The best laptops for remote learning became valuable to a much wider audience in 2020 and that will continue in 2021 and beyond. Regardless of the age group a lot of students are turning to remote learning, which makes a solid and reliable laptop an absolutely vital tool for their academic success.
Our best college laptops are another option for older students, but there are some specific things to consider for remote learning when compared to in-person schooling that we'll address. From elementary school through high school and beyond we'll take a look at the best laptops for remote learning considering the unique challenges of learning outside of a classroom.
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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 x360 13 is the best sub-$1,000 laptop on the market, making it an easy choice for remote learners that want a powerful laptop without spending too much. The lack of an IR camera shouldn't be much of a concern as a remote learner and while no Thunderbolt 3 is a slight disappointment, it's hardly a deal-breaker and the incredible AMD performance makes up for it.
The bright, vivid display and beautiful aluminum chassis make this laptop a pleasure to look at for you and those around you. It's getting almost all of the best of the pricier Spectre x360 13 at a huge discount.
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 x360 13 (2020) 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. Starting at $899 for students, it is a solid value by Apple laptop standards, particularly considering the performance and battery life with the new Apple M1 chip.
The keyboard on the MacBook Air was finally 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 or unreliable keyboard. While there will be some slight growing pains as developers update for the new M1 chip, most apps already work perfectly fine with Apple's Rosetta 2 emulation so unless you know a critical piece of software won't work for you this shouldn't be a problem.
See our full MacBook Air (2020, M1) 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.
The new MacBook Air should be enough to handle the performance needs of just about any remote learner, but if you are in videography, graphic design or some other processor-intensive course of study then you might need to step up to the MacBook Pro 13-inch.
While it lacks a 4K display option, the 13.3-inch Retina display offers high-res views. It's unfortunate that it didn't see a full design refresh, but the MacBook is an iconic look so it won't fall out of date too quickly. Having only two USB Type-C ports is going to be frustrating for some, so be ready to buy a USB Type-C hub.
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.
Just as with the Air the new Apple M1 chip found in the MacBook Pro is a transformative leap from the Intel model with superior performance for most tasks and vastly better battery life. Be aware that we are still in a transitional period for software developers and while Apple's Rosetta 2 emulation will handle most apps, some specific software could be an issue. As long as that doesn't present a problem for you the MacBook Pro 13-inch with Apple M1 is a powerhouse for its price.
See our full MacBook Pro 13-inch (M1, 2020) review.
While it is slightly pricier than our top pick, the Acer Chromebook Spin 713 is such a stand out option that it had to be included on this list. While hopefully it won't encounter too many falls or spills in its duties as a remote learning laptop, the military grade durability will ensure that it shrugs off any such mishaps.
The screen is bright and beautiful when you are looking to take a break and consume some content and with the 2-in-1 form factor you can flip it into tent mode and enjoy a more immersive watching experience. And unlike the Pixelbook Go the Spin 713 doesn't skimp on ports, you have a USB Type-C, a USB 3.0 Type-A, HDMI 2.0, a headphone jack and a microSD slot for additional storage.
Battery life is another standout feature for the Spin 713, putting up an impressive 11 hours and 54 minutes in our battery test, an hour and a half beyond the average for the category. Our only two real complaints with the laptop are the webcam and speaker, but those are pretty common and easily solved with an external webcam and wireless headphones.
See our full Acer Chromebook Spin 713 review.
The Asus ZenBook 13 UX325EA features a brand new Intel Tiger Lake CPU and the powerful new Intel Iris Xe graphics, which makes this an impressive performer with a sleek business laptop exterior. Military-grade durability will keep it safe from the occasional drop or spill.
Ports are plentiful with two Thunderbolt 4 ports, a USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-A port, an HDMI 2.0 port and a microSD slot. No headphone jack, unfortunately, so you'll need to pick up some wireless headphones. The massive touchpad is fantastic to use and has a clever feature that turns it into a calculator if that's something you need.
Now this isn't going to replace a true gaming laptop anytime soon, but if you are looking to fit in some gaming after classes are over for the day the Intel Xe graphics will let you play modern AAA titles as long as you don't push the settings too hard. And despite that performance, the battery is fantastic at 13 hours and 47 minutes in our battery test, almost 4 hours beyond the category average.
There's a number of solid Windows 10 options out there around the $1,000 price point, but with the stylish design and latest Intel processors, the Asus ZenBook 13 UX325EA belongs on the shortlist for those that need a little more performance out of their remote learning laptop.