Best College Laptops 2019

  • MORE

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. Of course, we love all of our picks, so if you see one outside of your major, it's still a great machine. 

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, then check out Apple's new MacBook Pro laptops, which feature 9th Gen Intel chips and a new (and hopefully more reliable) butterfly keyboard. If you want something more affordable, then be on the lookout for Dell's redesigned Inspiron 13 5000, which will launch with an LTE variant. Although, if you have the cash, you should probably splurge on the company's new XPS 13 2-in-1 or the upcoming HP Envy 13, a unique laptop that blends aluminum with wood. There's also Samsung's new Notebook 7 Force, a MacBook lookalike with a GTX 1650 graphics card and Lenovo's upcoming ThinkPad P53s and P43s more affordable workstation for students. 

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

Best Overall: HP Envy 13t

Whether typing up a 100-page thesis or just taking notes in class, having a comfortable, responsive keyboard allows you to get more work done faster. Starting at under $900 ($1049 as tested), HP's Envy 13t has one of the best keyboards in the industry, along with a lightweight aluminum chassis and nearly 10 hours of battery life. The 13.3-inch laptop is powered by a speedy 8th Gen Core i5 or Core i7 CPU and a PCIe SSD, giving it really powerful performance.

Pros: Best-in-class keyboard; Powerful performance;  Long battery life
Cons: Tinny audio; Bland display colors

Key Specs — CPU: Intel Core i5/Core i7 | GPU: Intel UHD Graphics 620/Nvidia GeForce MX150 | RAM: 8GB/16GB | Storage: 256GB/512GB/1TB | Display: 13.3-inch, 1080p or 4K | Size: 12 x 8.5 x 0.6 inches | Weight: 2.9 pounds

Best Apple Laptop: MacBook Air (2018)

Now with a Retina display and more powerful components, the MacBook Air earns its place back on our list of the best laptops for college students. The 13.3-inch machine costs a bit more than its predecessor, but the improvements Apple made to the new version make it worth every penny. Along with its more colorful, 2560 x 1600-pixel display, the MacBook Air adds a fingerprint sensor and the versatile Thunderbolt 3 port. These goodies are all packaged in a thinner, lighter and completely recycled aluminum chassis. 

Pros: Colorful Retina display; Long battery life; Thin and lightweight chassis
Cons: Below-average performance; Pricier than its predecessor

Key Specs — CPU: Intel Core i5 (Y-series) | GPU: Intel UHD Graphics 617 | RAM: 8GB/16GB | Storage: 128GB/256GB/512GB/1.5TB | Display: 13.3-inch, 2560 x 1600-pixel | Size: 12 x 8.4 x 0.6 inches | Weight: 2.7 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: Microsoft Surface Go

As a college student, chances are you're on a pretty tight budget. If you want to spend less than $400, the Surface Go is a great choice. The detachable 2-in-1's durable design is more premium than you'd expect to find at this price range, and its bright, colorful display can compete with the best laptops.

 

At a measly 1.1 pounds, the Surface Go weighs less than your Calculus textbook. Typically, tablets aren't a viable option for class, but Microsoft sells a useful backlit keyboard cover with a touchpad for the Surface Go. With an Intel Pentium Gold 4415Y CPU, the Surface Go won't break speed records, but it provides more power than most budget laptops. 

 

Pros: Bright and vivid display; Premium, lightweight design; Good overall performance; Facial recognition login

Cons: Below-average battery life; Thick bezels; Keyboard and pen cost extra

 

Key Specs — CPU: Intel Pentium Gold 4415Y | GPU: Intel HD 615 | RAM: 4GB | Storage: 64GB/128GB | Display: 10-inch, 1800 x 1200-pixel | Size: 9.7 x 6.9 x 0.3 inches | Weight: 1.2 pounds

Best 2-in-1: HP Spectre x360 (13-inch, 2019)

You are sure to turn some heads carrying the stunning Spectre x360 around campus. This sleek 2-in-1 looks like a luxury item, with its unique color scheme and gold faceted edges. But the Spectre x360 isn't just skin deep. This elegant machine lasts more than 12 hours on a charge and its Core i7-8565U CPU offers excellent performance. Moreover, the laptop's 13.3-inch, 1080p display is very vivid and students will love typing on its comfortable keyboard. 

Pros: Gorgeous chassis; Long battery life; Thin and lightweight; Class-leading keyboard
Cons: Display could brighter; Bezels are a bit thick; Lots of bloatware

Key Specs — CPU: Intel Core i5/Core i7 | GPU: Intel UHD 620 | RAM: 8GB/16GB | Storage: 256GB/512GB | Display: 13.3-inch, 1080p or 4K | Size: 12.2 x 8.6 x 0.6 inches | Weight: 2.8 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

The ideal laptop for a medical student is one with a large 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. The XPS 15 offers an excellent combination of performance and endurance. 

 

Its incredible runtime of 11 hours and 53 minutes makes it one of the longest-enduring 15-inch laptops we've ever tested. Combined with a compact footprint, and the XPS 15 is surprisingly great for travel. It's also very powerful, equipped with an Intel H-series CPU. When you have time to yourself, the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 Ti in the XPS 15 is capable of playing most modern games, and streaming TV shows and movies is a joy on its bright and vibrant display.

 

Pros: Strong overall performance; Outstanding battery life; Capable GTX 1050 Ti GPU; Bright, vibrant display
Cons: Poor webcam placement

Key Specs — CPU: Intel Core i5/Core i7/Core i9 | GPU: Intel UHD 630/Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050Ti | RAM: 8GB/16GB/32GB | Storage: 1TB HDD/256GB/512GB/1TB | Display: 15.6-inch, 1080p or 4K | Size: 14.1 x 9.3 x 0.7 inches | Weight: 4.2 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,