6 BEST Laptops for Teaching Online [UPDATED 2021]

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Teaching online and remote learning has never been more in-demand than it is today (thank you, covid). 

And having the right equipment has never been more important either. 

Maybe you’re a traditional teacher who’s been chucked into the world of online teaching.

Or maybe you’re living the digital nomad lifestyle — teaching English online while traveling the world. 

Either way, you need a quality laptop. Choose the wrong one, and you’re in for daily headaches and cranky students.

So, what is the best laptop for online teaching? 

It depends on your needs.

There’s no one-size-fits-all answer. So to make it easier on you, we’ve rounded up six of the best laptops for teaching online, broken down by budget and features.

By the end, you should know exactly which online teaching laptop is best for YOU.

TL;DR: What is the best laptop for online teaching?

MacBook Air (M1) – Best Online Teaching Laptop for Mac Lovers
Microsoft Surface Pro 7 – Best Lightweight Laptop for Traveling Teachers
Acer Aspire 5 – Best Value Laptop for Zoom Teaching
Dell Inspiron 15 – Best Budget Laptop for Online Teaching
Samsung Galaxy Book Flex – Best PC to Match the Power of a Mac
Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 14 – Best Touchscreen Laptop for Online Teachers

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Macbook Air M1 (Best Online Teaching Laptop for Mac Lovers)
Dimensions (H x W x D): 0.63” x 11.97” x 8.36”
Weight: 2.84 lb (1.29 kg)
Specs: Apple M1, Up to 2TB SSD, 16 GB RAM
Ports: Thunderbolt 4 USB-C (x2)
Battery Life: Up to 18 hours
Microsoft Surface Pro 7 (Best Lightweight Laptop for Traveling Teachers)
Dimensions (H x W x D): 11.5” x 7.9” x 0.33”
Weight: 1.72 lb (0.78 kg)
Specs: 10th Gen Intel Core i5 and i7, Up to 1TB SSD and 16GB RAM
Ports: USB (x1), USB-C (x1), microSD (x1)
Battery Life: Up to 10.5 hours
Acer Aspire 5 (Best Value Laptop for Zoom Teaching)
Dimensions (H x W x D): 14.31” x 9.86” x 0.71”
Weight: 3.97 lb to 4.19 lb
Specs: From 8th Gen Intel Core i5 up to AMD Ryzen 7, Up to 1TB SSD and 16GB RAM
Ports: USB 3.1 (x1), USB 2.0 (x2), Ethernet, HDMI
Battery Life: Up to 7.5 hours
Dell Inspiron 15 (Best Budget Laptop for Online Teaching)
Dimensions (H x W x D): 14.33” x 9.8” x 0.78”
Weight: 3.91 lb (1.78 kg)
Specs: 10th Gen Intel Core i5 , 256GB SSD and 8GB RAM
Ports: USB 2.0 (x1), USB 3.2 (x2), HDMI, RJ-45
Battery Life: Up to 7.5 hours
Samsung Galaxy Book Flex (Best Macbook Alternative)
Dimensions (H x W x D): 11.91” x 7.99” x 0.51”
Weight: 2.56 lb (1.16 kg)
Specs: 10th Gen Intel Core i7 , 512GB storage and 8GB RAM
Ports: Thunderbolt 3 (x2), USB-C (x1)
Battery Life: Up to 20 hours
Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 14 (Best Touchscreen Laptop for Teachers)
Dimensions (H x W x D): 11.91” x 7.99” x 0.51”
Weight: 2.56 lb (1.16 kg)
Specs: 10th Gen Intel Core i7 , 256GB SSD and 16GB RAM
Ports: USB-A (x2), USB-C (x1), HDMI
Battery Life: Up to 10 hours

What do the best laptops for online teaching have in common?

Before diving into the specs for each online teaching laptop, let’s make sure you understand what the specs actually mean (and what you should look for).

The best laptops for virtual teaching have the following requirements as a minimum.

Laptop specs for online teaching

CPU / Processor 

This is your computer’s main processing unit and it plays an important role in the response and speed of your laptop.

There are a few different types and names of processors available today. Intel Core, AMD Ryzen, and the new Apple M1.

Avoid an online teaching laptop that has anything less than an Intel Core i5 or AMD Ryzen 5. If you’re really in a pinch, a Ryzen 3 is workable as well. But honestly, if you want a future-proof laptop, we recommend grabbing something with at least an Intel Core i7, AMD Ryzen 7, or the new Apple M1.

These all have stronger staying power, battery life, and resale power when you’re ready for an upgrade.

RAM / Memory

RAM is important for online teaching. It relates to your computer’s short-term memory and how well it manages multiple tasks at once. 

What does this mean? If you like to have a few different windows and applications open while you teach — like notes and references — you’ll need to have a decent amount of RAM to prevent your laptop from slowing down during a class.

A minimum of 8GB of RAM is required for online ESL platforms like VIPKID and GoGoKid, and this is our recommended minimum too.

Even though you can get by with 4GB of RAM on Zoom, why risk it? It’s better to have a little too much than not enough. 

teacher having connection problems during a class because he's using one of the best laptops for teaching online

Storage

Hard disk drives (HDD) are a thing of the past and are quickly being phased out by solid-state drives (SSD) across most devices. 

Avoid any laptops with HDD as their storage hardware. They’ll be slower to load, less responsive, and easier to break. Sounds like a headache waiting to happen.

Ensure your new teaching laptop has at least 128GB of SSD (go for 256GB if you’re a file hoarder or don’t like to drag around external hard drives). There’s nothing worse than a full hard drive, especially with laptops that don’t offer aftermarket upgrades. 

Personal Tip: Depending on the programs and applications you have installed, 128GB can get eaten up quickly! If you don’t mind carrying around a tiny, rugged external hard drive with you, you can get more bang-for-your-buck storage (here’s the teensy Samsung SSD drive we use). Otherwise, if you have the extra cash and use your laptop for more than just online teaching, definitely go for a 256GB option. 

Operating systems

The ever-present debate of iOS versus Windows doesn’t matter when it comes to teaching online. Both options work perfectly fine. Just go with whatever you’re most comfortable with.

If you’re a PC person, make sure you’re using Windows 10. It debuted back in 2015, and the 13th version was released in November 2021. 

If you read news about Windows 11, we suggest you wait on buying any laptops with it. It’s a new rollout from October 5, 2021, but with the myriad of changes and potential bugs, we can’t guarantee your online teaching programs and applications will work with it. 

If you’re a Mac lover, make sure you’re operating on at least iOS 10.14 Mojave (the next up are 10.15 Catalina and 11.0 Big Sur). New laptops will probably run 12.0 Monterey out of the box, so you only have to worry about this if you’re buying an old, used Macbook — which isn’t necessarily a bad option if you’re on a budget.

Webcams

Your webcam is your most important connection to your students. A good webcam helps simulate a better in-person feel to your online teaching classes. 

Look for built-in HD webcams with a minimum 720p resolution. 

Sure, you can buy separate webcam attachments that will outperform almost any built-in webcam. But if you’re a teacher on the go (or a digital nomad), that’s one extra, easily losable piece of equipment to keep tabs on. 

Which type of screen is best for an online teaching laptop?

Before comparing laptops, there are two more decisions you have to make:

  1. What size screen do you need?
  2. Are touchscreen capabilities worth it?

First, let’s tackle screen size. 

The online teaching laptops in our list range from a nifty 12.3” tablet-type laptop to a full-size 17” screen.

Each size has advantages and disadvantages: 

17” Screens

✅ Closest ‘laptop that feels like a desktop’ that money can buy
✅ Space for multiple tabs and windows open simultaneously (increased remote work productivity)
✅ Easier to see for those with poor eyesight
✅ Easier to type for less nimble fingers
❌ Larger, heavier, and less portable
❌ Bigger screens equal bigger price tags

15” Screens

✅ The Goldilocks laptop — not too big, not too small (unless you’re a minimalist traveler)
✅ Lightweight and fits in most backpacks and carry cases
✅ Perfect mix of size and capability
❌ More expensive than smaller options

13” Screens

✅ The lightest weight and most mobile laptops
✅ Options for every budget 
✅ Still a very useable screen size for most people
❌ Less comfortable with multiple windows open
❌ Not ideal for those with poor eyesight

To touch screen or not to touch screen?

Touch screens let you creatively interact with what you’re showing on your screen. If you like to circle, underline, and draw stuff, a touch screen could be a gamechanger for you.

Touch screens that come with an active pen are even more creative-friendly, as they combine the best elements of a high-performing laptop with the interactive usability of a tablet. 

Now, you can technically markup your screen using a normal mouse or trackpad, but it’s a lot clunkier.

6 best laptops for teaching online in 2021

Since everyone has different needs, preferences, and budgets, these top teaching laptops are listed in no particular order. Scan through them all to find the best fit for you.

1.  Apple MacBook Air M1 (Best for Mac Lovers)

Screen Size: 13.3” Retina display
Weight: 2.84 lb / 1.29 kg
Processor: Apple M1 chip with an 8-core CPU
Memory: up to 16GB
Storage: up to 2 TB SSD
Battery Life: up to 17 hours
Webcam: 720p FaceTime HD camera
Touch Screen: No
Price: $899 (M1 chip, 8GH memory and 256GB SSD storage)

The Macbook Air M1 is the lightest laptop in the Apple range, boasting all of the capabilities of its bigger brothers. 

Thin, fast, and more affordable — it really is a better buy than the MacBook Pro. Unless you’re teaching video editing, the Macbook Pro is overkill. The only standout difference between the Air and the Pro (that matters to a teacher) is the screen sizes available. The new Pro models come with 14” and 16” screens, and older secondhand models go up to 17”.

You can grab the latest Apple MacBook Air M1 for under $1,000 with all the right requirements you need to start teaching today. Don’t forget to look for the education discount for even more savings.

Enhanced sound and an updated microphone easily capture your voice, and a retina screen with true-tone color technology will give your tired eyes some rest. 

Best of all, this battery lasts forever. Seriously, after upgrading from my old Macbook Pro (without the M1 chip), I feel like I never have to charge this thing.

PROS

✅ Lightweight, Thin + Super Portable 
✅ Exceptional Battery Life
✅ Recent upgrades make it pretty much as powerful as its bigger Pro brothers
✅ High-quality laptops built to last

CONS

❌ Limited Ports – You’ll need to buy some adapters
❌ Only available in 13.3” screen
❌ Cannot upgrade past listed limitations
❌ Webcam is acceptable, but the worst in this list

Who it’s best for: Teachers who prefer the Apple ecosystem. The Macbook Air is packed with power, built to last, and offers high resale value. The higher-priced Macbook Pro is not necessary unless you plan to do graphics-intensive work outside of teaching.

This is the laptop I personally use to work while traveling the world. For more travel-specific laptop recommendations, check out this guide

2. Microsoft Surface Pro 7 (Best Lightweight Laptop for Traveling Teachers) 

Screen Size: 12.3” PixelSense Touchscreen with pen
Dimensions: 11.5” x 7.9” x 0.33”
Weight: 1.72 lb / 0.78 kg
Processor: 10th Gen Intel Core i5 and i7
Memory: up to 16GB
Storage: up to 1 TB SSD
Battery Life: up to 10.5 hours
Webcam: 5.0MP (front) + 8.0MP (rear) cameras with 1080p full HD
Touch Screen: Yes, 10 point multi-touch
Price: from $699 with minimum specs (i5, 8GB RAM + 128GB SSD); keyboard and pen cost extra.

The Surface Pro 7 takes impressive hardware specs and wraps it into an ultra-lightweight laptop + tablet combo. 

A detachable keyboard lets you use it on the go in tablet form, or you can flip down the kickstand and attach the keyboard for a traditional laptop experience.  

The Surface Pro is powered by Windows 10 rather than tablet software. That means you won’t miss out on laptop-class capabilities despite its tablet style and size.

It’s the best hybrid model on the market and perfect for creative teachers who like to use art and illustrations.

It also has the best webcam of all the laptops on this list.

In 2020, EdTech Magazine recommended the Surface Pro 7 tablet for virtual learners. So it’s a great option for teachers and students alike.

PROS

✅ The lightest + most portable on the list
✅ Laptop-class hardware + capabilities
✅ 2 standout webcams with full HD
✅ The price is right for the included features
✅ Touchscreen + pen

CONS

❌ Small screen won’t work for some
❌ Keyboard purchased separately


Who it’s best for: Digital nomads and teachers who want a lightweight machine with touchscreen and drawing features. 

3. Acer Aspire 5 (Best Value Laptop for Zoom Teaching) 

Screen Size: 15.6” FHD
Dimensions: 14.31” x 9.86” x 0.71”
Weight: from 3.97 lb to 4.19 lb
Processor: from 8th Gen Intel Core i5 up to AMD Ryzen 7
Memory: up to 16GB
Storage: up to 1 TB SSD
Battery Life: up to 7.5 hours
Webcam: 720p Full HD
Touch Screen: Only on certain models

The Acer Aspire 5 is a budget-friendly combination of performance and battery life. In fact, the base model is the least expensive laptop on this list. This balance makes it the best laptop for Zoom teaching for anyone who prioritizes price over top-end features. 

The Aspire is relatively thin, but the large 15.6” screen makes it a bit heavy to tote around compared to other ultralight options on this list. 

That said, it’ll give you the minimum recommended technical specs and hardware to teach online successfully without breaking the bank.

Just like the MacBook Air, the webcam leaves a bit to be desired in terms of resolution and clarity, but it’s still entirely workable, and many teachers applaud this laptop as perfect for their needs.

Plus, unlike the more expensive Macbook, the Aspire comes with plenty of different ports, so no need to lug around a bunch of clunky adaptors.

PROS

✅ Budget-friendly
✅ Nice selection of ports
✅ Comfortable keyboard
✅ Decent Audio

CONS

❌ Poor battery life
❌ Lower models can feel budget
❌ Touchpad is oddly off-center
❌ On the heavier side 

Who it’s best for: Teachers looking for a mid-range laptop with all the necessary specs for Zoom teaching. If you’ll mainly be using your computer to teach online, buying a top-of-the-line laptop may be overkill. The Aspire 5 gives you everything you need to start teaching out of the box, without charging a premium for unnecessary features. 

4. Dell Inspiron 15 (Best Budget Laptop for Online Teaching) 

Screen Size: 15.6” HD
Dimensions: 14.33” x 9.8” x 0.78”
Weight: 3.91 lb / 1.78 kg
Processor: 10th Gen Intel Core i5 
Memory: 8GB
Storage: 256GB SSD
Battery Life: up to 7.5 hours
Webcam: 720p HD
Touch Screen: Not on this budget model

The Dell Inspiron 15 is the best budget laptop for online teaching. It comes in at half the price of some other premium options. And despite being slightly more expensive than the Acer Aspire 5 base model, it offers a better processor.

Its spacious 15” screen is built into a slim, clean design—slightly lighter than the Acer Aspire 5. 

The 10th Gen Intel Core i5 gives it plenty of power under the hood to easily run multiple applications and windows without slowing down. And the integrated Intel HD graphics give impressive streaming video quality—something you might not expect at this price point. 

There Inspiron has plenty of ports to plug in all your accessories. Unfortunately, none of these are USB-C ports, so you may need an adapter to plug in newer electronics.

By choosing a budget laptop, you’ll also sacrifice battery life. The Inspiron is rated at 7.5 hours per charge, which is the shortest on this list.

PROS

✅ Budget-friendly
✅ Nice selection of ports
✅ Full keyboard

CONS

❌ Poor battery life
❌ Lower-end HD webcam 

Who it’s best for: Teachers on a tight budget who are just getting off the ground. If you’re a digital nomad constantly on the move, the short battery life could be a deal-breaker. It’s best for teachers who work from home and have easy access to charging outlets.

5. Samsung Galaxy Book Flex (Best PC Laptop to Match the Power of a MacBook)

Screen Size: 13.3” QLED
Dimensions: 11.91” x 7.99” x 0.51”
Weight: 2.56 lb / 1.16 kg
Processor: 10th Gen Intel Core i7 
Memory: 8GB
Storage: 512GB SSD
Battery Life: up to 20 hours
Webcam: 720p HD
Touch Screen: Yes, with Bluetooth S Pen
Price: $1,079

The Samsung Galaxy Book Flex is the most expensive laptop on this list. It’s for online teachers who have graphics-intensive computer needs beyond just teaching (or those who simply want the best of the best).

The Bluetooth-enabled S pen turns your brilliant QLED touchscreen into a canvas for notes, sketching, and intuitive gestures. 

The 20-hour battery life is unheard of—especially considering the powerful hardware under the hood

And the 2-in-1 convertible design means it can be flipped into tablet mode for ultimate usability. 

If you’re a fan of the Samsung Galaxy Book Flex but not quite ready to drop over $1,000 on a laptop, its more affordable little sister — the [Galaxy Book Pro 360] — also packs a powerful punch.

PROS

✅ Amazing battery life
✅ QLED Touchscreen
✅ Powerhouse processor + storage
✅ Intuitive Bluetooth pen included
✅ Ability to switch to tablet view

CONS

❌ Pricier option
❌ Lower-end HD webcam 


Who it’s best for: The Galaxy Book Flex basically takes the best features of each laptop on this list and combines them into a super laptop. It’s for teachers who recognize the importance of investing in the tool you use every day to make a living. The crazy battery life and ultralightweight design also make it perfect for digital nomads.

6. Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 14 (Best Touchscreen Laptop for Online Teachers)

Screen Size: 14” FHD
Dimensions: 11.91” x 7.99” x 0.51”
Weight: 2.56 lb / 1.16 kg
Processor: 10th Gen Intel Core i7 
Memory: 16GB
Storage: 256GB SSD
Battery Life: up to 10 hours with 80% quick charge in 1 hour
Webcam: 720p HD
Touch Screen: Yes, with pen included
Price: $699

The Lenovo Flex 14 is a dual laptop/tablet with a perfect mix of memory (RAM), SSD storage, and the AMD Ryzen 5 processor.

Its 14” screen size and heavier weight make it a bit bulkier than some of the ultralight options on this list. But at this price point, that extra weight might not matter to you.

The hinges on this versatile laptop allow you to work in laptop mode, “tent” mode, or tablet mode. And the touchscreen with included pen makes it perfect for adding notes and illustrations to your classes.

This is a fantastic choice for the online teacher who needs a touchscreen, but won’t compromise on power storage, and screen size.

The only downfall is the mediocre battery life. But with the quick charge feature, it may not be such a big deal.

PROS

✅ 2-in-1 laptop and tablet
✅ Intuitive Touchscreen + Pen
✅ Powerful AMD processor
✅ Built-in video editing software
✅ Radeon Vega integrated graphics

CONS

❌ Lower battery life (but quick charge capability)
❌ Lower-end HD webcam 


Who it’s best for: Teachers who want a full-sized laptop with touchscreen, drawing, and tablet capabilities, but don’t want to splurge on the more expensive Galaxy Book Flex.

Recap: Choosing the right teaching laptop for you

The best online teaching laptop for you depends on your budget, needs, and preferences.

VIPKID teachers may have different requirements and priorities than traditional in-person teachers trying to recreate a productive remote learning environment.

If you’re budget-minded but don’t want to skimp on features and creative usability, then the Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 14 is our recommended buy.

But if your budget allows it, investing in a premium laptop like the MacBook Air M1 or Samsung Galaxy Book Flex is a wise choice. Your work will be more enjoyable, and while there are no guarantees, your laptop is likely to last longer.

If you’re still stuck, here’s what to do:

  1. Write down your absolute max budget before going shopping. This helps you avoid getting caught up in the hype and overspending.
  2. Decide your deal-breaker features — screen size and weight? Touchscreen? Minimum battery life?
  3. Review the recommended specs section of this article to make sure your final choice is up to par

Remember, this is an important investment that you’ll use to generate your income for the next three to five years (hopefully). Take your time, do your research, and pick what’s best for you and your online teaching needs. 

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Skillshare - Free trial to take unlimited classes that teach digital nomad skills.
Anytime Mailbox - Virtual mail service that can handle your mail while you’re away.
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