The best laptops for college students 2018: all the best options for school work

Best laptops for students

The new school year is rapidly approaching, so if you want to beat the crowds, right now is the perfect time to look at the best laptops for college students. There are still a wide range of the best laptops that college students can decorate their dorms with, even if we’re still waiting on the Surface Laptop 2. The best laptops will students will sport elegant designs and beefy components, while still maintaining a modest price tags that even the most frugal college students can enjoy.

Because it can be hard to get cash when you’re a college student, the best laptops for students won’t necessarily have the latest Coffee Lake processors and Nvidia graphics – they’ll feature only what they need to get the job done, no frills attached. And, the best laptops for college students aren’t limited to Windows 10, either. You should keep your eye open for the best Chromebooks, you’d be surprised how much work you can get done with them. 

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

Gorgeous new design
Impressive performance
Steeper starting price
White option is pricier

It’s not controversial to claim that the XPS 13 is the best laptop for college students. For the last few years, we’ve watched in awe as Dell has continued to top its best Ultrabook again and again. Thin, light and powerful enough to handle anything college students may throw at it – the Dell XPS 13 is back, albeit at a higher starting price than before. However, that higher price means you get an 8th-generation Intel Core i5 processor at the very least, paired with a gorgeous, bezel-less InfinityEdge display on top of an Alpine White woven into Rose Gold color scheme. Yeah, it may be expensive – but you’re getting the best laptop a college student could ask for. 

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

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 dreamed to be since their inception. It revolves around the S-Pen, Samsung’s own proprietary stylus with 4,096 levels of pressure sensitivity (the same as Microsoft's fantastic Surface Pen), a nifty little accessory that conveniently doesn’t require any charging. Even though 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 hybrid’s few setbacks.  

Read the full review: Samsung Notebook 9 Pro

  • This product is only available in the US as of this writing. Australian and UK 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

In many ways, the Asus Chromebook Flip C302 is an apology for all the high-end chromebooks that came before. And, even though the Pixelbook looms in the background with its thousand dollar price tag and high-end specs, the Asus Chromebook Flip is the best Chromebook for the money. The Asus Chromebook Flip cuts the Pixelbook’s price in half while retaining the 360-degree hinge that basically makes it a 2-in-1 laptop, but with Android apps. And, when it comes to build quality, you can experience style that rivals the MacBook Pro, without spending the cash for a MacBook Pro. 

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

 Fantastic Performance 
 Great battery life 
 Not enough storage 

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) 

  • This product is only available in the US at the time of this writing. Australian and UK readers: check out a fine alternative in the Dell XPS 13  

Microsoft Surface Pro 4

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

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

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

 Work friendly keyboard 
 Lots of ports and inputs 
 Flimsy construction 

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 

  • 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 Dell Inspiron 15 7000 Gaming  

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

Excellent keyboard
Long battery life
Fuzzy 480p webcam
Stylus not included

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

Unbelievable battery life
Attractive, fanless design
Trackpad feels clunky
Easy to weigh down with tabs

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

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

Affordable Max-Q integration
Flashy looks
Mediocre speakers

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

Stronger processor
Faster RAM
Subpar battery life
Keyboard learning curve

The 2017 MacBook Pro doesn’t distinguish itself much from its predecessor, but it is a testament to just how much you can improve something by simply refreshing the internal components and calling it a day. It may still be equipped with 7th-generation Intel Kaby Lake processors, but the 2017 MacBook Pro is still the fastest Mac around. And, if you were waiting until WWDC 2018 to make the plunge, don’t worry, it looks like the 2017 MacBook Pro is here to stay for just a bit longer. 

Read the full review: Apple MacBook Pro (13-inch, Mid-2017)

Watch the video below for the top 7 things to consider when buying a laptop. 

Gabe Carey and Bill Thomas have also contributed to this article