For students, a computer is as essential as textbooks and school identification, and not just for taking notes and doing homework. Also the student should be able to handle their great extracurricular activities: keep up with their social networks, stream movies, listen to music, post photos, play games and video chat. Laptops are even more essential for students this year, as many colleges and universities implement a combination of in-person and remote learning to meet the social distancing requirements made necessary by the coronavirus pandemic.

If you are learning from home a few days a week and heading to campus the rest of the time, a laptop that you can use wherever you are is essential. And especially in these tough times, the best laptops for college students should be budget-friendly while they last in the long run, preferably throughout four years of undergraduate and perhaps a year of graduate work. Luckily, there are plenty of recommended models that fit that description perfectly, and since most of them cost less than $ 1,000, they won't drain your savings account.

Choosing the best computer for your online classes

When it comes to choosing a computer for online courses, there are so many possibilities and so many things to consider. On the one hand, perhaps most of your needs can be met by creating documents, slide shows, and spreadsheets in Google Docs and browsing the web for online searches. In that case, there are Chromebooks to choose from. For more demanding tasks, you may want a Windows laptop or Mac, especially if you have a creative curriculum. You might even want to make sure your laptop can handle games after completing your task.

1. Apple MacBook Air

The MacBook Air, equipped with just an Intel Core i3 processor, 8GB of RAM, and a modest 256GB SSD hard drive. But it's a new 10th-gen Core i3, which is an improvement over last year's MacBook Air. The slower processor probably helps the system get 12 hours of battery life, which is great. And the 13.3-inch screen is a full Retina display, at 2560x1600 pixels. Apple knows how to make displays well, and it shows here. When it comes to connectivity, you don't get much. There are a couple of Thunderbolt USB-C ports and wired headphone jacks.

2. Dell XPS 15 7590

Powered by a serious Intel Core i7 CPU and equipped with a more than generous 16GB RAM, it is ideal for students who need more power for applications in the graphics and design field. It has an SD card reader and a USB 3 slot on one side, and a second USB 3 port, a USB-C, and an HDMI port on the other. There's a high-quality HD webcam built into the razor-thin bezel of the laptop (which supports Windows Hello for biometric login) and Wi-Fi 6 is built in, though you can always upgrade to a better webcam, especially if you want to use to stream it to services like Twitch or YouTube. Perhaps the biggest and most impactful upgrade you could make to improve this computer would be to add an external sound card, that is, an external DAC through one of the laptop's USB ports.

3. ASUS Chromebook Flip C434

The Chromebook features a 14-inch touchscreen with a 1920 × 1080 pixel Full HD display surrounded by a very narrow bezel. That allows the laptop to be no bigger than a typical 13-inch laptop despite the larger screen. The display has a 360-degree hinge that allows you to flip it however you like - it can be placed in a presentation tent, used as a laptop, or flipped back on a tablet. The keyboard is backlit and comes with a touchpad. On the front of the connector, you get a pair of USB-C and a USB-A port.

4. Apple MacBook Pro

There are two variations of the 13-inch MacBook Pro. A low-end model has just two USB-C ports, like the MacBook Air, while this one has four ports, two on each side. But no matter which version you get, those are all the ports you get - no Ethernet for example. The MacBook Air also has a mid-level Intel Core i5 processor (8th gen, unfortunately, instead of the 10th gen, which is more efficient), 8GB of RAM, and a spacious 512GB SSD. One way to look at this setup is that while Apple laptops have always been objects of desire, they are rarely a good value. You can get a faster, better-equipped Windows-based computer for the same price.

5. Chromebook Google Pixelbook Go M3

It's underpowered, it only has an M3 processor, but it does have 8GB of RAM and a 1920 x 1080 pixel Full HD display on the 13.3-inch display. Google incorporated a comfortable keyboard and a generously large trackpad. And it's incredibly portable, weighing just over two pounds and just a half inch thick. The laptop has a robust battery, capable of running for more than 12 hours on one charge. It also supports fast charging: 20 minutes plugged into the wall network gives you more than two hours of runtime. And for connectivity, there are a couple of USB-C ports.

6. Chromebook HP

The touchscreen has a resolution of 1366 × 768 pixels and can be opened 180 degrees to lay flat and easily shared with others. There is also an HD webcam built into the bezel. Do you need connectivity? The computer has an SD media card reader, two USB-C ports, and two USB-A ports. You will not find, as expected, HDMI or Ethernet.

7. Lenovo ThinkPad E595

Lenovo has changed the architecture in the E590 series - the Lenovo ThinkPad E595 has now fully embraced AMD with a Ryzen 5-3500U CPU and the integrated Radeon Vega 8 graphics chipset. That delivers solid mid-tier performance while allowing the computer to sell at a budget-conscious price. In fact, you get a nice feature set for around $ 750. The 15.6-inch display is a Full HD (1920 × 1080 pixels) display and the memory can be upgraded, if desired, to 32GB. There's an HD webcam on the top bezel, and it's pretty portable too, weighing in at just under eight pounds.

8. Microsoft Surface Go 2

This Surface Go 2 is based on a modest Intel Core m3 processor and 4GB of RAM, and the 10.5-inch display is a 1920 × 1280 pixel Full HD touchscreen. A built-in kickstand allows you to stand up on your own. Unfortunately, you will have to add an optional keyboard cover to get the most out of this system; It is an unfortunate oversight that increases the cost of startup.

On the bright side, you get a lot of runtime from the Surface Go 2 - it'll last over 10 hours on a charge. And you get a minimal collection of ports - a USB-C and SD card media card reader is pretty much the extension. And the Surface Go 2 is a refined machine, easily on par with something like the iPad for tablet usability, and something that looks and generally behaves like a machine that is more expensive than it actually is.

9. Razer Blade 15

Razer has built this version of the Razer Blade 15 around the Max-Q version of the RTX 2080 graphics card. Close to the fastest GPU currently available, it has the relatively slim frame size of the Blade 15. The RTX 2080 you're driving a super fast 240Hz IPS panel displaying a 1920 x 1080 pixel FHD screen, but there's no G-Sync here (though at 240Hz, it's not clear that's necessary). That comes with an Intel Core i7-8750H and a 512GB hard drive, probably enough storage space for most users. If you ever find that 16GB of memory isn't enough for you, this computer can easily be expanded up to 64GB.

A few words about the guarantee

Almost every computer you can buy today is backed by at least a one-year warranty on parts and labor. Extended warranties are also available, but whether they are worth it depends on who you are as a user. For starters, the standard warranty does not cover accidents resulting from a spilled drink or a fall on concrete. Most manufacturers sell accident coverage as a separate plan, plus extended warranties that supplement a standard one, so you could end up spending close to $ 300 for three years of coverage.

Apple offers a maximum three-year extended warranty ($ 250), while some Windows laptop manufacturers will offer up to four years. If the warranty costs more than 15 percent of the total price of the laptop, you'd better spend the money on backup units or services that minimize downtime in case something goes wrong. Of course, you can't put a price on peace of mind. In rare cases, the logic board or display (the most expensive parts of a laptop) can fail and cost you half the computer's worth of repairs. Defective components generally break down within the first year; anything after that is probably more than normal wear and tear.

The Best Computers for Your Online Classes

The Best Computers for Your Online Classes

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