[DEAL TIME] Laptops for School, Work and Play

Category: Laptops

August is prime time for back-to-school sales on everything from pencils to computers. Even if you're not a student, this can be a great time to upgrade your tech. Here are some of the hottest deals around for laptops right now...

Which Laptop Deal is Right For You?

If you have a student in your home, you might still be wondering what the next academic year will look like. In-person, virtual, or some combination of the above? Home schooling, and local educational co-ops are growing fast in popularity. You may be a work-at-home parent, or a senior who loves to surf the Web. But the common denominator for all is the need for a capable laptop.

The Acer Aspire 5 Slim Laptop ($469) is Amazon's #1 Best Seller in Traditional Laptops. It features a 15.6-inch Full HD IPS Display, AMD's Ryzen 3 3200U Dual-Core Processor (2.6GHz with Precision Boost up to 3.5GHz), 4GB RAM memory, 128GB SSD, backlit keyboard, and runs Windows 10 in S Mode. The Aspire 5 Slim weighs in at 3.97 pounds, has two built-in stereo speakers, two built-in microphones, HD webcam, and an HDMI Port. The lithium-ion battery provides to 7.5 hours of battery life. It's not a hotrod, but for the price, it's a decent performer, and will handle everyday tasks such as word processing, email, and web browsing well.

Windows 10 S Mode is a locked-down configuration of the Windows 10 operating system that can only run apps downloaded from the official Microsoft Store. The advantages of Windows 10 S Mode are faster boot time, longer battery life, and better security. You can turn off S Mode if you like and revert to the standard Windows 10 configuration.

back to school laptops

If you’re looking for a budget priced laptop, and willing to sacrifice a bit on speed and storage specs, the $262 ASUS VivoBook might be just the ticket. The VivoBook L203MA Laptop is slim and portable (0.7 inch thin and only 2.2 pounds). It has an 11.6” HD Display, Intel Celeron N4000 Dual Core CPU, 4GB RAM, 64GB Storage, and an HD webcam. It comes with one year of Microsoft 365, and you can connect peripherals with HDMI, USB-A and USB-C ports. ASUS promises "up to 10 hours battery life" on this model, which comes configured in Windows 10 Home S Mode.

This 2020 HP 14-inch Laptop ($387) offers more speed and twice the file storage of the VivoBook. It has a faster dual-core AMD A9-9425 processor, 4GB of RAM, 128GB SSD drive, Bluetooth, HDMI, and runs the Windows 10 Home operating system. No optical (CDrom) drive.

Want more speed, larger drive, and a bigger screen? The $579 HP 15-Inch FHD Laptop features a quad-core 10th Gen Intel Core i5 CPU, 8 GB RAM memory, a 256 GB Solid-State Drive, and runs Windows 10 Home. It has an anti-glare 15.6-inch diagonal HD screen, fast Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth connections, an HP True Vision HD webcam and an integrated numeric keypad. Battery life is up to 10 hours and 15 minutes (mixed usage), and with HP Fast Charge you get 0 to 50% charge in 45 minutes.

The Lenovo 130-15AST 15.6" Laptop ($530) has pretty much the same specs as the HP model above, with a slightly lower price tag. It has an AMD A9-Series processor, 8GB RAM memory, a 256GB SSD drive, Wi-Fi, HDMI, Bluetooth, running on the Windows 10 operating system. It's a solid performer for word processing, email, Web browsing, videos, basic photo editing and casual gaming. This model can connect via the HDMI port to an HDTV or high-def monitor to create a dual-screen setup. A built-in media reader supports SD, MMC, SDHC and SDXC memory card formats.

Don't confuse this $695 Acer Aspire 5 Slim Laptop with the first laptop mentioned in this article. It has the same name, but more impressive specs. This one has a 15.6-inch Display, 8th Gen Intel Core i5 processor (Turbo Boost up to 3.9GHz), 8GB RAM memory, 256GB SSD drive, fingerprint reader, and runs Windows 10 Home. The HDMI Port allows you to connect an HDTV or a second monitor, and the
lithium-ion battery provides up to 9.5-hours battery life.

The $679 Acer Swift 3 is a PC World Editors’ Choice Winner. It's thin and light, with a 14-inch Full HD screen, AMD Ryzen 7 4700U Octa-Core Mobile Processor (Up to 4.1GHz), 8GB RAM memory, and a spacious 512GB SSD drive. It has an HD webcam, fast WiFi 6 connectivity, a backlit keyboard, fingerprint reader, and Alexa built-in. It's just 0.63 inches thin, weighs only 2.65 lbs and offers up to 11.5 hours of battery life.

If you're looking at the higher-end, consider the ASUS ZenBook 15 Laptop ($1131) with 15.6 inch UHD 4K NanoEdge Display, the latest 10th generation Intel Core i7 Quad Core Processor (8M Cache, up to 4.9 GHz), and GeForce GTX 1650 graphics. It comes with a hefty 16GB of RAM memory, 512GB SSD drive, and the innovative ScreenPad, a 5.65-inch interactive touchscreen trackpad. It has a built-in infrared camera for facial recognition sign in with Windows Hello, and multiple connectivity options (HDMI, USB Type C, Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth). All that goodness is packed into a very portable 3.6 pound package.

A well-made laptop for an adult should survive at least 3 or 4 years. When buying for middle and high school students, price is a key factor for a machine that will probably be outgrown, obsolete, or broken in two years. Wanna brag about the great deal YOU got on a laptop? Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below...

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Most recent comments on "[DEAL TIME] Laptops for School, Work and Play"

Posted by:

Walter Orten
18 Aug 2020

I would like a program that deletes dead DLL files
Thanks for the good thoughts

Posted by:

Mike Davies
18 Aug 2020

Try your local independent computer shop, one that does repairs. I got a refurbished HP EliteBook with 8GB RAM, with the Hard Drive upgraded to a Solid State Drive, 15" Super HD screen, OS upgraded to Win 10, for £300, that's USD400. OK, it's a bit heavy to lug around, mine stays in one place all the time, but they might have something smaller and lighter that's a great deal on a refurb.

Posted by:

Thomas Murray
18 Aug 2020

Why not a chromebook? I stiil don't see the weaknesses.

Posted by:

18 Aug 2020

Windows 10 S - Microsoft says the "S" stands for "Secure" other people say it stands for "Stupid." The Windows 10S machines can not run any standard programs. Think about that ... a "Windows" computer that can't run Windows programs. You can't run Google Chrome or Firefox or any other browser than Edge in 10S.

Thankfully one can usually *upgrade* Win10S to Win10 Home, usually for no cost. You've got to have a Microsoft account to do so - that machine gets registered to the account used.

This is just Microsoft trying to keep up with Apple and Android. Universal Windows Apps (UWA - introduced in Windows 8) are cleaner than the old Win32Api programs and are easier to install and uninstall. But there are very few of them compared to the vast majority of Windows Programs.

And probably nothing you want is in the Microsoft Store. Buyer beware.

Posted by:

18 Aug 2020

I made the mistake of buying a Lenovo IdeaPad 15" laptop a couple years ago. The enter key is in an awkward position. Worse, changing batteries is a nightmare. I then bought a refurbished HP Elitebook from Refurbee's. Absolute dream. i7 chip. The computer was top of the line a few years ago, way more than I could have afforded. But I got a real deal on this one and have absolutely no problems with it. I would buy from Refurbees again. More laptop for less money.

Posted by:

19 Aug 2020

Refurbed Chromebooks can be had for well under US$100.00 (11 to 14 inch screens, 4Gb Ram and 16Gb SSD). They have access to many Google Apps. Great 1st 'puter for a student and availablme from many vendors including Amazon and Ebay.

Posted by:

Linda Diamond
19 Aug 2020

What about something with a larger screen, larger SSD and 16GB memory. Suggestions?

Posted by:

Bob Kinsler
19 Aug 2020

I also note you did not include Dell, where in a search I found 8 laptops with SSD all under $500.

Posted by:

19 Aug 2020

Mike Davies suggestion above is one of the most practical of all. Many shops will sell a very nice refurbished laptop for $300 or less. Ideal for a student who wants to make every dollar count.

Posted by:

20 Aug 2020

I prefer 11 inch touchscreen laptops. Very portable and easy to use. Probably because I've got used to using touch on my phone, but they're a bit harder to find. Any suggestions on budget models that are also decent?

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