Three best laptops for college students

Peter McPherson

It’ s always a good idea to purchase an external hard drive for backing up large files.

Choosing the laptop that will last you through four years or more of college is no easy decision. Any college student needs a reliable laptop that meets their needs, is easy to carry, and has a dependable battery.

Not all laptops have the same capabilities or are suited for the same purposes. There's also the question of operating system, which can be crucial if you need to work with specific programs. If you're always on the go, consider laptops with a small and lightweight form factor and long battery life. A fast processor and decent RAM are excellent to have, but they usually come with a higher price tag. If you just need a machine for writing papers and web browsing, you can save money by avoiding more powerful machines.

This shopping guide has some tips and recommendations to help you narrow your search for the right laptop for college.

Considerations when choosing laptops for college students

The main considerations when searching for a laptop for college are the operating system, processing power, battery life, and size and weight.

Operating system

Microsoft Windows is the most common choice and can be found on a range of laptops.

OS X is specific to Apple laptops, which tend to be more expensive. OS X is fairly reliable and a popular option among music and art students.

Chrome OS is more of a browser than an operating system, but it's a good option for students who just need a computer for writing papers and web browsing.

Linux comes in a few varieties because it's an open-source operating system. Though it's simple to use, it can require more programming know-how.

Processing power

The CPU determines the overall speed of your computer, with the Intel i7 being the best available. Similarly, more RAM storage allows you to multitask without slowing down your computer.


If battery life is important to you, look for models that boast ten or more hours of continuous use.

Size and weight

For a computer that you can bring anywhere, look for designs that are compact and lightweight. Anything under three pounds should be fairly easy to slip in a backpack.

Laptop features

Security: There's a risk of theft on any college campus, so a fingerprint scanner is good to have for added security.

Screen: A touchscreen is also useful, particularly in laptops that can also be used as a tablet. However, this is an added feature that you won't want to pay for if you don't absolutely need it.

Laptop prices: Laptops that cost between $199 and $499 tend to offer less processing power and slower speed than more expensive models, and while they can be serviceable, there's a greater risk of sluggishness or other issues. For between $500 and $999, you'll find computers that meet the needs of most and offer competitive features and speeds. Laptops that cost from $1,000 to $1,500 pack the most power and the latest processors for a range of tasks. One of these will last you for years.


Q. How important is storage space?

A. That depends on what you're using your laptop for. If you're just writing papers, 16GB will suffice. If you need to store large images and movies, you'll need a bigger hard drive.

Q. What programs come on laptops right out of the box?

A. That depends on the brand and operating system. Microsoft Office is not usually included, though some laptops might come with a discount for a subscription.

Laptops for college students we recommend

Best of the best: Asus VivoBook

Our take: A laptop with a fast processor and comfortable design.

What we like: If you're looking for a computer with a great processor and easy-to-use design, this is an excellent option. The ergonomic keyboard allows for hours of comfortable typing.

What we dislike: Can take some time to start up.

Best bang for your buck: Dell Inspiron 15 5000

Our take: If you're looking for a low-priced yet powerful laptop, this is a great option.

What we like: Despite its small size, this is a mighty laptop comparable to more expensive models. Only 2.6 pounds, and has touchscreen capability.

What we dislike: Resolution is limited at 1920 x 1080p.

Choice 3: Lenovo Flex 5

Our take: Touchscreen laptop with a number of uses and capabilities.

What we like: Versatile touchscreen laptop with the ability to be used as a tablet or propped upright for easy viewing. Impressive ten-hour battery life. Fingerprint reader for added security.

What we dislike: At 4.4 pounds, it's a bit heavy for carrying all day.

Peter McPherson is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.

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