The beginning of a new semester is difficult enough without the task of deciding on a new laptop. Even if you feel at home with your nose in a textbook, the stress of returning to high school or college can be exhausting in its own right.
If you're still using a bulky desktop or a laptop that buffers at the thought of 4K photo editing, 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 HP Chromebook 13, 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 (an anticipated entry) to the rigorous and capable Dell XPS 13, there's bound to be something to get you through the semester.
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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
Call it a MacBook Air knockoff if you want, but the Asus ZenBook UX305 is one of the best Ultrabooks you can buy at the moment considering the low price-point. With a full HD screen, a whole 8GB of RAM and up to 512GB of SSD storage, the Asus ZenBook UX305 is a steal.
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. The ZenBook UX305 is an honest-to-goodness laptop that wins at the basics and offers up an attractive package.
Read the full review: Zenbook UX305
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
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.
Read the full review: HP Chromebook 14
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
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.
Read the full review: MacBook Pro 13-inch with Retina display
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
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.
Read the full review: Acer Chromebook 15 C910
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
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.
Read the full review: MacBook Air 13-inch
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
Look, you're bound to have some down time outside of class, so why not invest whatever disposable income you have into one of these bad boys? The Lenovo IdeaPad Y700 looks nice and its price tag only tempts us more.
Don't expect to run the latest best-selling games on Ultra settings, but hey, with a system like this you can accomplish just about anything else. From cranking out essays to editing videos, the Lenovo IdeaPad Y700 is one of the best laptops for students money can buy.
Read the full review: Lenovo IdeaPad Y700
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
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.
Read the full review: Dell XPS 13
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
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.
Read the full review: HP Pavilion x2
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
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.
Read the full review: Microsoft Surface Pro 4
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
For less than a grand, you could get a MacBook Air, complete with a sub-1080p screen and a Broadwell processor or you could buy a Samsung Notebook 7 Spin. A 2-in-1 laptop with an HDR-enabled, Full HD touchscreen, the Spin boasts both a 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. Sure, it uses an old-school hard drive and a standard-def webcam, but at the same time, but few concessions are made to keep the price down and its value up.
Read the full review: Samsung Notebook 7 Spin
- Now check out the best 2-in-1 laptops