Back-to-school shopping: Best laptops for all ages

These days, students need a lot more than pencils and paper. When it comes to shopping for new laptops this school year, Consumer Reports offers recommendations for every age.

Those in first through fifth grade might want to opt for a low-cost Chromebook.

"Chromebooks are lightweight laptops that run Google's Chrome operating system. For younger kids, parents can set up supervised user accounts that restrict content on the web," said Glenn Derene, an editor at Consumer Reports.

The Acer C720-2848 costs about $200 and lasts more than 10 hours on a single charge, according to Consumer Reports.

For high school and middle school students, Consumer Reports recommended the $600 Lenovo IdeaPad U430 Touch.

"It's a lot of laptop for the money. It's got a powerful processor, a decent-sized hard drive and it was a very good performer in our lab tests," Derene said.

At about four pounds, the Lenovo won't weigh down a backpack.

But for taking notes, is a laptop or a tablet a better choice? Consumer Reports says Microsoft's Surface Pro 3 offers the best of both. It costs $1,000, plus $130 for a keyboard accessory.

"It's technically a tablet, but it's got a full Windows operating system. It allows you to switch back and forth between a touchscreen-friendly mode and one that's more like a conventional mouse and keyboard," Derene said.

And for creative thinkers, the Surface Pro 3 comes with a pen that lets students write directly on the screen.

For college students majoring in the visual arts, Consumer Reports recommends a 13-inch Macbook Pro with retina display. At $1,300, it's pricey, but offers a stunning display and a long-lasting battery. Apple offers discounts for students.

Discounts on other computers for students can be found on websites, such as Amazon Student, Best Buy and Dell University.

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