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

Best laptops for students
The best notebooks for all kinds of students at any budget

When you’re a college student, prices can start to pile up – tuition, books, ramen. Fortunately, the best laptops for college students are here to save you some cash. Not only will these budget-minded machines have gorgeous style and respectable performance, but they’ll do it while saving money – so even the most frugal college students can get in on the action.

We know it can be difficult to save up for a new laptop when studying, so the top laptops for college students don’t need the best processors and graphics – they’ll feature what they need to get the job done – no frills attached. They’re not limited to Windows 10, either – the best Chromebooks are some of the best laptops for college students because they’ll let you get all your work done while saving a ton of money.   

The next few years will 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 went ahead and listed the best laptops for college students so that you can find out for yourself which laptop is right for you. You won’t have to limit yourself to an old clunker anymore.

Luckily, you’ll be able to save even more cash on the best laptops for college students once Black Friday and Cyber Monday roll around. We’re expecting a ton of Black Friday laptop deals from manufacturers like Dell and Apple, along with the wide Black Friday sales that retailers like Amazon and Walmart hold annually. So, be sure to stay tuned to TechRadar for all your holiday shopping needs. 

1. Huawei Matebook X Pro

Bringing luxury to learning

CPU: 8th-generation Intel Core i7-8550U | Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics 620, Nvidia GeForce MX150 | RAM: 16GB | Screen: 13.9-inch 3K (3,000 x 2,000) LED with touch panel | Storage: 512GB SSD

Gorgeous design 
Long battery life 
No SD card slot 

Once in a while we’ll get our hands on a laptop that completely revolutionizes everything – the Huawei Matebook X Pro is one such laptop. Not only does it feature modern, powerful components like an 8th-generation Kaby Lake R processor and 16GB of RAM, it’s also beautiful – incorporating all the latest trends in Ultrabook design. What’s more impressive, it manages to do all this while being a much more affordable than the competition. This is what makes it one of the best laptops for students – you’re not going to get a more powerful laptop for less cash than the Matebook X Pro. 

Read the full review: Huawei Matebook X Pro 

  • 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 MacBook Pro. 

2. 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

The Dell XPS 13 might be the best laptop for college students – and we’re not just saying that. For the last few years, we’ve watched in awe as Dell has continued to top its best Ultrabook every single year. Thin, light and powerful enough to handle everything college students might throw at it – the Dell XPS 13 is back with a vengeance. It might be expensive, but you’re getting the best laptop a college student could ever want. 

Read the full review: Dell XPS 13

3. Surface Laptop 2

Look beyond the surface

CPU: 8th-gen Intel Core i5-i7 | Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics 620 | RAM: 8GB – 16GB | Screen: 13.5-inch, 2256 x 1504 PixelSense touch display | Storage: 128GB – 1TB SSD

Huge performance boost
No Windows 10 S
Still no Thunderbolt 3

The original Surface Laptop was already one of the best laptops for college students, though it was unfortunately held back by slow performance, a lack of modern ports, and it was stuck with Windows 10 S. With the Surface Laptop 2, however, everything has improved – well, except for the ports. You’re getting quad-core Kaby Lake Refresh processors, full-fat Windows 10 and a sleek new black color option that looks as good as it feels. We wish it had even a single USB-C port, but that doesn’t change the fact that you’ll be able to get all your school work done in style with the Surface Laptop 2.

Read the full review: Surface Laptop 2

4. Microsoft Surface Go

A Surface for everyone

CPU: Intel Pentium Gold 4415Y | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 615 | RAM: 4GB – 8GB | Screen: 10-inch, 1,800 x 1,200 (217 ppi; 3:2 aspect ratio) PixelSense touch display | Storage: 64GB eMMC – 128GB SSD

Affordable 
Fantastic build quality 
Pentium CPU 

From our point of view, the best laptop for college students will marry price and performance in a compelling way, without looking like a relic from some bygone age. The Microsoft Surface Go, then, isn’t just one of the best Windows tablets, but it’s one of the best laptops for college students, period. Don’t be fooled by the low-power processor, either – Microsoft has engineered this 2-in-1 to be able to keep up with all of your schoolwork without a care. Trust us, you can’t do much better than the Surface Go, especially if you’re on a budget.

Read the full review: Microsoft Surface Go 

5. Dell XPS 15

More of what we love

CPU: 8th-generation Intel Core i5-i9 | Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics 630 - Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 Ti | RAM: 8GB - 32GB | Screen: 15.6-inch FHD (1,920 x 1,080) - 4K UHD (3,840 x 2,160) LED with optional touch panel | Storage: 1TB 5,400RPM HDD - 1TB PCIe SSD

Plenty of horsepower  
Affordable 
More of the same 

Dell’s XPS lineup has been among the best laptops for college students for years now, and the new XPS 15 is no different. Taking the approach of ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’, not much has changed year over year – but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. What you’re getting here is a reliable Ultrabook with enough horsepower to carry you through all of your coursework without costing an arm and a leg. While the entry level is perfectly fine for most people, you can configure this thing with up to a Core i9 CPU and 32GB of RAM, transforming the Dell XPS 15 into a killer media editing workstation. We just wish Dell would move that webcam.

Read the full review: Dell XPS 15 

6. 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 shouldn’t be surprising that the Samsung Notebook 9 has a beautiful monitor – it is Samsung, after all. But, even ignoring that screen, this laptop just radiates quality, from its useful fingerprint scanner, it’s portable design to its extremely fast 8th-generation Intel Core i7 CPU. Sure, the keyboard is a little mushy, and you’re sure to fill up that tiny SSD pretty quickly, but even those flaws are serviceable. And, when you consider the insane battery life, this is one of the best laptops for college students today. Period. 

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

7. Microsoft Surface Pro 6

Tablet? Laptop? Both.

CPU: 8th generation Intel Core i5 – i7 | Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics 620 | RAM: 4GB – 16GB | Screen: 12.3-inch, 2,736 x 1,824 PixelSense display | Storage: 128GB – 1TB SSD

Quad-core processors
Long battery life
Still no USB-C

The Microsoft Surface Pro lineup has always been among the best laptops for college students – beautiful touch screens, incredible portability and long battery life. The Surface Pro 6, while not necessarily bringing anything new to the table, continues this tradition. What you’re getting here is a speedy Windows 10 tablet that can effortlessly turn into a laptop by use of the Surface Type Cover. You can get your work done and then effortlessly transition into break mode. The Surface Pro 6 is the best Surface yet, if only just barely.

Read the full review: Surface Pro 6

8. Lenovo Flex 6 14

A prodigious value for college students

CPU: Intel Pentium 4415U - Intel Core i5-8250U | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 620 | RAM: 8GB DDR4 | Screen: 14-inch FHD (1,920 x 1,080) IPS; multi-touch; anti-glare | Storage: Up to 256GB SSD

Powerful enough for daily tasks 
Affordable 
Lower-end models not worth it 

College, with all the textbooks and the tuition costs, can get extremely expensive. That’s why the best laptops for college students are going to offer respectable performance at a decent price – that’s where the Lenovo Flex 14 comes in. At under a four-digit price, you’re getting an Ultrabook that can handle anything the semester throws at you – and it’ll look good while you’re doing it, with a bright touchscreen and 2-in-1 capabilities. You’re not going to find a much better laptop at a lower price, trust us.

Read the full review: Lenovo Flex 6 14 

9. MacBook Air (2018)

The most popular Mac, reborn

CPU: 8th-generation dual-core Intel Core i5 | Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics 617 | Screen: 13.3-inch, 2,560 x 1,600 Retina display (backlit LED, IPS) | Storage: 256GB-1.5TB SSD

 Thinner and lighter 
 Most affordable Mac 
 Dual-core processing 

We were left waiting for Apple to renew the MacBook Air for years, as it languished with a 5th-generation Intel Core processor and an out of date, low-resolution display. Thankfully, those days are over. Apple has ushered the MacBook Air into the modern age, with 8th-generation fanless processors, a thinner and lighter design, and perhaps most importantly – a Retina display. No more do you have to compromise on modern features if you want an “affordable Mac”, and that makes the MacBook Air one of the best laptops for college students.

Read the full review: MacBook Air 

10. MacBook Pro 15-inch (2018)

Thin, powerful, elegant

CPU: 8th generation Intel Core i7 – i9 | Graphics: AMD Radeon Pro 555X – 560X, Intel UHD Graphics 630 | RAM: 16GB – 32GB | Screen: 15.4-inch, 2,880 x 1,800 Retina display | Storage: 512GB – 4TB SSD

Gorgeous design 
Stellar performance 
Expensive 

If money isn’t an issue, and you love macOS, the new MacBook Pro is the most powerful MacBook you can buy today. With its impressive hexa-core processors, and up to 32GB of RAM, this Cupertino workstation will get you through whatever your class workload happens to be – even if you need to do some video and photo editing. It also includes an improved Butterfly keyboard that will not only be less distracting to the students around you, but will be less prone to failure if some dust comes within 10 feet.

Read the full review: MacBook Pro 15-inch (2018) 

  • Bill Thomas and Gabe Carey have also contributed to this article