A laptop is an essential academic tool for a student continuing their education after high school. Ideally, the best laptop for college is the one that lasts for an entire college career and has all the software needed to take notes, stream and complete your homework well and on time, without hardware issues. It also helps if you can fit it in your backpack.
An entry-level laptop computer that will do the job can be had for $300, but for a few hundred more, you can get a college laptop with longer battery life, a faster solid-state drive and overall better performance. With the current supply chain issues and chip shortages, you might think it’s hard to get your hands on a decent budget-friendly laptop for school. Luckily, it’s still possible to find laptops and two-in-ones with the latest processors from AMD and Intel. The only PCs you might have to wait for are those featuring the newer powerful 11th-gen Intel Core processors that promise to boost performance in laptops for gamers. You’ll find a few models on this list with those processors and more will be available soon.
Most of our picks for the best laptops for college run between $500 and $1,000. If you’re searching for a more affordable laptop — or if you’re open to an alternative to Apple’s MacOS and Microsoft Windows — we recommend checking out the best Chromebooks for students. On the flip side, if you’re searching for a more powerful laptop for college, or a gaming laptop that doubles as a college laptop, we have some suggestions for those, too. So if you’re ready to upgrade your tech, keep reading for our list of the best laptops for college.
Best MacBook for students
MacBook Air M1
The newest, fanless Apple MacBook Air with 8GB RAM hits all the right notes for an Apple laptop (or any laptop computer, really). This powerful laptop is back to the old $999 starting price, and if you’re a teacher or student, you can take off an additional $100, thanks to Apple’s educational discount. The base model of this best laptop pick features Apple’s M1 processor with an eight‑core CPU, seven‑core GPU and 16‑core Neural Engine. Stepping up from the baseline MacBook model will bring you an eight-core GPU and double the storage capacity with a 512GB SSD, but you’ll be forking out an additional $250.
Like the previous Mac laptop models, the M1 Air has Apple’s Magic Keyboard, Touch ID, a Force Touch trackpad and a 13.3-inch Retina display. If you’re a college student, it’s hard to go wrong with the new MacBook Air.
Read our MacBook Air M1 review.
$929 at Amazon
$899 at Apple Education
Best all-purpose Windows laptop for students
Lenovo Yoga 7i
This thin 3-pound two-in-one with Intel Core is a solid Windows operating system choice for anyone who needs a college laptop for schoolwork. The all-metal chassis gives this Window laptop a premium look and feel, and it has a comfortable keyboard and responsive, smooth precision touchpad. The 14-inch display gives you more room to work than competing 13-inch models at this price. This is less expensive than the Lenovo IdeaPad or the Lenovo ThinkPad. As a two-in-one, you can use it as a laptop or tablet and it supports pen input with Lenovo’s optional Active Pen. Though it’s light on extra features compared with its premium linemate, the Yoga 9i, it does have one of Lenovo’s sliding shutters for the webcam that gives you privacy when you want it and a fingerprint reader for fast sign-ins. It also has a long battery life to boot.
$764 at Lenovo
Best Chromebook for students
Acer Chromebook Spin 713
Tired of trying to work on documents or spreadsheets on a small widescreen display? The Acer Chromebook Spin 713 uses one of Acer’s bright VertiView displays, a 13.5-inch 2,256×1,504-pixel touchscreen with a 3:2 aspect ratio. As the name implies, this Chrome OS laptop gives you more vertical room to work, but it still has the width of a typical 13.3-inch laptop with a 16:9 ratio. Between that and its battery life, which lasted nearly 13 hours in our tests, it’s a great laptop for getting more work done in a day — and it’s still thin and light enough for an everyday carry.
The latest version of this Chromebook is the first to receive Intel’s Evo verification, which means you’ll be getting the best possible mobile experience with this model. It’s also the first with Thunderbolt 4 support, which lets you connect to multiple external displays as well as providing fast data speeds and networking. Read our Acer Chromebook Spin 713 review.
Read our Lenovo Yoga C740 (14-inch) review.
$699 at Best Buy
Best laptop for college under $500 (Update: Out of stock)
Gateway was known for low-cost desktops and laptops in the 1990s. Last year, the brand was revived for a new lineup of laptops and tablets sold exclusively through Walmart. Those models were recently updated with 11th-gen Intel processors and we tested both 15.6- and 14.1-inch models. The latter gets our vote as an inexpensive option for getting school work done while still being light enough to carry around campus for the day. The attention-grabber is the Intel Core i5 processor that provides reliable performance despite being paired with cheaper components. The keyboard is comfortable but not backlit and the touchpad isn’t the most precise. Also, the built-in fingerprint reader is hit-or-miss. Still, it has lots of ports so connecting a mouse or an external display isn’t an issue and the full HD resolution is decent, too, all things considered. Plus, the battery lasted a couple minutes shy of 10 hours on our streaming video test.
$399 at Walmart
Best lightweight laptop for students under $700
Acer Swift 3
A remarkable college laptop deal for simple tasks like email, word processing and much more, thanks to the new AMD Ryzen 5 and Ryzen 7 processors. This budget laptop has a backlit keyboard, a fingerprint reader and a USB Type-C port, too. The Acer Swift 3 is also an incredibly lightweight laptop — less than 3 pounds — for a machine that can be found for less than $700.
In addition to this Acer Swift, we’re also fans of the Acer Aspire 5, which has a larger 15.6-inch display. The Acer Aspire 5 is available in a variety of configurations starting as low as $405 but can go up to $711 if you want entry-level discrete graphics for basic gaming and content creation.
Read our Acer Swift 3 (14-inch, 2020) review.
$669 at Amazon
Best Windows 2-in-1 for students
Microsoft Surface Pro 7
The Surface Pro 7, powered by a 10th generation Intel Core processor, remains the standard-bearer for Windows devices that work as both a Surface laptop and touch screen tablet, though this convertible laptop makes for a better tablet than it does for a laptop. (If you’re looking for the opposite in a student laptop, Lenovo’s two-in-one Yoga devices are better laptops than they are tablets.) In addition to the typical great performance and battery life you can expect, the seventh-edition Surface Pro finally gets a USB-C port. The Surface laptop’s super-portable size makes it an ideal student laptop for high school and college students who may be carrying a lot of gear. Though this company still sells the Surface laptop Pro without its essential Type Cover keyboard and Surface Pen included, it can frequently be found for a relatively cheap laptop price — sometimes with one or both accessories.
Read our Surface Pro 7 review.
$959 at Best Buy
Best entry-level gaming laptop for students
Dell streamlined its G-series gaming laptops, going from three models down to just one Dell laptop — and it’s all for the best. Instead of having to decode the various feature and quality differences between them, there’s just one chassis available with a variety of configurations starting at $853. All of the processors can be paired with up to a 6GB Nvidia RTX 3060, 8GB or 16GB of memory and up to 1TB of storage. They’re basically a more budget-friendly gaming laptop version of those from its Dell Alienware division, but still capable of playing the latest AAA titles.
$1,009 at Dell