As summer begins to wind down and September is in sight, a familiar ritual begins: parents frantically search for the best laptops and the best deals as back to school panic starts to sink in.
A computer is practically a must-have for high school and college students, and even those in primary school benefit from having access to one at home. For many families, a notebook is the best choice because of its portability and the compact size. Students can carry one around and set it up to work practically anywhere.
As anyone who has bought one before can probably tell you, cheap laptops aren’t always the best laptops, but that doesn’t mean you need to break the bank to equip a student.
We’ve put together a list of the five best laptops for students who are about to go back to school soon.
Best Laptops for Students Going Back to School: 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display
Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) makes some of the best (or at least most popular) laptops around. While the ultra-thin MacBook may take the prize for visual appeal, the 13-inch MacBook Pro is a true workhorse of a PC at a reasonable price.
Starting at $1,299, this isn’t going to make any list of cheap laptops, but for the price, you get a very capable computer with premium build and 10-hour battery life.
Apple’s Retina display (with over 4 million pixels) pops and the combination of an Intel (NASDAQ:INTC) Core i5 CPU with 8GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD make for a high-performance laptop.
It runs OS X, but if you want to run Microsoft Corporation‘s (NASDAQ:MSFT) Windows 10, you can do so using Apple’s Boot Camp dual-boot feature, or run Windows as a virtual PC.
While you won’t find Apple offering any laptop deals in the traditional sense, the company does offer a break with its educational pricing and to sweeten the MacBook Pro, it’s throwing in a free pair of Beats wireless headphones with student purchases.
Best Laptops for Students Going Back to School: Acer Aspire Switch Alpha 12
Microsoft’s Surface Pro 4 would be great for students, but it’s very expensive and you have to buy the optional Type Cover to use it as a laptop.
However, the Acer (OTCMKTS:ACEYY) Aspire Switch Alpha 12 offers a very similar experience at a much more affordable price, and it includes the keyboard cover, so you can use this tablet as a laptop right out of the box.
Starting at $699, you get a 12-inch QHD IPS display/tablet with an Intel Core i5 CPU, 8GB of RAM, a 128GB SSD and liquid cooling for silent operation. Despite the big display, it weighs under three pounds, making it easy to carry.
That’s a pretty solid deal, especially when you consider the fact that the Aspire Switch Alpha 12 covers off both tablet and laptop duty.
Best Laptops for Students Going Back to School: Asus ROG GL752
Why would you want to consider a 17-inch gaming laptop for back to school?
If you have a student who’s a gamer — and there are many of those out there — it makes sense to buy them a laptop they can do homework on and use to play. The Asus ROG GL752 is also an option for students in programs that require significant processing power since this laptop is equipped to take on tasks like 3D rendering.
Despite having high performance specs, including a 6th-generation quad-core Intel Core i7 CPU, 16GB of RAM, an Nvidia GeForce GTX 960M graphics card and a 17.3-inch FullHD display, this laptop starts at $1,099.
There are more capable gaming laptops out there, but they are much bulkier and much more expensive. The Asus ROG GL752 strikes a balance between performance and affordability that will appeal to many parents and the students they’re equipping for the fall.
Best Laptops for Students Going Back to School: 13-inch MacBook Air
With its non-Retina display, previous generation CPU and the MacBook now claiming the thin ground in Apple’s line-up, the MacBook Air is showing its age.
However, it’s tough to beat what is now Apple’s entry-level notebook, even when comparing it against cheap laptops in the Windows camp.
For $999 you get a 13-inch laptop machined out of solid aluminum that weighs under three pounds. Inside are a Core i5 CPU, 8GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD — that CPU may be last year’s model but it’s still good enough to run most applications a student would use.
The MacBook Air also offers 12-hours of battery life and includes niceties like a full-sized backlit keyboard and a glass trackpad.
And, like the MacBook Pro, students can get an education price break as well as a free pair of Beats wireless headphones as part of Apple’s back to school 2016 promotion.
Best Laptops for Students Going Back to School: Toshiba Chromebook 2
Parents like Chromebooks because when it comes to cheap laptops, it’s tough to find a Windows portable that can match the low price.
Unfortunately, that affordability is often based on compromises in component quality.
In particular, this Chromebook has a very nice, 13.3-inch Full HD IPS display, LED backlit keyboard, 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Intel Celeron CPU and 4GB of RAM.
As far as Chromebooks go, it’s a fast performer with a display that looks good with a crisp display of text and bright video playback — one of the best student laptop deals around if you can live with not being able to run Windows.
As of this writing, Brad Moon did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.