Best Back-to-School Sales on Laptops, Chromebooks, and Tablets Right Now

These are the best deals on highly rated MacBooks, Chromebooks, computers, and tablets

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Illustration of a desk set up with laptop with a background of notebook paper Illustration: iStock

Back-to-school season is in full swing, and if you’re searching for a laptop, Chromebook, tablet, or computer right now, you may be able to find one at a discount. But don’t expect every model to go on sale this time of year.

Because of the global chip shortage that’s having an impact on the production of new computers, gaming consoles, cars, and more, your options aren’t going to be abundant. Consumer Reports is monitoring every device we’ve tested to bring you the latest and best deals available on new and previous-year models. And while the savings aren’t as impressive as we saw before the pandemic, you can still find some discounts.

The key to getting a good deal on a new laptop, tablet, or Chromebook is to act fast when you see one you want on sale. And with fewer options this year, it can be good to do your research and come up with at least a couple of options that will fit your needs and budget. Then, if you see one go on sale, you can make a decision quickly and with confidence.

We will be updating this list regularly, so check back often for the most current offers on models that have scored well in CR’s tests.

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Laptops

Acer Swift 3 Laptop

This midrange laptop comes equipped with an Intel Core i7 processor, 8 gigabytes of memory, and 256GB of solid-state storage. We reviewed a model with an i5 processor and came away largely impressed. One interesting note: The laptop supports WiFi 6, which may come in handy if you upgrade your router. This discount is $50 better than we’ve seen in weeks, and only about $40 more than its Prime Day price.

Apple MacBook Air 13-Inch Laptop (latest model)

The latest MacBook Air offers strong performance in a highly portable package. This is the base model, which has 8 gigabytes of memory and 256GB of solid-state storage. It uses Apple’s new M1 processor, delivering not only fast performance but also up to 12.5 hours of battery life on a charge. The laptop weighs less than 3 pounds.

CR’s test results: Apple MacBook Air 13-inch laptop

LG Gram 14 Laptop

The LG Gram practically defines thin-and-light design. The 14-inch version weighs a feathery 2.2 pounds—you almost want to hold it down if the wind kicks up. Better yet, it logged 19.5 hours’ worth of battery life in our web-browsing tests. (For video watching, the figure is closer to 9 hours.) Inventory appears to be low at both retailers, so don’t wait if this laptop fits your needs and budget.

CR’s test results: LG Gram 14 (2020) laptop

Microsoft Surface Pro 3 Laptop

This laptop has solid specs: an Intel Core i5 processor, 8 gigabytes of memory, and 256GB of solid-state storage. And according to our testers, the high-resolution 4K display produces accurate colors, making it a nice choice for those who enjoy streaming movies on the go. This laptop has been on sale for a few weeks. Amazon was selling the same model for $40 less during Prime Day.

CR’s test results: Microsoft Surface Pro 3 13-inch laptop

Samsung Galaxy Book S Laptop

This laptop is one of the lightest models we’ve tested, at 2.1 pounds, and has a touch screen that boasts bright, accurate colors, high contrast, and wide viewing angles. The battery lasts an impressive 14 hours in CR’s web-browsing tests. The performance is just so-so but more than adequate for basic tasks such as handling email and browsing the web. 

CR’s test results: Samsung Galaxy Book S 13-inch laptop

Chromebooks

Acer Chromebook Spin

This is a 2-in-1 convertible Chromebook, which means the 11.6-inch display can be bent behind the keyboard via a 360-degree hinge and used like a tablet. Why buy a dedicated tablet if a 2-in-1 has what you need? You’ll find entry-level specs here, including an Intel Celeron processor, 4 gigabytes of memory, and 32GB of storage.

CR’s test results: Acer 11 CP311-1HN-C2DV computer

Samsung Chromebook Plus V2

This 12.2-inch 2-in-1 convertible Chromebook has an Intel Celeron processor, 4 gigabytes of memory, and 64GB of storage. Our testers had no major problems with it, though they did note that the battery life (as little as 5 hours on a single charge) could be better.

CR’s test results: Samsung Chromebook Plus V2 computer

Samsung Galaxy Chromebook

This is a Chromebook with specs you’d expect to find on a more traditional laptop: an Intel Core i5 processor, 8 gigabytes of memory, and a spacious 256GB solid-state drive. That makes it fast and versatile, especially when you factor in the touch-screen display. The battery life is a modest 7 hours, though, so the model may be best suited for someone who is fine with being tethered to a charging cable for at least part of the day.

CR’s test results: Samsung Galaxy Chromebook

Tablets

Apple iPad Air (64GB) Tablet

If you simply want to watch Netflix and read e-books, this high-powered tablet might be overkill, but it’s a good choice if you play demanding games and regularly edit video. The display is big and bright, and the color is accurate. The device weighs 1 pound on the dot. The battery lasted just 7.7 hours in our web-browsing test, though. That’s not impressive for a tablet, but it’s just about the only knock here. The model we tested features WiFi and 4G connectivity; the one we list here is WiFi only. The sale price may vary by color.

CR’s test results: Apple iPad Air (4G, 64GB) 2020 tablet

Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 Tablet

This high-end 11-inch Android tablet has a generous 256 gigabytes of built-in storage (and an SD card slot for adding up to 1 terabyte more) for those with large photo, video, and game libraries. Our testers say the model has a vibrant display, is plenty powerful, and has a battery that lasts up to 13 hours.

CR’s test results: Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 tablet

Computers

Apple Mac Mini

The Mini is the least expensive way to buy a Mac, but don’t expect to find a mouse, keyboard, or display in the box. You’ll have to buy your own. It’s a little like going to a restaurant where you take your own bottle of wine. This sale price applies to the 256-gigabyte model featuring Apple’s M1 processor. If you want more storage, the 512GB version is on sale for $820 at Amazon, down from $900.

CR’s test results: Apple Mac Mini M1 Chip computer