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Back to school deals 2023 : Laptops, tablets, monitors and more

PCW back-to-school deals artImage: Rob Schultz / Foundry

The best back-to-school deals on tech gear continue as we move into the middle of September. We’ve selected the best back-to-school savings on laptops and notebooks, Chromebooks, MacBooks, tablets, monitors, and more from top retailers, focusing on what students will need for school.

We’ve chosen the best back-to-school deals on tech gear from online retailers like Amazon, Best Buy, Walmart, and more. We want to provide you the best back-to-school deals on products you’ll actually want to buy!

We’ve selected back-to-school gear aimed at college, high school and K-8 students. We also explain why we made those decisions, guided by our frequent reviews. Finally, we’ve linked to other stories we’ve written about back-to-school gadgets and accessories that we think could prove useful.

Best back-to-school laptop deals for college

HP Envy 16t-h1000, Core i5-13500H/Arc A370M/16GB RAM/512GB SSD, 16-inch 2560×1600 display, $999.99 (26% off at ThinkPad X1 Nano Gen 1, Core i5-1130G7/16GB RAM/512GB SSD, 13-inch 2160×1350 display, $699.99 (76% off at Antonline)Dell Inspiron 2-in-1, Intel Core i7-1260P/16GB RAM/512GB SSD, 16-inch 1920×1200 display, $899.99 (28% off at Best Buy)Lenovo Legion Slim 5, Ryzen 5 7640HS/RTX 4060/16GB RAM/512GB SSD, 16-inch 1900×1200 60Hz display, $999.99 (26% off at Best Buy)Lenovo Legion Pro 5i, Core i7-13700HX/RTX 4060/32GB RAM/1TB SSD, 16-inch 2560×1600 240Hz display, $1,249.00 (31% off at B&H)Lenovo Legion Pro 5i Gen 8, Core i5-13500HX/RTX 4050 6GB/16GB RAM/512 GB SSD, 16-inch 2560×1600 165Hz display, $1,169.99 (23% off at Nitro 5, Core i5-12500H/RTX 3050 Ti/16GB RAM/512GB SSD, 15.5-inch 1080p 144Hz display, $779.00 (13% off at Amazon)HP Omen, Core i7-13700H/RTX 4080/16GB RAM/1 TB SSD, 17.3-inch 2560x1440p 240Hz display, $1,769.99 (26% off at eBay)

Right now, we’d recommend the HP Envy as our go-to deal, as an up-to-date laptop with modern hardware, a nice big, high-res screen, a great keyboard, and even a little bit of graphics oomph for gaming or content creation. The Envy lineup is one of my personal favorites. (The Intel Arc A370M is one of Intel’s first discrete GPUs for laptops, and as our review shows, it holds its own against an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050.) The Dell Inspiron is a solid choice, with a slightly out-of-date processor but a nice, large screen.

Antonline’s ThinkPad X1 Nano deal is an interesting one. The X1 Nano is a superb business laptop, though the processor is two years out of date. (We’ve reviewed the X1 Nano here.) The X1 is considered supremely light, at about 2 pounds; why Antonline lists it as over 4 pounds is probably a mistake. That 13-inch screen might be too small, though, which is why you may want to invest in a Thunderbolt dock and a monitor for your desk.

The Lenovo Legion Slim 5 is very much a creator’s laptop, and not a gaming PC. It probably won’t have all-day battery life, but it’s a solid mix of a low-end discrete GPU for video work and a nice large screen for both a classroom and dorm desk.

The Nitro 5 is probably the best deal on a solid budget gaming laptop. We still like Best Buy’s Dell Inspiron offer, but the CPU is a generation old. That’s a nice large display to work on, though, especially without an external monitor.

We’ve also added the Lenovo Legion Pro, which might not be great for battery life but will provide some nice horsepower for gaming or content creation. (The Lenovo deal is down about $100 from last week’s discounted price. Scroll down to find it.) Note that you can turn the RGB keyboard bling off, so it won’t be distracting in class. (The B&H offer looks like a clearly better deal, but both aren’t bad.) The HP Omen — well, it’s a gaming laptop, full stop. We’re not sure it’s going to be the best productivity laptop for college from a battery standpoint, but it has everything else going for it as far as content creation.

Our back-to-school laptop deals focus mainly on productivity, tending towards 1080p or 1200p displays, or higher. Let’s face it; some college students like to game, so we’ll try to include a few laptops with discrete GPUs. But powerful gaming laptops might not have long battery life for all-day studying. Consult our list of the best laptops and best laptops for college students for more ideas, plus our everyday roundup of the best laptop deals for general use.

Best back-to-school laptop deals for high school, middle school and elementary school

We’ve grouped some less powerful notebooks in this category. Notebooks from a year or so ago work here, with slightly older and cheaper components.

Lenovo IdeaPad Slim 3, Core i3-1315U/8GB RAM/256GB SSD, 15.6-inch 1080p display, $349.00 (32% off at B&H)Dell XPS 13, Core i5-1230U/8GB RAM/256GB SSD, 13.4-inch 1920×1200 display, $649.00 (25% off at Aspire 3, Ryzen 5 7520U/8GB RAM/512GB SSD, 15.6-inch 1080p display, $399.99 (33% off at Best Buy)HP Laptop 17-cn3097nr, Core i7-1355U/16GB RAM/256GB SSD, 17.2-inch 1080p display, $679.99 (26% off at 15, Core i5-1135G7/8GB RAM/256GB SSD, 15.6-inch 1080p, $456.95 (31% off at Amazon)Lenovo IdeaPad 3i, Core i5-1155G7/8GB RAM/512GB SSD, 15.6-inch 1080p display, $399.99 (48% off at Best Buy)Microsoft Surface Laptop 4, Ryzen 5 4680U/8GB RAM/512GB SSD, 13-inch 2256×1504 display, $699.99 (33% off at Aspire 5, Core i3-115G4/8GB RAM/128GB SSD, 15.6-inch 1080p display, Windows 11 S, $299.99 (21% off at Amazon)

We recommend the IdeaPad Slim 3 as a solid value offering for any K-8 student. A new entrant is the Acer Aspire 3, which offers a modern mix of specs at a great discount. (The Aspire 3’s price has dropped by $30 from earlier in the week. It tends to bounce up and down a bit.) We also like the Dell XPS 13 — it’s Dell’s premium offering, though with a processor that’s a year old. A 13-inch display may be a little small. Otherwise, though, it’s a good deal.

HP’s 17-cn3097nr is an interesting find: an absolutely massive 17-inch notebook (and a slightly dim screen, at 250 nits) which will probably be too big to be toted to school. We’re not wild about the 256GB SSD, either, which will quickly fill with apps and documents. But it’s very solid in its CPU and especially its RAM, which will make surfing the Web with dozens of tabs a breeze.

Some of these deals come with caveats that help explain their lower price. The Surface Laptop 4 (review) is last year’s model, and lacks Thunderbolt. Pay attention to the processor on these deals: we don’t consider an 11th-gen Core processor in the HP 15 to be too out of date right now, but it might be two or four years down the road. (We think that this $349 Lenovo Ideapad 3i, with an 11th-gen Core i3, is too slow for most, but the other specs are solid and the price is right. Admittedly, we’ve highlighted a similar deal from Best Buy, though that uses a Core i5.) A Ryzen 7000-series processor is AMD’s latest.

Not sure whether to buy a laptop or a Chromebook? We can help. The Acer Aspire 5 uses Windows 11 S, which is Microsoft’s answer to a Chromebook and may need to be switched out, for free, to Windows 11. This is what we would call a minimum-spec laptop, but it should work.

Best back-to-school Chromebook deals

We’ve picked the best back-to-school Chromebook deals for you. Don’t be afraid of buying an older Chromebook, but we’ve considered the trade-off between price and performance in our back-to-school recommendations. Want more ideas? Start with PCWorld’s list of the best Chromebooks and don’t be fooled by back-to-school trap deals!

HP 15.6-inch Chromebook, Core i3-N305, 8GB RAM, 128GB SSD, 15.6-inch 1080p display, $299.00 (40% off at Best Buy)Asus Chromebook Flip C433, Core m3-8100Y, 8GB RAM, 64GB SSD, 14-inch 1080p display, $312.00 (23% off at Amazon)Acer 2022 Chromebook 315, Celeron N4020, 4GB RAM, 64GB SSD, 15.6-inch 1080p display, $217.99 (63% off at Amazon)Lenovo Ideapad 5 Gaming Chromebook Core i5-1235U, 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD, 16-inch 2560×1600 display, $469.99 (37% off at Target)Lenovo Chromebook S330, MediaTek MT8173C, 4GB RAM, 64GB SSD, 14-inch 1080p display, $194.00 (31% off at Amazon)Acer Chromebook 314, Celeron N4020, 4GB RAM, 64GB SSD, 14-inch 1080p display, $149.00 (44% off at Best Buy)

College life generally runs on laptops and not Chromebooks. Chromebooks are still useful for elementary and even middle-school students, though, especially as secondary machines. If you can, prioritize a 1080p screen, 8GB of RAM, and (if possible) a 1080p display when you buy a Chromebook. Chromebooks like the HP 14-inch Chromebook and Acer 315 may run a trifle slow with just 4GB of RAM. Google’s Chromebook support window has just been extended to ten years, too, which means you’re getting even more for your money.

For now, we think you should buy the HP Chromebook, then the Asus Chromebook Flip C433. They’re simply the best mix of moderately powerful components, with a good screen, at a decent discount. The HP is definitely preferred, however, as it’s simply a better Chromebook: it has a more powerful processor, a larger screen, and more storage, at a cheaper price.

We still shy away from Chromebooks with 4GB of RAM, as they can run slow. But Acer and Lenovo are selling these for a lot less than we expected. If you’re willing to spend $300 or so for a Chromebook — which is a good price — buy the Asus Chromebooks instead. Some deals can be iffy, and we’d caution you about the Lenovo S330 deal above. Support runs out in June 2025, which means you’re buying two full school years’ worth of support, but that’s all. Don’t be scared of the MediaTek chip, though. The Acer Chromebook 315’s ‘s support runs out in June 2027.)

We’re only placing the Acer Chromebook 314 at the bottom of the list because of the 4GB of RAM and small SSD. Chromebook data tends to live in the cloud, though, and the reviews are universally positive.

Be wary of deals we don’t list. Avoid this Amazon Asus Chromebook CX1 deal, as support runs out in a year’s time; the Lenovo 2022 (!) Flex 5 uses a processor that Intel stopped making years ago. A $197 Walmart deal seems OK, but the combination of 4GB of RAM and a 15-inch 768p display makes us favor alternatives instead.

We’re not convinced that your child needs a gaming Chromebook, but if you’re willing to spend the extra money the performance and comfortable screen will make it worthwhile.

Best back-to-school MacBook deals

2020 MacBook Air M1 13-inch, 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD, $849.00 (15% off at Amazon)2023 MacBook Air 15.3-inch with M2, 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD, $1,099.00 (15% off at Amazon)Apple 2023 MacBook Pro with M2 Pro, 16GB RAM, 1 TB SSD, $2,299.00 (8% off at Amazon)

MacBook back-to-school sales just aren’t as pronounced as in Windows laptops, though Apple’s stock of older M1 hardware means you can buy an older MacBook at a surprisingly good price — for Apple, that is. There’s are now 2023 MacBook deals on at Amazon, too!

MacBooks rarely carry heavy discounts, unfortunately, so snap these up if you can.

Best back-to-school iPad and tablet deals

Apple iPad (9th Gen), 10.2-inch, 64GB, Wi-Fi, $279.00 (18% off at Amazon)Apple iPad (9th Gen), 10.2-inch (2021) 256GB, WiFi, $399.00 (17% off at Amazon)Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 (2020), 64GB, $242.81 (30% off at Amazon)

If students need a tablet for when they go back to school, we think that these suggestions offer the best deals for now. We may see better deals as the season goes on.

Amazon has some small discounts available for back-to-school tablets. We’ve shied away from Amazon’s own Fire tablets only because students will need flexibility to add apps that they may use in school. The Galaxy Tab, though, has dropped even lower in price.

Best back-to-school monitor deals

Philips 24-inch 241V8L, 75Hz, $103.99 (26% off at Amazon)Samsung 27-inch LC27F396FHNXZA (curved), 1080p, 60Hz, $129.00 (16% off at Walmart)Acer Nitro XZ270, 27-inch, 1080p, 240Hz, $199.99 (39% off at Amazon)Samsung UR59, 32-inch curved 4K, 60Hz, $349.22 (22% off at Amazon)Dell S3221QS 32 Inch Curved 4K UHD, 60Hz, $329.99 (18% off at Amazon)Dell P2723QE 27-inch 4K USB-C Hub Monitor, 4K display, 60Hz, $449.99 (20% off at Dell)ErgoFocus Single Monitor Mount Arm, $33.99 (21% off at Amazon)MountUp Dual Monitor Desk Mount, $32.99 (18% off at Amazon)

We recommend the Philips 24-inch for a run-of-the-mill 1080p display, though the discount was a far higher 43 percent off just days ago. Otherwise, consider the Dell displays for an upgraded 4K monitor with higher resolution and detail for more screen space as well as precision work for video, Photoshop or CAD work. (Large displays like the Samsung tend to have a gentle curve to them.) The 4K displays put out sufficient light, but lack high refresh rates or upgraded HDR to save money.

We’ve (mostly) emphasized 60Hz displays, with a mix of 1080p and 4K. The one Acer we’ve included is a gaming monitor, whose 240Hz refresh rate usually matters most in gaming but which is actually quite ergonomic for long computing stretches.

The Dell P2723QE is an interesting choice, as it’s a USB-C monitor that can serve as a USB-C hub as well as a display. This is primarily a space-saving option, though it can be a pain to fish around the display to insert and detach cables, too.

College dorm rooms and lecture halls don’t offer an enormous amount of space for additional monitors, so also consider a monitor mount to maximize productivity. Just double-check the weight of each display you’re attaching, as the mounts have weight limits for what they can support.

For even more options, check out our daily monitor deals.

More PCWorld back-to-school deals, by category

The best back-to-school HP laptop deals:  HP is holding its back-to-school sale right now, where you can save up to 67 percent off of specific laptops. The best back-to-school Dell laptop deals: Dell is currently holding its annual back-to-school sale. And, if you happen to buy an eligible laptop, the manufacturer will donate to UNICEF, which helps schools get onto the world wide web.Back to school gadgets you didn’t know you needed: Don’t ignore tech accessories. The right gear can help you keep students keep their sanity.Six back-to-school gadgets for your backpack: Remember to bring chargers, hubs, and SSDs!Back-to-school necessities for under $100: For those students who have to pay for it all themselves.



When do back-to-school sales begin?

Back-to-school sales have begun for 2023, in part because retailers cater to those parents who prep early. You can shop back-to-school sales at Amazon’s back-to-school page, Best Buy’s back-to-school page (catering to college students), Newegg’s back to school page, Target’s back-to-school page for kids’ electronics, and Walmart’s back-to-school page, too.


When will back-to-school sales end?

Retailers often won’t tell you when these sales end, though it’s likely they’ll be available into the first week of September. Students may go back to school and find they have the wrong equipment. Prices may change as retailer stock fluctuates.

We’d expect that retailers will try to hold on to their sales until possibly September, though expect the quality and quantity of back-to-school deals to diminish as retailers sell through their available inventory. Carpe diem… or maybe carpe deal. (Sorry.) We’ll be wrapping up our back-to-school coverage sometime in mid- to late September.


When are tax-free weekends scheduled?

Tax-free weekends are run by some U.S. states to encourage shopping, especially for items like back-to-school purchases that usually include computers. (Note: There are some price limits on certain purchases — in New Mexico, for example, PCs must be under $1,000 to qualify for the tax holiday.)

Five states—Alaska, Delaware, Montana, New Hampshire, and Oregon—never charge sales tax. We’ve listed the states that are scheduling tax-free weekends, as well as a link to the fine print. Virginia has cancelled their tax-free weekend for 2023.

For example, if you live in Arkansas and buy a laptop from Amazon on August 5, you won’t pay sales tax. There are some exceptions that vary by state: In New Mexico, retailers aren’t required to participate. Each state has different exemptions that apply to different products at different price ranges, and these discounts (generally) apply to national retailers. Check the details!

Alabama: July 21-July 23, at midnight. Details.

Arkansas: Aug. 5-Aug. 6, at midnight. Details.

Connecticut: Aug. 20-Aug. 26. Details.

Florida: July 24-Aug. 6. Details.

Iowa: Aug. 4- Aug. 5, at midnight. Details.

Maryland: Aug. 13-Aug. 19, at midnight. Details. (No electronics)

Massachusetts: Aug. 12-Aug. 13. Details.

Mississippi: July 28-July 29, at midnight. Details.

Missouri: Aug. 4-Aug. 6 at midnight. Details.

New Jersey: Aug. 26-Sept. 4. Details.

New Mexico: Aug. 5-Aug. 7, at midnight. Details.

Ohio: Aug. 4-Aug. 6, at midnight. Details. (No electronics)

Oklahoma: Aug. 5-Aug. 7 at midnight. Details. (Very limited.)

South Carolina: Aug. 4-Aug. 6, at midnight. Details.

Tennessee: July 28-30 at midnight. Details.

Texas: Aug. 11-Aug. 13. Details. (No electronics)


PCs vs. Chromebooks: Which is better for school?

We have a lengthy overview of the advantages of Chromebooks versus laptops, but the simple answer to this question is: whatever your school district tells you.

A Chromebook is better for school if your child will be working “online,” meaning in the classroom but on a website that’s authorized by the teacher. A PC is more useful if your child will be using apps, such as Minecraft for Education, or transitioning from elementary school to middle school, or from middle school to high school. The extra flexibility to run apps (and, yes, games) will be appreciated by your child. Colleges and universities almost always ask their students to bring PCs or Macs with them, so a laptop is most appropriate.


What should I look for in a monitor for dorm rooms?

Dorm rooms typically prioritize the efficient use of space, so laptops will be the most typical. Any way that you can use the extra space, though, is useful. A high-resolution display may mean that you can more effectively “fit” more information into the space with smaller fonts. But a monitor mount, like we’ve included in our list of monitors, can clamp on to a desk and allow for a second display, which vastly increases productivity and can also be used to stream video for friends, too. Our back-to-school list of monitors includes both cheap 1080p options as well as 4K displays and even gaming displays for after hours.

Additional reporting by Ashley Biancuzzo. Updated at 9:40 AM on September 14 with updated deals. We’ve also removed expired deals and reconsidered some of our recommendations.

As PCWorld’s senior editor, Mark focuses on Microsoft news and chip technology, among other beats. He has formerly written for PCMag, BYTE, Slashdot, eWEEK, and ReadWrite.

Recent stories by Mark Hachman:

Dell hack: Personal info of 49 million customers allegedly breachedApple claims its M4 chip’s AI will obliterate PCs. Nah, not reallyVESA’s new HDR spec makes low-end monitors less miserable

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