7 Best Laptops for College Students in 2021

By Robin Owens 5 days ago, Hardware

The best laptops for college students to buy this year.

top laptops for college students

When searching for the best laptops for college students, you may think that the most affordable model will do. However, just like a laptop for any other sphere of usage, it is supposed to meet particular requirements.

While you may be satisfied with a model under $500, investing a bit more in an extended functionality will result in a more beneficial purchase.

Top 7 Best Laptops for College Students

  1. Dell XPS 13 - Our Choice
  2. Acer Aspire 5 - Budget
  3. MacBook Air - Lightweight
  4. MacBook Pro - Solid performance
  5. ASUS ZenBook - Long battery life
  6. HP Chromebook - Nice audio quality
  7. HP Laptop - Clicky and tactile keyboard

If you are after a laptop for studying purposes, think about the following parameters: its weight, efficiency, price, battery life, the presence of a webcam, etc. Besides, you should expect a laptop to perform well while you are listening to music, watching videos and browsing the net. To help you with the choice, I have collected the best 7 laptops for college students found on the nowadays’ market.

1. Dell XPS 13

Our Choice
laptops for college students dell

CPU: Intel Core i7-1065G7 | GPU: Intel Iris Graphics | RAM: 16 GB | Storage: 512 GB | Display: 13.4-inch | Weight: 2.8 pound

⊕ Elegant design
⊕ Enhanced touchpad
⊕ Remarkable 16:10 display
⊕ Narrow screen bezels
⊖ Long battery life
⊖ High price
⊖ Limited array of ports

The 2021 version of the Dell XPS 13 is one of the best laptops for college students due to the amazing portability, eye-catching design and sufficient power for all sorts of tasks.

The model feels sturdy although it is lightweight and thin. Its dimensions are 0.58 by 11.6 by 7.8 inches (HWD), the weight is 2.8 pounds. These are optimal values considering the fact that currently, the 1-kilogram (2.2-pound) mark is a sought-after goal for 13- and 14-inch laptops. On the whole, the XPS 13, with its portable and clamshell design, is a better option than the Inspiron.

2. Acer Aspire 5

The best laptop for college students
laptops for college students acer

CPU: Ryzen 3 | GPU: Radeon Vega 3 | RAM: 4 GB | Storage: 128 GB | Display: 15.6-inch | Weight: 4.41 pound

⊕ Decent battery life
⊕ Updated components
⊕ Excellent build quality
⊕ Nice performance
⊕ Good price-quality ratio
⊖ Screen could be more vivid

The Acer Aspire 5 belongs to the mid-level category and will meet all your expectations regarding a perfect laptop for students. It boasts a decent battery life, nice efficiency during the majority of tasks, including playing media.

Thanks to the Ryzen processors, the laptop is suitable for everyday use unless you are going to perform plenty of video editing, drafting or designing. A good price-quality ratio is another significant advantage of this model.

3. MacBook Air

Lightweight
laptops for college students macbook

CPU: Intel Core i3 | GPU: Intel Iris Plus Graphics | RAM: 8 GB | Storage: 256 GB | Display: 13.3-inch | Weight: 2.8 pound

⊕ Enhanced keyboard action and feel
⊕ Elegant and lightweight design
⊕ Nice selection of colors
⊕ Long battery life
⊖ Absence of touch screen
⊖ Limited array of ports

In 2018, the Apple MacBook Air was the last Mac laptop to be upgraded with Apple’s questionable butterfly-style keyboard. This type of keyboard first appeared a few years earlier in a 12-inch MacBook (which is no longer produced by Apple). Since the majority of users were dissatisfied with the incredibly shallow key travel of those butterfly switches, the brand has incorporated a more convenient keyboard into the MacBook Air.

Among the other upgrades of this model are increased storage capacity and Intel's latest 10th Generation Core processors. But raw computing performance isn’t its strongest side. Nevertheless, the 2021 edition of the MacBook Air is a worthy laptop for online college, as well as day-to-day tasks, like surfing the net and responding to e-mails.

4. MacBook Pro

Solid performance
laptops for college students macbook

CPU: Intel Core i7 | GPU: Radeon Pro 5300M | RAM: 16 GB | Storage: 512 GB | Display: 16-inch | Weight: 4.2 pound

⊕ Robust
⊕ Nice configuration capabilities
⊕ Awesome screen
⊖ High price
⊖ Not enough ports
⊖ Not everyone likes the keyboard

The MacBook Pro 16-inch 2019 managed to stay on top of the game despite all the Windows models that appeared in the Ultrabook category. Among the prominent characteristics of this laptop are the enhanced keyboard and extra modifications in the internals. Its dimensions are 13.7 x 9.48 x 0.61-inches (34.92 x 24.07 x 1.55) – practically identical to the 2018 model. This laptop for students is a bit smaller than MacBook Pros released before the upgrade in 2016.

The weight of the MacBook Pro 16 is 4.02 pounds (1.83kg), which is no different from the 2018 model. The keyboard seems to be almost the same as well – only the typing process feels softer than that on non-membrane keyboards. The keys are excellent and big enough for hassle-free typing.

5. ASUS ZenBook 13

Long battery life
laptops for college students asus

CPU: Core i7-8565U | GPU: Intel HD Graphics | RAM: 16 GB | Storage: 512 GB | Display: 13.3-inch | Weight: 2.7 pound

⊕ Affordable
⊕ Remarkable battery life
⊕ Practically border-free screen
⊕ USB-C, USB-A and HDMI ports
⊖ Cramped keyboard
⊖ No Thunderbolt 3 port

The Asus ZenBook 13 is a nice and extremely portable Core i5 laptop for online college. The brand claims that the ZenBook 13 has undergone a variety of the MIL-STD 810G rigorous tests taken by such semi-robust business systems as HP EliteBooks and Lenovo ThinkPads.

A gold strip forward of the keyboard sort of accentuates the blue color scheme. This strip is perforated to resemble a speaker grille although, in fact, the Harman/Kardon speakers are located at the bottom of the laptop. One of its primary drawbacks is a slightly cramped keyboard.

6. HP Chromebook

Nice audio quality
laptops for college students hp

CPU: Dual-Core Intel 4417u | GPU: Intel HD Graphics | RAM: 4 GB | Storage: 64 GB | Display: 15.6-inch | Weight: 3.99 pound

⊕ Elegant solid-metal chassis
⊕ Large and vibrant display
⊕ Nice audio quality
⊕ Responsive keyboard with number pad
⊖ Battery life could be longer
⊖ Price

Chromebooks are becoming increasingly popular and get increased screen size. These days, they are perceived as affordable and user-friendly analogs to Windows laptops and MacBooks. HP Chromebook 15 is one of the models that have moved from small 10- and 11-inch displays to larger displays, combined with keyboards that don’t seem so crowded anymore.

Having a 15.6-inch display, this laptop belongs to the list of the largest Chromebooks on the market along with the inexpensive Acer Chromebook 315 and more elegant-looking Lenovo Yoga Chromebook C630. You will definitely be pleased with the presence of a number pad. However, short battery life may be a significant disadvantage.

7. HP 15-Inch Laptop

Clicky and tactile keyboard
laptops for college students hp

CPU: Intel Core i5-1035G1 | GPU: Intel HD Graphics | RAM: 8 GB | Storage: 256 GB | Display: 15.6-inch | Weight: 3.7 pound

⊕ Top-grade design and decent build quality
⊕ Amazing efficiency
⊕ Clicky and tactile keyboard
⊕ Nice array of ports
⊖ Absence of ethernet port
⊖ No upgradability
⊖ Not the brightest display

The HP 15-dy1036nr is one of the best laptops for college due to the amazing efficiency, top-grade design and a reasonable price. In general, laptops of HP's 15 Series are more inexpensive analogs to its premium Envy and Spectre line of Ultrabooks.

I wouldn’t call the design of this model outstanding, but it is indeed appealing. When I first saw this HP 15-inch laptop, I thought that it was made of an aluminum hybrid. But in fact, its material is plastic with a brushed metal finish on the deck.

Image Name Features  
laptops for college students dell-xps 13 inch laptop
Dell XPS 13
Our Choice
  • CPU: Intel Core i7
  • GPU: Intel Iris Plus Graphics
  • RAM: 16 GB
  • Display: 13.4-inch
CHECK PRICE
laptops for college students acer aspire 5 laptop
Acer Aspire 5
Budget
  • CPU: Ryzen 3
  • GPU: Radeon Vega 3
  • RAM: 4 GB
  • Display: 15.6-inch
CHECK PRICE
laptops for college students macbook-air 13 inch laptop
MacBook Air
Professional
  • CPU: Intel Core i3
  • GPU: Intel Iris Plus Graphics
  • RAM: 8 GB
  • Display: 13.3-inch
CHECK PRICE

How to Choose the Best Laptops for College Students?

best laptops for college students

First Off: Research Your College

Begin with checking whether the college you are studying at has particular hardware requirements or suggestions. In order to prevent problems with software incompatibility and provide stable technical support for a single platform, some colleges and universities recommend their students to use Windows laptops.

In other institutions, there may not be any requirements regarding the preferred OS – so feel free to use Windows, macOS or even Linux.

Some colleges have computer repair centers right on the spot. Typically, they will take on your laptop only if it is bought from the university or an affiliated computer store on campus. In case you decide to approach one of such centers, you are likely to receive a repaired device quicker than if you are to send it to the manufacturer.

Besides, mind that the majority of colleges provide price breaks for certain sellers and feature extended software packages. So, you may end up paying less than you originally intended to. It may be wise to start searching for the best laptops for college students not in the nearby electronics store or major websites – visit the campus store first.

Keeping It Light: Why Weight Matters

A laptop with a large display isn’t the most optimal solution for students. Indeed, it is a nice addition to your dorm room for gaming or movie-watching purposes in high quality. But when it comes to carrying a heavyweight 15- or 17-inch laptop around the campus, it will be more of a burden. That’s why stick to a more lightweight model. In case display size is still a priority for you, pay attention to an ultra-thin and incredibly portable model. Plenty of students prefer a 13- or 14-inch display since it doesn’t weigh much and doesn’t occupy much space in the bag.

If you opt for a smaller screen, remember that you will have to scroll a lot through long web pages and apps. Besides, fonts will look smaller than on a bigger screen if the resolution and zoom level are the same. With a small and inexpensive hybrid laptop, I suggest purchasing a standalone keyboard for the cases when you need to perform typing-related tasks. One more useful addition would be a desktop monitor that is attached via HDMI.

best laptops for college students

How Much Power Do You Need?

Today’s array of laptop processors is vast enough to satisfy various purposes and budgets. You can pick a high-performance laptop or the one focused on battery life. If you value both parameters, settle for Intel's latest 10th Generation Core CPUs (code-named "Comet Lake" and "Ice Lake," which depends on the particular chip model). It beautifully combines battery and power efficiency. If battery life is highly important to you and you are surfing the net most of the time, a Chromebook is your go-to option.

Usually, Chromebooks run on low-powered processors (Intel Celeron and Pentium chips). However, these CPUs perfectly cope with day-to-day web-related tasks (which is exactly what Chromebooks are meant for). For those concentrating on power efficiency, I suggest getting an i5 laptop running Windows 10 or macOS. In most other cases (of course, if you aren’t an architecture student who is heavily using CAD software), integrated graphics solutions will do for all your college assignments.

This is the graphics silicon incorporated into the processors of most inexpensive and mid-level laptops. These days, such solutions mainly involve the usage of Intel integrated graphics: Intel HD Graphics, Intel UHD Graphics, or Intel Iris or Iris Plus graphics. Still, they are a far cry even from a modest dedicated GPU.

Battery Life: How Long Must It Hold Out?

Long battery life won’t let you down on a busy day when you have plenty of classes and extracurricular activities. Actually, only several laptops targeted at college use feature a variety of battery options. In most cases, it is just a non-removable battery. That’s why you have to decide how significant battery life is for your studying routine. If your laptop provides a removable battery option (which is unlikely, to be honest), invest in a second battery or purchase an “extended” one straightaway. With a big number of “cells” inside the battery, you can expect a decent battery life.

FAQ

  • • Are ThinkPads good for students?

Yes, the laptops of the ThinkPad series will please you with their efficiency, reliability, screen, quality, battery life and excellent keyboard operation.

  • • Why is ThinkPad so popular?

Being some sort of innovation, they were hugely successful for IBM and among businesses. Thanks to the reliable design, fairly high resale value and an array of after-sale replacement parts, older ThinkPads models are sought-after laptops among technology enthusiasts, collectors and power users.

  • • Are Dell or Lenovo laptops better?

It depends on how much you are willing to spend. If you need an inexpensive but cost-effective option, choose Lenovo laptops. If you can invest a hefty sum in a laptop, Dell won’t disappoint you.

Dell mostly integrates 3-cell batteries. As for Acer, they stick to 4 cells, which means improved battery life. If we compare laptops of a similar price category, models by Dell boast a bigger screen size.

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