrade.

Mirroring this, AMD has the Ryzen range. These include the Ryzen 3, Ryzen 5, Ryzen 7, and Ryzen 9 processors. They’ll offer similar levels of performance to their Intel counterparts, and while the underlying hardware is different you’ll notice no difference in how your laptop actually functions.

Apple MacBooks are another kettle of fish entirely. Until recently Apple used Intel processors, before it upgraded its entire range to Apple’s own M1 and M2 CPUs. These are least a little easier to think about: M2 is faster than M1.

What does generation mean in processors?

As newer processors are always improving, these four simple tiers don’t change in number. They’ll always refer to the most and least powerful processors each CPU brand manufactures. What changes are the digits following the CPU name, with the first two digits referring to the CPU’s generation.

For instance, the Intel Core i5-1135 is an 11th-generation Intel processor. The AMD Ryzen 5 5600 is a fifth generation AMD processor. The higher the generation, the more recently the CPU was developed and the faster it is. Intel is currently on its 12th generation processors, while AMD is on its sixth.

What is Celeron?

There are other Intel CPUs on the market, such as the Celeron series. Celeron is designed to be super affordable and low-end, for users that really don’t need much processing power. You’ll find them in budget laptops.

How much RAM does a laptop need?

The average user needs 8GB of RAM (or memory). RAM is storage that your laptop is constantly using to juggle data, so it’s essentially a measure of how many things your device can do at once before it starts to slow down. This gives you enough memory to load Windows smoothly, and run a few demanding apps.

As software becomes more complex, it starts to demand more memory. Though, 8GB should future-proof your laptop against this for a few years to come. If your current laptop already has 8GB of RAM and you’re experiencing slow-down, consider stepping up to 16GB.

MacBooks work a little differently. Because the M1 or M2 chip is handling a lot of the data-juggling itself, the device needs less dedicated RAM, which means your 8GB goes a little further than it does on a Windows laptop.

What is the best laptop to buy?

There is no single best laptop we can recommend. Rather, the best laptop to buy is the one that meets your needs.

Like all electronics, laptops become obsolete over time, so there are diminishing returns when you invest in the most expensive, high-spec and powerful devices. Instead, consider what you might use your laptop for – will it be for gaming, emailing, spreadsheets or photo editing. And also where you might want to use it – at a desk, on a train, on the sofa – and choose a laptop that fits those criteria.

Check out our laptop buying guide for helpful advice on choosing a laptop that suits your needs.

What is the difference between a Chromebook and a laptop?

Most laptops use Microsoft’s Windows operating system, while MacBooks use Apple’s macOS operating system.

Chromebooks are different. They run on Chrome OS, an operating system designed by Google. Anyone can license this operating system, so you’ll see Chromebooks manufactured by a wide range of brands and available in various styles.

Google’s operating system doesn’t run traditional desktop programs. Instead, it behaves more like the Chrome web browser, using online apps such as Google Docs and some Android apps.

This sounds limiting – and for most users, it is – but there are upsides. Because most of the processing is happening over the internet, Chromebooks don’t need to be so powerful. This means they generally have a longer battery life, are much cheaper, far more secure and boot up faster than regular laptops.

If you do most of your work inside a browser, a Chromebook makes sense. Designed to showcase what a Chromebook is capable of, the Pixelbook go (£629, is our recommended laptop in this category.

The verdict: Laptops

If you’re looking for a high-performance, do-it-all Windows machine that can run rings around most desktop computers, the Dell XPS 15 is your laptop. For gaming, our pick is the Razer Blade 15. It will break the bank, but it’s worth every penny. Consider shopping for older models or the smaller Razer Blade 14 if you can’t stomach the price tag.

Most shoppers won’t need that much power, so we’d recommend the Lenovo yoga slim 7 for those who want a laptop that can handle everyday tasks without leaving a giant hole in your bank account. Apple users have an easier choice, but the latest 2021 model of the MacBook pro 14in is our favourite Apple laptop right now.

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Best Laptop for High School Students in 2023

Laptops are essential for students -- a lot of schools even require them nowadays. From help with in-class lectures and projects, to studying and homework, a laptop is an essential tool for your high schooler. But the best ones come with a price tag. That's why we've collected our picks for the best laptop for high school students.

We've covered options across all the major operating systems and brands, including MacOS, Windows and ChromeOS. Sure, many laptops will work just fine for your student, but these recommendations were chosen for dependability, user ease and performance. Every laptop we've suggested also has a long battery life, and each easily fits into a standard backpack. And the majority of them are under $1,000, which is increasingly rare due to chip shortages, supply chain issues and inflation.

The Apple MacBook Air M1 is our pick for the best laptop for high school students. The HP Pavilion Aero 13 is our best value pick with a starting price of $800 but is regularly on sale for far less. Both laptops offer strong everyday performance and long battery life with compact, lightweight designs that are easy to drop in a backpack.

Regardless of which student laptop you choose, I recommend buying directly from the manufacturer or a familiar, trusted retailer for the best prices and exchange or return policies. If you're shopping on sites like Amazon or Walmart with third-party sellers, check to see if the laptop is being sold and shipped by the site. For more specific shopping help, check out our buying advice on getting the best cheap laptops.

It's worth noting, too, that if your school uses Google Classroom, it doesn't mean you need a Chromebook. (Here are the differences between a laptop and a Chromebook.) And to make long homework sessions more comfortable, you may want to add on some peripherals such as a keyboard or wireless mouse (most people get annoyed using only the trackpad pretty quickly) as well as an inexpensive external monitor so your student is more comfortable and has a bigger display to see their work. Check out our picks below to find the best laptop for high school students in 2023.

Dan Ackerman/CNET Despite the availability of the new bigger and better M2 MacBook Air, the M1 MacBook Air (one of the first to switch from Intel to Apple silicon) is sticking around and that's a good thing. Apple's entry-level laptop is still our go-to recommendation for a MacOS laptop for basic everyday use. It has great performance and long battery life -- up to 18 hours -- and is a solid choice for school and entertainment anywhere. Read our MacBook Air M1 review. Read our Apple MacBook Air M1 (Late 2020) review. You're receiving price alerts for Apple MacBook Air M1 (256GB, space gray)

Josh Goldman/CNET HP packed a lot of value into the Aero 13: Eye-pleasing magnesium-aluminum chassis, strong processing performance, long battery life, a bright, colorful display and a weight of just 2 pounds (0.94 kilograms). Amazingly, considering all that it offers, it has a regular starting price of less than $800 but it's regularly on sale for less than $700. Read our HP Pavilion Aero 13 review.

Josh Goldman/CNET Acer's Spin 513 is an update of sorts to one of the best Chromebooks from 2021, the Spin 713. It's a two-in-one convertible Chromebook with a 13.5-inch display that has a 3:2 aspect ratio. The extra vertical space means less scrolling when you're working. The screen size is also close to that of letter-size paper, making it comfortable for notetaking in tablet mode with a USI pen. Compared to the 713, it drops a couple of noncritical features like an HDMI output in favor of a more affordable price. It has amazing battery life, though, and a sturdy fanless design, making it silent -- perfect for quiet classrooms, lectures or video calls. Also, be sure to get the latest version of the Spin 513, model CP513-2H, powered by a MediaTek Kompanio 1380 processor. You're receiving price alerts for Acer Chromebook Spin 513 (CP513-2H)

Josh Goldman/CNET If you're tired of using your school-issued Chromebook with its small 11.6-inch display, this HP Chromebook is the way to go. It's roughly 0.75 inches wider than a premium 13.3-inch model, but that extra width makes it easier to work in two side-by-side windows. The two-in-one design means you can use it as a tablet (though it's a bit heavy to use handheld). You can also tent it, connect an external keyboard and mouse and use it as a small all-in-one computer. It's available in two configurations. I tested a $699 version with a Core i3 processor and 8GB RAM which kept this HP Chromebook running smoothly even with a couple dozen tabs open and streaming video in the background. And it has a long battery life to boot, lasting 10 hours and 40 minutes The good news is it regularly goes on sale for hundreds less. However, if you can't wait, there is a $419 version that'll give your student plenty of performance to get through their schoolwork. You're receiving price alerts for HP Chromebook x360 14c

Josh Goldman / CNET Available with either AMD Ryzen or Intel Core processors, this 14-inch laptop gives you more screen to work on than 13-inch laptops, but is still incredibly lightweight -- less than 3 pounds. The bigger display is nice, too, covering 100% sRGB color gamut (better than you typically find at its starting price under $700). It also has a backlit keyboard, a fingerprint reader and USB Type-C and HDMI ports, too. The 2022 version of the Swift 3 falls just under $1,000 with 12th-gen Intel Core i-series CPUs. But the 2021 models are still widely available for less than $600. You're receiving price alerts for Acer Swift 3

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