Student Laptop Buying Guide

For students today, a large amount of schoolwork is done online. While online work was traditionally reserved for college students, more elementary, middle, and high school students now use their computers for everything from writing papers to nightly math homework. Laptop computers can be the most efficient way for students to get schoolwork done wherever they are, whether in the class, in the dorm, or at the school library.

When looking for a laptop for you or your student, you don’t necessarily have to get a high-end laptop or high-powered gaming laptop to have an optimal experience with your computer. Instead, focus on capabilities that will help most throughout the school year. We’ll walk you through things to consider when looking for a laptop for school.

Why Get Your Student a Laptop?

One of the biggest benefits that laptops offer students lies in their portability. Laptops can be placed and carried in a secure backpack or laptop bag and transported to different classes and study locations. This flexibility means that students can:

●      Keep their class notes, paper drafts, and research in one place

●      Access digital books during class and study periods

●      Carry fewer heavy books and notebooks

●      Work as easily in the school library as in their room

●      Quickly type out notes during classes and study sessions

Given these advantages, let’s review some of the main characteristics to look for when buying a laptop.

What to Look for in a Laptop for a Student

When you begin your search for a great laptop for students, you’ll quickly find many options. From Chromebooks to budget laptops, a new laptop can have all sorts of different capabilities and operating systems.

Here’s what to look for as you browse through your options.

Operating System

The operating system is the first thing you’ll want to pay attention to when buying a new laptop. Two of the most well-known are Windows and Mac. Both choices allow you to complete many of the same tasks, such as creating text documents, spreadsheets, presentations, video conferencing with a webcam, and conducting research. However, their interfaces and applications accomplish these goals differently.

Apple computers operate using macOS, while new PCs come with Windows 11. Additionally, Windows operating systems offer greater diversity in capabilities and price points, as many different companies produce these computers.

Windows Laptops

Here are some options for those who want a quality laptop using Windows:


A third operating system is used in Chromebooks. Understanding what a Chromebook laptop is can help you decide whether this laptop option will fit your needs.

These computers have been around for about 12 years and don’t use Windows or Mac operating systems. Instead, they use a Linux-based operating system known as Chrome OS. Chromebooks rely on the Google Chrome web browser and offer some capabilities for apps, particularly Android apps. They also rely on more web-based capabilities, like Google Docs.

Like Windows-based computers, you’ll find several companies that produce quality Chromebooks for students, including but not limited to:


A good laptop can withstand some rough treatment and still work well throughout the school years.

Many people find that a solid-state drive (SSD) offers higher durability than a hard disk drive (HDD). The SSD has fewer parts moving around, which means that fewer things can go wrong and result in you losing the information on your computer.

Some students — particularly those who know that their computers will be in for harsh treatment — might elect to get a rugged laptop. These laptops are built to offer higher durability. If you’ve had negative experiences in the past with laptops breaking, or if you know that your school year will call for your laptop to excel in durability, these computers might be a good fit for you.

Also, consider a laptop case. A case can help protect your laptop even if it gets banged around in your bag or ends up under a pile of heavy books. 

Battery Life

As a student, you’ll also want to look closely at the battery life offered by your laptop. Many students might not return home or to their dorm room for hours. No one wants to discover that their laptop has lost its charge before lunch, leaving them digging for a pencil in their bag or rushing back to their room to grab a charger.

A laptop with a stable, long battery life will serve you well throughout the day. You can be on the go without worrying about how much battery time is left on your computer.

A good battery life for a laptop is around 8-12 hours. This range allows for a full day of typical usage, including browsing the internet, working on documents, and streaming videos, without needing to recharge too often. For users with more intensive needs like video editing, you can look for laptops with a longer battery life or quick-charging options.

Processor and Graphics Card

When it comes to your laptop’s processor and graphics card (which determines GPUs), think carefully about the capabilities that matter the most to you. If you want your laptop to handle laptop games, video editing, or photo editing, you’ll need a laptop with stronger capabilities to provide a quality experience. Look for a gaming computer and more high-end processors.

You’ll also want to consider the core of the computer. Three common processors include the Intel Core i3, the Intel Core i5, and the Intel Core i7. These designations help provide consumers with some information regarding the processor’s power.

When considering the best processor for laptops, generally speaking, the i7 will be stronger than the i5, which is stronger than the i3. However, sometimes, this can get a little mixed up if you compare newer i5s to older i7s, for example. If you’re in the market for a strong processor, you’ll most likely want to go with an i7.

Other processors you might encounter are the Intel Celeron and the AMD Ryzen family, such as the Ryzen 5.

Screen Size

You’ll also encounter a range of options for laptop screen size. Larger screens can help students see their work more clearly, which they may appreciate. A larger screen can also help to prevent eye strain, which can be particularly helpful if they want to use their computer regularly to watch videos.

However, the trade-off lies in the larger size of the laptop. A bigger screen also comes with a larger and, generally, more bulky body. Consider how much you need a larger screen versus the weight it will add to your bag and balance your needs. For students who aren’t typically working at a computer desk and need a laptop they can easily carry, a lightweight option with a smaller screen may be ideal so they can work on the go.

Special Features

You should also consider if any special features will help you throughout your studies. Some laptops offer special features like a touch screen. Touch-screen laptops like the Microsoft Surface can help students in graphic design courses, but others may appreciate the added functionality, too. You can get a stylus pen to go with the touch screen to enhance students’ ability to navigate the screen.

Those interested in superior graphics will also want to evaluate the merits of in-plane switching (IPS) for their monitor. This type of screen on IPS display laptops can deliver high-quality images but may have a slightly longer delivery time than other options.

If you or your student plan to take online classes, you’ll also want to pay attention to the available webcam and microphone. These two features can make a big difference in the quality of your video conferencing experience. Some students also find it helpful to get laptop accessories, such as an external headset for digital conferencing. If you plan to go this route, check to see if the laptop has compatible USB or HDMI ports. For alternative connectivity, most laptops come with Bluetooth capabilities.

Students studying specific subjects requiring certain programs, such as AutoCAD for architecture, will also want to verify that the laptop they select has the necessary hard drive and program compatibility. If you’re unsure about the specifications to look for in a laptop using applications like this, speak to your teachers.

Finally, pay attention to the warranty that comes with the laptop. If something happens to your laptop, a warranty can give you peace of mind, to help cover the costs for repairs or replacements.

What Is the Best Laptop for Students?

While student gamers might have the most optimal experience with a larger-screened gaming laptop that weighs several pounds but comes with a powerful CPU and graphics card, others might prefer a lighter but less powerful Chromebook that they can slip easily into their messenger bag.

So, choosing the best laptop for students comes down to individual needs. Make a list of what matters most to you in terms of:

  • Operating system. Choose an OS that supports the software and applications you need for schoolwork.
  • Durability. Look for laptops with sturdy build quality to withstand daily use and transport.
  • Battery life. Aim for laptops that offer at least 8-12 hours of battery life to last through a full school day.
  • Processing and graphics capabilities. Ensure the laptop has sufficient power for your specific tasks, whether it’s basic web browsing or high-performance gaming.
  • Special features. Consider features like touch screens for graphic design, IPS monitors for superior graphics, quality webcams and microphones for online classes, and compatibility with necessary software and accessories. Also, check for warranties to provide peace of mind in case of damage.

Here are some of the top laptop options to consider for students:


The Chromebook has become a popular choice for students. These computers offer sleek, light designs, as many internal capabilities don’t weigh them down. Instead, they rely heavily on cloud-based applications, including Google Docs. This means they generally don’t have as much storage space, electing to have users save their material on the cloud.

Since they rely heavily on the cloud, they generally work best whenever you have access to Wi-Fi. However, you can create and edit documents when disconnected from the internet by enabling “offline editing.” The Chromebook will then save your edits locally, syncing them with the cloud when you reconnect to the internet.

Chromebooks can be a great choice for those who are more price-conscious and don’t mind a simpler machine. The best Chromebooks offer a variety of apps to help capture many of the same capabilities as a traditional laptop, while many students appreciate their transportability.

Refurbished Laptop

Refurbished laptops can be excellent choices for students. These computers have been thoroughly cleaned and repaired to function essentially like new, but without the new computer price tag. This can work well for those looking for budget laptops without sacrificing build quality.

Refurbished laptops have also been inspected for quality. From the touchpad to the screen, your refurbished laptop will work like new. This means you can trust the laptop you buy to serve you or your student.


Unlike most laptops, an ultrabook laptop is designed to be thin, lightweight, and highly portable while still offering robust performance. Typically weighing around 2 to 3 pounds and less than an inch thick, ultrabooks are easy to carry around campus. They feature powerful processors, solid-state drives (SSDs), and long battery life, often lasting 8-12 hours on a single charge.

Ultrabooks also have high-resolution screens and fast boot times, enhancing productivity. Their durable build with premium materials like aluminum or carbon fiber makes them reliable for daily use. Overall, ultrabooks are an excellent choice for students who need a portable, efficient, and powerful device for their academic needs.

Find the Best Laptop for You or Your Student

The ideal laptop for you or your student will depend on how you intend to use it and the capabilities you need for schoolwork. So, take your time and browse the wide selection of laptops available. Your schooling is important, and so is the laptop you choose.

If your student’s laptop needs computer repair services, you can head to a local Office Depot store for help with computer diagnostics, virus and malware removal, screen replacements and more.

About the Author

Jessica Burshtynskyy has been a freelance writer for over 10 years. When not at her computer writing, you can usually find her outside by water.

All content provided herein is for educational purposes only. It is provided “as is,” and neither the author nor Office Depot, Inc. warrants the accuracy of the information provided, nor do they assume any responsibility for errors, omissions or contrary interpretation of the subject matter herein.