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In the market for a laptop? We got you covered. Credit: Reviewed / Betsey Goldwasser

The Best Laptops for Students of 2022

Recommendations are independently chosen by Reviewed’s editors. Purchases you make through our links may earn us a commission.

In the market for a laptop? We got you covered. Credit: Reviewed / Betsey Goldwasser

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Reviewed's mission is to help you buy the best stuff and get the most out of what you already own. Our team of product experts thoroughly vet every product we recommend to help you cut through the clutter and find what you need.

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Editor's Choice Product image of HP Spectre x360 2-in-1 14 (2022)
Best Overall

HP Spectre x360 2-in-1 14 (2022)

The HP Spectre x360 14 2-in-1 laptop excels as both a tablet and a laptop. Read More

Pros

  • Excellent stylus included
  • Responsive touchscreen display
  • Comfortable keyboard and trackpad

Cons

  • OK battery life
  • Performance could be better
2
Editor's Choice Product image of Acer Swift X (2021)
Best Budget

Acer Swift X (2021)

Acer’s Swift X 14 doesn’t look exciting, but it delivers what many value-minded shoppers want most: performance. Read More

Pros

  • Great multi-core performance
  • Strong GPU performance
  • USB-C with DisplayPort and Power Delivery

Cons

  • Lackluster design and display
  • Nearly constant fan noise
3
Editor's Choice Product image of Asus ROG Strix G15 AMD Advantage Edition (2021)
Best Gaming Laptop for Students

Asus ROG Strix G15 AMD Advantage Edition (2021)

Configured with an AMD processor and graphics card, Asus created a near-perfect gaming laptop with killer performance and a long battery life for a great price. Read More

Pros

  • Stellar battery life
  • 300Hz refresh rate
  • Great non-ray tracing performance

Cons

  • Mushy keys
  • CPU runs hot
  • Disappointing ray tracing
4
Editor's Choice Product image of Asus Zenbook S 13 OLED (2022)

Asus Zenbook S 13 OLED (2022)

The Asus Zenbook S 13 OLED has a lightning-quick Ryzen 7 6000-series processor, which includes the same integrated graphics architecture found in modern game consoles. Read More

Pros

  • Excellent OLED display
  • Strong performance
  • Enjoyable keyboard and touchpad

Cons

  • Mediocre battery life
  • Unimpressive design
  • Limited wired connectivity
5
Editor's Choice Product image of Apple MacBook Air (2020)

Apple MacBook Air (2020)

The new MacBook Air looks like business as usual, but its unbelievable battery life and powerful new M1 processor blew us away. Read More

Pros

  • Jaw-dropping battery life
  • Incredible performance
  • Iconic build quality

Cons

  • Poor port selection

For students of all ages, a reliable laptop can make the difference between a passing grade and missing the deadline on your final paper. The dizzying array of laptop brands, designs, capabilities, and perhaps most importantly, prices, can make it difficult to choose the right computer for your studies.

To take some of the stress out of the decision, we've tested a wide range of Chromebooks, 2-in-1 convertible laptops, and more to find the best laptops for students from each category.

Our best laptop for school (for most people) is the HP Spectre x360 (available at HP) . It's stylish, powerful, and its battery keeps going for over seven hours of frantic research and Netflix breaks. Should our main pick not suit your needs, our guide includes a number of other laptops that work great inside the classroom and out.

Laptop open on a table
Credit: Reviewed / Adrien Ramirez

The HP Spectre x360 14 fuses the best parts of both the laptop and tablet experience into one device.

Best Overall
HP Spectre x360 2-in-1 14 (2022)
  • Processor: Intel Core i7-1255U
  • Graphics: Intel Iris Xe integrated graphics
  • Memory: 16GB
  • Storage Size: 512GB
  • Display: 13.5-inch 3000 x 2000 OLED display
  • Battery Life: 7-8 hours

The HP Spectre x360 14 is a 2-in-1 laptop that nails just about everything. As a laptop, its springy keyboard and large trackpad make it a perfect choice for frequent typists. As a tablet, its 3000 x 2000 touchscreen display and pressure-sensitive stylus offer a sublime note-taking and drawing experience. In either mode, the powerful-yet-efficient processor can run any major productivity task without getting hot.

If you’re looking for a laptop that can serve a stunning multimedia experience, the HP Spectre’s vibrant display covers the whole P3 color gamut, and its speakers sound better than a MacBook’s speakers. The sub-three-pound weight and the plentitude of USB-C and USB-A ports also make it a cinch to travel with. It has an almost eight-hour battery life, but this efficiency does affect the performance of the laptop compared to other major 2-in-1s like the Lenovo Yoga 9i or MSI Summit E16 Flip.

The Spectre x360 could benefit from a bit more of a performance boost. As it is currently, the laptop’s Intel Core i7-1255U processor is about as fast as an M1 MacBook: fast enough to comfortably run Photoshop or Lightroom, but something like a film editing or 3D modeling program will feel strained. It’s enough power for just about any common productivity task, to be sure, but it stings to know that the Lenovo Yoga 9i sees as much as 40% better performance from its Intel Core i7-1260P processor. And of course, the HP Spectre gets much less battery life than the M1 MacBooks, which get up to 13 hours of battery life on a processor that’s just as powerful.

If you can live without stellar gaming performance or more than a day’s worth of battery life, the HP Spectre is worth it for the unity between its laptop and tablet experience. Its display, ergonomics, and stylus provide an iPad-like experience and, when used as a laptop, it's among the best out there right now. At under $1,500, the HP Spectre x360 14 is well worth the price.

Pros

  • Excellent stylus included

  • Responsive touchscreen display

  • Comfortable keyboard and trackpad

Cons

  • OK battery life

  • Performance could be better

Laptop is on a bamboo table.
Credit: Reviewed / Matthew Smith

The Acer Swift X 14 brings a lot to the table for under a thousand dollars.

Best Budget
Acer Swift X (2021)
  • Processor: AMD Ryzen 7 5800U
  • Graphics: Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 Ti
  • Memory: 16GB
  • Storage: 512GB
  • Display: 14-inch 1920 x 1080p IPS display
  • Battery life: Nine hours, 25 minutes

Acer’s Swift X is an outstanding option for those who prioritize speed and price over extra features and looks. That doesn’t mean it’s not a nice-looking laptop, just that it comes with a standard 1080p IPS display, 720p webcam, and an okay amount of storage if you plan on gaming occasionally with the Swift X.

One of the features of this laptop we liked the most is its battery life, which topped out at nine hours and 25 minutes in our battery test. This is, in part, due to the laptop automatically switching to its integrated graphics when you perform light tasks like browsing Twitter or sending an email. The discrete graphics card kicks in when you perform intensive tasks, like gaming or encoding a long 4K video.

Speaking of gaming, the Swift X falls in the same price range as budget-minded gaming laptops, but the graphics card power draw is capped, so it won’t perform as fast as an actual gaming laptop. But you can hit 60 fps in most high-fidelity games if you tweak the in-game graphics settings just right.

Our biggest complaints about the Swift X have to do with its aesthetics and fan noise. It looks like a budget laptop thanks to the mismatched color tones on the chassis and keyboard, and the fan is too loud even when the laptop is idling. However, as it’s a $1,000 laptop, some compromises must be made. At least Acer decided to make those cuts to areas that don't matter as much as performance. It’s still a value-filled, multipurpose laptop for everything else it offers.

Pros

  • Great multi-core performance

  • Strong GPU performance

  • USB-C with DisplayPort and Power Delivery

Cons

  • Lackluster design and display

  • Nearly constant fan noise

Overhead shot of laptop corner
Credit: Reviewed / Joanna Nelius

The Asus ROG Strix G15 AMD Advantage goes head to head with the best Nvidia GeForce RTX-based gaming laptops out there.

Best Gaming Laptop for Students
Asus ROG Strix G15 AMD Advantage Edition (2021)

-**Processor:** AMD Ryzen 9 5900HX -**Graphics:** AMD Radeon RX 6800M -**Memory:** 16GB -**Storage Size:** 512GB -**Display:** 15.6-inch 1920 x 1080p @ 300Hz IPS display -**Battery Life:** Nine hours

The Asus ROG Strix G15 AMD Advantage Edition, which features an AMD processor and an AMD graphics card, is a unicorn among gaming laptops. These two components in this form factor are a rarity. When you consider its design, features, battery life, and price, it’s one of Asus’s best gaming laptops.

The Ryzen 9 5900HX keeps programs running at tip-top speeds, so every task feels snappy. Running 50 Chrome tabs at once, rendering 3D images, transcoding 4K video, working in Excel—it all flows seamlessly.

The Radeon RX 6800M GPU keeps your games running at high frame rates. At 1080p resolution, graphically demanding games like Control run at 96 fps on the highest graphical settings. Esports games like Overwatch reach up to 159 fps at the same settings, although to take advantage of the Strix G15’s 300Hz display, the graphics will need to be turned down.

Perhaps the most impressive aspect of this stellar gaming laptop is its battery life. In a world where gaming laptops generally last four to five hours, this one powers through for nine! Gaming will drain battery power faster. However, for your everyday computing needs, this laptop will last longer than an entire day of classes and lectures.

While its size and color scheme might get some curious looks in the lecture hall, but if this is your only laptop, it’ll serve all your needs.

Pros

  • Stellar battery life

  • 300Hz refresh rate

  • Great non-ray tracing performance

Cons

  • Mushy keys

  • CPU runs hot

  • Disappointing ray tracing


Other Laptops For Students We Reviewed

Product image of Asus Zenbook S 13 OLED (2022)
Asus Zenbook S 13 OLED (2022)
  • Processor: AMD Ryzen 7 6800U
  • Graphics: AMD Radeon 680M
  • Memory: 16GB LPDDR5
  • Storage: 1TB
  • Display: 13.3-inch 2880 x 1800p OLED display
  • Battery life: Six hours, 50 minutes

If you’re looking for a sleek and thin Windows laptop that can rival Apple’s MacBook, the Asus Zenbook S 13 OLED is an excellent choice. Its OLED display is not quite up to MacBook levels, but it’s not far behind. Contrast and color saturation levels are deep and vibrant due to its wide color gamut, so anything on the display is going to look gorgeous.

The AMD processor inside has new and improved integrated graphics, which is another of the Zenbook S 13 OLED’s features. It’s based on the same graphics architecture AMD uses in the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X|S and is much faster than the previous generation of chips. It even slightly outpaced Intel’s integrated Iris Xe graphics in its Core i7-1260P during our tests.

CPU performance does fall behind Apple’s M1 and Intel’s Core i7-1260P, but not enough to make a major difference when you’re using the laptop.

We do wish the battery life was better, we weren’t too thrilled with the Zenbook S 13 OLED’s overall looks, and you might want to invest in a laptop cooler if you’re worried about the processor running too hot (because it can!). But if you’re not pushing it with intense workloads the laptop will stay comfortably cool.

Pros

  • Excellent OLED display

  • Strong performance

  • Enjoyable keyboard and touchpad

Cons

  • Mediocre battery life

  • Unimpressive design

  • Limited wired connectivity

Product image of Apple MacBook Air (2020)
Apple MacBook Air (2020)
  • Processor: Apple M1
  • Graphics: Integrated
  • Memory: 16GB
  • Storage Size: 256GB
  • Display: 13-inch 2560 x 1440p Liquid Retina display
  • Battery Life: 11 hours, 42 minutes

With a shockingly good battery life of almost 12 hours, performance that beats most Windows laptops, and an incredibly smooth trackpad and tactile keyboard, it should be no surprise that the MacBook Air M1 has been so popular. Unless you need Windows 10 specifically, the MacBook Air is a fabulous laptop for pulling all-nighters, writing essays, and streaming high-resolution video.

The only laptops that came close to the M1 MacBooks' performance were pricey laptops with the latest generation of Intel Core i7 and AMD Ryzen 7 processors. This $1,000 laptop performs better than machines worth way more than a thousand dollars, making it an excellent choice for those who need a powerhouse.

The MacBook Air M1 comes with the same aluminum chassis and Retina screen we loved in the earlier 2020 Intel MacBook Air. Because you can't upgrade the M1 MacBooks after purchase, we recommend splurging on a model with at least 512GB of storage. This is one of the most surprising releases we’ve seen in years, and we can’t imagine anyone not falling in love with it.

It's less expensive but just as good as the new MacBook Air M2, which is why we are recommending it for students over the M2.

Pros

  • Jaw-dropping battery life

  • Incredible performance

  • Iconic build quality

Cons

  • Poor port selection

Product image of Lenovo Yoga 9i (Gen 7, 2022)
Lenovo Yoga 9i (Gen 7, 2022)
  • Processor: Intel Core i7-1260P
  • Graphics: Integrated
  • Memory: 16GB DDR5
  • Storage Size: 1TB
  • Display: 13.3-inch 3456 x 2160 OLED touchscreen display
  • Battery Life: Six hours, 51 minutes

The Lenovo Yoga 9i is Lenovo’s best 2-in-1 yet. With a 12th-gen Intel Core i7 processor, a brilliant OLED display, and a handy stylus, the Yoga 9i is one of the fastest, most versatile laptops available for serious productivity tasks. Photo editing on the Yoga 9i is a treat, as its 16:10 ratio, 4K monitor covers over 90% of the DCI-P3 color gamut and can get to about 375 nits of brightness. Images will look sharp, bright, and color-accurate. Best of all, the Yoga 9i usually sells for hundreds of dollars less than similar laptops and makes almost no compromises to do so.

For professional film editing or 3D modeling and rendering work, the Yoga 9i can get the job done, but it won’t get it done quickly. While its integrated graphics are excellent compared to those on other processors, the Yoga 9i lacks a discrete graphics processor that would elevate its utility for professional creatives. However, few 2-in-1s offer discrete graphics as an option, leaving you to choose between expensive options like the MSI Summit E16 Flip or settle for a traditional laptop like the Dell XPS 15 or MacBook Pro 14. Those who travel frequently may additionally find themselves frustrated with the Yoga 9i’s seven-hour battery life.

If it’s a convenient, delightful 2-in-1 that you’re after, the Yoga 9i is an ideal laptop for most people’s productivity needs. Its stylish and ergonomic form factor, gorgeous touchscreen display, and efficient processor earn it a high spot among our favorite 2-in-1 laptops.

Pros

  • Breathtaking 4K display

  • Excellent stylus and tablet experience

  • Snappy performance

Cons

  • Mediocre battery life

  • Touchpad is too sensitive

Product image of MSI Summit E16 Flip (2022)
MSI Summit E16 Flip (2022)
  • Processor: Intel Core i7-1260P
  • Graphics: Nvidia RTX 3050 Ti
  • Memory: 32GB DDR5
  • Storage Size: 1TB
  • Display: 16-inch 2560 x 1440p @ 165Hz OLED touchscreen display
  • Battery Life: Three hours, 50 minutes

The Summit E16 Flip is one of the best 2-in-1s available on the market for artists. Its ultra-bright 4K screen can accurately display HDR content with a full DCI-P3 and Adobe RGB color gamut. If you do 3D modeling, its graphics processor is powerful enough to let you open and work on sculpts on the go. If you’re more of a 2D person, the MSI Pen stylus has 4,096 levels of pressure sensitivity for crisp, varied line art. Even though the laptop has a massive 16-inch screen, it’s about the size of a standard 15.6-inch laptop thanks to its 16:10 aspect ratio and ultrathin bezels.

For the times you do prefer to use it as a traditional laptop, you’ll find its large smooth trackpad and crip keyboard provide a delightful experience.

The only major downside to the Summit E16 Flip is its six-hour battery life. This puts it well behind other 2-in-1s, which can get eight hours of battery life or more (MSI’s previous model, the Summit E13 Flip, gets eight hours, for instance). However, these 2-in-1s often don’t have a 16-inch 4K display like the Summit E16—13, and 14-inch displays are much more common. While the Summit E16 Flip is one of the pricier 2-in-1s out there, its excellent pressure-sensitive display and powerful graphics hardware are some of the best on the market.

Pros

  • Phenomenal HDR display

  • Excellent stylus included

  • Sleek form factor

Cons

  • Poor battery life

  • Fingerprint magnet

Product image of Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 (2022)
Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 (2022)
  • Processor: AMD Ryzen 9 6900HS
  • Graphics: AMD Radeon RX 6800S
  • Memory: 32GB DDR5
  • Storage Size: 1TB
  • Display: 14-inch 2560 x 1440p @ 120Hz display
  • Battery Life: Eight hours, 46 minutes

The all-AMD 2022 refresh to the ROG Zephyrus G14 is a marvel. Not only does it have the strong performance needed to play recent big-name game releases, but it also has the essentials demanded of a great ultrabook for the classroom: a comfortable keyboard, a huge smooth trackpad, a brilliant WQHD display, and nearly nine hours of battery life–all packed into a compact laptop.

The premium metal chassis brings a lot of style to the machine. The multitude of ports serves the ASUS ROG Zephyrus G14 well in conferences and impromptu presentations, as well. You get HDMI 2.0b, a microSD card reader, two USB-C ports, and two USB-A ports. When it’s time to relax, the powerful Ryzen 9 processor and Radeon RX 6800S graphics card can kick into high gear and pump up to 120 frames per second for games like Shadow of the Tomb Raider and Far Cry 5.

Compared to similar laptops, like the Razer Blade 14 and the MSI Delta 15, the Zephyrus G14 fares well performance- and value-wise. It’s not cheap, but it’s well worth it for those who need a laptop that can do it all.

Pros

  • Excellent battery life

  • Fantastic performance

  • Sleek form factor

Cons

  • Limited configuration options

  • 720p webcam

Product image of HP Envy x360 15z
HP Envy x360 15z

Editor's Note August 26, 2022: We're currently evaluating the latest version of this laptop as the model we reviewed here appears to be out of stock. If you must get a laptop now we recommend checking out one of our other top picks.

  • Processor: AMD Ryzen 7 4700U
  • Graphics: AMD Radeon integrated graphics
  • Memory: 8GB
  • Storage Size: 256GB SSD
  • Display: 15.6-inch 1080p IPS WLED touchscreen display
  • Battery Life: Six hours, 45 minutes

Fast, beautiful, and affordable, the 15-inch HP Envy x360 is a dream for those who need a larger laptop that won't break the bank. Inside its beautiful body, the 15-inch Envy packs an AMD Ryzen 5 processor that trades blows with laptops twice its price—perfect for photo editing, light gaming, and even a bit of video editing.

The HP Envy’s 15-inch display is nothing short of glorious. It’s huge, it’s bright, it’s vibrant, and it’s touch-enabled. While the laptop is a little bulky for tablet use in 2-in-1 mode, it’s nice to be able to tent your laptop to watch Netflix.

Even more impressive is that it hits all the marks while still delivering almost seven hours of battery life. While it doesn't outdo the MacBook Air, it’s on par with other 15-inch laptops, like the HP Spectre 15 or Dell XPS 15. It's undoubtedly one of the best 15-inch laptops in its price range, and will likely stay on top for a while.

Pros

  • Excellent performance

  • A beautiful design

  • Sturdy 2-in-1 hinges

Cons

  • So-so battery life

  • Heavy

Product image of Dell Inspiron 3501 (2021)
Dell Inspiron 3501 (2021)
  • Processor: Intel Core i5-1035G1
  • Graphics: Intel UHD integrated graphics
  • Memory: 8GB
  • Storage Size: 256GB SSD
  • Display: 15.6-inch 1080p display
  • Battery Life: seven hours, 52 minutes

Finding a good budget laptop that can keep pace with the premium ultrabooks is no small feat. The Dell Inspiron 3501 accepts it with grace: it’s thin, lightweight, and powerful enough to run any productivity task without issue.

While the Inspiron won’t win any beauty contests, its body feels rugged and wards off fingerprints well. The full-size keyboard is responsive, perfectly toeing the line between soft and bouncy. Meanwhile, the decently large trackpad is smooth and has no issue picking up your finger’s movements. Unlike many of its budget peers, the Inspiron manages to offer power without sacrificing battery life—it can go for almost eight hours before needing a recharge.

Our Intel Core i5 model was a workhorse, performing the same (or better!) as laptops that cost hundreds more. Whether you need dozens of Chrome tabs at the ready or find yourself working with Photoshop several times a week, this laptop will perform reliably.

The only issue we had with the Inspiron was its dim screen, which may not be bright enough for working outside of traditional office spaces. It’s not the fanciest, but boy does it get the basics right, offering a comfortable experience that won’t cost a fortune.

Pros

  • Good performance

  • Comfortable keyboard and body

  • Sturdy and rugged

Cons

  • Dim screen

  • No outstanding features

  • Grainy webcam

Product image of Asus Chromebook Flip C434TA-DSM4T
Asus Chromebook Flip C434TA-DSM4T
  • Processor: Intel Core m3-8100Y
  • Graphics: Intel HD integrated graphics
  • Memory: 4GB
  • Storage Size: 64GB eMMC
  • Display: 14-inch 1080p touchscreen display
  • Battery Life: eight hours

If you’re a student on a tight budget, check out the Asus Chromebook Flip. Its performance is good enough for everyday tasks like surfing the web and checking email, and its bezels are practically nonexistent, so you get a ton of screen.

With its aluminum finish and chrome trim, the C434T looks and feels like a premium product despite its modest price. It’s one of the most elegant-looking Chromebooks we’ve seen in a while. As a 2-in-1, it delivers a reasonably comfortable tablet experience enhanced by ChromeOS’s touch-friendly design.

However, we weren’t fans of the trackpad. It’s not as responsive as a MacBook touchpad, and it took us some time to adjust to it. It's not a deal-breaker, but it’s something to be aware of. Otherwise, it’s a great laptop for those on a budget who do most of their work online.

Pros

  • Excellent battery life

  • A beautiful display and keyboard

  • Affordable price point

Cons

  • Disappointing trackpad

– – –

How We Tested Laptops for Students

The Tests

Here at Reviewed, we test laptops for their processing capability, graphics, battery life, and screen brightness. We use a mix of industry-standard and custom-made tests, as well as specialized lab equipment in our Cambridge, MA testing facility. We use popular benchmarks like Geekbench and 3DMark to gauge how well the laptop multitasks, runs games, and more.

For battery testing, we set them up to continuously cycle through various websites at around 60% brightness (200 nits) until they run out of power, estimating how much work they can get done on a single charge. We also use each laptop for an extended period of time, rating each on factors like build quality, price, portability, and design.

What You Should Know About Laptops For Students

What makes a great student laptop? Of course, everyone’s priorities differ. But if your computer needs to survive campus life, you’ll want to focus on portability and durability.

Performance is where peoples’ needs will likely differ. Activities like web browsing, video editing, and high-end gaming come with different requirements. Consider what you’ll actually need your computer to do.

The Basics

  • Performance: The CPU, graphics chip, RAM, and storage inside your PC determine how well your computer can multitask, handle intensive tasks like gaming, and store all your files. The better the specs, the snappier the laptop will feel.

  • Build Quality: Not only do you want a laptop that can take a beating (since you’ll probably be lugging it around with you), but you want one with a well-built keyboard and trackpad since you’ll be on the move. The best laptops for college students need to be durable and work well on the go.

  • Touch Screens, Portability, and Features: 2-in-1s like the Surface Pro have gained popularity, but that touch screen and pen cost extra. Similarly, cramming powerful components into a thin and light package can often cost more than a larger laptop with fewer design constraints.

Operating System

Consider which operating system you need. Windows is still the dominant OS these days. If you’re going to play games or need certain software for work, you should probably stick with Microsoft.

If you spend all your time on the web, though, a Chromebook may serve you better than you’d think. Between Netflix, Gmail, Google Docs, and even online photo editors like Pixlr, you can do almost anything in a browser. Many of those web apps even work offline, for when you don’t have Wi-Fi. Chromebooks are also often cheaper (since they don’t need as much processing power) and virtually virus-free (since Chrome OS is Linux-based).

Display Size

  • 13 inches and under: These smaller laptops are easy to carry around campus, and great for light work like writing papers and browsing the web.

  • 15 inches: Mid-sized laptops are a bit less portable, and may not work in constrained spaces like airplane seats. But the larger display is useful for photo editing and watching videos.

  • 17 inches: These large computers are only recommended for those willing to lug it around, or who need one for video editing or other intensive work that requires a lot of screen real estate.

There’s variation within these categories. For example, the XPS 13’s smaller bezels make it much smaller than most 13-inch laptops. There are also sizes in between, like the 14-inch Lenovo Yoga C930. But picking a general size range can help narrow the field.

You should also consider how many USB ports you need, whether you need HDMI and Ethernet, and how comfortable the keyboard and trackpad are to use. This can vary from model to model, and it’s important to get something responsive and durable.

Under the Hood

Finally, you’ll need to consider the guts—the processor, graphics chip, RAM, and storage that determine your laptop’s capabilities. For browsing the web and using office software, lower-power chips like Intel’s i3 and i5 are fine.

While 4GB of RAM is usable in a Chromebook, even web browsing can eat up RAM these days. 8GB is recommended if you tend to open lots of tabs, use lots of browser extensions, or want to be future-proof. We wouldn’t advise 4GB for most Windows users these days.

If you run more intense workloads—whether that’s photo and video editing or playing the latest PC games—you’ll want a bit more “oomph.” Intel’s higher-end i7 processors will make those video encodes run noticeably faster, and a dedicated graphics card will ensure your games run smooth as butter.

No matter who you are, err on the side of more storage. People often underestimate how much space they’ll fill with their music, photos, and videos over time, and it’s a hassle to lug an external drive around. Storage can be expensive, though. If you can’t afford a large solid-state drive, consider buying a laptop with an SD card slot and using a high-capacity card for cheap, expandable storage.

Consider upgradeability, too. Many modern laptops solder their components onto the motherboard, preventing you from adding more RAM or storage down the line. Either buy a laptop that keeps its components separate, or spend a bit more to buy the specs you’ll need in a couple of years—not just what you need right now.

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