The 10 best laptops for students in 2016: the best laptops for college, high school and more

The best notebooks for a variety of students

School is arduous enough without the task of deciding on a new laptop. Even if you feel at home with your nose in a textbook, the stress of going back to school can be exhausting in its own right.

If you're still using a bulky desktop or a laptop that buffers at the thought of 4K photo editing, at long last, it's time for an upgrade. Fortunately, you don't need to take out another student loan just to afford the latest MacBook Pro. Sometimes you can find something just as stylish, such as the HP Chromebook 13, without breaking the bank.

Here we've gathered our most recent, top-ranking reviews so that you don't have to, picking out the best laptops for college and high school no matter your budget. From the groundbreaking and transformative Lenovo Yoga Book (an anticipated entry) to the rigorous and capable Dell XPS 13, there's bound to be something out there to get you through the semester.

Can't find what you're looking for? Sound off in the comments below!

best laptops for students

Asus Zenbook UX305

A most affordable and excellent Ultrabook

CPU: 6th generation Intel Core m3 – Core m5 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 515 – 5300 | RAM: 8GB | Screen: 13.3-inch FHD (1,920 x 1,080) – QHD+ (3,200 x 1,800) | Storage: 256GB – 512GB SSD

Solid performance
Incredibly thin and light
Wonky video driver
Tinny speakers

Call it a MacBook Air knockoff if you want, but the Asus ZenBook UX305 is one of the best Ultrabooks you can buy at the moment considering the low price-point. With a full HD screen, a whole 8GB of RAM and up to 512GB of SSD storage, the Asus ZenBook UX305 is a steal.

Like the Dell XPS 13 listed below, this is further proof that you can find a truly primo, general use laptop for less than a thousand bucks. The ZenBook UX305 is an honest-to-goodness laptop, presented in an attractive package, that takes home the gold when it comes to exhibiting the basics.

Read the full review: Zenbook UX305

best laptops for students

HP Chromebook 14

A well balanced Chromebook

CPU: 6th generation Intel Celeron | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics | RAM: 2GB – 4GB | Screen: 14-inch HD (1366 x 768) – FHD (1,920 x 1,080) | Storage: 16GB – 32GB eMMC

Excellent keyboard and trackpad
Crisp, vivid screen
Average battery life

The HP Chromebook 14 is no performance powerhouse, sure, but thanks to the zippiness of Chrome OS combined with a funky blue case, this is one fun notebook to use.

Because of its low cost and ease of use, the HP Chromebook 14 is ideal for high school or liberal arts college students while simultaneously providing access to nearly every major service an undergrad would need to survive. It's nothing fancy in terms of specs, but it is at the very least a sight for sore eyes.

Read the full review: HP Chromebook 14

Apple 13 inch MacBook Pro with Retina display early 2015

13.3-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display

The fastest small MacBook Pro yet is a force of nature

CPU: 5th generation Intel Core i5 | Graphics: Intel Iris Graphics 6100 | RAM: 8GB – 16GB | Screen: 13.3-inch WQXGA (2,560 x 1,600) | Storage: 128GB – 512GB SSD

Retina Display
Faster processor
Force Touch underdeveloped
Unchanged design

The 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display is an excellent option for students who may need more power than a Chromebook or a MacBook Air without sacrificing portability, thanks to its long battery life, relatively light weight and high resolution display.

Students on a budget will be elated to discover that they can get started with jut about anything right away as the MacBook Pro with Retina display ships with free copies of Pages, Numbers, and Keynote out of the box as well as iMovie, Photos, and GarageBand for basic, creative projects.

Read the full review: MacBook Pro 13-inch with Retina display

Acer Chromebook 15 C910

Acer Chromebook 15

The colossus of Chromebooks

CPU: 5th generation Intel Celeron – Core i5 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics | RAM: 2GB – 4GB | Screen: 15.6-inch HD (1,366 x 768) – FHD (1,920 x 1,080) | Storage: 16GB – 32GB SSD

Fast processing speeds
Long battery life
Too heavy
Awkward keyboard

If you're convinced that every Chromebook on the market has to be less than 14 inches, you'd be dead wrong. The Acer Chrombook 15, for example, boasts not only a whopping 15.6-inch screen, but it also packs an equally impressive range of processors.

Despite some slight discomfort experienced during prolonged use, but you can snatch the Acer Chromebook 15 at a much cheaper price now than when it originally released, making it well worth the sacrifice.

Read the full review: Acer Chromebook 15 C910

Best laptops for students

13-inch MacBook Air

Finally, battery life within our grasp

CPU: 5th generation Intel Core i5; Core i7 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 6000 | RAM: 8GB | Screen: 13.3-inch WXGA+ (1,440 x 900) | Storage: 128GB – 512GB SSD

Fantastic battery life
Broadwell processors
No Retina screen
Not user upgradeable

Though it's yet to adopt Apple's Retina display standard, the benefit to this compromise is a 12-hour battery life coupled paired with a dual-core, Broadwell processor and now 8GB of RAM at the entry level.

Plus, if you don't like the feel of the 12-inch MacBook's low-travel butterfly keys, the MacBook Air uses a more traditional chiclet-style keyboard. And hey, a MacBook Air is the most affordable (and pretty much the only) way to get that backlit Apple logo on the back of your laptop.

Read the full review: MacBook Air 13-inch

best laptops for students

Lenovo IdeaPad Y700

Long battery life tops off this attractive gaming laptop

CPU: 6th generation Intel Core i5 – Core i7 | Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GTX 960M (2GB – 4GB) | RAM: 8GB – 16GB | Screen: 15.6-inch FHD IPS (1,920 x 1,080) | Storage: 500GB HDD – 1TB HDD + 512GB SSD

Looks great
Ample battery life
Ethernet port
Gets hot
Terrible trackpad buttons
Heavy

Look, you're bound to have some down time outside of class, so why not invest whatever disposable income you have into one of these bad boys? The Lenovo IdeaPad Y700 looks nice and its price tag only tempts us more.

Don't expect to run the latest best-selling games on Ultra settings, but hey, with a system like this you can accomplish just about anything else. From cranking out essays to editing videos, the Lenovo IdeaPad Y700 is one of the best laptops for students money can buy.

Read the full review: Lenovo IdeaPad Y700

best laptops for students

Dell XPS 13

A revolution in laptop design

CPU: 6th generation Intel Core i5 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 520 | RAM: 4GB – 8GB | Screen: 13.3-inch FHD (1,920 x 1,080) | Storage: 128GB; 256GB SSD

Strong performance
Lightweight
Off-center webcam
Small frame limits battery life

Packing a high-resolution screen and serious processing power, there's more to the Dell XPS 13 than being a surprisingly small Ultrabook.

There's a 13-inch display crammed into an 11-inch body, a truly worthy competitor to a certain aluminum laptop line perfect for any basic coursework scenario. After all, Apple doesn't make the only premium, general use laptop worth batting an eye at, and the Dell XPS 13 is the proof.

Read the full review: Dell XPS 13

best laptops for students

HP Pavilion x2

The best and most affordable Windows 10 convertible

CPU: Intel Atom Z8300 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics | RAM: 2GB | Screen: 10.1-inch WXGA (1,280 x 800) | Storage: 32GB eMMC

Long battery life
Roaring speakers
Absurdly affordable
32-bit Windows 10
Limited storage and memory

The HP Pavilion x2 might be a little tike of a 2-in-1 laptop, but for media and basic computing tasks, it's a stellar Windows 10 device, thanks to its voluminous set of stereo speakers and absurd battery life of 7 hours and 34 minutes, according to our PCMark 8 test.

If you seek something suitable for those Sundays spent streaming Netflix in bed in addition to taking notes in the classroom, this is a fine place to begin that search. Lightweight and capable for but a relative pittance, you'll get a tablet and a laptop that nail the essentials in equal measure.

Read the full review: HP Pavilion x2

Microsoft Surface Pro 4

Microsoft Surface Pro 4

The tablet that can replace your laptop

CPU: 6th generation Intel Core m3 – Core i7 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 515 – Iris Graphics | RAM: 4GB – 16GB | Screen: 12.3-inch PixelSense (2,736 x 1,824) | Storage: 128GB – 1TB SSD

High-res screen
Improved Type Cover
Cover still sold separately
Intel Core m3 to start

A higher resolution screen, a thinner design and a move to Intel's more powerful Skylake processors all help to make this portable tablet a capable substitute for your other computing hardware.

What you get is one of the few tablets we can say for certain can replace your laptop. Luckily, with Windows 10, it serves as a great companion device, too. Sadly, the Type Cover keyboard is still an optional necessity for this laptop replacement.

Read the full review: Microsoft Surface Pro 4

best laptops for students

Samsung Notebook 7 Spin

MacBook Pro size and power, MacBook Air price

CPU: 2.5GHz Intel Core i7-6500U | Graphics: Nvidia GeForce 940MX (2GB DDR3L); Intel HD Graphics 520 | RAM: 12GB – 16GB | Screen: 15.6-inch Full HD (1,920 x 1,080) LED with touch panel | Storage: 1 TB HDD – 1TB HDD; 128GB SSD

Snappy keyboard
Very versatile
Hefty weight
Graphics narrowly miss the mark

For less than a grand, you could get a MacBook Air, complete with a sub-1080p screen and a Broadwell processor or you could buy a Samsung Notebook 7 Spin. A 2-in-1 laptop with an HDR-enabled, Full HD touchscreen, the Spin boasts both a discrete Nvidia graphics chip and one of the latest Intel CPUs.

Considering the sheer horsepower you can exert from this thing and – we can't stress this enough – an HDR screen, the Samsung Notebook 7 Spin is perfect for the classroom or the dorm. Sure, it uses an old-school hard drive and a standard-def webcam, but at the same time, but few concessions are made to keep the price down and its value up.

Read the full review: Samsung Notebook 7 Spin

Gabe Carey has also contributed to this article

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Joe has worked in games and technology media for nearly a decade for several publications. His writing has been featured in PC Magazine, AOL's Games.com, Laptop Magazine and Tom's Guide among others. Currently, Joe serves as TechRadar's Senior Editor, leading computing coverage specifically. Yes, that means he uses both macOS and Windows – every day.