What would a teacher’s life be like without a laptop?
For most teachers, it’s their #1 tool. They use it to draft their worksheets, show videos in the classroom, research lesson topics and teach students online in their spare time.
Are you about to buy a new one because your old one is broken or just no longer useful?
Skip the arduous task of researching dozens of laptops and reading reviews full of technical mumbo-jumbo. We’ve already done the legwork for you!
Read on to learn what to look for when buying a laptop, and choose your favorite model from our convenient list of the best laptops for teachers.
We’re also giving you links to some truly amazing deals on laptops for teachers!
Table of Contents
- What Should I Look For When Buying A Laptop?
- 7 of the Best Laptop Computers for Teachers on Amazon
- Best Laptops for Video Calls and Everyday Productivity
- Teacher Discounts on Laptops
What Should I Look For When Buying A Laptop?
You can spend anywhere from $300 to upwards of $2.000 on a computer, and determine your decisions on specs like storage capacity, battery life, and a million other things you never even knew you had to worry about.
What does it all mean, and how do you sift through it all?
Hold on to your seatbelt! We’re about to go in-depth into all the different considerations you should take into account when figuring out the best laptops for teachers, why they matter, and what all those numbers mean.
I know that I always feel totally bewildered when I walk into the electronics store because I’m about to drop a ton of cash and I don’t know what anything means. So I created this super simple list of laptop specs so you know what to look for in a computer and what questions to ask.
Armed with this, you’ll never feel lost in the electronics aisle again!
If you’re a classroom teacher, your computer’s battery life is extra important. If you teach at a public school you may have to move to different classrooms throughout the day, and you may not always be guaranteed a convenient outlet.
You want a computer that can stay alive for more than a few hours while it’s being used so your PPT and entire lesson don’t go out the window in the middle of a class.
If you’re teaching online from your living room or in a training center or private school, battery life might not matter as much. Just make sure you know what you’re getting into when you choose a computer, and look at reviews about how the computer’s battery life is when it’s being used to play videos or show presentations.
Display: Glossy or Matte?
Glossy laptop screens display colors more vividly and have sharper contrast, giving you a better image. However, they also are more susceptible to glare in well-lit rooms. If you’ve ever tried to look at something on your phone screen on a bright sunny day, you know how annoying glare can be.
Matte laptop screens have a display that’s a little more dull than the one on glossy screens, but because they’re treated with an anti-glare coating you won’t get pesky reflections and glares when you’re using them.
The matte screen makes sense especially if you’re a classroom teacher and you’ll be using your laptop in all kinds of environments: who knows when you’ll be set up next to a window or under a bright fluorescent light?
However, most laptops sold today have glossy screens, so this is a choice you don’t need to be worried about too much. Both kinds should work just fine in almost all contexts.
Display size is one of the factors that gives me the most pause when I’m looking for a laptop. That 17 inch screen just looks so good, but is it worth the higher price tag?
The answer is, it depends.
You can get laptops that are smaller than 13 inches. The advantage of an ultra-small laptop is that it’s super light and thus super portable. This kind of computer is fantastic if you’re on the go, moving from classroom to classroom and toting all your things with you. And the size doesn’t matter as much if you’re throwing up your materials on a projector anyway.
Keep in mind, however, that staring at that small screen can be straining on your eyes, and it certainly won’t be fun to watch movies or play games on in your spare time.
A 15 or 17 inch screen is most beneficial if you’re an online ESL teacher and you’re spending a lot of time looking at your screen, or if you’re for some reason using your actual computer screen to teach children. In any case, though, a 13 inch screen should be big enough to give you a great display, and it’ll save you some money.
The truth is that a 17 inch screen probably isn’t worth the extra weight and cost unless you’re planning on editing or watching movies constantly or a really giant display is just super important to you.
So, stay away from screens smaller than 13 inches unless you absolutely need something light, you have good eyes, and you’re on a budget. And get a 15 or even 17 inch screen if you really love a wide display, you don’t mind the extra weight, and you don’t mind splurging a little.
SSD? HDD? eMMC? GHZ? WTF?
Seriously, figuring out what all the storage language means is hands down the hardest part of buying a computer. My eyes glaze over when I start reading explanations of this stuff because it’s just so abstract.
Which numbers mean it’s faster, which ones mean there’s more room, what’s solid state anyway? We’re about to break down the different numbers you need to pay attention to so you know which ones are important for you and what to look for.
Types of Storage
Before you even look at the numbers, you need to consider what type of storage you want: solid state, hard drive, or hybrid?
So, here’s the deal: solid state drives are faster, quieter, and weigh less than traditional hard drives. They also are more stable than traditional hard drives: because they don’t have any spinning parts, they won’t get damaged if you bump or jostle your laptop. They do have a shorter lifetime than traditional hard drives, but for the average user the SSD will hold up perfectly well.
However, they also have less storage capacity. There are some computers — mostly for gaming and other specialized uses — that combine solid state and traditional hard drives, but these computers tend to come with a heftier price tag.
Computers with solid state drives often cost less than ones with hard disk drives, and you can always create more storage space for yourself with an external hard drive or even just USBs.
If your solid state drive doesn’t have enough storage space, you can supplement it with an external hard drive. An external hard drive is an especially good idea if you’re a teacher and you want to store all your materials (PPTs, lesson plans, songs and videos to play in class, etc.) somewhere they can be easily transferred and shared.
Most new computers are completely SSD or hybrid, meaning you’ll be getting a faster, less expensive, sturdier, and quieter computer than you would have been with a traditional hard drive in the past.
After you’ve decided what kind of drive you want, look at how much storage space you want.
Are you planning on storing lots of movies, pictures, PPTs, and animations on your computer? Spring for more storage space.
Do you store everything in the cloud or on an external hard drive? If that’s the case, you may be able to get away with less storage space.
Keep in mind, though, that storage space fills up more quickly than you might think. Anything less than 256 GB of storage will probably leave you wishing you’d sprung for just a little more space.
Ports and Connectors
Alright, let’s talk about what no one talks about: all the stuff going on on the sides of your computer. When you buy your computer, you don’t want to get blindsided if you get home and realize that it only has one Thunderbolt port, you can’t charge your phone and your computer at the same time, and you’ll need to buy a dongle if you want to connect a USB or anything else for that matter.
The new Macbooks have very few ports: the exact number varies on which model you have, but no matter what you won’t have more than two (double-check this), and they’ll both be Thunderbolt ports. That means they’ll fit your computer charger, but you’ll need to buy a dongle in order to connect USBs, HDMI cords, Ethernet cords, and more.
An Apple brand dongle is totally expensive, but you can find cheap off-brand ones, and buying a dongle (seriously, what a ridiculous name) will totally solve all your problems. However, if you don’t want to deal with one more cost addition or just another part to lug around, go for a computer with more built-in ports.
Camera and Mic (Important For Online Tutoring!)
A good built-in camera and microphone are super beneficial when you’re online tutoring, but neither are necessary. You can buy good externals microphones and cameras if the ones on your computer don’t cut it — and lots of people teach online seriously do.
However, you’ll probably be fine with the built in camera on most computers these days just for starting out, and you’ll use the mic in your headphones anyway so the one in your computer doesn’t really matter.
In short, a good camera is helpful but by no means necessary, while the microphone matters little if at all. So you can cross these off your list as things to worry about!
The only case in which your camera really matters is if you teach online and you plan on teaching from lots of different locations. An external camera is certainly not bulky to pack or hard to set up, but having a good internal camera and mic will take two items off your to-do list when you pack and set up to teach.
A good keyboard is, to put it simply, a joy. If you have a good keyboard you probably won’t even notice it, but you’ll subtly enjoy the weight of the keys, their little clicks, the ease with which you type when you’re paying attention.
A bad keyboard, on the other hand, is a different story. You have to gnash the keys too hard to type, you make clicking sounds heard across the room, and you’re generally too annoyed to focus.
Of course, what kind of keyboard you like best (and how much it matters) are up to you. Just be sure to try out typing on the keyboard in the store to make sure you like it.
You can, of course, buy an external keyboard if you’ll be in one place all the time and you really want a computer with a keyboard you don’t like, but it’s generally much easier to just find a computer with a keyboard you like from the start.
Durability and Robustness
You want a computer that’s quality, that won’t break when you spill one tiny drop of water near it or die within a year. You want a computer with sturdy casing so that it doesn’t scratch or break easily.
As a rule of thumb, metal or hard plastic casings will serve you better than cheap plastic computer casings. More expensive computers tend to have better casing than cheaper ones, as cheap laptops tend to be made of low-quality material that bends easily. Less expensive laptops also sometimes have gaps between the assembled casing parts, making the laptop more susceptible to damage from spills or jostling.
Business notebooks also tend to be more durable. For example, the Macbook has an aluminum unibody casing, meaning it’s super-stable and sturdy with no gaps between its parts (as there are no parts).
Keep in mind that no matter what kind of computer you get, it’s best to get a keyboard protector and laptop case to protect it — after all, your laptop is an investment and an important tool.
Your laptop’s performance is determined by its CPU (central processing unit), RAM, and general makeup. RAM, or random access memory, is basically your computer’s working memory: it saves what you’re working on currently and continuously so you don’t have to constantly be reloading pages and waiting around while your computer thinks.
Generally, you get what you pay for: more expensive computers almost always perform better than their cheaper counterparts.
See the chart below for more information about what kind of performance you should expect from a given processor:
If you’re using your computer mainly to do basic tasks like surfing the web, working in Microsoft, or making Skype calls, then you don’t need a really high performance machine. Any average laptop with 4GB of RAM or more should serve you perfectly well.
If you use your computer for more advanced purposes like graphic design or video editing, however, or if you’re the kind of person who uses your laptop for 8 hours at a time, opens a gazillion applications, and expects everything to run super fast all the time, you’ll want a computer with higher performance–think at least 8GB of RAM and an Intel i5 CPU or above.
Alright, here’s the real deal: if you’re in a real pinch, you can absolutely get a computer for dirt cheap. Which is great, because everyone should be able to access computers. After all, we live our lives on them!
However, a cheap computer will not have the same functionality as a more expensive one. It will absolutely be slower, have less storage space, have a less clean design, and generally be a hassle. A good computer is a joy to use, and it’s important that you like using your computer because it’s where you do your job. I personally feel way more productive and less overwhelmed by work when I have a laptop I like.
A good laptop will also last longer than a cheaper one. So I say, don’t blow your budget, but don’t just go for bargain when you’re buying a computer. You don’t need the newest Macbook with endless storage and a mile-wide screen and a built-in minibar, but you also should make sure you get a computer that’s reliable, fast, and comfortable for you.
Keep in mind also that you need to factor in more than just the base price of your computer when you’re comparing different options. Are you compromising on storage, camera quality, or other factors and planning on supplementing your computer with add-ons?
Make sure to factor in the price of dongles, external keyboards, cameras, hard drives, and mics, and any other add-ons you might be considering before deciding which computer is right for you. Also, of course, find out the expected life of your computer. A more expensive computer that lasts longer may save you more money than the cheaper, flimsier option in the long run.
Extra considerations: Warranty, Customer Service, and Guarantee
This last factor isn’t actually a part of your computer, but is something you absolutely need to keep in mind when buying a laptop. Make sure your computer has a good warranty, especially if you’re going with a more expensive model. Find out what the warranty covers and how long it lasts. You might also want to consider buying your laptop from a brick-and-mortar store rather than online, because some retailers will offer you an additional warranty if you buy from them, on top of the manufacturer’s.
If you’re buying a computer from your home country and then traveling abroad, make sure you’ll be able to service your computer while you’re abroad. You might want to consider buying your laptop from a big chain, like an Apple store, if you’re leaving your home country — that way you’ll be ensured of customer service and the continuation of your warranty when you go abroad.
7 of the Best Laptop Computers for Teachers on Amazon
The truth is, there is no single best computer for teachers. We know that you want the best laptop you can buy, but you can’t always afford the very best laptops on the market — those things can get PRICY!
With that in mind, we’ve curated a list of 6 budget and luxury laptops in a few categories that are beneficial to teachers, so you can make a choice that fits your budget and gets the job done. Read on to find some great tablets for teachers.
Most Portable Laptops
If you’re a teacher, you’re probably on the go. Whether you’re running around from class to class or teaching online while you travel, you want a laptop that you can carry with you easily. So we’ve found two super-portable laptops that are deceptively powerful, so you don’t have to compromise on quality.
High-End Option: Lenovo Yoga
- Pros: fast, great graphics, customizable, quick-charge function
- Cons: Not many USB ports, short-ish battery life
This computer is unique because it’s highly customizable: depending on what capacity and features you choose, it’ll run you somewhere between $669 and $1009.
You can buy a 12.5” version of the Yoga, or for only $40 more you can get a 15.6” version. You can also go for the less expensive 128GB solid state drive, or choose between 3 other options, maxing out at 1TB for $300 more than the computer’s base price.
So it can be a relatively inexpensive, basic computer for a little over half the price of the Samsung Chromebook 3 or a more tricked-out, high end purchase. Your choice!
The Lenovo Yoga weighs in at 2.54 pounds, the same weight as the 3, but it has a 12.5” or 15.6” screen and the capacity for a 1 terabyte SSD hard drive, making it powerful and comfortable to use. Reviews overwhelmingly comment on how fast this computer is, to boot!
The Yoga is also a touchscreen and can be folded to be a tablet or to stand itself up like an upside down ‘V’. While these features are a bit gimmicky, they do make using the computer easier if you’re trying to get work done while you’re in transit or in a tight spot.
Use it on the metro, on an airplane, while you’re laying down on your couch — unlike a regular laptop, the Yoga adapts to you.
This computer has 1920×1080 resolution and an LED backlight, meaning it’s ultra-clear and ultra-bright. It also has built-in Harman/Kardon speakers for crisp, full sound. Additionally, it has a 720p HD camera, meaning you won’t have to buy an external webcam if you decided to teach ESL online using your Lenovo Yoga.
The Yoga’s has only two main drawbacks: first off, it only has one USB port, meaning you’ll almost certainly have to buy a dongle to make it useful for you.
Second, it only has 5 ½ hours of battery life — enough to get a couple of lessons but not enough to get you through the whole day without having to find an outlet. Luckily, though, this computer has a “fast-charge” feature that gives you two hours of charge in 15 minutes — so you can quickly get a little more juice when you have a short break in your day.
The Yoga is fast, ultra-light, and easy to use with great graphics and sound and ample storage space. Whether you’re an ESL teacher or a classroom teacher, it’s smart choice for you if you’re on the go!
Among all the options of tablets for teachers, this one’s a no-brainer.
Budget Option: Samsung Chromebook 3
- Pros: Super cheap, super fast, lightweight, good battery life
- Cons: Small screen, everything on the laptop is Google, you can’t use it if you’re in China
Here’s the deal: Chromebooks are inexpensive, and they get the job done. This particular computer is also super portable — weighing in at only 2.54 pounds, it’s even lighter than the Microsoft Surface or the Macbook Air. If you’re on the go and on a budget, this is the computer for you.
This computer is a great choice because it has hefty storage for a low price — you can choose a model with a 16GB solid state hard drive for only $140, or upgrade to a 64GB model for around $250–still well below the median price of a laptop this size. Best of all, the Samsung Chromebook 3 is spill-resistant and has a battery life of up to 11 hours, making it an option you can take with you worry-free.
This computer also has 2 USB ports, an HDMI port, a Micro SD slot, and a headphone/mic port. Talk about small and mighty! They have really crammed function into this machine, making it totally impressive for its size.
Be aware that the Samsung Chromebook 3 does have a few downfalls. For starters, the screen is only 11.6”, making it a little smaller than is ideal. This should be fine if you’re just plugging it into a projector all the time, but make sure it’s not something that’s going to bug you all the time — you want using your laptop to be a comfortable, enjoyable experience — not a chore you slog through.
Also, you should 100% not get this computer or indeed any Chromebook if you’re teaching in China. Chromebooks rely on Google for everything: they run Google Drive, Google Chrome, etc. While you can technically still use the computer with a VPN, you’ll thank yourself for having a laptop that doesn’t raise constant connectivity issues. Because the truth is that even with a VPN, the laptop just is not going to serve you well in a country with a firewall designed to keep you out.
The last con for this computer — and it’s something we’ve just touched on — is that it runs entirely on Chrome. If you already rely on Google for a lot of your online activity, you might really enjoy the Chromebook’s integrated design, but if you use the Microsoft Suite and other non-Google apps regularly and you’re not ready to make the switch to an all-Google laptop, don’t buy a Chromebook.
If you’re looking for a deal and you’re okay with compromising some on size, snap up a Samsung Chromebook 3. You will not find a better bang for your buck anywhere, guaranteed.
Best Laptops for Desktop Replacement
If you’re used to a desktop computer but are now looking for a laptop to replace it, you’ll probably want one that retains the functionality of your desktop. Don’t worry–this is easily doable.
Lots of articles for desktop replacement laptops suggest buying heavy-duty computers, like gaming laptops or the kinds of laptops architects or graphic designers use. As a teacher, you don’t need to shell out for a computer with a lot of functions you’re not going to use anyway.
The most important things are that your computer has a nice big screen, good storage and speed, and clear graphics. Also, you’ll want it to be as comfortable to use as your desktop computer is — this means a well-designed keyboard and user interface.
Here are two great options for desktop replacement: laptops with screens as big as their storage capacity, super-fast operating speeds, and graphics that’ll leave you thinking you’re watching an IMAX movie.
High-End Option: 15” Macbook Pro
- Pros: Great graphics, fast, lots of storage, good customer support
- Cons: Pricey, only two Thunderbolt (USB-C) ports
If you’re looking for a luxury laptop and you don’t mind spending a little extra to get a good one, consider getting a Macbook Pro. The price tag for a new Macbook Pro is a little high — it’ll run you between around $1.300 and $2.800, depending on how big a laptop you get and how much storage you want.
If you’re going for a large screen for desktop replacement, you’ll want to go with the 15 inch model rather than the less expensive 13 inch one.
This generation’s Macbook Pros all come with solid state drives with upwards of 128GB of storage space, along with top-of-the-line graphics and super-fast processors. And of course, if you have an iPhone all your things will sync between your devices, making lesson planning on the go a breeze.
Last, if you’re traveling abroad, you’ll be able to rest easy knowing there’s always an Apple Store somewhere around if you ever run into trouble with your computer.
The new Macbook Pros only have two Thunderbolt ports, meaning you’ll definitely have to buy an adaptor to hook up to your classroom’s HDMI or to insert your USB.
However, Macbooks have excellent built-in cameras and the headphones that come with your Mac or iPhone are more than adequate for teaching online, meaning you won’t have to connect a camera and a bunch of fancy gadgets to your laptop — or spend money buying them. Additionally, they have advanced Retina display for brilliant, HD images. Forget plugging your computer into a projector — you’ll get a sharp, big picture just on your screen!
The 15” Macbook Pro costs between $2.000 and $3.000 depending on what kind of processor you spring for (Intel Core i7 or i9) and how much storage space you want (between 256GB and 1TB). These make for a computer that is nowhere near cheap, but if you’re looking for a reliable, user-friendly, and honestly beautiful laptop, you won’t be disappointed with a Macbook Pro.
It’s an investment that you’re guaranteed to be happy with if you decide to spring for it.
Budget Option: HP ZBook
- Pros: Lots of cables, huge screen, lots of storage
- Cons: Camera isn’t great, it’s heavy (7.67 pounds!)
The HP 17.3” laptop is a really fantastic computer, and you can get a refurbished one for as low as $699 (and free shipping!). These computers feature a giant screen so you won’t feel like you’re compromising compared to a desktop computer.
They also have an Intel Core i7 processor — the same one the Macbook Pro uses! With a 256GB solid state drive and 16GB of additional storage, this computer is comparable to the Macbook Pro at a fraction of the price.
The ZBook has a number of ports so you won’t have problems connecting USB cables, and it also has a touch screen, making it easy to use when you’re on the go.
The only downfall of this laptop is that its built-in webcam isn’t fantastic, meaning you’ll probably have to buy your own camera if you teach ESL online.
If the big screen isn’t super important to you, you can get a refurbished 15” version, which is still plenty big, for $494.64! For a computer this powerful, that’s a steal. You can buy the 15” version on Amazon.
With its modest price point and powerful engine, this very well might be the best computer for teachers on a budget.
Best Laptops for Video Calls and Everyday Productivity
If you’re an online ESL teacher, you want a laptop that has a good camera, great graphics, and high-speed connectivity. There’s nothing worse than losing lesson time because you’re not sure what your student is saying, or worse — you can’t even see or hear them.
If you’re teaching English abroad, you probably want a laptop that handles video calls well so you can talk to friends and family back home more easily!
That’s why we’ve picked out two laptops that are known to handle video calls well and perform well generally, so you can teach and talk with no fear.
High-End Option: Dell Inspiron 7000
- Pros: Big screen, touchscreen option, giant hard drive, powerful
- Cons: A little heavy, short battery life
At $749, this laptop won’t break the bank. But you’ll feel like you got a super nice laptop: with a 15.6” touchscreen, a high-quality brushed metal case, and HD graphics, this computer is a joy to use. It also has a powerful Intel Core processor, two full terabytes of hard drive space, and 16GB of RAM, meaning it’s got more than enough power to get you through your days even if you’re storing tons of teaching materials on your computer.
This computer has a 720p HD webcam, stereo speakers, and MaxxAudio Pro, which make it a great machine to teach online from. It also has plenty of USB ports and a completely foldable design, making it really versatile and easy to use.
The Dell Inspiron 7000 weighs 4.98 pounds, which is lighter than other comparable computers but still heavier than is desirable if you’re constantly on the go. Users also complain of a short battery life. So while this computer is versatile, it’s probably not the best option for people who keep their lives in their backpacks and don’t have reliable access to electricity.
However, if you’re looking for a nice, useful laptop that comes at a reasonable price, the Dell Inspiron is the computer for you!
Budget Option: Acer Aspire
- Pros: Powerful, great graphics, versatile
- Cons: Short battery life
At only $439.99, this laptop is a great buy for a nice price. And with Intel HD graphics and a widescreen LED display, it’s great for video chatting, too. It even has an HD webcam and dual stereo speakers, as well as a 15.6” screen!
This laptop has an Intel i5 processor and between 128GB and 1TB of storage, making it not top-of-the-line but more than powerful enough for everyday use. It also has a touchscreen for easy use on the go, as well as several USB ports.
The Acer Aspire’s main downfall is that it only has 6.5 hours of battery life, meaning you’ll probably have to plug it in at some point during your day. It also weighs almost 5 pounds — so while it’s not a total brick, it also isn’t your best bet if you’re looking for a super lightweight and portable computer.
Teacher Discounts on Laptops
If you’re a teacher, you’re in luck: there are some really terrific computer discounts for teachers out there.
But be careful when you’re scanning all the great deals out there: lots of teacher discounts on laptops are only applicable to students and teachers at schools in the US, so you need to make sure you’re looking for a deal that actually applies to you before you start calculating your savings.
Below are a few teacher discounts on laptops that you can use! Read on for major savings.
This deal is actually for everyone. If you become a Dell Advantage Rewards member, you’ll receive up to 3% back on all purchases you make on Dell’s website–3% sounds small, but it can add up to a lot of money when you’re buying something expensive like, say, a laptop.
You’ll also get free expedited delivery as a Dell Rewards member. The membership is only for customers in the United States, however. So if you’re planning on leaving to teach abroad soon, snap up a good teaching laptop before you leave!
This discount takes a little more doing than some other savings accounts, but it’s seriously worth it. You need to create an Amazon Educator/Business account, which, like a Prime account, costs money — in this case, $167/year.
You’ll need to check whether you or the school you work for is eligible for this discount, but if your organization is eligible then there’s just one fee to pay for the organization — no individual costs!
Here are the perks: the program gives you tax exemptions on all purchases you make through your business account, on top of special discounts and free two-day shipping on orders of $49 or more.
Find out whether your school or organization is eligible for an educator account, and enjoy some amazing computer discounts for teachers!
This program is also only in the US, but it’s one that, again, anyone can be a part of.
If you apply for Staples Rewards you can get 2-5% back in rewards off all purchase you make in-store, as well as free next-day delivery on orders over $49.99. Which is great news, because if you’re buying a laptop I can safely guarantee you’ll be over that margin with room to spare.
If you teach from home in the US, you should really apply for a Staples Rewards account because you’ll also get rewards and incentives for recycling ink and toner at Staples. Hello, new classroom backdrop and teaching props!
This rewards program might not provide as good of savings as other programs, but you can enroll anytime, and it’s especially worth it if you do a lot of printing for your online ESL classes.
Which laptop is best for you really depends on what kind of teacher you are, how much you’re money you’re trying to spend on a computer, and what features are best for you.
Use this guide to figure out which model is best for you so you can confidently buy a laptop that will help you teach to the best of your ability!
And of course, don’t forget to check out some of the snazzy computer discounts for teachers we’ve found.