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?
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. Likewise, if remote learning is on the syllabus, you’ll want to make sure you choose a college laptop that comes with a built-in camera and microphone for video conferences.
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 (2020)
At its most affordable configuration, the 2020 Dell XPS 13 provides a 10th generation Intel Core i5 processor and 256 GB of storage. It is incredibly thin being 0.58 inches tall and portable weighing only 2.65 pounds, which is great for those who are commuting to class. For those who are taking online classes, even though the new XPS 13 is slim, they didn’t skimp on webcam performance. It has a four-element design to reduce noise and keep everything in the frame looking sharp. It only has two Thunderbolt 3 ports and a microSD card reader, but if you don’t need a million ports, this laptop will certainly be your classroom workhorse.
2. HP Envy x360 – 15T
One of HP’s top-rated laptops is currently on sale, which is a deal students won’t want to miss. HP has the best back to school sale we’ve seen so far this year, and the deal includes the popular HP Envy x360 2-in-1 laptop. Whether you’re actually heading back to school or getting ready for another semester of remote learning, a powerful laptop is absolutely essential, and this computer fits the bill. The HP Envy has a 360-degree hinge and comes with the HP Pen, which means you can write notes and draw directly on the touchscreen. With enough processing power to get you through the school year, plus a wide-angle HD Camera for video conferences, this laptop has everything you need at a price students can afford. Not only is this one of the best college laptops of 2020, but it’s also one of the best laptops under $1,000.
3. Lenovo Flex 5 Premium (2020)
The Lenovo Flex 5 Premium 2020 is a fantastic 2-1 option for both classroom and online learners. It comes with a Lenovo Digital Pen and 16GB microSD card, so you can fold the laptop anyway that you need and start writing right on the display. And when you’re done, you can save your work to the microSD. Out of the box you get 16GB of Ram and 256 GB of solid state storage for under $1,000. You don’t find many 2-1 designs that are as powerful, and that include a stylus in this price range.
4. MacBook Air (2020)
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 profile. This is a top tier laptop for a college student, and it should last through all four years of college.
5. 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. Even better, you can currently save 25% on this top-rated laptop, which makes it one of the best laptops under $1,000.
6. Asus VivoBook S15
The Asus VivoBook S15 is an affordable laptop option with plenty of connectivity for all of your additional hard drives, thumb drives and SD cards. You’ll find two USB 2.0, microSD card reader, one USB 3.0, USB-C and an HDMI connection. It does omit Thunderbolt 3, but there’s still plenty of connectivity on this laptop compared to most new ones. The laptop tips the scales at four pounds, so you certainty compromise portability for connectivity. And for online learners, the HD Webcam and Harman Kardon audio will ensure that you see and hear everything clear as day.
7. 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.
8. MacBook Pro 13 (2020)
If you want to make the most of the MacBook Pro 13, you’ll want to go with a configuration with a 10-gen Intel Core processor. Why? Then you really unlock the potential of the additional storage (256 GB without upgrades) and up to 16 GB of RAM, which turns this laptop into a total powerhouse. Not to mention it comes with the new Magic Keyboard which is Apple’s best keyboard to date. It’s pricey, but you could have the most powerful laptop on campus.
9. HP Envy x360 13 (2020)
There’s a lot to like about the HP Envy x360 13 2020 model. For starters, the 360-degree hinge allows you to adjust the screen from laptop to tent mode and even set it flat against the ground. And since it only weighs 2.92 pounds, all that multi-use ability is portable, too. There’s decent connectivity including two USB Type-A ports, a USB-C port and a microSD reader. A sweet, unique feature is the shutter on the webcam. When you’re done using it, or want a little privacy, just click the shutter button by the power button to close the shutter. That can come in handy when you’re trying to quickly eat a snack, but not in front of the entire class.
Plus, did we mention that it’s currently on sale? Check out the HP Back To School Sale to save hundreds on one of the best laptops for college students.
10. Acer Swift 5
At 2.18 pounds, the Acer Swift 5 is even more lightweight than the slender PixelBook Go. But it doesn’t skimp on connectivity in favor of being portable. You’ll find an always handy HDMI port, USB-C, USB-A and a headphone jack. Unfortunately, there isn’t a microSD card reader available. Along with connectivity and portability comes power in the form of a 10th generation i7 processor and 8GB of RAM and 512GB of storage. That’s impressive. You can expect to get through your whole work or school day with about eight and a half hours of battery life, depending on use. This is a pretty powerful laptop for college students for around a $1,000.
11. Dell XPS 13 (2019)
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.
12. 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.
13. 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.
14. 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.
15. 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.
16. 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.
17. 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-degree hinge.
18. 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.