While we patiently await the Surface Laptop 2, there are still plenty of amazing laptops for college students to decorate their dorms with. The best laptops for college students are going to be elegantly designed, powerful enough to handle anything in a semester and is is affordable enough for even the most frugal students to justify.
Money can be hard to come by for college students, so the best laptops for student’s don’t feature the latest AMD Ryzen or Coffee Lake processors and Nvidia graphics. Still, a lot has changed in the last few years – tiny netbooks with frustrating performance and noisy fans are in the past where they belong. Instead, the best laptops for college students in 2018 are slim, powerful and quiet. There’s been a deluge of advances in recent years that have made the best laptops for students a seamless component of your learning – rather than distracting you from it.
And, now that Windows 10 allows you to toggle off Windows 10 S, and a new Windows 10 Lean mode is on the way . The best laptops for students will be flexible enough to do whatever you need them to do.
The next few years are going to be stressful, but the right tool is worth the expense if it’ll help you earn that degree. To alleviate some of the frustration, we’ve listed the best laptops for college students below so that you can buy one for yourself or a loved one. You won’t have to limit to yourself to an old clunker any more.
1. Dell XPS 13
Get back to class with the best-in-class
CPU: 8th-generation Intel Core i5 – i7 | Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics 620 | RAM: 4GB – 16GB | Screen: 13.3-inch FHD (1,920 x 1,080; non-touch) – UHD (3,840 x 2,160; touchscreen) | Storage: 128GB – 1TB SSD
What’s the XPS 13 if not the best? For three years in the running, we’ve been unable to answer this question due to Dell’s stunning flagship Ultrabook, well, being the best. Thin, light and ready to rumble once again, the Dell XPS 13 is more powerful than ever, albeit at a higher starting cost than before. Then again, the slight bump in cost means you can expect an 8th-generation Intel Core i5 processor at the very least, paired with a gorgeous (and bezel-less) InfinityEdge anti-glare display as well as an Alpine White-woven-into-Rose Gold color option. It’s a bit more expensive than the traditional Platinum Silver version, but it’s worth it for the cred.
Read the full review: Dell XPS 13
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
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 and UK as of this writing. 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
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
4. Samsung Notebook 9 (2018)
We can think of 9 reasons to buy this laptop
CPU: 8th-generation Intel Core i7 | Graphics: Nvidia GeForce MX150 | RAM: 16GB DDR4 | Screen: 15-inch FHD LED | Storage: 256GB SSD
It should come as no surprise that the Samsung Notebook 9 has a gorgeous display, considering who made it. But, even beyond the screen, this laptop just breathes quality, from its useful fingerprint scanner, insane portability to its bleeding-edge, 8th-generation Intel Core i7 processor. Sure, its keyboard is a bit lackluster, and you’ll fill up the storage quickly but even those flaws are serviceable. Finally, thanks to its insane battery life, this is hands down one of the best laptops students can buy in 2018.
Read the full review: Samsung Notebook 9 (2018)
5. 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
As we wait for the Surface Pro 5, the 2017 Surface pro is still the most advanced Windows tablet on the market. Everything from its rounded edges to its refined accessories all but screams that it’s the next generation of the Redmond hardware lineage. There’s also the fact that the Surface Pro draws inspiration from all-in-one PCs in the way it can bend back 165 degrees. The only real compromise here is that only the i7 version of the Surface Pro can give Apple’s cheaper, entry-level iPad Pro a run for its money.
Read the full review: Microsoft Surface Pro
6. Acer Aspire E15
All work and a little play
CPU: 8th-generation Intel Core i5-8250U | Graphics: Nvidia GeForce MX150 | RAM: 8GB DDR4 | Screen: 15.6-inch FHD (1,920 x 1,080; non-touch) | Storage: 256GB SSD
While it might not win any beauty contests, the Acer Aspire e15 does one thing, and it does it well: work. If you need a laptop that you can carry with you between classes and get some work done, without needing to break open the piggy bank, this laptop will go a long way. Rocking one of the new 8th-generation Coffee Lake U-series CPUs, you’ll never have to worry about your laptop holding back your studying. Just don’t expect a chassis you can proudly display in the coffee shop.
Read the full review: Acer Aspire e15
7. Samsung Notebook 7 Spin
One step back, but not too shabby
CPU: 8th-generation Intel Core i5 | Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics 620 | RAM: 8GB | Screen: 13.3-inch full HD (1,920 x 1,080) LED with touch panel | Storage: 256GB SSD
While we still adore the Samsung Notebook 7 Spin, we have to admit that it’s not quite the same device it used to be. Instead, it’s a 13-inch convertible laptop that literally bends over backwards to suit your creative needs. And, while you won’t find an included stylus in sight, nor are discrete graphics present in this year’s model, the lengthy battery life and punchy processor nearly makes up for any concessions.
Read the full review: Samsung Notebook 7 Spin
- This product is only available in the US and UK at the time of this writing. Australian readers: check out a fine alternative in the Asus ZenBook Flip UX360.
8. Acer Chromebook 15
The 15-inch Chromebook that plays for keeps
CPU: Intel Pentium N4200 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 505 | RAM: 4GB | Screen: 15.6-inch FHD (1,920 x 1,080) multi-touch IPS display | Storage: 32GB eMMC
It’s not every day that you see a 15.6-inch Chromebook decked out with a full HD, 1080p touchscreen. However, it’s even less frequent that we get on our hands with a laptop that lasts this long under pressure. Surviving 16 hours and 47 minutes in our signature battery test, the Acer Chromebook 15 prioritizes having an excellent battery life over everything else. Although it’s performance is still satisfactory given its low-power Intel Pentium processor and flexible operating system, its long battery life and outstanding looks separate it from the pack.
Read the full review: Acer Chromebook 15
- This product is only available in the US at the time of this writing. UK and Australian readers: check out a fine alternative in the Asus Chromebook Flip
9. Dell Inspiron 15 7000 Gaming
All work and no play…
CPU: 7th generation Intel Core i5 – i7 | Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060; 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: 256GB SSD
Last year, Dell impressed us with its Inspiron 15 7000 Gaming, and the 2018 version is even better. Sure, it still packs the same 7th-generation CPU, but thanks to Nvidia Max-Q technology it features a more powerful GPU while being much thinner and lighter than the previous offering – plus it still maintains the budget price. This makes the Dell Inspiron 15 7000 Gaming the cheapest way to play great games, be productive at school and look good while doing it.
Read the full review: Dell Inspiron 15 7000 Gaming
10. Apple MacBook Pro (13-inch, Mid-2017)
The MacBook Pro of the future, right now
CPU: 7th generation Intel Core i5 – i7 | Graphics: Intel Iris Plus 640 – 650 | RAM: 8GB – 16GB | Screen: 13.3-inch, WQXGA (2,560 x 1,600) IPS | Storage: 256GB – 1TB SSD
The 2017 MacBook Pro doesn’t offer much in the way of distinguishing itself from its predecessor, but it is a testament to just how much you can improve something by simply swapping up internal components and calling it a day. Because it’s finally equipped with the newest generation of Intel processors and faster-than-ever PCIe 3.0 SSD storage, the MacBook Pro comes easily recommended, undeterred by its reluctance to bring back legacy ports like HDMI and standard USB. This is, through and through, a laptop built for the future.
Watch the video below for the top 7 things to consider when buying a laptop.
Gabe Carey has also contributed to this article