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Laptop, PC and tablet gifts for grads

Treat your grad (or yourself) to these great laptops and PC accessories.

Dan Ackerman Editorial Director / Computers and Gaming
Dan Ackerman leads CNET's coverage of computers and gaming hardware. A New York native and former radio DJ, he's also a regular TV talking head and the author of "The Tetris Effect" (Hachette/PublicAffairs), a non-fiction gaming and business history book that has earned rave reviews from the New York Times, Fortune, LA Review of Books, and many other publications. "Upends the standard Silicon Valley, Steve Jobs/Mark Zuckerberg technology-creation myth... the story shines." -- The New York Times
Expertise I've been testing and reviewing computer and gaming hardware for over 20 years, covering every console launch since the Dreamcast and every MacBook...ever. Credentials
  • Author of the award-winning, NY Times-reviewed nonfiction book The Tetris Effect; Longtime consumer technology expert for CBS Mornings
Dan Ackerman
3 min read

Whether moving from high school to college or college to the real world (or its much more pleasant sibling, grad school), a new computer or tablet is a graduation gift that always hits. This list includes low-cost tools for note-taking and productivity, everyday laptops that will look sharp in class, at the office or in a coffee shop, and, of course, a big gaming monster for fun

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Chromebooks are a good go-to for high-school or college students, or grads starting out on the road to a career, but the smaller versions we most often see aren't great for heavy-duty work. That's why we like this 15-inch model from Asus, one of the only bigger-screen Chromebooks you can buy. 

Made to order in Portland, Oregon, from tear- and abrasion-resistant Cordura with weatherproof zippers, the bag can be everything from a slim laptop backpack to a 28-liter carry-on. North St. also makes packing cubes to fit the bag, and compression straps inside and out keep everything as slim and secure as possible. 

A great tool for note-taking in class or catching up on reading, the smaller iPad Mini surprised everyone with a big refresh for 2019. Besides a new A12 processor, it also adds Apple Pencil support, so it'll work with Apple's excellent stylus. There's also a new bigger-screen iPad Air, but the current 9.7-inch plain old iPad is a great deal you can usually find on sale for $250

The Dell XPS has long-been a go-to for anyone looking for a 13-inch, non-Apple laptop. The latest version fixes the irritating webcam placement, offers both 1080p and 4K touch screens, and comes in a couple of cool colors. Even with new CPU updates, it still starts at $899, which is impressive, considering the design. But, if you're giving one as a gift, at least jump up $100 to the Core i5 CPU option.

There's a reason this is one of the most popular computers ever made. And now it's gotten a much-needed reboot, keeping the name, but changing just about everything else, both outside and in. With a slimmer body, better screen and new CPUs, this should be the default choice for many students and grads. One caveat, not everyone loves the new keyboard design. 

The surprising winning brand in our recent tests of laptop battery life was LG's Gram line. These laptops are notable for two things: They are amazingly light, and they run a long, long time. This new 14-inch version adds another trick as well, it's a 2-in-1 hybrid, with a touchscreen that folds back 360 degrees, so you can use it as a laptop or tablet, making it doubly useful. 

Treat yourself or your grad with the most powerful gaming laptop you can buy right now. With a sharp-looking new design, it gets away from the dorm-room-chic of most other gaming PCs, and you can also claim the desktop-class chip inside is really for high-res photo editing and 4K video production.