best laptops for back to school

It may be hard to believe, but we’re more than mid way through summer. For those of you with kids, or those of you who are students, it’s time to think about back to school. Especially if there’s a new laptop in your future. Getting all the supplies together in time can be daunting, and throwing a big ticket item like laptop in the mix just adds to the stress. To help you out, I’ve put together a handy “top 10 laptops” list, aimed at students with various needs and budgets.

best laptops for back to schoolBest Chromebook: ASUS Chromebook Flip 14

Chromebooks are an increasingly popular choice for students. I went with a Chromebook for my daughter last year and she’s been very happy with it. This ASUS Chromebook Flip 14 is a great option because it combines the best of Chromebooks with the flexibility of 2-in-1 devices. It has a 14-inch Full HD display, 4GB of RAM and 64GB of solid state storage, plus the aluminum body is thin, light and durable. The touchscreen display even rotates 360-degrees for use as a tablet. 

best laptops for back to schoolBest laptop for a student on a budget: HP Stream 14

The HP Stream 14 proves you can get a decent Windows laptop on a limited budget. This one features a dual-core AMD processor, 4GB of RAM, 64GB of fast solid state storage and a 14-inch HD BrightView display, plus both USB-A and USB-C, and HDMI video output. The HP Stream 14 runs Windows 10 S and comes with a free one-year subscription to Microsoft’s Office 365 Personal. 

best laptops for back to schoolBest 13-inch laptop: Microsoft Surface Laptop 2

It’s tough to find a better choice in a 13-inch laptop these days than Microsoft’s second generation Surface Laptop. It’s loaded with premium touches, like the beautiful 13.5-inch PixelSense touch display and unique Alcantara fabric keyboard. It’s thin, light and designed to be a Windows showcase. With an 8th generation Intel Core i5 processor and 8GB of RAM, this laptop has the specs to be a performer as well. The icing on the cake? Surface Laptop 2’s battery life of 14+ hours means no having to pack the power adapter, even for a full day of classes.

best laptops for back to schoolBest 14-inch laptop: HP Pavilion x360

The HP Pavilion x360 is a great laptop for those who want something a bit larger than a 13-inch display, but don’t want to be lugging around a full-sized, 15-inch laptop. It offers a full-sized keyboard for typing, but the 360-degree hinge lets it convert to different form factors for reading, Windows Inking, displaying info, or watching videos. The B&O sound really comes in handy for videos as well … It’s no performance slouch either, with an 8th generation Intel Core i5 processor, 8GB of RAM, 256GB SSD and a full array of ports including USB-A, USB-C and HDMI.

best laptops for back to schoolBest 15-inch laptop: ASUS VivoBook 15.6-inch

This ASUS VivoBook is on the list because it delivers everything you want in a 15-inch laptop, at a student-friendly price. The Full HD NanoEdge display has minimal bezels, reducing overall size. With a Core i5 CPU and 8GB of RAM, it has the power to take on any assignment, and the 512GB SSD provides plenty of speedy storage. It has a full complement of ports, a full-sized ergonomic keyboard, and it’s light and thin for easy carrying.

best laptops for back to schoolBest 17-inch laptop: HP Envy 17.3-inch 

Sometimes students need a big, powerful laptop. Something with maximum screen real estate for working with detailed images or huge rows of numbers, the power to encode 4K video, and massive storage capacity for huge project files. 

Enter the 17.3-inch HP Envy. It features a 17.3-inch, Full HD IPS WLED-backlit touchscreen display driven by an NVIDIA GeForce MX250 graphics card. Processing power is provided by an 8th generation, quad-core, Intel Core i7 CPU with 12GB of RAM on tap. This high-powered laptop also features dual storage: a 128GB SSD for lighting fast access to critical files, plus a whopping 1TB HDD. Naturally it includes all the ports needed for peripherals and accessories, and even has a built-in DVD writer optical drive. Everything is housed in a durable and attractive metal case.

best laptops for back to schoolBest 2-in-1 laptop: HP 15.6-inch Touchscreen 2-in-1 Laptop

2-in1 laptops remain a top choice for students. You simply can’t beat a 2-in-1’s combination of flexibility and portability. HP offers a wide range of 2-in-1 laptops, but this one has the specs for school and the features you want to make it a great entertainment device. That big, Full HD 15.6-inch IPS micro-edge WLED-backlit touchscreen display has the space and resolution needed for assignments, but flip it around and it makes for an awesome video viewing screen as well. Dual Bang & Olufsen tuned speakers add to its entertainment appeal. There’s an integrated HP Wide Vision HD webcam with integrated digital array microphone for videoconferencing—and the camera is equipped with a kill switch to ensure privacy.

The all-metal design is thin and light, and the 8th generation Intel Core i5 helps this 2-in-1 laptop to deliver great battery life as well.

best laptops for back to schoolBest laptop for multitasking: ASUS VivoBook S15

Nothing beats a second screen for multitasking. I reviewed a ZenBook Pro from ASUS earlier this year that featured an integrated second display in place of the trackpad, and that extra screen was’t just cool, it was useful. ASUS has incorporated the feature in the new VivoBook S15. This laptop features a full-sized, NanoEdge bezel display (15.6-inch Full HD), plus a 5.65-inch touchscreen “ScreenPad 2.0” that does double duty as the touchpad. It’s also thin, light and incorporates the ASUS ErgoLift hinge for more comfortable typing—another win for more effective multitasking. 

Best “because you want it with everything” laptop: Dell Inspiron 7590

best laptops for back to school

Sometimes school just calls for a laptop that pulls no punches. The Dell Inspiron 7590 fits that bill quite nicely. I’ve had one here for the last few weeks, and it’s a beauty. Look for my review shortly (and that’s the Inspiron 7590 showing off my Windows Inking penmanship at the top of the post). This is a 2-in-1 laptop, so it has the ultra thin form factor, long battery life and flexibility of that design approach. 

The 15.6-inch touchscreen display is a stunning 4K UHD InfinityEdge panel. There’s an NVIDIA GeForce MX250 graphics card with 2GB of GDDR5 RAM, so you can game on it. It’s loaded with ports, Bluetooth 5.1 and ultrafast 802.11ac 2 x 2 Wi-Fi. It comes with an ActivePen stylus and the laptop even has an integrated storage slot for it. And performance is wicked even if you use that UHD display to open window after window, with an 8th generation Intel Core i7-8565U, 16GB of RAM and a 512GB SSD.

best laptops for back to schoolBest laptop for Mac fans: MacBook Air with Retina Display

Last fall, Apple updated its most popular laptop, the MacBook Air. The extensive redesign makes this a great, affordable laptop for students who want to use macOS. The 13.3-inch screen is now a high resolution Retina display, the processor is an 8th generation Intel Core i5 and the trackpad has been upgraded to include Force Touch support. The newest MacBook Air gets a pair of high speed USB-C ports (one is used for power), and still boasts all-day battery life. It’s available in Space Grey or Silver, but you can also get the 100% recycled aluminum MacBook Air with Retina Display in Gold.

Didn’t see the laptop you were looking for on this list? Don’t worry, Best Buy carries all the latest models from all the top PC manufacturers. So no matter what your back to school requirements, you’ll find the perfect laptop. 

Brad Moon
Editor Computing solutions
I’m a long-time electronics and gadget geek who’s been fortunate enough to enjoy a career that lets me indulge this interest. After 13 years as a product manager with a leading Canadian tech company, I transitioned into a full-time career of writing about technology. I’ve contributed to a range of publications and websites including Forbes, Wired, Gizmodo, Lifehacker, About.com, MSN Money, the Winnipeg Free Press, InvestorPlace Media, Shaw Media and—combining technology and my three kids—I’ve been a Core Contributor to the award winning GeekDad blog since its launch in 2007.

4 COMMENTS

  1. i am looking to purchase either the Dell inspiration 7590 or the new HP spectre x360 . both 15.6 in screens and I7-8565U

    can you please compare them for me and woulfd like your opinion on these two models

    thank you for your feedback
    Mike

    • Hi, Mike. I’m afraid I haven’t been hands on with the latest HP Spectre x360. That being said, the last time I had the opportunity, I did prefer its look over the Inspiron — the contrasting colours look a little nicer. I believe the new HP has the edge in battery life, but it looks like the Inspiron’s Nvidia video card is newer than the version in the HP (MX250 in Dell vs MX 150 in HP) which should give it a very slight edge in graphic performance. If you have older peripherals, the Inspiron still offers Type-A USB ports (as well as USB-C), but I believe the new Spectre is all-in on USB-C, so you may need dongles or a hub. But both are solid, high powered laptops, with nice displays and support for a digital stylus. I’m afraid that’s the best I can do without getting into a full on comparo that requires having both laptops here… I would suggest maybe checking your local Best Buy store to see if they have both laptops in stock, then trying them hands-on.

  2. So many great options here. I almost wish I was going back to school so I’d have a reason to get one.
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    almost.

    • Haha! I hear you and agree. Yet, if I won a lottery I might want to take an online course on history or literature for fun.

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