What to Look for in a Laptop for School?

Looking to get a new laptop before the next school semester starts? In 2021, having the best laptop is crucial for success in school.

No longer can you just buy books and school supplies and expect to have everything you need. So much of our current learning environment, especially in higher education, is taking place online.

From virtual classrooms to submitting homework online, online study groups, and endless research on the internet, you need to buy a laptop you can rely on.

In our student computer buying guide, we discuss the reasons students need laptops and what features they should look for when it comes to choosing the perfect one. We share a few of our favorite laptops for students to ensure a smooth semester.

If you are a student looking to upgrade their learning and homework set up, keep reading our laptop buying guide below to discover exactly what you need for success.

Why Students Need a Quality Laptop For School

Even before the pandemic began, college students, and even high school students, have come to rely on laptops. While they have traditionally been used for project research and completing homework, students use them in even more ways now.

Many classrooms allow students to use their laptops during class as a way of taking notes since fewer people see the benefit of handwritten notes. Digital notes, if labelled effectively, can be much easier to access later on when completing homework or studying for tests. This makes it more likely for a student to actually refer back to their notes.

Many schools have also offered certain virtual classes as well. While most primary classes were in person, some were made available digitally. Only those students who had reliable computers were able to signup for and complete these classes.

But now, much of the current education system is taking place completely online. That means all lectures, all study groups, all homework, everything school-related, is happening online.

This means that a laptop for students is no longer optional, they must have a laptop for skype or zoom meetings:  but mandatory to continue taking classes and moving towards your degree.

Additional Uses for Student Laptops

Even under normal circumstances, students use their computers in a variety of different ways. Those living on campus and away from home use them to video chat with family and friends.

Many also use their computers to play video games as a way to pass the extra time or distract themselves from studying.

A quality laptop can also empower additional projects, related to or unrelated to school. For example, those pursuing a degree in writing can look for a side gig as a freelance writer to put their education to use before even graduating.

Those pursuing degrees in media or arts can begin creating projects or accepting commissions on the side of classes or during school vacations. Many students are trying to work during college in order to graduate with less, or no school debt; an honorable yet seemingly overwhelming feat.

But the best way for them to that is to start looking for work as a freelancer related to the degree they are pursuing, rather than just picking up hours at a fast-food restaurant down the street. A modern laptop is crucial to compete in the freelancer space.

You may also like to read: 5 Best Laptops for Graphic Designers

What Do Students Need In a Laptop?

So when it comes to choosing a laptop, what should students be looking for? Obviously, every student is different and their specific needs are different. But below is a list of features that most students will benefit from and should consider when selecting a laptop.


Not all laptops are light enough to transport on a daily basis. Some laptops, used for intensive purposes such as gaming, or running heavy-duty software such as design or editing software, can be very heavy.

This isn’t ideal for the student who might need to bring to class one day, bring to their dorm later, and then bring it to a coffee the following day. One of the most important aspects of student laptops is being small enough to fit into a backpack and use on tiny desks in lecture halls, and light enough to be carried on your back all day.

Typically, to choose a lighter computer means to sacrifice some degree of performance. But if you aren’t a professional graphic designer, video editor, or video gamer, you might not even notice.

Microphone and Camera

With much of our lectures, peer interactions, and student-teacher conferences taking place online, a student laptop needs a working mic and camera. While most come with these features, they are often poor quality as they are intended for daily use.

Newer computers are understanding the needs of consumers in a post-pandemic era and are upgrading mic and camera capabilities, so keep your eyes peeled for these important features.

Comfortable Keyboard

Whether you are trying to take notes as fast as you can during a lecture, or are typing out a 10-page report, you need a keyboard that is large and comfortable enough for your hands to type.

Some of the smallest computers might prioritize portability, but if you have large hands, this is going to be very frustrating for you. Make sure to get at least a 13-inch laptop, if not a 15-inch for those with larger hands.

Power and Storage

Typically, students don’t need the fastest, most powerful computer with the most amount of storage. If you can afford one, by all means, go for it. But considering that most students aren’t flush with cash, it isn’t a necessity.

Still, you want a computer with decent or good power and memory. You need a computer that can handle multitasking, including watching videos, taking notes, and creating documents and projects.

Your computer’s power and speed are related to the processor. Look for a computer with at least six or eight cores in the processor. 10 is usually the best.

And when you are creating tons of documents, assignments, and projects, you need a computer with sufficient storage. 32GB of storage is good, but 64 is much better.

Battery Life

And of course, the bane of all student’s existence; a dead battery. A laptop that can stay powered up for a long time on a single charge is a must.

You might not be able to find a seat in the lecture hall or a table in the coffee shop near an outlet. As a result, you’ll rely on your computer’s battery life. Good battery life is about 10 hours. Even better if you choose a computer that can stay charged for 14 hours or longer.

School Laptop Buying Guide

So now that you have an idea of what you are looking for in a student laptop, let’s take a look at some of the best options out there. You can get by with as little as a couple of hundred bucks, or you can spend closer to a grand if you have the means.

  1. Lenovo Chromebook Duet

One of the most cost-effective laptops for new or current students is the Chromebook Duet from Lenovo. This powerful little computer gives you the performance and flexibility you need to complete assignments your way.

The 10-inch screen can completely detach from the computer, giving you limitless ways to set up your workstation in any environment. Use it as a tablet or a laptop.

The touchscreen is also pen-compatible, allowing you to take notes or write out assignments by hand if that’s your preference. The 8-core processor boots up your computer in a matter of seconds, allowing you to jump right in.

These are small, light, and super portable, making them perfect for students who find themselves in class, on the train, at a cafe, and out on the balcony on any given day.

  1. ThinkPad C13 Yoga Chromebook

Lenovo also offers the Yoga Chromebook for a flexible yet powerful laptop. While the screen doesn’t completely detach, it can rotate 360 degrees around the keyboard, allowing you to work at any angle.

Fold it all the way back to use your Yoga Chromebook as a tablet. Or fold it 180 degrees for a flat laptop on your lap, perfect when catching up on homework while riding the train or bus.

While the 2-core processor isn’t the most powerful on the market, it’s enough for most students who don’t rely on heavy-duty software or plan to use the computer for gaming. The all-day battery life makes up for it for most students.

Interested in buying a Chromebook, whether the Yoga or the Duet? Check out Lenovo.com to see their latest deals, or to build up your own Chromebook to your specifications.

  1. MacBook Air

And of course, no list of student-friendly computers is complete without mentioning the powerful, fast, yet lightweight MacBook Air. While the most expensive on this list, these computers are among the most affordable from the Apple lineup.

The thin profile is easy to carry in any backpack and the sleek aesthetic will always make others jealous. And coming in under three pounds makes it easy to lug this around all day.

The high-definition webcam will make conference calls enjoyable for your peers or teachers. And a full battery charge can yield over 14 hours of use before needing to be plugged in, making it suited to those on the go.

These computers are extremely fast. Plus, the comfortable magic keyboard is a favorite for those who spend a lot of time typing; aka students.

Student Laptops that Hit the Mark

Sure, there are many options when buying a computer for students. This buying guide could easily be three times as long.

But if you just want a reliable performance in a light, flexible package, these computers hit the mark. Most people that don’t need specific technological features or advanced functionality will be pleased with any of these options.

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