It wasn’t that long ago that buying a teenager their own laptop might’ve felt like a wildly extravagant and unnecessary investment. But with the coronavirus pandemic keeping schools shuttered nationwide for the foreseeable future, laptops are suddenly essential gear for most high school and college students, as fundamental to pursuing an education as books (which are still fundamental). The good news for remote-schooling students and homeschooling parents is that while computing power has climbed to incredible heights, the price of basic computing power has dropped dramatically. The best laptops for high school students balance those two things: performance and price.
Today, you get way more horsepower for your money: The best laptops for students are packed with features and promise peak performance at an affordable price. We focused our search on price, performance, size, touch-screen capability, and flexibility (both literal and figurative) to find the laptops that are worth a student’s time.
What to Look for in Laptops for High Schoolers:
- Price: Student laptops will most likely take a beating, because kids aren’t the most responsible of humans; there’s no reason to buy the splashiest laptop you see.
- Tech: Make sure it can smoothly run HD video lectures, and has a solid set of speakers. A great laptop should also have an integrated webcam because students aren’t tied down to physical classrooms or in-person study groups anymore.
- Performance: Battery life matters. A fully charged laptop should last an entire school day. And pay attention to the weight. Kids will be lugging these laptops around, and backpacks get heavy. Fast.
The Best Laptops for High School Students
For the kid always dashing out the door, Google’s Pixel Slate is the perfect lightweight companion. Sure, while it’s technically a tablet, adding the optional stylus and keyboard beefs it up to a laptop able to handle any task without adding bulk while while weighing just over a pound and spanning less than a half-inch. Thanks to the company’s suite of free apps, word processing, spreadsheets, and digital storage are all seamlessly integrated while your kid is connected to WiFi. (There’s also storage offline.) Bonus: Its functionality includes encyclopedic knowledge of literally everything on Google with a simple 'Hey, Google' call. The battery lasts 10 hours.
True, Apple’s latest (and biggest) MacBook Pro is far from an economy option. But for those later years in high school where your virtuoso is into art and music, there’s not a better device on the market. The AMD Radeon Pro 5000M processor makes mincemeat of graphics-dependent programs like video, while a six-speaker system with dual force-canceling woofers will have you yelling to turn that laptop down. For kids who travel between work and home, four USB-C ports allow him or her to plug and unplug a host of accessories including external drives, monitors, and other must-haves for the creative life.
Acer makes a damn good—and affordable—product with a host of features found on more expensive models. The Aspire 5 features a 15.6-inch display (a size second only to the MacBook Pro) with the only slightly outdated 10th Gen Intel Core i5 processor, making it great for lighter (and slightly slower) processing, including photos. A decent tuned speaker system, called TrueHarmony, pumps out study tune and YouTube vids alike. The 9.5-hour battery life is no slouch, either.
Kids don't do their homework at the kitchen table anymore. They're out, doing stuff. For these multi-hyphen kids, the HP 15-Inch FHD is a perfect fit. Whether you’re charging in the car on the way to practice or on the way to the park, this laptop goes from stone-cold dead to a 50-percent charge in 45 minutes. The 15.6-inch display is a step above with full HD (1980 x 1080). The built-in numeric pad is also super nice—and a rarity on laptops. While not the lightest on this list, at 3.75 pounds, it’s also not the heaviest, making it a solid choice for your kid’s carry-on.
If your kid prefers doing her algebra outdoors, she'll dig this laptop: It has a gorgeous anti-reflective screen combined with superior 400-nit brightness, suitable for any lighting or environment. It's also a beast of a laptop, cut from a single block of aluminum. It has a 13 inch screen, beautiful surround sound, and at 2.93 pounds, is a decent weight to carry around.
It's not cheap, but for our money, the MacBook Air is the leanest, meanest laptop you can buy. It has a 13-inch display, 128GB of storage, two USB 3 ports, and a thunderbolt 2 port. It weighs less than 3 pounds and has up to 12 hours of battery life. Note that this is not the latest model, which means you save money, but you also don't get the Retina display. This model has the LED-backlit widescreen display.
No bells or whistles here, just portable, reliable, no-frills computing power with good speed, 1,366-by-768 resolution, and a responsive 15.6-inch touchscreen. It has great battery life and significantly more storage than its predecessors. Weighing in at 4.41 pounds and 0.8 inches, it's not the sleekest or lightest, but for the price, it's not hard to haul around either. One note of caution: This laptop comes with Windows 10 in S mode, which you'll have to disable if you want to download anything beyond the Microsoft store.
If you have a kid who's taking tons of notes, consider this laptop: The keyboard is tilted up to make typing easier and more comfortable. This 15.6-inch laptop runs on Windows 10 S. It's also among the most versatile of the laptops in terms of connectivity: It has reversible USB Type C, HDMI, a microSD card reader and USB 3.1 and 2.0 ports. Its standout feature is it ergonomic key dish keyboard design, which makes typing easier. The battery life is roughly six hours.
This hybrid is the perfect blend of tablet and laptop. It weighs just over one pound, which is a win. It has a sizable 10.5 inch touchscreen. The battery lasts 10 hours, and it's basically the perfect machine for emailing, note-taking, and homework. It has built-in WiFi, although the model with LTE is extra, as well full HD front- and rear-facing cameras.
This is the Honda of laptops: It's affordable, reliable, and easy to use. You get up to 4K resolution on a 15.6 inch touchscreen display. At 4.2 pounds, it's not exactly the lightest in the group, but it's also hardy. It comes with 128 GB of flash storage, two USB-C ports, a micro-SD card slot, and a USB 3.1 (Gen 1) port, and up to 10 hours of battery life.
With 512 gigs of memory and eight of RAM, it’s a solid performer, and has a fast-charging battery that lasts for up to 18.5 hours. But the real show-stopper is its flip-screen design that opens just shy of 360 degrees, allowing for presentations and unparalleled group activity. It also features a touchscreen, making it as much a tablet as laptop. Fans of Samsung’s eye-popping TV colors will recognize the same Quantum Dot tech, which makes this a great streaming device.
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