What’s the best student laptop? We asked students

The best student laptops for 2023: top laptops for school

EDITOR'S NOTE: December 2022 If you didn't nab a great student laptop deal during Black Friday and Cyber Monday, don't worry – a lot of retailers still have excess stock of student laptops that needs clearing out before Christmas hits. So whether you're looking for the best student Chromebooks or the best Ultrabooks to take to school or college, TechRadar has got you covered. Below you'll find our top picks for new or returning learners, with our deal-tracking software finding you the best prices and providing handy links, and you can check out our curated laptop deals page for live discounts on other laptops too! - Christian Guyton, Computing Editor

The best student laptop should, above all else, give you excellent value for money. Many students are operating on tight budgets these days, with a new laptop usually being the single most expensive purchase made by college students when they begin a course. However, that doesn't mean you should simply pick the cheapest laptop you can find; you'll need to make sure you get the right amount of bang for your buck, lest you be saddled with a clunker of a laptop for a three-year degree.

Ultimately, the best laptop will be different for each individual user. If you're a filmmaking or animation major, you'll likely need a laptop with powerful components and a dedicated GPU for running intensive software like video-editing and rendering programs – the same goes for STEM students.

If you're studying something like literature, though, you'll probably be better off with a lightweight machine – like one of the best 2-in-1 laptops – since you'll only be doing straightforward tasks like web browsing and word processing. Hybrid laptops can be great if you plan to do a lot of reading on your device, since you can swap them between laptop and tablet modes.

With so many available options on the market, we understand that it can get a little tough to decide what to go for. Don't panic, though: we've thoroughly tested an absolute boatload of laptops, and compiled our top picks for students below.

As noted above, we recognize that not everyone has the same needs. As such, our recommendations include laptops catering to all kinds of needs and budgets. The best gaming laptops , for instance, are going to be a lot more expensive than the best student Chromebooks . However, the processing power of the former is also going to be much more powerful than that of any of the best Chromebooks . Read on for our carefully-curated selection of the best laptops for students right now.

The best student laptops for 2023

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1. MacBook Air (M2, 2022) The single best laptop for students Specifications Best for: All students with a bigger budget CPU: Apple M2 chip with 8‑core CPU Graphics: Integrated 8/10-core GPU RAM: Up to 24GB unified LPDDR5 Screen: 13.6-inch 2560 x 1664 Liquid Retina display Storage: Up to 2TB SSD specifications Processor Apple M2 RAM 8GB RAM - 24GB RAM Storage Size 256GB - 2TB Read more ▼ Today's Best Deals View at Amazon (opens in new tab) View at Apple (opens in new tab) View at Verishop (opens in new tab) Reasons to buy + Slick redesign with a bigger display + Top-notch performance + Battery life is great + Silent in use Reasons to avoid - Previous model is better value

If you're looking for the best student laptop and you're comfortable using MacOS, look no further. When Apple rolled out its line of M1-powered products in 2020, the company made a huge splash. As the first laptop to receive Apple’s in-house system on a chip (SoC), the company’s thinnest and lightest MacBook Air ever became one of the most exciting Apple laptops in recent years.

This next-generation MacBook Air is powered by the new M2 SoC, making it better than ever, and delivering outstanding performance. The only real criticism we had to level at it was the price, which is a bit steep – if you want a MacBook but you're on a tighter budget, you may want to consider the 2020 M1 model.

Though its fanless design can result in thermal throttling compared to the Pro, we were able to run intensive tasks without experiencing any major incidents of throttling. Another upside for intensive users is the battery life, which is quite stunning, and beats out many of its competitors. It’s not going to be the cheapest option for students, but for those who have a slightly bigger budget, this is hands-down the best student laptop out there.

Read our full MacBook Air (M2, 2022) review

(Image credit: Acer)

2. Acer Chromebook Spin 311 The best budget student laptop Specifications Best for: Budget-minded students who don’t need a lot of power CPU: Intel Celeron N4000 – Intel Celeron N4020 Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics 600 RAM: 4GB – 8GB Screen: 11.6-inch HD 1366 x 768 IPS Storage: 32GB – 64GB Flash Memory specifications Processor Intel Celeron RAM 4GB RAM Storage Size 32GB - 64GB Read more ▼ Today's Best Deals View at Amazon (opens in new tab) View at Amazon (opens in new tab) View at Walmart (opens in new tab) Reasons to buy + Great design and build + Lovely size + Excellent touch screen and flip mechanism Reasons to avoid - Dim screen - Massive bezels drastically reduce screen size

If versatility is a top priority, then look no further than the Acer Chromebook Spin 311. This all-rounder has all the makings of a great student laptop, from its good battery life to its robust build and solid usability. However, the Acer Chromebook Spin 311 takes it further with its impressive levels of versatility. It has more than enough ports, especially considering its size. Its 2-in-1 form factor is perfect for those who want a laptop and a tablet but only have the budget for one. We enjoyed using its touchscreen display, though its maximum brightness means does render it difficult to use outside.

As a diminutive 11-inch machine, it’s also incredibly portable. Despite its small size, the keyboard and trackpad are both responsive and satisfying to use in our experience. We do wish it had a little more power, as it can stutter just a little when asked to run more intensive tasks. But for the student that needs a versatile little laptop at a very reasonable price point, the Spin 311 is an ideal computing companion.

Read our full Acer Chromebook Spin 311 review

(Image credit: apple)

3. MacBook Air (M1, 2020) A powerful but thin laptop for demanding creative workloads Specifications Best for: Photography, film and design students CPU: Apple M1 chip with 8-core CPU Graphics: Integrated 7-core GPU RAM: Up to 16GB unified memory Screen: 13.3-inch 2560 x 1600 Liquid Retina display Storage: Up to 2TB SSD Today's Best Deals Pre-order at Apple (opens in new tab) Reasons to buy + Thinner and lighter + Larger and brighter screen + Impressive M2 Chip Reasons to avoid - More expensive than M1 model - Has divisive notch

The M2 model might now top our list, but the M1 MacBook Air is still a force to be reckoned with - and it's better value than the newer model now, too. Switching over from Intel processors to Apple's own silicon was a bold move that paid off, providing snappy performance and excellent battery life too.

Apple’s best student laptop takes everything that made the M1 model such an improvement over the Intel models up a notch. Performance is snappy even when we used it to do some 4K video editing, although the gorgeous screen is just a little bit smaller at 13.3 inches - as well as 100 nits dimmer - than the upgraded 13.6-inch display of the newer M2 model. It's also a little heavier, but still undeniably an impressively thin and lightweight laptop given the performance on offer.

As a fun bonus, this MacBook Air actually has a wider range of color options than its newer M2 sibling. For those who want a MacBook but can't quite spring for the high price of the 2022 Air, this laptop will serve them well, potentially even beyond college.

Read our MacBook Air (M1, 2020) review

(Image credit: TechRadar)

4. Dell XPS 13 (2022) An excellent choice of compact laptop for students Specifications Best for: Elementary and high school students, students who don’t need lots of processing power CPU: Up to 12th Generation Intel Core i7 Graphics: Up to Intel Iris Xe Graphics RAM: Up to 32GB LPDDR5 Screen: 13.4" FHD+ (1920 x 1200) InfinityEdge Non-Touch – 13.4" UHD+ (3840 x 2400) InfinityEdge Touch Storage: Up to 1TB M.2 PCIe SSD Today's Best Deals Check Amazon (opens in new tab) Reasons to buy + Clean, refined design + Sensible pricing + Super lightweight and portable Reasons to avoid - Controversial redesign - Not many physical ports

Further down this list you'll find the Dell XPS 15, which packs a larger display and a discrete GPU- an ideal choice for students who need a bit more processing oomph to power through video-editing or number-crunching workloads. This model uses integrated graphics, which means that it's better suited to more everyday tasks like answering emails and writing up essays.

But oh, what a great little device it is for doing those lower-intensity tasks. Dell's XPS laptop line has long been one of our favorites, and this new-for-2022 model is no exception, with a superfast 12th-gen Intel processor and some extremely competitive pricing on the lower-spec models. Spring for a more powerful version and you can get more storage, faster performance, and a higher-resolution touch display.

The Dell XPS 13 is also incredibly thin and light, making it perfect for fast-moving students. If you've ever had to run across campus to make it between two classes (this writer certainly has), you'll understand the value of a lightweight but sturdy laptop that can be quickly tossed into a bag for your next campus sprint.

Read our full Dell XPS 13 (2022) review

(Image credit: Microsoft)

5. Surface Laptop Go 2 The most portable student laptop Specifications Best for: Students who prioritize portability and power CPU: 11th-gen Intel Core i5-1135G7 Graphics: Intel Iris Xe RAM: 4GB – 8GB Screen: : 12.4-inch 1536 x 1024 PixelSense Touch Display Storage: 128GB, 256GB specifications Processor Intel Core i5 RAM 4GB RAM - 16GB RAM Storage Size 8GB - 256GB Read more ▼ Today's Best Deals View at Amazon (opens in new tab) View at Walmart (opens in new tab) View at Best Buy (opens in new tab) Reasons to buy + Excellent build quality + Amazing display + Comfy keyboard Reasons to avoid - No backlit keyboard

A premium laptop doesn’t have to come with that premium price tag and the Surface Laptop Go 2 is affordable even in its most kitted-out configuration. But it does more than just look great and offer a low price tag. It’s a well-built machine encased in a mostly aluminum shell – the bottom is plastic – that feels like it can handle its share of wear and tear. Its keyboard and trackpad are as good as it gets, even if there’s no backlighting. There has to be a compromise somewhere for the price, after all.

Despite the lower resolution, the display is actually surprisingly stellar. In fact, we didn’t realize it was not full HD until looking at its specs. Its 3:2 ratio gave us a little more vertical real estate to work with despite its smaller 12.4-inch screen. Performance-wise, it’s not going to win any awards but we were able to do plenty of multitasking while going through our daily work. The last thing that makes this such a solid companion to matriculating students on the go is its all-day battery life. During our movie loop test, it managed an impressive 8 hours and 25 minutes.

Read our full Microsoft Surface Go 2 review

(Image credit: Acer)

6. Acer Aspire 5 (2022) An affordable laptop that can handle casual gaming Specifications Best for: Students on a budget that need more power CPU: AMD Ryzen 3 – AMD Ryzen 7, 11th Gen Intel Core i5 – 12th Gen Intel Core i7 Graphics: AMD Radeon Graphics, Intel UHD Graphics – Intel Iris Xe RAM: 8GB – 16GB Screen: 14-inch 1920 x 1080 Display – 17.3-inch 1920 x 1080 Display Storage: 128GB – 1TB SSD Reasons to buy + Competitive price + Solid build with decent portability + Decent battery life for the price Reasons to avoid - Modest performance

What falls under the “Acer Aspire 5” umbrella would probably constitute five or more different models for another brand. So, picking out the right one for you can be confusing. Not only can you find it with a whole range of processors from both AMD and Intel but you can find it in three different sizes.

That said, you can get some pretty powerful CPUs and enough RAM to do some light gaming. Even with a base 14-inch model, we were able to squeeze out some respectable results in our performance testing. And, it also gave us a decent six-and-a-half-hour battery life which should last you most of the day as long as you’re not running intensive tasks.

It might not be as slim as some of the other entries on this list but it’s not too heavy, weighing in at under four pounds for the 14-inch model. But, what makes this worthy of consideration is its price. No matter which model you’re looking at, you’re getting a lot of value for a fully-featured non-Chromebook laptop.

Read our full Acer Aspire 5 review

(Image credit: Lenovo)

7. Lenovo IdeaPad Duet 5 OLED Chromebook Student laptop with the best battery life Specifications Best for: Students with lots of after-school activities CPU: Qualcomm Snapdragon SC7180 Graphics: Integrated graphics RAM: 4GB Screen: 13.3-inch 1920 x 1080p OLED Touchscreen Display Storage: 256GB eMMC Reasons to buy + Gorgeous display + Phenomenal battery life Reasons to avoid - Flimsy keyboard - Difficult kickstand

The Lenovo IdeaPad Duet 5 OLED Chromebook isn’t just among the best laptops for students. It’s one of the best Chromebooks on the market. Impressive in both performance and battery life, it also comes in an incredibly portable form. That brilliant combination of longevity and portability makes it ideal for lugging around campus, taking to student council meetings, and unwinding in bed post-schoolwork.

That battery life is so phenomenal, in fact, that it lasted us 16 hours and 20 minutes during our movie loop test. Of course, that fancy new OLED display is worth mentioning as well. It might sound like a premium feature for students, but considering this Chromebook’s affordable price tag, we’d recommend you splurge away. Meanwhile, the detachable keyboard, although still flimsy due to its removable design, is more spacious now, we’ve found. It’s much more comfortable to use now for typing up those school reports. Every student from high school to college will love this notebook.

Read our full Lenovo IdeaPad Duet 5 OLED Chromebook review

(Image credit: Apple)

8. MacBook Pro 13-inch (M1, 2020) A premium Apple laptop with more firepower Specifications Best for: College students who need a lot of power CPU: Apple M1 chip with 8-core CPU Graphics: Integrated 8-core GPU RAM: 8GB – 16GB unified memory Screen: 13.3-inch 2560 x 1600 LED-backlit Retina display Storage: 256GB – 2TB SSD Reasons to buy + Great performance + Impressively long battery life + Magic Keyboard feels great Reasons to avoid - Design remains the same - Limited port selection

Don’t knock off the MacBook Pro 13-inch (M1, 2020)’s integrated graphics card. It might not be a discrete GPU, but it sure beats budget and lower mid-range mobile GPUs in graphical prowess and obliterates Intel's UHD integrated graphics. Thanks to Apple’s groundbreaking M1 chip, the new MacBook Pro 13-inch delivers excellent performance and exceptional battery life.

Its performance is so impressive that it can easily handle 4K (and even 8K) videos, which is great news for film students. And it’s not just a little bump in power over the model it replaced; when we tested it, it blew its Intel-based predecessor out of the water with an almost 70% increase in multi-core tests. It also lasted five hours longer in our battery tests as well.

But performance isn’t everything. It’s also a comfortable laptop to use; its keyboard is great, something that needed correcting in older models of the MacBook Pro. Like most of the smaller MacBook Pros, it’s extremely portable. So, if you’re looking for a powerful laptop that keeps things small and lightweight, this is the best student laptop money can buy.

Read our full MacBook Pro 13-inch (M1, 2020) review

(Image credit: Dell)

9. Dell XPS 15 (2021) The best laptop for engineering students Specifications Best for: Engineering students with heavy graphical demands CPU: 11the Gen Intel Core i7 Graphics: Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 Ti RAM: 16GB – 64GB Screen: 15.6-inch 3.5K 3456 x 2160 OLED Touch Display Storage: 512GB – 4TB SSD specifications Colour Silver Condition New Today's Best Deals View at Amazon (opens in new tab) View at Amazon (opens in new tab) View at Amazon (opens in new tab) Reasons to buy + The 3.5K OLED is an absolute dream + Great keyboard and trackpad + Lighter than its predecessor Reasons to avoid - Expensive - Battery life is surprisingly short

Now with an OLED display option, the Dell XPS 15 is more elevated than ever. It’s admittedly more fitting for professionals due to its premium price tag. However, it has its place in the matriculating world as well, particularly in the engineering department where student laptops need more robust internals to tackle day-to-day schoolwork.

The Dell XPS 15’s powerful chips and discrete graphics – not to mention up to a whopping 64GB of RAM – should more than suffice and be worth saving up for. We found this laptop to perform incredibly well with CPU-heavy tasks and some graphics-intensive workloads. That OLED display, which we not only found to be an absolute stunner but also delivers 100% DCI-P3 color accuracy, is worth paying a little more for if you dabble in cinematography or digital art. Just keep in mind that you won’t get a full day’s worth of battery life here, so be sure to keep that charger handy.

Read our full Dell XPS 15 (2021) review

(Image credit: Asus)

10. Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 The best gaming laptop for students Specifications Best for: Students who are also big gamers CPU: AMD Ryzen 7 – AMD Ryzen 9 Graphics: Nvidia GeForce RTX 1650 – Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060, AMD Radeon RX 6800S RAM: 8GB – 32GB Screen: 14-inch 1920 x 1080 display – 2560 x 1440 display Storage: 512GB – 1TB SSD specifications Processor AMD Ryzen RAM 16GB RAM Storage Size 1TB Read more ▼ Today's Best Deals View at Best Buy (opens in new tab) View at Amazon (opens in new tab) View at Walmart (opens in new tab) Reasons to buy + Excellent performance + Great battery life for a gaming laptop + Thin and light Reasons to avoid - Expensive - No webcam

Gaming laptops are not cheap and the Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 is no exception. However, at its most basic configuration, it will set you back as much as a 13-inch MacBook Pro while giving you access to that gaming goodness, even if it's at 1080p with some compromises on settings. Even with an RTX 2060 Max-Q equipped model, we were able to get decent frame rates out of AAA titles like Metro Exodus on Ultra settings.

But, what makes the Zephyrus G14 stand out, especially considering that there are cheaper ones for that gaming fix, is its form factor and battery life. As a 14-inch portable with a weight of just under four pounds, it’s more portable than any other gaming laptop out there. It easily slides into a backpack for carry-and-go gaming (and schoolwork) and won’t weigh you down the way most of the competition will.

It also bucks the poor battery life trend that plagues most gaming laptops. It won’t give you anywhere near what the best Chromebooks or Ultrabooks will but we were able to squeeze a solid eight hours out of it in our testing, far beyond the five hours or less we expect out of a gaming portable and enough to make this a solid choice of student laptop. Just wait until you have outlet access to boot up Cyberpunk 2077.

Read our full Asus Rog Zephyrus G14 review

How to choose the best student laptop for you There are a few other boxes that the best student laptops should check besides being able to handle the demands of your coursework. One of the biggest considerations you should have when choosing a student laptop is battery life - you need something that will last all day during your classes and still have juice leftover for late nights studying at the library. Student laptops should also ideally be both versatile and lightweight because you’ll want something that can multitask all the programs you’ll need without being a drag to carry around campus. Versatility is crucial with a student laptop, especially with majors that will have you flipping back and forth between a published paper and the essay you’re trying to finish in time. Budget is also a major consideration in choosing the best student laptop for your university experience. Not everyone can shell out a ton of money for a student laptop - we absolutely understand that - so you need to be sure to pick something that meets all your criteria without going overboard on your budget. It’s easy to find a great student laptop within your price range these days, and even better when you find a sale and get a good deal on it.

Is a MacBook a good laptop for students? This is a slightly loaded question, because ultimately the best operating system for students (whether that's Windows 10 or 11, macOS, or ChromeOS) will always come down to which OS the student in question prefers to use. Some of us are married to the effective functionality of Windows; others might prefer the aesthetically pleasing UI of Apple devices, or the Android-esque, streamlined user experience Chromebook provide. If you're already comfortable using a specific operating system, making the leap can be tricky. ChromeOS is arguably the easiest to pick up and use, but changing to MacOS after a decade spend familiarizing yourself with Windows might lead to confusion. Take this into consideration when choosing a new laptop for school or college. On the hardware side, we're pleased to say that MacBooks are more competitive than ever. Apple's fantastic M1 and M2 chips are much more capable of running demanding tasks than processors with integrated graphics, making Apple laptops excellent all-rounders for the busy student. However, if you need to run highly intensive software, it's worth considering a Windows laptop with a dedicated GPU - ideally an Nvidia RTX one - since this will give you a lot more grunt in GPU-accelerated programs.

Which is better for students: a laptop or a desktop? Simply put, most college-level students will need a laptop for their studies at this stage. While having a computer of some kind is practically a necessity at this point - with the rise of remote learning and content creation among university students - a laptop can be thrown into a rucksack and taken along to lectures and workshops, unlike a desktop PC. Yes, a desktop will typically offer more processing power and the advantage of a bigger screen, but you might end up spending more (especially once you factor in the need for peripherals) and then still find yourself needing a portable device for note-taking and working on the go. If you've already got a small tablet or laptop that you can take out and about, you might want to consider buying one of the best desktop computers, but otherwise, we recommend you get a more capable laptop and use that in lieu of a desktop.

How we test student laptops

We know that buying a new laptop can be a huge investment. Even more so with laptops for college students. That’s why we take our jobs seriously, and test every laptop we recommend on this list extensively.

That process involves using them in our day-to-day lives to see how long their battery lasts, how robust they are – college kids have hectic lives, after all, and how cool they stay under pressure. We also look at their design, including how stylish they are, if they are thin and light enough to carry around with, and how comfortable they are to work on. Because the webcam and microphone in a laptop are also incredibly important, especially these days, we take time to test those out as well.

When it comes to performance, we use a mix of real-world tests and synthetic benchmarks to see how powerful (or not) these laptops are. This means using Windows 10 (or Chrome OS on Chromebooks and macOS on MacBooks) and running various apps and seeing how fast they load, noting down any problems.

Battery lives are also important, so we’ll keep track of how long we can use the laptop without needing to charge it. To get specific numbers, we also run our own battery life benchmark that plays a looped 1080p movie until the battery dies and the PC Mark 10 battery life benchmark, which replicates real-world usage, such as web browsing and document creation. These tests give us an excellent idea of how long the batteries in these laptops last.

When all is said and done, we then take everything we’ve learned about the laptop and compare it to its price, to see if it offers the best value to students.

Best college laptops in 2022

If you're a student one of the best college laptops can help you ace your exams and then let you unwind by streaming TV or playing games. But with so many choices at so many different prices, finding the very best laptops for students can feel like extra homework.

The school year is underway, but if you find yourself in need of a mid-semester upgrade we've got you covered with a continuously updated list of the best college laptops. If you are on the lookout for a great deal, the MacBook Air M1 is still available for $799 (opens in new tab) as of this writing, so if you don't mind macOS that's hard to beat.

What should you look for when buying a laptop for school? Make sure it has long battery life and fast CPU performance. You will find a lot of these units in our main best laptops page too, which gives you a wide selection of the top notebooks to choose from. And if you prefer to take notes by hand, buy one of the best 2-in-1 laptops for a blended laptop and tablet experience. We've also ranked the best gaming laptops for those who like to unwind after the coursework is wrapped up.

We feel strongly about the HP Envy 13 and MacBook Air (M1, 2020) as the best laptops for college students due to the price to performance, and excellent support. Need higher-end performance or a larger display? Consider the MacBook Pro or a Dell XPS 15. Without further ado, here are the best college laptops, including some budget picks to make sure you can still make your tuition payments.

Best college laptops

A premium package at a surprisingly affordable price, the HP Envy 13 is the best college laptop. (Image credit: Laptop Mag)

1. HP Envy 13 (2021) The best overall laptop for college students Specifications CPU: Intel Core i5-1135G7 GPU: Irix Xe (or GeForce MX350) RAM: 16GB Storage: 256GB Display: 13.3-inch, 1080p (touch) Size: 12.1 x 7.7 x 0.7 inches Weight: 2.9 pounds Today's Best Deals View at John Lewis (opens in new tab) Check Amazon (opens in new tab) Reasons to buy + Bright, vivid display + Attractive design and clicky keyboard + Core i5 CPU is speedy + 11+ hours of battery life Reasons to avoid - Plastic touchpad - No IR camera option

The HP Envy 13 is the best sub-$1,000 laptop for students or anyone who needs a portable machine with loads of power and long battery life (11 hours and 15 minutes on the FHD model).

With slimmer bezels and faster performance, the 2021 model can still hang with much pricier laptops. Combine those features with a sleek chassis, bright and vivid 1080p display and plenty of performance from an 11th Gen Core i5 CPU, and it's easy to see why the Envy 13 is the best college laptop for students.

And frankly, given that this is a budget laptop compared to many of the others on this list, the Envy 13 is an awesome all-around choice for anyone that doesn't need gaming performance. If you need a larger display, see our HP Envy 14 review.

See our full HP Envy 13 (2021) review.

Apple's new MacBook Air with M1 improves upon its predecessor with more power and endurance. (Image credit: Laptop Mag)

2. MacBook Air (M1, Late 2020) The best Mac for students Specifications CPU: M1 GPU: M1 (integrated) RAM: 8GB/16GB Storage: 256GB/512GB/1TB/2TB Display: 13.3-inch, 2560 x 1600-pixel Size: 11.9 x 8.4 x 0.6 inches Weight: 2.8 pounds Today's Best Deals View at Amazon (opens in new tab) View at (opens in new tab) View at John Lewis (opens in new tab) Reasons to buy + Breathtaking performance + Outstanding battery life + Slim unibody aluminum chassis + iPhone and iPad app support + Great speakers and Magic Keyboard Reasons to avoid - Limited ports

If you prefer macOS to Windows 11, then go with the Apple MacBook Air. While the MacBook Air M2 is now available, many users will still be perfectly happy with the MacBook Air M1, which comes in under $1,000 and can is available for $899 to students even when it's not on sale.

That affordable pricing mixed with its outstanding performance along with 14 hours and 41 minutes of battery life make it hard to beat for college students that are looking to get the most bang for their buck.

Why buy the MacBook Air instead of the Pro? While the Pro has better sustained performance, the MacBook Air is cheaper and is pin-drop silent because it doesn't have a fan. And, of course, Apple's least expensive 13.3-inch model is the most portable, coming in at only 0.6 inches thick and 2.8 pounds.

The MacBook Pro is a strong option as well, it appears later on this page, but considering all of the factors for a college laptop, the MacBook Air is going to be the better choice for most macOS fans looking for their perfect college laptop.

See our full Apple MacBook Air (M1, 2020) review.

See our full Apple MacBook Air M2 review.

The best overall laptop, the Dell XPS 13 is the best college laptop for science students. (Image credit: Future)

3. Dell XPS 13 (2021) The best premium Windows 11 laptop Specifications CPU: Intel Core i3/Core i5/Core i7 (11th Gen) GPU: Intel Iris Xe RAM: 8GB/16GB Storage: 256GB/512GB/1TB/2TB Display: 13.4-inch, 1920 x 1200 or 4K Size: 11.6 x 7.8 x 0.6 inches Weight: 2.8 pounds Today's Best Deals View at Dell Technologies UK (opens in new tab) View at John Lewis (opens in new tab) View at Amazon (opens in new tab) Reasons to buy + Attractive, premium chassis + Powerful performance + No bezels whatsoever + Excellent battery life Reasons to avoid - Lacks legacy ports

The Dell XPS 13 is a serious workhorse and the best premium laptop for college students. Powered by an 11th Gen Intel Core i7 processor with integrated Intel Iris Xe graphics, the notebook is ready for work or play. And with more than 11 hours of battery life, you've got plenty of time for both. The laptop consistently performed either better or on par with competing systems.

But rest assured, the XPS 13 is just as pretty as it is powerful. The company managed to make a laptop that's smaller and lighter than previous models. Despite the smaller size, Dell added some big changes, including a larger trackpad and keyboard. Plus, you get a 13.4-inch, near-bezelless display on every side –– the first in the world to do so.

It's an exercise in patient restraint, improving the notebook in a bunch of small ways that add up to a big leap for the system. If you're looking for the total package, the Dell XPS 13 is the laptop for you.

See our full Dell XPS 13 (Model 9310, 4K) review.

Need a screen upgrade for video or photo editing? See our full XPS 13 OLED review.

Best stylish college laptop (Image credit: Future)

4. Acer Swift 5 (2022) Best thin-and-light college laptop Specifications CPU: Intel Core i7-1260P GPU: Intel Iris Xe RAM: 16GB Storage: 1TB SSD Display Size: 14-inch, 2560 x 1600 Size: 12.2 x 8.4 x 0.59 inches Weight: 2.65 pounds Today's Best Deals View at Acer UK (opens in new tab) Check Amazon (opens in new tab) Reasons to buy + Attractive design + Rival-beating performance + Ultra-fast SSD + Zippy video transcoding + Fast file transfer rates Reasons to avoid - Annoying bloatware - Speakers could be louder

The last-gen Swift 5, packed with an 11th Gen Intel CPU, blew us out of the water with its 13-hour battery life, stellar performance, attractive design, and palatable price tag. Now, the current-gen Swift 5 is $200 more, but the minor price hike is worth it. It’s got a faster SSD, zippier performance, impressive video transcoding, breakneck file-transfer speeds — and it still manages to be lightweight and pleasing to the eye with an attractive dark-green-and-gold color scheme.

The Swift 5 does inherit a couple of the same complaints from the previous model with annoying bloatware apps and weak speakers. The first just means spending 15 minutes or so deleting the bloatware and the second means you'll likely want a good pair of wireless headphones, but overall this remains one of the best laptops of 2022 and an excellent fit for a college student that wants solid performance in a thin-and-light form factor.

See our full Acer Swift 5 (2022) review.

(Image credit: Future)

5. Apple MacBook Pro (13-inch, M2, 2022) Best college laptop for macOS power users Specifications CPU: M2 GPU: M2 (integrated) RAM: 8GB/16GB Storage: 256GB, 512GB, 1TB, 2TB Display: 13.3-inch, 2560 x 1600 Size: 12 x 8.4 x 0.6 inches Weight: 3.1 pounds Today's Best Deals View at Amazon (opens in new tab) View at John Lewis (opens in new tab) View at (opens in new tab) Reasons to buy + Stellar overall and gaming performance + Excellent battery life + Lightning-fast SSD + Great webcam + Comfortable keyboard Reasons to avoid - Stagnant design - Not enough ports

While the design is unchanged, the M2 inside the MacBook Pro 2022 gives another performance and battery life boost to Apple's already outstanding laptop.

The MacBook Pro is more powerful than nearly every PC on the market, including some workstations. And despite cramming so much power into such a slim and sleek chassis, the Pro lasted for a ludicrous 18 hours and 20 minutes on our battery test, which simulates real-world usage.

Thanks to the image processing unit, the webcam (sadly, still 720p) is better than its 720p rivals and since it runs on Apple's ARM-based architecture, iPad and iPhone apps are available on Mac.

While the 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro models may tempt some users with high-end needs, the MBP 13-inch with M2 remains a strong option at a far more affordable price point for those that need just a bit more juice than the MacBook Air.

See our MacBook Pro (13-inch, M2, 2022) review

Dell XPS 15 OLED (2021) (Image credit: Phillip Tracy/Laptop Mag)

6. Dell XPS 15 The best 15-inch for college Specifications CPU: Intel Core i7-11800H GPU: Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 Ti RAM: 16GB Storage: 512GB M.2 PCIe NVMe SSD Display: 15.6-inch, 3456 x 2160 (3.5K) OLED Size: 13.6 x 9.1 x 0.7 inches Weight: 4.3 pounds Today's Best Deals View at Amazon (opens in new tab) View at Amazon (opens in new tab) Reasons to buy + Breathtaking 3.5K OLED display + Supercharged performance + Slim, premium chassis + Massive touchpad and spacious keyboard Reasons to avoid - Below-average battery life - Heavier than some competitors

Productivity, multimedia and even a bit of gaming — the Dell XPS 15 can do it all and do it well. The XPS 15 offers an attractive, slim design that's bursting with power. While that might seem minor, the four-border InfinityEdge bezel has made possible one of the highest resolution displays on the market, and now it comes with gorgeous OLED technology for those who don't need the longest battery life.

And if that isn't enough, check under the hood and you'll find an 11th Gen Intel Core i7 Comet Lake H-Series processor and an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 Ti. The laptop dominated all of our benchmark tests including our graphics test. That means you could get a solid gaming session going in a pinch. It's a jack-of-all-trades system that excels at just about everything.

If you like what the XPS 15 offers but need an even larger display, consider the Dell XPS 17.

See our Dell XPS 15 OLED (2021) review.

Offering beauty and brawn, the HP Spectre x360 14 is the best 2-in-1 laptop, budget notwithstanding. (Image credit: Laptop Mag)

7. HP Spectre x360 13.5 (2022) The best 2-in-1 laptop Specifications CPU: 12th Gen Intel Core i7-1255U GPU: Intel Iris Xe RAM: 16GB Storage: 256GB/512GB/1TB Display: 13.5-inch OLED (3000 x 2000) Size: 11.7 x 8.7 x 0.67 inches Weight: 3 pounds Today's Best Deals View at HP Store (opens in new tab) View at John Lewis (opens in new tab) View at Argos (opens in new tab) Reasons to buy + Stunning 3:2 aspect ratio OLED touch screen + Elegant, sturdy design + Excellent performance + All-day battery life Reasons to avoid - Lack of discrete GPU option

The Spectre x360 13.5 once again earns our Editors' Choice badge and cements itself as one of the best 2-in-1 laptops on the market. The stunning design, productivity boosting 3:2 aspect ratio OLED touchscreen and outstanding performance are tough to beat.

Add to that a generously sized touchpad that is silky to the touch as well as a comfortable (albeit shallow) keyboard, excellent security options (fingerprint sensor and facial recognition) and a good selection of ports, and well, it's easy to see why we like this laptop so much.

We recommend buying the Spectre x360 13.5 over the Envy 13 if you have the money, especially if you need the flexible design. In fact, the Spectre x360 13.5 is arguably best laptop if you want a convertible notebook, period. Sure, it has a few faults, but those are easily forgotten once you get this beauty in your hands.

See our HP Spectre x360 13.5 review

If you want to save some money, consider the excellent HP Spectre x360 13.

(Image credit: Future)

8. MacBook Pro 14-inch (M1 Pro, Late 2021) The best premium Apple laptop for college students Specifications CPU: Apple M1 Pro GPU: Apple M1 Pro RAM: 16/32/64GB Storage: 128GB up to 8TB Display: 14.2-inch, 3024 x 1964-pixels with 120Hz Size: 12.3 x 8.7 x 0.6 inches Weight: 3.5 pounds Today's Best Deals View at Amazon (opens in new tab) View at (opens in new tab) View at John Lewis (opens in new tab) Reasons to buy + Sleek, elegant design + Plenty of ports + Excellent performance + Stellar battery life + Stunning display Reasons to avoid - Expensive entry point - No USB-A port

The MacBook Pro 14 combines a little bit of old with a whole lot of new for a tantalizing product that MacBook fans have been waiting years for — especially content creators and consumers. For the average student this is massive overkill, but if you need this kind of performance and either prefer or require macOS software, it's hard to beat.

The notebook’s design is lightweight and sleek with plenty of room for a full HDMI and an SDXC card reader. And the M1 Pro chip brings even more power, battling some of Intel and AMD's heavyweights and winning handily. Plus, it’s serving up over 14 hours of battery life with a formidable quick charge, a show-stopping display, a super comfortable keyboard and an excellent audio system.

What's the catch? As per usual with Apple it's the price tag, $2,899 is a lot to swallow, even with trade-ins and payment plans. And that $1,999 starting price isn’t much better. It would have been nice if Apple would have offered a lower-end option, maybe one with last year’s M1 chip packed into the new hardware. But for everything the MacBook Pro 14 is bringing, it’s a worthwhile investment.

If battery life is your biggest concern the 16-inch MacBook Pro with the M1 Pro will outlast anything in its class with remotely similar performance. For those that need every last bit of processing power they can get their hands on the M1 Max in either the 14-inch or 16-inch MacBook Pro is as good as it gets short of an even pricier workstation or desktop.

See our full 14-inch MacBook Pro review

(Image credit: Future)

9. Asus Vivobook S 15 OLED Best affordable OLED college laptop Specifications CPU: Intel Core i5-12500H GPU: Iris Xe RAM: 16GB Storage: 512GB SSD Display: 15.6-inch FHD (1920 x 1080) OLED Size: 14.17 x 9.17 x 0.74 inches Weight: 3.97 pounds Today's Best Deals Check Amazon (opens in new tab) Visit Site (opens in new tab) Reasons to buy + Stunning 15.6-inch OLED display + Ideal performance + Affordably priced + Great audio Reasons to avoid - Terrible webcam - Battery life could be better

Finding a reliable laptop under $1,000 that doesn’t sacrifice build or performance is difficult to come by these days. Given that this is one of the most highly targeted price ranges for a college laptop, that can be particularly frustrating. Fortunately, Asus has delivered us another option this year with the Asus Vivobook S15 OLED.

The Asus Vivobook S 15 OLED excels at everything most college students need with commendable performance, thanks to its 12th Gen Intel chip, quality on-screen entertainment with its 15.6-inch OLED display, and enough battery life to get you through all but the longest marathon study session. Oh, and its special Asus Antibacterial Guard is a nice touch for those who like a clean laptop.

The webcam was our biggest gripe, so if you do a lot of video calling you may want to invest in one of the best webcams, but otherwise you won't be disappointed with this budget-friendly laptop.

See our full Asus Vivobook S15 OLED.

Samsung Galaxy Book 2 Pro 360 (Image credit: Laptop Mag/Sean Riley)

10. Samsung Galaxy Book 2 Pro 360 Gorgeous thin-and-light laptop with a 15.6-inch display Specifications CPU: Intel Core i7-1260P GPU: Intel Iris Xe RAM: 16 GB Storage: 1 TB SSD Display: 15.6-inch AMOLED, FHD (1920x1080) Size: 14 x 9 x 0.46 inches Weight: 3.1 pounds Today's Best Deals View at Amazon (opens in new tab) View at John Lewis (opens in new tab) View at Argos (opens in new tab) Reasons to buy + Stunning portable design + Strong performance + Vivid and bright Super AMOLED display + Long-lasting battery life + S Pen included Reasons to avoid - Lacks storage silo for S Pen - Disappointing webcam

The Samsung Galaxy Book 2 Pro 360 is an amazing feat of engineering that makes it a fantastic match for college students. The 15.6-inch AMOLED display in a 3.1-pound laptop remains remarkable while delivering a 2-in-1 form factor that makes it a dream laptop for college students. Not only that, but it more than doubles the Geekbench performance of its predecessor, meaning that unless you have incredibly demanding needs, this vanishingly thin laptop has more power than you will likely ever need.

The included S Pen just adds to the compelling package, allowing you to easily take handwritten notes when necessary or sketch if you are in a creative area of study. While the lack of a silo for the S Pen isn't ideal, hopefully you have a pen slot in your backpack to keep it safe. That leaves the webcam as my only real complaint — and that isn’t relevant for everyone and is solved with an external webcam.

See our full Samsung Galaxy Book 2 Pro 360 review.

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

11. Lenovo Legion 5 Pro The best cheap gaming laptop for students Specifications CPU: Ryzen 7 5800H CPU GPU: Nvidia GeForce RTX 3070of VRAM RAM: 16GB Storage: 512GB Display: 16-inch, 2560 x 1600-pixel Size: 14 x 10.4 x 1.1 inches Weight: 5.4 pounds Today's Best Deals View at Amazon (opens in new tab) View at Laptops Direct (opens in new tab) Reasons to buy + Bright 16-inch, QHD 165Hz display + Fantastic keyboard with numpad + Excellent productivity and gaming performance + Solid battery life Reasons to avoid - Bland and heavy chassis - Only four-zone RGB

Lenovo's Legion 5 Pro proves what's possible when two opposing forces come together for the greater good. Those forces are AMD and Nvidia, and the greater good is the gaming community. Armed with an AMD Ryzen 7 5800 CPU and Nvidia GeForce RTX 3070 graphics, the Legion 5 Pro gives gamers the power they need to run the latest AAA titles at Ultra graphics settings.

What it lacks in flashy aesthetics, it makes up for with a gorgeous 16-inch QHD display, an exceptional keyboard and touchpad, plenty of ports, and outstanding performance from the one-two punch of an AMD CPU and Nvidia GPU. And despite harnessing so much power, the Legion 5 Pro delivers respectable battery life.

See our full Lenovo Legion 5 Pro review.

Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio in studio mode, with the flexible hinge pulled forward. (Image credit: Laptop Mag/Phillip Tracy)

12. Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio The best premium 2-in-1 laptop for creative pros Specifications CPU: Intel Core i7-11370H GPU: Nvidia RTX 3050 Ti (4GB of VRAM) RAM: 32GB Storage: 1TB SSD Display: 14.4-inch, 2400 x 1600-pixel (3:2) at 120Hz Size: 12.7 x 9 x 0.75 inches Weight: 4 pounds Today's Best Deals View at Scan (opens in new tab) View at Amazon (opens in new tab) View at John Lewis (opens in new tab) Reasons to buy + Clever hinge enables new modes + Gorgeous 14.4-inch, 120Hz display + Long battery life Reasons to avoid - Thick chassis - Not enough ports - Performance is short of class-leading

Microsoft has struck the right 2-in-1 balance. Instead of having a detachable lid like the Surface Book it replaces, or an attachable keyboard like the Surface Pro 8, the Surface Laptop Studio employs a unique hinge that allows the display to be pulled forward and positioned into different modes.

Not only can the Surface Laptop Studio be transformed into a digital drawing board, but it does so without compromising the standard laptop mode. This flexibility, along with excellent performance and long battery life, makes the Surface Laptop Studio a compelling option for creative professionals. Add in a fantastic keyboard/touchpad combo, powerful speakers, and a 1080p webcam, and the Surface Laptop Studio finds its place as one of the best college laptops.

See our full Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio review.

(Image credit: Future)

13. Acer Chromebook Spin 714 Best Chromebook for most college kids Specifications CPU: Intel Core i5-1235U GPU: Intel Iris Xe RAM: 8GB Storage: 256GB Display: 14-inch 1920 x 1200 touchscreen Size: 12.3 x 8.8 x 0.7 inches Weight: 3.2 pounds Today's Best Deals View at Amazon (opens in new tab) Reasons to buy + Excellent, bright, colorful responsive touch display + Speedy stable performance + Excellent design + Sturdy + Great keyboard and stylus combo Reasons to avoid - Sensitive Touchpad - Weak speakers

If you're a current Chrome OS user in need of an upgrade for your college laptop or are considering Chrome OS, then don't hesitate to buy the Acer Chromebook Spin 714. This excellent 2-in-1 laptop delivers a gorgeous 14-inch touchscreen and fast performance thanks to its Intel Core i5-1235U CPU.

The sturdy and flexible design make it a perfect fit for hauling around campus and getting work done anywhere. Add the stylus and you can easily add diagrams or handwritten sections to notes if you prefer, while the excellent keyboard will let you keep hammer out papers or keep pace with your professors.

Battery life is the one middling spec for the Chromebook Spin 714, at just over 7 hours in our testing, so if you are frequently spending your entire day without access to an outlet you may need to consider another option.

See our full Acer Chromebook Spin 714 (2022) review.

Lenovo ThinkPad X12 Detachable - the best detachable laptop for students (Image credit: Laptop Mag)

14. Lenovo ThinkPad X12 Detachable The best Surface Pro alternative Specifications CPU: Intel Core i5-1130G7 GPU: Intel Iris Xe RAM: 16GB Storage: 512GB Display: 12.3-inch, 1920 x 1280-pixel Size: 11.2 x 8 x 0.3 inches Weight: 1.7 pounds (2.4 pounds with keyboard) Today's Best Deals View at Amazon (opens in new tab) View at Amazon (opens in new tab) Reasons to buy + Long battery life + Good 12.3-inch display + Excellent keyboard + Accessories come bundled Reasons to avoid - Terrible speakers - No USB Type-A

The Lenovo ThinkPad X12 Detachable is, in short, a better version of the Surface Pro 7. It has the same detachable form factor and uses a kickstand that can rotate to about the same 160-degree angle. The 12.3-inch display is almost identical to the one on the Surface and, like the Pro 7, the detachable keyboard is fantastic. You even get military-grade durability from its rigid chassis.

Why is it better than the Surface Pro 7 and Pro 7+? Because the ThinkPad X12 Detachable lasts longer on a charge, enduring for more than 11 hours, and it weighs slightly less than its magnesium alloy competitor. Better yet, the X12 Detachable comes bundled with the keyboard and pen, although you'll need to spend a pretty penny on this business-focused detachable.

If you need good speakers or a USB Type-A port, then you might go with the Surface Pro 7, otherwise, we prefer the X12 Detachable. If you prefer something less business-focused, consider the excellent Microsoft Surface Pro 8.

See our Lenovo ThinkPad X12 Detachable review

(Image credit: Future)

15. Alienware m17 R5 (AMD Advantage) Best high-end gaming laptop for students Specifications CPU: MD Ryzen 9 6900XT GPU: AMD Radeon RX 6850 XT/AMD Radeon Graphics RAM: 32GB Storage: 1TB PCIe NVMe M.2 SSD Display: 17.3-inch, 4K Weight: 5.6 pounds Today's Best Deals Check Amazon (opens in new tab) Visit Site (opens in new tab) Reasons to buy + Sleek, futuristic design + Great gaming and overall performance + Super comfortable keyboard + Superb battery life + Loud, clean audio Reasons to avoid - 720p webcam - Top configurations around $3,000

The Alienware m17 R5 (AMD Advantage) is overkill for most classwork, but if you are looking for a laptop that can also make the most of your downtime then this is a strong contender.

At 5.6 pounds you probably won't want to lug this around campus all day, but the performance may win you over with the AMD Ryzen 9 6900HX and Radeon RX 6850M XT GPU delivering big numbers, enough to give their Intel and Nvidia-powered competitors a run for their money more often than not.

The biggest complaint we had about the m17 R5 is its 720 webcam, but you can always pick up one of the best webcams if you need a sharper image. We're willing to overlook that one flaw in exchange for its gorgeous 4K display, excellent audio, Cherry MX keys and of course the aforementioned gaming prowess.

The Alienware m17 R5 (AMD Advantage) shouldn't be the first choice for most students, but if you have a lot of high-powered school tasks or you aren't giving up gaming while at college this is one to consider for its outstanding multimedia capabilities and flawless gaming performance.

How to choose the best college laptop for you

Why you can trust Laptop Mag Our expert reviewers spend hours testing and comparing products and services so you can choose the best for you. Find out more about how we test.

There are a number of factors students should consider before buying a laptop for college.

The first is portability, which goes hand-in-hand with screen size. 13-inch laptops are popular among college students because they offer a good balance between screen real estate and portability. The Dell XPS 13 is a great example. It weighs around 2 pounds and is just 0.5 inches thick, yet you get a 13.3-inch edge-to-edge display. We're also seeing more and more 14-inch laptops, like the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon, which is remarkably portable for the screen size.

Battery life is another key component of any good college laptop. If you plan to take the notebook to class or the library, don't count on there being an outlet! Consider a laptop that gets at least 9 hours of battery life, which should be enough to get you through a couple of classes with enough juice for studies.

When it comes to specs, we recommend buying a laptop with an Intel U-series or H-series Core i5 CPU, at least 8GB of RAM (16GB is great) and a minimum of 256GB of storage. AMD's chips are strong contenders in this arena as well, anything with a 4000-series or newer processor is going to be a great fit. Apple's M1 or newer M1 Pro and M1 Max naturally fit the bill as well, although the latter push the price up considerably. On the budget end, Chromebooks like the Pixelbook Go offer excellent value for college students.

Other things that will help you punch up a successful report or research complex topics include a comfy keyboard and sensitive touchpad. And when it's time to relax, be sure to get a laptop with a vivid and bright display (like any of those listed here).

How we test laptops

We put each laptop through extensive benchmark testing — both synthetic and real-world — before they end up in the hands of our reviewers. We evaluate each aspect of the laptop, including its performance, battery life, display, speakers and heat management.

In our benchmark testing, we use a Klein K10 colorimeter to detect the brightness and the sRGB and DCI-P3 color gamut of the laptop's display. For performance testing, we run the laptop through a gauntlet of benchmarks, including Geekbench 5.4 and 3DMark professional graphics tests.

To determine real-world performance, we task the laptop to convert a 4K video to 1080p resolution and to duplicate a 4.97GB multimedia file. Our real-world graphics test is the Sid Meier's Civilization VI: Gathering Storm benchmark with medium settings at 1080p and 4K resolution.

We also run heat tests by playing a 15-minute full-screen video and measuring temperatures in different areas of the laptop. Last but not least, our battery test consists of continuous web surfing over Wi-Fi at 150 nits of brightness. For MacBooks and premium Windows 10 or Windows 11 laptops, a runtime of over 9 hours is considered a good result whereas gaming laptops and workstations that can stay powered for longer than 5 hours deserve praise.

These tests are complemented with extensive hands-on testing from our reviewers who critique everything from the laptop's materials to the feel of its touchpad.

What’s the best student laptop? We asked students

Shopping for a laptop can be stressful — doubly stressful if you or your children will be learning online for the first time. Kids of different ages have a range of different laptop use cases and different needs. And as the choices for best laptop and best Chromebook evolve, so do students’ needs. So I spoke to some experts on the subject: students themselves.

My recommendations here are meant to accommodate a variety of preferences and price ranges. But they’re a jumping-off point rather than an exhaustive list: every student is different. Before making a decision, you’ll want to make sure you read reviews and try out devices yourself if you can. I’ll do my best to keep this article up to date with items that are in stock.

Best laptop for students

Google’s Pixelbook Go has solid battery life and a rippled base that’s easy to grip, making it a good choice for kids. Photo by Vjeran Pavic / The Verge

Best laptop for elementary school

For younger students, a touchscreen device is easier to use than a keyboard and touchpad, says Michelle Glogovac. Glogovac’s five-year-old son uses an iPad for Webex meetings with his kindergarten class. He’s gotten the hang of it; Glogovac says he’s already learned how to mute and unmute himself, “a skill that many adults aren’t familiar with.”

That said, it may be worth investing in a keyboard case if you go the tablet route. Glogovac has to type her son’s meeting codes and passwords for him, which can be cumbersome on the iPad’s flat screen.

As kids get older, their best laptop choice will vary depending on their needs. As a parent, it’s important that you and your child are in sync about how they intend to use it and the size of the programs they want.

Kristin Wallace purchased a budget HP laptop for her daughter, Bella, but didn’t realize how quickly the nine-year-old would fill up 32GB of storage. “It is really slow and has no space for games. I need a computer with more storage space,” said Bella, who uses the laptop to Zoom with friends and take virtual guitar lessons and math enrichment classes. Wallace plans to buy Bella a better device in the next few weeks.

Audio quality is an important consideration for kids’ laptops. Lisa Mitchell, an elementary library media specialist, says her students use their devices to watch YouTube videos in addition to their online classes. Battery life is also a plus, even for distance learners who may not be far from a wall outlet. Bella likes to use her laptop all around the house and doesn’t want to bring the cord with her.

Durability is also worth paying for, according to Mitchell. If you’re using a tablet, get a protective case. “If a reasonably-priced insurance or replacement policy is available, it’s usually worth the extra expense.”

Check out:

Lenovo’s Chromebook Duet is just $289, but it can run plenty of tabs and apps with no problem. Photo by Monica Chin / The Verge

Best laptop for middle school

The middle school students I spoke to don’t use their laptops for much more than web-based schoolwork and browsing. Don’t be too concerned about power — prioritize a machine that’s comfortable and easy for your child to use.

“We just got the most basic Chromebook and it is totally perfect,” says Gabrielle Hartley, an attorney and mother of three children. “The most basic Chromebook serves all the needs of the basic middle schooler.”

Chromebooks, like this one from Acer, are a good choice for students who use Google Classroom. Photo by Monica Chin / The Verge

Hartley’s son Max, who is in eighth grade, agrees. “I would really like a gaming PC or gaming laptop that can plug into a monitor and run video games with 120fps, but I really don’t need that,” Max says. “Most eighth graders aren’t going to be running any video games on their laptops or any software that requires a lot of power.”

Max mostly uses his laptop for Google Classroom applications, including Gmail, Slides, Google Docs, and Google Sheets. They’re very easy to use on his device, which he describes as “a run-of-the-mill Samsung Chromebook.” That said, if your child is starting middle school this year, it could be worth checking with their teachers to see what operating system is most compatible with their workflow. Caspian Fischer Odén, a ninth grader from Sweden, told me he has trouble with his Chromebook because his school has blocked downloading apps from the Google Play Store.

Even kids with more demanding hobbies think a budget device can get the job done. Sam Hickman, an eighth grader from the UK who uses his laptop for photo and video editing, says, “For most middle schoolers, any processor developed within the last two years will be able to handle any tasks they can throw at it.”

So, what is worth paying for? A comfortable keyboard, several students told me. Many middle school kids aren’t used to typing for long periods of time. You should also look for a device that’s compact and easy for them to carry around, particularly if they’re preparing for in-person school. Shoot for an 11- to 13-inch model — certainly nothing larger than 15 inches.

Check out:

The Surface Laptop 5 is a capable, no-nonsense laptop — just what many high schoolers want. Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

Best laptop for high school

High schoolers’ laptop needs can vary based on their interests, but most don’t need powerful machines with lots of bells and whistles — especially if they come with glitches or serious downsides that could interfere with schoolwork. Miles Riehle, a student at Laguna Beach High School, has a high-end Surface Pro 7 but finds it overwhelming. “There is so much other stuff that I don’t use very often,” he said. “Something simpler might be a little more straightforward.”

The best operating system may depend on what your child is used to. Aryan Nambiar, a student at Barrington High School in Illinois, has an iMac at home and enjoys using an iPad for his schoolwork. Riehle says he would prefer a Chromebook because he has an Android phone and often uses Google services.

But almost every student I spoke to agreed that the most important feature of a high school laptop is portability. Kids attending in-person classes may be carrying their device around for much of the day with a stack of other books. Look for a 13- or 14-inch screen, or a lighter 15- to 17-inch model.

Students also recommend something sturdy. “Most high schoolers I’ve seen will throw their laptop in their bag without too much care,” says Moses Buckwalter, a student at Penn Manor High School. Backpacks can be jostled in the hallway as well. Kids can also run into trouble at home. “Anything can happen,” says Aadit Agrawal, a high school student from India. “My own brother scratched my laptop with his nails.”

Battery life is another key feature. “It can be a real struggle to find a place to charge while in class,” says Cas Heemskerk, a sophomore from the Netherlands. Unlike college students, many high schoolers don’t have frequent breaks to juice up their devices, so try to find something that can last a full day.

Many students recommend a touchscreen with stylus support. Nambiar uses the feature for his biology class, where he does a lot of visual modeling. “The touchscreen is always a bonus for drawing diagrams, whereas if you’re using a laptop it’d be a whole process to submit a diagram you drew,” Nambiar says. Riehle uses a Surface Pen to fill out school forms and annotate PDFs. Agrawal finds it useful to take notes on the same screen as his online lessons.

Depending on the broadband situation in your area, you may also want a laptop with multiple connectivity options. Agrawal’s online classes are sometimes interrupted by powercuts, so he recommends an LTE model. Matej Plavevski, a junior at Yahya Kemal College in North Macedonia, recommends looking for an Ethernet port in case slower connections disrupt meetings. That’s hard to find on smaller laptops, but there’s a slew of affordable dongles and docks to consider.

Check out:

For college students seeking an affordable laptop, HP’s Envy x360 performs just as well as some expensive competitors. Photo by Monica Chin / The Verge

Best laptop for college

College kids are justified in spending a bit more money than other age groups. Some (especially in STEM courses) can expect to do some fairly demanding work. Assad Abid, an electrical engineering undergrad from Pakistan, needs to run simulation software for his assignments. Aakash Chandra, a student at New Horizon College of Engineering in India, does a lot of coding, in addition to creative work in Premiere Pro and Photoshop, and gaming. Students also noted that it’s worthwhile to pay for a laptop that will last for a few years after graduation. That means you won’t have to worry about finding and financing your next device until you’re (hopefully) settled into a job.

But among high-end, capable devices there’s still a wide range of options. Students stressed that a college laptop should be light. Expect to bring it between classes, meals, meetings, the library, and other locations on campus. “It’s a boon that I can carry my laptop as well as some notebooks without feeling like I’m carrying too much for six hours a day,” says Haseeb Waseem, a senior at Villanova University.

The Dell XPS 13 has a variety of configurations. Students with light workloads may prefer the base model, while gamers and creatives can add a GPU. Photo by Monica Chin / The Verge

Another universally-lauded feature: battery life. Waseem, who uses an HP Spectre, says the all-day juice gives him “the flexibility to study in a bunch of different locations, and even outside.”

Speakers and webcams are often overlooked, even in top-end devices. But students say it’s worth looking for good ones if you’re starting college this year. Though many college students are now back to in-person classes, some will still be meeting with clubs and attending events online. Waseem isn’t satisfied with his laptop’s audio and picture quality, which he says has made it difficult to pay attention in class and to engage with other students.

Many students will need to invest more in areas tailored to their interests and schoolwork needs. Chandra’s dream laptop would include a stylus and touchscreen for his creative work as well as a high-end GPU. Waseem, who uses his laptop for a hodgepodge of activities, including streaming, coding, social media, video chatting, and Microsoft Office work, would prefer to prioritize a large screen to keep track of his multitasking.

Hunter Jones

Hunter Jones

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