Which laptops are best for high school students?
Finding the right laptop can be a daunting task, particularly when you’re shopping for a high school student whose academic success might depend on it. Whether the student is attending classes remotely, fully in-person or participating in some type of hybrid learning, investing in a reliable, fast laptop is a crucial first step towards a successful high school career.
With so many laptops to choose from, and so many factors to consider the decision can be overwhelming. The following guide breaks down everything you need to know to find the perfect laptop for a high school student.
How to choose a laptop for a high school student
The first thing to consider when choosing a laptop for a high school student is how you think the laptop is going to be used. What does the student’s coursework look like? Do they need the laptop for a graphic design class or will they primarily use it for writing essays? A student taking animation classes may need a laptop with a bigger screen or touchscreen support, while a student interested in programming may need a lot of memory. If the student is taking classes remotely, a laptop with an integrated webcam and high-quality speakers is crucial.
High school students aren’t known for being careful with their devices, so you’re going to want a laptop that can handle being tossed into a backpack or dropped every now and then. Since accidents do happen, it’s also important to consider products with extended warranties.
One of the factors many people overlook when shopping for a laptop is the device’s weight. While most laptops typically weigh around 2 to 8 pounds, a few extra pounds can make an enormous difference when the student already has a backpack full of textbooks. Choosing a device under 5 pounds is a wise choice.
Screen size and resolution
If the student is taking graphic design or programming courses, which require using multiple applications at once, they will appreciate a larger screen. Display resolution is also crucial for these students. 1920 x 1080 pixels is an ideal starting point.
The price of a new laptop can vary widely from $200-$1,500. While the affordability of a budget laptop might seem enticing, the low price has trade-offs. The model might run too slowly, or be too fragile. Replacing an underperforming laptop halfway through a school year could end up being more expensive and stressful than investing in a higher-quality machine early on.
RAM and CPU
A laptop’s random access memory (RAM) and central processing unit (CPU) are two technical details that essentially determine how much data can be stored and the speed at which that data can be retrieved. When checking a laptop for CPU, look for the processor’s class and generation, typically indicated by a lowercase i (examples include i3, i5, i7, and i9). Each consecutive class and generation is faster than the last. Many laptops come with 4GB to 6GB of RAM; the more RAM it has, the longer it will last.
OS (Operating System)
The laptop’s operating system is another important detail to consider when shopping for a high school student. While it’s usually best for the student to stick with whatever OS they’re most familiar with using at home, here are some of the key differences between available systems:
Windows – This ubiquitous OS is usually more affordable than other types. Laptops using Windows are also more susceptible to viruses.
OS X – Exclusively found on Apple products, OS X is fast, reliable and secure, but often more expensive. Additionally, since some programs are not OS X compatible, this typically isn’t the best operating system for students involved in programming or web development.
Linux – Perfect for those interested in coding or software development, Linux is a customizable, open-source operating system that can be loaded onto any existing laptop. However, since Linux is open-source, it can be difficult to find technical support if you have a problem.
Chrome OS – Chrome OS is Google’s operating system and is only available on Google Chromebooks. While known for being incredibly secure, Chrome OS has some compatibility issues and takes time to adjust to if you’re accustomed to other operating systems.
Which laptop should you buy for a high schooler?
Best of the best laptop for high schoolers
What you need to know: This laptop is powerful, with a 17.3” display and 8GB of memory.
What you’ll love: With Wifi 6 connectivity and ample storage, this laptop should last well beyond the four years of high school.
What you should consider: This laptop weighs over 6 pounds.
Where to buy: Sold by HP
Best laptop for art students
What you need to know: Weighing just a little over 1 pound, the Surface Go 2 is an affordable and powerful tablet that works just like a laptop.
What you’ll love: The portability, large screen and responsive touchscreen are ideal for any high schooler interested in the visual arts.
What you should consider: Accessories like the Surface Pen, mouse and type cover are each sold separately.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon and Staples
Best laptop for future programmers
What you need to know: With up to 16GB of memory and a weight of only 4.3 pounds, this powerful laptop is perfect for young coders.
What you’ll love: The laptop is lightweight and durable, specifically designed to withstand the occasional knock or drop.
What you should consider: At over $1,000, this impressive laptop is one of the more expensive ones on this list.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
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Patrick Farmer writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.
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