More and more these days, college classes are taking place online. Computers for online students need to be powerful, reliable, and easy to use in an academic setting. While the actual workload and tasks will vary from one student to the next and one major to the next, many of the tech needs are similar when it comes to attending classes.
To help students meet their college’s rigorous academic standards, we’ve put together a list of the best laptops for online classes as well as the most crucial components to include in your laptop.
What to look for in a laptop for online classes
Choosing a good laptop for the online college student is an important task, and you need to make sure yours makes the grade.
The right hardware
Reliability starts with a solid processor that can run online lectures or videos. An Intel® i3 should be the bare minimum for your CPU, with an Intel i5 or even i7 if you will be using your laptop for more than simple tasks.
Also factor in at least 2 USB ports for your favorite accessories, and a long enough battery life to get through hours of online lectures.
Display and weight
The best laptops for online college have a large enough screen for you to write papers, view online lectures, and read course material without straining your eyes. An ideal screen is 13 to14 inches, which also factors into the machine’s weight.
If you are going to use your laptop for gaming or entertainment as well, you may want to think about a 15-inch screen, or even a 17-inch one. Just bear in mind that a larger screen can up to double the weight of your device.
In a perfect world, you want your laptop to weigh 3 to 4 lbs. It should be portable enough so you can complete your coursework anywhere you want.
Look for software bundles and ergonomics
Prioritize laptops that come bundled with software that you’d otherwise need to buy, like Microsoft Office Suite and other tools that facilitate online learning. Also make sure the keyboard is ideally suited for writing papers, and has an ergonomic design for increased comfort to reduce the chance of a repetitive stress injury on your joints.
5 best laptops for online college students
To make the process of understanding those key components a bit easier, let’s now check out the 5 best laptops for online students available right now.
A laptop specifically built for life on-the-go, the HP ENVY 13 is a sleek and stylish option with loads of features for its slim size. And it boasts a 4-cell, 53 Wh Li-ion polymer battery to keep you going for up to 16 hours and 45 minutes based on the applications and power setting you use. That means you'll have no problem getting through a full day of online classes without having to plug into a power source.
This HP ENVY also comes with a 512GB SSD and Intel Core™ i7 processor, so you can not only store tons of data but also access it at lightning speeds.
Beyond its hardware features, this is one of the best computers for online school due to its portability. It’s just 12 inches wide and 2.82 lbs, and it has a full-sized, island-style backlit keyboard to make your online college work easier to handle.
13.3-inch diagonal Full High Definition (FHD) IPS BrightView micro-edge WLED-backlit display
Bang & Olufsen, quad speakers
Webcam kill switch and integrated fingerprint reader
32GB Intel Optane™ memory for storage acceleration
If you need a laptop built for multi-tasking, the HP EliteBook x360 830 G6 is it. You can upgrade this highly customizable machine to meet your specific online learning needs. This includes everything from the amount of Nits (which affect brightness) on the 13.3-inch screen to the processor, memory, and hard drive.
You can even use it as a tablet thanks to its convertible design, the built-in touch screen, and the option to add on a Wacom AES 2.0 pen.
If you prefer taking notes for your online classes on the keyboard, this HP EliteBook has a fantastic premium collaboration keyboard, which is backlit and spill resistant. The clickpad also has multi-touch gestures enabled to minimize distractions and increase efficiency during class.
This highly portable laptop has a powerful 4-cell, 53 WHr long life battery and weighs in at a minimum of 3 lbs depending on how you customize it.
When you’re looking for a good laptop for online college, one major factor is value. Fortunately, the HP ProBook 430 G7 offers this in abundance.
With an upgradeable 10th Generation Intel i3-10110U processor and a 3-cell 45 WHr long life battery, you'll easily pull up any school work and keep pace with your online classes. Plus, the 3D forged aluminum keyboard deck makes typing easier than ever.
The HP ProBook 430 has many notable security features as well, which is great for those times you attend online courses over unsecured networks in public spaces. These include the absolute persistence module, HP DriveLock, and Automatic DriveLock, and HP Secure Erase, which work together to keep your data from falling into the wrong hands.
This laptop also comes with bundled management software including HP Driver Packs and the HP System Software Manager. These work to keep your software running smoothly and to prevent crashes in the middle of an online lecture.
Up to 2TB PCIe NVMe TLC SSD
Upgrade to a touch screen
Integrated HD 720p IR webcam with dual-microphone array
1 USB 3.1 Type-C™ Gen 1 DisplayPort™, 1 USB 3.1 Gen 1 port, 1 HDMI 1.4b port, 1 RJ-45 port
Looking for a laptop that will make you the envy of all of your online classmates? The HP Spectre Folio 13 will do exactly that with its 100% genuine leather wrapping and jaw-dropping looks.
The HP Spectre Folio has the ability to shift into 3 unique positions. There’s the standard laptop mode, a tablet mode for hands-on work, and a forward position that’s perfect for watching online lectures or binging Netflix shows. It also includes built-in 4G LTE connectivity, which you’ll love for those times you can’t get a strong WiFi connection.
This stylish laptop also comes with a stylus and a USB Type-C™ to USB 3.0 adapter. This allows you to take notes by hand during one course, and then connect your favorite mouse to breeze through your work during the next.
This machine boasts incredible battery life as well, which is essential in any of the best laptops for online learning. Even when using battery-intensive apps, it’ll likely last the entire day with its built-in 6-cell, 54.28 Wh Li-ion battery.
In addition to being affordable, the HP Chromebook x360 14 has great features that make it one of the best laptops for online college courses. Given its operating system built on familiar software and cloud computing, Chrome OS™ is made for the modern college student. It also gives you streamlined, more efficient hardware thanks to full Google Suite integration.
This HP Chromebook also comes with an enhanced 14-inch FHD IPS micro-edge WLED-backlit display and a 3-cell, 60 Wh Li-ion battery that runs for up to 13 hours and 30 minutes. That’s more than enough time for your coursework and maybe a few of your favorite streaming series when it’s time to relax.
64GB eMMC storage
USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-C™ ports, 2 USB 3.1 Gen 1 ports
HP Wide Vision HD Camera with integrated dual array digital microphone
An HP Chromebook is a great machine for online learning. These computers are designed specifically for productivity through the Google Suite series of applications.
Also, Chrome OS doesn’t need heavy-duty hardware to run smoothly, and it actually offers solid load times for online research, watching online lectures, and writing papers. Using the Google Suite, you can schedule your classes and assignments, create presentations in Google Sheets, write papers in Google Docs, and much more, all with ease.
When students are looking for the best laptops for online school, they need to critically evaluate all of the options available to them. Taking classes online means you can attend almost anywhere, so you should prioritize battery life, screen size and quality, processing power, keyboard build, and weight.
It’s for those reasons that we highly recommend the HP Spectre Folio 13, which scores top marks across the board. Plus, it has 4G LTE capability and a sharp leather-bound appearance.
If you want to look around more, any of the laptops on this list are great options for making the most out of your online courses. Whichever one you choose, know that all these laptops provide something unique to help you succeed.
About the Author: Daniel Horowitz is a contributing writer for HP® Tech Takes. Daniel is a New York-based author and has written for publications such as USA Today, Digital Trends, Unwinnable Magazine, and many other media outlets.
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