The Best Laptops for School

Students with laptop

“The future of American education undoubtedly includes a laptop on every desk and universal Internet access in every home,” U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan announced in March 2012. As children get back into the swing of another school year, parents are searching for the best laptop to suit educational needs. For non-technical buyers who don’t know the nuances of Windows 8 and MacBooks, selecting the right laptop can be confusing. Fortunately, the main considerations boil down to a few keys: price, purpose and policy.


Times are tough. When you’re on a budget, price can take priority. The best laptops on the market range in price from about $280 for an Acer C7 Chromebook to $1,999 for a Razer Blade.

The Acer C710-2055 combines affordability with simplicity. It includes a 1.1GHz Intel Celeron 847 processor, 4 GB of RAM, a 320 GB hard drive, and a swappable six-cell battery, offering an affordable, long-lasting connection option for regular Internet usage. However, it relies on the limitations of the Chrome operating system, it lacks a 3G or 4G LTE configuration option and its design is not as sleek as competitors, which may be drawbacks for some users.

A step up in price that overcomes these limitations is the Lenovo G580, currently ranked by PCMag as Editors’ Choice for budget laptops. Faster and more powerful than the Acer with a 2.5GHz Intel Core i5-3210M processor, 4GB of RAM and a 500 GB hard drive, the G580 runs on Windows 8. Best-in-class in the budget category, its main drawback is a tendency to accumulate fingerprint smudges. Also, while adequate for basic photo and video use and editing, the G580 is not designed to support high-end gaming, so heavy gamers may prefer another model.


Mention of gaming raises a second consideration factoring into laptop purchase decisions: purpose. For those concerned mainly with an affordable educational laptop, the previous budget options may be adequate. Students who intend to use their laptop for other purposes such as entertainment, employment or entrepreneurship may require additional features. Travel requirements can necessitate lightweight design and connection reliability. Students who need a fast-speed connection on the run should seek a laptop compatible with the latest generation of technology offered by and other wireless providers. Finally, students studying fields such as IT, graphic design or video game design may have special needs.

For general purposes, a leading laptop of choice is the Apple MacBook Air 13-inch. Priced around $1,099, this model combines 15.5 hours of battery life with a 1.3 GHz Intel Core i5-4250U processor, 4 GB of RAM and 128 GB of storage, balancing long life and performance. However the longer battery life does come with a high-def performance trade off, with a lack of built-in HDMI or 1080p features. An alternative is the Apple MacBook Pro 13-inch (Retina Display), priced around $1,540 with a 2.5 GHz processor, 8 GB of RAM, 256 GB of storage and half a pound heavier case.


A final point to consider is school policy. Some schools require Windows-based laptops for compatibility. Others have price breaks or on-site repair centers that favor specific brands. Knowing your school’s policy before choosing a laptop will help you make the best purchase for your needs.

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