Even if you feel at home with your nose in a textbook, the end of that ostensibly brief summer break can be the chaos to the otherwise consistent schedule you’ve already grown accustomed to.
If you’re still using a bulky desktop or a laptop that buffers at the thought of an HD video lecture then, alas, it’s time for an upgrade. Fortunately, you don’t need to take out another student loan just to afford the latest MacBook. Sometimes you can find something just as stylish, such as the Acer Swift 7, without breaking the bank.
Here we’ve gathered our most recent, top-ranking reviews so that you don’t have to, picking out the best laptops for college and high school no matter your budget. From the weird and innovative Lenovo Yoga Book to the rigorous and capable Dell XPS 13, there’s bound to be something to get you through the semester.
Can’t find what you’re looking for? Let us know in the comments below!
Asus Zenbook UX305
A most affordable and excellent Ultrabook
CPU: 6th generation Intel Core m3 – Core m5 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 515 – 5300 | RAM: 8GB | Screen: 13.3-inch FHD (1,920 x 1,080) – QHD+ (3,200 x 1,800) | Storage: 256GB – 512GB SSD
Incredibly thin and light
Wonky video driver
Call it a MacBook Air knockoff all you want, the Asus ZenBook UX305 is one of the best and most affordable Ultrabooks available now.
Like the Dell XPS 13 listed below, this is further proof that you can find a truly primo, general use laptop for less than a thousand bucks. This is an honest-to-goodness laptop that wins at the basics and offers up an attractive package.
HP Chromebook 14
A well balanced Chromebook
CPU: 6th generation Intel Celeron | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics | RAM: 2GB – 4GB | Screen: 14-inch HD (1366 x 768) – FHD (1,920 x 1,080) | Storage: 16GB – 32GB eMMC
Excellent keyboard and trackpad
Chrome OS is speedy and responsive
Crisp, vivid screen
Average battery life
The HP Chromebook 14 is no performance powerhouse, but Chrome OS’s speediness, combined with a funky blue case, makes this one fun notebook to use.
For classwork, this laptop is ideal for high school students or those pursuing degrees in liberal arts because of its low cost and simplicity in its use and maintenance while providing the access to nearly every major app and service an undergrad would need.
13.3-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display
The fastest small MacBook Pro yet is a force of nature
CPU: 5th generation Intel Core i5 | Graphics: Intel Iris Graphics 6100 | RAM: 8GB – 16GB | Screen:13.3-inch WQXGA (2,560 x 1,600) | Storage: 128GB – 512GB SSD
Force Touch underdeveloped
The 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display is an excellent option for students who may need more power than a Chromebook or a MacBook Air without sacrificing portability, thanks to its long battery life, relatively light weight and high resolution display.
Students on a budget will be happy to know that they can get started right away as the MacBook Pro with Retina display ships with free copies of Pages, Numbers, and Keynote out of the box as well as iMovie, Photos, and GarageBand for basic, creative projects.
Acer Chromebook 15
The colossus of Chromebooks
CPU: 5th generation Intel Celeron – Core i5 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics | RAM: 2GB – 4GB | Screen: 15.6-inch HD (1,366 x 768) – FHD (1,920 x 1,080) | Storage: 16GB – 32GB SSD
Fast processing speeds
Long battery life
If you’re convinced that every Chromebook on the market has to be less than 14 inches, you’d be dead wrong. The Acer Chrombook 15, for example, boasts not only a whopping 15.6-inch screen, but it also packs an equally impressive range of processors.
Despite some slight discomfort experienced during prolonged use, but you can snatch the Acer Chromebook 15 at a much cheaper price now than when it originally released, making it well worth the sacrifice.
13-inch MacBook Air
Finally, battery life within our grasp
CPU: 5th generation Intel Core i5 – Core i7 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 6000 | RAM: 8GB | Screen:13.3-inch WXGA+ (1,440 x 900) | Storage: 128GB – 512GB SSD
Fantastic battery life
No Retina screen
Not user upgradeable
Though it’s yet to adopt Apple’s Retina display standard, the benefit to this compromise is a 12-hour battery life coupled paired with a dual-core, Broadwell processor.
Plus, if you don’t like the feel of the 12-inch MacBook’s low-travel butterfly keys, the MacBook Air uses a more traditional chiclet-style keyboard. And hey, a MacBook Air is the most affordable way to get that backlit Apple logo on the back of your laptop.
Lenovo IdeaPad Y700
Long battery life tops off this attractive gaming laptop
CPU: 6th generation Intel Core i5 – Core i7 | Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GTX 960M (2GB – 4GB) | RAM: 8GB – 16GB | Screen: 15.6-inch FHD IPS (1,920 x 1,080) | Storage: 500GB HDD – 1TB HDD + 512GB SSD
Ample battery life
Terrible trackpad buttons
Look, you’re bound to have some down time during college and high school, so why not put some of that entertainment cost into one of these bad boys? This 15-inch gaming laptop looks nice and its price tag is even nicer.
Don’t expect to run games on Ultra settings, but hey, with a system like this you’ll be able to accomplish just about anything else – from writing essays to making movies.
Dell XPS 13
A revolution in laptop design
CPU: 6th generation Intel Core i5 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 520 | RAM: 4GB – 8GB | Screen: 13.3-inch FHD (1,920 x 1,080) | Storage: 128GB – 256GB SSD
Small frame limits battery life
Packing a high-resolution screen and serious processing power, there’s more to the Dell XPS 13 than being a surprisingly small Ultrabook.
There’s a 13-inch display crammed into an 11-inch body, a truly worthy competitor to a certain aluminum laptop line perfect for any basic coursework scenario. After all, Apple doesn’t make the only premium, general use laptop worth batting an eye at, and the Dell XPS 13 is the proof.
HP Pavilion x2
The best and most affordable Windows 10 convertible
CPU: Intel Atom Z8300 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics | RAM: 2GB | Screen: 10.1-inch WXGA (1,280 x 800) | Storage: 32GB eMMC
Long battery life
32-bit Windows 10
Limited storage and memory
The HP Pavilion x2 might be a little tike of a 2-in-1 laptop, but it’s a great Windows 10 device for media and basic computing tasks.
If you seek something to suit those Sundays spent streaming Netflix in bed as well as it does taking notes in the classroom, this is a fine place to start that search. Lightweight and capable for but a relative pittance, you’ll get a tablet and a laptop that nail the basics in equal measure.
Microsoft Surface Pro 4
The tablet that can replace your laptop
CPU: 6th generation Intel Core m3 – Core i7 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 515 – Iris Graphics | RAM: 4GB – 16GB | Screen: 12.3-inch PixelSense (2,736 x 1,824) | Storage: 128GB – 1TB SSD
Improved Type Cover
Cover still sold separately
Intel Core m3 to start
A higher resolution screen, a thinner design and a move to Intel’s more powerful Skylake processors all help to make this portable tablet a capable replacement for your laptop. Sadly, the Type Cover keyboard is still an optional necessity for this laptop replacement.
Nevertheless, what you do get is one of the few tablets we can say for certain can replace your laptop. Luckily, with Windows 10, it serves as a great companion device, too.
Samsung Notebook 7 Spin
MacBook Pro size and power, MacBook Air price
CPU: 2.5GHz Intel Core i7-6500U | Graphics: Nvidia GeForce 940MX (2GB DDR3L); Intel HD Graphics 520 | RAM: 12GB – 16GB | Screen: 15.6-inch Full HD (1,920 x 1,080) LED with touch panel | Storage: 1 TB HDD – 1TB HDD; 128GB SSD
Graphics narrowly miss the mark
For less than a grand, you could get a MacBook Air, complete with a sub-1080p screen, a Broadwell Core i5 processor and a mere 128GB of storage space. Alternatively, you could buy a Samsung Notebook 7 Spin, a 2-in-1 laptop with an HDR-enabled, Full HD touchscreen, discrete Nvidia graphics chip and one of the latest Intel CPUs.
Considering the sheer horsepower you can exert from this thing and – we can’t stress this enough – an HDR screen, the Samsung Notebook 7 Spin is perfect for the classroom or the dorm room. Samsung made very few compromises to knock the price down on the baseline Notebook 7 Spin; sure, it uses an old-school hard drive and a standard-def webcam, but at the same time, its value is unparalleled by its competitors.