The best laptop for college must beautifully balance value and performance, so that it can deliver the level of performance you’ll need for schoolwork, while saving some cash as well.
- Value for money
- Durability for schoolwork
- Can be used for college and outside
- Decent configuration options
- Some can be expensive
After successfully choosing the college or university you’ll be attending, the next important consideration is which tech gizmo to carry around college. You’ll have to make a few considerations here and there, attempt to get the best specs to match your budget, and be stylish at the same time. That’s exactly what your ideal notebook needs to be. Start your ‘top laptops’ short list with our top-rated, value-focused models.
The best laptop for college must beautifully balance value and performance, so that it can deliver the level of performance you’ll need for schoolwork, while saving some cash as well. In fact, college can get pretty expensive very fast before you can even factor in shelling out some money to purchase one of the top-rated laptops for college.
Having to study on budget matters a lot, especially if your college requires students to pay for housing and are already steadying on a lean diet of instant ramen. While at it, performance also matters for college, and that’s not something any budget laptop will do. The ideal laptop for students needs to deliver performance good enough for getting schoolwork and project done, with some bit of video streaming, movie watching and perhaps some gaming in between.
With that in mind, our top laptops for students put value over having boasting high-end processors and graphics cards, and giving you some budget-friendly options. The prices notwithstanding, they still have enough muscle to get you through a demanding workload then allow you pertake some post-schoolwork entertainment.
More importantly, you no longer have to stay with Windows 10, either, in our list you’ll find some Chromebooks that are equally capable of going head to head with some notebooks while being economical.
Here are the top considerations to make when choosing the best laptop for college:
If you’ve been shopping around for a college laptop, you must have come across different screen sizes. Currently, we have notebooks with different form factors, starting at 11-inches and going all the way to 17 inches. Choosing the right screen size entirely depends on your major at college, and perhaps how you envision using the laptop. Let’s dive into the various screen sizes you can choose from.
- 11-inch model: If you’ll need something portable that you can comfortably lag around in college or on daily commute to college, this is the best to have. Most 11-inch laptops are super light, portable and very inexpensive. In this class, most are Chromebooks and notebooks with minimal processing power, but still ideal for day-to-day college tasks, like browsing the internet and working on documents.
- 13-inch model: If an 11-inch laptop seems too tiny for your liking, 13-inch models offers a more practical approach with bigger keyboards and enough screen real estate.
- 14-inch model: Most ultra-portables in the market fall in this category. They can be suave, expensive and pack tons of power than even most big-screen notebooks. In fact, some of the best college, business and professional laptops in the market fall in this category, with class-leading performance and long battery life. They are very portable as well, but can be expensive, too.
- 15-inch model: This is where your traditional laptop falls. In this category, you can get the big behemoths that cost much less, the midrange notebook, and the top-notch laptop with the best specs around. Again, this category is a mixed bag of goodies, where you can find anything you need: inexpensive, portable, bulky notebooks, premium design and pretty everything else. One unique thing with 15-inch laptops is that they tend to offer the best connectivity options, versatile internet connectivity and OK battery life.
- 17-inch model: Not very common among college students, but this category remains special to college majors that require you to work extensively on multimedia content, intense programming, 3D modelling or any other architectural projects. If that describes you, then you definitely need a 17-inch laptop. A 17-inch laptop can be heavy, but it brings forth performance and screen size you will need for most engineering and creative majors, such as architecture, graphic design, all engineering courses and art. Additionally, they make perfect desktop replacements.
Choosing the Best Laptop for College
Getting the best laptop for college doesn’t have to be a difficult undertaking – in fact, you need to consider four aspects/steps and you’re done:
Step 1: How will you be using your laptop?
Here is where you really need to get it right. Will you be using the laptop for CPU-intensive applications like Adobe Premiere Pro, run intensive Triple-A games, or run programming interfaces, for which you need a beefier CPU and maybe a dedicated graphics card. If that the case, anything with an Intel core i5 CPU and above preferable. You can configure it with 8-16GB RAM and a fast-paced SSD memory (256GB is fine, you can supplement it later with an external drive).
Or else, if all you need is to get to the internet, process Microsoft Office Suite documents and watch videos when done with schoolwork, you can settle on a cheaper CPU with lower RAM and less storage.
Step 2: How portable should the ideal laptop be?
If you’ll commuting daily to college, or your college days will involve considerable travel, you’ll need a lightweight laptop with a solid build. You can easily consider a 2-in1 ultraportable, that you can use in different modes –tent, tablet or can even be detached when needed.
Also, look for something with reliable battery life, with ultra-portables having the best battery around, as they can last just over 10 hours on a single charge.
Otherwise, if you’ll be taking your classes from specified stations, you can settle for a standard clamshell design in the 14-inch realm, as they offer between 3.5-6 hours battery life and tend to cost less.
Step 3: A backlit keyboard or multi-touch pad?
If your major includes extensive writing or interaction with the keyboard – maybe creative writing, graphic design or computer programming – choose a laptop with an ergonomic, comfortable and backlit keyboard. The touchpad should also be well positioned, comfortable and must support multi-touch gestures.
Step 4: A dedicated or integrated graphics card?
For college majors that entail multimedia content creation, STEM, graphic design or arts, a dedicated graphics card would be better. While you can get one with an integrated graphics card but still deliver on your project (especially the Apple MacBook Pro), consider one that has a dedicated GPU if your budget allows.
Our Top Picks: Best Laptops for College in 2019
Dell XPS 15
Best Overall for College / STEM Students
CPU: 8th-generation Intel Core i5 – i9 | Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics 630 – Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 Ti | RAM: 8GB – 32GB | Screen: 15.6-inch FHD (1,920 x 1,080) Touch IPS | Storage: 256GB SSD
The Dell XPS 15 has always made it to the top of our best laptops for students for several years now, and Dell has done a lot to keep to its tradition. Not much has changed over the 2017 version, but we’re still satisfied. After all, you’re getting a beautiful ultraportable that’s not only reliable, but also powerful to get you through pretty any workload.
And, the Dell XPS 15 is reasonably priced. If anything, the base configuration should be accessible to most users. If you need more power, you can configure this thing up to an Intel Core i9 processor and 32GB of Ram, making it an extremely powerful workstation. However, if Dell would move that webcam everything would be smooth sailing.
Read the full review: Dell XPS 15
Huawei Matebook X Pro
Best for MBA Students
CPU: 8th-generation Intel Core i5 – i7 | Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics 620, Nvidia GeForce MX150 (optional) | RAM: 8GB | Screen: 13.3-inch 2K (2,560 x 1,440) with touch panel | Storage: 256GB – 512GB SSD
We have seen PC manufacturers go heads-over with top-notch technologies and designs, but we didn’t anticipate Huawei’s direct assault on the bests of Dell, Apple, Lenovo and Asus in the high-end computing niche. For MBA students looking for an attractive alternative to the clichéd Surfaces and MacBooks of this world, the Huawei MateBook X Pro (Mach-W19B) is perhaps the only thing worth considering for 2019.
Huawei has managed to deliver a sleek ultraportable laptop that mimics the Apple MacBook Pro on everything –from color to keyboard switches. But in surprising twist, Huawei’s replica of the MacBook Pro is luxurious, performant and long-lasting, with subtle improvements upon both Apple’s design and the Dell XPS 13’s performance.
Read the full review: Huawei Matebook X Pro
HP Envy 13-Aq0044nr
Best for Psychology Students / Online Classes
CPU: 8th-generation Intel Core i7-8565U | Graphics: Nvidia GeForce MX250 | RAM: 16GB | Screen: 13.3-inch 4K (3,840 x 2,160) IPS | Storage: 512GB SSD
The Envy line already has some of the thinnest borders in the business, but the new HP Envy 13-aq0044nr boast a thrilling 97 percent screen-to-body ratio. Simply said, 97 percent of the laptop’s footprint is taken up by the display, leaving a bezel that’s just 2.5 millimetres thick. That’s the best yet, competing with the Asus ZenBook S13, a thin, premium ultraportable.
The HP Envy 13 is a well-crafted, great-looking ultraportable laptop with strong performance and small but meaningful touches over the 2-in-1 Spectre x360, that make it a pure joy to use. It’s very fast, last a very long time on a single charge, and feels great in hand.
Read full review: HP Envy 13-Aq0044nr
MacBook Pro (15-inch, 2019)
Best for Art Students
CPU: 9th-generation Intel Core i7 – i9 | Graphics: Radeon Pro 555X – Radeon Pro Vega 20 | RAM: up to 32GB | Screen: 15.4-inch (diagonal) LED-backlit display with IPS technology | Storage: 256GB – 4TB SSD
In 2019, the MacBook Pro is getting some fresh air as the first ever Ultrabook we knew from back in the day. While Apple’s iPhones line has been receiving significant feature overhauls almost every year, the Cupertino folks have been reluctant to extend the same grace to one of their most affordable laptops.
Of course, we’ve seen a few spec tweaks but the Apple MacBook Air has overhauled its physical appearance, getting radical design and feature changes, including beefy chips and a TouchBar.
The latest version of the MacBook Pro gets a taste of new features and upgrades, maintaining its stature as the best entry-level Ultrabook with a Retina display Apple has ever created. This year’s iteration boasts improved hardware, a crisp screen bonded into a thinner and lighter design, once again, making it the best ‘Air’ around. It’s an excellent choice for arts students who need a high-quality resolution display.
Razer Blade 15
Best for Architecture / Information Technology Students
CPU: 8th-generation Intel Core i7-8759H | Graphics: Nvidia GeForce RTX 20170 | RAM: 16GB | Screen: 15.6-inch 4K (1,920 x 1,080) IPS | Storage: 256GB SSD
With its wide color gamut, the Razer Blade 15 fits the bill for Architecture and IT course needs. It has the power to run elaborate simulation software and can play triple-A games on the side.
I’m always fascinated by Razer laptops and a big fan of the latest offering. They always strike a touch of class and a stylish design, while leveraging performance than triumphs over majority of the competition. That’s particularly true with the new RTX Razer Blade 15 line-up of gaming laptops, that also suffice for IT students.
If you’re not on a budget, the RTX 2080 Razer Blade 15 is certainly a solid landing ground for serious AAA gaming. It brings forward technologies like ray tracing that provides an extra polish to unexplored spheres and similar muscle for graphics application.
Razer has always perfected on offering portable yet powerful laptops that can be used for gaming as well as media editing and content creation. It also means that the cheaper RTX 2070 model of the Razer Blade 15 boasts better ray tracing performance, which is quite surprising, but much welcome among IT and engineering students.
Read full review here: Razer Blade 15
Acer Aspire 5 (A515-43-R19L)
Best for High School Students
CPU: Intel Celeron N4000 | Graphics: AMD Radeon Vega 3 | RAM: 4GB | Screen: 15.6-inch (1,920 x 1,080) IPS | Storage: 128GB SSD
Last year, we reviewed Acer’s Aspire E15 with an 8th Gen Intel Core i5, and we liked its combination of performance, battery life and budget price. Acer has added another model to its 2019 Aspire 5 lineup, an AMD Ryzen 3 version that looks like its predecessor and also comes at an attractive price point. The new Acer Aspire 5 A515-43-R19L is a well-equipped configuration that features a Ryzen 3 chip, Vega 3 graphics, 4GB RAM, and 128GB solid state drive storage.
Also, it gets a backlit keyboard, something you rarely see at this entry-price point. In addition to the impressive feature set, it comes with Windows 10 in S mode, making it a great alternative to the budget Chromebooks in the market. For students on a tight budget but won’t survive with the limitations of Chrome OS platform on Chromebooks, this sounds like a great alternative.
Read full review here: Acer Aspire 5
ASUS Chromebook Flip C434TA-DSM4T
Best for Nursing Students
CPU: Intel Core m3-8100y| Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 615 | RAM: 4GB | Screen: 14-inch (1,920 x 1,080) | Storage: 64GB Flash Drive
The Asus Chromebook Flip C434TA-DSM4T is an exciting laptop, providing class-leading performance, and it’s by far the most exciting piece of hardware around. It runs fast enough for the usual OS tasks, it runs a long time on a single charge of the battery, and its sleek metallic design makes it easy to carry around in college and at work.
For nursing students who need something portable, yet long lasting, the Flip makes for an excellent choice. It will let you stay online for many hours as you share important information with peers, multitask and complete assignments. And, it doesn’t cost so much.
Read full review here: Asus Chromebook Flip C434TA-DSM4T
Lenovo Flex 14 (81SS000DUS) 2-In-1 Convertible
Best for Business Students
CPU: AMD Ryzen 5 3500U| Graphics: AMD Vega 8 | RAM: 8GB | Screen: 14-inch (1,920 x 1,080) | Storage: 256GB SSD
Lenovo has been crafting some of the lightest business laptops around. In its executive range, the company has the light – ThinkPad T480 (3.6 pounds), lighter – Lenovo ThinkPad T480s (3 pounds), and lightest – ThinkPad X1 Carbon (2.4 pounds). The Lenovo Flex 14 (81SS000DUS) continues the company’s tradition and efforts at moving beyond light laptops into the convertibles space for budget buyers.
The Lenovo Flex 14 is light, it’s well-built, it performs well, and it’s one of the most affordable laptops we’ve reviewed. There’s a lot to like here. In fact, the Flex 14 kind of grows on you the more you use it, especially if you’re a business student who needs a durable system for frequent travel, perfect for strange locations and cross-country flights.
Read full review here: Lenovo Flex 14
ASUS ZenBook UX333FA-AB77
Best for Graduate Students
CPU: Intel Core i5 – 8565U| Graphics: Intel HD | RAM: 16GB | Screen: 13.3-inch (1,920 x 1,080) | Storage: 512GB SSD
Asus has been trying to undercut the Apple MacBook Air, and they kind of succeeded with the ZenBook 13 line that rings low prices but packs more power than the most powerful Air ever produced. With the ASUS ZenBook UX333FA-AB77, the company is taking on the Dell XPS 13 with a sleek, premium design and lots of power for less money.
The only thing missing from the XPS 13’s offering is a Thunderbolt 3 port, but it compensates with a nano-edge display, powerful 8th Gen. Core i7 processor, a dual-function touchpad with a switchable numeric keypad for enhanced productivity and a TPM security chip to secure your files.
If you’re a graduate student pursuing specialized studies in your field of choice, the ZenBook aligns to most course demands. It does it all, graphic design, film making, is portable for the frequent traveller and is ideal for business studies.
Read full review here: ASUS ZenBook UX333FA-AB77
Read full review here: ASUS ZenBook UX333FA-AB77
Acer Predator Helios 300 PH315-52-78VL
Best for Computer Science Students
CPU: Intel Core i7 – 9750H| Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1660 Ti (6GB) | RAM: 16GB | Screen: 15.6-inch (1,920 x 1,080) | Storage: 256GB SSD
For the many lines of code, unseen bugs that will keep you awake at night, a laptop designed for gaming with good heat dissipation will come handy. Acer’s latest Helios 300 offering is well worth considering if you’re after something at the affordable end of a scale that never disappoints on specs.
This power-packed Predator feels like a gaming laptop with its very own identity.
It is a compelling mid-range laptop that packs the latest Nvidia GPU and Intel into an exciting case that promises fast frame rates on modern games and strong productivity performance. Though it isn’t the most extravagant, and certainly not the most portable, the Predator Helios 300 sits at exciting balance of balance of value and performance. It’s the 15-inch midrange gaming laptop to beat.
Read full review here: Acer Predator Helios 300
Asus Vivobook S15
Best Medical Students
CPU: Intel Core i5 – 8265U| Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics 620 | RAM: 8GB | Screen: 15.6-inch (1,920 x 1,080) | Storage: 256GB SSD
For medical students who needs something portable and versatile for reading lengthy documents, journals, e-books and diagrams alongside notes, the Asus Vivobook offer a great screen, metallic build, decent battery life and great overall performance.
The Vivobook S15 proves that a slick design and innovation isn’t limited to premium laptops. This exquisite piece of tech is truly one of a kind, inspired by Asus’ pricier ZenBook S, featuring the company’s new ErgoLift hinge that angles the keyboard to offer a comfortable typing experience.
It tags along good performance, solid battery life and impressive heat management, making it a very good overall laptop. In fact, it’s one of the best Asus laptops you can get with less money.
Acer Aspire 5 A515-54-51DJ
Best for Biology / Elementary Students
CPU: Intel Core i5 – 8265U| Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics 620 | RAM: 8GB | Screen: 15.6-inch (1,920 x 1,080) | Storage: 256GB SSD
If you’re going in for virtual/online classes, or any course that require secondary research for assignments, checking e-mail for homework and frequent video-calling classmates, the Aspire 5 might be all you need.
It comes with a 15.6-inch non-touch 1080p display, an 8th Gen Intel Core i5-8265U processor, 8GB of DDR4 RAM and a 256GB solid-state drive. That right there is an impressive spec sheet for almost all your classroom needs, without being too expensive.
Build quality and productivity performance are what separates the Acer Aspire 5 A515-54-51DJ from some other budget college laptop alternatives.
Read full review here: Acer Aspire 5 A515-54-51DJ
MSI GS65 Stealth-432
Best for Animation Students
CPU: Intel Core i7 – 9750H| Graphics: Nvidia GeForce RTX 2070 | RAM: 32GB | Screen: 15.6-inch (1,920 x 1,080) | Storage: 1TB SSD
Enrolling for an animation major will require a great eye for detail, impeccable creativeness, and a laptop that will help build on both of these. The laptop of choice should have a stellar display, strong processing power to run intensive software and ability to render multimedia content seamlessly. In short, that’s an MSI GS65 Stealth-432.
The MSI GS65 Stealth is a solid Full HD gaming laptop, built with Nvidia’s Max-Q technology (RTX 2070) and brings immense power to a subtle and slick package unlike any attempt before.
It’s thin and light, and is savvy all round thanks to the eighth-generation Intel ‘Coffee Lake’ processor it packs inside and a long-lasting battery.
ASUS VivoBook 15 F512DA-EB51
Best for Geology Students
CPU: AMD Ryzen 5 – 3500U| Graphics: AMD Radeon RX Vega 8 | RAM: 8GB | Screen: 15.6-inch (1,920 x 1,080) | Storage: 128GB SSD +1TB HDD
A geology major will send you to the field most of the time, for which you need a sturdy and resilient laptop. While you have the choice of a rugged Chromebook, Asus offers the VivoBook F512 for that kind of environment.
It’s the company’s best attempt yet at cramming a whole bunch of power and premium design in a tiny, budget laptop. The bezels are as small as we’ve seen, the construction is beautiful, making this a very usable laptop with a great keyboard and touchpad and outstanding build quality.
More importantly, there’s no performance compromise, with decent processing power in a durable chassis that will withstand a few pushes and drops.
Read full review here: ASUS VivoBook 15 F512DA-EB51
Asus ROG Zephyrus GX531GS-AH76
Best for For Campus Gaming
CPU: Intel Core i7-8750H| Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 | RAM: 16GB | Screen: 15.6-inch (1,920 x 1,080) | Storage: 512GB SSD
Sometimes you need to break away from schoolwork, and a decent gaming laptop is the best companion. Again, you can use it for schoolwork and indulge in gaming afterwards. The Asus ROG Zephyrus makes that cut. It is light, portable, stylish and very powerful.
It is a capable Pascal-based laptop built with Nvidia’s Max-Q, a concept that enable high-end graphics card like GTX 1080 and the new RTX 2080 fit into thin laptops via precise performance cap and thermal management solutions.
While it doesn’t boost the highest specs around – especially RTX 2000 Series GPU, it remains our favorite for modern AAA games and can be had for much less than its newer peers.
Its performance shows that Max-Q laptops can deliver levels of proficiency near that of bigger machines, without spending so much.
Read full review here: Asus ROG Zephyrus GX531GS-AH76
Want more suggestions? Check out our list of the Editors’ Choice 2019
On a tight budget? See our Best Laptops under $500
Fancy a desktop? Take a look at our Top picks for Gaming Desktop PCs in 2019
Something for work and school? See our Best Laptops Under $1000
Acer Aspire 5 Slim Laptop, 15.6" Full HD IPS Display, 8th Gen Intel Core i5-8265U, 8GB DDR4, 256GB PCIe NVMe SSD, Backlit Keyboard, Fingerprint Reader, Windows 10 Home, A515-54-51DJ
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