There are so many new products students need for that first year of college, and all that shopping can feel overwhelming. Each little selection comes with a huge range of choices that stress even the most informed consumers. While decking out your dorm room or first apartment can be an expensive endeavor, few purchases are more important than your college laptop.
Today, every student needs a laptop, but it shouldn’t be a decision that rivals trying to figure out which school to attend. So how do you choose the best laptops for college students? First you should decide if you want a standard laptop or a Chromebook.
For those who need a quick lesson on Chromebooks: a Chromebook is a lightweight and portable laptop option that largely relies on cloud storage and cloud applications to do all of the heavy lifting. Without much, or any onboard storage, it allows these laptops to be lightweight and boast lengthy battery life. Plus, these options are usually far more affordable than a standard laptop.
Of course, if you are going to school for graphic design, coding or have any multimedia courses on your schedule, you’ll want to go with a beefier and more powerful laptop. Something with at least 8GB of RAM and 265GB of storage. Here’s a quick review of how to navigate through our recommendations below:
- Chromebooks are less powerful, more affordable with better battery life
- Students with multimedia courses should consider options like the Macbook Air or Dell XPS
- Premium options like Razer are expensive, but are powerful enough for gaming
- Two-in-one options like Microsoft Surface provide a ton of utility for college students
The best laptops for college students will accomplish every task you need to accomplish (writing papers, browsing the Internet for research or wasting time online), but we’ve identified a number of computers that will do all of that especially well. Even better, these laptops should last throughout a typical four-year college career.
1. Dell XPS 13
Dell’s beloved computer has long been the product to reach for when considering a student notebook. Previous versions tried too hard to change what worked (most notably, the webcam was moved to the bottom of the screen — a mistake that’s since been corrected). A practically bezel-less 13-inch screen gives users plenty of space for multitasking and the lightning-fast processor will have your computer up and running in seconds, even when you’re running late to lecture. Weighing under three pounds and with a 10-hour battery life and slim construction, it’ll certainly travel well too. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a better contender than this option from Dell. We know that many college students are hardcore Apple loyalists, but this college-ready laptop is worthy of your consideration, too.
2. MacBook Air
The new MacBook Air is full of improvements from the previous generations. For starters, it boasts the same keyboard as the MacBook 16-inch, replacing the old keyboard that had its fair share of complaints. The retina display is also a welcome addition, with 4 million pixels and incredible sharpness. And of course, the staple of the Air, its lightweight and ultra-slim. This is a top tier laptop for a college student.
3. Google Pixel Go
This affordable Chromebook has some rare features that aren’t often found on a typical Chromebook. The new Pixel Go welcomes a 1080p camera into the design, which is great for online classes and conference calls. The hush keyboard is as quiet as it is comfortable. Great for those late nights when you need to keep studying but don’t want to wake up your dorm roomy. On top of that, it’s lighter than the MacBook Air and more affordable, too.
4. Microsoft Surface Pro 7
A two-in-one laptop combo as versatile as the Microsoft Surface Pro 7 is a great tool for any student to have in college. Welcoming in new USB-C connections and a speedy new processor, the new Surface Pro 7 has even more utility than previous generations. And if you’re the go-getter type (you know, the 18 hours a semester type), the lengthy 12-hour battery life will be able to hang with you all day long. This laptop has as much drive as you.
5. HP Envy 13t
When you want more features, power and you have a bigger budget for your college needs, the HP Envy 13t has the goods. Boasting a 13.3-inch touchscreen display, you can literally be hands-on with your school work. It also includes plenty of connectivity with USB-C and USB-A ports. And you can beef this laptop all the way up to 2TB of storage if need be, but that might be overkill, even for an honor student.
6. Acer Aspire 5
This laptop is great for students not only for the affordable pricing, but also because of the above-average performance. You’ll be able to get through your whole school day on a single charge — no need to take your lunch break sitting by a wall outlet. And you can configure this laptop a myriad of ways, ranging anywhere from $300 to roughly $900. When you shoot for around $500, you get plenty of storage space in 256GB and enough 8GB RAM to tackle any school project.
7. Asus ZenBook 13
The Asus ZenBook 13 is more on the premium side of college-level laptops, and for good reason. The Touchpad doubles as a screen to provide quick access to your most-used applications and can even be used as a calculator (which comes in handy). The lengthy, roughly 12-hour battery life will get you through a full day of classes and work without needing a charge. And you’ll have no problem toting this 2.8-pound lightweight laptop around all day. It’s almost as light as an Air.
8. Razer Blade 15
If you fall under the category “broke college student” you should stop reading here. But if you have the means and you love gaming, the Razer Blade 15 is a powerful laptop for school, so much so that it can also double as a gaming laptop (for those extracurriculars). It boasts an OLED screen for sharp and vivid colors, as well as a comfortable and quiet keyboard. At 4.5 pounds, it is a bit heavier than most in this lineup, but all that power needs to go somewhere, right? Thanks to its sharp display, back-lit keyboard and powerful components, the Razer Blade 15 is the best laptop for college students who love gaming.
9. Microsoft Surface Laptop 3
If you’re a PC purist (or just very Apple-averse), then the Microsoft Surface 3 is your best bet for a college laptop. The Microsoft Surface 2 is a little cheaper, but the Surface 3 is overall a stronger laptop for relatively the same price. At a light 2.79 pounds, it probably weighs less than a textbook and can slip right into a bag with ease. You’ll be able to keep your charger at home, too: the Pro 2 boasts an all-day battery life running normal applications, but if you need to get your Netflix on when you get home, you can charge it up to 80% in just one hour. Thanks to the Intel Core i5, 8GB RAM and sharp 13.5-inch display, this is one of the best laptops for college students under $1,000. This laptop lacks an HDMI port but does have both USB-C and USB-A ports. Plus, there are several fun colors to further differentiate yourself from the Apple set, should you choose.
10. HP Chromebook X2-12 Laptop
It can be hard to decide between a tablet and a laptop, so why not pick both? This HP two-in-1one Chromebook has a fully detachable keyboard and included stylus if you decide you want to take notes the old fashioned way or need to sketch an idea for a group project. Lightweight (it’s three pounds with the keyboard attached, a little under two without it) with a 12-hour battery life, this two-in-one Chromebook offers an unprecedented amount of flexibility.
11. Dell XPS 15 Laptop
With a full 4K ultra high definition 15.6-inch screen, the Dell XPS 15 laptop is the go-to laptop for pop culture fans that can’t get enough of their favorite streaming show or movie. Boasting a higher pixel count than the MacBook Pro’s top-notch Retina display, whatever you’re planning on watching will be rendered in a stunning picture quality across the nearly edge-less screen. It’s a souped-up version of the XPS 13 we already love so much, making a great laptop even better.
12. HP Probook X360 Laptop
Listen, we all know people in our lives that are more accident-prone than others. For those people, you’re going to want to seek out an option than can handle anything thrown at it … even if it’s actually the laptop itself that’s thrown. With a Gorilla Glass screen, spill-resistant keyboard and rubber exterior, your laptop will have as much protection from yourself as possible. And as an added bonus, it’s one of the cheaper options from this list — and it’s capable of pivoting into a notebook with its 360° hinge.
13. Huawei Matebook 13 Inch Laptop
Sometimes you don’t want to forgo performance for price or vice versa. That’s why this laptop from lesser-known brand Huawei is such a good deal. At a price point that’s pretty reasonable, the 8th Gen Intel Core i5 processor allows for lightning-fast speeds, which helps make that beautiful 13-inch touch screen all the more striking. Additionally, the Matebook offers Dolby Atmos sound for a stunning listening or watching experience, while the touch screen has been fine-tuned for expert sensitivity. In short, it’s a laptop that’s perfectly balanced, as all things should be.