Choosing a laptop for or as a student isn’t an easy task. Whether you’re looking for a cheap laptop for high school students or college students, there are quite a lot of choices. However, with budget-oriented models, manufacturers often compromise on key components. Therefore, to help you get the best value laptop for your money, we have reviewed 10 of the best cheap laptops for high school and college students.
Best Cheap Laptops for High School and College Students:
ASUS VivoBook F510UA
We’re starting things off with the ASUS VivoBook. It’s supposed to be a budget alternative to their premium ZenBook series, without cutting too many corners. To begin with, the build quality is excellent. The 15.6” model comes in at 3.7 lbs., which is pretty light for such a laptop, too.
Before we go into the specs, you should know that we’re discussing the model with an 8th generation Intel Core i5 processor. The one with a 7th gen processor is a bit cheaper, but Intel has made some of their U series processors quad core for the 8th generation, making the price difference more than worth it. To be more specific, we’re talking about the Intel Core i5-8250U, a quad-core processor running at 1.6GHz, which can turbo boost up to 3.4GHz. To go along with it, you have 8GB of DDR4 RAM, as well as a 1TB hard drive. Unfortunately, there’s no SSD here. You also won’t be getting a dedicated graphics card, but since this is a laptop for students, chances are you won’t need one.
The 15.6” display has a full HD resolution and really slim NanoEdge bezels. On the outside, you get a brushed aluminum look and an 80% screen-to-body ratio. Note, however, that you don’t have a full-size keyboard – there’s no number pad. In terms of connectivity, there’s a USB Type C 3.1 port, as well as both USB 3.0 and USB 2.0, HDMI and SD card slots. All things considered, this is an excellent laptop for day-to-day use.
HP Pavilion X360 2-in-1
If you don’t mind sacrificing some of the VivoBook’s performance in order to get more versatility, HP’s Pavilion X360 might be a good option. It’s a 2-in-1, which means you can flip out the screen and use it as a tablet. It’s also a tad cheaper than the VivoBook.
So, how much performance are you sacrificing? For starters, you only get a dual-core i3-8130U that runs at a base frequency of 2.2GHz and turbos up to 3.4GHz. This should be sufficient for day-to-day tasks and light workloads, but anything more than that, and it will be a bottleneck. The fact that you only have 4GB of DDR4 RAM is also not that great. What is interesting, though, is that we have a 16GB Intel Optane module, which works in conjunction with the RAM to speed up your laptop. Optane keeps some of your most commonly used processes in its cache even when you switch off your laptop, making things a bit faster.
With the X360, you’re also getting a 15.6” full HD IPS panel with HP’s BrightView technology and minimal bezels. It’s a great display, to be honest. There’s also a full-size, island-style keyboard with a backlight, and you’re getting the HP Digital Pen for when you’re using your laptop in tablet mode. It might not be the best laptop for college students, but it will surely get the job done for multimedia use and light workloads.
Acer Aspire 1
Acer’s Aspire 1 has been one of the best budget laptops for a good while now. If you’re only looking at something for doing homework, taking notes in class, and maybe some light work, this one might be the best laptop for high school students.
The first thing to know is that the Aspire 1 isn’t meant to be a productivity beast. It’s made to have a low price, and the choice of components certainly backs that up. For starters, you’re getting Intel’s entry-level Celeron N400. It’s a dual-core CPU which runs at frequencies of up to 2.6GHz. Complementing that is a 4GB DDR4 SDRAM chip, as well as 64GB of eMMC storage. None of this offers stunning performance or amazing speeds, but it gets the job done for light tasks. Oh, and you also have 802.11ac Wi-Fi, which works at both 2.4GHz and 5GHz.
Aside from the internals, there’s also a 14” full HD display, which is a rarity at this price. You may not get stunning colors, but it does get the job done. The build quality is nothing to get excited about, but it should last you a good while. It weighs 3.64 lbs., which is fairly lightweight for a 15.6” laptop. All things considered, if you’re limited by your budget, this might be the best laptop for high school students.
Going back to midrange models, we have another laptop by HP. This time, however, it’s a traditional design, instead of a 2-in-1. Even though this is, overall, a decent laptop, we can’t help but wonder about some of HP’s decisions around it. Let’s not waste any more time, and take a closer look.
To begin with, the laptop has a 7th generation Intel Core i3-7100U processor. It’s a dual-core CPU which runs at 2.4GHz. For basic daily tasks, this isn’t too bad. However, using a 7th generation CPU in a 2021 model year product is somewhat strange. You will also get 8GB of DDR4 RAM, which is more or less the standard these days. It’s plenty for basic multitasking. Even though you’re only getting 128GB of storage, it’s an SSD, and it’s going to be much, much faster than a regular hard drive.
With this laptop, you’ll also get a 14” BrightView display, which unfortunately only has a resolution of 1366 x 768. Even though this might be enough for 14”, at this price, HP should’ve included a full HD display here.
If you can look past the previous generation CPU and the non-full HD display, the fact that you’re getting an SSD should be a sufficient advantage over most of the other options we spoke about so far. It’s a matter of compromise, and it’s up to you whether you can compromise on the CPU and display.
Acer Aspire E15
For those of you who want something with impressive battery life, decent performance, and don’t mind a bit of a heavier laptop, next on our list is Acer’s Aspire E15. In Acer’s lineup, it should be a step up from the Aspire 1, and it indeed comes with better overall performance at a slightly higher price.
The first improvement over the Aspire 1 is the CPU. There’s no Celeron here, instead, you get an 8th generation Core i3-8130U. Even though this is still a dual-core CPU, it will definitely perform better than the N400, since its base frequency is 2.2GHz, but it turbos up to 3.4GHz. Next, we have 2GB more ram for a total of 6GB DDR3 SDRAM. Storage is taken care of with a 1TB SATA hard drive, which should be plenty of storage.
The E15 comes with a 15” full HD display which has good colors and a sharp image. On the outside, build quality is decent, and you have a good selection of ports as well. Battery life is where the E15 excels because Acer claims up to 13.5 hours. This is very optimistic, and you’re unlikely to get this much, but with regular use, you could definitely expect around 10 hours, which is still quite a bit. If the best laptop for college students should have good battery life, the Acer Aspire E15 is definitely a strong contender for the title.
Lenovo Ideapad 330
Moving on with our search for the best laptop for high school students, and college students too, we have our first competitor from Lenovo. Their Ideapad series is the mainstream selection, and the 330 model should be somewhere in the middle of the range.
The Ideapad 330 comes with a quad-core Intel i5-8250U processor, which handles both daily tasks, as well as more intensive tasks. It also has an integrated Intel HD620 graphics card, which won’t be great for gaming, but it’s more than adequate for a student. RAM and storage are up to you because the Ideapad 330 is configurable before you order it. You can choose between 4GB, 8GB or 12GB of DDR4 RAM, as well as 128GB, 256GB, 512GB or 1TB SSD, according to your needs and requirements. Note, however, that the higher you go in RAM and storage, the price will increase quite a bit.
Even though the display is an excellent IPS panel, the resolution is only 1366 x 768, which isn’t impressive in 2021. Port selection is excellent, with a USB Type C 3.1, as well as a couple of USB 3.0 ports, HDMI and 3.5mm jack. There’s a 4-in-1 card reader as well.
If you want to save some money, you could go with the 4GB RAM option and a 128GB SSD. However, if you want something that will last a bit more and will offer better performance, we would suggest moving up to 8GB of RAM, and 256GB or 512GB of storage. You’ll be thankful in the long run.
Dell Inspiron 5000
The next laptop on our list comes from Dell and is another configurable option. With a starting price a touch lower than the Ideapad 330, it’s specs on paper are somewhat similar, with a few notable differences.
The first thing you’ll notice is different is the processor. With the Inspiron 5000, you get a dual-core i3-8130U CPU. Even though it has half the cores of the i5-8250U, it still performs admirably for lighter day-to-day tasks. You won’t be doing any heavier work with it, though. Memory and storage are configurable, and RAM options begin at 8GB, move up to 12GB, and finish with a 16GB option. Storage can be a 128GB, 256GB, 512GB or 1TB SSD, and unlike the Ideapad, you’re getting the option for either an optical drive or a 1TB hard drive. Those of you who need more storage could go with a 128GB SSD to save a few bucks but still get fast boot and loading times, and add a 1TB drive for multimedia storage.
The display is a full HD Truelife panel, which is more or less the norm nowadays. On the outside, you’ll get good build quality, as is to be expected from Dell’s Inspiron series. The port selection is good, with two USB 3.1 ports, as well as an HDMI port. The weight of the Inspiron 5000 might be an issue since it comes in at 4.8 lbs. It’s far from the heaviest laptop on our list, but it’s far from the lightest one, too. If you don’t mind the weight, however, you can get an excellent configuration.
ASUS Chromebook Flip
With all of the aforementioned laptops being based on Windows, we thought we might include a couple of Chromebooks, too. They’re lightweight, don’t require high-end specs to run really well, and are generally made with students in mind. The first one we’ll talk about is the ASUS Chromebook Flip.
To begin with, the Chromebook Flip has a quad-core Rockchip RK3399 processor which runs at a frequency of 2.0GHz. Even though the name might be unfamiliar if the only thing you’ve looked at are Windows laptops, this is a fairly competent chip for a Chromebook. It’s complemented by 4GB of RAM and either 16GB or 32GB of eMMC storage.
One thing to note here, the Chromebook Flip is small. The 1280 x 800 display has a diagonal of 10.1”, and the 360-degree hinge lets you use it as a tablet. It’s also only 0.6” thick and weighs a mere 2 lbs. You might not get a lot performance-wise, but in terms of portability, this is undoubtedly the best laptop for high school students on our list so far.
Acer Chromebook R 11
The other Chromebook on our list is by Acer, and it’s a close competitor to the Chromebook Flip, even beating it in some areas. It’s another lightweight option for students that don’t require too much in terms of performance but only want a basic laptop they can use for taking notes and doing their homework. Let’s take a look at the specs.
For starters, the R 11 has a much better CPU than the Chromebook Flip, opting for a dual-core Intel Celeron N3150. For a Windows laptop, this is slow. Chromebooks, however, don’t need that much power, and the N3150 will give you excellent performance. It also has 4GB of DDR3L RAM, so you can multitask if needed. Storage is eMMC, and the capacity is 32GB. Apps from the Google Play Store don’t take up a lot of room, so you should be good with this.
The display is a 1366 x 768 11.6” panel, with 10-point multi-touch. Like the Chromebook Flip, it has a 360-degree hinge, so you can also use it in tablet mode if you want to. It has a USB 3.0 and a USB 2.0 port, as well as an HDMI port with HDCP support. The battery should last for up to 10 hours, which is quite enough for a day of lessons. Last but not least, it weighs 2.76 lbs. If you’re looking for the best laptop for high school students, or the best laptop for college students, performance wise, and don’t need Windows, this is it.
HP Stream 14”
We’re wrapping up our list with another budget-oriented Windows 10 laptop by HP, the Stream 14”. It comes in either a purple or black variant and is the one to get if you want to attract some attention to yourself in the classroom.
It’s powered by Intel’s Celeron N3060 which goes up to 2.48GHz, as well as 4GB of DDR3 SDRAM. For basic daily tasks, like taking notes and doing homework, this might be a great option, especially considering the price for a certified refurbished unit. However, if you need more power, you should definitely look elsewhere. Storage is only 32GB, which is definitely too little for a Windows 10 machine. The display is a 14” panel with a resolution of 1366 x 768. Unlike the Ideapad 330, this time we can’t be complaining, considering the price.
If we’re being completely honest, the Stream 14” is hard to recommend for anyone but the extremely budget limited individual. Yes, it’s cheap for a refurbished unit, but performance might be underwhelming and there’s certainly not enough storage. If you can afford a better laptop, go for it. If not, the HP Stream 14” should get the job done.