Looking for the best laptops for online teachers and instructional designers?
As an online teacher or instructional designer, you need a laptop that is powerful enough to handle all of your coursework and design needs, but also portable enough to take with you when you travel.
With our years of experience in instructional design and online teaching environments, we know the unique challenges you face that require a special laptop.
That’s why we’ve tested a number of the best laptops for online teachers and instructional designers and curated a list of the ones we feel are most properly suited to the job.
From specs to features, we’ll help you find the perfect laptop that meets all of your teaching needs while staying within budget.
In the guide below, we’ll detail our picks for the best laptops for online teachers, instructional designers, and course creators in 2023.
We’ll also offer some tips for choosing the right laptop for your needs.
Disclosure: Some of the links in this article are affiliate links, meaning at no additional cost for you, we might get a commission if you click the link and purchase.
The Best Online Teaching Laptop: Quick Pick
Don’t feel like reading this whole guide? Here’s a quick look at my very favorite laptop for online teaching environments:
My Top Pick
- 50% Faster Graphics Performance
- Pro Display XDR
- Faster file compression
3 Best Laptops for Online Teachers in 2022
I have used different laptops, and here are 3 of them I would recommend for teaching online:
Processor: Six-core Intel i7 or i9.
OS: Mac OS X Lion.
RAM: 8 GB HBM2 High Bandwidth Memory (expandable up to 64 GB).
Storage: 8 TB of SSD storage.
GPU: AMD Radeon Pro 5000M.
Screen Quality: The Pro Display XDR is suitable for one 8K display at 30 Hz, two 5K displays at 60 Hz, or up to three 4K displays at 120 Hz.
Size: 16-inch Retina display.
Battery life: Up to 11 hours.
The New Apple MacBook Pro is a terrific computer if you are taking a course to get your instructional design certificate.
This laptop is a perfect choice if you want blazing-fast graphics that can integrate with an online learning system based on web programming design 3.0 capabilities.
This laptop is superb for those who need to work with large graphic files used for online presentations, 3D modeling, and to have clear, robust, live video streaming for group sessions.
With all of its impressive features, this premium laptop is very well-suited to handle all of your online teaching and learning activities.
- Ultra fast.
- Stunning graphics.
- Touch Bar and Touch ID.
- Six speaker audio system with studio-quality microphones.
- Pricey, much more expensive when compared to a PC.
- Many add a second, larger monitor for more screen space.
Best for: teachers and those using a laptop as part of a home recording studio or for video editing and production. This laptop is an excellent choice for anyone working with large graphic files. It can be used for designing online courses, game development, 3D mapping/modeling, and running software applications that manipulate the data in large files. It is also a perfect choice for those needing to conduct online presentations and teach online courses via live streaming and/or group video chat.
All Apple products are extremely easy to use and the interface for applications is always very intuitive. This is one reason why MacBooks are so popular. You do not have to be a techie to get your work done.
In this video below, the reviewer is full of praise for the new MacBook Pro 16. He even goes so far as to say it is the best laptop ever and you definitely need to buy one. This powerful laptop has thermal management and its keyboard is exceptional. Thermal performance is the most important thing in a laptop. If the laptop does not stay properly cooled, the performance will suffer.
Gaming, video editing, and any other intense application processing is easily handled by this premium laptop. The speakers are outstanding. This online teaching laptop is suitable for those who do lots of typing and terrific for instructional design workflow. FaceTime meetings are easy to do. Sharing files is easy between devices. For example, making a video using an iPhone and it can be immediately imported and dropped into a video edit on the MacBook Pro with ease.
For those curious about the comparison between the MacBook Pro 16 and the smaller MacBook Pro 13, this reviewer in the video below does a side-by-side comparison.
Of course, the recommendation is to get the MacBook Pro 16 for its superb features but it costs about twice as much as the smaller MacBook Pro 13 when fully loaded. For professional work, the MacBook Pro 16 is the better choice, especially when working with video editing.
Processor: Intel Quad Core i5-8265U 1.6 GHz.
OS: Windows 10 Pro 64-bit.
RAM: 16GB DDR4.
Storage: 512 GB PCIe NVMe M.2 SSD.
GPU: Integrated Intel UHD Graphics 620.
Screen Quality: Supports an external monitor (HDMI or USB Type-C connection) with a maximum resolution of 1920 by 1080 at 60 Hz.
Size: 15.6 inches (1366 by 768) display.
Battery life: Uses a lithium ion battery that lasts up to 12 hours.
For the budget-conscious, the Lenovo Thinkpad E590 will set you back only about half what the MacBook Pro costs.
Obviously, I like the MacBook Pro better as an online teaching laptop, but this is an excellent quality PC with some of the older processor technology that allows it to be priced a lot less.
I like that you can operate this laptop with dual independent displays so that the smaller laptop screen size of 15.6 inches is not a hindrance. You will be able to afford a second monitor display and still spend less than what you might spend on a MacBook Pro.
A nice feature is that this laptop is lightweight. It weighs less than 5 pounds. If you do need to take it with you; it is very easy to carry. It has built-in Wi-Fi, Ethernet, and has an HD webcam with 720p resolution.
- Good value for a low price.
- Sturdy case with a solid feel.
- Responsive keyboard.
- Has the older Intel processors.
- Small screen.
Best for: Teachers and trainers, who are on a tight budget and who need to get the job done but cannot afford the much higher priced Apple MacBook Pro. The Lenovo ThinkPad E590 is a popular series of laptops. It comes in more than 20 different configurations so make sure you carefully select the one with the specifications that you need.
In this video below, the reviewer shows the Lenovo ThinkPad E590 a month after it first came out in early 2019. It received plenty of positive comments and became quite popular. The reviewer says the speaker quality is not that great, so it is not good to listen to the internal speaker. The sound comes out the bottom of the laptop and the sound quality is poor. The audio may make a kind of buzzing sound depending on what type of surface the laptop is placed on.
He likes the sturdy quality of the case that is aluminum, not plastic. The backlit keyboard is very nice and important if you work in a darker room. The backlight makes it possible to see the keys. Once you start the laptop, you should check to see if there is a system update. If there is a newer version, you should update it. If you want to use the laptop for development or playing games, the processor chip is strong enough to do those things well.
This reviewer in the video below talks about the advantages of having the upgraded Intel i7 processor. He takes a look inside with the laptop open. He finds it a disadvantage that the battery compartment is not easy to get to and that the bottom plate needs to be unscrewed to reveal the battery. This may cause a problem if the battery needs to be temporarily disconnected for a hard reset of the system.
He opens the laptop so you can see inside and describes the placement of all the components. Then, he closes it back up and runs some HD video-playback tests so you can see how well the Intel i7 processor and the integrated video work together.
All in all, this is a budget laptop that packs a punch for its price point, and it can easily handle most online teaching applications.
Processor: Intel dual-core i5-10210U or i7-1065G7.
OS: Windows 10 Home.
RAM: 8GB DDR4.
Storage: 512 GB PCIe NVMe SSD.
GPU: Integrated Intel Iris Plus Graphics.
Screen Quality: Full HD LED backlit widescreen with 1920 by 1080 resolution.
Size: 15.6 inches.
Battery life: Up to eight hours.
The Acer Aspire 5 is an entry-level laptop for instructional design. It is sufficient for taking classes to get your instructional design certificate.
However, you will probably want a more robust system if you plan on doing online teaching for any classes or deploying online educational courses or managing a virtual classroom. It comes with built-in Wi-Fi 6, a fingerprint security reader, and an HD webcam.
- Rapid boot up time.
- Stunning display.
- Fast processing.
- Thin and lightweight (5.7 lbs.).
- The size of the hard drive at 512 GB is small so many upgrade or use external storage.
- No support for an external display.
Best for: students learning educational theory and instructional design. This is the least expensive laptop in this category that I reviewed. I wanted to include the cheapest solution that I could find that would still have the basic minimums for doing instructional design work.
In this video review below from PC World, the reviewers say that this is the most popular seller in the category of cheap laptops. It uses the full Windows 10 operating system, which allows any applications to run. This means you will not be limited to only those applications found in the Microsoft store for the scaled-down Windows 10 S version of the operating system that is found in many cheap laptops. The reviewers talk about a lower-cost version of the Acer Aspire 5, which I do not recommend. Get the upgraded version of the same model laptop instead.
The integrated Ryzen GPU is nice for making a crisp display. However, it is not strong enough to do extensive HD video editing or play video games running at high resolution and 60 frames per second. The workaround is, if you want to play graphic-intensive games, you can connect to the cloud and play games in HD that are hosted on cloud servers.
The display is bright and has an IPS panel, which makes for good viewing angles. There is an Ethernet port, a USB port, and an HDMI port. The keyboard has a nice feel and is backlit, which makes it easier to see the keys in a low-light condition. The reviewers conclude that this laptop represents very good value for the price.
7 Things to Know When Choosing a Laptop for Instructional Design
When choosing a laptop for instructional design or online teaching, there are a few key things to keep in mind.
First, you’ll want to make sure that the laptop has enough processing power to handle all of your design and coursework needs.
You’ll also want to make sure that the laptop has a good-quality webcam and microphone for live teaching online or recording lectures.
You’ll want to make sure that the laptop is lightweight and portable enough to take with you when you travel.
Here are some of the minimum requirements you’ll want to look for in an online teaching laptop:
- Processor: Intel i5 or AMD10 for text-based instruction, Intel i7 or AMD 12 if you plan to edit video files. You want 64-bit and a dual-core processor (quad-core is better).
- RAM: 8GB of RAM for text files, 16 GB of RAM for video editing.
- Storage Disk: 512 GB for regular work. 1 TB for video editing. Cloud storage may substitute for disk storage.
- Graphics: If you plan to do 4k video editing then you want to have a dedicate graphics processing unit (GPU).
- Screen Size and Resolution: If you are going to work with video, you want a screen of at least 16 inches with a high-resolution display.
- Web Cam: If you use live streaming with your webcam you want a high-quality webcam.
- Battery Life: Most laptops have a battery life of around eight hours. This is less of a concern if you work from home where it is easy to stay plugged in.
In this review below from PC World, the reviewers compare the performance of the Intel i5 versus the Intel i7. The big difference is the processor boost clock speed of 4.2 GHz (i7) versus 3.4 GHz (i5). This difference in processor speed is not noticeable by most people. However, any other options like RAM upgrades or wanting to have a larger SSD hard drive and you will need to get the Intel i7 to support those options.
Budget entry-level laptops have the Intel i5 processor as a standard. However, to get more features, such as doing video editing or intensive gaming, the Intel i7 processor is the better choice. This is not because the Intel i7 processor is so much faster but because any of the popular upgrades require it.
Final Thoughts on the Best Laptops for Online Teaching
Naturally, all of my picks meet the minimum requirements. If your budget can handle it, I highly recommend you always buy the latest, best online teaching laptop that has more capability than the minimum requirements needed. In this way, you can keep your laptop in service for a long time before needing to replace it.
But if you have to get a budget laptop, there are still some great options out there that will let you perform well at your instructional design or online teaching job.
Be sure to consider this if you plan on taking a course to get your instructional design certificate and check out my recommendations by reading my list of the best instructional design courses.
Have any questions about our guide to the best laptops for online teachers and instructional design? Leave a comment below and we’ll help you out.