Best Laptop For College Students [2019] For All Major & Budget Picks

Paper notebooks and mechanical pencils are a thing of the past in education settings. These days, a computer is an absolute necessity for both note taking and using school software.

Not sure what specs you need and how much money you really need to spend on a computer? Below we cover eight different picks for the best college laptop, no matter what topics you are studying.

Picking The Best Laptop For College Students

There are three key elements to keep in mind when buying a college laptop before you even look at hardware specs — weight, portability, and noise.

You will be carrying your computer from home to car to classes, so you want something that isn’t heavy and unwieldy. If you intend to use your device during class, looking for options with a quiet fan is also a plus (especially for your fellow students).

Durability and comfort are two features often overlooked in favor of high end specs. Don’t make that mistake!

You want a comfortable keyboard design for typing lengthy papers, and spending a little more in exchange for a longer product life span is always a smart move.

Let’s jump into our top picks for the best school computer! Want to see each contender by style and price? Check out all our selections below:

The Contenders For Best College Laptop

1. Lenovo 15.6 Inch – Budget Option

Do you want a computer that will more than meet the needs of the average student but spend less than $400? This should be your pick!

  • More RAM than other laptops at this price
  • Optical drive
  • Short battery life
  • No solid state drive

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Right now, Lenovo has got some amazing deals on budget notebooks. If you need decent specs but can’t spend a lot of cash, this should be your first option.

Obviously, this is not a top-of-the-line machine. But for the price range, you can’t expect to get better specs than with the Lenovo.

With 8GB of RAM, a full 1 TB hard drive, and an optical drive, you aren’t lacking in performance or features. There’s plenty of room for storing school projects and you will be able to run most programs without any problems.

This model doesn’t have a dedicated graphics card, so you won’t be playing Black Ops 4 on the weekends. With this amount of RAM though, you can still engage in casual gaming after class

While it may not be a skinny ultrabook, this is still a highly portable computer for taking to and from the dorm. It remains under five pounds and less than an inch thick.

To get the most speed out of this device, make sure to uninstall all the bloatware and turn off the auto-starting programs installed by Lenovo.

There’s one other issue to be aware of that is often mentioned by buyers — the battery life is quite short. You won’t get a full 8 hour day out of it, so make sure to find a seat by the power outlet!

If you need to go even lower on the price, the IdeaPad 330 is often available for around $250. You only get 4GB of RAM and a 500GB HDD, however, so you essentially halve the specs.

Specification
Hardware specifications for Lenovo 15.6 inch Laptop
ProcessorAMD Radeon A12-9720P (2.7GHz)
RAM8GB DDR4 RAM
Storage1TB HDD
GraphicsAMD Radeon R7 Graphics
Display15.6-Inch HD Display, 1366 x 768 Pixels Resolution
Operating SystemWindows 10 Home 64 Bit
Battery Life4 hours
Weight4.85 lbs

2. Apple 13 Inch MacBook Air – Mac Option 

Apple 13 inch MacBook Air

Are you a staunch Apple fan and don’t care to go with a Windows 10 device? This should be your pick as the best college laptop!

  • High battery life
  • Solid state drive
  • Low storage capacity
  • Not a retina display

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Windows isn’t always the best option for students, especially if you are concerned about malware or long Microsoft updates eating up your day.

If you’d like to give the Mac OS a shot, the MacBook Air is the way to go. Its lightweight, has super fast operation, and doesn’t lack in extra features like keyboard backlighting.

256GB isn’t a huge storage capacity, but with a Mac device you will often be storing data in the cloud anyway. If you need physical media storage, you get USB ports, Thunderbolt, and a card reader for connecting devices.

In general, buyers leave overwhelmingly positive reviews of this model, especially if you need the Adobe suite for photography classes. There’s only one issue that is frequently cited as a downside.

Unfortunately, this MacBook isn’t one of Apple’s iconic “retina” style displays. If you want extreme screen resolution you’ll need to bump up the price with a different model.

Specification
Hardware specifications for  Apple 13 Inch MacBook Air
ProcessorIntel Core i5 (1.8 – 2.9GHz)
RAM8GB DDR4 RAM
Storage256GB SSD
GraphicsIntel HD Graphics 6000
Display13.3-Inch Display, 1440 x 900 Pixels Resolution
Operating SystemMac OS
Battery Life12 hours
Weight4 lbs

3. MSI GV62 8RD-200 – For Students Who Play Games

MSI GV62 8RD-200

Want to run new games on high settings but still have plenty of storage space for saving school projects? This should be your pick for the best laptop for students who also play games!

  • 8th gen processor
  • Dedicated graphics card
  • No solid state drive
  • Slightly heavier and shorter battery life

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Everyone needs a computer for school work, but you may want a device that’s capable of more than just reading PDFs and sending emails.

When you need to dominate at Fortnite or PUBG on the weekends as well, this is your machine. MSI’s offering in our list of contenders is reasonably priced for a gaming rig, which is a huge plus for college students on a budget.

The Ti edition of the GTX 1050 card is usually more than powerful enough to handle most games at high settings. If you prefer to go more cutting edge and have the money to spend, look for an upgraded model with the 1060 – 1070 instead.

There are a couple of issues that are going to be present with any gaming machine to be aware of before buying.

First up, they are going to be heavier since they have to cram in more components. This MSI model is still under five pounds though, so it remains on par with a standard work style laptop.

The battery life is also going to be shorter, and the machine will tend to run hotter. Those are just issues you have to put up with if you want to do any serious gaming in addition to school work.

Some gaming features work out well for school settings, however. The red backlit keys in particular are more useful for college students than you’d expect.

When you’re working on projects late at night and don’t want to leave the lights on, this is a life saving feature.

Specification
Hardware specifications for MSI GV62 8RD-200
ProcessorIntel Core i5-8300H (2.3 – 4.0GHz)
RAM8GB DDR4 RAM
Storage1TB HDD
GraphicsGeForce GTX 1050Ti (4GB)
Display15.6-Inch Full HD EDP IPS Display, 1920 x 1080 Pixels Resolution
Operating SystemWindows 10 Home 64 Bit
Battery Life5 hours
Weight4.8 lbs

4. Dell Inspiron 15For Programming Major

Dell Inspiron 15

When you’re looking for a laptop that will handle any programming task, Dell Inspiron 15 is an ideal choice. It might look like a gaming laptop (which is another thing it can be used for), but it features really powerful components and amazing processing power for most programmings tasks you’ll need to work on.

  • FHD Widescreen
  • Powerful components
  • Great graphic capability
  • Built in media reader
  • Support isn’t the best
  • Sound quality is an average

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Key features & details

Immersive Screen & Design

Dell Inspiron 15 is the most ideal laptop when it comes to size, featuring a 15” screen that offers a very decent resolution, and even a better yet image quality.

The body of the laptop is a bit on the thicker side, but it’s still a pretty lightweight laptop for its category. One thing is for sure, you’ll never have a problem with its durability or reliability.

Combination of sleek black color and accent of red spread across the laptop’s design is a very sleek and minimalistic yet attractive design we really like.

Powerful on the Go

Whatever programming tasks you’re working on, this laptop features more than enough of power to handle all your important tasks.

Being equipped with the 7th generation of Intel i5 processor, dedicated GTX 1050 Ti graphics card, and a lot of ram and storage space – you’ll never be slowed down.

What’s even better is that you will be able to take this laptop anywhere you go in your backpack and work from anywhere you prefer.

Increased Connectivity

The benefit of a thick design is the increased connectivity Dell Inspiron 15 offers. It features 3 USB ports, micro card slot, ethernet port, HDMI, audio jack slot, and even has a secure lock where you can attach your Kensington lock.

Specification
Hardware specifications for Dell Inspiron 15
Processor7th generation, Intel Core i5-7300HQ, 2.50 GHz
RAM8 GB
Storage256 GB SSD
GraphicsNVIDIA GTX 1050 Ti
Display15.6”, Full HD Widescreen IPS display
Operating SystemWindows 10
Battery LifeUp to 6 hours
Weight6.61 lbs

5. Acer Spin 5 – For Nursing Students

Acer Spin 5

Need something portable that will last for a full day of classes? This should be your pick for the best college laptop!

  • Very lightweight
  • Touch screen flip design
  • 8th gen processor
  • Smaller storage capacity
  • Noisy fan

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While plenty of your classes for nursing are in a standard classroom setting, much of your training will involve being on your feet and on the go. A lightweight device that can handle multiple types of projects should be what you aim for in a perfect college laptop.

Generally nursing students won’t need a dedicated graphics card, but you do want portability and durability. A battery that’s going to last all day is a huge plus too, as you may not have time to plug in anywhere.

You get all of that with the Acer Spin, which weighs just over three pounds and can flip around in multiple configurations. If you need more than 256GB of storage space though, be sure to invest in an external USB drive.

Although it checks all the boxes for a college laptop, there is one issue many buyers mention that you should know about. The fan on this unit is fairly loud for such a small notebook.

Want a Chromebook instead of a Windows 10 machine? Try out the Asus Chromebook Flip, which is a bit less expensive but has a very similar style.

Specification
Hardware specifications for Acer Spin 5
ProcessorIntel Core i5-8250U Processor (Up to 3.4GHz)
RAM8GB DDR4 RAM
Storage256GB SSD
GraphicsIntel UHD Graphics 620
Display13.3-Inch Full HD Touch, 1920 x 1080 Pixels Resolution
Operating SystemWindows 10 Home 64 Bit
Battery Life13 hours
Weight3.31 lbs

6. Microsoft Surface Book 2 – For Architecture Students

Microsoft Surface Book 2

Want a 2-in-1 device for freehanding designs but still get absolutely top-notch specs? This should be your pick for the best laptop!

  • More RAM than other models
  • Dedicated graphics card
  • 2-in-1 touch screen
  • No HDMI port
  • High price

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CAD software will eat up your computer’s memory, so you want a ton of RAM for architecture classes. Bottom line, just simply don’t settle for anything less than 16GB.

You also want portability, but still need a good screen size. The Surface Book gives you a little of both there, which makes it a great hybrid option.

Most lightweight devices drop down to 13 inches, and that makes viewing architectural design software more of a chore. With the Surface Book, you still get a full 15 inch screen.

The really crazy thing here is that you get a high end graphics card in a thin, 2-in-1 machine with high battery life. Those features don’t normally all go hand in hand, but they are perfect for engineering and architecture projects.

The Surface Book gives you lots of options for freehand drawing designs with a pen. If you don’t tend to use that style, a high end gaming machine without a touch screen may actually be one of your best choices.

One main complaint is often brought up by students who bought this model. You are slightly more limited in the number and types of ports than with other laptops.

Most importantly, there’s no HDMI port here for connecting to an external display. If you need that feature, you will have to invest in an adapter or look for a different model altogether.

Specification
Hardware specifications for Microsoft Surface Book 2
ProcessorIntel Quad Core i7 Processor (1.9GHz)
RAM16GB DDR4 RAM
Storage512GB SSD
GraphicsNvidia GeForce GTX 1060 (6GB)
Display15-Inch Touch Screen Display, 3260 x 2160 Pixels Resolution
Operating SystemWindows 10 Pro 64 Bit
Battery Life17 hours
Weight4.2 lbs

7. Lenovo X1 CarbonBest Pick for Business Major

Lenovo X1 Carbon

When you’re looking for a laptop to handle your business major, Lenovo X1 Carbon is number one choice because it’s reliable, powerful, and very versatile. You can work on your most important tasks anywhere you are, and even take the laptop with you in the smallest bag you have – and still don’t feel its weight.

  • Vivid IPS display
  • Reliable & quick performance
  • Ideal portable workstation for business
  • Backlit keyboard
  • Trackpad is an average

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Key features & details

Reliable Power

Whatever business you are handling as a business major student, Lenovo X1 Carbon is one of the most reliable laptops that features great & reliable performance.

It’s being equipped with the latest 8th generation of Intel i7 processor, 16 GB of RAM, and 512 GB of SSD.

Wherever you take it, you’ll have the access to the lightweight reliability inside your backpack.

Durable & Comfortable Design

At first, Lenovo’s X1 Carbon design doesn’t look special, but it’s only when you lay your hands on it and discover every single design feature it offers.

The material used for the build is really quality and even is shockproof, while on the touch, it feels really premium and comfortable.

What we liked the most was the screen which can be laid 180 degrees, so you can never break the screen hinges accidentally – and yet get the best viewing angles you need.

Backlit Keyboard

Not only this laptop features a very comfortable keyboard that can be easily compared to Apple’s redesigned keyboards, but it includes a very decent backlit feature.

This way, you’ll always be able to continue your work, even when you face the darkest environments.

Specification

Hardware specifications for Lenovo X1 Carbon

Processor8th Generation, Intel Core i7-8550U, 1.8 GHz up to 4.00 GHz
RAM16 GB
Storage512 GB SSD
GraphicsIntel Integrated 620 Graphics
Display14”, anti-glare IPS Full HD display
Operating SystemWindows 10
Battery LifeUp to 15 hours
Weight4.41 lbs
Other Features
RapidCharge technology

8. Dell XPS Thin And Light – For Graphic & Design Students

Dell XPS Thin and Light

Need the best screen resolution and top-notch specs for graphic design programs? This should be your pick!

  • Ample storage capacity
  • 4k screen
  • Touch display
  • Not a 2-in-1 design
  • High price

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Graphic design students can have hugely varying needs in terms of hardware specs. There are a few key components to keep in mind for any student, however.

First off, you probably want a touch screen for free handing designs, and you definitely want a high quality display.

You can also expect to frequently have multiple windows open with memory-devouring graphics applications. That means plenty of RAM is also a critical feature not to be overlooked.

Saving multiple versions of large image files also means you need lots of storage space. You don’t want to skimp by going with the older and slower hard disk drives, so pick an SSD instead.

Although the initial price tag is quite high, this Dell model hits all those key features. There’s only one issue that is often criticized by buyers you may need to consider.

The webcam is at the bottom of the screen rather than at the top. Unfortunately, that makes for an awkward angle when video chatting.

If your course load doesn’t require a dedicated graphics card, or you find yourself using a stylus more often than the touchpad, then the Lenovo Yoga 920 can also be a great option.

Specification
Hardware specifications for Dell XPS Thin and Light Laptop
ProcessorIntel Core i7-7700HQ (Up to 3.8 GHz)
RAM16GB DDR4 RAM
Storage1TB SSD
GraphicsNvidia GeForce GTX 1050 (4GB)
Display15.6-Inch 4K Ultra HD Touch Display, 3840 x 2160 Pixels Resolution
Operating SystemWindows 10 Home 64 Bit
Battery Life5 hours
Weight4.41 lbs

Criteria used for evaluation

Size & Resolution

Size & resolution is definitely the first thing you should look for in your new laptop since you’ll rarely use it at a desk, yet you’ll most of the time be on a go and work anywhere.

Therefore, paying attention to size is crucial since it’s something that will determine the versatility and even portability of your laptop. Other than that, the resolution will determine the ease of use of your laptop. We always recommend students to also check the quality of the display itself when checking the resolution.

This will help you understand the capabilities of your laptop when it comes down to size, resolution, and even display. What’s left after that is the performance and even a few other form & design features.

Form / Design

Other than the size, form & design will determine the ease of use, uncover helpful features manufacturer added to the laptop, tell you more about the portability and versatility of the laptop without even having to lay your hands on the laptop.

We recommend you look for the materials used to build the laptop, the number of ports, the thickness of the laptop, laptop’s weight, and basically anything you can look at and is located on the laptop.

Other than that, we even recommend you have a look at the ease of access to the main components since you never know when you might end up upgrading your laptop after all – and believe us, you don’t want to have to remove a lot to access the components.

Paying attention to some useful features even before laying your hands on the laptop, such as fingerprint sensor, is very important so you can be prepared and understand what else the laptop can offer (other than performance, of course).

Performance

The main part of the laptop, the heart, and the soul is what lay inside – the configuration/components. Even if you don’t understand a lot when it comes down to components, you’ll need to do a bit of research.

Because laptop’s components can tell you a lot about the performance your laptop will be able to offer. And if you’re looking for a laptop that will be able to fit your specific needs, it’s really important to know the performance level of your laptop.

Luckily for you, if you’re don’t know anything about the components, our categorized picks will help any student find the perfect laptop for their school needs. All you need is to pay attention to a few other aspects mentioned in these criteria, and you won’t be wrong at all.

Keyboard

As a student, you can expect to type a lot typing on the laptop since you’ll be doing anything from homework, writing essays, dissertations, and much more.

A quality keyboard doesn’t need to be a full-sized keyboard, but it needs to have decent key size, a great and comfortable key distance travel and should be of a quality material that will give you plenty of comforts while typing.

When you’re looking at the keyboard, we highly recommend you to make sure that the keyboard isn’t placed awkwardly and that the palm rests fit great for the purpose of the keyboard. Also, make sure that the trackpad isn’t in the way (or isn’t too large).

Additionally, we also recommend students to get a keyboard that comes with a backlit feature since it’s one of the most helpful features voted by students around the world. You never know when it might be useful for your needs!

Connectivity

You might not have any plans to connect additional and external devices, but you’ll have to connect your laptop with other devices at your school, sooner or later.

As we always say it, it’s better to be prepared than to regret making the wrong choice, and if you don’t make sure you’re getting a laptop with plenty of ports – you’ll have a lack of connectivity problem that won’t only slow you down, but will even be able to stop you from doing some school work.

We highly recommend you get a laptop that features at least a few USB ports, HDMI port, micro card slot, and even ethernet and CD/DVD drives (if necessary).

With the level of modern technology, getting a laptop that’s thin and yet features great connectivity definitely isn’t a problem!

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Do I want Mac OS or Windows 10?

A: At this point in time, the OS you choose is really more of a personal preference issue. Most programs are available in a multitude of OS options, and there are emulators for running tools in other operating systems. Windows computers tend to be available with higher-end specs, especially in terms of graphics cards and processor speed.

Q: Should I pick a Chromebook for my college laptop?

A: Going with a Chromebook can be an excellent way to both save money and get a lighter, more portable laptop. There are big downsides to consider, though. While you can download Android apps with Chromebooks now, you still can’t install Windows programs.

In many cases, that may not matter. If your courses don’t use any high-end software, there’s no reason to shell out the extra cash.

Q: What other features do I need to consider?

A: One big issue to keep in mind for a school laptop is longevity. Whether you are attending a two-year tech school, getting a four-year degree, or even going beyond that, you want a computer that will last. Budget laptops may be necessary when you factor in the costs of tuition and books, but they aren’t good long term options.

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