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The best student laptops from our tests

Plus, expert tips for buying a laptop for school-aged kids. 

students working on laptop
Last updated: 15 January 2024

Need to know

  • You'll need to consider a number of factors when choosing a laptop for your school-aged child
  • Price is obviously a key consideration, but so is size, durability, battery life and power
  • For CHOICE members, our experts reveal which laptops they recommend for students

Prepping to send your child back to school can be expensive enough, but if your young person needs a laptop or device this year it'll push your costs even higher. 

And with such a big expense, you'll want to be sure you make the right choice so it'll (hopefully) see you through until your child finishes school. 

So before you drop hundreds (or thousands) of dollars on a new laptop, here's what you need to know. 

Plus, for CHOICE members, we'll reveal the student laptops our experts recommend. If you just want to get straight to the best products, jump straight to the results now.

The most important things to consider

Choosing a laptop for a school student is always a trade-off between portability and power: they'll have to haul it around all day in their already-heavy school bag, but it needs to be sufficiently powerful to allow them to easily complete their work. 

Durability is also a key consideration, particularly as the device is likely to sustain a few bumps in the school bag or playground over its lifetime. If you have a younger child, you always want to ensure it lasts as long as possible throughout their schooling career.

Things to consider when researching a student laptop:

  • Comfort: Is the laptop comfortable to use and comfortable to carry?
  • Power: How powerful a laptop does your child need for their work?
  • Durability: How long do you need it to last? 
  • Battery life: A long enough working time between charges to get them through the school day at a minimum
  • Price: Everyone's budget is different, but does your high schooler really need a $3000+ high-powered laptop?
  • Weight: School bags can already be heavy, so you may need to look at lighter laptops to ease the strain on your child's growing body.
  • Screen size: Try to find a happy medium between comfortable to work on and comfortable to carry.
  • Ports: You'll need at least one USB-A and one USB-C port. 
  • RAM: Go for 8GB at an absolute minimum, but aim for 16GB. (32GB is likely overkill.)
  • Storage: The safest minimum would probably be 256GB, but if your kid plans on installing multiple games, 512GB might be a safer bet.
  • Operating system: Before you buy, check which operating systems your child's school accepts.

What size laptop should you buy for a student?

There are no hard and fast rules here, but consider the pros and cons of small vs large (see below). It's about finding a balance between how comfortable the laptop is to work on and how easy it is to carry. 

It's about finding a balance between how comfortable the laptop is to work on and how easy it is to carry

As a ballpark guide, anything under 13 inches could be uncomfortable to work on for long periods, and more than 16 inches is probably bigger than a student would need. (Although this obviously depends on what they'll be doing on it.)

Your child's school may have specific guidelines for screen size, so make sure you're clear on what the parameters are before you start shopping.

The pros and cons of smaller laptops

Smaller can be cheaper and more portable, but it's not always the right choice. 


  • Can be cheaper.
  • Easier to carry, especially for younger children.
  • You can go for a lower-resolution screen without sacrificing crisp text and images.


  • Smaller screen size can be hard on the eyes.
  • May be less comfortable for longer work sessions.
  • Can have fewer functions than larger laptops/More basic models may have fewer functions and ports than larger, premium laptops.
  • Might not be suitable as your child gets older.

The pros and cons of larger laptops

Going big from the get-go might seem like a good way to future-proof your child's computer so it'll last them right up to the end of school, but the extra expense and weight can mean they're not suitable for every situation.


  • Larger screen is easier to see and puts less strain on necks and shoulders.
  • A bigger keyboard is more comfortable to use.
  • You'll often get a larger trackpad, which can make fine mouse movements easier.


  • They're often more expensive.
  • The heavier weight can be difficult for smaller children to carry.
  • You'll need a higher resolution screen than for a smaller laptop.

How much do you need to spend on a student laptop?

As with all purchases, it's a 'how long is a piece of string?' situation. But here's a ballpark guide:

  • You shouldn't need to spend too much more than $1500 for a good Windows school laptop.
  • Basic Windows models can be as cheap as $600, but you should expect limited performance and poor screen quality.
  • The student-friendly laptops our experts rate range in price from $1298 to $1999.

Do you need to buy a durable laptop for your child?

Particularly for school kids, durability shouldn't be overlooked. Some tablets are highly water-resistant (though their keyboards might not be). Most laptops, on the other hand, are notoriously susceptible to accidental spills.

A rare feature in laptops and tablets is drop and impact resistance. Some tablets can mitigate this with a sturdy case. Laptops are generally safe while in a bag, thanks to their bottom half protecting the screen.

But as for drops, your only recourse might be crossed fingers or a quick prayer – and portable cover on your contents insurance (though you'll need to read the fine print to make sure it covers your child taking it to school).

What software will my child need on their laptop?

Students are sometimes required to use specific software for their studies, but you often have a bit more leeway.

Even if you're required to submit work in a certain filetype (such as Microsoft Word's .docx), you might be able to find something that will do the job for free.

For example, alternatives to Microsoft's Office suite abound. LibreOffice and Google's productivity suite are possibly the most popular. Both include a word processor, spreadsheet program, and presentation program.

Google Docs, Google Sheets, and Google Slides are cloud-based, but you can save your files offline, so you don't need an active internet connection to work. But you do need a Google account.

The best student laptops

The detailed results of our laptops review, plus the laptops that our experts recommend, are available exclusively to CHOICE members. 

If you're not yet a member, join CHOICE to access thousands of independent reviews from our state-of-the-art labs. Our industry experts rigorously test and compare the latest household products and services, looking at everything from washing machines and vacuum cleaners to mattresses, lawnmowers, health insurance and more. We'll help you save time and money with our independent, unbiased advice.

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acer swift go 14 sfg14 71 784x

Acer Swift Go 14

  • CHOICE Expert Rating: 75% (Recommended)
  • Average battery life (heavy usage): 6h34min
  • Weight: 1.3kg
  • Price: $1799

What our expert tester says:

Acer's Swift Go has a high-resolution, 14-inch OLED screen that's perfectly suitable for videos. Unlike LED-backlit screens, you don't get pale bars when watching movies, and its colours are rich and vibrant. 

The CPU is one of Intel's 13th generation Core i7 models, which is perfect for heavy multitasking and processor-heavy apps that can make use of all its cores. 

There's a good array of ports on its sides, including a USB-C Thunderbolt 4 port, HDMI, and microSD. A couple of cons are the poor speakers, and the overly sensitive power-button-fingerprint-reader, which is a bit too easy to inadvertently press. 

But if you're after a great screen and plenty of speed, it's a laptop to consider.

Read the full Acer Swift Go 14 review.

asus zenbook 14 ux3402z

ASUS Zenbook 14 UX3402Z

  • CHOICE Expert Rating: 75% (Recommended)
  • Average battery life (heavy usage): 6h46min
  • Weight: 1.4kg
  • Price: $1499

What our expert tester says:

The ASUS ZenBook 14 is a stylish laptop with a matte screen, which, while being very good overall, does have noticeable backlight bleeding when watching movies. 

However, it's a very fast laptop with a good range of ports and high user comfort, thanks mainly to a very good keyboard and a touchpad that can also double as a number pad.

Read the full ASUS Zenbook 14 review.

The best of the rest

These laptops didn't quite make the cut-off to be recommended by our experts, but they still score well and deliver solid performance on a budget. They're well worth considering if you don't have $2K+ to splash on a laptop. 

dell inspiron 13 5330

Dell Inspiron 13 5330

  • CHOICE Expert Rating: 74%
  • Average battery life (heavy usage): 5h55min
  • Weight: 1.2kg
  • Price: $1298

What our expert tester says:

The Dell Inspiron 13 5330 is a 13.3-inch laptop that can supply very fast performance in a relatively small and light package. 

It comes with a couple of Thunderbolt 4 ports, in addition to HDMI, though it lacks an SD card slot. Its matte WVA-based screen is very good overall, but it does have slightly narrower viewing angles than laptops with an IPS-based screen.

Read the full Dell Inspiron 13 review.

dell inspiron 14 5430

Dell Inspiron 14 5430

  • CHOICE Expert Rating: 74%
  • Average battery life (heavy usage): 7h2min
  • Weight: 1.6kg
  • Price: $1499

What our expert tester says:

Dell's Inspiron 14 5430 is a basic laptop for everyday work. Its keyboard is comfortable, its screen decent, and it has a good range of ports on its sides.

We rated its touchpad, keyboard and Wi-Fi speed as 'very good'.

Read the full Dell Inspiron 14 review.

asus vivobook s14 k5404va m9083x

Asus Vivobook S14 (K5404VA-M9083X)

  • CHOICE Expert Rating: 78%
  • Weight: 1.5kg
  • RAM: 16GB
  • Price: $1999

At 14.5 inches, the ASUS Vivobook S 14 offers a good balance between comfortable use and portability. 

The high-resolution (2880 x 1800) display uses OLED technology, which produces vibrant results with good contrast (excellent for watching videos), but might be difficult to use in direct sunlight thanks to a middling peak luminance and glossy screen. 

A high-end processor, plenty of RAM, and 512GB of storage means most tasks will be dealt with easily. Meanwhile, an excellent keyboard should make typing more of a joy than a chore.

It also has a good array of ports.

Read the full Asus Vivobook S14 review

acer travelmate b5 14 tmb514 31 30bs

Acer TravelMate B5 14 (TMB514-31-30BS)

  • CHOICE Expert Rating: 73%
  • Weight: 1.7kg
  • RAM: 8GB
  • Price: $1389

Acer's TravelMate B5 14 is designed for students (or parents of students) who want something more robust than usual. It's certified against some sand and dust ingress, and has a bumper that can reportedly guard against drops up to a maximum of 122cm.

It also includes a spill resistant keyboard with weep hole drainage, which we put to the test with a glass of water (it passed). 

The texture on the lid helps with grip when being carried, although a backpack will likely be your go-to thanks to its 1.7kg weight. 

It has useful ports, but unfortunately no Thunderbolt.

Read the full Acer TravelMate B5 14 review.

microsoft surface laptop go 3 model 2013

Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 3 (Model 2013)

  • CHOICE Expert Rating: 73%
  • Weight: 1.1kg
  • RAM: 16GB
  • Price: $1729

Microsoft's Surface Laptop Go 3 values portability over performance. Its small 12.4-inch  touchscreen and light 1.1kg weight makes it highly mobile for a laptop. 

The chassis is sleek and doesn't over-indulge, but whether that's a good thing is up to you. 

All that's on offer is one USB-C port (non-Thunderbolt), a 3.5mm headphone port, and a USB-A port (USB 3.1). 

Storage is 256GB, and most everyday tasks will be handled well by a 12th Gen Core i5 CPU and 16GB RAM, though an 8GB RAM version is available for $1429. The display resolution is below 1080p.

Read the full Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 3 review.

Stock images: Getty, unless otherwise stated.