Buying Guide: The 10 best laptops for students in 2016

Buying Guide: The 10 best laptops for students in 2016

Best laptops for students

Even if you feel at home with your nose in a textbook, the end of that ostensibly brief summer break can be the chaos to the otherwise consistent schedule you've already grown accustomed to.

If you're still using a bulky desktop or a laptop that buffers at the thought of an HD video lecture then, alas, it's time for an upgrade. Fortunately, you don't need to take out another student loan just to afford the latest MacBook. Sometimes you can find something just as stylish, such as the Acer Swift 7, without breaking the bank.

Here we've gathered our most recent, top-ranking reviews so that you don't have to, picking out the best laptops for college and high school no matter your budget. From the weird and innovative Lenovo Yoga Book to the rigorous and capable Dell XPS 13, there's bound to be something to get you through the semester.

Can't find what you're looking for? Let us know in the comments below!

best laptops for students

Asus Zenbook UX305

A most affordable and excellent Ultrabook

CPU: 6th generation Intel Core m3 – Core m5 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 515 – 5300 | RAM: 8GB | Screen: 13.3-inch FHD (1,920 x 1,080) – QHD+ (3,200 x 1,800) | Storage: 256GB – 512GB SSD

Solid performance
Incredibly thin and light
Wonky video driver
Tinny speakers

Call it a MacBook Air knockoff if you want, but the Asus ZenBook UX305 is one of the best Ultrabooks you can buy at the moment considering the low price-point. With a full HD screen, a whole 8GB of RAM and up to 512GB of SSD storage, the Asus ZenBook UX305 is a steal.

Like the Dell XPS 13 listed below, this is further proof that you can find a truly primo, general use laptop for less than a thousand bucks. The ZenBook UX305 is an honest-to-goodness laptop that wins at the basics and offers up an attractive package.

Read the full review: Zenbook UX305

best laptops for students

HP Chromebook 14

A well balanced Chromebook

CPU: 6th generation Intel Celeron | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics | RAM: 2GB – 4GB | Screen: 14-inch HD (1366 x 768) – FHD (1,920 x 1,080) | Storage: 16GB – 32GB eMMC

Excellent keyboard and trackpad
Chrome OS is speedy and responsive
Crisp, vivid screen
Average battery life

The HP Chromebook 14 is no performance powerhouse, but Chrome OS's speediness, combined with a funky blue case, makes this one fun notebook to use.

For classwork, this laptop is ideal for high school students or those pursuing degrees in liberal arts because of its low cost and simplicity in its use and maintenance while providing the access to nearly every major app and service an undergrad would need.

Read the full review: HP Chromebook 14

Apple 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display (early 2015)

13.3-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display

The fastest small MacBook Pro yet is a force of nature

CPU: 5th generation Intel Core i5 | Graphics: Intel Iris Graphics 6100 | RAM: 8GB – 16GB | Screen:13.3-inch WQXGA (2,560 x 1,600) | Storage: 128GB – 512GB SSD

Retina Display
Faster processor
Force Touch underdeveloped
Unchanged design

The 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display is an excellent option for students who may need more power than a Chromebook or a MacBook Air without sacrificing portability, thanks to its long battery life, relatively light weight and high resolution display.

Students on a budget will be happy to know that they can get started right away as the MacBook Pro with Retina display ships with free copies of Pages, Numbers, and Keynote out of the box as well as iMovie, Photos, and GarageBand for basic, creative projects.

Read the full review: MacBook Pro 13-inch with Retina display

Acer Chromebook 15 C910

Acer Chromebook 15

The colossus of Chromebooks

CPU: 5th generation Intel Celeron – Core i5 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics | RAM: 2GB – 4GB | Screen: 15.6-inch HD (1,366 x 768) – FHD (1,920 x 1,080) | Storage: 16GB – 32GB SSD

Fast processing speeds
Long battery life
Too heavy
Awkward keyboard

If you're convinced that every Chromebook on the market has to be less than 14 inches, you'd be dead wrong. The Acer Chrombook 15, for example, boasts not only a whopping 15.6-inch screen, but it also packs an equally impressive range of processors.

Despite some slight discomfort experienced during prolonged use, but you can snatch the Acer Chromebook 15 at a much cheaper price now than when it originally released, making it well worth the sacrifice.

Read the full review: Acer Chromebook 15 C910

Best laptops for students

13-inch MacBook Air

Finally, battery life within our grasp

CPU: 5th generation Intel Core i5 – Core i7 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 6000 | RAM: 8GB | Screen:13.3-inch WXGA+ (1,440 x 900) | Storage: 128GB – 512GB SSD

Fantastic battery life
Broadwell processors
No Retina screen
Not user upgradeable

Though it's yet to adopt Apple's Retina display standard, the benefit to this compromise is a 12-hour battery life coupled paired with a dual-core, Broadwell processor.

Plus, if you don't like the feel of the 12-inch MacBook's low-travel butterfly keys, the MacBook Air uses a more traditional chiclet-style keyboard. And hey, a MacBook Air is the most affordable way to get that backlit Apple logo on the back of your laptop.

Read the full review: MacBook Air 13-inch

best laptops for students

Lenovo IdeaPad Y700

Long battery life tops off this attractive gaming laptop

CPU: 6th generation Intel Core i5 – Core i7 | Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GTX 960M (2GB – 4GB) | RAM: 8GB – 16GB | Screen: 15.6-inch FHD IPS (1,920 x 1,080) | Storage: 500GB HDD – 1TB HDD + 512GB SSD

Looks great
Ample battery life
Ethernet port
Gets hot
Terrible trackpad buttons

Look, you're bound to have some down time during college and high school, so why not put some of that entertainment cost into one of these bad boys? This 15-inch gaming laptop looks nice and its price tag is even nicer.

Don't expect to run games on Ultra settings, but hey, with a system like this you'll be able to accomplish just about anything else – from writing essays to making movies.

Read the full review: Lenovo IdeaPad Y700

best laptops for students

Dell XPS 13

A revolution in laptop design

CPU: 6th generation Intel Core i5 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 520 | RAM: 4GB – 8GB | Screen: 13.3-inch FHD (1,920 x 1,080) | Storage: 128GB – 256GB SSD

Strong performance
Off-center webcam
Small frame limits battery life

Packing a high-resolution screen and serious processing power, there's more to the Dell XPS 13 than being a surprisingly small Ultrabook.

There's a 13-inch display crammed into an 11-inch body, a truly worthy competitor to a certain aluminum laptop line perfect for any basic coursework scenario. After all, Apple doesn't make the only premium, general use laptop worth batting an eye at, and the Dell XPS 13 is the proof.

Read the full review: Dell XPS 13

best laptops for students

HP Pavilion x2

The best and most affordable Windows 10 convertible

CPU: Intel Atom Z8300 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics | RAM: 2GB | Screen: 10.1-inch WXGA (1,280 x 800) | Storage: 32GB eMMC

Long battery life
Roaring speakers
Absurdly affordable
32-bit Windows 10
Limited storage and memory

The HP Pavilion x2 might be a little tike of a 2-in-1 laptop, but it's a great Windows 10 device for media and basic computing tasks.

If you seek something to suit those Sundays spent streaming Netflix in bed as well as it does taking notes in the classroom, this is a fine place to start that search. Lightweight and capable for but a relative pittance, you'll get a tablet and a laptop that nail the basics in equal measure.

Read the full review: HP Pavilion x2

Microsoft Surface Pro 4

Microsoft Surface Pro 4

The tablet that can replace your laptop

CPU: 6th generation Intel Core m3 – Core i7 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 515 – Iris Graphics | RAM: 4GB – 16GB | Screen: 12.3-inch PixelSense (2,736 x 1,824) | Storage: 128GB – 1TB SSD

High-res screen
Improved Type Cover
Cover still sold separately
Intel Core m3 to start

A higher resolution screen, a thinner design and a move to Intel's more powerful Skylake processors all help to make this portable tablet a capable replacement for your laptop. Sadly, the Type Cover keyboard is still an optional necessity for this laptop replacement.

Nevertheless, what you do get is one of the few tablets we can say for certain can replace your laptop. Luckily, with Windows 10, it serves as a great companion device, too.

Read the full review: Microsoft Surface Pro 4

best laptops for students

Samsung Notebook 7 Spin

MacBook Pro size and power, MacBook Air price

CPU: 2.5GHz Intel Core i7-6500U | Graphics: Nvidia GeForce 940MX (2GB DDR3L); Intel HD Graphics 520 | RAM: 12GB – 16GB | Screen: 15.6-inch Full HD (1,920 x 1,080) LED with touch panel | Storage: 1 TB HDD – 1TB HDD; 128GB SSD

Snappy keyboard
Very versatile
Hefty weight
Graphics narrowly miss the mark

For less than a grand, you could get a MacBook Air, complete with a sub-1080p screen and a Broadwell processor or you could buy a Samsung Notebook 7 Spin. A 2-in-1 laptop with an HDR-enabled, Full HD touchscreen, the Spin boasts both a discrete Nvidia graphics chip and one of the latest Intel CPUs.

Considering the sheer horsepower you can exert from this thing and – we can't stress this enough – an HDR screen, the Samsung Notebook 7 Spin is perfect for the classroom or the dorm. Sure, it uses an old-school hard drive and a standard-def webcam, but at the same time, but few concessions are made to keep the price down and its value up.

Read the full review: Samsung Notebook 7 Spin

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Windows 10 week: 10 Xbox One games we’re just dying to Play Anywhere

Windows 10 week: 10 Xbox One games we're just dying to Play Anywhere

Xbox Play Anywhere needs these games

Xbox Play Anywhere

Xbox Play Anywhere is arguably the biggest Windows Anniversary Update feature gamers are looking forward to. The new service essentially allows you to buy a game once and then own it across both Windows 10 and Xbox One – all while transferring your saves, achievements, any DLC purchases and supporting cross-platform multiplayer to boot.

While that might sound like a simple concept, Microsoft has been dragging its feet to bring major console franchises to its PC audience. Thankfully, the Redmond, Wash. company has recently been turning things around by simultaneously releasing Gears of War Ultimate Edition and Quantum Break on both the Windows Store and Xbox One.

Later this autumn, the family of Xbox Play Anywhere titles will grow a lot bigger, with games like Gears of War 4 and Forza Horizon 3. While that's great and all, here are some of the unannounced games we would love to see on the service.

Mafia III

Xbox Play Anywhere

The Mafia series has been criminally underappreciated compared competing crime franchises like Grand Theft Auto and Saint's Row. While most games in the subgenre place you into the shoes of a modern criminal, the Mafia I and Mafia II explored the 1930s and '40s, respectively. Now, Mafia III takes you into 1968, a flashpoint in history marking the end of the Civil Rights Movement and just after the Vietnam War.

While the Mafia series has classically tackled more complex themes and uncommon backdrops, it has only really achieved cult status so far. And so, Xbox Play Anywhere could be the last extra step to get a larger group of gamers interested in this underrated series.

Titanfall II

Xbox Play Anywhere

While Microsoft lost the console exclusivity rights to Titanfall II, adding this mech-busting game to its Play Anywhere network could spur a few more gamers to jump for the Xbox One version. The first Titanfall game was already widely enjoyed on both the Xbox One and PC, so we imagine it would be simple for Microsoft to set up a deal with publisher EA to make it happen again.

With a new single-player campaign, swanky grappling hooks, and rock'em-sock'em, sword-wielding mechs, Titanfall 2 could be just the game to put the Xbox One back on the map for first-person shooter fans.

Battlefield 1

Xbox Play Anywhere

Although Battlefield has been available to consoles since its second installment, the series still primarily lives on PC and that could easily be a win-win for you. If Microsoft can work out the Xbox Play Anywhere deal for Battlefield 1, users could simply buy the Xbox One version and have the PC version at the same time.

On top of owning a copy across both platforms, your rank and all unlocks should carry over, making it so you're constantly leveling up the same profile no matter what system you're playing on.

Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Special Edition

Xbox Play Anywhere

By now, just about everyone has played Skyrim, but that's no reason to skip out on the remastered version. It has enhanced graphics and all the DLC included, but the only problem is paying $60 for a game you probably already finished is a bitter pill to swallow.

However, if you were to pay for one copy and get it across two systems, that makes things sweeter. Plus while you're Dovahkiin-ing it across Skyrim, the cross-platform saves will save you the trouble of playing two characters on different devices, or finding some way of transferring your saves across PC and Xbox One all the time.

Dead Rising 4

Xbox Play Anywhere

Considering all of Microsoft's other mainstay franchise (including Crackdown, Gears of War, Halo and Forza) are making their way over to PCs, it's not a stretch to think that Dead Rising 4 will follow suit. None the less, Microsoft has yet to announce whether Dead Rising 4 will indeed be an Xbox Play Anywhere title, so it's high on our wish list.

Rendering all those zombies is a little easier on PC as Dead Rising 3: Apocalypse has shown and, of course, you get better graphics to boot. With Xbox Play Anywhere's cross-platform features, it should be easier for users to get a zombie-killing competition going with your computer friends who don't have an Xbox One.

Gwent: The Witcher Card Game

Xbox Play Anywhere

Digital trading cards are all the rage, as Hearthstone as proven, and now our favorite mini-game in The Witcher 3 is being spun out into its own full-fledged experience. Unfortunately, the Hearthstone phenomenon pretty much bypassed consoles completely, opting for mobile and PC platforms instead. But that doesn't mean Gwent won't be a huge console hit.

CD Projeckt Red has a steady track record of bringing its games to consoles, and we're hoping it does the same with Gwent. As with other titles, the ability to pick up and play with the same save could come in handy for building up your deck across systems.

Madden NFL 17

Xbox Play Anywhere

Madden NFL games haven't been seen on PCs since 2008 due to a lack of interest on the gaming PC platform. While it's been a challenge to develop games for both consoles and PCs, the two platforms are extremely similar now, thanks to similar AMD APUs ticking in both the Xbox One and PS4.

Microsoft's Universal Windows Platform should theoretically make developing games for both the PC and Xbox One even more seamless. Add in the added features of Xbox Play Anywhere, and Madden could – and hopefully will – make it back onto desktops with its 2017 iteration.

Mass Effect Andromeda

Xbox Play Anywhere

So far, we've only gotten brief glimpses of the next Mass Effect game, but by the time it releases, Xbox Play Anywhere could be a fully established platform. The space-faring RPG seems like the perfect title to join Microsoft's growing family of cross-platform supported games. Imagine being able to take on missions from a home console and then taking to the stars while you're at a café with a gaming laptop.

Kingdom Hearts 3

Xbox Play Anywhere

Speaking of long awaited sequels, Kingdom Hearts 3 is another game we're hoping will come out with Xbox Play Anywhere support. Considering its predecessors took hundreds of hours to complete, we're betting the third installment will take just as long – if not longer.

That's great if you're looking for a chunky game to sink your teeth into and annoying for any potential life partners or siblings. Whether you're being batted away from the living room TV or the computer, you would have a spare device to run to and pick up the game from your last save.


Xbox Play Anywhere

Who says Xbox Play Anywhere should only be for AAA titles? Smaller indie games could stand to gain the most from Microsoft's new mission to bridge PCs and the Xbox One. Not everyone has a badass gaming PC or laptop, but almost everyone has a notebook of some sort.

While a Dell XPS 13 or Surface Pro 4 aren't the most impressive gaming machines, they can hold their own while playing less-demanding indie titles. Pair the ability to play games anywhere and on your home Xbox, and indie games could be an even bigger hit.

There's a good share of upcoming indie titles with a lot of chatter about them, like Cuphead and We Happy Few, already on board the Xbox Play Anywhere initiative. But, we're hoping the Tacoma, the sci-fi exploration game from the developer of Gone Home, will be added soon.

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HP puts some major pep into its new Z240 workstation

HP puts some major pep into its new Z240 workstation

HP has revealed the third-generation of its Z240 workstation, which is aimed at SMBs and boasts a major jump in performance.

The new relatively compact PCs can be specified with an Intel CPU running at up to 4.2GHz, and up to 64GB of DDR4 ECC memory (in other words, you can fit twice as much system RAM compared to its predecessor workstation).

Nvidia or AMD graphics can be specified, and you get a built-in M.2 slot for expansion cards, with HP noting that this frees up a PCIe slot – which can then be used for an HP Z Turbo Drive (optionally, two of these SSDs can be included on board).

On the operating system front, you can either go with Windows 7 or Windows 10, or for those who prefer the non-Microsoft route, Linux can be installed.

Gruelling testing

Josh Peterson, vice president, global product management for workstations at HP, commented: "The Z240 is ideal for customers in the video editing, product design, architecture, engineering, education, public sector and image-viewing industries."

The machine is also fully ISV-certified, and Peterson added: "The 368,000 hours of gruelling quality testing and ISV certification means the HP Z240 is designed as a long-term budget friendly solution."

There are some neat extras touches here as well, such as optional dust filters to help keep the innards of this PC from being clogged up with dust particles and the like, and also you can specify carrying handles to make this workstation more easily portable.

Finally, the Z240 comes with an integrated HP Remote Graphics Software receiver, which allows for an easy and secure remote hook-up between the workstation and a Mac or MacBook for sharing and using apps across these platforms.

HP says that prices will start from just under $900 (around £685, AU$1,195).

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