The 5 best laptops for college students in 2018

Best laptops for students

 As we wait for the Surface Laptop 2, there are still plenty of fantastic laptops for college students to decorate their dorms with. The best laptops for students are elegantly designed machines that can handle anything the semester throws at them. On top of that, everything we’ve included on this list that can qualify, for the headline at the top of this list, as affordable enough for even the most frugal of students to justify.

However, as cash-strapped as students are, the best laptops for students don’t usually feature high-end AMD Ryzen or Coffee Lake CPUs and Vega graphics, even if things have changed since the days of tiny netbooks with noisy fans and slow-as-molasses hard drives. For college students, most of the laptops you’ll find in 2018 are slim, powerful and quiet. There have been plenty of advances in recent years making laptops a seamless component of your learning experience rather than distracting you from it.

These next few years are going to be a hassle for certain, but it’s worth the effort if you want a degree to prove that you’re worth the income you’re going to make. To alleviate some of the frustration, below we’ve listed the best laptops for students that you can buy for yourself or a loved one today. No longer will you have to limit yourself to an old clunker suffering from poor performance and a virtually nonexistent battery life.

best laptops for students

1. Dell XPS 13

Powerful, functional, aesthetically pleasing

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

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

There’s a reason the Dell XPS 13 is our best laptops for college students, best Ultrabook and best laptop overall. It’s all about options. So, even if your rigorous academic lifestyle doesn’t necessitate the high pixel density of a quad HD display, the XPS 13 gives you the freedom to opt for a lower-resolution 1080p screen as an alternative. The same goes for the processor, of which you can select between an i3, i5 and i7. To top it all off, the latest Dell XPS 13 can be dressed in Rose Gold, shielded by a stylish aluminum chassis that will make even Apple fans jealous.

Read the full review: Dell XPS 13 review

2. Microsoft Surface Laptop

Microsoft’s most direct shot at the MacBook yet

CPU: 7th generation Intel Core i3 – i7 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 620 - 640 | RAM: 4GB – 16GB | Screen: 13.5-inch PixelSense Display (2256 x 1504) | Storage: 128GB – 512GB SSD

Gorgeous design
Well built
Great screen
Very good performance
Windows 10 S is limited
No USB-C
Lack of other ports
Not upgradable

 

 Microsoft is gaining a reputation for making solid, attractive and overall desirable premium products to showcase its Windows software, and the Surface Laptop continues in this vein. The thin and light design makes it easy to carry around, while the careful component considerations, and high-quality build materials, make it a joy to use.

This is obviously a device that Microsoft’s designers and engineers have spent a lot of time working on, and for the most part it has paid off handsomely. This is one of the best-looking Windows devices on the market today, and, thanks to some nifty specs that power the carefully controlled Windows 10 S operating system, it's one of the smoothest Windows 10 experiences too.

Read the full review: Microsoft Surface Laptop

Microsoft Surface Pro 4

3. 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

4. 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)

5. 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