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Grad gift guide 2023: Best laptop computers to gift your high school grad

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Is your high school student about to graduate? Your college-bound grad will need a computer for homework, staying in touch with friends and family and goofing off now and then. The best computers for your high school grad are reliable, affordable and ready to grow with them. (And did we mention that computers make perfect graduation gifts?)

We've rounded up several customer-loved computers that are perfect for the grads in your life. All these reviewer-loved options come with a four-star rating or higher. Ready to find the perfect computer for your young scholar? Read on to discover the best computers for high school grads in 2023.

Top products in this article: 

Best overall computer: Apple MacBook Air M1, $800 (reduced from $1,000) 

Best Windows computer: HP Pavilion 15 laptop, $802 (reduced from $945) 

Best budget computer: Lenovo IdeaPad 3 Chromebook, $147 (reduced from $220) 

The best computers for high school grads are portable and lightweight, yet powerful enough to handle heavy task loads. They're also sturdy, reliable, and hail from brands like Apple and Lenovo. Both the MacBook Air M1 and HP Pavilion 15 are available now at deep discounts at Amazon ahead of Amazon Prime Day 2023.

Keep reading to shop the best computers for high school grads.

Apple MacBook Air M1 laptop

Apple MacBook Air M1

Apple's entry-level M1 MacBook Air laptop is feather-light with a lengthy 18-hour battery life. It can handle just about anything you throw at it, whether that's writing essays or catching up on a few TV shows here and there. It's an excellent laptop for regular, everyday use. 

In addition to its powerful M1 processor, the MacBook Air M1 includes Apple's luxuriously clicky Magic Keyboard, a 13.3-inch Retina display, and a Force Touch trackpad, which is a dream to use in lieu of a mouse. There's also a webcam for remote classes or calling up friends and family to say "hi."

One Amazon reviewer called it a "great notebook with almost no weaknesses," gushing over its performance: "Honestly, I think a M1 MacBook is all many really need for general use cases. I highly recommend a MacBook Air over any PC notebook."

Apple MacBook Air M1, $800 (reduced from $1,000) 

HP Pavilion 15

HP Pavilion 15

The HP Pavilion 15 is a slim laptop equipped with high-spec hardware, including a touch-screen display, a fourth-generation AMD Ryzen 7 processor and 16GB of RAM to back it all up. If you're looking to go the Windows route for your grad, this is on par with Apple's MacBook lineup.

All of this is conveniently packed into an attractively slim form factor, making it the perfect choice for toting to and from class or trips back home. Its full-size keyboard and trackpad feel fantastic, and it performs great even under a heavy workload (like making PowerPoint presentations or editing graphics).

An Amazon customer called this computer the "best laptop in 10 years," adding that the HP Pavilion 15 features "great SSD and the speakers are fantastic. Love everything about this."

HP Pavilion 15 laptop, $802 (reduced from $945) 

Lenovo IdeaPad 3 Chromebook 

Lenovo IdeaPad 3 Chromebook

This Chromebook is an absolute steal at under $150. It's such an excellent pick for students and casual users alike. Lenovo is a reliable name in the laptop business as it is, and this Chromebook is no joke when it comes to performance.

Don't let its low price fool you. It's lightning-fast, ultra-slim and portable, and boots up in just seconds. It also boasts a 10-hour battery life, with Chrome OS, built-in virus protection and a 720p webcam to help make sure college-bound students can stay in touch.

An Amazon buyer called it "just what you need if you're not tech savvy."

"I love the ease of use. I like that I don't have to worry about finding the right virus protection -- it's already included." 

Lenovo IdeaPad 3 Chromebook, $147 (reduced from $220) 

Microsoft Surface Pro 8


The Microsoft Surface Pro 8 is an attractive and reasonably-priced laptop that also happens to be the first Surface built on the Intel Evo platform. It's extremely thin and lightweight, with a hardy build that can withstand jostling and drops. It also features a detachable keyboard, so it can be used as a tablet with support for the Microsoft Surface Slim Pen 2.

It's perfect for homework, browsing, streaming, and even creating digital art, thanks to the incredibly responsive touch screen. Thanks to its USB-A port, USB-C port, headphone jack and a dedicated charging port, it's also a champ when it comes to connectivity.

One Amazon buyer called it "as close to an iPad as Microsoft can get": "I've only touched the surface (no pun intended) on what this new computer and Windows 11 can do, but it's pretty incredible something so thin and light and small is a real computer!"

Microsoft Surface Pro 8, $711 (reduced from $1,200) 

Acer Aspire 5 Slim


The Acer Aspire 5 Slim isn't only good for high school graduates, but for anyone looking for a laptop that can split the difference between work and play. Thanks to its AMD Ryzen 3 processor, the Acer Aspire 5 Slim is an excellent choice for kicking back and relaxing with a game or two between homework assignments. 

With 12 GB of DDR4 RAM and 512 GB of SSD storage, it's powerful and spacious enough to handle whatever your grad is getting into, whether they're dabbling in programming or creating art. This laptop is a great choice for most users with its large screen, crisp Radeon graphics, and a keyboard that'll stand up to hours and hours of essay questions when college rolls around. 

One Amazon buyer raves that they highly recommend this laptop: "I've loaded it up and used it constantly for two months, haven't installed extra memory yet, and it hasn't given me one second of regret or 'hmm' or concern. It looks great, it's fast, it's light weight, and it can be built up to serve your computer needs."

Acer Aspire 5 Slim, $340 (reduced from $370) 

The best laptops for college students

Already have a college student who's in need of a new laptop? Tailor your next purchase to their needs and peruse some of these college-ready laptops available at a reasonable cost. Chromebooks are a popular choice for students for this reason. Check out our top picks for the best laptops for college students in 2023.

11.6" Samsung Chromebook 4 (Intel Celeron Processor, 4GB RAM)


Are you hard on your laptops? This thin, light and powerful MacBook alternative for Windows users boasts military-grade durability.

This model features a 11.6-inch display, lightning-fast Wi-Fi connection speeds and up to 12 hours of battery life. It even features Google-supported, voice-based assistance.

11.6" Samsung Chromebook 4 (Intel Celeron Processor, 4GB RAM), $185 (reduced from $250) 

14" Lenovo ThinkPad E14


The Lenovo ThinkPad E14 is an excellent choice for college students that want a more premium laptop.  The ThinkPad E14 runs on Windows 11 Pro. It features Dolby Audio, a 1080p HD camera, and 8 GB of memory. The ThinkPad also includes biometric sign-on with fingerprint or facial recognition.

14" Lenovo ThinkPad E14, $1,033 (reduced from $1,589)

15" Lenovo Flex 3i 2-in-1 Chromebook


Consider the Lenovo Flex 3i Chromebook that doubles as a touchscreen tablet. The Chromebook features natural finger-touch navigation, multicore processing, a built-in 720p webcam with microphone, a 4 GB system memory and a 32 GB eMMC flash memory.

Lenovo Flex 3i 2-in-1 Chromebook, $429 and up

11.6" HP Chromebook with touchscreen (32 GB)

11.6" HP Chromebook with touchscreen

This HP Chromebook features 4 GB of RAM, 32 GB of storage, an 11.6-inch touchscreen and a fantastic price. It's currently 50% off on Amazon.

11.6" HP Chromebook with touchscreen, $129 (reduced from $260)

Laptop buying FAQs

Not sure how to choose the best laptop for your needs and budget? Check out our laptop buying guide below to find answers to common laptop buying question.

Should I buy a MacBook or a Windows laptop?

If you're an Apple user, a MacBook laptop is a great choice. Apple MacBook laptops seamlessly sync with your existing devices like Apple iPhones or iPads so that your iMessage conversations, photos and more carry over between devices.

For non-Apple users, it depends on your budget, planned usage and interface preferences. It's a good idea to check out the latest Window and Mac OS interfaces. Like the iPhone vs Android debate, it often comes down to your own personal preference on the interface. Though an Apple MacBook will generally cost you well over a $1,000 and there are solid windows laptop options for under $1,000, so keep that in mind as well.

What is a good price for a laptop?

How much the right laptop for you will cost varies based on your preferred operating system and what you plan to use the laptop for. A standard Windows productivity laptop may be available in the $700-$1,000 range. Chromebooks, one of the best laptop options for college students, can be purchased for as low as $200. 

On the other hand, if you're looking for the laptop that is best for gaming or creating, you'll need to splurge. Apple MacBooks are popular laptops for photo and video editing. Gaming laptops are generally Windows-based and have specs such as speedy processors and higher refresh rates to provide smoother gameplay. Expect to pay more for a MacBook or a specialized gaming laptop.

How much storage and memory does your laptop need?

Users that just plan to use their laptops for email and web browsing may only need 4-8 GB of RAM and around 256 GB of storage. However, gamers, video editors and those that frequently download large files will need more. Creatives and gamers may want 512 GB to 1 TB of storage and 8 to 16GB of RAM.

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