The 10 best laptops for students in 2017: top laptops for college and high school

Update: Students craving the versatility of Windows 10 on a tablet that doubles as a laptop will take delight in the latest and greatest Surface Pro which, as it just so happens, made it on our list! Read on to number 4 to find out why.

They may not be as easy to upgrade as a desktop (and, in the case of the Surface Laptop, even a MacBook), but laptops still have their place in the world. After all, isn’t it more convenient to have your monitor, mouse and keyboard all neatly packaged into one device?

Despite tablets being all the rage for a split second, there’s still an unbridled need for the best laptops. With Intel processors under their belts, they’re powerful yet portable and tote designs that will make your coffee shop acquaintances green with envy.

Whether you crave the autonomy of playing your favorite PC games on the go or simply prefer the efficacy of drafting up documents using a full-size physical keyboard, the top laptops have it all. A laptop is the one device to truly marry both productivity and leisure.

With hybrids, Ultrabooks, traditional clamshells and – more powerful than ever – gaming laptops in tow, these are the best laptops you can buy. To get straight to the reviews, check the links below:

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. Asus Chromebook Flip

MacBook quality for a Chromebook price

CPU: 6th generation Intel Pentium – Core m7 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 515 | RAM: 4GB – 8GB | Screen: 12.5-inch FHD (1,920 x 1,080) LCD | Storage: 32GB – 128GB eMMC

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

While we can admit that Google’s Chromebook Pixel and the HP Chromebook 13 were handsome and built to last, their high price tags weren’t well justified. That’s why Asus has taken it upon itself to craft a full-fledged premium 2-in-1 Chromebook that retails for a fraction of the price. 

The Asus Chromebook Flip’s pair of USB Type-C ports, dazzling screen and stunning MacBook-esque looks render it an essential inclusion on our best laptops for students list, especially when you consider its pristine value. And with a battery life of 10 hours and 46 minutes, the Asus Chromebook Flip ought to last you an entire work day, even if the speakers aren’t great.

Read the full review: Asus Chromebook Flip

best laptops for students

3. Asus Zenbook UX305

Ultrabooks at their finest hour

CPU: 6th generation Intel Core m3 – 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

It’s not a MacBook Air knockoff if it’s better, right? Considering the price, the Asus ZenBook UX305 kicks Apple’s thin-and-light in the tail. Featuring 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 above, the UX305 is further proof that you can find a truly primo, general use laptop for less than a thousand bucks. The ZenBook UX305 is an attractive, honest-to-goodness laptop that serves as a testament to the demand for well-rounded Ultrabooks.

Read the full review: Zenbook UX305

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

Given the amount of effort that was clearly put into the Surface Pro’s improvements over the TechRadar-recommended Surface Pro 4 of 2015, it’s a wonder Microsoft’s latest iteration of the Surface Pro drops the number altogether. This 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 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

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. 

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 as suited for the classroom as it is in your dorm. 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

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

While a gaming laptop might sound ideal for homework by day and taking out waves of enemies by night, it’s normally a steep investment with little room for upgrades. Ditching the Alienware moniker for once, the Dell Inspiron 15 Gaming doesn’t cost much and exhibits unparalleled performance for the price.

For the price, you wouldn’t even be able to afford a MacBook Air, and this is a laptop that can handle practically every game you throw at it, albeit not at the highest settings. 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.

Read the full review: Dell Inspiron 15 Gaming

best laptops for students

7. Asus ZenBook Flip UX360

Taking on Apple with more ports and a touchscreen

CPU: 6th generation Intel Core m3 – Intel Core m7 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 515 | RAM: 4GB | Screen: 13.3-inch FHD (1,920 x 1,080) | Storage: 128GB – 512GB SSD

Thin and light
All-day battery life
Lacking in multitasking
Noticeable screen glare

It’s not much in terms of specs, but with this kind of versatility, the Asus ZenBook Flip UX360 doesn’t need to be. For the price, it’s one of the better 2-in-1 laptops money can afford. It’s thin and light, packing in an all-day battery life and yet maintains all your favorite ports intact.

PC purists and newcomers alike will be delighted to find a pair of USB 3.0 ports joined by USB-C and even the long-endangered SD card reader, though merely an antiquated micro HDMI input. Regardless, this laptop more than makes up for shortcomings, thanks to a spacious trackpad and keyboard as well as a processor that zips through everyday life.

Read the full review: Asus ZenBook Flip UX360

8. 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

Huawei is in an interesting position. Globally, the company ranks third in smartphone sales, but it’s still yet to become a household name outside of China. This could all change with the introduction of the MateBook X, a thin and light notebook that resembles a MacBook, but turns out to be 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

Apple 13 inch MacBook Pro with Retina display early 2015

9. 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

For students impressed by the sleek-and-alluring 12-inch MacBook, but unsatisfied by the lack of power and ports, the 13-inch MacBook Pro is the obvious resolution at long last. With battery life exceeding seven hours and a powerful Intel Core i5 processor, the latest 13-inch MacBook Pro is replete with everything you need to get through the coming semesters.

The 13-inch, 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. The MacBook Pro even manages a larger trackpad despite the laptop itself being thinner. And, like all macOS-outfitted devices, it ships with Pages, iMovie and Garageband pre-installed at no extra cost.

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

Best laptops for students

10. 13-inch MacBook Air

The OG of all-day battery life

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 has yet to adopt Apple's Retina display standard (and may never at this rate), you can take solace in that, with the 13-inch MacBook Air, Apple promises a 12-hour battery life paired with a dual-core Broadwell processor and now starts with a competent 8GB of RAM.

So if you’re skeptical 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) ways to get that backlit Apple logo on the back of your laptop.

Read the full review: MacBook Air 13-inch

Gabe Carey has also contributed to this article