12 Of The Best Laptops For Students & Teachers

A laptop is a laptop.

Only anymore, that’s not entirely true. The collection ambition of the computer industry–undoubtedly pushed forward by consumer appetite for gadgets–has created an palpable enthusiasm for technology design.

When you factor in the relatively recent development of mobile technology in general, and you have an era ripe for innovation, experimentation, and some awkward experimental designs as manufacturers try to figure it all out.

6 Questions To Consider When Buying A Laptop

1. Which operating system do you prefer?

This narrows it down quickly, and the two major players are obviously Microsoft and Apple, with Google’s Chrome OS recently making a nice dent in both. Making a decision here will cut your list dramatically.

For most users, Microsoft likely makes the most sense in terms of affordability, options, and ecology. That said, Apple is obviously a brilliant choice for others. And they usually know who they are.

Do you want your smartphone to work together with your laptop–an iPhone and a MacBook, for example?

Decisions, decisions.

2. Does mobility matter?

Do you want an ultrabook, or basic clamshell design? Should it be a 2-in-1? If so, does the screen have to detach? What size screen do you prefer? And weight? How mobile do you need it to be?

13.3 and 14″ are nice compromises if you’re not sure.

3. How will you use it?

If you’re only going to type papers, take notes, and send some emails, you can buy your basic $350 laptop from your local department store and be done with it. But if you expect more out of a laptop–and don’t want to carry your laptop, phone, and tablet–then you ‘ve got some thinking to do.

How about note-taking with Evernote or OneNote? Voice-recording for lectures or group work? Using learning simulations at home or in the classroom? Sharing notes that are a hybrid of drawing and words–sketch notes, for example–and then making them searchable and shareable with peers?

These kinds of questions can push you from the lower-end just a laptop, to the new ultrabooks.

4. How do you want your speed?

Speed is not just a matter of processor speed or memory, but also storage. The relatively recent solid-state hard drives offer a significant increase in speed over traditional hard drives–but at a cost. Do you store everything locally, or in the cloud? If the latter, hard-drive capacity matters less than speed.

One nice option is to use the cloud–Microsoft OneDrive, Dropbox, Google Drive, etc.

5. What are the details?

Do you want the most recent versions of bluetooth, WiFi, and USB? Any certain number of ports? LTE or WiFi only?

How about a touch screen? 5 point or 10? Capacitive or no? (The answer is yes if you need to do anything other than basic doodling on that fancy screen.)

6. What’s the budget?

This question and question #1 can make this is an easy decision.

There Is No Best

Of course, there is no “best.” But we had to give it a shot, and so we established three general categories that seemed to make the most sense for the classroom: Features, Mobility, and Cost.

Meaning that each of the following dozen laptops either works particularly well in one area, or does a decent job in all three. Every student will obviously weight these factors differently. For example, your average middle or high school student probably needs a basic, 13 or 14″ laptop that’s durable, not too expensive, and that has an excellent WiFi connection that can at least try to do its job when the school’s connection is spotty.

An engineering or art student will more heavily weight a capactive display for use with a smart stylus, while your general undergrad that only uses their laptop to type papers will consider cos and not much else. (Toshiba and Acer make some nice products, here.)

With the inherent vagueness and opacity of these kinds of lists clarified, you can see the dozen we came up with. Some are expensive. Some are ultrabooks. Some are rather basic. (See rationale above.) The big idea of this list is to represent an excellent starting point for teachers and students beginning to research what’s possible for laptops today.

Anymore, a laptop is no longer just a laptop.

12 Of The Best Laptops For Students & Teachers in 2014 and 2015; image attribution flickr user vancouverfilmschool