When students start a college course or return to school, these days pen and paper aren’t the only tools they need for modern education.
Hardcover books, photocopies, handwritten assignments, and in-person courses are now often replaced or supplemented by e-books, distance learning platforms, virtual classes in Zoom and Microsoft Teams, and collaboration through mobile apps – all of which increase the student’s reliance on laptops, smartphones and tablets to work successfully both on campus and at home.
Also: The 6 Best Macs
The best laptop for school now has to go beyond what we might have expected before the pandemic. When buying a new device, there are more factors to consider: it needs to be reliable and ready for everyday use, it may need to be used in real-time video calls, and it may need to be suitable for programs, which require a lot of resources.
Below, ZDNET has compiled a selection of the best laptops for students with these requirements in mind.
- Super light
- Available to students
- It has Apple’s M2 chip
- It’s not as powerful as the MacBook Pro
Specifications: Display: 13.6 inches | Apple M2 chip | Memory: 8 to 24 GB | Storage: 512GB to 2TB SSD | Retina Display with True Tone | Two Thunderbolt / USB 4 ports | Webcam: 1080p | Colors: Midnight, Starlight, Space Grey, Silver | Custom options available
As ZDNet previously recommended in our review of gadgets for remote students, Apple’s MacBook Air is a lighter macOS option that could be an excellent option for students who need a machine powerful enough to run video conferencing applications and distance learning, but also weighs less than your average hardcover book.
The difference? The MacBook Air is designed to be lighter and thinner than the MacBook Pro, and while you may sacrifice some of the more powerful tech specs available as a trade-off, the Air is a more affordable option for students and will last them through their studies.
A $100 discount is available at the Apple Education Store.
- It has a lot of power and features
- Great for creative apps like Adobe
- It has Apple’s new M2 chip
- An expensive option for students
Specifications: Display: 13, 15 and 16 inches | Processor: Apple M2 | Memory: 8GB to 24GB | Storage: 256GB to 2TB SSD | Webcam: 720p | Colors: Silver, Space Gray | Custom options available
MacBook Pros are a common sight on college campuses. They’re expensive — especially, perhaps, given the specs on offer — but they’re solid, fast workhorses that will last you through a college career. These are especially popular for creative applications, but you may find the device overheating if you run power-hungry games.
The 13-inch model is best suited for students, as it’s a powerful machine, yet small enough to travel with and fit on extendable tables in lecture halls.
You can take advantage of a $100 discount at the Apple Education Store.
- Using a tablet or laptop
- Great battery
- Up to 256GB of memory
- Apps from the Microsoft Store can only be installed in Windows 10 S mode
Specifications: Display: 10.5 inches, touchscreen | Processor: Intel Pentium Gold or 10th generation i3 | Memory: 4GB or 8GB | Storage: eMMC drive: 64GB, up to 128GB SSD | Intel Graphics | Web Camera: 5MP/8MP HD | Colors: Platinum, Black | Custom options available including LTE
A hybrid laptop option focused on mobility is Microsoft’s Surface Go 3. Starting at $399.99, the device consists of a removable 10.5-inch PixelSense touchscreen display, keyboard, stand and stylus. With an estimated battery life of up to 11 hours, the Windows-based device can be used as a traditional laptop or standalone tablet and weighs just 1.2 pounds.
The Surface Go 3 runs on Windows 11 Home and comes with Windows Hello biometric security, as well as a 5MP front camera and 8MP rear camera, which is enough for virtual classes on the go. This device should be considered useful not only for a college career, but also when a student enters the workforce.
- Secure fingerprint reader
- Long battery life
- Comfortable keyboard
- Webcam resolution could be better
Specifications: Display: 14-inch | Intel Core 11th Generation i5 | 8GB RAM | 256GB SSD | Graphics Intel Iris Xe | Webcam: IR & 720p HD with HPD | Windows 10 Pro 64 | Fingerprint Reader | Custom options available
The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 9 is one of the heavier options that we recommend especially for students – especially those who require powerful processing power, creative applications and games.
This laptop is also an option for users who want a rugged laptop as Lenovo tests the ThinkPad line against various environmental conditions.
In terms of security, this laptop features a fingerprint reader and ThinkShield technology.
With a huge array of ports, a battery life of at least 15 hours, an anti-glare screen and fast charging technology, this versatile laptop will not only be a valuable addition to any dorm room, but it’s also great for free time, regardless whether it’s streaming or gaming. Useful key sub-features are also available for conducting conversations over video conferencing platforms.
- Stylish color options
- Super long battery life
- PixelSense touchscreen display
- Not as many ports as other options
Specifications: Display: 13.5/15-inch, touchscreen | Processor: AMD Ryzen 5/7 up to Intel Core i7 | Memory: 8 GB, 16 GB or 32 GB | Storage: 128GB to 1TB SSD | Webcam: 720p HD, Windows Hello biometrics | BitLocker Support | Colors: Black, Platinum, Sandstone, Metal, Cobalt | Custom options available
For students who prefer the Windows 10 Home operating system and need power for high-end applications, whether for work or play, Microsoft’s Surface Laptop 3 is an excellent choice.
Available in 13.5-inch and 15-inch PixelSense touchscreen options, the laptop is light enough to carry around campus and is also stylus compatible. Users can expect 16.5 hours or more of battery life, depending on usage.
- Cheap laptop
- Small and portable
- Quality workmanship
- No 5G
- Disappointing speakers
Specifications: 11-inch display | Chrome OS | Qualcomm Snapdragon 7c processor | Graphics Qualcomm Adreno 618 | 4GB RAM | 64GB SSD memory | 1 microSD card reader | 5mp/8mp cameras | Up to 11 hours of battery life
As part of HP’s back-to-school sale, the HP Chromebook x2 is a laptop to consider if you’re on a budget. Saving $210, this device runs Chrome OS and is powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon mobile processor, Adreno Graphics, and comes with a reasonable 4GB of memory and 64GB of SSD storage.
In addition, this device contains a fingerprint reader for biometric security.