Laptops used to be a jaw-droppingly massive financial investment, and even the best laptops for high school students seemed like a gratuitous purchase. But oh, how times have changed. Today, you get way more horsepower for your money, and laptops are packed with features and promise peak performance for the price of a fancy espresso machine.
And of course, it stands to reason that laptops are a must on a kid’s school checklist. Just as backpacks, notebooks, and protractors were essential tools for you growing up, students today need a laptop so they can have one multi-dimensional tool to conquer the classroom. And a tablet will not cut it.
So we did a deep dive into the world of laptops, looking for the best ones for every type of student in any type of class. We even looked at the accessibility of 2-in-1 combos because we know no two classes are the same. We focused our search on price, performance, size, touch screen capability, and flexibility (both literal and figurative) to pick the laptops that are worth a student’s time. And of course, mom and dad’s money.
Best Laptops for High School Students
This student laptop is a great investment because it converts from laptop mode to tablet, stand or tent mode for note-taking, drawing and other daily activities.
Pros: This laptop has everything your student needs. It’s lightweight, it’s versatile, it’s got a crazy-fast processor, a 14-inch display, and eight GBs of memory. And it has a 10-hour battery life.
Cons: None. It’s a great laptop for a great price that covers all the basics.
This is the Chromebook that runs on Chrome OS, Google's operating system that comes with built-in virus protection and boots up in seconds.
Pros: The Acer Chromebook 15 comes pre-loaded with all the Google apps a student could need. Meaning, the ability to edit, download, and convert Microsoft Office files in Google docs, sheets and slides. It has a gorgeous, immersive Full HD IPS touch display and upward facing speakers.
Cons: Oddly, it does not have a delete key.
If your kid will be writing a ton of papers, or college essays, get this student laptop due to its much larger screen.
Pros: There are two main reasons to buy this laptop. You get a stunning 4K display and a fantastic, clear 15 inch screen.
Cons: The battery life could use more juice.
You get a whole lot, for not a lot of dough. The battery lasts up to 11 hours. It's got 64 gigabytes of storage. The keyboard is water-resistant, and this baby only weighs 2.54 pounds.
Pros: The laptop is lightweight and fits easily in a tote or backpack, and customers love the responsive mousepad and rave that it holds up well over time.
Cons: The keyboard keys can be sticky.
Thinner and lighter (and more expensive) than previous models, the 2018 MacBook Air offers more of the same from Apple’s long-running thin laptops. But with thin laptops comes a giant lack of ports (just two USB-C ports and a headphone jack).
Pro: Even with the minimalist approach the Air this around has a much larger touchpad, a welcomed upgrade. Also, you can expect a high-resolution screen, but let’s face it, you’re here for the size and weight. At a little more than 2 pounds, and 15 millimeters thick, this thing is a giant space saver.
Con: Apple’s new butterfly keyboard–a slimmer keyboard to eliminate dust from getting underneath the keys–have been a giant dealbreaker for some. There have been reports of key failure to others saying, it’s no big deal. Either way, Apple is clearly aiming to create the slimmest laptop so this new tech is here to stay.
This is everything you can ask for in terms of portability. The Zenbook is an ultraslim, lightweight laptop weighing in at 2.7 pounds. It has incredible long-lasting battery life at 14 hours, and it’s cheaper than other laptops that offer similar specs.
Pro: The touchpad can switch to a digital number pad with a simple touch and hold, which is a neat feature. Plus, it comes in a sharp looking shiny blue or steel exterior design. Also, it’s one of the few laptops we’ve seen to be touted for sound as it comes with Harmon Kardon speakers.
Con: The screen has a noticeably dim display, but if you keep your screen brightness on low most of the time, then it shouldn’t be a dealbreaker.
In terms of 2-in-1, you can’t pass on the Chromebook. With a stunning compact display at just 12 inches, the laptop gives users a touch screen option, active pen use, a sharp camera for tablet photos, and an efficient and compact typing experience.
Pro: It’s light, sleek looking, but at 3 pounds (with tablet and base) it’s slightly heavier than other 2-in-1s. But with a near 13-hour battery life, it’s worth the extra couple of ounces. Also if you think 12 inches is too small, there is a 14-inch screen model.
Con: Internally, the Chromebook is definitely not the fastest performing laptop. And sadly, there is not much hard drive space (32GB), so you could easily find yourself in a storage war.
If you’re on a tight budget, then look no further than the Acer Aspiron. With an HD 15-inch display, plenty of ports including a VGA input, HDMI port, two USB ports, and an SD card reader, Aspiron is a serious contender without skipping a beat in terms of performance.
Pro: At $600, you’re not going to get this much in terms of spec and performance at this price. Plus, the Aspiron has outstanding battery life, it’s comparable to some of the best out now, lasting up to 15 hours.
Con: It’s bulky and heavy–weighing in at 5 pounds. It’s probably due to the built-in DVD burner, which might be completely useless for some students. And don’t expect fancy perks like a touch screen. It’s not an ideal size, but it’s hard to beat that price tag.
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