The Best Laptops for College Students

These days, a laptop is essential for college. In fact, more and more schools are requiring students to have a computer for attendance. And for a reason. Laptops are invaluable for doing research, writing papers, and even just taking notes. In addition, many fields (even non-computer related ones) have particular types of software that people need to know, so students need to learn how to use them while they’re still in school. So what laptops are the best for college students?

We reviewed dozens of laptops to find the best of the best. We looked at laptops with different processors, amounts of memory and storage, displays, battery life, and more to identify the top laptops for college students, not just in general, but also for specific purposes.

Best Laptop for College Students Overall
Acer Swift 3 Thin & Light Laptop
The Acer Swift 3 is our overall favorite laptop for college students.

Our overall top pick and the clear winner is the Acer Swift 3 Thin & Light Laptop. This lightweight laptop has a spacious display, but is still portable enough to be comfortable to carry around campus. It also has plenty of other great features like a backlit keyboard, HD webcam, and fingerprint reader.

The 5 Top-Rated Laptops for College Students

Editor's PicksBrandRating
Best Laptop for College Students OverallAcer Swift 3 Thin & Light Laptop4.5
Best 2-in-1 Laptop for College StudentsHP Pavilion x360 14 Convertible 2-in-1 Laptop4.6
Best Budget Laptop for College StudentsAcer Chromebook 154.6
Best MacBook for College StudentsApple MacBook Pro 13-inch4.7
Best Gaming Laptop for College StudentsRazer Blade 15 Base Gaming Laptop4.6

*Ratings are from Amazon at the time of publication and can change

Best Laptop for College Students Overall: Acer Swift 3 Thin & Light Laptop

The Acer Swift 3 Thin & Light Laptop is a great choice for just about any college students.

It has 8GB of memory and 512Gb of solid state storage to give you plenty of both memory and storage. The AMD Ryzen 7 4700U Octa-Core Mobile Processor has built-in AMD Radeon graphics that are complemented by the 14-inch full HD LED-backlit display. The Swift 3 also has a DTS audio system with bass optimization and distortion prevention. The two built-in front-facing stereo speakers deliver sound to you, while the two built-in microphones user Acer PurifiedVoice technology to pick up your voice clearly from anywhere in the room while blocking out background noise. There’s also a built-in HD webcam for video recording.

The aluminum and magnesium-aluminum chassis reduces weight and has a sleek silver finish. The computer is just 0.63 inches thick and weighs a mere 2.65 pounds, so it’ll be no problem to carry it around campus for classes. And speaking of classes, you won’t need to worry about nabbing the desk by the outlet either, thanks to the Swift 3’s battery life of up to 11.5 hours.

The Swift 3 comes with Windows 10 Home. Use Cortana, the Windows voice assistant, to optimize productivity. She even features Wake On Voice technology, so you can ask her for help even when your screen is off. If you prefer, you can also use Amazon Alexa instead or in addition to Cortana. Windows Hello works with the Swift 3’s embedded fingerprint reader to allow you to quickly and easily log in without typing in a password.

Acer Swift 3 Thin & Light Laptop Key Features:

  • Compact and lightweight
  • Embedded fingerprint reader
  • Illuminated keyboard
  • Kensington lock slot for security
  • A good all-around PC for the average college student

Best 2-in-1 Laptop for College Students: HP Pavilion x360 14 Convertible 2-in-1 Laptop

2-in-1 Laptop for College Students
HP Pavilion x360 14 Convertible 2-in-1 Laptop
The HP Pavilion x360 14 Convertible 2-in-1 Laptop delivers the functionality of both a laptop and a tablet.

The HP Pavilion x360 14 Convertible 2-in-1 Laptop is ideal for students who want the perks of both a laptop and a tablet. In fact, thanks to the 360° hinge, you can place the laptop in stand and tent configurations for two-handed use of the touchscreen, in addition to the laptop and tablet configurations. In other words, you actually get even more versatility.

The HP Pavilion x360 14 has a WLED backlit full HD display with edge-to-edge glass and a 60Hz refresh rate. It also has a 10th generation Intel Core i5-1035G1 processor and Intel UHD graphics. There are 8GB of RAM and 512GB of SSD storage. With Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5, plus 2 USB Type-A ports, a USB Type-C port, and an HDMI-port, connectivity is not a problem. The SD card reader gives you the option to access media recorded on other devices. The Pavilion x360 14’s keyboard is backlit for visibility in the dark and the precise touchpad has intuitive gesture capabilities for easier use. The HP wide vision HD webcam works with the dual array microphone to optimize the quality of your audio and video recordings.

This HP laptop also has arsenic-free display glass and low halogen, mercury-free display lights, plus it’s Energy Star certified and Epeat Silver registered for a more environmentally responsible computer.

HP Pavilian x360 14 Convertible 2-in-1 Laptop Key Features:

  • Laptop and tablet in one
  • Weighs 3.5 pounds
  • Comes with Windows 10 Home
  • HP Fast Charge goes from 0 to 50% battery in just 45 minutes
  • Compatible with Amazon Alexa

Best Budget Laptop for College Students: Acer Chromebook 15

Best Budget Laptop for College Students
Acer Chromebook 15
The Acer Chromebook 15 is a great laptop for college students on a budget.

It’s no secret that college students can have tight budgets, just like it’s no secret that computers aren’t cheap. Fortunately, the Acer Chromebook 15 is a quality yet more budget-friendly option that can work for those without a ton of money to shell out on a new laptop. And you can even save a bit more money by going with a refurbished Acer Chromebook 15.

As a Chromebook, the Acer 15 uses the Chrome OS operating system, so it’s a great PC for those looking for a laptop that will complement their other Google devices. If you’re not familiar, Chrome OS is Google’s operating system and it comes with Google features built-in, including the Google Play Store, Google Assistant, Google Photos, Hangouts, and Google Docs. It also syncs with your Google account to maintain preferences and data across devices. You can even stop in the middle of reading a webpage in Chrome on your phone, then open the page back to the exact same place on your Acer Chromebook to keep reading.

Chrome OS also has other cool features like picture-in-picture viewing, Instant Tethering, and Digital Wellbeing tools. And don’t worry, Chrome OS is compatible with Microsoft Office and you get offline access to pre-downloaded Google content including files in Drive, emails, and media from the Play Store.

The Acer Chromebook 15 has 4GB of memory and an Intel Celeron N3350 dual-core processor. It has 32GB of built-in storage, plus it comes with 100GB of Google Drive space and even automatically backs up your files to Drive for you. It also has a 15.6 inch full HD touch display, 2 upward-facing speakers built-in, and a built-in webcam.

Acer Chromebook 15 Key Features:

  • Up to 13 hours of battery life
  • Durable metal cover
  • Chrome OS
  • Use your Android phone as a wireless key to lock and unlock the Chromebook
  • Bluetooth 4.2 and 802.11ac WiFi

Best MacBook for College Students: Apple MacBook Pro 13-inch

Best MacBook for College Students
Apple MacBook Pro 13-inch
For college students who prefer a Mac, the Apple MacBook Pro 13-inch is the way to go.

Every laptop recommendation list has to have a Mac, so our top pick is the Apple MacBook Pro 13-inch. Let’s start with the obvious: as a MacBook, this laptop obviously comes with Mac OS and, as the name suggests, it has a 13-inch display. Mac OS allows this computer to sync with your various Apple services and devices and allows you to use Siri on your laptop.

As for the things that you can’t figure out just from the name, this MacBook Pro has 8GB of RAM and comes in versions with 256 or 512GB of storage. The 8th-generation quad-core Intel Core i5 Processor features Turbo Boost up to 4.1GHz, The Intel Iris Plus Graphics 655 makes the most of the retina display with Apple’s True Tone technology. Wide stereo sound gives you audio quality to match.

The most current model of the MacBook Pro also features an upgraded keyboard compared to previous models. Instead of the row of function keys, it has a touch bar with controls that automatically change to provide you with controls relevant to whatever you’re doing, such as video controls while you’re streaming. The touch bar also features intuitive gesture controls like dragging your finger to fast forward or rewind a movie. Touch ID allows you to quickly and securely log in and verify purchases with the touch of a finger. In addition to the new touch bar, the newest Mac keyboard also has quieter keys than previous versions.

Apple MacBook Pro 13-inch Key Features:

  • Mac OS
  • Four Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) ports
  • Up to 10 hours of battery life
  • 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 5
  • Apple T2 Security Chip

Best Gaming Laptop for College Students: Razer Blade 15 Base Gaming Laptop

Best Gaming Laptop for College Students
Razer Blade 15 Base Gaming Laptop
The Razer Blade 15 is a serious gaming laptop that’s compact enough to take to class.

Maybe you’re less looking for a school laptop that you can also use for games and are more looking for a gaming laptop that you can also use for school? In that case, you’ve got to go with the Razer Blade 15 Base Gaming Laptop.

Razer specializes in gaming, so they know what they’re doing. The Blade 15 has a 10th Gen Intel Core i7-10750H processor with 6 cores and up to 5.0 GHz max turbo. That pairs with NVIDIA Turing GPU architecture for incredible graphics, even with graphically demanding games. You can get it with a full HD 144Hz display with an RTX 2060 or RTX 2070 Max-Q graphics card, or for those who want even better graphics, you can get a Blade 15 with an RTX 2070 Max-Q graphic card and a 4K OLED 60Hz display.

With each of those options, you get built-in stereo speakers, a built-in webcam, and a backlit keyboard that allows you to customize the light color with Razer Chroma.  They all have 16GB of RAM and 512GB of storage, but Razer makes it easy to upgrade your storage and memory. For connectivity, you get WiFi 6, Bluetooth 5.1, and gigabit ethernet.

But all of those features don’t stop this laptop from being portable enough to take to class. It’s just 0.78 inches thick and weighs 4.7 pounds. The CNC aluminum frame maximizes durability while minimizing weight and bulk.

Razor Blade 15 Base Gaming Laptop Key Features:

  • Thunderbolt 3 USB Type-A and Type-C ports
  • HDMI port allows you to connect to an external monitor for a two display setup
  • Powerful enough for gaming, but portable enough for carrying around campus
  • Excellent graphics

Who Should Buy a Laptop for College Students

Pretty much any college student can benefit from having a laptop and more and more schools are actually requiring students to have a computer.

A computer is necessary for writing papers, researching for projects, and other schoolwork. They’re also a valuable tool for keeping organized and may be useful for extracurricular activities. In addition, they’re great for recreation as well, allowing you to stream, access social media, game, and video chat with family and friends more easily than a smartphone or tablet.

Yes, many schools have computer labs available for students, but they may not be conveniently located and you have to gamble in regards to whether or not computers available. In addition, other students working in the lab may be a distraction. Some schools also don’t allow you to download software, so you may not be able to use programs that you need or want. And sure, you can get many of those same benefits from a desktop, but you don’t get the same portability. You can take your laptop to class, study groups, or meetings for group projects. Using a laptop in class for taking notes allows you to keep neater, more organized notes that are easier to study from.

If you have a younger student, then you may be interested in The Best Laptops For Teens or The Best Chromebooks For Kids.

Best Laptop for College Students Overall
Acer Swift 3 Thin & Light Laptop
The Acer Swift 3 is our overall favorite laptop for college students.

Important Features to Consider

A college student’s laptop should do several things well. Here’s what to consider when selecting a laptop to use for college:

  • Operating system. Windows is the most popular family of operating systems and Windows 10 comes pre-installed on most laptops. There are other options though, like Mac OS, Chrome OS, and Linux. Which one iss best mostly comes down to personal preferences. Not all software is compatible with all operating systems. For this reason, some schools or academic departments require or suggest a particular operating system, so check to see if that applies to you before choosing your OS. Even if they don’t, think about the programs you want to be able to use and check to make sure that they’ll all work with whatever operating system you’re considering.
  • Processor. A laptop’s processor, or CPU, and the amount of RAM, or memory, are two of the most important factors for a laptop’s performance. The processor acts as the computer’s brain, performing various functions as instructed by whatever software the computer is running. Processors are made by Intel and AMD. The Intel Core i3, AMD A-series A6, and AMD A8 are basic processors that are just fine for simple, resource-light tasks like using a word processor or browsing the net. For multitasking or heavier programs, an Intel Core i5 or AMD A10 processor is better, but for the most resource-intensive tasks like heavy gaming or video editing, you’ll want at least an Intel Core i7 processor.
  • Memory. Computers use RAM to temporarily save the information that they need in order to perform the tasks they’re currently expected to perform. Using the brain analogy from above, RAM is like working memory. More RAM allows the computer to remember more so it can work faster and perform more tasks at once. 4GB is the sort of basic level option and it’s fine for those basic functions listed above, but 8GB makes it easier to run more intensive software and multitask between programs. Hardcore gamers and other people that will run heavy software may want something even higher.
  • Storage. If RAM is like working memory, storage is long term memory. Storage describes how much space your computer has to save files permanently, or at least until you decide to delete or uninstall them. More memory means more room for software and other files. Cloud storage services are great for storing files like Word docs and photos so you don’t have to have a ton of storage for those things. An external hard drive can also be used to store these types of files. The files needed to run programs, however, should be saved on your computer. Look at the size of the various programs you use (or want to use) and decide how much storage space you need based on that. Be sure to leave extra room for additional files later.

Frequently Asked Questions

What should I consider when buying a laptop?

The operating system, processor, and amounts of memory and storage are the most important things to consider. However, you may also want to consider other things, like screen size, graphics, audio quality, weight, and battery life. Many colleges and departments within colleges have recommended or required minimum computer specs, so be sure to check those out to help direct your search as well.

How much memory do I need on my laptop for college?

4GB is the absolute minimum amount of memory that you want, but the right amount for you really depends on what you’ll be using the laptop for. 8GB gives you more flexibility for running more intensive programs or multiple programs at once and is the minimum amount of RAM gamers will want. 12 or 16GB is better for gamers, especially for those who play more resource-heavy games or want to be able to run other programs at the same time, like a voice chat program.

If you’re still not sure how much you need, you can get an idea of how much memory you need by regularly checking the amount of RAM you’re using while on your current computer, then get a computer with plenty more RAM than the highest number. For example, if you see that you’re using 8GB, 10GB, 5GB, and 7GB at various times, you’ll want to go with a 16GB processor. Sure, a 12GB would have you covered at all of those moments, but a 16GB will give you more wiggle room and allow you to run more resource-heavy programs later on if you need to. After all, exceeding your RAM can cause crashes and that’s the last thing you want, whether you’re in the middle of an important paper or an important game.

How much storage should a laptop have?

Similar to memory, the easiest way to figure out how much storage you need is to check how much you’re using now and make sure you’re getting a computer with plenty more. The advertised amount of storage is typically a good bit higher than the amount of available storage in the real world, plus you want to leave room for additional files later on, so make sure you’re getting a computer with plenty of extra storage.

You don’t need to sweat this too much though. Upgrading your hard drive to one with higher storage is relatively cheap and easy, so that’s always an option later on. Meanwhile, external hard drives or cloud storage programs like iCloud and Google Drive can allow you to store files off of your laptop.

Is i3 or i5 better for college students?

An i3 processor is the absolute minimum for basic computing with today’s technology. An i5 processor will give you better performance, though, especially if you want to be able to multitask or run programs more intensive than a web browser or word processor.

Other Laptops for College Students We Reviewed

Best Laptop for College Students Overall
Acer Swift 3 Thin & Light Laptop
The Acer Swift 3 is our overall favorite laptop for college students.

We looked at 20 other laptops for college students. Even though they didn’t make our 5 best laptops for college students list, they’re the best of the rest and each is still a great option for your studies. The information you’ll need to compare each one is included with the listing.

2-in-1 Laptops for College Students

ASUS Chromebook Flip C434 2-In-1 Laptop

ASUS Chromebook Flip C434 2-In-1 Laptop-min

This 2-in-1 Chromebook is available in three different combinations of RAM and storage, allowing you to choose the right one for you.

Key Features:

  • Intel Core M3-8100Y Processor
  • 14″ Full HD Touchscreen
  • Chrome OS

Cost: $550

Dell Inspiron 13 2-in-1

Dell Inspiron 13 2-in-1-min

This 2-in-1 comes with an active pen that’s great for art students and those who prefer to take notes by hand.

Key Features:

  • Windows 10
  • 13.3″ 4K touchscreen
  • 1.8 gigahertz Intel 10th Generation Core i7-10510U processor, 16GB of RAM, and 512GB SSD

Cost: $970

Lenovo Flex 5 2-in-1 Laptop

Lenovo Flex 5 2-in-1 Laptop-min

Another 2-in-1 that comes with a digital pen, the Lenovo Flex 5 2-in-1 Laptop has lighter specs, making it a more affordable alternative to the Dell Inspiron 13 2-in-1.

Key Features:

  • Windows 10
  • 14″ FHD Touch Display
  • AMD Ryzen 5 4500U processor, 16GB RAM, and 256GB SSD

Cost: $720

Microsoft Surface Go

Microsoft Surface Go-min

If the Lenovo Flex 5 is still out of your price range, the Microsoft Surface Go is yet another 2-in-1 that comes with a pen and is yet another step down in price.

Key Features:

  • Windows 10 Home
  • High resolution 10″ touch display
  • Intel Pentium Gold processor, 8GB RAM, and 128GB storage

Cost: $555

Microsoft Surface Pro 7

Microsoft Surface Pro 7-min

In Contrast to the Microsoft Surface Go, the Surface Pro 7 is Microsoft’s take on a high end 2-in-1 computer.

Key Features:

  • Windows 10 Pro
  • 12.3″ 2736×1824 resolution touch screen with active pen support
  • Intel Core i7 processor, 16GB RAM, 512GB storage

Cost: $1630

Basic Laptops for College Students

Acer Aspire 5 Laptop

Acer Aspire 5 Laptop-min

The Acer Aspire 5 has solid specs, plus all of the handy features that you didn’t know you’d want, like a fingerprint scanner and backlit keyboard.

Key Features:

  • Available in a few different models so you can choose the right one for you.
  • Windows 10 Home
  • 15.6″ Full HD display

Cost: $550

Acer Aspire 5 Slim Laptop

Acer Aspire 5 Slim Laptop-min

The Acer Aspire Slim is similar to the Aspire 5, but with some different hardware options that make it an alternative worth considering if none of the Aspire 5’s options catch your eye.

Key Features:

  • Several different models with different processors and amounts of storage and memory.
  • 15.6″ Full HD display
  • Windows 10 Home

Cost: $365

Google Pixelbook Go

Google Pixelbook Go-min

The Google Pixelbook Go is a portable, easy-to-use laptop that’s available in 4 different models so you can choose the one with the right specs for you.

Key Features:

  • Chrome OS
  • 13.3″ display
  • 4 different combinations of processors, RAM, storage, and display resolutions

Cost: $1325

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Laptop

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Laptop-min

Like our last several options, the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon laptop is available in a few different configurations, but all will more than meet the needs of the average college student.

Key Features:

  • Windows 10 Pro
  • 14″ FHD display
  • Multiple configurations with high-quality specs in a slim package

Cost: $1250

Gaming Laptops for College Students

ASUS ZenBook 13 Ultra-Slim Laptop

ASUS ZenBook 13 Ultra-Slim Laptop-min

Gaming laptops are often bulky, but that’s not the case with the ASUS ZenBook, despite options for up to 16GB of RAM and 1TB of storage.

Key Features:

  • Multiple high spec options
  • 13.3″ full HD display
  • Windows 10 Home

Cost: $870

Dell New XPS 13 9300 Touchscreen Laptop

Dell New XPS 13 9300 Touchscreen Laptop-min

Gamers will love this thin but powerful Dell New XPS 13 9300 Touchscreen Laptop.

Key Features:

  • Windows 10 Home
  • 32 GB of memory, 2 TB of storage, and an Intel Core i7 processor
  • 13.4″ UHD InfinityEdge Touchscreen

Cost: $2200

HP Envy 13 Touch-Screen Laptop

HP Envy 13 Touch-Screen Laptop-min

Gaming laptops can be pricey, but the HP Envy 13 Touch-Screen Laptop’s more modest specs make it a more affordable option.

Key Features:

  • Windows 10
  • 10th Gen Intel i7-1065G7 processor, 8GB DDR4 Memory, and 512GB SSD storage
  • 13.3″ 4K Ultra HD Touchscreen

Cost: $850

Lenovo Yoga C940 2-in-1 Touch-Screen Laptop

Lenovo Yoga C940 2-in-1 Touch-Screen Laptop-min

You don’t typically think of 2-in-1s as gaming laptops, but the Lenovo Yoga C940 2-in-1 Touch-Screen Laptop actually has the resources you need to play at your best.

Key Features:

  • Windows 10
  • Intel Core i7- 1065G7 processor, 12GB RAM, and 512GB SSD
  • 14″ Full HD Touchscreen

Cost: $1360

Microsoft Surface 3

Microsoft Surface 3-min

The Microsoft Surface 3 is another option with a lot of options to choose from, but with several options with 16GB or more of RAM and 256GB or more of storage, gamers have the opportunity to pick the right specs for them.

Key Features:

  • Windows 10 Home
  • 15″ touchscreen
  • AMD Ryzen 5 or 7 processor, up to 1TB storage, and up to 32Gb of RAM

Cost: $2675

Laptops for Creative College Students

ASUS Chromebook Flip C436 2-in-1 Laptop

ASUS Chromebook Flip C436 2-in-1 Laptop-min

The ASUS Chromebook Flip C436’s 2-in-1 design is great for digital artists and ample memory and storage are great for creatives of all types.

Key Features:

  • Chrome OS
  • 14″ full HD touchscreen
  • Up to 16GB RAM and 512GB storage

Cost: $1080

Dell Inspiron 14 5000 2 in 1 Laptop

Dell Inspiron 14 5000 2 in 1 Laptop-min

The Dell Inspiron 14 5000 has tons of RAM, so it’s great for even resource-heavy tasks like video editing and has 1TB of storage, so you can keep plenty of video on the laptop as well.

Key Features:

  • Windows 10 Home
  • Intel 4-Core i7-8565U processor, 32GB RAM, and 1TB SSD
  • 14″ FHD touchscreen

Cost: $1200

HP Envy X360 2-in-1 Touchscreen Laptop

HP Envy X360 2-in-1 Touchscreen Laptop-min

Like many of the other laptops we’ve recommended, the HP Envy X360 2-in-1 comes in a few different configurations, but for art students and other student’s doing creative projects, we recommend going with at least the 8GB RAM and 1024GB SSD one.

Key Features:

  • Windows 10 Home
  • AMD Six-Core Ryzen 5 4500U processor and up to 16GB of RAM and 1024GB of storage
  • 15.6″ FHD Touchscreen

Cost: $905

HP Spectre X360 Touch Laptop

HP Spectre X360 Touch Laptop-min

While not a full 2-in-1, the HP Spectre X360 Touch Laptop’s hinges do rotate far enough to allow you to use the lower half as a stand to hold up the screen to make it easier to use the touchscreen with your hands or the included HP Active Stylus Pen.

Key Features:

  • Windows 10 Home or Windows 10 Pro
  • Intel i7-1065G7 processor, 16GB RAM, and 512GB SSD
  • 13.3″ FHD Touchscreen

Cost: $1345

MacBooks for College Students

Apple MacBook Air

Apple MacBook Air-min

If you want a MacBook but the MacBook Pro that we recommended in our top 5 is outside of your budget, then the Apple MacBook Air is a great alternative.

Key Features:

  • Mac OS
  • Intel Core i3 processor, 8GB RAM, and 256GB of SSD storage or Intel Core i5 processor, 8GB RAM, 512GB SSD storage
  • 13.3″ Retina display with True Tone technology

Cost: $900

Apple MacBook Pro 16-inch

Apple MacBook Pro 16-inch-min

Or, if you want to go with a MacBook Pro but want a larger display, go with the Apple MacBook Pro 16-inch.

Key Features:

  • Mac OS
  • 6-Core Intel Core i7 processor, 16GB RAM, and 512GB storage or 8-Core Intel Core i9 processor, 16GB RAM, and 1TB storage
  • 16″ Retina Display with True Tone technology

Cost: $2100