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.
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 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
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.