Best laptops for college students 2018: the best laptops for school work

Best laptops for students

If you’re a college student, you’re likely just used to getting hand-me-down everything – as you’re probably focused on spending your cash on books and tuition rather than spending it on any sort of luxury item. However, due to the trials and tribulations of student life, you’ll need a laptop that matches your budget. After all, students and laptops go together like professors and taking forever to grade papers. So, sit down, relax and take a look at the best laptops for students as ranked and reviewed by TechRadar.

Aside from making sure it meets your monetary qualifications, what makes one of the best laptops for students is a) reliability and b) making the best of pricing with a perfect convergence of hardware and software to get you through the painstaking stresses of the semester. Not every recommendation on our list houses the newest processor or cutting-edge graphics, as much of those are reserved for PC gamers.

When we constructed this list of the best laptops for students, we aimed to be as all-encompassing as possible – and we aimed to provide suggestions that are functional as well as stylish enough so that you don’t get any weird looks from your peers. Then again, if anyone judges you based on your laptop of choice, maybe they aren’t worth having around. Social hierarchies considered, below you’ll find the best laptops for students like yourself as of 2018, fully tested, reviewed and ready to go. 

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

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

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 next-generation Windows tablet we’ve been craving. From its rounded edges to its refined selection of accessories, there’s no denying it’s the next step in the Redmond hardware lineage. There’s also the fact that the Surface Pro draws inspiration from all-in-one PCs 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 Apple’s cheaper, entry level 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. 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. 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

7. 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

8. 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 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 Kaby Lake 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.

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

9. 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

Now that the MacBook Air is all but dead in the water in terms of innovation, there has to be something to replace it. The Asus ZenBook UX310UA is that spiritual successor you’ve been longing for. Surprising us with the an all-aluminum chassis that follows in the wake of the UX305 before it, this laptop comes stacked with a high quality display 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

10. 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

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

Gabe Carey has also contributed to this article