Laptops are the superior option over desktops and tablets for online teaching. You don’t need to worry about having a quality webcam as all laptops now come with a widescreen integrated HD webcam built in them (but if you want to upgrade your camera, it’s a good idea too).
They also come with a decent internal microphone, so if your headphones don’t have a microphone (or they break for whatever reason), you can still provide a quality teaching environment.
With laptops, you have many options, but there are a few standout features you should look for when purchasing your computer for online teaching. Here are our requirements for any computer for an online teacher:
Size is crucial depending on what you’re doing and if the weight of your device is essential. Small screen sizes almost always result in a thinner, lighter machine. Here are the three most common sizes and things you should consider for each dimension:
13″ screen – This size is preferable if you’re strictly teaching online. At this size, there are numerous options with varying price ranges. You can get an extremely light and thin laptop or something with more hardware built into it. The 13″ screen size is the most mobile of the three and ideal if you do not want to carry around a heavier laptop.
15″ screen – The sweet spot. Not too big, not too small. Large enough to provide ample screen size for tasks like video editing and large enough to pack in high-quality hardware to make a performance-focused machine. But still small enough to fit in a backpack and not weigh too much. This size is ideal for work, play, and everyday use.
17″ screen – A big heavy laptop. Most laptops of this size are made for people who want to play video games or professionals who need a desktop replacement laptop. Generally, this size is different from the purpose of having a computer. It’s too big to fit into most backpacks, too heavy to want to carry it around with you.
17′ laptops have their place, of course. If you stay put in one spot for 90% of the time but need something you could take, consider a 17′ screen. Overall, this laptop size is too massive to use at cafes, too big to fit into bags, and overall annoying to carry around.
Instead get a laptop that has a 15.6 inch screen or less depending on your preference. In addition, consider getting a device that has a built in graphics card and a touch screen.
While not required for online teaching it will take the load off your processor when doing video chats in larger classrooms like where you’re teaching multiple students or if you’re running programs like Many Cam.
You can successfully teach online with a laptop that does not have a graphics card however, so it’s not a must have.
Touch Screen – Important
I can’t tell you how fun and valuable having a touch screen is for an online class environment. You can circle items on the screen, write words and have greater flexibility, control, and fun when teaching.
In addition, it can also be a great backup if you don’t have a mouse for whatever reason. During a class, we had a teacher whose mouse broke before class. Because he had a touch screen, he could complete the lesson objectives and avoid a potential teacher no-show for himself.
Recommended technical requirements
With looking to purchase a modern laptop there are a few things to be aware of as having a device with dated component could lead to poor experience for delivering your online classes.
- Operating system: Windows 10 or 11 / IOS Big Sur
- Processor: AMD Ryzen is currently the best, anything past Intel 7th gen is acceptable.
- Graphics: You don’t need a graphics card unless you’re gaming or doing intensive graphics applications.
- Ram: You’ll want 8 GB minimum, but 16 GB will future proof any device you purchase.
- Storage: Get a device with an SSD, they are much faster and more reliable than a mechanical HDD.
Best Laptops for Online Teachers – The 10 Laptops You Need To Know About
As an online teacher, the ideal laptop will be a Windows or IOS machine with a 13-15 inch display, touch screen, light weight, and decent internal webcam (at least 720P). The following are our top 10 best laptops for online teaching:
- Macbook Air
- Surface Laptop
- Dell XPS
- Acer Aspire
- Samsung Galaxy Flex
- HP Pavillion
- ASUS Zenbook
- Lenovo Idea Pad
- Macbook Pro
- Dell Inspiron
Below is a curated list of the best laptops for online teachers. You have numerous options, and our list covers many possibilities, from expensive, high-end notebooks to the best budget-friendly notebooks on the market. We also listed the pros and cons of each option.
M1 Macbook Air – Best Laptop for Online Teaching
The M1 Macbook Air is a reasonably priced, powerful, lightweight laptop. Pound for pound, it’s the best deal on the market today and is a solid choice for any professional online teacher. This model was released in 2023 and is the overall best option for an online teacher
M2 Macbook Air
Affordable and powerful. The M2 chip is a gamechanger and the M2 Macbook provides the best price and performance.
A small, powerful laptop like this with a high-quality built-in webcam and touch screen will make teaching online from anywhere headache free. You’ll also be able to easily create and render videos for online courses, record audio, design photos, and more if you’re into Apple products and looking for a laptop as an online teacher, we highly recommend the M1 Macbook Air.
It’s thin and light and the M2 chip is optimized for performance within an Apple Macbook. The touch screen is also quite stunning to look at, and very fun to use when in an online class setting. The built in webcam and microphone are acceptable, but you will want to purchase a webcam for best results.
- Amazingly thin and light.
- Excellent performance due to the hardware and the M1 chip technology
- Gorgeous high quality display.
- You can’t beat the price and performance on this device.
- No touch screen. If you’re teaching online you may want to consider something else.
- The default spec is set to 8 GB which is mediocre for video creation.
- Some teachers may want to stick with Windows Machines.
Surface Laptop 5 – Best Windows 11 laptop
The Surface Laptop from Microsoft is their premium answer to Apple’s popular Macbook. This is an excellent Windows 11 machine; not only is it capable of editing 4k videos and managing multi-media applications, but it also includes a helpful touch screen one on 1 teachers will love.
Surface Laptop 5
Created by Microsoft, it’s their answer to Apple’s Macbook series.
With a gorgeous 13.5″ screen, it has a unique style all it’s own. Our model came with a powerful Ryzen processor, 16 GB of ram and a 256 GB SSD. This is adequate for both video editing and intensive video work.
This means you get a device that is wonderfully flexible for your teaching needs. Powerful enough to edit videos for lectures and online courses, a touch screen for live teaching an a large screen to make working easy.
- Has a powerful processor and enough ram to handle pretty much any task.
- Lightweight and a surprisingly large screen.
- Has a cool factor, making you stand out from the crowd.
- Touch screen. This is really handy for online teaching.
- Not too expensive unlike Macbooks.
- 256 GB for an SSD is not adequate, you really want 512 GB or 1TB unless you’re fine with using an external hard drive.
- The 13.5″ screen size is more square than rectangle, making for an odd size particularly when doing screen recordings and uploading those recordings to YouTube.
Dell XPS 13″ – Best Small Laptop
The Dell XPS was originally marketed as a gaming laptop. The XPS has since been re-branded and transformed into Dell Computer’s flagship pro level offering.
Dell XPS 13
Small, thin and lightweight. The XPS series is the best Windows laptop.
Feature rich, light weight and sporting a 13 inch screen with end to end bezels. The XPS line has some of the best screens on the market, though we do suggest getting the standard matte finish as it helps improve battery life and lowers the overall price point.
In addition, the XPS has the hardware to handle anything you need a laptop to do. From video editing, to playing video games to online teaching. The XPS is an excellent, small and light laptop that can breeze through any Windows 11 application.
If mobility, light weight, small and powerful is what you’re after the XPS is an excellent laptop for any professional online teacher. It comes in three sizes: 13,15 and 17. The 13 and 15 inch sizes are our favorites. The 17 inch is the same size as a standard 15 inch laptop from a few years ago.
- Gorgeous screen.
- Small body and thin.
- Excellent performance for intensive, media rich activities.
- The webcam leaves something to be desired. We do suggest you purchase a separate webcam in general as a professional educator however.
- The XPS is Dell’s top of the line offering, as such these laptops can be quite expensive.
- You’ll need a cheap dongle for this device.
Acer Aspire 5 – Best Budget 15.6 inch option
Acer is known as a budget-friendly brand, and they deliver with their Aspire 5. With a dual-core processor, dedicated graphics card, solid-state hard drive, 15.6-inch screen, and a light body, this laptop is the most practical option.
Acer Aspire 5
Cheap, affordable laptop. Perfect for teachers who need a simple yet effective machine.
If you’re looking for a good 15.6 inch screen laptop that has all some pretty impressive internal components for the price then consider getting the Acer Aspire 5.
- Excellent build quality for the price.
- No touch screen!
Samsung Galaxy Pro Book – Excellent midrange laptop
The Samsung Galaxy Flex is a premium 14″ laptop with a perfect size and ideal weight. For the price, you’re getting a stylish Windows alternative to a Macbook in a compact and efficient size.
Galaxy Pro Book
The workhorse laptop from Samsung. Stylish and powerful.
This model is functionally Samsung’s mid-range, work horse laptop that is well design, powerful but not too expensive. It’s a step up from other mid range laptops, but not at the level of an XPS or Macbook.
If you’re looking for a regular-sized, 14″ laptop that’s lightweight, powerful, has a great screen, and pays attention to aesthetics, you’ll like the Galaxy Pro Book. It also has very good battery life.
- An excellent laptop overall, one of the best on the market if you’re looking for a MacBook alternative that has the power you want but also a larger screen size.
- OLED screen for bright, vibrant colors.
- Being a more premium laptop, it has a price point to match.
HP Pavilion 15 – HP’s Workhorse PC
For a very affordable price, you get a quality mid-range laptop ideal for everyday tasks, including online teaching. It also sports a 15.6-inch screen, so you’ll have many screen real estate to work with.
HP Pavilion 15
Good, affordable, mid-range laptop from HP.
The HP Pavillion is the first workhorse” laptop, as we call it here at Teach and GO. Not the prettiest, not the smallest, not the thinnest, nor the fastest. The Pavillion laptop series is designed for getting work done without being particularly expensive.
- An excellent laptop for work and general use.
- No frills laptop with quality performance.
- Touch screen that’s quite useful for online class.
- Not designed to be particularly thin or light weight.
- Lacks dedicated graphics card. Fine for online teaching, not for gaming.
- No touch screen.
Asus Zenbook 14 – Slim, powerful and affordable
The Zenbook line from Asus is some of the thinnest, lightest, and most affordable laptops (compared to more expensive ultra-slim laptops). This laptop has an impressive, beautiful design, a gorgeous screen, and a good webcam; it is thin and light.
Asus Zenbook 14
Sleek and stylish laptop. One of the thinnest and lightest made.
It comes with a glossy display, a 1TB SSD for a lot of internal storage, it’s quite thin and light; finally it uses more modern thunderbolt 4 connectors. For graphics, it uses Intel Iris XE which is not as good as a dedicated graphics card, but it is far superior to a processor alone.
We also liked that this model as a core i7 and and fast SSD hard drive and 16 GB of ram. There are no bottle necks with this laptop for your work as a teacher.
- ASUS makes some of the best mid range laptops around.
- Sleek deign and good performance.
- Has 8 GB of ram on the base model. 16 GB is preferred.
- No touch screen.
- You’ll need a cheap dongle for this device.
Lenovo Idea Pad 14” – The small, super budget option
The Lenovo Idea Pad is a very affordable, low end laptop with average hardware that is good enough to help you need to get work done. Its 14″ size makes it the perfect option if you want something slightly more significant than a Macbook Air.
Lenovo Idea Pad
An excellent laptop that is incredibly cost effective.
While not the smallest on the list, if you’re looking for a quality laptop with a 14-inch display and the capabilities of a more expensive laptop, then the Lenovo Idea Pad may be for you.
The Lenovo Idea Pad is your standard, run-of-the-mill laptop. It’s not particularly thin, it’s not particularly beautiful, and it could be lighter too (not to say it’s excessively heavy, mind you), but it is affordable and can help you complete work with ease.
It has decent processor that can handle video, enough ram to take on resource heavy tasks and an SSD so your internal storage won’t be a bottle neck.
- Great specs for the price. 14″ screen, 4 GB of ram and an SSD hard drive.
- Designed for casual use like writing, browsing the internet and video calls.
- Heavier and bulkier than other options.
- Lenovo laptops tend to lack asthetics and have a corporate look to them.
- No touchscreen.
- The specs make this machine slow, but given the price point it’s acceptable.
MacBook Pro M – Outstanding built in microphone
The MacBook Pro is Apple’s flagship “large laptop” and the professional content creator’s laptop. The 14.2 inch size is an excellent buy because it’s powerful, can replace any workstation, has a beautiful screen, and is the best onboard microphone we’ve ever used.
MacBook Pro M3
A laptop with a big gorgeous screen and the best on-board microphone on a laptop.
Seriously, the microphone is quite premium, with noise-canceling functionality built in. You don’t need a USB microphone or a pair of headsets with an attached microphone, as this laptop sounds better than any cheap headset we used.
It’s lower on our list due to its high price, and it’s feature set is far and above what you would need for teaching online, but if you’re looking for one of the best laptops around, the MacBook 16 is an excellent option as this laptop will serve you well for your online teaching career.
- This Macbook has a gorgeous 16 inch screen.
- Built in graphics card for easy video editing and rendering.
- Superior, noise cancelling microphone built in.
- Comes with the newer M1 chips for optimal performance.
- Good webcam, but not as great as you would expect.
- Quite expensive overall compared to other options.
Dell Inspiron – Good price and performance with touchscreen
The Dell Inspiron sports a 15.6-inch display, a good amount of ram for any resource-heavy task, and a powerful processor. For the price, you’re getting a good, cost effective machine that’s designed for office work.
Affordable laptop with a useful touchscreen. Perfect for online teaching.
This machine is an excellent option for any online teacher or creative professional as it has the size, power, and price point for working effectively. It has a 15.6-inch touchscreen, a good SSD drive with integrated graphics, and 16 GB of ram.
For the price, you get a reliable machine capable of doing almost any task. The ram on this device is at 12 GB which is adequate for editing 1080P video but not 4k. The battery life could also be a bit better but for the price point, we don’t want to nitpick.
- Excellent performance for teaching and everyday web usage.
- Nice design for a budget laptop.
- 16 GB of ram and an SSD with have this laptop running smooth.
- Touch screen.
- Big screen, but the FHD panel is pretty average. It’s no MacBook, but for the price it’s good.
- No dedicated graphics card so not ideal for heavy video editing.
Additional Laptop Features
Storage Space – You will want an SSD instead of an HDD for modern laptops. Solid-state hard drives are much faster, and your computer will run faster. The only trade-off is storage space. It’s common to get a computer with a 2TB amount of space or more in an HDD, which is way more than you’ll most likely need. SSDs are still in the 128 to 1TB range.
Battery Life – The larger the screen, the less battery life you can expect from a laptop, as a rule. For online teaching, your computer will likely be plugged in, so for online teachers, this is a minor issue to take note of.
Weight – You want a laptop that weighs 5 lbs or less. Even 5 kg is now considered a heavy laptop. Weight matters, as there will be times when you’ll have your laptop in a backpack. You won’t want to carry around something serious for long periods.
Graphics Card – If you’re doing video editing or want to play games on your laptop, look into getting a machine with a dedicated graphics card. For strictly online teaching purposes, a graphics card is a non issue, as the built-in graphic process with your Intel chip is sufficient.
Screen Quality – Screens come in matte and glossy. Glossy tends to look more vibrant and colorful. Matte can look nice too, but on cheaper laptops, a matte finish tends to have a dull look.
RAM – 8 GB is standard now, but that is quickly changing to 16 GB. At 16 GB, you have more than enough RAM to run any application as an online English teacher. Even at 8 GB, that is still enough. You may run into issues, though, at the 4 GB mark.
Processor – Your processor is the essential hardware in your laptop, apart from your motherboard. Higher-end laptops have the latest and most excellent models.
Operating System – The safest route is to get a Windows machine; I have yet, however to hear of anyone having an issue teaching online with IOS from Mac or Chrome IOS.
Touch Screen – A laptop with a touch screen is helpful when teaching online, as numerous platforms like VIPKID have an interactive classrooms. So with a computer with a touch screen, you can use your mouse and hand to demonstrate activities on the net.
Conclusion – Best Laptops For Online Teaching
Laptops for teaching online have a few specific, online teacher-friendly requirements. If possible, a good webcam, a small and lightweight design, and a touch screen. Through extensive research and practical actual, world usage of different laptops as online English teachers, we suggest getting a smaller laptop if all you will be using it for an online class.
A small form factor, affordable price, touch screen, and hardware performance are what you need in the best laptop for online teachers. In addition to a computer, you should consider getting a dedicated webcam for online teaching. Also, consider getting some blue light-blocking glasses if you’re teaching a lot of hours each day.
Editorial StaffI'm David Unwin and I head the editorial staff here at Teach and GO. I've taught as an ESL teacher in Thailand for 5+ years at all levels of education, from elementary to University. I was also one of the first 1000 VIPKID teachers. I and my team now share my extensive experience as a teacher here at Teach and GO. Learn more.
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