Being a college student can get expensive – tuition, books, ramen – the costs add up. Luckily, you can save some cash by getting one of the best laptops for college students. Not only will these budget-minded machines have great aesthetics and respectable performance, but they’ll do it while saving money – so even the most frugal among you can find something to love.
Saving up for a new laptop when you’re studying is straight up hard, so the best laptops for college students won’t necessarily have the best processors and fastest graphics – they have exactly what they need to get you through your day. You’re not limited to Windows 10, either – the best Chromebooks are some of the best laptops for college students, as they’ll let you get all your work done while saving a bunch of money.
College is a stressful time for everyone, but the right tool is worth the price if it’ll help you earn your degree with less stress. To alleviate some of the frustration that goes hand in hand with shopping for the best laptops for college students, we picked out some of the top models right here, so you can decide for yourself which laptop is right for you. You shouldn’t have to limit yourself to an old clunker to keep up with your loads of schoolwork.
1. Huawei Matebook X Pro
CPU: 8th-generation Intel Core i7-8550U | Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics 620, Nvidia GeForce MX150 | RAM: 16GB | Screen: 13.9-inch 3K (3,000 x 2,000) LED with touch panel | Storage: 512GB SSD
Long battery life
No SD card slot
Once in a while we’ll get our hands on a laptop that completely revolutionizes everything – the Huawei Matebook X Pro is one such laptop. Not only does it feature modern, powerful components like an 8th-generation Kaby Lake R processor and 16GB of RAM, it’s also beautiful – incorporating all the latest trends in Ultrabook design. What’s more impressive, it manages to do all this while being a much more affordable than the competition. This is what makes it one of the best laptops for students – you’re not going to get a more powerful laptop for less cash than the Matebook X Pro.
Read the full review: Huawei Matebook X Pro
- This product is only available in the US and UK at the time of this writing. Australian readers: check out a fine alternative in the MacBook Pro.
2. Dell XPS 13
CPU: 8th-generation Intel Core i5 – i7 | Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics 620 | RAM: 4GB – 16GB | Screen: 13.3-inch FHD (1,920 x 1,080; non-touch) – UHD (3,840 x 2,160; touchscreen) | Storage: 128GB – 1TB SSD
Gorgeous new design
Steeper starting price
White option is pricier
The Dell XPS 13 might be the best laptop for college students – and we’re not just saying that. For the last few years, we’ve watched in awe as Dell has continued to top its best Ultrabook every single year. Thin, light and powerful enough to handle everything college students might throw at it – the Dell XPS 13 is back with a vengeance. It might be expensive, but you’re getting the best laptop a college student could ever want.
Read the full review: Dell XPS 13
3. Surface Laptop 2
CPU: 8th-gen Intel Core i5-i7 | Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics 620 | RAM: 8GB – 16GB | Screen: 13.5-inch, 2256 x 1504 PixelSense touch display | Storage: 128GB – 1TB SSD
Huge performance boost
No Windows 10 S
Still no Thunderbolt 3
The original Surface Laptop was already one of the best laptops for college students, though it was unfortunately held back by slow performance, a lack of modern ports, and it was stuck with Windows 10 S. With the Surface Laptop 2, however, everything has improved – well, except for the ports. You’re getting quad-core Kaby Lake Refresh processors, full-fat Windows 10 and a sleek new black color option that looks as good as it feels. We wish it had even a single USB-C port, but that doesn’t change the fact that you’ll be able to get all your school work done in style with the Surface Laptop 2.
Read the full review: Surface Laptop 2
4. Microsoft Surface Go
CPU: Intel Pentium Gold 4415Y | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 615 | RAM: 4GB – 8GB | Screen: 10-inch, 1,800 x 1,200 (217 ppi; 3:2 aspect ratio) PixelSense touch display | Storage: 64GB eMMC – 128GB SSD
Fantastic build quality
The way we look at it, the best laptop for college students will strive to hit a golden balance between price and performance, without looking like you pulled it out of your dad’s study. The Microsoft Surface Go, then, isn’t just one of the best Windows tablets, but it’s one of the best laptops for college students, period. Don't’ be fooled by the low power components, either – Microsoft has engineered this 2-in-1 to be able to keep up with your schoolwork without breaking a sweat. You can’t do much better than the Surface Go, especially if you’re on a budget.
Read the full review: Microsoft Surface Go
5. Dell XPS 15
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) - 4K UHD (3,840 x 2,160) LED with optional touch panel | Storage: 1TB 5,400RPM HDD - 1TB PCIe SSD
Plenty of horsepower
More of the same
Dell’s XPS lineup has been among the best laptops for college students for years now, and the new XPS 15 is no different. Taking the approach of ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’, not much has changed year over year – but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. What you’re getting here is a reliable Ultrabook with enough horsepower to carry you through all of your coursework without costing an arm and a leg. While the entry level is perfectly fine for most people, you can configure this thing with up to a Core i9 CPU and 32GB of RAM, transforming the Dell XPS 15 into a killer media editing workstation. We just wish Dell would move that webcam.
Read the full review: Dell XPS 15
6. Samsung Notebook 9 (2018)
CPU: 8th-generation Intel Core i7 | Graphics: Nvidia GeForce MX150 | RAM: 16GB DDR4 | Screen: 15-inch FHD LED | Storage: 256GB SSD
Great battery life
Not enough storage
The Samsung Notebook 9, unsurprisingly, has a gorgeous display. But, even without nit, the Samsung Notebook 9 is easily one of the best laptops for students. It radiates quality, from the portable design to the speedy 8th-generation Intel Core processor. Sure, the keyboard isn’t the best in the world, and it has a tiny SSD, but the benefits far outweigh the negatives. That’s not even to mention the amazing battery life – this is one of the best laptops for college students, because the things it gets right, it gets very right.
Read the full review: Samsung Notebook 9 (2018)
- This product is only available in the US at the time of this writing. Australian and UK readers: check out a fine alternative in the Dell XPS 13
7. Microsoft Surface Pro 6
CPU: 8th generation Intel Core i5 – i7 | Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics 620 | RAM: 4GB – 16GB | Screen: 12.3-inch, 2,736 x 1,824 PixelSense display | Storage: 128GB – 1TB SSD
Long battery life
Still no USB-C
The Microsoft Surface Pro lineup has always been among the best laptops for college students – beautiful touch screens, incredible portability and long battery life. The Surface Pro 6, while not necessarily bringing anything new to the table, continues this tradition. What you’re getting here is a speedy Windows 10 tablet that can effortlessly turn into a laptop by use of the Surface Type Cover. You can get your work done and then effortlessly transition into break mode. The Surface Pro 6 is the best Surface yet, if only just barely.
Read the full review: Surface Pro 6
8. Lenovo Flex 6 14
CPU: Intel Pentium 4415U - Intel Core i5-8250U | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 620 | RAM: 8GB DDR4 | Screen: 14-inch FHD (1,920 x 1,080) IPS; multi-touch; anti-glare | Storage: Up to 256GB SSD
Powerful enough for daily tasks
Lower-end models not worth it
College gets expensive – you can’t avoid it. That’s why the best laptops for college students will offer awesome performance at a decent price, much like the Lenovo Flex 14. At under a four-digit price, there’s something to be said about getting an Ultrabook that can handle anything the semester throws at you – and the Lenovo Flex 14 looks good to boot. You won’t find a better laptop at a lower price.
Read the full review: Lenovo Flex 6 14
9. MacBook Air (2018)
CPU: 8th-generation dual-core Intel Core i5 | Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics 617 | Screen: 13.3-inch, 2,560 x 1,600 Retina display (backlit LED, IPS) | Storage: 256GB-1.5TB SSD
Thinner and lighter
Most affordable Mac
We were left waiting for Apple to renew the MacBook Air for years, as it languished with a 5th-generation Intel Core processor and an out of date, low-resolution display. Thankfully, those days are over. Apple has ushered the MacBook Air into the modern age, with 8th-generation fanless processors, a thinner and lighter design, and perhaps most importantly – a Retina display. No more do you have to compromise on modern features if you want an “affordable Mac”, and that makes the MacBook Air one of the best laptops for college students.
Read the full review: MacBook Air
10. MacBook Pro 15-inch (2018)
CPU: 8th generation Intel Core i7 – i9 | Graphics: AMD Radeon Pro 555X – 560X, Intel UHD Graphics 630 | RAM: 16GB – 32GB | Screen: 15.4-inch, 2,880 x 1,800 Retina display | Storage: 512GB – 4TB SSD
If money isn’t an issue, and you love macOS, the new MacBook Pro is the most powerful MacBook you can buy today. With its impressive hexa-core processors, and up to 32GB of RAM, this Cupertino workstation will get you through whatever your class workload happens to be – even if you need to do some video and photo editing. It also includes an improved Butterfly keyboard that will not only be less distracting to the students around you, but will be less prone to failure if some dust comes within 10 feet.
Read the full review: MacBook Pro 15-inch (2018)
- Want more choices? Check out our list of the best laptop 2019
Bill Thomas and Gabe Carey have also contributed to this article.