5 tips for choosing the ideal laptop for back to school

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To help you figure out which laptop will be best for your needs, we’ve compiled this list of quick tips for finding the perfect school laptop based on both conversations with parents and my own experience reviewing dozens and dozens of laptops. Keep this advice in mind as you browse the best back to school laptop deals and sales this summer.

Quick advice for preparing for laptop purchases for back to school Even though it’s still summer, back to school sales are beginning to appear at large retailers. The good news is that major stores like Amazon and Greatest Buy will be offering some significant back-to-school specials with discounts on some of the best laptops from brands like Apple, Dell, and Lenovo. If you could use a new laptop, these offers are great news for you.

Highlights

  • Ideally you don’t want to be lugging a charger, a power bank or anything more than you have to, so make sure to vet a laptop’s battery life before you buy. Don’t trust the manufacturer’s advertised battery life, either; while some laptops (mostly MacBooks) do last as long as claimed, the vast majority do not.

  • Here at Tom’s Guide we work hard to help you find the right tech for you at a great price, and you can check out our ultimate back to school guide for the latest deals on laptops, tablets, phones and more. Weight is key when lugging your laptop between classes. While more students than ever are participating in remote learning arrangements these days, there’s still plenty that find themselves schlepping a backpack to a classroom or lecture hall on a regular basis. If there’s a chance you’ll need to carry this laptop for long periods around campus or to various classrooms, make sure you consider how much it weighs before clicking the Buy button.

While you shouldn’t take our battery test results as a promise that you’ll get the same use time between charges (because you’ll likely have the screen set brighter than we do in our test, for one thing), you can use it as a more accurate general estimate and use it to compare laptops to see which last the longest. In fact, we’ve compiled a list of some of the longest-lasting laptops we’ve ever tested, which you can see below:

We know that because here at Tom’s Guide we put each laptop we review through a gauntlet of performance tests, including a battery rundown test that tasks the laptop with endlessly surfing the web via Wi-Fi with the screen brightness set to 150 nits.

256GB of storage is less important to have, especially if you’re planing to mostly do homework and surf the web on this laptop, but if you get much less you’ll likely need to spend time regularly cleaning out your hard drive to make room for new stuff. Remember, the operating system (Windows or Mac, usually) itself takes up a fair bit of space on your drive, so you won’t get to use all the storage you pay for. If you buy a laptop with 128GB or even (God forbid) 64GB, you’ll quickly see how painful this juggling act can be.

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