The Best Laptops for College Students: Budget, premium & more

Three of the Best Laptops for school & College StudentsDexerto

Are you looking for a laptop for your college or remote education? Here is a list of the best machines for your studies, gaming, and more.

Heading back to College and looking for a new laptop that can do it all? A good laptop is as essential for college students as their books or college ID.

Laptops help you with your studies, but can also be used for a multitude of other applications, too. With this one device, you can play games, stream your favorite online content, edit photos, sharing them on social media, and much more.

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It doesn’t matter if you attend the school remotely or visit a campus; a good laptop for college students has to be well-built and future-proof to last several years without needing a replacement. This is also why you should not opt for a cheap laptop. A good laptop to invest in for your education is almost as important as the education itself.


The best laptop for college students in 2023:

Apple MacBook Air (M2)

M2 Air

Key Specs

  • Processor: Apple M2
  • RAM: Up to 24GB of unified memory
  • Screen size: 13.6-inch
  • Screen resolution: 2560×1664
  • Refresh rate: 60Hz
  • Storage: Up to 2TB
  • Operating system: macOS
  • Connectivity: 2x Thunderbolt 4 ports, 3.5mm headphone jack
  • Features: 1080p webcam, Four-speaker sound system, MagSafe3 charging

The new Apple MacBooks are miles ahead of the competition thanks to their performance, design, portability, and battery life. If you customize your Air with 512GB of SSD and 16 GB of RAM, you’ll have a perfectly portable powerhouse at your fingertips.

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With the MacBook Air M2, you get a stunning 13.6-inch Liquid Retina Display, a design refined over the years, and an extremely powerful M2 chipset that should easily last more than your college years without requiring an upgrade.

These chipsets are extremely power efficient, giving you a very long battery life, and you won’t be forced to look for a socket to charge the laptop regularly.

That said, the MacBook Air M1 is still among the best portable laptops, and if you want to save some cash, it’s also worth considering. Though, you should ensure to get the best specced machine you can afford, as the chips are not user replaceable.

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Best Windows laptop for students – Dell XPS 13 Plus (2022)

  • Processor: Up to 13 Gen Intel Core i7 1360P
  • RAM: Up to 32GB LPDDR5
  • Screen size: 13.4-inch OLED
  • Screen resolution: 3456 x 2160
  • Refresh rate: 60Hz
  • Storage: Up to 2TB
  • Operating system: Windows 11
  • Connectivity: 2x Thunderbolt 4 ports USB Type-C with DisplayPort and Power Delivery
  • Features: Type C charger, Touch screen, 720p webcam, Dual stereo speakers, 1.26 Kg

Dell’s XPS 13 has been one of the best Windows laptops. It is highly portable, has a gorgeous OLED touch display, and has a powerful chipset under the hood.

The display on this laptop has skinny bezels coupled with a bright OLED panel, which is a lovely sight. Since it’s a thin-frame laptop, Dell done away with all the ports, and all you get is a couple of ThunderBolt 4 USB Type-C ports. Since one of them will be used to charge the laptop, you’re practically left with only one port. Thankfully Dell has bundled in a couple of adapters – USB-C to USB-A 3.0 and USB-C to 3.5mm  – which will come in handy during your regular usage.

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The Dell XPS 13 Plus will easily last a few years with its powerful innards and metallic build. It can handle almost any task thrown at it. However, with Intel Iris Xe Graphics, you might be unable to game on it.

Best Chromebook for students – Acer Chromebook Spin 713

Key specs

  • Processor: Up to 11 Gen Intel Core i7 1360P
  • RAM: Up to 16GB
  • Screen size: 13.5-inch
  • Screen resolution: 2256 x 1504
  • Refresh rate: 60Hz
  • Storage: Up to 256GB
  • Operating system: Chrome OS
  • Connectivity: 2x USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-C Ports, 1x USB A, and 1 HDMI
  • Features: Type C charger, Touch screen, stereo speakers

If you can complete your college assignments with the help of web-based applications, then getting a Chromebook could be a good idea. These come cheaper than a typical Windows or an Apple laptop and might be less fancy in terms of looks, but they can help you get the job done. A long battery life is just icing on the cake.

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The Acer Chromebook Spin 713 is among the best Chromebooks for students and people who’re always on the move. The device has a 13.5-inch Full HD touchscreen, a fantastic keyboard, and can be configured up to a powerful 11th-generation Intel Core i7 processor.

It also has up to 16GB of RAM and 256GB of onboard storage. Since you’d mostly use this to access web-based applications, you’ll likely not run out of storage space. Adding a couple of USB Type C Ports with PowerDelivery, A USB-A, an HDMI port, a ten-hour battery life, a 360-degree hinge, and support for Android apps, you have a perfect device to help you sail through college and more. Just be aware of the limitations of ChromeOS before purchasing one.

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The best gaming laptop for college students: ASUS ROG Zephyrus G14

ROG Zephyrus 14 on a gradient backgroundAsus

Key specs

  • Processor: AMD Ryzen 9 7940HS
  • GPU: Up to NVIDIA GeForce RTX 4090
  • RAM: Up to 32GB DDR5
  • Screen size: 14-inches
  • Screen resolution: 2560 x 1600
  • Refresh rate: 165Hz
  • Storage: 1TB PCIe 4.0 NVMe M.2
  • Operating system: Windows 11 Pro
  • Connectivity: 2x USB-A 3.2 Gen 2, 1x USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C support DisplayPort, 1x Type C USB 4 support DisplayPort / power delivery, card reader, HDMI 2.1 port, 3.5mm headphone jack
  • Features: AniMe Matrix, Backlit Chiclet Keyboard 1-Zone RGB,1080P FHD IR Camera, Wi-Fi 6E, Bluetooth 5.3, Aura Sync, 1.72 Kg

The ASUS ROG Zephyrus G14 has one of the most portable and powerful gaming laptops for students. It has a customizable “Anime Matrix” on its lid that instantly makes it a crowd favorite. Weighing at just 1.72 kg, the Zephyrus G14 can be easily slid into a backpack full of books.

The laptop can be configured with up to 32GB of fast DDR5 RAM, has a 165 Hz display, and has a GeForce RTX 4090 under the hood, making it the ideal gaming laptop for gaming and any college assignment thrown at it. Its powerful internals also makes the Zephyrus G14 laptop suitable for students in technical fields like 3D graphics.

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The laptop also features Asus’s hinge design that adds extra breathing space beneath the computer, coupled with an internal custom vapor chamber, which keeps the laptop nice and cool. Besides these, you also get fast charging, up to 10 hours of battery life, full DCI P3 coverage, and Dolby Atmos support for an immersive gaming experience.

Best budget laptop for college students – Acer Swift 5

Acer Swift 5 laptop on a dark backgroundAcer

Key Specs

  • Processor: Intel Core i7-1260P
  • GPU: Intel Iris Xe Graphics
  • RAM: Up to 16GB DDR5
  • Screen size: 14-inches
  • Screen resolution: 2560 x 1600
  • Refresh rate: 165Hz
  • Storage: 1TB PCIe 4.0 NVMe M.2
  • Operating system: Windows 11
  • Connectivity: two Thunderbolt 4 ports, an HDMI port, 1x USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-A port, 1x USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-A port, a headset jack
  • Features: 720p Camera, Wi-Fi 6E, Bluetooth 5.1, Kensington lock, long battery life

The Acer Swift 5 is among the best budget laptops for students. Its powerful 11 Gen CPU can handle any tasks thrown at it. This budget king has an attractive design, up to 13 hour battery life, fast SSD storage, and overall snappy performance.

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While it may be less than ideal for content consumption primarily because of its subpar speakers, an excellent display and an affordable price tag make up for it. As it weighs just 1.2kg, you would not realize if you’re carrying a laptop in your backpack. You also get an array of ports required for regular usage.

The best laptop alternative: Apple iPad Air (2022)

iPad Air

Key Specs

  • Processor: Apple M1
  • RAM: 8GB
  • Screen size: 10.9-inch Liquid Retina
  • Screen resolution: 2360×1640
  • Refresh rate: Up to 120Hz
  • Storage: Up to 256GB
  • Operating system: iPadOS
  • Connectivity: USB-C
  • Features: Access to iOS apps and features like FaceTime, Universal Control, and Sidecar to use as secondary monitors and 4K video recording

iPads have become the preferred portable device of students across the globe. Though you might not get the software support you’d get on any Windows laptop, iPad is still preferred due to its portability, performance, battery life, and, most importantly, convenience.

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The latest iPad Air powered by an M1 chip can handle most performance-heavy apps like Photoshop, Lightroom, Capture One, and Lumafusion to transform into a video editing powerhouse on the go. Moreover, Final Cut Pro and Logic Pro are now available on the iPad – who needs a laptop?

We’re big fans of the Magic Keyboard case, not just for its keyboard and trackpad but also for its solid armor. But let’s be honest; it’s costly. Luckily for us, plenty of cost-effective alternatives are ready to step up to the plate.

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Remember the cherry on top: Apple Arcade and a high-end screen for your entertainment pleasure. When you slide that iPad off its Magic Keyboard and go full tablet mode, there’s a satisfying switch that flips in your head that you can’t find elsewhere.

What’s the best laptop for a college student?

Nvidia worked with OnePoll, to conduct a survey that found that one of the biggest purchases a student can make is their laptop and one of the biggest regrets they make, is that same purchase.

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Over a third (37%) of students regretted their purchase of a laptop and nearly half (48%) didn’t do enough research.

With just 28% reporting having no online lectures, we’re no longer in a ‘new normal’, but just ‘normal’ that requires a decent machine to be on a desk with the student. Even those who attend physical classes are still going to need something decent to join them on their journey.

Nvidia spoke about how important the form factor was to a lot of college students. A majority of gaming-centric laptops of old would be far too bulky while providing needed power, their excessive weight made them hard to recommend – on top of their lackluster batteries.

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Now? Thin and powerful are getting more common, as AMD’s latest Ryzen 6000 mobile CPUs and Nvidia’s latest leap in laptop GPUs with the 30-series doing wonders for both power and form factor.

Speaking about the needs of a student, Ben Berraondo, Head of Consumer & Regional PR EMEAI at NVIDIA said that they need something that ‘they won’t kick off with’ and realize later down the line that they need to upgrade.

“These aren’t cheap purchases, no matter where you go in the market. Whether it’s entry-level or high-end, they’re all relatively expensive. Certainly one of the biggest purchases that students make.”

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Nvidia also added that they’re seeing laptops being used outside of their original purpose. Video games and entertainment make up 40% and 41% of the answers, with only 10% admitting to never using the laptop outside of work.

The need to invest a large chunk of cash into this purchase is incredibly necessary. Things need to last. What you put in, is what you will get out of it. While there are great budget options, our budget choices are specifically selected to ensure that you’re still getting quality. We also include an alternative that might actually assist college students better going forward.

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Prices might make your eyes roll, but there’s a reason behind it. In this day and age, a student needs to come out with the same laptop they went in with and the current landscape of hardware absolutely allows this.

How often do you need to replace a laptop?

We’d say that you need to replace your laptop every four years or so, depending on what specs your machine currently has. Right now, Laptops are getting more powerful with every hardware cycle. This means that in the last 5-6 years, we’ve seen a significant uptick in the number of systems that use things like SSDs to speed up boot times, in addition to things like the amount of storage and RAM.

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These factors have gotten much cheaper over time, and therefore you will be able to get a significantly better laptop on the cheap than you were before. Right now, an upgrade is worth it if you are getting a much more powerful processor, more storage, and RAM. Remember, despite your laptop being marked as having a brand name and tier attached to it, these do age, and so you also need to take this into careful consideration.

Should college students use a laptop?

It can be tempting to forego getting a laptop altogether if you are a college student. Apple’s iPad and iPad Pro both offer a viable alternative to a full-fat laptop, with accessories that also make it as such.

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However, if you are looking to do a lot of heavier work, such as accessing complex files, or 3D viewsheds for maps, you might want to look into getting yourself a laptop, as that will be a much more well-rounded option than a tablet would.

We would honestly choose to avoid a tablet altogether if you can because unless you are just looking to tap out essays, a laptop is much more versatile in just about every single conceivable way.

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Also, make sure to check out our other guides:

The best PS5 controllers | The best mobile games to play in 2023 | Best gaming keyboards | Best CPU for gaming | Best PC controller | Best budget gaming desk | Best power bank for steam deck | Best 1440p Monitor for PS5 | Best gamecube controller for Switch and PC

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