Whatever youror operating system preference, there’s a laptop computer from a trusted brand that can help meet the demands of college head on. Our team of in-house has curated this roundup of the laptop computers that are ideally suited to college students. They’re affordable, feature-packed, have a long battery life, a decent size display and are easy to transport between classes, the library and a dorm room.
The best laptop computers for college students
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Best laptop for college students overall: Dell XPS 15
Operating system: Windows 11 Pro | Display size: 15.6 inches | Display type: LCD | Display resolution: 1,920 x 1,200 pixels | Refresh rate: 60Hz | Processor: 13th Gen Core i7-13700H (CPU), Intel Arc A370M (GPU) | CPU speed: 5.0 GHz | RAM: 32GB | Storage: 1TB | Size: 13.57 x 9.06 x 0.71 inches | Weight: 4.21 pounds | Battery life: Up to 13 hours
Plenty of computing power. Compact form factor. A battery life up to 13 hours. That’s why we’re fans of the Dell XPS 15. With this computer, you get a 15.6 inch LCD display with a 1,920 x 1,200 pixel resolution and 60Hz refresh rate. While we would have preferred a brighter display with touchscreen functionality, this one does offers a decent maximum brightness of 500 nits.
The XPS 15 is powered using a 13th Gen Intel Core i7-13700H processor. We like that the computer comes with an impressive configuration that includes 32GB of RAM and a 1TB SSD for storage. For wireless connectivity, it supports Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth 5.2. And it includes a 720p webcam, so it easily handles video calls or online classes. Combine this with an assortment of ports and you wind up with a well-rounded computer that’s ready for the rigors of everyday college life.
Best budget laptop for college students: Asus Vivobook Laptop
Operating system: Windows 11 Home | Display size: 16 inches | Display type: WUXGA | Display resolution: 1,920 x 1,200 pixels | Refresh rate: 60Hz | Processor: AMD Ryzen 5 5625U (CPU), AMD Radeon Graphics | CPU speed: 2.3 GHz | RAM: 8GB | Storage: 512GB | Size: 14.12 x 9.82 x 0.78 inches | Weight: 4.1 pounds | Battery life: Up to 10 hours
For a college student looking for an inexpensive, yet decently powered Windows-based laptop, look to the Asus Vivobook. This is more of an entry-level computer in terms of its power and speed, but it’ll easily run most Windows and cloud apps and showcase them on a vibrant 16-inch display.
The laptop meets US MIL-STD 810H standards for durability and has a battery life of up to 10 hours. It also supports Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth 5.3 for wireless connectivity and includes a nice collection of USB Type-A and USB Type-C ports, an HDMI port and a 3.5mm audio jack.
Despite a large 16 inch display (which gives you plenty of on-screen space for multitasking), the computer weighs in at just 4.1 pounds. You would not want to use this computer for editing video or playing demanding video games, but it’ll easily handle everyday computing tasks, including online gaming and video streaming.
Best Apple MacBook for college students: 14″ MacBook Pro with M3 processor
Operating system: MacOS Sonoma | Display size: 14.2 inches | Display type: Liquid Retina XDR | Display resolution: 3,024 x 1,964 pixels | Refresh rate: 120Hz | Processor: Apple M3 | CPU speed: 4.05 GHz | Unified memory: 8GB | Storage: 512GB | Size: 12.31 x 8.71 x 0.6 inches | Weight: 3.4 pounds | Battery life: Up to 22 hours
For college students on a budget, but who want an Apple laptop, a MacBook Air is fine. But if you need more power and speed, get his 14-inch MacBook Pro with the M3 processor. This is the least powerful of Apple’s new lineup of M3 processors, which includes the M3, M3 Pro and M3 Max, but with its 8-core CPU and 10-core GPU, it offers more than enough speed and power for the typical student. (And it blows away any of the M1 or M2 processors featured in the MacBook Air or older MacBook Pro models.)
You also get a high-resolution Liquid Retina XDR display that offers a maximum brightness of 1,000 nits. For wireless connectivity, this MacBook Pro supports Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth 5.3. It’s also bundled with two Thunderbolt/USB 4 ports, an SDXC memory card slot, an HDMI port and a headphone jack. The laptop’s keyboard is backlit and includes a TouchID sensor, so you can unlock it and approve online purchases with a quick fingerprint scan.
One of the most appealing features of the 14-inch MacBook Pro with M3 processor is its up-to-22-hour battery life. This will easily get you through a full day of classes, several hours of homework and even a movie afterward.
Best Chromebook for college students: Asus Chromebook Plus CX34
Operating system: ChromeOS | Display size: 14 inches | Display type: IPS | Display resolution: 1,920 x 1,080 pixels | Refresh rate: 60Hz | Processor: 12th Gen Intel Core i3-1215U | CPU speed: 4.4 GHz | RAM: 8GB | Storage: 256GB | Size: 12.85 x 8.44 x 0.74 inches | Weight: 3.17 pounds | Battery life: Up to 10 hours
For the college student who relies primarily on the cloud, the Asus Chromebook Plus CX34 is a versatile and relatively inexpensive option. While this model lacks a touchscreen, it does offer a nice selection of ports, as well as Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.3 wireless connectivity.
The CX34 runs the ChromeOS operating system, which makes it compatible with Android apps. But it already comes with a hefty selection of Google Workspace apps and integrates with Google online services, including Docs, Sheets, Slides, Gmail, Calendar, Chrome, Google Photos and Meet. You also get seamless Google Drive access for cloud storage.
Right out of the box, it’s ready to handle many of the tasks a college student needs a computer for. This Chromebook has a traditional laptop computer design and weighs in at just 3.17 pounds, so it’s easy to transport within a backpack or laptop case. Battery life is up to 10 hours.
Best premium laptop for college students: Lenovo Yoga Book i9 2-in-1
Operating system: Windows 11 | Display size: 2x 13.3 inch touchscreens | Display type: OLED | Display resolution: 2,880 x 1,800 pixels | Refresh rate: 60Hz | Processor: 13th Gen Intel i7-155U (CP), Intel Iris X2 Graphics (GPU) | CPU speed: 3.8 GHz | RAM: 16GB | Storage: 512GB | Size: 11.78 x 8.03 x 0.63 inches | Weight: 2.95 pounds | Battery life: Up to 7 hours
Lenovo has taken the concept of a high-end display a giant step forward. The Yoga Book 9i offers two 13.3-inch OLED touchscreens and a detachable keyboard. This gives you more functionality and on-screen real estate than a typical 2-in-1 laptop or a traditional one.
With two displays, you can run two apps at the same time; a single app on both screens; or reposition the screens to face in opposite directions — a great option for presentations or collaborations. What we love most about this laptop is its innovative design that really improves functionality.
And what’s even more remarkable is the small size and low weight of this laptop. It offers a sleek and ultra-modern appearance. You also get enough computing power for advanced applications. When the Yoga 9i’s displays are positioned like a traditional laptop, the detachable keyboard can be placed over part of the bottom screen, so you can enjoy traditional laptop functionality. The keyboard stays put thanks to magnets.
And when you’re done with a hectic day of academics, this computer is ideal for gaming or streaming video.
What are the best laptops for college students?
We recommend you choose a computer from a well-known brand and try to anticipate what your computing needs will be throughout your college years, so you won’t need to replace the computer before you graduate. This might mean spending a bit more upfront for a higher-end computer, but for the investment, you’ll likely wind up with a computer that offers better overall performance and a fast internet connection.
For the thrifty college student, a Chromebook can be a viable and low-cost option. But be warned: These computers rely heavily on continuous internet access for tasks like data storage or content streaming. With the exception of Android mobile apps, they’re not designed to store applications or a lot of data, documents, files, photos or content locally.
To get the most out of the laptop computer, stick with an operating system that’s compatible with the equipment you already use, such as your smartphone, smartwatch, tablet and desktop computer. People already invested in the Apple ecosystem will benefit the most from a MacBook laptop. An Android fan can take advantage of a Windows or ChromeOS computer, while someone with a Windows machine should purchase a laptop that also runs Windows.
15 factors to consider when choosing a laptop for college
Here’s a rundown of the 15 most important features and functions to look for when shopping for a laptop computer that you’ll rely on heavily in college:
- Design: There are traditional laptop computers, 2-in-1 computers (that serve as a laptop computer and tablet), laptops with a touchscreen display, laptops that are extra thin and lightweight, and those are designed to be extra rugged. So ask yourself: What will you be using the laptop for?
- Operating system: Your three main options are Windows, MacOS or ChromeOS. Focus on the OS of the equipment you’re already using. Also, make sure your laptop runs the very latest version that operating system. At the moment, this means either Windows 11 Home, Windows 11 Pro, MacOS Sonoma or Chrome OS (version 15633.69.0).
- Display size, type, resolution, brightness and refresh rate: In addition to non-touch and touchscreen displays, the screens built into laptop computers vary in size, display type, resolution, brightness and refresh rate. Think about the level of detail, vibrance and color accuracy you want to see. In general, larger displays that offer high resolution, a higher-than-average brightness level and a faster refresh rate will increase the computer’s price, as will choosing a higher-end display type, such as an OLED.
- Stylus and touchscreen support: Some (but far from all) laptop computers offer a touchscreen display with stylus support. With a touchscreen, you get additional ways to interact with the computer to enhance your productivity. A stylus allows you to handwrite or draw directly on the screen, or annotate files as you’re reading or working with them.
- CPU and GPU: A computer’s CPU (central processing unit) impacts processing power, while its GPU (graphics processing unit) determines how efficiently the computer handles graphics and animations. The faster and more powerful a computer’s CPU and GPU, the more expensive it will be.
- RAM: Consider this the computer’s short-term memory. It’s used to manipulate data while applications are running. Having more RAM (or unified memory in the case of MacBooks) will determine how smoothly and efficiently a computer runs.
- Internal storage: A computer’s internal storage determines how much content can be stored locally. This includes apps, data, documents, files, photos and other types of content. If you rely heavily on cloud apps and file storage, internal storage is less important. For the average user, we recommend a laptop with at least 256GB or 512GB of internal storage, although you may need 1TB. Chromebooks typically have a lot less internal storage, since their main focus is on cloud-based computing.
- Battery life: If you’ll often use your laptop on the go, a more powerful battery will keep the computer running longer. Longer battery life is less critical if you’ll primarily be using the computer at a desk close to an electrical outlet.
- Wired and wireless connectivity: All laptops have built-in ports such as USB Type-A and USB Type-C ports; HDMI; Ethernet; a 3.5mm headphone jack; or a memory card slot. The port array you need depends on what equipment you’ll be connecting to the computer (without needing an optional dock or hub). Also pay attention to the computer’s wireless connectivity. All offer Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, but make sure they’re the most recent — either Wi-Fi 6 or Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth 5.3. Cellular connectivity should support 5G, which is significantly faster than 4G LTE.
- Speakers: If you plan to use the speakers built into your laptop, make sure your machine offers at least two. Some of the latest laptops offer at least four speakers and an integrated subwoofer to generate robust, room-filling audio.
- Keyboard layout: A computer’s keyboard design and layout, along with the size and location of the touchpad, dictates how comfortable it is to type on. Some laptop keyboards include a numeric keypad on the right side, a separate line of function keys along the top, or other specialty keys. Some laptop computers offer backlit keys (which makes it easier to type in the dark) or customizable RGB lighting.
- Dimensions and weight: The size of the computer’s display is a key factor in determining its overall dimensions and weight. Dimensions and weight impact how easy it is to carry and the size of the case or backpack you’ll need.
- Webcam and microphone: You’ll want a laptop with a high-resolution webcam (that offers at least 1080p resolution), along with quality microphones to ensure you’ll be clearly heard during web calls or virtual classes.
- Price of accessories and upgrades: If you plan to stream video or audio, no matter how good the integrated speakers are, you’ll also want to invest in quality Bluetooth that offer noise cancelling and spatial audio. This will allow you to have private and more immersive listening experiences.
- Special features: This might mean two separate displays or a more rugged (or even waterproof) design. Before spending extra money for these features, make sure they’re things you’ll actually use.
Which laptops are best for college students who need high performance or play video games?
Seek out an option that offers the most powerful CPU and GPU you can afford, along with a higher amount of RAM and 1TB or more of internal storage. We also recommend an OLED display, or at least one that offers a 120Hz refresh rate.
Any of the MacBook Pros with an M3 processor will likely serve you well, but if you can afford one with an M2 Pro or M2 Max processor, you’ll get more computing power and better overall performance. The mid-range M3 Pro chip offers a 12-core CPU and 18-core GPU, while the M3 Max offers up to a 16-core CPU and 40-core GPU.
For Windows users, at the moment, the 14th Gen Intel Core i9-13980HX CPU is Intel’s fastest and most powerful mobile processor. It’s a 24-core processor with a 5.6Gz clock speed. A viable alternative is a AMD Ryzen processor. At the moment, the 16-core Ryzen 9 7945HX3D is one the company’s fastest mobile processors. Keep in mind, with a faster and more powerful CPU and GPU, more RAM, more internal storage and a higher-end display comes a higher price tag for the computer.
Can college students get a discount on a laptop computer?
Many computer companies, including Acer, Dell, HP, Lenovo, Microsoft, Razer and Samsung offer student discounts if you shop directly from their respective websites. The Apple website also offers a discount to students. But if you head over to Amazon you’ll sometimes find laptops and related gear on sale at prices that are even lower. Meanwhile, B&H Photo has its own student discount program that applies to a wide range of laptops and other consumer tech gear.
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