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From PCs to Macs and Chromebooks: The best laptops for students

You might not be ready for classes to start again, but it helps to be prepared.
July 9, 2021
man studying in cafe on laptop

Universities are keeping hybrid classes for students as we head into fall 2021, though it’s more of an option at this point. That means more Zoom lectures and remote exams. It’s a safer move for students that need it, though some won’t have easy access to computers like they would on campus. Here are some of the best laptops for students to help prepare for next semester.

Choosing the right laptop can be tricky for students. After all, graphic design students typically have different needs than business students. We’ve done our best to cover a range of operating systems and price points, and many of these options work for high school students as well.

We’ll start with a few Windows options and then move through Macs and Chromebooks to cover all of the bases.

The best laptops for students:

We’ll make sure to update the list as new laptops launch, but many of these options are newly refreshed. Be sure to check back as more schools announce plans for the fall.

Microsoft Surface Pro X

Microsoft Edge Chromium Surface Pro X

We’ve written about the Surface Pro X before in our review, and it remains the most advanced Surface available. It’s an excellent option for web-based applications on the go, thanks to the LTE connection. With a 13-inch screen and slim bezels, the Surface Pro X is a powerful two-in-one that can go pretty much anywhere. It’s an even better pick now that Microsoft updated the powerful 2-in-1 tablet with a custom SQ2 CPU.

Microsoft Surface Pro 7

The Surface Pro 7 is similar to the Surface Pro X with a tablet design and detachable peripherals, though it’s built for different applications. It sacrifices the LTE connectivity for a 10th-gen Intel Core i5 or Core i7 processor that’s better for heavy-duty tasks.

See also: Best Surface Pro deals

Dell XPS 13 9310

dell xps 13

Dell’s XPS 13 has been at the top of best laptop lists for years, and for a good reason. The latest edition combines the power of an 11th-generation Intel Core i7 processor with almost nonexistent bezels. It’s a popular pick among our team here at Android Authority, and we use our laptops for hours on end. This model packs 16GB of RAM and 512 GB of storage, which should be more than enough for your most demanding jobs.

See also: The best Dell laptops to buy

Acer Aspire 5

acer aspire 5

Not only is the Acer Aspire 5 more affordable than the last few options on the list, but it also offers far more connectivity. It packs an HDMI port, a gigabit ethernet port, two USB 3.0 options, and a USB-C port. The Acer Aspire 5 also shows that you don’t have to break the bank to pick up a new 10th-generation Intel Core processor or a secure fingerprint reader.

See also: The best cheap laptops you can buy

Lenovo Flex 14

lenovo flex 14

Lenovo’s Flex 14 is another popular two-in-one choice, though it runs on a Ryzen chip instead of Intel. It packs 16GB of RAM, a 512GB solid-state drive, and upgraded AMD Radeon Vega 8 graphics. The Flex 14 also offers a solid selection of ports and Dolby Audio premium to enhance your experience even further.

MacBook Pro (M1)

best laptops macbook pro m1

Moving over to macOS, the 13-inch MacBook Pro has finally ditched the much-maligned butterfly keyboard in favor of the Magic Keyboard. Even better, the 2020 refresh is the first to make a move to Apple’s M1 silicone. You can opt for 10th-generation Intel chips, though Apple’s in-house chips are the future.

See also: The best Apple MacBook accessories

MacBook Air (M1)

Apple MacBook Air M1 open showing colorful photos
Gary Sims / Android Authority

Right now, the MacBook Air is probably the better Mac laptop for students. It’s slimmer and lighter than the MacBook Pro, though it matches the Pro with an M1 chip. While the MacBook Air may not be a top pick for gaming, it packs Intel Iris graphics and a crisp Retina display. The MacBook Air switched to the Magic Keyboard before the MacBook Pro, and it has a 20-percent larger trackpad for Multi-Touch gestures.

See also: The best MacBook deals

Google Pixelbook Go

Google Pixelbook Go Review open with pixel 4
Eric Zeman / Android Authority

If you primarily use Google apps to get through your day, you may want to give a Chromebook a shot. They start up quickly, and the operating system is extremely light, though you’ll have to get used to sacrificing some apps. Google’s Pixelbook Go offers up to 12-hours of battery life with up to an 8th-generation Intel Core i7 processor and 16GB of RAM. It may be more than you need in a Chromebook, but it’s always nice to have extra power. Lower-end models with i5 and m3 processors are available as well if you’re hoping to save some cash.

See also: The best Chromebooks for Students

Asus Chromebook Flip C436

Asus Chromebook Flip C436 review front left profile

Another solid Chromebook option is the Asus Flip C436. It’s significantly more affordable than the Pixelbook, and it has the added benefit of a two-in-one design. The Flip C436 has a 14-inch screen, and the extra real estate might make a difference. You’ll also get one year of access to Google One when you grab a Flip C436, which means an additional 100GB of free cloud storage.

If you don’t mind a slightly older processor, you can still grab the Asus Chromebook Flip C434 and save a few hundred dollars.