From kindergarten through college, there is now a strong chance that part of your education is going to be happening remotely for the foreseeable future. As a result, having a solid and reliable laptop is more critical than ever for academic success.
Now for those in college, we have our best college laptops page. And while remote learning shouldn’t impact your needs considerably, priorities such as battery life drop down the list as you won’t be roaming around campus all day. Now performance may matter more for those in a remote learning scenario.
And for elementary and middle school students who previously didn’t need a dedicated laptop, the demands of remote learning have moved the needle.
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For many remote learners, a Chromebook is probably the right answer. The simplicity, security and familiarity make them an excellent solution. Students can log into the Chromebook with their school address and the Chromebook will immediately be populated with all of the apps and content that they need. With touchscreens and support for Android apps now commonplace in these versatile laptops, a Chromebook is ideally suited for many remote learners.
For high school age and beyond, some remote learners will want to consider Windows 10 or macOS laptops depending on their areas of study. Students who are working with content creation, whether that be photography, videography, or music will require the software and hardware performance found in laptops with either operating system. And while there are numerous learn-to-code resources available for Chromebooks, the more robust tools found in Windows or macOS will be necessary especially for those interested in iOS or macOS programming as this can only be done on a Mac.
Now that you have a general idea of what to look for depending on the age or grade level of the remote learner, let’s take a look at which specific laptops are going to be the best for remote learning.
What is the best laptop for remote learning?
The Asus Chromebook Flip C434 is the best laptop for remote learning. It is towards the premium end for Chromebooks, at right around $500, but the laptop features superior specs to some of the budget options that will help it keep up with increasingly demanding tasks.
The 14-inch 1080p touchscreen is vivid and bright and strikes an excellent middle ground between portability and screen real estate. The large panel should allow for multitasking or for an engrossing viewing experience.
The aluminum chassis should also hold up well over time. And thanks to its more premium looks, specs, and approximately 10 hours of battery life, the Asus Chromebook Flip C434 is more than capable of being a top-tier remote learning laptop for years to come.
If you are looking for something a bit smaller, but still want premium hardware, the Google Pixelbook Go is a fantastic option with even better specs, but it’s also pricier, at around $650. On the more affordable end of the spectrum is the Lenovo Chromebook Duet. It offers an incredibly handy 2-in-1 detachable form factor that is going to be well suited to particularly younger remote learners and is available for less than $300.
Turning to the older remote learners, the HP Envy 13 is a beautiful Windows 10 laptop that has plenty of power to tackle any task that might arise all the way through a college curriculum. And at less than $1,000 for the FHD model, which delivers over 11 hours of battery life, it is a solid value. To save a few hundred dollars, the Acer Swift 3 with its AMD processor offers stellar performance and battery life at an unbeatable price, with the dim display being the one major trade-off.
Finally, if macOS is a must-have, then the new MacBook Air is the best option, with enough power for most remote learners and an affordable starting price at $899 for students. But for budding filmmakers, developers, or music majors, the extra power of the MacBook Pro 13 is probably necessary.
The Asus Chromebook Flip C434 is one of the best Chromebooks on the market. Thanks to its strong performance and tough aluminum construction, it is a fantastic match for remote learners of virtually any age. The beautifully vivid 14-inch touchscreen will help to keep younger remote learners engaged and allow older students to multitask with ease.
The security and simplicity of Chrome OS make it an excellent operating system choice for remote learners focused on learning who are not overly concerned with protecting and navigating their laptop’s operating system. This system is a solid match for a wide range of grade levels regardless of the student’s interests, which makes it the best laptop for remote learning.
See our full Asus Chromebook Flip C434 review.
The HP Envy 13 has been one of the best laptops for students for some time now and remote learning doesn’t change that fact. At right around $1,000, it delivers a fantastic premium build and feature set at a reasonable price point.
The addition of a webcam kill switch to the most recent model is also going to be appreciated now that there’s an increased need for video conferencing with teachers and classmates. It is nice to have an easy-to-use control for a bit of visual privacy. The FHD model delivers over 11 hours of battery life which is impressive. But depending on the course of study being pursued, the available 4K display option is worth considering.
For remote learners who have software needs that Chrome OS can’t meet, this Windows 10 laptop is going to be a great fit.
See our full HP Envy 13 (2019) review.
For a premium and portable Chromebook experience for remote learners who take their laptops outside of the home, the Pixelbook Go is hard to beat. It has a gorgeous 13.3-inch FHD touchscreen display that is one of the best we’ve seen on a Chromebook.
Its slim frame and unique ribbed underside make it a pleasure to carry and easy to fit into virtually any bag for when you're on the go. And if you are away from a charger, the incredible battery life (11 hours and 29 minutes in our testing) will ensure that the day’s classwork can be finished with room to spare for some extracurricular activities.
The speakers are one potential downside for the Pixelbook Go as they are a bit harsh sounding.
See our full Google Pixelbook Go review.
The Acer Swift 3 is the best value around for a remote learning laptop. The AMD Ryzen 7 4700U CPU puts it on par in terms of performance with laptops more than twice its price. Seriously, we’ve pitted it against the MacBook Pro and Dell XPS 13 and this notebook has really held its own. This makes it suitable for virtually any level of remote learner as this laptop is ready for whatever task you have the throw at it and then some. Battery life is similarly impressive with about 11 hours between charges.
Obviously, it’s not perfect. There are a few tradeoffs such as the relatively dim display, but for the price and performance, we think you’ll let it slide. Especially if the laptop is going to be mostly used indoors. The pros are going to outweigh the cons for many users.
See our full Acer Swift 3 (AMD, 2020) review.
If you absolutely need a MacBook due to either macOS or investment in other Apple hardware, the best option for most remote learners is the MacBook Air. It toes the line of price and performance. Starting at $899 for students, it is a reasonable value by Apple laptop standards, although depending on the course of study, a bump up to the Intel Core i5 rather than the base Intel Core i3 is an upgrade worth considering.
The keyboard on the MacBook Air has finally been fixed in 2020, as the company ditched the horrid Butterfly keyboard in favor of the new Magic keyboard. This is an excellent update as the last thing you need as a remote learner is an uncomfortable keyboard. One notable failing of the MacBook Air (and all MacBooks really) is the webcam, so take a look at some of the best external webcams if video conferencing is a regular part of the remote learning curriculum.
See our full MacBook Air (2020) review.
Particularly for the youngest remote learners out there, the idea of spending $500 or more for a laptop is going to seem excessive to most parents and guardians. Fortunately, the Lenovo Chromebook Duet is an excellent option for less than $300, even if you opt for the most powerful configuration.
This unique 2-in-1 is an excellent fit for these younger scholars due to its 10.1-inch touchscreen display that can be easily detached from its keyboard and act as a tablet. While the small keyboard can represent an issue for older users, small fingers will be ideally suited to it.
The 8MP rear camera is going to be a useful tool for some remote learning assignments and, while the Lenovo Chromebook Duet won’t blow the doors off its more expensive rivals, it handled a couple of dozen Google Chrome tabs including a 1080p YouTube video without any real issues. And battery life is phenomenal at over 13 hours, so it should be able to handle at least two days of classwork without needing a charge.
See our full Lenovo Chromebook Duet review.
If you are willing to spend a little bit more money to have considerably more performance, the Dell XPS 13 (2020) is the laptop for you. The notebook is a fantastic performer and the best premium Windows 10 laptop on the market for remote learning.
The new 10th Gen Intel Core i7 processor with Intel Iris Plus graphics is sufficient for any kind of remote classwork that could be thrown at it, including videography or photography. The 13.4-inch near-bezelless display is also well suited to those kinds of tasks as there is nothing to distract from the content on screen. Plus, it’s just a beautiful screen to take a study break and watch some Netflix.
The keyboard and touchpad are excellent and larger than those on most Windows laptops. With 12 hours and 39 minutes of battery life, even the heaviest day of remote learning will not kill the Dell XPS 13.
See our full Dell XPS 13 (2020) review.
If the MacBook Air can’t quite meet your performance needs, and macOS is a must, then the MacBook Pro (13-inch, 2020) is the right choice. Just like the MacBook Air, the MacBook Pro dropped the Butterfly keyboard so the constant risk of keyboard failure is a thing of the past.
The massive Force trackpad is fantastic for those who use gestures to navigate around macOS, and the Magic Keyboard is a pleasure to type on. While it lacks a 4K display option, the 13.3-inch Retina display offers high-res views. It’s also incredibly bright (485 nits) and has crisp details.
The high-performance SSD in the MacBook Pro may be part of what helps it keep up with some of the other premium laptops in terms of performance. For students who are learning videography, for example, the MacBook Pro demolished our video transcoding test, putting even the Dell XPS 13 to shame.
See our full MacBook Pro (13-inch, 2020) review.