best laptop for high school and college

Looking for the Best Laptop For High School And College to buy? If you’re a student, a laptop is as essential as your textbooks and school ID—and not just because of your school work. It should also be able to handle your big extracurricular activities: keeping up with your social networks, streaming movies, listening to music, posting photos, gaming, video chatting with the ‘rents back home. And of course, the best laptop for college students and the best student laptops 2020 need to last for the long haul, preferably through four years of undergrad and maybe a year of grad work.

So what’s the best laptop for high school and college students. You might think all laptops are pretty much the same so it should come down to price. That’d be true if you were just looking at laptops for less than $500. But if you’re looking to spend $1,000 or more, you’ll want to look at the 8th generation Intel Core i7 processor which will help you speed through your courses whether it’s creating presentations in Powerpoint or crunching numbers in Excel.

Lucky for you, we have a bunch below that fit that description perfectly—and since most of them are below $1,000, they won’t drain your savings account.

best student laptops 2020

best laptop for high school and college

Best MacBook for studentsApple MacBook Air (2020)

The newest MacBook Air hits all the right notes: It’s back to the old $999 starting price and it has Apple’s new Magic Keyboard, which most people prefer to the previous model’s butterfly design. Even better, this Apple laptop features current-era Intel processors, a new Force Touch trackpad and 256GB of storage for the entry-level configuration. The major drawback: The base model features a Core i3 processor, and stepping up to the Core i5 costs an extra $100. 

Still, the brand new MacBook Air and older models are frequently on sale. At the moment, the 2020 MacBook Air is available for $950, which is a super-solid deal for the lightweight laptop. That noted, the 2019 base configuration — which comes with an older but more powerful Core i5 processor — is still a great laptop worth a look, especially when it’s discounted to $900 or less, even though you’ll be stuck with that pesky older MacBook keyboard design. 

 Best all-purpose Windows laptop for studentsDell XPS 13

If you’re committed to the Windows operating system and want a balance of portability, power and price, it’s hard to find a better 13-inch laptop than the XPS 13. Dell has been making incremental improvements to this Dell XPS 13 machine for so long that it’s hard to find a flaw. For 2020, Dell made the laptop even smaller, while making the screen larger and increasing performance for both CPU and graphics-intensive tasks. It’s not a huge leap, but it’s still the best in the category. 

Best Windows 2-in-1 for studentsMicrosoft Surface Pro 7

The Surface Pro remains the standard-bearer for Windows devices that work as both laptop and tablet, though this convertible laptop makes for a better tablet than it does for a laptop. (If you’re looking for the opposite, Lenovo’s two-in-one Yoga devices are better laptops than they are tablets.) In addition to the typical great performance and battery life you can expect, the seventh-edition Surface Pro finally gets a USB-C port. Its super-portable size makes it ideal for high school and college students who may be carrying a lot of gear. Though the company still sells the Surface Pro without its essential Type Cover keyboard and Surface Pen included, it can frequently be found for a good price– sometimes with one or both accessories.

Best entry-level gaming laptop for studentsDell G5 15

Dell’s G-series deliver a smart balance of build quality, battery life and performance, with plenty of graphics card power for college students looking to play the latest AAA games when they aren’t hitting the books. The slim, compact design masks its gaming pedigree and because it’s no longer brand-new — you’re getting a ninth-gen Intel Core processor — there are plenty of bargains to be found. This machine currently starts at around $850, and we’ve found some pretty powerful configurations on sale for around $1,000.$850 AT DELL

Best Chromebook for studentsLenovo Yoga Chromebook C740

Lenovo

The Yoga C740 Chromebook is a great, affordable student laptop. It has a touchscreen display, terrific battery life and enough performance for everyday office and entertainment tasks. The all-metal chassis gives this touchscreen laptop a premium look and feel, and it has a comfortable keyboard and a responsive, smooth, precision touchpad. Though it’s light on extra features compared to the higher-end C940, it does have one of Lenovo’s sliding shutters for its webcam that gives you privacy when you want it. And it’s frequently available for less than $750, which is a killer deal. 

Most powerful gaming laptop on a student budgetAsus ROG Zephyrus S

I reviewed the Zephyrus S in 2018 and loved its 15.6-inch HD screen size and backlit keyboard. It’s a couple of years old now, yes, but it’s solid enough for serious gaming on a student budget, with potent components for the price. 

Which laptop should you buy?

This isn’t always a question with a clear and obvious answer. No matter your price category, there are simply too many different types of laptops to choose from. More to the point, there is no single best laptop because there is no single kind of user. Period.

Everyone wants something different. Some people care more about specs. Others care more about screens. You might care more about having a laptop that looks good than having one that can run graphically demanding games. You might not. So when people ask us which laptop or laptop brand is the best, we don’t give them an easy answer.  

Instead, we give them a list. A set of criteria that everyone should give some consideration towards before splurging on a new device. Ultimately, it’s your money. Taking the time to research and think about how best to spend it might sound a little more tedious and time-consuming than dropping into your local JB Hi-Fi, flashing that cash and walking out with A Shiny New Thing. However, in the long run, it increases the likelihood of you both saving money and ending up with a product that actually suits your needs.

1. Size & Form-Factor

When it comes to laptops, size matters.

Depending on what you plan to be doing with your next laptop, you’ll want to make sure you pick the size that’s the right fit for you. Size isn’t like the RAM or ROM of a laptop, you can’t upgrade it later. You’re locked into whatever form-factor you select up-front, so choose wisely.

Laptops sizes tend to start at 11.6-inches and go all the way up to 17.3 inches. Most brands and OEMS like HP, Dell, ASUS and Acer tend to offer three display sizes – 13.3-inch, 15.6-inch and 17.3-inches. However, some vendors do sell laptops that fall outside these sizes including 11.6-inches, 12.5-inches and 14-inches.

Obviously, if portability is your priority, you’ll want to go for a smaller-sized Windows laptop. They tend to be thinner and lighter than their larger counterparts. Look for laptops that have a screen that is either 12.5-inches or 13.3-inches in size, and a weight between 1kg and 1.5kgs.

Razer Blade
Razer Blade

However, keep in mind that smaller-sized 13.3-inch machines often don’t support the same high-end Intel Core CPUs or discrete graphics cards you’ll be able to find in their 15.6-inch counterparts. Most of the time, they’ll also feature a less-robust selection of ports. If the kind of work you intend to be using your new laptop for necessitates a larger display or standalone graphics, you’ll probably need to look at a larger size.

Beyond specific sizings, there are several different classes of laptop to choose from. Ultrabooks tend to favor a slim and lightweight form-factor over high-end performance. Things like the ASUS Zenbook (review here) and Lenovo’s Yoga (review here) devices fall into this category.

By contrast, Notebooks tend to offer a good mix of power and portability. If you’re looking at notebooks, a good place to start is the Dell XPS 13 (review here) and HP’s Envy x360 (review here).

Convertibles (also known as 2-in-1 laptops or 2-in-1 PCs) expand on this by adding the ability to fold away (or remove) the keyboard and use your new laptop as you would a tablet. Products like Microsoft’s Surface Go (review here) and Acer’s Chromebooks fall into this category.

Finally, traditional clamshell and gaming laptops tend to boast bulkier form-factors but significantly-beefier specs.

Microsoft Surface Go
Microsoft Surface Go

The most important thing to consider here when looking for the best laptop you can buy is what you’re actually going to need that laptop to do. It’s rarely ever a case of one size fits all. Some users need something lighter and more portable. Other users need discrete graphics for things like video editing or running high end games. If you need a PC with an optical drive or long battery life, you’ll almost certainly have to look for something larger.

[Related Content: Top 6 Best 4K TVs of 2018]

Once you’ve worked out the size and form-factor of laptop you’re looking for, the search for the best one becomes that much easier – since you can begin to filter your search results by those parameters.

2. Screen Quality

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Since you’ll probably end up staring at your laptop screen hours at a time, you’ll probably want to make sure it’s as painless as possible to do so. For this, you’ll need a screen that is comfortable to look at and feels natural to use. m

To start with, you’ll want to consider whether you want your next laptop to have a touchscreen at all. These days, touchscreens are very common and they can make some tasks easier than others. Some brands include this feature as standard. Others will demand a modest surcharge for its inclusion.

Unfortunately, opting for a touchscreen can sometimes add a glossiness to the display. Though not a universal trait among touch-sensitive displays, glossier screens are often a little more susceptible to glare. This can be a definite drawback if you’re gaming, watching content or editing images and video content.

Modern touchscreens are much better than their predecessors but, some of the above details persist and if you’re more of a natural typist, you might want to consider going for a laptop that doesn’t have a touchscreen.

Next up, be sure to look at the resolution on any laptop you’re thinking of buying. A 1920×1080-pixel resolution (Full HD) should be considered the minimum if you want plenty of space to line up windows and keep things in view.If you splurge on something a little sharper, you probably won’t regret it though.

Select modern laptops also now offer 4K resolutions. However, these high-end display panels are generally a costly add-on to an already-expensive product. 4K is an extra that’s only really going to be worth it for those who really need it such as content creation professionals.

Photographers and videographers will also want to privilege laptops that offer better color accuracy and support wider color gamut and HDR standards over those that don’t. The key things you’re looking for here are Delta E < 1 color accuracy and 100% coverage of the DCI-P3 color gamut. 

[Related Content: Everything You Need To Know About 4K]

If you’re a gamer, it’s also worth taking the time to check the refresh rate on the display of any potential laptop. A faster refresh rate can often provide a sometimes provide a competitive advantage in online games, as it enables a smoother and more responsive play experience. Ideally, you want something with less than 5ms response time or a refresh rate greater than 144Hz.

Lastly, viewing angles are extremely important. A laptop screen that touts IPS (in-plane switching) technology offers the widest viewing angles and the best user comfort. Chances are you’re not always going to be using your laptop in its natural habitat, so a laptop with an IPS display is usually preferred over the opposite.

If possible, take the time to go into a store and try to feel out the differences between different displays for yourself. If your eyes can’t see much of a difference between a laptop with a FHD display and one with a 4K one, it might not be worth paying the premium for the latter.

Just keep in mind that display models usually have the settings cranked to the maximum in order to catch your eyes. Otherwise, be sure to check out reviews like those on PC World to get a good overview of the product and whether or not its screen will be able to suit your needs. In 2020, most major laptop displays hit the mark but those that don’t make themselves quickly known often when subjected to the scrutiny of a professional reviewer.

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3. Keyboard quality

For long typing sessions, you’ll need to get a laptop that has a comfortable keyboard. You don’t want to get a keyboard that packs in every key under the sun (think keyboards that have squished in number pads) because that can translate to a poor overall user experience when hunting for specifics like the arrow or delete keys.

Ideally, you want a keyboard that has a comfortable layout with full-sized keys and some space around the arrow keys. The keys should have adequate travel on the downstroke and snappy responsiveness when you let them go.READ MOREWhat’s the difference between an Intel Core i3, i5 and i7?

Make sure the keyboard is also backlit. At face value, that might seem like a superficial detail but backlit keys make it much easier to see what you’re typing in dimly lit environments.

[Related Content: Four Alternatives To Cherry MX Switches]

As with the screen, it helps to try before you buy – especially if your main task will be typing. Chances are, you’re going to find the most comfort with what you know here. If you’re used to typing on a laptop keyboard that stretches all the way to the edge of the chassis, you’re probably going to find laptops that opt for the same or a similar layout to be easier to type on than the alternatives.

4. CPU

It’s hard to go past any of Intel’s Core-based CPUs when buying a new laptop. Even if you’re not versed in the technical details, there’s a good chance you’ve seen the stickers plastered on all new laptops for the silicon giant’s Core i3, Core i5, and Core i7 processors.

For many users, an Intel Core Processor offer the best performance when it comes to multitasking and multimedia tasks. Core i3-based notebooks are generally found in entry-level systems, while Core i5 makes up the majority of mainstream computers.

Core i7-based systems are for those of you who want the best performance from your laptop. However, note that with a Core i7-based system, heat coming through the base of the laptop can be cause for concern, especially if you plan to actually use the laptop on your lap a lot of the time.

Some larger laptops also now incorporate Intel’s i9 Core processors. Laptops running on i9 Core processors are even more powerful than laptops running on i7 Core processors. They’re able to rival desktops for performance but they do come with a significantly-higher cost than a laptop with an i7, i5 or i3 Core Processor.

[Related Content: How do I decide between a Core i3, i5, i7 or i9?]

Select vendors now also offer laptops and notebooks that run on AMD’s Ryzen Mobile CPUs. If you’re a gamer, this can be a particularly compelling option worth considering. Ryzen Mobile CPUs tend to be paired with AMD’s own Vega graphics chipsets, which are currently far better for gaming than Intel’s own onboard graphics.

best laptop for college students

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