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After another round of testing, our new pick is the Asus Zenbook 14 OLED, and our upgrade pick is the HP Specter x360 13.5.
Good Laptops For College Students 2020
Not to mention food and other miscellaneous expenses in college, including tuition, housing, and textbooks — so students need a reliable laptop to take notes, write papers at 3 a.m., and spend years fixing slides. Group project. But choosing the right laptop is more challenging than writing a thousand words on Proust.
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We test dozens of laptops every year, and for this guide we've collected the best for students from our other guides. A laptop's price-to-performance ratio is the most important factor, followed by battery life, size and weight, keyboard and trackpad, and adequate performance. For most high school and college students, whether taking classes remotely or attending a physical classroom, our top picks offer the best balance of these factors.
If you can spend more, we also have more portable options, and we have lower-cost options that are perfect for anyone on a tight budget and even small children. To get their super-cheap price tags, all of these affordable options make serious trade-offs—shorter battery life, larger sizes, or more limited functionality—and they're unlikely to last up to our picks. If you're a film or photography student, need a laptop for photo and video editing, or want a laptop that can play games, we've got you covered.
The Zenbook 14 is the best laptop you can get for the price. It's fast enough for most courses today, but in a few years it won't work on more expensive laptops, and it won't be upgradable.
Who's it for: Budget ultrabooks — thin and light laptops with good performance and long battery life and priced between $700 and $800 — offer great value for high school and college students. These cheaper ultrabooks make fewer trade-offs than $1,100 to $1,300 ultrabooks: They may be a bit bigger and heavier, may not last as long on a charge, may be less powerful or rigid, or may lack the right features. Fingerprint reader or USB-C charging. But even with these drawbacks, budget ultrabooks still offer better performance and overall quality than $500 laptops.
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Why we love it: Most high school or college students shopping for a laptop until graduation should get the Asus Zenbook 14 OLED. It's powerful enough to last a full day of classes, and it has a bright screen and a solid keyboard and trackpad. Unlike most affordable ultrabooks, the ZenBook 14 is robust and equipped with a fingerprint reader, and it comes with a USB-C charger, which you can use to charge most devices, and generally non-specialized USB-C chargers are cheaper than the alternatives. Spend about $400 more on a top-of-the-line ultrabook like the HP Specter x360 13.5 and you'll get a laptop with more memory, longer battery life, and a better webcam. But for most students, those differences aren't worth $400.
You can read more about the Asus Zenbook 14 OLED and our other picks in our Windows Ultrabooks guide.
The Specter x360 offers exceptional battery life, a long touchscreen, and a reliable keyboard and trackpad, and our pick is thin and light enough to slip into a bag and take anywhere.
Who it's for: If you're ambitious and can pay more, get an ultrabook, a laptop with a big keyboard, screen and battery life, and everything you need to do it. More than enough power for most people's computer needs. . It is thin, light and portable. Because high-end ultrabooks offer a better experience and last longer than cheaper alternatives, most students can expect to spend more than what they spend on a laptop—expect $1,100 to $1. But they don't have the processing power to play high-end games or handle demanding tasks like video editing or 3D modeling.
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Why we love it: The HP Specter x360 13.5 (with 16GB of memory) offers the perfect balance of what makes an ultrabook great: it offers fast performance, battery life for all-day classes, and a proportionally long screen. Web browsing and writing papers and quality keyboard and trackpad. If you're taking classes remotely, the speaker has the best webcam we've tested this year. It has a 360-degree hinge that lets you use the touchscreen as a tablet (or any position in between), and it comes with an active stylus for taking notes. The Specter x360 13.5 isn't as light or compact as other Windows ultrabooks, but at 3 pounds it's certainly not heavy. It ships with a lot of bloatware, but it's easy to uninstall once the laptop arrives.
You can read more about the HP Specter x360 13.5 and our other picks in our Windows Ultrabooks guide.
The MacBook Air has a comfortable keyboard, good performance, and a decent amount of storage — things that weren't always true of older MacBook Airs.
Who it's for: If you love macOS or need exceptional tech support, the MacBook is a safe bet; 13-inch models generally offer the best combination of size, weight, and speed. They are great for many types of schoolwork, including writing, research, and basic video and photo editing and coding. If you factor in Apple's education discount, expect to pay around $1,000 for one with enough specs and storage to last three to four years. MacBooks are generally more expensive than Windows Ultrabooks, especially if you want to upgrade memory or storage; Apple's SSD upgrade prices are quite high, so we recommend looking into cloud storage or an external SSD instead. But the improved keyboard design and generous storage make the MacBook easier to recommend than in years past.
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Why we love it: The 13-inch MacBook Air with Apple's M1 processor is fast enough for web browsing, working on documents, and light photo and video editing, and it handles professional work as well. As beautiful as 3D rendering or compiling code. Soon it has a great keyboard and trackpad, and the battery life is so good you'll never have to charge it during the day. Like other Apple laptops, the Air only has a limited number of sync ports (in this case, two Thunderbolt 3/USB-C ports) that may require the use of USB-C hubs or new cables. But its lightweight, sturdy construction and industry-leading support make it a great laptop, especially if you own an iPhone or other Apple devices.
With great performance at a low price, a great keyboard and trackpad, and a compact, lightweight body, the Lenovo Flex 5i is the Chromebook to buy.
Who it's for: Chromebooks are great for students who don't need Windows or macOS for specific programs. A good Chromebook can do anything a regular laptop can do, including document work, video calls, and video streaming—as much as possible in a web browser or through Android apps. And Chromebooks are cheaper: A $400 Chromebook is faster, lighter, and sleeker than a $500 Windows laptop, and blessed with better battery life. Additionally, Chromebooks are safe and easy to store. But Chromebooks can have trouble connecting to campus printers, they can't play Windows games, and they're not good for people who need access to Mac or Windows applications for photo, video or audio editing or other specialized software like MatLab. .
Why we love it: If you can complete all your courses on a Chromebook—if you're not sure, learn more about ChromeOS in our guide—we recommend the Lenovo Flex 5i Chromebook (13"). It has fast performance and a great keyboard and trackpad; it's compact and light. , and its 1080p touchscreen is bright and clear. Plus, the Flex 5i is relatively cheap, but faster than most Chromebooks in its price range. Battery life is good enough to get through a day of work or classes, but it can be a hassle. If you need longer battery life, our Spend more for one of the better choices.
Best Laptop For High School Students In 2023
Unlike many cheap Windows laptops, the Aspire 5 (A514-54) is fast, compact and light, and has a decent 1080p display and good battery life.
Who it's for: If you need a Windows laptop for school and can't afford to spend too much, you can find a good one for $450 to $600. These models are ideal for classroom or middle school students as they are very affordable, light laptops at this price point.
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