Whether your high schooler is still doing full-on remote learning, is 100% back in a school building or doing a hybrid of the two, a good laptop is going to be important for getting through the school year. This list highlighting the best laptop for high school students is all about machines that provide reliable, everyday performance and long battery life but in sizes that can fit into an average backpack and at prices around or below $1,000.
With more people learning and working from home though, the increased need for inexpensive laptops means models frequently come in and out of stock at retailers. The greater demand also means third-party sellers are listing laptops for a little or a lot more than their regular price. For example, one of my favorite Chromebooks at the moment is the Lenovo Chromebook Duet, which is listed for $399 on Amazon — $99 over its $300 regular price.
When shopping for a student laptop, my recommendation is to buy directly from the manufacturer or from a familiar, trusted retailer for the best prices and return or exchange policies. If you’re shopping on sites like Amazon or Walmart with third-party sellers, check to see if the laptop is being shipped and sold by the site. For more specific shopping help, you’ll want to check out our buying advice on getting the best cheap laptops.
Also read: Best laptop under $500 of 2020 in stock from HP, Lenovo, Acer and more
It’s worth noting, too, that if your school uses Google Classroom, it does not mean you need a Chromebook. (Here are the differences between a laptop and a Chromebook.) Also, if your high schooler is doing their schoolwork from home, you may want to add on some peripherals like a wireless mouse or keyboard as well as an inexpensive external monitor so they’re more comfortable and have a larger display to see their work.
The IdeaPad Flex 5 14 is a 14-inch two-in-one Windows laptop, letting you use it as a regular laptop as well as a tablet or tented for presentations. It also works well with the display in stand mode with the keyboard facing down on a desk or table so you can attach a keyboard and mouse to give you more of a desktop experience.
It’s available with either the latest Intel Core i7 processor or the AMD Ryzen 5 4500U processor for $560 and $688, respectively. If you can afford the extra cost, the AMD is the better deal. Either way, you’re getting a well-built machine for the money that should last your student several years.
The newest Apple MacBook Air hits all the right notes: It’s back to the old $999 starting price, and it has Apple’s new Magic Keyboard, which most people prefer to the previous model’s butterfly design. The major drawback: The base model of this Apple MacBook Air with Retina Display features a Core i3 processor, and stepping up to the Core i5 for a more powerful laptop costs an extra $100.
Still, the brand new Apple MacBook Air and older models are frequently on sale. At the moment, the 2020 MacBook Air is available for around $950, which is a decent deal for a premium laptop. That noted, the 2019 base configuration — which comes with an older but more powerful Core i5 processor — is still a great laptop worth a look, especially when it’s discounted to less than $900.
This is a pretty straightforward 15-inch Chromebook equipped with a Celeron N4000, 4GB RAM, 32GB Storage (plus an extra 32GB via an SD card). There are less expensive versions at the same link starting at $390, but they’re all 11.6-inch models, so unless it’s for a small student or small space or you plan to connect to a display, I’d think twice about those.
The Acer Aspire 5 is one of my favorite budget-friendly laptops for students or just general home use. The 15.6-inch display on this budget laptop means you have more space to work. It’s slim and light for its size and is available with a fine assortment of ports. Performance and battery life are strong for the money, too. Like the IdeaPad Flex 5, this affordable laptop is available with your choice of AMD or Intel processors.
For those who care more about portability than screen size, the 13.3-inch Envy x360 hits the mark. HP shaved a lot of the body off this two-in-one laptop. That makes it more comfortable to use as a tablet and small enough to easily fit on a school desk. It also delivers good performance and battery life for its price. However, unless your student stores everything to the cloud, you may want to configure it with more storage than the base 128GB SSD storage.
The 13.3-inch version’s availability is shakey at the moment, though. If you don’t mind a larger display (which could make getting your work done easier), you can get it in a 15.6-inch size starting at $700.