The best laptops for college students

Whether you attend a physical campus, take classes online, or do a bit of both, a laptop is likely the centerpiece of your education. If you’re working with an outdated machine, upgrading to a newer model can make all of your academic work a little easier by helping you stay on schedule and multitask better with dozens of tabs dedicated to research while writing your essays. While almost every new laptop is slightly more expensive than before, there’s good news: laptops last longer than ever before, so your new machine should serve you well for years to come. That is, as long as you choose one from a reliable company and with the right features. To help you find the best buy when you’re shopping, we’ve put together this collection of things to look out for, as well as our list of the best laptops for college.

What to expect

Apple has completed its transition to Silicon, so you won’t have a choice of Intel-powered Macs. You really shouldn’t want to, as the M-series MacBooks have proven to be reliable, fast and durable. And with each new generation of chips, older models get cheaper while still offering great performance. This means you’ll have more options to consider without stretching your budget.

Meanwhile, new PCs are announced, usually with the latest models powered by 13th generation Intel processors or the latest AMD Ryzen chips. While the transition to ARM-based systems has been successful for Apple, the PC industry is still struggling to keep up, and Windows on ARM is largely dead in the water. Don’t waste your time or money on an ARM-based computer; hard to find nowadays anyway.

Speaking of which, top-of-the-line spec laptops can cost you between $1,800 and $2,000 these days. For most college students, a mid-level machine that will be used primarily for writing documents and browsing the Internet will be sufficient. Depending on the field of study, you can get an Intel Core i3 processor or equivalent, with at least 6 GB of RAM. If you need to run custom software for design or programming, consider upgrading to a more powerful system with more processing power and memory. On the other hand, if you do most of your coursework online or in a browser, getting a Chromebook can save you a lot of money.

You’ll also want to consider the weight of a device, especially if you plan to bring your laptop to classes in person. There are plenty of premium ultraportables in the 13-inch category with chips like the Intel Core i3 or i5 costing under $1,000. If these lightweight laptops are too expensive, you’ll still have respectable options here $600-$800 price range, but they can be heavier and use older, slower processors. I’ve included our recommendations for the best budget laptops in this college-focused guide, but we have some more affordable options you can check out, too.

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While some laptop manufacturers have decided to get rid of headphone jacks, it’s important to check their spec lists when shopping for newer machines. If you don’t have wireless headphones or use equipment that plugs into a 3.5mm jack, you’ll want to stay away from devices like Dell’s XPS 13 Plus.

Finally, while most laptops offer WiFi 6 or 6E and Bluetooth 5.0 or later, you may not have one of the compatible routers or other devices that will provide these faster connections. Chances are, your campus WiFi may still be stuck on the old setup, so that’s not the case decisive You still get a system with the latest standards. Of course, there’s no harm in getting a future-proof laptop, but of all the things to consider, WiFi 6E shouldn’t be a compromise in your decision-making process.

Best laptops for college students

Photo Devindra Hardawar / Engadget

Read our full review of the Apple MacBook Air M3

Hard to beat Apple MacBook Air if you want a powerful machine for college that won’t weigh you down. This year you have some good options – 13-inch or 15 inches MacBook Air M3 and MacBook Air M2. The M3 laptop won a 90 points from us for its impressive performance, gorgeous 13.6-inch Liquid Retina display and thin and light design. However, the M2 remains a fantastic machine and received a $200 price cut with the launch of the M3 models. If you want a more future-proof laptop, we recommend the M3 Air, but the MacBook Air M2 will suffice for most students’ needs.

Apple has officially stopped selling it M1 MacBook Air in his online store, but still hovering around the web for under $1,000. It has the wedge design of older MacBook Airs, larger bezels, and only a 720p webcam. But if you’re coming from an Intel machine, the performance boost will be noticeable even if you buy the M1 machine on clearance. However, we expect stocks to become tighter as the year progresses.

$1,099 at Amazon

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Read our full Dell XPS 13 Plus laptop review

The best computer has long been Dell’s well-rounded XPS 13 series, and I still recommend it to anyone who doesn’t want a Mac. yes, XPS 13 Plus there’s no headphone jack, and some of its buttons are hard to see and use. However XPS 13 It’s a versatile machine and reliable workhorse that will get you through classes and late-night writing sessions without breaking a sweat.

Like its predecessors, the XPS 13 Plus offers a beautiful OLED display with impressively thin bezels and is equipped with a large, comfortable keyboard. It also has a new minimalist design that looks more modern and offers better performance than the standard model. The row of capacitive buttons on top instead of traditional function keys may annoy some as they can be hard to see out in the open, but once you’re familiar with where they are, you may not need to see where they are to find the right ones. An invisible trackpad can also be tricky because its boundaries are unclear.

If you don’t like the changes Dell made to the XPS 13, or you absolutely need a headphone jack, the older generations are still solid options. There is also one Samsung Galaxy book series, featuring beautiful OLED displays and sharper webcams in thin and light bezels. I also like Microsoft’s Surface Laptops and latest edition Despite its dated design, it offers excellent performance and battery life.

$1400 at Dell

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Read our full review of the Razer Blade 15 gaming laptop

While your laptop may be primarily for coursework, that doesn’t mean you can’t use it for fun as well. Those who want to play games on their machines should opt for responsive screens and ample ports for their favorite accessories that can best help them defeat their virtual enemies. If you’re thinking of getting your first gaming machine for school, check us out guide to buying a gaming laptop. It includes details on different CPUs and GPUs, minimum specs, and more. It’s our favorite gaming laptop Razer Blade 15Intel Core i7 processor and an NVIDIA RTX 3070 graphics For $2,500.

It’s the most expensive product on this list at this price point, but you also get a 15-inch quad HD display that refreshes at 240Hz. Different configurations Available depending on your choice, including Full HD 360Hz and 4K 144Hz versions. The Knife series it’s also one of the most polished gaming laptops around, and Razer consistently updates it with the latest processors, graphics, and other hardware upgrades. If you really want to go above and beyond, you might want to consider a new one Razer Blade 16 that there is NVIDIA’s RTX 4060 or 4070 GPUs.

Students and gamers looking for something cheaper and more portable should consider the ASUS ROG Zephyrus G14. our favorite model in 2021. The main reason it’s down a notch is that the 2022 update costs about $600 more. Despite its slim profile, it’s still a solid gaming laptop with a great display, spacious trackpad, and plenty of ports.

$2900 at Razer

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Read our full review of the Lenovo Flex 5 Chromebook

If you can do most of your classes through web-based apps, it’s worth considering a Chromebook for your college laptop. Of course, they generally do not look elegant and do not have high-end features. But they are often more affordable and have longer battery life. Our favorite Chromebook Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 5i ChromebookEngadget resident Chrome OS enthusiast Nathan Ingraham described it as “the sweet spot for many Chromebook buyers.”

This laptop delivers on the essentials with a bright and sharp 13.3-inch Full HD touchscreen, an excellent backlit keyboard, and an 11th generation Intel Core i3 processor. 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage may sound meager, but it’s more than enough for a Chromebook, especially at this price. It’s also nice to see USB-A and USB-C ports, a microSD card slot, and eight hours of battery life. Weighing in at 3 pounds and 0.66 inches thick, the Flex 5i isn’t the lightest or thinnest laptop around, but hey, at least your wallet won’t feel as light as a feather after buying it.

Note that the Flex 5i should receive software and security updates by June 2029, so it should last you for years to come. Considering this laptop has been out for over a year now, it’s nice to see, and we expect Lenovo to release a replacement soon. We’ll update this list when that happens, or when another manufacturer launches a comparable variant. The Lenovo Flex 5i is no longer available directly from Lenovo, but you can usually find it on Amazon for around $400 (as of this writing, it retails for around $350). This is an excellent value.

$365 on Amazon

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Read our full review of the HP Pavilion Aero 13 laptop

If you’re looking for a solid student laptop under $800, this is your best bet HP Pavilion Aero 13. Yes, it’s almost two years old, but it’s still one of the best cheap laptops for college students available right now. For an affordable price, you get a Full HD screen with a 16:10 aspect ratio and surprisingly thin bezels, as well as a comfortable keyboard and a large touchpad. The main thing is that, Aero 13 With an AMD Ryzen 5000 series processor and Radeon graphics, it offers relatively powerful components compared to others in this price range. Plus, it has generous ports and enough battery life to last a full day and then a few hours.

$600 with HP

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Read our full review of the Microsoft Surface Pro 9

For those who need their laptop to occasionally double as a tablet, the Surface Pro series is a no-brainer. Compared to notebooks or 2-in-1 notebooks with swivel hinges, tablets with kickstands are often thinner and lighter. The Surface Pro 9 is the newest model, and it features Microsoft’s sleek design with a slimmer profile and minimal bezels. The Pro 9 it also has a 120Hz display that makes scrolling through long documents or spreadsheets feel faster, and you can drop the refresh rate to 60Hz if you want to preserve battery life. Just make sure you get an Intel processor instead of an ARM-based configuration, as software compatibility can be an issue with the latter. You don’t want to be the only one in the class who can’t install the obscure software your professor wants everyone to use, right?

We also like Microsoft’s Type Covers and Surface Stylus, although it’s worth noting that you’ll have to pay extra for both if you want them. Unless you’re inclined to stick with Apple’s ecosystem, that is iPad Pro would suit you best, the Surface Pro 9 is arguably the best convertible laptop around.

$873 on Amazon

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