There are so many new products students need for their first year of college, and all that shopping can feel overwhelming. Even as seniors, heading back to school always requires some serious shopping. When it comes to something simple like the best college backpacks or notebooks, there is a huge range of choices, and that can stress out even the most informed consumers. And when it comes to back-to-school shopping, few purchases are more important than selecting the perfect college laptop.
Today, every student needs a laptop, and the best laptops for college students can cost upwards of $2,000. That being said, choosing your computer shouldn’t be as hard as choosing which school to attend. So how do you choose the best laptops for college? We’ve got some specific product recommendations below, as well as some general advice on the types of features and specifications you’ll need. And to make things as easy as possible, we’ve ranked the top laptops from brands like Apple, Dell, Microsoft, Lenovo and HP.
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We’ve also got more specific shopping guides to help you find the perfect device for your college experience:
The best laptops for college students will accomplish every task you need (writing papers, browsing the Internet for research or wasting time online), but we’ve identified several computers that will do all of that exceptionally well. Even better, these laptops should last throughout a typical four-year college career. And if you’re looking to surprise a college student, a laptop makes one of the best gifts for students you could give.
1. Apple MacBook Air M2 2022
The MacBook Air continues to impress with the new M2 chip, increased RAM (if upgraded), all while keeping the weight below three pounds. It’s the right combo of power and portability for a college student laptop. The Air M2 can last your entire day at school and even your study session after 18 hours of battery life. The compromise is connectivity, which only includes two thunderbolt ports and a headphone jack. But for aspiring content creators, this is an excellent laptop for school.
2. Apple M1 MacBook Air (2021)
APPLE RUNNER UP
As a college student, you are running between your classes, work and home non-stop, and the Apple Air M1 is one of the lightest laptops you can find. Despite the compact size and it being a couple of years old, this is still one of the fastest and most powerful laptops for sale in 2022. The M1 chipset from Apple redefined speed and performance. The M1 chip doesn’t need a fan to keep it cool, so you get a lighter and slimmer laptop that’s super fast. And if that sounds too good to be true, the Air M1 sips battery. You can expect around 18 hours of battery life on a single charge.
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2. Dell XPS 13 Laptop (9315)
The configurations on the latest iteration of the XPS 13 are fantastic for college students. You can go with a 12th generation i5 or i7 processor, 8GB all the way up to 32GB of RAM and 512GB up to 1TB of storage. Regardless, you will have plenty of processing power for whatever you or your college student encounters in the classroom. The dirty little secret… is that it’s lighter than the MacBook Air (well… I guess it’s not a secret anymore).
3. Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Gen 10 Laptop
BEST SECURITY FEATURES
If you have the coin, this is an outstanding laptop to start the school year on the right foot. It sports up to 32GB of RAM and can max out at 2TB of storage (who needs cloud storage when you got this much onboard). There are plenty of security features like a Kensington lock slot, fingerprint reader and a webcam privacy shutter. And it charges quickly thanks to rapid-charge technology. Oh, and it’s lightweight — 2.48 pounds — to boot. It’s just a fantastic machine. Pricey, but certainly a great choice.
4. Dell Inspiron 16
We love the combination of power and connectivity here. If the Dell XPS gets a little too pricey, the Inspiron 16 is a great secondary choice. As we mentioned connectivity, you get two USB-A, a USB-C display port and the ever so handy HDMI port, along with an SD slot. It is a bit heavy at 4.12 pounds, but we think it’s worth the trade-off for still having a 12th Gen i7 processor and all the connectivity at a reasonable sub $1000 price.
5. HP Envy 13 2021
When you combine power, portability and price, the Hp Envy 13 2021 is a solid choice for a student heading to college. At $700, it won’t break the bank yet features an i5 11th Gen processor with 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage. That’s plenty for your school day and running multiple programs at once. Weighing under three pounds makes it plenty portable, while two USB-A, one thunderbolt and an SD card reader provide decent connectivity.
6. Samsung Galaxy Book 2
One of the sleekest looking and lightest keyboards around, the Samsung Galaxy Book 2 turns heads with the gorgeous finish, coming in either graphite or silver. But beyond looking great, it also travels well, considering it’s only 2.55 pounds. That’s lighter than both the Air and Dell XPS 13. You can juice it up from 256GB of storage to 1TB and go for a 12th Gen i5 or i7 processor with your choice of 13.3 or 15.6 screen size. Beyond being powerful and portable, it also charges quickly, getting 40% of battery life on 30 minutes of charging.
7. Samsung Galaxy Chromebook 2
If you think you can get by with a Chromebook instead of a full laptop, we recommend buying a Samsung product. The Samsung Galaxy Chromebook 2 is the newest addition to the Samsung Chromebook family and one of the most stylish options on our list. Designed with a QLED display, the contents on the screen look incredibly sharp, whether you are working or secretly watching Netflix during that boring history class. It’s compact and only weighs 2.7 pounds, making it great for the student who is always on the go.
In terms of firepower, it can’t compete with traditional desktops or laptops, but it does come with an Intel Core i3 Processor, 8GB of Ram and 128GB of storage, which is more than the typical Chromebook. Usually priced at $700, you can buy the Samsung Galaxy Chromebook 2 for just $350, making it the best laptop alternative of the summer.
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8. Acer Chromebook Spin 713
This isn’t your average Chromebook. It has a great-looking display with a 3:2 aspect ratio that is more square but adds more vertical workspace for you to use. It also has one of the more comfortable, well-backlit keyboards available on any laptop. There’s even an HDMI port for connecting to additional displays. We told you this isn’t your average Chromebook.
Read more: Best Tablets for College
9. Apple MacBook Pro 13-inch (M1)
BEST APPLE UPGRADE
Historically the MacBook Pro has been the more powerful sibling to the Air, and while that is still true, the value of the Air when you consider price and power is just too good of a deal. Don’t get us wrong, the MacBook Pro with the New M1 chip is an incredible machine, especially if you are going into any content creation like graphic design or photo, film or music editing. In fact, for more intense editing projects, you may want the extra power that the Pro provides. It is a little heavier and more expensive, but the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro with M1 chips are awesome.
10. Microsoft Surface Pro 8
BEST WINDOW LAPTOP
The Surface Pro 8 is about as versatile as they come. You get the best of both worlds; the versatility and portability of a tablet, but also the power of a laptop. Speaking of power, it can range anywhere from 8GB to 32GB of RAM and 256GB to 1TB of storage. And you can choose between an i5 and i7 Intel Envo Platform Core processor. And if you decide to toss in a stylus, it becomes a versatile working machine for any college student.
11. Lenovo Flex 5 Laptop (2021)
The Lenovo Flex is priced like a mid-tier laptop, but the specs say otherwise. First off, you get two-in-one capabilities with a convertible touchscreen display. Then there’s 16GB of RAM that can handle running multiple design programs simultaneously and 1TB of storage for under $850. Not to mention it’s only 3.3 pounds, so carrying it from class to class won’t wear your shoulders out.
12. Razer Blade 15
BEST GAMING LAPTOP
If you fall under the “broke college student” category, you should stop reading here. But if you have the means and love gaming, the Razer Blade 15 is a powerful laptop for school, so much so that it can double as a gaming laptop (for those extracurriculars). It boasts an OLED screen for sharp and vivid colors and 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 robust components, the Razer Blade 15 is the best laptop for college students who love gaming.
13. LG Gram 16
We recently reviewed the LG Gram 16 and were blown away by how well it performed and how absurdly light it is. However, you’ll pay a pretty hefty premium in exchange for those features, as the Gram is just under $2,000. That’s a lot for a student laptop, but it’s great if you invest long-term. Under three pounds, the 16″ display is truly incredible to behold and has plenty of ports for your needs.
How We Picked the Best College Laptops
Given that you will be carrying the laptop to and from class, having something that doesn’t weigh a ton is critical. Luckily, the days of brick-sized laptops are long, long gone. But you may want to pay special attention to super-lightweight models or the best Chromebooks if you want to minimize the amount of weight in your backpack. On the other hand, if you are going to school for graphic design, coding, filmmaking or have any multimedia courses on your schedule, you’ll want to go with a beefier and more powerful laptop.
Here’s how we picked the best laptops for college students:
Lightweight and Portable: The lightest laptops, like the LG Gram 16 and M2 MacBook Air, weigh about 2.6-2.8 pounds. The sweet spot is generally 13-15 inches in screen size.
RAM and Storage: You’ll generally want at least 8GB of RAM and 265GB of storage. However, if you need to use your computer for more than just streaming and word processing, we recommend investing in more computing power and memory.
Processing Power: Right now, the M1 Chip from Apple is the gold standard for processors. It’s an order of magnitude faster than previous generations of chips from Apple and Intel. If you aren’t an Apple fan, look for a college laptop with a 10th-generation Intel Core i5 or i7 processor.
Battery Life: All-day battery life and quick charging are great features if you move from class to class or from the dorm to the library all day. The top laptops offer about 12-18 hours of battery life on a full charge, though your mileage will vary.
Finally, if remote learning is on the syllabus, you’ll want to make sure you choose a college laptop with a built-in camera and microphone for video conferences. Additionally, you may want a bigger screen or vivid display if you spend a lot of time watching streaming content or gaming.
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