The best laptop for you depends on many factors, including your budget and how you plan to use it. Discover our picks for the best laptops for college students.

The Best Laptops for College in 2021

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Whether you're studying online or on campus, a laptop is an essential tool for any college student; however, your needs will likely vary depending on your field of study. English and history majors, for example, may only need internet access and a word processor, while design students may require higher-end machines with advanced graphics and sound capabilities.

Regardless of their discipline, most students consider factors such as portability and battery life when buying a laptop for school.

We compared dozens of top laptop rankings to compile a list of the 10 best laptops for college students. Our methodology considers factors such as price, portability, and technical features that can affect a student's life.



Price Legend

$ = $100-$499   |   $$ = $500-$999   |   $$$ = $1,000-$1,499   |   $$$$ = $1,500+

The 10 Best Laptops for College Students

Best for Students Seeking a Powerful, Lightweight Laptop:
Acer Swift 3 (10th Gen)

Pros

  • Great for photo editing and multitasking
  • Budget-friendly ultrabook experience
  • Lightweight design makes it highly portable

Cons

  • Not ideal for extended gaming use
  • Speakers could use some improvement
  • Does not include SD or microSD ports
Specs
  • Type: Traditional laptop
  • Display: 13.5 inches (2256 x 1504)
  • Weight: 3.86 pounds / 2.62 pounds
  • Processor: Intel Core i5 / Intel Core i7
  • RAM: 8 GB / 16 GB
  • GPU: Intel Iris Plus
  • Battery Life: Up to 16 hours
  • Storage: 512 GB / 1 TB
  • Ports: USB-C, USB 2.0, USB 3.0, HDMI, audio

Our Takeaway

The Acer Swift 3 is one of the best laptops for students looking for a highly portable laptop with a powerful processor. While the newly released Acer Swift 5 model has a few worthy features, the price jump makes it hard to recommend to students on a college budget. The Acer Swift 3 should prove more than suitable for students who need a portable laptop with a minimal design and a powerful mix of hardware and software components.

$$ on Amazon

Best for Students Seeking a Lighter, More Affordable MacBook:
Apple MacBook Air

Pros

  • Lightweight and slim design
  • State-of-the-art M1 processor
  • Exceptional battery life

Cons

  • High price point
  • No touchscreen interface
  • Limited number of ports
Specs
  • Type: Traditional laptop
  • Display: 13.3-inch retina display (2560 x 1600)
  • Weight: 2.8 pounds
  • Processor: Apple M1
  • RAM: 8 GB
  • GPU: Apple 8-core
  • Battery Life: Up to 18 hours
  • Storage: 256 GB / 512 GB
  • Ports: 2x Thunderbolt 3, audio

Our Takeaway

Apple produces some of the best laptops for college students interested in photo editing and graphic design. The company's intuitive software also makes multitasking a cinch. With far better performance compared to that of previous versions, the MacBook Air — with its durable aluminum unibody — closely rivals its powerful counterpart, the MacBook Pro.

Students seeking a portable, less expensive alternative to the MacBook Pro should find plenty to love about the MacBook Air.

$$ on Amazon

Best for Students Seeking a Powerful MacBook:
Apple MacBook Pro 13-inch

Pros

  • Compatible with iOS apps and Apple products
  • Spacious keyboard and highly responsive trackpad
  • Excellent battery life

Cons

  • Unaffordable for many college students
  • Unable to upgrade the internal RAM or hard drive
  • Very few ports considering the high price point
Specs
  • Type: Traditional laptop
  • Display: 13.3-inch retina display (2560 x 1600)
  • Weight: 3 pounds
  • Processor: Apple M1
  • RAM: 8 GB
  • GPU: Apple 8-core
  • Battery Life: Up to 20 hours
  • Storage: 256 GB / 512 GB
  • Ports: 2x Thunderbolt 3, audio

Our Takeaway

Students who prefer Apple products and can afford to spend more than $1,000 on a laptop should strongly consider getting an Apple MacBook Pro. The laptop includes a Touch Bar, which is a slim OLED touchscreen that changes functionality depending on the application. This unique feature makes the MacBook Pro an ideal laptop for students who often multitask between assignments and use smart keys for productivity.

As one of the most powerful laptops on the market, the MacBook Pro should suffice for an array of activities, including note-taking, entertainment, and light gaming.

$$$ on Amazon

Best for Students Seeking a Sleek, Lightweight Chromebook:
Asus Chromebook Flip C436

Pros

  • Strong CPU performance
  • Thin and lightweight design makes it highly portable
  • Impressive keyboard and trackpad

Cons

  • Pricey for students on a college budget
  • Speaker sound quality leaves more to be desired
  • Slower processor in the base model
Specs
  • Type: 2-in-1 laptop
  • Display: 14 inches (1920 x 1080)
  • Weight: 2.58 pounds / 3.30 pounds
  • Processor: Intel Core m3 / Intel Core i3 / Intel Core i5
  • RAM: 4 GB / 8 GB / 16 GB
  • GPU: Intel UHD Graphics
  • Battery Life: Up to 12 hours
  • Storage: 64 GB / 128 GB / 512 GB
  • Ports: 2x USB-C, microSD, audio

Our Takeaway

The Asus Chromebook Flip C436 should appeal to students looking for a laptop that lets them take and annotate notes without using a keyboard. With this computer, you can effortlessly switch between laptop and tablet mode. Its weight and size also make it less cumbersome in students' backpacks. If you're seeking something with more powerful performance capabilities, consider upgrading to the i3 or i5 processor.

$$ on Amazon

Best Premium Windows Laptop for Creative Students:
Dell XPS 15

Pros

  • Strong CPU performance
  • Impressive keyboard with a carbon fiber palm rest
  • Plenty of configuration options to fit your budget

Cons

  • 4K display only available on high-end models
  • Large screen and hefty weight make it less portable
  • Price may be too steep for some college students
Specs
  • Type: Traditional laptop
  • Display: 15.6 inches 4K (3840 x 2400)
  • Weight: 8.58 pounds / 9.18 pounds
  • Processor: Intel Core i7
  • RAM: 16 GB
  • GPU: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 Ti
  • Battery Life: Up to 25 hours
  • Storage: 512 GB / 1 TB
  • Ports: 2x Thunderbolt 3, USB-C, SD reader, audio

Our Takeaway

With an upgraded processor and excellent graphics, the Dell XPS 15 is by far one of the best college laptops for students who require strong editing capabilities and use graphically demanding programs in classes. The solid-state drive allows users to access data rapidly and handle multiple tasks simultaneously.

The most recent model also boasts better speakers and an extended battery life, making it a great buy for learners who enjoy some light gaming.

$$$$ on Amazon

Best for Students Seeking a Premium Chromebook:
Google Pixelbook Go

Pros

  • Keyboard is comfortable and remarkably quiet to type on
  • Thin, lightweight design makes it highly portable
  • Excellent battery life

Cons

  • Steep pricing for high-end models
  • Lacking ports that other high-end laptops usually include
  • Base model features an underpowered processor
Specs
  • Type: Traditional laptop
  • Display: 13.3-inch LCD touchscreen (1920 x 1080)
  • Weight: 2.3 pounds / 2.4 pounds
  • Processor: Intel Core M3 / Intel Core i5 / Intel Core i7
  • RAM: 8 GB / 16 GB
  • GPU: Intel UHD Graphics 615
  • Battery Life: Up to 12 hours
  • Storage: 64 GB / 128 GB / 256 GB
  • Ports: 2x USB-C 3.1, audio

Our Takeaway

The entry-level model's competitive price point makes the Google Pixelbook Go one of the best college laptops for students who don't need the fastest processor to complete their coursework. Allowing you to customize the processor, RAM, and storage, the newer model of this Pixelbook features an upgraded keyboard and a 1080p webcam.

Students who require a stronger processor can upgrade to the Intel Core i5 or i7 series.

$$ on Amazon

Best Laptop for Business Students:
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon (8th Gen)

Pros

  • Powerful performance and battery life
  • Thin design makes it ultraportable
  • Impressive keyboard and display

Cons

  • Lacking SD and microSD ports
  • Newest eighth-generation model is quite expensive
  • Weak speakers for the high price point
Specs
  • Type: Traditional laptop
  • Display: 14 inches (1920 x 1080)
  • Weight: Starts at 2.4 pounds
  • Processor: Intel Core i5 / Intel Core i7
  • RAM: 8 GB / 16 GB
  • GPU: Intel UHD Graphics
  • Battery Life: Up to 19.5 hours
  • Storage: 256 GB / 512 GB / 1 TB
  • Ports: 2x Thunderbolt 3, ethernet, USB-A 3.2, HDMI, audio

Our Takeaway

Impressive hardware specs and a classic design inherited from the IBM ThinkPad make this laptop popular among business majors. The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon boasts plenty of RAM and a spacious hard drive. It also includes advanced security options, impressive display features, and rapid charging technology.

While the newer eighth-generation model is well worth the price, the price tag may be too steep for some college students. Up to the seventh-generation model is available on Amazon.

Best 2-in-1 Laptop for Students on a Budget:
Microsoft Surface Go 2

Pros

  • Affordable 2-in-1 Windows 10 laptop
  • Lightweight design makes it highly portable
  • Excellent battery life for a small 2-in-1 laptop

Cons

  • Interface changes in tablet mode
  • Smaller screen may lead to eye strain
  • Far less powerful than the Surface Pro
Specs
  • Type: 2-in-1 laptop
  • Display: 10.5-inch touchscreen (1920 x 1280)
  • Weight: 2.7 pounds / 1.2 pounds
  • Processor: Intel Pentium Gold / Intel Core m3
  • RAM: 4 GB / 8 GB
  • GPU: Intel HD Graphics 615
  • Battery Life: Up to 10 hours
  • Storage: 64 GB / 128 GB
  • Ports: USB-C, microSDXC, Surface Connect, Surface Type Cover, audio

Our Takeaway

The Microsoft Surface Go 2 is one of the best laptops for college students, thanks to its compact and lightweight design. The fully detachable keyboard allows students to shed excess weight if they plan to take notes using the included stylus. Those looking for a reliable device to use mainly for light productivity work, web surfing, and multimedia streaming should consider getting a Surface Go 2.

$$ on Amazon

Best for Students Seeking a Powerful 2-in-1 Laptop:
Microsoft Surface Pro 7

Pros

  • Many hardware upgrade options
  • Excellent battery life for a 2-in-1 laptop
  • Kickstand allows for different viewing angles

Cons

  • Must buy keyboard separately
  • Some software not compatible with the included stylus
  • Still no Thunderbolt 3 support
Specs
  • Type: 2-in-1 laptop
  • Display: 12.3-inch touchscreen (2736 x 1824)
  • Weight: Starts at 1.7 pounds
  • Processor: Intel Core i3 / Intel Core i5 / Intel Core i7
  • RAM: 4 GB / 8 GB / 16 GB
  • GPU: Intel UHD Graphics (i3), Intel Iris Plus (i5, i7)
  • Battery Life: Up to 10.5 hours
  • Storage: 128 GB / 256 GB / 512 GB / 1 TB
  • Ports: USB-C, USB-A, microSDXC, Surface Connect, audio

Our Takeaway

The Microsoft Surface Pro 7 features numerous hardware upgrades and boasts a longer battery life than the Microsoft Surface Go. Users also report a much sharper screen and a better viewing angle than other, less expensive Microsoft products. College students should consider getting a Microsoft Surface Pro 7 if they prefer to take notes with a stylus and desire a powerful 2-in-1 laptop with sizable RAM.

$$ on Amazon

Best Chromebook for Students on a Budget:
Samsung Chromebook 4

Pros

  • Highly competitive price point
  • Screen can tilt 180 degrees
  • Excellent viewing angles

Cons

  • Underpowered processor
  • Smaller storage than the average laptop
  • Large screen bezel
Specs
  • Type: Traditional laptop
  • Display: 11.6-inch HD LED (1366 x 768)
  • Weight: 2.6 pounds
  • Processor: Intel Celeron
  • RAM: 4 GB / 6 GB
  • Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics 600
  • Battery Life: Up to 12.5 hours
  • Storage: 32 GB / 64 GB eMMC
  • Ports: USB-C, USB 3.0, microSD, audio

Our Takeaway

One of the best college laptops for students on a budget, the Samsung Chromebook 4 provides a reliable workstation that serves learners well, both in and out of class. It has a spill-resistant keyboard and pre-installed antivirus software. The Chrome OS also works with popular software suites like Microsoft Office.

$ on Amazon

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