The 10 best laptops for college students in 2017

A laptop is essential in college. Providing you with unwavering freedom practically unheard of in the desktop space, your mouse, monitor and keyboard are tightly kept in the form of a single, versatile device. Moreover, the top laptops for college are as efficient at playing your favorite PC games as they are at drafting up documents.

With hybrids, Ultrabooks, traditional clamshells and – more affordable than ever – gaming laptops in tow, we have not only found the best laptops for college, but we’ve tested each of them so that we can guarantee confidence, accuracy and comprehensiveness in our recommendations.

best laptops for students

1. Dell XPS 13

Powerful, functional, aesthetically pleasing

CPU: 7th generation Intel Core i3 – i7 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 620 | RAM: 4GB – 16GB | Screen: 13.3-inch FHD (1,920 x 1,080) – QHD+ (3,200 x 1,800) InfinityEdge | Storage: 128GB – 512GB SSD

Faster than ever
Same long-lasting battery
Still poor webcam position
No Windows Hello

Packing a high-resolution screen and serious processing power, there's more to the Dell XPS 13 than its status as a tightly kept Ultrabook. Now featuring new processors and better integrated graphics, clearly there’s an advantage to the Dell XPS 13 besides the fact that it comes in Rose Gold. The 13-inch display, crammed into an 11-inch body, a worthy rival to a certain other aluminum laptop line. What’s more, the Dell XPS 13’s utility is extensive, spanning everything from writing to video editing to everything in between.

Read the full review: Dell XPS 13 review

2. Samsung Notebook 9 Pro

The dawn of a new era for 2-in-1 laptops

CPU: 7th generation Intel Core i7 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 620 – AMD Radeon Graphics (2GB GDDR5) | RAM: 8GB – 16GB | Screen: 13.3-inch – 15.6-inch FHD (1,920 x 1,080) LED display with Touch Screen Panel | Storage: 256GB SSD

Uses S-Pen to great effect
Excellent look and feel
Inconsistent battery life
Downward-firing speakers

The Samsung Notebook 9 is what other 2-in-1 laptops have aspired to be since their conception. It hones in on the S-Pen, Samsung’s own proprietary stylus with 4,096 levels of pressure sensitivity (the same as Microsoft’s new Surface Pen), a nifty little accessory that conveniently doesn’t require charging. Although the touchscreen display is only 1080p, at between 350 and 450 nits of brightness, you won’t be paying any mind to the pixels, or lack thereof. Plus, the lengthy battery life more than makes up for this hybrids few setbacks.

Read the full review: Samsung Notebook 9 Pro

  • This product is only available in the US as of this writing. UK and Australian readers: check out a fine alternative in the HP Spectre x360 15.

3. Asus Chromebook Flip

Asus’ premium Chromebook has a modest price

CPU: Intel Core m3 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 515 | RAM: 4GB | Screen: 12.5-inch, Full HD (1,920 x 1,080) LED backlit anti-glare | Storage: 64GB eMMC + TPM

Elegant tablet mode
Gorgeous, vivid screen
No out-of-box Android app support
Middling speakers

The Asus Chromebook Flip C302 could be seen as an apology for Google’s own missteps with the Chromebook Pixel that preceded it. Rather than costing over a grand for unnecessarily high performance that would put a lot of Windows notebooks to shame, Asus has cut the price in half while adding a 360-degree hinge that effectively makes it a 2-in-1 laptop, but with Android apps from the Google Play Store that only sweeten the deal.Now you can experience a Chromebook whose style rivals that of the MacBook Pro without spending even remotely what you would on one of Apple’s machines. 

Read the full review: Asus Chromebook Flip

Microsoft Surface Pro 4

4. Microsoft Surface Pro

The tablet that can replace your laptop

CPU: 7th generation Intel Core m3 – i7 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 615 – Iris Plus Graphics 640 | RAM: 4GB – 16GB | Screen: 12.3-inch, 2,736 x 1,824 PixelSense display | Storage: 128GB – 1TB SSD

Hugely improved battery life
Comfier, punchier type cover
Surface Pen pulled from package
Only Core i7 can challenge A10X

The 2017 Surface Pro is – in every way, shape and form – the Surface Pro 5 we’ve been waiting for. From its rounded edges to its refined selection of accessories, there’s no denying it’s a true Surface Pro 4 successor. There’s also the fact that the Surface Pro draws inspiration from the Surface Studio insofar as it bends back 165 degrees. The only real downside then (besides having to buy the Surface Pen separately this time) is that only the i7 version of the Surface Pro can compete with even the most affordable iPad Pro.

Read the full review: Microsoft Surface Pro

  • This product is only available in the US and Australia as of this writing. UK readers: check out a fine alternative in the Lenovo Miix 510.

best laptops for students

5. Samsung Notebook 7 Spin

MacBook Pro size and power, MacBook Air price

CPU: 6th generation Intel Core i7 | 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, full HD touchscreen, the Spin is home to both a discrete Nvidia graphics chip and a 6th-generation Intel Core “i” CPU. Though the spinning hard drive and 480p webcam aren’t ideal, they keep the price of the Samsung Notebook 7 Spin modest and its reputation positive.

Read the full review: Samsung Notebook 7 Spin

  • This product is only available in the US and UK as of this writing. Australian readers: check out a fine alternative in the Asus ZenBook Flip UX360.  

6. Dell Inspiron 15 Gaming

Work hard, play hard, this laptop does it all

CPU: 7th generation Intel Core i5 – i7 | Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050; Intel HD Graphics 620 – GTX 1050 Ti; Intel HD Graphics 630 | RAM: 8GB – 16GB | Screen: 15.6-inch FHD (1,920 x 1,080) – UHD (3,840 x 2,160) anti-glare LED-backlit | Storage: 1TB HDD – 1TB HDD; 128GB SSD

Affordable gaming setup
Stellar battery life
Trackpad is touchy
Screen is lacking

Ditching the Alienware moniker for once, the Dell Inspiron 15 Gaming doesn’t cost all that much considering its rather lofty specs. Even if it can’t max out every game you throw at it, the Dell Inspiron 15 Gaming is both cheaper than a MacBook Air and way more capable. And, if you were worried about the battery life, the Inspiron 15 Gaming lasted a whole 5 hours and 51 minutes in our tests, longer than some Ultrabooks priced significantly higher. Whether for coursework or leisure, this laptop can do it all. 

Read the full review: Dell Inspiron 15 Gaming

7. Asus ZenBook UX310UA

Feel old yet, MacBook Air?

CPU: 7th generation Intel Core i3 – i7 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 620 | RAM: 4GB – 16GB | Screen: 13.3-inch FHD (1,920 x 1,080) – QHD+ (3,200 x 1,800)

All aluminum body
Backlit keys
Bendy keyboard
Meh battery life

After the wonderfully brilliant Asus Zenbook UX305 was discontinued, we were skeptical that Asus could follow it up with something even better. Still, the Asus ZenBook UX310UA surprises with the same all-aluminum chassis we’ve come to know and love in addition to a higher resolution screen and an impressive swath of ports, including the latest USB-C interface. The best news is that it does all of that without slipping above the price point of the current MacBook Air, making it an even better value.

Read the full review: Asus ZenBook UX310

best laptops for students

8. Surface Laptop

Designed for students from the OS up

CPU: 7th generation Intel Core i5 – i7 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 620 – Iris Plus Graphics 640 | RAM: 4GB – 16GB | Screen: 13.5-inch, 2,256 x 1,504 PixelSense display | Storage: 128GB – 512GB SSD

Gorgeous design
Well built
Windows 10 S is limited
No USB-C

The Surface Laptop is Microsoft’s first stab at a “traditional” laptop, if you can even call it that knowing full well that its PixelSense touchscreen and Alcantara keyboard are anything but conventional. Featuring a full stack of U-series 7th generation Intel Core “i” processors, the Surface Laptop beats out Apple’s 12-inch MacBook any day of the week, and for a lower starting price at that. Despite the ports and operating system being limited, the Surface Laptop is appealing for its laudable design, beautifully vivid screen and impressive performance.

Read the full review: Surface Laptop

9. Huawei MateBook X

More than just a Chinese MacBook knock-off

CPU: 7th generation Intel Core i5 – i7 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 620 | RAM: 4GB – 8GB | Screen: 13-inch, 2,160 x 1,440 IPS | Storage: 256GB – 512GB SSD

Beautiful and unique display
Great audio capabilities
High price
Limited connectivity options

A thin and light notebook that resembles a MacBook, in reality the Huawei MateBook X is so much more. Instead of wielding a measly Intel Core M- or Y-series processor, the Huawei MateBook X goes for gold with a full on U-series CPU of the Core i5 and i7 variety without resorting to a clunkier form factor. Other than the lukewarm battery life and a notable shortage on ports, this is an honest first attempt at crafting a premium Windows notebook with portability at the forefront.

Read the full review: Huawei MateBook X

  • This product is only available in the US as of this writing. UK and Australian readers: check out a fine alternative in the HP Spectre.

Apple 13 inch MacBook Pro with Retina display early 2015

10. Apple MacBook Pro (13-inch, Late 2016)

The MacBook Pro of the future, right now

CPU: 6th generation Intel Core i5 – Core i7 | Graphics: Intel Iris Graphics 540 | RAM: 8GB – 16GB | Screen: 13.3-inch WQXGA (2,560 x 1,600) | Storage: 256GB – 1TB SSD

Vibrant display
Huge trackpad
USB-C ports force compromise
Keyboard too shallow for some

Boasting a powerful Intel Core i5 processor and a long-lasting battery, the latest 13-inch MacBook Pro is replete with everything you need to get through the coming semesters. This late 2016 MacBook Pro weighs only 3.02 pounds (1.37kg), making it lighter than ever before as the result of a slimmed-down, “butterfly” mechanism-powered keyboard and stealthy cooling system, and it even totes a larger trackpad despite the laptop itself being thinner. And, like all macOS-outfitted devices, it ships with useful apps baked-in at no extra cost.

Read the full review: Apple MacBook Pro (13-inch, Late 2016)

Gabe Carey has also contributed to this article