These days, students have enough to worry about without having to deal with a slow, unreliable laptop. But with so many options on the market to choose from, finding the right one—at the right price—can be as daunting as facing down a pile of student loans. We’re here to help.
We spend days putting every laptop we get through test after test to see how well it’ll do if you decide to take it home. That’s why we firmly stand by the laptops we recommend. So whether you're a valedictorian in training or still just figuring it all out, one of these laptops should be just right for you.
Acer Aspire E 15 - $550 at Amazon
If you just need a great laptop at a great price, our favorite budget laptop is easily the Acer Aspire E 15 (also known as the Acer Aspire E5-575). This $550 laptop has a 15-inch screen, a fast processor, is completely upgradeable, and can even handle some light gaming. It would be a great deal at $800, but at $550 it's perfect for any student.
Best value: Asus Chromebook Flip - $219 at Amazon
That said, if you want to save even more money and just need a laptop that covers the basics, a Chromebook is your best bet. For that we recommend the Asus Chromebook Flip. It's not the cheapest Chromebook, but it's affordable, performs well, and is one of only a handful of Chromebooks that'll be able to run Android apps later this year. That gives you a world of options for getting work done—without breaking the bank.
Microsoft Surface Pro 4 - $799 at Amazon
If you have a completely packed schedule, you need a laptop that can keep up without weighing you down. If portability is paramount, our favorite laptop is the Microsoft Surface Pro 4. Built to work as both a tablet and a laptop, the Surface Pro 4 gives you the power to do what you need and the flexibility to do it anywhere—though the $129 Type cover is essential.
Budget pick: Asus Vivobook E403SA - $379.99 at Amazon
If you want a more conventional experience and are looking to save a little money, the Asus Vivobook E403SA is just the ticket. It isn't a 2-in-1, but it is lightweight, has exceptional battery life, and it packs just enough power to do everything you need while on the go. Best of all, at under $400, you won't have to work all semester to afford it.
Apple 13-inch MacBook Pro - $1,249.00 at Amazon
High school and college are often about trying a little bit of everything until you find what you're passionate about. That makes the 13-inch Apple MacBook Pro an ideal choice because it's equipped to handle pretty much anything you throw at it. It has a beautiful screen, a fast processor, and excellent battery life compared to similar laptops—not to mention a design that isn't going out of style anytime soon.
Best value: Dell Inspiron 13 7000 - $749.99 at Best Buy
If affordability is high on your priority list, but you still need a laptop that can handle whatever creative endeavor you get up to, look no further than the Dell Inspiron 13 7000 series. It's a 2-in-1 with a backwards-bending display, excellent performance, and a modest price tag that earned it one of our Editors' Choice awards. The 2-in-1 hinge is especially useful, letting you turn it into a tablet that's perfect for showing off your latest project or binge-watching Netflix on your down time.
2016 Razer Blade - $1,999.99 at Amazon
If you want a laptop that can handle classes all day and gaming all night, our favorite is easily the 2016 Razer Blade. The Blade is simply one of the best flagship laptops around, with excellent portability, a funky design, and loads of power to handle games, video editing, and even design work and 3D modeling. It's pricey, but much more powerful—and a few hundred dollars cheaper—than comparable flagship laptops like the current 15-inch MacBook Pro.
Best value: Dell Inspiron 7559 Gaming Series - $843.99 at Best Buy
For those who want as much power as they can get on a smaller budget, the Dell Inspiron 7559 Gaming Series is our pick. It starts at just $749 but packs a punch, with options including a powerful Intel i7 processor, 8GB of memory, and an Nvidia 960M GPU available for under $800 on sale. That's a steal, with many comparable laptops going for $1,000 and up.