Even for those who feel at home with their nose in a textbook, the end of summer break (or Winter recess) is a big bummer. But as much as it's a return to school and schedules, it's an opportunity. This is a fine excuse to invest in some fresh tech to make the coming academia-addled year a little more bearable.
If you're still reliant on a desktop, or if your laptop winces at the sight of a high-definition video lecture, it's time to look into an upgrade. And thankfully if you know where to look, it's possible to get a sleek and impressive notebook without blowing through your savings (or student loans).
We've pored through ourarchives from the past several months and picked the best laptops for school. Our short list spans a variety of budgets that range from power-sipping Chromebooks to help you with that 1,000 page dissertation to more powerful machines that'll do better at a dorm room lan party.
Toshiba Chromebook 2
For $329 (about £205, AU$382), the Toshiba Chromebook 2 is a gorgeous and affordable laptop that doesn't have many weaknesses. It comes with more RAM and a full HD 1080p screen, making it a step up from other models in this class, like the Samsung Chromebook 2 and Acer C720.
But potential buyers should note that the Toshiba Chromebook 2 moves the Chromebook category closer towards the territory of an affordable Windows 8.1 laptop. So you might be overpaying if you're not purchasing this laptop specifically for the Google ecosystem.
That being said, the 1080p screen is a huge bonus and the laptop speakers made by Skullcandy are booming. Add it all up and the Toshiba Chromebook 2 might be an ideal streaming system for everything from YouTube and Google Play to Hulu Plus and Netflix.
- Read our Toshiba Chromebook 2 review
Asus ZenBook UX305
While the Asus UX305 does not necessarily break any new ground in the Ultrabook scene, it's a nearly flawless device, for an extremely affordable price and that in itself is worth high praise.
The ZenBook UX305 is a superbly-built, fully metal machine that's thin, light and very attractive. This lightweight system' also easily handled all my daily tasks whether I was browsing the web, watching video or editing images. What's more, you can get excellent battery life out of the machine considering its 1080p display.
Of course, the most striking thing about the UX305 is that it comes at a $699 or £649 (about AU$902) price. This is a great price for any mobile computing machine, but in this case you're getting a premium, full-metal Ultrabook with an excellent full HD display and a 256GB SSD to boot. While isnt' exactly a shining symbol of innovation in the Ultrabook space, it is the most affordable Ultrabook out today and it won't disappoint you.
- Read our Asus ZenBook UX305 review
13-inch Macbook Air
Apple's ultralight MacBook Air is a thin and impeccably built machine. Despite the laptop's slim, cheese knife-like profile, it packs a capable Core i3 processor and an impressive battery that can last up to 12 hours. With this all-day battery life, it's a laptop that can get you through a whole day of classes as well as some internet browsing and Netflix bingeing.
The MacBook Air is of the most affordable ways of getting into the Apple camp of mobile computing. There plenty of reasons to do so too with free software updates and a bundled copy of iWork. Where as on Windows you have the extra expense of having to buy Microsoft Office.
- Read our 13-inch MacBook Air review