Best laptops for college in 2024: Student laptops for every budget and major

Picking the best laptop for college is arguably the most important choice a student will make after their school and major; it is the most vital tool for these years. No matter your college major, a laptop can help you ace your exams and classwork, and it can even let you unwind by watching streaming content or playing some games. Not every course of study is the same, so your exact needs will differ depending on your major, but even after narrowing that down, finding the best college laptop can feel like extra homework. 

Well, good news: Here at Laptop Mag, our major is laptops, and we do the homework for you year-round by testing and reviewing over one hundred laptops from every major brand. Our continuously updated list of the best laptops for college in 2024 is the result of all that hard work, so when you are ready to buy, you know you are getting the most up-to-date recommendations.

What are the key things to look for when buying a college laptop? Make sure it has a long battery life and fast CPU performance. A thin-and-light won't cut it for every major, but even if you need a more powerful laptop, we'll try to avoid weighing you down too much. And if you prefer to take notes by hand, a 2-in-1 laptop gives a blended laptop and tablet experience.

Without further ado, here are the best laptops for college available right now.

Curated by
Laptop Mag: About Us
Curated by
Sean Riley

Sean Riley has covered a wide variety of tech over his 13 years as a journalist but found his home at Laptop Mag in 2020. As the managing editor, he participates in every laptop review published on Laptop, whether as a reviewer or editor. 

The Quick List

Have you got to get to class? Here's a quick rundown of our picks for the best college laptops. Follow the links to the full review if you want to know more about one.

Best overall

Most college students should pick this MacBook.

Specifications

CPU: Apple M3
GPU: Apple M3 GPU
RAM: 8 GB
Storage: 1TB SSD
Display: 13-inch, 1664p
Size: 12 x 8.5 x 0.4 inches
Weight: 2.7 pounds

Reasons to buy

+
Outstanding battery life
+
Strong performance
+
Bright Liquid Retina display
+
Comfortable keyboard
+
Improved SSD speeds

Reasons to avoid

-
Limited ports
-
Display not as colorful as competitors

The MacBook Air M3 is the best choice for most students in 2024. Starting at $1,099 ($999 for education), you get an outstanding keyboard, excellent performance, and remarkable endurance, which ticks all the boxes for college laptop shoppers.

The MacBook Air M3 lasted 15 hours and 21 minutes in our battery life test. With Apple's excellent build quality and strong support, this is a great choice for almost any college student.

Why buy the MacBook Air instead of the Pro? If you need more sustained performance or longer battery life, then by all means, the MacBook Pro 14 M3 is an excellent option that you'll spot a little further down this list. The main tradeoffs are weight and, of course, the higher starting price, around $1,500.

As long as macOS isn't a dealbreaker for you, college students will appreciate everything the MacBook Air M3 offers. If you need to save a little money, the MacBook Air 13 M2 remains a solid laptop available at $899 for education and sometimes less on sale. If you need a little more screen real estate, you can always check out the MacBook Air 15 M3, which is just $200 more. It has the same benefits as the Air 13 but a 15.3-inch display.

See our full Apple MacBook Air M3 review.

Best under $1,000

This sub-$1,000 laptop is a budget-savvy college investment.

Specifications

CPU: Intel Core Ultra 7 155H
GPU: Intel Arc Graphics
RAM: 16GB RAM
Storage: 1TB SSD
Display: 14-inch, 1080p
Size: 12.3 x 8.7 x 0.6 inches
Weight: 3 pounds

Reasons to buy

+
Almost 16 hours of battery life!
+
Snappy performance
+
Quality audio
+
Smooth, comfortable keyboard
+
Secure webcam privacy shutter

Reasons to avoid

-
Display could be brighter
-
Runs a little hot

The Asus Zenbook 14 OLED (Q425) was a hotly anticipated laptop this year, and it delivered on all fronts. The Intel Core Ultra CPU gives it outstanding performance, but the efficiency is even more impressive, with almost 16 hours of battery life!

For all of the details, you can check out our full review, but here's a look at a couple of critical benchmarks. In the multi-core Geekbench 6.2 test, the Zenbook managed to beat the MacBook Air M3 (12,707 vs. 12,087). And if you happen to need to create videos for school or as a part-time gig, in the Handbrake 1.6 test, the Zenbook converted a 4K video to 1080p in 6 minutes and 36 seconds, over a minute faster than the Air M3's 7:54. 

The 1080p OLED display makes any content look fantastic, whether you're toiling away at schoolwork or taking a break to watch some streaming content. At 3 pounds, the Zenbook 14 OLED also won't overload your laptop bag, which you'll appreciate as you haul it around campus.

If you aren't a MacOS fan, this is easily the best laptop for college under $1,000. If you are an engineering student or creating content, this laptop may come up a little short on power, but if some presentations and papers are the heaviest lifting your laptop will do in college, this has you covered.

See our full Asus Zenbook 14 OLED (Q425) review.

Best under $500

Cheap isn't bad, this sub-$500 Chromebook will handle most classwork.

Specifications

CPU: Intel Core i3-1315U
GPU: Integrated Intel UHD Graphics
RAM: 8GB
Storage: 128GB eMMC
Display: 14-inch 1920 x 1080 touchscreen
Size: 12.4 x 9 x 0.8 inches
Weight: 3.6 pounds

Reasons to buy

+
Speedy AI-infused performance
+
Great keyboard
+
Excellent design
+
Sturdy hinges

Reasons to avoid

-
Display could be brighter
-
Could be lighter

The best college laptop won't do you much good if you can't pay for tuition, so if you're a bachelor of arts student who needs to keep things affordable, look no further than the sub-$500 Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 5i Chromebook Plus. While memorizing that long name may feel like an assignment, you'll appreciate everything it offers for typically less than $400.

As long as you don't need any specific Windows software for your major, Chrome OS will handle everything you need to do without a problem. While you may remember underpowered Chromebooks from grade school or middle school, times have changed, and the Flex 5i benefits from an AI-infused Intel Core i3-1315U chipset that will keep your productivity tasks running smoothly.

As the name suggests, the Flex 5i is a 2-in-1 laptop, which makes it perfect for streaming content in tent or presentation mode, whether it's lectures or Netflix. The 14-inch OLED touchscreen display could be brighter, but our reviewer found binge-watching content a great experience.

In our testing, we found the keyboard to be "clicky, super responsive, with excellent bounciness." While you can, of course, fall back on the touchscreen, the touchpad is spacious and accurate as well. Speaking of that touchscreen, you can also run Android apps if there's something that Chrome OS can't handle natively.

For around $400, the Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 5i Chromebook Plus is an easy recommendation for budget-conscious college students.

See our full Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 5i Chromebook Plus review.

Best long-lasting

The longest study session or class day will be no match for this MacBook.

Specifications

CPU: M3
GPU: M3 (integrated)
RAM: 8GB/16GB/24GB
Storage: 256GB, 512GB, 1TB, 2TB
Display: 14.2-inch, 3024 x 1964 pixels
Size: 12.3 x 8.7 x 0.6 inches
Weight: 3.4 pounds

Reasons to buy

+
Excellent overall performance
+
Incredible endurance
+
Solid gaming performance
+
Stunning design
+
Comfortable keyboard

Reasons to avoid

-
No Face ID
-
Distracting notch

The MacBook Pro 14 M3 finally brings the updated Apple design to the most affordable "Pro" MacBook, starting at $1,599. That antiquated design was the one thing holding back a recommendation for the MacBook Pro 13 in 2023. Now you get all the outstanding performance and battery life without sacrificing those new ports and superior display.

The MacBook Pro 14 M3 is powerful enough to handle virtually any course load, including software engineering and other computing-intensive majors. Best of all, returning to the specific category we are talking about here, despite all that power, it still crushes it when it comes to battery life, with an incredible 17 hours and 16 minutes on our battery test, which simulates real-world usage.

If you have any remote courses, the upgraded 1080p webcam is vastly superior to the 720p camera in its predecessor. The icing on the cake is the comfy keyboard and gaming performance for one of the first times on a MacBook.

The MacBook Pro 14 M3 finally gives us a better entry point into the modern MacBook Pro design at a more palatable price. If the MacBook Air M2 just can't quite cut it for you, this is the clear upgrade option and one of the longest-lasting laptops on the market. If you need to "Max" things out, the MacBook Pro 16 (M3 Max, 2023) does outlast the Pro 14 by about 40 minutes, but at $3,499, it's Ivy League pricing that you can skip unless you need the added performance too.

See our MacBook Pro (14-inch, M3, 2023) review

Best 2-in-1

This 2-in-1 gives you the flexibility to study in any environment.

Specifications

CPU: Intel Core i7-1360P
GPU: Intel Iris Xe
RAM: 16 GB
Storage: 512 GB SSD
Display: 14-inch, OLED, 2880 x 1880-pixel touchscreen at 90Hz
Size: 12.5 x 9.1 x .6 inches
Weight: 3.1 pounds

Reasons to buy

+
Breathtaking 2.8K OLED display
+
Great productivity performance
+
Blisteringly fast SSD
+
Loud and impactful audio
+
Decent battery life

Reasons to avoid

-
Display could be brighter

The Lenovo Yoga 9i Gen 8 is back with a vengeance, delivering one of the best 2-in-1 laptops we've had the pleasure of using and unquestionably one of the most mesmerizing displays. Those would be strong qualifications already, but on top of that, it gives you excellent performance, otherworldly SSD speeds, and over 10 hours of battery life. Lenovo earned an "A" for this one.

Lenovo's consistently outstanding keyboard design is present and will ensure that you can comfortably write or research on this laptop for hours at a time. While you won't want to crank up its speakers everywhere, when you do it offers one of the better audio experiences our reviewer has encountered. 

While it won't be able to keep pace with engineering or some computer science majors, the vast majority of college students would love to tote this little 3.1-pound powerhouse around campus. At around $1,500, it isn't exactly cheap, but it's worth the price of admission.

See our full Lenovo Yoga 9i (Gen 8) review

Best 17-inch

The big laptop on campus is still one of the lightest.

Specifications

CPU: Intel Core i7-1360P
GPU: Intel Iris Xe
RAM: 16GB
Storage: 1TB
Display: 17-inch, 2560 x 1600 pixels
Size: 14.9 x 10.1 x 0.7 inches
Weight: 3.2 pounds

Reasons to buy

+
Great battery life
+
Extremely light for 17-inch laptop
+
Awesome surround-sound audio
+
Rival-beating color accuracy
+
Varied I/O options

Reasons to avoid

-
Fingerprint-attracting chassis
-
Quiet speakers

The LG Gram 17 earned our Editors' Choice badge and 4.5 out of 5 stars. Our reviewer was particularly impressed by its lightweight design, excellent battery life, and gorgeous 17-inch display.

For college students who value color accuracy, whether they are doing graphic design, illustration, photo editing, or video editing, the LG Gram 17 is an outstanding choice. Even if your course of study doesn't need it, you will still love the big, accurate display and the rich speakers, and if you are a casual gamer, the RTX 3050 inside will let you dip your toe into anything but the most intense AAA titles.

If a big screen is essential to you, then there is no better laptop for college than the LG Gram 17. It ticks that big screen box without making you regret it every time you have to carry your laptop in your bag, thanks to its 3.2-pound weight.

See our LG Gram 17 2023 review

Best for engineering students

It may be a gaming laptop, but it'll handle engineering coursework just as well.

Specifications

CPU: AMD Ryzen 7 7745HX
GPU: Nvidia GeForce RTX 4070
RAM: 16GB of RAM
Storage: 1TB
Display: 6-inch, 2560 x 1600, IPS, 165Hz
Dimensions: 14.3 x 10.25 x 0.86-1.05
Weight: 5.5 pounds

Reasons to buy

+
Exceptional performance
+
Decent color and brightness
+
Sturdy chassis and hinge
+
Perfect keyboard
+
Highly affordable

Reasons to avoid

-
Subpar battery life
-
Grainy webcam

The Lenovo Legion 5 Pro is among our best gaming laptops of 2024, and the features that made it stand out make it a fine choice for engineering students. The affordable price is a welcome start, as a laptop with a dedicated GPU can climb north of $2,000 to $3,000 quickly, but the Legion 5 Pro is available for under $1,500.

Inside, the Legion 5 Pro should tick the boxes for most engineering programs, with an AMD Ryzen 7 7745HX CPU and an Nvidia RTX 4070 GPU. Are these the bleeding edge of performance? No, but they are plenty fast enough to handle any software or tasks that come your way. 

Sometimes, affordable gaming laptops are cheap out on other aspects of the laptop. Still, the Legion 5 Pro crushed more than the internal specs with an outstanding keyboard that our reviewer called her keyboard soulmate. It didn't skimp on the display, reaching 82.4 percent of the DCI-P3 color gamut and 319 nits of brightness. Those are unheard-of marks for a gaming laptop at this price.

There are more powerful systems if you want to spend more or are close to graduation and looking to step up to something more professional. Still, the Lenovo Legion 5 Pro will complete the job for most engineering students and let you have fun gaming in your downtime.

See our full Lenovo Legion 5 Pro review.

Recent reviews

We review dozens of laptops every year that aren't admitted into the prestigious best laptops for college page. While some simply didn't have what it takes, others are still strong options. Here are some of our most recently reviewed laptops that didn't make the cut. 

Lenovo Yoga Pro 9i 16 Gen 9 | Intel Core Ultra 9 185H | Nvidia RTX 4050 | 32GB RAM | 1TB SSD

Lenovo Yoga Pro 9i 16 Gen 9 | Intel Core Ultra 9 185H | Nvidia RTX 4050 | 32GB RAM | 1TB SSD

Score: ★★★★½

Pros: Beautiful display; bouncy keyboard; strong overall performance; discrete graphics; decent battery life

Cons: No RTX 4060 with Intel Core Ultra 7 configuration; touchpad too resistant; awful audio

See our full Lenovo Yoga Pro 9i 16 Gen 9 review.

MSI Vector 16 HX A14VHG | Intel i9-14900HX | Nvidia RTX 4080 | 32GB RAM | 1TB SSD

MSI Vector 16 HX A14VHG | Intel i9-14900HX | Nvidia RTX 4080 | 32GB RAM | 1TB SSD

Score: ★★★★½

Pros: Superb processing power; high RTX 4080 fps; beautiful display; decent battery life; solid audio

Cons: Flimsy trackpad; loud fans; SSD could be faster

See our full MSI Vector 16 HX A14VHG review.

Acer Nitro 17| AMD Ryzen 7 8845HS | Nvidia RTX 4060 | 16GB RAM | 1TB SSD

Acer Nitro 17| AMD Ryzen 7 8845HS | Nvidia RTX 4060 | 16GB RAM | 1TB SSD

Score: ★★★★

Pros: Huge display; great audio quality; smooth gaming performance; budget-friendly price

Cons: Bulky; plastic chassis; no right-hand control key; grainy webcam

See our full Acer Nitro 17 review.

Acer Predator Helios Neo 16| Intel Core i9-14900HX | Nvidia RTX 4060 | 16GB RAM | 1TB SSD

Acer Predator Helios Neo 16| Intel Core i9-14900HX | Nvidia RTX 4060 | 16GB RAM | 1TB SSD

Score: ★★★★

Pros: Leading productivity power; solid RTX 4060 fps; bright and colorful panel; sturdy chassis; tons of ports

Cons: Piercing speakers; sluggish trackpad; dreadful battery life

See our full Acer Predator Helios Neo 16 review.

HP Spectre x360 16 (2024) | Intel Core Ultra 155H | Nvidia RTX 4050 Graphics | 16GB RAM | 1TB SSD

HP Spectre x360 16 (2024) | Intel Core Ultra 155H | Nvidia RTX 4050 Graphics | 16GB RAM | 1TB SSD

Score: ★★★★½

Pros: Large, vibrant display; great performance; incredible speakers; huge touchpad; sleek design

Cons: Limited ports; battery life could be better

See our full HP Spectre x360 16 (2024) review.

Alienware x16 R2 | Intel Core Ultra 185H | Nvidia RTX 4080 Graphics | 32GB RAM | 1TB SSD

Alienware x16 R2 | Intel Core Ultra 185H | Nvidia RTX 4080 Graphics | 32GB RAM | 1TB SSD

Score: ★★★★

Pros: Thin design; excellent keyboard & touchpad; strong performance and graphics; solid battery life

Cons: Price-to-performance ratio is rough; display isn't the best for a $3K+ gaming laptop; messy audio

See our full Alienware x16 R2 review.

Razer Blade 16 | Intel i9-14900HX | Nvidia RTX 4070 Graphics | 16GB RAM | 1TB SSD

Razer Blade 16 | Intel i9-14900HX | Nvidia RTX 4070 Graphics | 16GB RAM | 1TB SSD

Score: ★★★★½

Pros: Powerful, reliable performance; vivid OLED display; loud, powerful speakers; comfortable, snappy keyboard

Cons: Worse battery life than the previous generation at under five hours; base model starts at $2,999

See our full Razer Blade 16 (Early 2024) review.

Lenovo Yoga 7i Gen 9 | Intel Core Ultra 5 125U | Intel Integrated Graphics | 16GB RAM | 512GB SSD

Lenovo Yoga 7i Gen 9 | Intel Core Ultra 5 125U | Intel Integrated Graphics | 16GB RAM | 512GB SSD

Score: ★★★★

Pros: Good battery life; roomy touchpad; loud top-firing speakers; flexible 2-in-1 design; ample ports

Cons: Underwhelming display, sluggish gaming performance, grainy webcam; heavy for a 2-in-1.

See our full Lenovo Yoga 7i Gen 9 review.

Dell Inspiron 14 Plus | Intel Core Ultra 7 155H | Intel Arc Graphics | 16GB RAM | 1TB SSD

Dell Inspiron 14 Plus | Intel Core Ultra 7 155H | Intel Arc Graphics | 16GB RAM | 1TB SSD

Score: ★★★★

Pros: Quick, responsive performance; over 15 hours of battery life; powerful speakers; comfortable keyboard

Cons: Display could be brighter; one USB-C port; blurry webcam

See our full Dell Inspiron 14 Plus (7044) review.

Asus Zephyrus G14 | Ryzen 9 8945HS | Nvidia RTX 4060 | 16GB RAM | 1TB SSD

Asus Zephyrus G14 | Ryzen 9 8945HS | Nvidia RTX 4060 | 16GB RAM | 1TB SSD

Score: ★★★★

Pros: Stunning OLED display in a sleek, compact chassis. Springy keyboard is a joy to type on, has strong CPU performance for gaming/productivity, and has a long battery life.

Cons: Middling graphics; runs hot

See our full Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 (2024) review.

Lenovo Slim 7i Gen 9 | Intel Core Ultra 7 155H | Intel Arc Graphics | 32GB RAM | 1TB SSD

Lenovo Slim 7i Gen 9 | Intel Core Ultra 7 155H | Intel Arc Graphics | 32GB RAM | 1TB SSD

Score: ★★★★

Pros: Bright, vivid OLED display; speedy performance; snappy keyboard, loud speakers; compact chassis

Cons: Mushy touchpad; disappointing webcam

See our full Lenovo Slim 7i Gen 9 review.

How to choose the best college laptop

There are several factors students should consider before buying a laptop for college. 

The first is portability, which goes hand in hand with screen size. Thirteen- and 14-inch laptops are popular among college students because they balance screen real estate and portability well. Ideally, you'll stay below 3 pounds as well, although budget or more powerful systems may have you go higher.

Battery life is another critical 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! Choose a laptop with at least 9 hours of battery life, which should be enough to get you through a couple of classes with enough juice to hit the library, too.

Regarding specs, we recommend buying a laptop with an Intel 13th Gen Core i5 CPU, AMD Ryzen 7000 series, or Apple M2. You should also look for at least 8GB of RAM (16GB if you can afford it) and a minimum of 256GB of storage. 

Don't be afraid to go with a Chromebook if you want to keep things affordable and don't have specific Windows or macOS software requirements. Chrome OS can handle typical tasks for university students, and Chromebooks tend to be cheaper and require less support.

Other things that will help you punch up a successful report or research complex topics include a comfy keyboard and a sensitive touchpad. And when it's time to relax, get a laptop with a vivid and bright display.

How we test college laptops

We put each laptop through extensive benchmark testing — both synthetic and real-world—before we send it to 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 the sRGB and DCI-P3 color gamut of the laptop's display. For performance testing, we run the laptop through a gauntlet of benchmarks, including Geekbench 5.4 and 3DMark professional graphics tests. 

To determine real-world performance, we task the laptop with converting a 4K video to 1080p resolution and duplicate a 4.97GB multimedia file. Our real-world graphics test is Sid Meier's Civilization VI: Gathering Storm benchmark with medium settings at 1080p and 4K 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 or Windows 11 laptops, a runtime of over 9 hours is considered a good result, whereas gaming laptops and workstations that can stay powered 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. 

Why Trust Laptop Mag

Laptop Mag reviews over a hundred laptops yearly, from paperweight ultralights to everyday workhorses to lumbering gaming notebooks that scorch the frame rates of even the hottest AAA games. We're not just experts in the laptop field, as we go one step further by meticulously testing smartphones, tablets, headphones, PC accessories, software, and even the latest in gaming. 

We are 100 percent independent and have decades of experience to help you buy with confidence. Laptop Mag has been testing and reviewing products for three decades and continues to deliver trustworthy reviews you can rely on. 

Our experienced team of writers and editors scour the available information about the laptop and put it through its paces to determine which is best for you. But before they start, the testing team subjects each system to a rigorous regimen of synthetic and real-world tests to see how a system handles the type of work and games you’re most likely to throw at it. 

Future Publishing, one of the world's largest technology publishers, enforces our editorial trustworthiness. As a company, we have unrivaled experience across every tech sector — and we're the group's specialist for all things mobile tech.