Most schools in Australia require high school students to bring your own device (BYOD). In other words: They are going to need a laptop.
When I had to buy a student laptop for my eldest daughter I felt overwhelmed by the cost and choice available. I was also conflicted between buying her the best available if it would help her performance at school and buying the cheapest available in case she dropped it on the first week of term.
Having successfully armed both my daughters with laptops which have seen them through their school years, I would like to share my knowledge with you.
In this article I cover:
- Student laptop: New or secondhand
- What students need in a laptop for school
- Which laptop brand is best for high school students
- How much power does a student laptop need
- Deals on student laptops
- The best student laptops you can buy today
Student laptop: New or secondhand
Whether you buy a new or second-hand laptop is up to you and depends on the brand you want and how much you have to spend. For example, a second-hand Mac can be the same price or more than another brand that you buy new.
By the time my second daughter needed a computer for school, I had an old work one that I rarely used. For this reason, passing my old one on to her was a no-brainer. If you do this, I would suggest you get your local computer shop to run a health check on the device to ensure it’s in good condition and ready to use for all that school work!
I know plenty of mums who have bought used devices online and have been happy with their purchases. My advice is to buy from a reputable source where they clean and refurbish before re-sale. Try Australian Computer Traders, Recompute or do a local search on Google.
What students need in a laptop for school
Long battery life
A laptop with a long battery life should be one of your top priorities. You don’t want to run out of juice in the middle of class or always bring your heavy powerbank with you.
A blazing fast CPU is recommended if you are an art, design, or architecture student who will be doing 3d design or video editing, but a laptop with decent processing power (like an i5/Ryzen with 8GB RAM) should be enough for general use.
Most laptops have Windows and a browser installed, but you should check if the salesperson could throw in essentials like Microsoft Office as well. If not, take advantage of the student discount or group discount.
The amount of storage you need depends on what you will use the laptop for. Consider getting the most storage you can afford if you will do programming, 3D work, photography, or video editing.
How much power does a student laptop need?
A laptop with decent processing power (Intel Core i3 to i5 or AMD Ryzen 3 and up with 8GB RAM and about 500GB SSD) should be enough for many high school or college students.
For demanding apps and special software (photography, video editing, 3D design, programming, etc.), get a laptop with a powerful processor and GPU. For years K to 7, an affordable device that is responsive, lightweight, and runs MS Office applications is a good buy.
Which laptop brand is best for high school students
Choosing a brand for a computer is a fairly personal thing, and your student might want some say in it.
Most kids nowadays want Apple. My girls wouldn’t be seen dead at school with anything other than a Mac. Since I am a Mac convert and all our other devices are Apple, this was the most sensible option for us. But that doesn’t mean it is for you.
I’ve listed some of the best brands on the market in 2023 later in this article, but here are some points to think about when choosing a laptop brand:
- Is it compatible with other devices in your home should you need need to share files or borrow chargers?
- Do you have a brand you love and know how to use? If so, get that as it will save heaps of time learning new systems
- Choose a well-known brand with a good reputation that is easily serviceable, such as Lenovo, Dell, Microsoft, or Mac
- Does the brand you are thinking of buying offer good customer and aftercare service?
- What is the warranty period and what is included?
Deals on student laptops
Deals on student laptops are available all year round but are more prevalent at these times:
- As back-to-school draws nearer: End of December and January
- At the end of the financial year: June
Keep an eye out for specials on the brand website as well as big online superstores which have often come up trumps for me. I have also found that my local electric stores are happy to offer a deal, especially if you’re after accessories such as protective cases and extra leads which they might add for free. Although this is not the case with Apple, which very rarely reduce its prices or throw in extras.
The best student laptops you can buy today
For students on a budget looking for a lightweight laptop for general use, the IdeaPad 3 Slim is a good option. The price is reasonable for the specs which are designed for light tasks like word processing, social media, and online browsing. I would recommend this laptop for high school students who want something quick and dependable on-the-go. The battery life is pretty decent and the 14″ screen is enough for these basic tasks. One downside is that you can’t run demanding applications or the latest games in this machine. But overall, still a good buy for a student who’s going to be browsing online and using MS office most of the time.
Screen size: 14 inches
Battery Life: Depends on use, around 9.5 hours of video streaming
I found this laptop at: Big W
Aussie brand Kogan’s lightweight offering is another protable, sleek machine that’s best for bastic tasks. What I like most about this laptop is the price. If your student is only going to be using MS Office and a web browser most of the time, then this laptop is a good deal at $319. I found the battery life to be middling and the speakers could be better, but this cheap device is very responsive for document processing and office tasks. It’s not for running demanding applications and your student might need an upgrade eventually, but for an entry-level laptop, the price is unbeatable.
Screen size: 13.3 inches
Battery Life: Depends on use, not great
I found this laptop at: Dick Smith
Kids can be rough on devices. If you’re like me, you’ll want to get a laptop that’s fast, responsive, and can stand up to the daily rough and tumble (talking about spills, drops, and knocks) of a student’s life. The Dynabook Satellite Pro E10 is built for just that environment. It’s designed for school, easy to repair, and extremely durable. The label says this laptop has been “tested to withstand pressure up to 100kg and drops from standard desk height.” Pretty impressive! I also like the warranty coverage and decent battery life. I would recommend the Dynabook for years 5-7 or ages 10-12.
Screen size: 11.6 inches
Battery Life: Depends on use, up to 10 hours
I found this laptop at: Kogan
Battery life is a big deal for me when choosing a laptop for school. Something that can last a full day’s work or more is ideal. I highly recommend the Asus E410 with a battery that can last up to 12 hours. I was able to keep multiple tabs open while listening to music all day with my screen at around 60% brightness. At $600, the E410 is the priciest bare-bones laptop so far on my list, but I’d consider it a bargain considering the quick performance (basic tasks and web browsing), lightweight build, and solid battery life.
Screen size: 14 inches
Battery Life: Depends on use, up to 12 hours
I found this laptop at: Betta
I have to admit that I love my Apple devices. That goes for the super sleek and ultra-thin Macbook Air. I know the price is a big downside if you’re a student on a tight budget, but you can save hundreds if you skip the latest iteration and downgrade to an older model. The 2017 MacBook listed here is $549, a competitive price for excellent performance. I particularly like the responsiveness, long battery life, and comfy keyboard. However, this model is heavier than similar ones on the market and the screen isn’t Retina.
Screen size: 13.3 inches
Battery Life: Depends on use, up to 10+ hours
I found this laptop at: My Deal
When you want a big screen and solid performance, the HP 15S series is a great option. The 15S line is designed for basic users on a budget, and this model can handle daily tasks (web browsing, document processing, and simple image editing) and even some demanding office applications. The15.6″ full HD display is the biggest pro for my student who spends a lot of time streaming videos and reading online. She says she won’t have to constantly zoom in to see the words and details. The price ($697) is higher than other laptops on my list, but paying more for a bigger display is worth it in my case.
Screen size: 15.6 inches
Battery Life: Depends on use, up to 6-9 hours
I found this laptop at: Officeworks