Best College Laptops 2019

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Every college student needs a laptop, but with so many choices at so many different prices, it can be homework in itself to find out which one to get. Start by reviewing our buying guide then head to our recommendations for the best college laptop and check with your specific school to make sure its configuration meets the minimum requirements. 

Whichever laptop you get, you'll also want to pick up a few extras, such as a comfortable mouse, a well-appointed backpack and perhaps a solid all-in-one printer. And don't forget to preload some antivirus software before you head to campus. If you're going to use a multi-monitor setup in your dorm room, try a good docking station, either over USB or Thunderbolt 3. If you prefer to take notes with a pen or by hand, then head over to our best 2-in-1 laptops page for recommended machines that can convert into a tablet. And if you're taking any film or media classes, you might want to check out our best video editing laptops page. Make sure it has long battery life as well. If you're on a budget, there are some great sub-$500 laptops available as well.

If you use macOS, check out Apple's new MacBook Air, which we put up against Microsoft's Surface Pro 6 in an epic face-off.  If you prefer a tablet, the newly unveiled 10.2 iPad seems like a nice update. Although it faces stiff competition from Microsoft's new Surface Pro 7 and Surface Pro X. Or if you're on team Android, the excellent Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 we just reviewed is definitely worth your consideration. But none of those top HP's latest Envy 13, which earned its spot as our favorite laptop for college students. If you want a 2-in-1, the Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 is almost the perfect convertible, and it had to be to dethrone the HP Spectre x360 13

Here are the best college laptops for every type of student.

Best Overall: HP Envy 13 (2019)

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 we like the Envy 13 so much. 

Pros: Attractive, portable chassis; Fast performance; Bright display; 11+ hours of battery life (FHD model); Crisp speakers

Cons: Poor battery life (on 4K model); No Thunderbolt 3 

Key Specs — 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

Best Apple Laptop: MacBook Air (2019)

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. 

Pros: Crisp Retina display; Elegant gold chassis; Thin and lightweight chassis; Strong speakers
Cons: Underwhelming performance; Only offers USB-C ports; Shallow keyboard

Key Specs — 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

Best Under $1,000: Asus ZenBook UX333FA

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. 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 laptops for students. 

Pros: Excellent battery life; Sleek aluminum design; Fast performance

Cons: Dim display; Cramped keyboard

Key Specs — 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

Best Under $400: Acer Aspire 5

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. 

 

Pros: Strong performance; Long battery life; Bright 1080p display; Affordable

Cons: Middling graphics; Questionable build quality

 

Key Specs — 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

Best 2-in-1: Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 (2019)

 The Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 had to be practically perfect to dethrone HP's excellent Spectre x360 13 --- and it is. Dell's newest flagship 2-in-1 packs strong performance thanks to its 10th Gen Intel Ice Lake processors. Battery life, at nearly 11 hours, is also fantastic. On top of that, you get a unique 13.4-inch (16:10 aspect ratio) display that is bright and vivid and a slim, premium chassis. 

Pros: Slim, premium design; Strong performance; Bright, vivid 13.4-inch display; Long battery life
Cons: Few ports; Shallow keyboard

Key Specs — CPU: Intel Core i3/Core i5/Core i7 | GPU: Intel Iris Plus | RAM: 8GB/16GB/32GB | Storage: 256GB/512GB/1TB | Display: 13.4-inch, 1920 x 1200-pixel or 4K | Size: 11.7 x 8.2 x 0.5 inches | Weight: 2.9 pounds

Best Ultrabook: Lenovo Yoga C930

With a powerful soundbar speaker hinge, the Yoga C930 is as practical as it is beautiful. This slim and lightweight laptop offers strong performance and long battery life in a premium package. The 2-in-1 also comes with some useful extras, like an integrated pen slot and a webcam cover. 

Pros: Premium design; Thin and lightweight; Strong performance; Long battery life

Cons: Shallow keyboard; Display could be better

 

Key Specs — CPU: Intel Core i5/Core i7 | GPU: Intel UHD 620 | RAM: 8GB/12GB/16GB | Storage: 256GB/512GB/1TB | Display: 13.9-inch, 1080p or 4K | Size: 12.7 x 8.9 x 0.6 inches | Weight: 3.1 pounds

Best Chromebook: Asus Chromebook Flip C434

Asus returns to the top of our Best Chromebooks page with the $569 Chromebook 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. 

Pros: Sleek design; Thin display bezels; Vivid 14-inch touch screen; All-day battery life

Cons: Finicky touchpad; Expensive

 

Key Specs — 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

For Science Students: Dell XPS 13 (2019)

Dell's new XPS 13 takes everything we love about this highly regarded laptop line and fixes its biggest fault. Yes, the "nosecam" is a thing of the past. Dell made a custom, miniature webcam just small enough to place on the laptop's slim top bezel. Incredibly, the camera even takes a pretty good picture. The rest is what we've come to expect from an XPS 13, including a compact and lightweight chassis, superfast performance thanks to U-series CPUs and a gorgeous 4K panel flanked by nearly invisible bezels. 

Pros: Strong performance; Slim, lightweight design; Proper webcam; Stunning 4K display
Cons: Battery life could be better

Key Specs — CPU: Intel Core i3/Core i5/Core i7 | GPU: Intel UHD 620 | RAM: 4GB/8GB/16GB | Storage:  128GB/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

For Campus Gamers: Lenovo Legion Y7000

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. 

Pros: Sleek design; Vibrant display; Comfortable keyboard; Strong performance; Solid battery life
Cons: Poor audio; Awful webcam

Key Specs — 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

For Engineering & Architecture Students: HP ZBook Studio x360 G5

If tuition expenses aren't already burning a hole through their pocket, then engineering students should consider saving up for the $1,999 HP ZBook Studio x360 G5. This beastly laptop is surprisingly thin and lightweight for a workstation, and even portable enough to take around campus. Better yet, the 2-in-1 has surprisingly long battery life despite flaunting a brilliant 4K display. As a workstation, the Studio x360 G5 offers exceptional overall performance. 

Pros: Slim chassis with military-grade durability; Vivid 4K display; Blazing fast performance; Comfortable keyboard
Cons: Lid flexes; Poor webcam; Pricey

Key Specs — CPU: Intel Core i5/Core i7/Core i9/Xeon | GPU: Intel UHD 630/Nvidia Quadro P1000/Quadro P2000 | RAM: 8GB/16GB/32GB/64GB | Storage: 256GB/360GB/512GB/1TB/2TB | Display: 15.6-inch, 1080p or 4K | Size: 14.2 x 9.7 x 0.8 inches | Weight: 4.9 pounds

For Art & Design Students: Asus ZenBook Pro 15

Art students who need a large canvas to draw on should consider the Asus ZenBook Pro 15, a premium ultrabook with dual screens. The highlight of this machine is a unique touchpad that doubles as a 1080p display. Dubbed the ScreenPad, the LCD touchpad can transform into a second display with productivity shortcuts, where you can manage your photo-editing tools.

While you should come for the attention-grabbing touchpad, stay for the primary 15.6-inch 4K touch screen display, which is colorful and bright. The ZenBook Pro 15 has poor battery life, but it makes up for it with excellent performance and a gorgeous design that's sure to impress your peers. And at 4.2 pounds, this powerful machine is portable enough to carry around campus. 

For $2,299, the ZenBook Pro 15 comes with an Intel Core i9-8950HK CPU, 16GB of RAM and a 512GB NVMe SSD. It also has an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 Ti GPU with 4GB of VRAM, which delivered solid frame rates in our testing. 

Pros: Unique ScreenPad; Gorgeous display; Striking, portable design; Excellent performance
Cons: Below-average battery life; Disappointing webcam

Key Specs — CPU: Intel Core i5/Core i7/Core i9 | GPU: GeForce GTX 1050 | RAM: 8GB/16GB | Storage: 256GB/512GB/1TB | Display: 15.6-inch, 1080p or 4K | Size: 14.4 x 9.9 x 0.7 inches | Weight: 4.2 pounds

For Business Students: Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon

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 11hours on a charge,

Pros: Long-lasting battery; Light enough for a backpack; Vivid screen with optional HDR;
Cons: Pricey on a student budget; Tinny audio;

Key Specs — 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 | Size: 12.7 x 8.5 x 0.6 inches | Weight: 2.5 pounds

For Computer Science Students: Lenovo ThinkPad T480

All-night coding sessions require incredible battery life, and the ThinkPad T480, with its extended battery, runs for more than 17 hours on a charge. An 8th Gen Core Intel CPU and 8GB of RAM provide plenty of performance, and the laptop has the latest Thunderbolt 3 ports for charging and fast data transfer. The 1080p screen, though, is on the dull side, and its a bit heavier in a backpack than its competitors.

Pros: Long battery life; Thunderbolt 3; Strong performance
Cons: Dull screen; Heavier than competitors

Key Specs — CPU: Intel Core i5/Core i7 | GPU: Intel HD 620/Nvidia GeForce MX150 | RAM: 8GB/16GB | Storage: 500GB HDD/256GB/512GB/1TB | Display: 14-inch, 1366 x 768-pixel or 1080p or 2560 x 1440-pixel | Size: 13.3 x 9.2 x 0.8 inches | Weight: 3.6 pounds/4 pounds (with battery)

For Film & Animation Students: Apple MacBook Pro 15-inch

Tap your creative energy with the updated 15-inch MacBook Pro. Apple has upped the ante with a faster 6th Gen Intel CPU, AMD Radeon Pro 455 graphics and its new Touch Bar. Video editors and animators will love the Touch Bar, which replaces the function keys with a custom toolset that can be different in Photoshop than it is in Final Cut. Four Thunderbolt 3 ports make it easy to connect to multiple 4K displays or transfer uncompressed media files to external backup drives with ease.

You can also check out our face off between the MacBook Pro and the 15-inch OLED Spectre x360.

Pros: Gorgeous display; Long battery life; Fast performance
Cons: No USB Type-A ports; Runs warm

Key Specs — CPU: Intel Core i5/Core i7/Core i9 | GPU: AMD Radeon 560X/Pro Vega 16/Pro Vega 20 | RAM: 16GB/32GB | Storage: 512GB/1TB/2TB/4TB | Display: 15.6-inch, 1880 x 1800-pixel | Size: 13.8 x 9.5 x 0.6 inches | Weight: 4 pounds

For Medical Students: Dell XPS 15 (2019)

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. 

 

Pros: Striking 4K OLED display; Strong CPU and GPU performance; Improved webcam; Slim design
Cons: Subpar battery life

Key Specs — 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

For Law Students: Microsoft Surface Pro 6

With improved battery life, the Microsoft Surface Pro 6 is an excellent choice for students who need to carry a PC around campus, away from an outlet. Better yet, the newest detachable from Microsoft has significantly improved performance, allowing it to run demanding programs without a hitch. 

The tablet's rear kickstand is great for presenting slideshows and the brilliant 12.3-inch, 2736 x 1824-pixel display is captivating. The Surface Pen and Type Cover cost extra, but they are necessary for quickly jotting down notes or writing up legal briefs.

Pros: Long battery life; Excellent performance; Comfortable keyboard; Vivid, bright display

Cons: No USB-C port; Slow SSD; 256GB SSD config is pricey

Key Specs — CPU: Intel Core i5/Core i7 | GPU: Intel UHD 620 | RAM: 8GB/16GB | Storage: 128GB/256GB/512GB/1TB | Display: 12.3-inch, 2736 x 1824-pixel | Size: 11.5 x 7.9 x 0.3 inches | Weight: 1.7 pounds/2.4 pounds (with keyboard)

For Students On a Budget: Acer Aspire E 15

If you're just entering college, chances are you don't have a lot of expendable income. But just because you can't spend four figures on a laptop doesn't mean you should settle for something that won't fit your needs. The Acer Aspire E 15 gets you almost everything you can ask for, and for just $380. 

The budget machine sports a 15-inch, 1080p display and a capable Core i3 CPU. Best of all, the Aspire E 15 will stay powered throughout an entire school day, with nearly 9 hours of battery life. In terms of design, the Aspire E 15 is function over form — it's bulky, but there is a generous offering of ports and even a DVD drive. 

The $380 base model came equipped with an Intel Core i3-8130U CPU, 6GB of RAM and a 1TB HDD. We also praised the $599 Core i5 model, which has long battery life and strong performance. 

Pros: Good performance; Long battery life; Affordable
Cons: Bulky design

Key Specs — CPU: Intel Core i3/Core i5 | GPU: Intel UHD 620/GeForce MX150 | RAM: 6GB/8GB | Storage: 1TB HDD/256GB | Display: 15.6-inch, 1080p | Size: 15 x 10.2 x 1.2 inches | Weight: 5 pounds

For Fashion-Forward Students: HP Spectre Folio

With its dazzling Cognac leather finish, the HP Spectre Folio is an excellent laptop for students who want to stand out in a lecture hall filled with hundreds of other people. The Folio isn't just a laptop with a leather case on top — this machine is actually bonded with 100-percent genuine cowhide. Perhaps even better than the Spectre Folio's stylish appearance is the laptop's clever system for transitioning through different orientations. A simple push-and-slide gesture either folds the Folio into a tablet or angles the display into Presentation mode for viewing content.

While the Folio isn't the most powerful laptop in its segment, the convertible shouldn't have problems streaming Netflix in high-definition or running your university's online coursework portal. Starting at $1,299, the base model of the Folio comes with a Core i5-8200Y CPU, 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD. Upgrading to a Core i7 CPU raises the price to $1,399. 

Pros: Luxurious leather finish; Versatile 2-in-1 design; Long battery life; Great keyboard
Cons: Poor audio; Average performance

Key Specs — CPU: Intel Core i5/Core i7 (Y-series) | GPU: Intel UHD 615 | RAM: 8GB/16GB | Storage: 256GB/512GB/1TB/2TB | Display: 13.3-inch, 1080p or 4K | Size: 12.6 x 9.2 x 0.6 inches | Weight: 3.4 pounds

Best MacBook Alternative: Huawei MateBook X Pro

Art students who are going off to college may be tempted to buy an Apple MacBook — and for good reason. But the Huawei MateBook X Pro is the better laptop, and it's not even close

The MateBook X Pro essentially takes the MacBook Pro's design and brings a better keyboard, upgraded internals and USB-A port — all for hundreds of dollars less.

 

At $1,500, you'll get an 8th-Gen Intel Core i7-8550U CPU, Nvidia GeForce MX150 GPU, 16GB of RAM and a 512GB SSD. A stunning 14-inch, 3000 x 2000 touchscreen display capable of producing a wide range of colors (124 percent of the sRGB spectrum) is perfect for art and design students.

 

Pros: Gorgeous 3:2 display; Great keyboard and touchpad; Slim, premium design; Long-lasting battery

Cons: Hard to find

 

Key Specs — CPU: Intel Core i5/Core i7 | GPU: Intel UHD 620/GeForce MX150 | RAM: 8GB/16GB | Storage: 256GB/512GB | Display: 13.9-inch, 3000 x 2000-pixel | Size: 12 x 8.5 x 0.6 inches | Weight: 2.9 pounds

Laptop Guide

Author Bio
Phillip Tracy
Phillip Tracy,
Phillip Tracy is a senior writer at Tom's Guide and Laptop Mag, where he reviews laptops and covers the latest industry news. After graduating with a journalism degree from the University of Texas at Austin, Phillip became a tech reporter at the Daily Dot. There, he wrote reviews for a range of gadgets and covered everything from social media trends to cybersecurity. Prior to that, he wrote for RCR Wireless News and NewBay Media. When he's not tinkering with devices, you can find Phillip playing video games, reading, listening to indie music or watching soccer.
Phillip Tracy,