If you're a student, you want one of the best college laptops. But with so many choices at so many different prices, it can be homework in itself to find out the very best laptops.
There are plenty of upcoming laptops that could soon find their way onto this list. Those include the upcoming Dell XPS 13 (2020) and the Samsung Galaxy Chromebook, both of which were unveiled at CES 2020.
The best overall laptop
CPU: Intel Core i5/Core i7 | GPU: Intel UHD Graphics 620/Nvidia GeForce MX250 | RAM: 8GB/16GB | Storage: 256GB/512GB/1TB | Display: 13.3-inch, 1080p or 4K | Size: 12.1 x 8.3 x 0.6 inches | Weight: 2.8 pounds
The best laptop for students is now better than ever. Refreshed with a new design, powerful speakers and useful security features, the new HP Envy 13 is the best sub-$1,000 laptop for students or anyone who needs a portable machine with loads of power and long battery life (11+ hours on the FHD model).
New to the 2019 version is a fingerprint sensor and a webcam kill switch that shuts power to the camera so you don't have to worry about people snooping on you. Combine those features with a sleek chassis, bright 4K or 1080p display and plenty of performance from 8th Gen Core i5 and Core i7 CPUs, and it's easy to see why the Envy 13 is the best college laptop for students.
See our full HP Envy 13 review.
The best 2-in-1 laptop
CPU: Core i5/Core i7 | GPU: Intel Iris Plus | RAM: 8GB/16GB | Storage: 256GB/512GB/1TB | Display: 13.3-inch, 1080p or 4K | Size: 12.1 x 7.7 x 0.7 inches | Weight: 2.7 pounds
The Spectre x360 13 is the best 2-in-1 laptop ever and one of the best college laptops for students with about $1,000 to spare. Updated with a 10th Gen CPU and a more modern design, the Spectre x360 13 is improved in almost every way over its excellent predecessor.
Highlights of this laptop include its stunning design, a bright 1080p display, epic 13+ hour battery life and fast overall performance. You also get a webcam kill switch for shutting out snooping creeps, and a super comfortable keyboard.
Another excellent 2-in-1 consumer laptop
CPU: Up to Intel Core i7-1065G7 | GPU: Intel Iris Plus | RAM: Up to 16GB | Storage: Up to 2TB | Display: 14-inch, 1080p or 4K | Size: 12.6 x 8.5 x 0.6 inches | Weight: 3.1 pounds
With the Yoga C940, Lenovo took a proven formula and refined it. Subtle design improvements, longer battery life (up to 11:46) and refreshed 10th Gen Intel processors make the Yoga C940 a worthy successor to last year's excellent Yoga C930.
As you'd expect from a Yoga-series laptop, the C940 has a premium, ultra-portable chassis and a unique hinge that doubles as a soundbar speaker. As a 2-in-1, that hinge can rotate 360-degrees to convert the Yoga C940 into a proper tablet. When it comes to viewing content, the Yoga C940's 1080p and 4K displays are crisp, vibrant and bright -- just beware, the UHD display drains the battery.
For all the basics it gets right, my favorite things about the Yoga C940 are its extra features. Those include a webcam cover (no more need to buy tape), a slot for the included stylus and a fingerprint sensor.
See our Lenovo Yoga C940 (14-inch) review.
The best laptop under $1,000
CPU: Intel Core i5 | GPU: Intel UHD 620/GeForce MX150 | RAM: 8GB | Storage: 256GB | Display: 13.3-inch, 1080p | Size: 11.9 x 7.4 x 0.7 inches | Weight: 2.7 pounds
The Asus ZenBook UX333FA is a gorgeous, premium laptop that offers fast performance at a reasonable price. For just $849, you get an Intel Core i5-8265U CPU, 8GB of RAM, 256GB SSD and integrated UHD 620 graphics -- only the Envy 13 can compete with this value.
But perhaps the best reason to buy the ZenBook UX333FA is for its outstanding 11+ hours of battery life. Combine that exceptional endurance with a sleek aluminum chassis and it's easy to see why the ZenBook is one of the best college laptops for students.
See our full Asus ZenBook UX333FA review.
The best for science students
CPU: Intel Core i3/Core i5/Core i7 (10th Gen) | GPU: Intel UHD | RAM: 4GB/8GB/16GB | Storage: 256GB/512GB/1TB/2TB | Display: 13.3-inch, 1080p or 4K | Size: 11.9 x 7.8 x 0.5 inches | Weight: 2.7 pounds
The best portable laptop overall, the Late 2019 XPS 13 is identical to the previous model but now packs 10th Gen processors. Those chips, especially the six-core Core i7 CPU, offers a significant boost in performance over 8th Gen processors. There are so many reasons why the XPS 13 is a great laptop for college students, but price could be a problem for some.
If you can spend on one, the 4K model we tested has a gorgeous 13.3-inch InfinityEdge display -- with practically no bezels -- and now the 'nosecam' webcam is no longer, as Dell's engineers managed to fit it in the notebook's top bezel, which is still super-thin. If you want long battery life, opt for the 1080p model as the 4K version lasted just under 8 hours on a charge, a decent if below-average result.
See our full Dell XPS 13 (Late 2019) Review
The best Apple laptop
CPU: Intel Core i5 (Y-series) | GPU: Intel UHD Graphics 617 | RAM: 8GB/16GB | Storage: 128GB/256GB/512GB/1TB | Display: 13.3-inch, 2560 x 1600-pixel | Size: 12 x 8.4 x 0.6 inches | Weight: 2.8 pounds
The latest MacBook Air is only a minor update over its refreshed predecessor but it's still the best Apple laptop for college students. The new 13.3-inch system is $100 cheaper than last year's model and the display now features Apple's True Tone technology.
Along with its sharp, 2560 x 1600-pixel display, the MacBook Air has powerful speakers and a thin, light and completely recycled aluminum chassis.
See our full MacBook Air review.
The best laptop under $500
CPU: Intel Core i3-8145U | GPU: Intel HD 620 | RAM: 4GB | Storage: 128GB | Display: 15.6-inch, 1080p | Size: 14.3 x 9.9 x 0.7 inches | Weight: 3.8 pounds
Acer's Aspire 5 is the ultimate budget laptop. For under $400 you get a sleek design, a bright 1080p display and fast performance. Best of all, the Aspire 5 lasts 8 hours and 51 minutes on a charge, which means you shouldn't have problems bringing it to class or work without a charger.
The specs you get for the price are really second-to-none, from the large 15.6-inch display to 128GB of speedy SSD storage. And with an aluminum design that weighs 3.8 pounds, the Aspire 5 is both premium and relatively portable.
See our full Acer Aspire 5 review.
Best laptop for business students
CPU: Intel Core i5/Core i7 | GPU: Intel UHD 620 | RAM: 8GB/16GB | Storage: 256GB/512GB/1TB | Display: 14-inch, 1080p or 2560 x 1440-pixel or 4K | Size: 12.7 x 8.5 x 0.6 inches | Weight: 2.5 pounds
Whether you're an entrepreneur or aspiring CEO of a Fortune 500 company, the X1 Carbon will let you live in luxury. The 14-inch ThinkPad X1 Carbon is ready for the boardroom with a vibrant 1080p or 2K display (with an optional HDR option), an incredibly slim body and one of the best keyboards you can get on any laptop. The 8th Gen Intel Core CPU is powerful and it lasts over 11 hours on a charge.
See our full Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon (7th Gen) review.
The best Chromebook
CPU: Intel Core m3-8100Y | GPU: Intel HD 615 | RAM: 4GB | Storage: 64GB | Display: 14-inch, 1080p | Size: 12.6 x 8 x 0.6 inches | Weight: 3.1 pounds
Asus returns to the top of our Best Chromebooks page with the $569Chromebook Flip C434, a 14-inch convertible that would make for an excellent college laptop thanks to its slim profile and relatively affordable price. The first thing you'll notice about this laptop is the razor-thin bezels, which draw your eyes toward a vivid 1080p display while keeping the chassis compact.
At just 0.6 inches thick, you won't have any problems moving the Flip C434 around campus from one class to the next. You can also save space in your backpack by leaving the charger in your dorm because the Flip C434 can last a full class schedule on a charge.
See our full Asus Chromebook Flip C434 review.
The best laptop for casual gamers
CPU: Intel Core i7 | GPU: GeForce GTX 1060 | RAM: 16GB | Storage: 256GB | Display: 15.6-inch, 1080p | Size: 14.2 x 10.5 x 1.1 inches | Weight: 5.3 pounds
Need to blow off some steam after an impossibly difficult exam? Go to your dorm room and crank on the Lenovo Legion Y7000. This 15.6-inch laptop packs enough GPU performance to play most modern games at medium settings, and it does so in a relatively small chassis.
The Legion Y7000 even offers solid battery life to go along with a comfortable keyboard. Just make sure to buy headphones so you don't have to listen to its poor speakers.
See our full Lenovo Legion Y7000 review.
The best business 2-in-1
CPU: Intel Core i7 | GPU: Intel UHD 620 | RAM: 16GB | Storage: 1TB | Display: 14-inch, 1080p | Size: 12 x 8.5 x 0.6 inches | Weight: 3 pounds
Lenovo took a chance with the ThinkPad X1 Yoga, the first metal ThinkPad, and it paid off. While we still love the signature matte-black carbon-fiber found on most ThinkPads, the aluminum and magnesium ThinkPad X1 Yoga is a gorgeous change of pace.
Not only does it have a slim design, but this convertible 2-in-1 flaunts a bright display and offers a best-in-class keyboard and long battery life. You also get loads of extra goodies, like a built-in stylus slot and webcam cover.
See our full Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga (4th Gen, 2019) review.
Best laptop for film and animation students
CPU: Intel Core i7/Core i9 | GPU: Radeon Pro 5300M/5500M | RAM: 16GB/32GB/64GB | Storage: 512GB/1TB/2TB/4TB/8TB | Display: 16-inch, 2072 x 1920 | Size: 14.1 x 9.7 x 0.6 inches | Weight: 4.3 pounds
The 16-inch MacBook Pro is just your type if you’ve been waiting for Apple to make a better keyboard. The Magic Keyboard on this premium laptop ditches the Butterfly mechanism in favor of a scissor switch, and the result is a much more comfortable typing experience. You also get a bright and sharp 16-inch display with slimmer bezels, powerful performance from an available Core i9 CPU and robust AMD Radeon 5300M or 5500M graphics.
You also get up to 64GB of RAM and 8TB of storage if you really want to splurge. The 11 hours of battery life is another plus on this laptop, dwarfing the runtimes of its competitors. The 16-inch MacBook Pro is pricey, and Apple still doesn’t include full-size USB ports, but overall this is a very formidable workstation for creative pros.
See our full Apple MacBook Pro (16-inch, 2019) review.
Best laptop for medical students
CPU: Intel Core i5/Core i7/Core i9 | GPU: Intel UHD 630/Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 | RAM: 8GB/16GB/32GB | Storage: 256GB/512GB/1TB | Display: 15.6-inch, 1080p or 4K | Size: 14.1 x 9.3 x 0.7 inches | Weight: 4.5 pounds
The ideal laptop for a medical student is one with a large, sharp display and a powerful processor for taking notes and running complex programs in the lab. More importantly, it should have long battery life, so the laptop doesn't power down while med students are doing their rounds. With 9th Gen Core CPUs and GeForce GTX 1650 graphics, the new 2019 XPS 15 offers an excellent combination of performance and endurance.
The biggest improvement to the 2019 model is the new webcam location, which will make it so that med students can video call patients without using an external camera. Med students will also appreciate the XPS 15's slim and relatively lightweight design when they're hauling a bag around from classes to clinics.
See our full Dell XPS 15 review.
How to choose the best college laptop for you
There are a number of factors students should consider before buying a laptop for college.
The first is portability, which goes hand-in-hand with screen size. 13-inch laptops are popular among college students because they offer a good balance between screen real estate and portability. The Dell XPS 13 is a great example. It weighs around 2 pounds and is just 0.5 inches thick, yet you get a 13.3-inch edge-to-edge display. We're also seeing more and more 14-inch laptops, like the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon, which is remarkably portable for the screen size.
Battery life is another key component of any good college laptop. If you plan to take the notebook to class or the library, don't count on there being an outlet! Consider a laptop that gets at least 9 hours of battery life, which should be enough to get you through a couple of classes with enough juice for studies.
When it comes to specs, we recommend buying a laptop with an Intel U-series or H-series Core i5 CPU, at least 8GB of RAM (16GB is great) and a minimum of 256GB of storage. AMD is coming in hot with its 4000-series chips, so keep an eye out for those. You might notice that the new MacBook Air 2020 doesn't fit those requirements (it has a low-power Y-series CPU) but it's still a good option if you prefer macOS and don't want to spend a fortune. Speaking of which, Chromebooks like the Pixelbook Go offer excellent value for college students.
Other things that will help you punch up a successful report or research complex topics include a comfy keyboard and sensitive touchpad. And when it's time to relax, be sure to get a laptop with a vivid and bright display (like any of those listed here).
How we test laptops
We put each laptop through extensive benchmark testing — both synthetic and real-world — before they end up in the hands of our reviewers. We evaluate each aspect of the laptop, including its performance, battery life, display, speakers and heat management.
In our benchmark testing, we use a Klein K10 colorimeter to detect the brightness and sRGB color gamut of the laptop's display. For performance testing, we run the laptop through a gauntlet of benchmarks, including Geekbench 4.3 and 5.0 and 3DMark professional graphics tests.
To determine real-world performance, we task the laptop to convert a 4K video to 1080p resolution and to duplicate a 4.97GB multimedia file. Our real-world graphics test is the Dirt 3 benchmark with medium settings at 1080p resolution.
We also run heat tests by playing a 15-minute full-screen video and measuring temperatures in different areas of the laptop. Last but not least, our battery test consists of continuous web surfing over Wi-Fi at 150 nits of brightness. For MacBooks and premium Windows 10 laptops, a runtime of over 9 hours is considered a good result whereas gaming laptops and workstations that can stay powered for longer than 5 hours deserve praise.
These tests are complemented with extensive hands-on testing from our reviewers who critique everything from the laptop's materials to the feel of its touchpad.