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 different picks for the best college laptop this 2021, no matter what major you are studying.
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:
Recommendations for January 2021
10 Best Laptops For College Students In 2021
Lenovo IdeaPad S145 – Cheap yet reliable
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!
Hardware specifications for Lenovo IdeaPad S145
CPU: AMD APU A6-9225 up to 3.0 GHz | Graphics: AMD Radeon R4 | RAM: 8 GB RAM| Screen: AMD APU A6-9225 | Storage: 1 TB HDD | Operating System: Windows 10 Home | Battery Life: | Weight: 3.96 pounds
Apple Macbook Air – Portable Macbook
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.
Hardware specifications for Apple MacBook Air
CPU: Intel Core i5-1030NG7 processor | Graphics: Intel Iris Plus Graphics | RAM: 8 GB | Screen: 13.3-inch, 2560 x 1600 | Storage: 512 GB SSD | Operating System: MAC OS| Battery Life:13 hours | Weight: 5.37 pounds
MSI GF63 – Gaming Specs With Tons of Storage
Everyone needs a computer for schoolwork, 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 the 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.
Hardware specifications for MSI GF63
CPU: Intel 6-Core i7-9750H up to 4.5GHz | Graphics: GTX 1050 Ti 4GB | RAM: 8GB RAM | Screen: 15. 6 inch FHD (1920*1080), IPS-Level 60Hz 45%ntsc thin Bezel | Storage: 256GB SSD (Boot) + 1TB HDD| Operating System: Win10 Home | Battery Life: 5 hours | Weight: 4.1 pounds
Dell Inspiron 15 – For Programming Majors
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.
A 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.
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 10th generation of Intel i5 processor 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.
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.
Hardware specifications for Dell Inspiron 15
CPU: 10th Gen Intel Quad-Core i5-1035G1 Processor (1.00GHz Base, 6MB Cache, Max turbo up to 3.60 GHz) | Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics with shared graphics memory | RAM: 16GB DDR4 Ram | Screen: 15.6-inch FHD (1920 x 1080) Anti-Glare LED-Backlit Non-Touch Display Narrow Border | Storage: 512 GB SSD | Operating System: Windows 10 Home | Battery Life: 5 hours | Weight: 4.03 pounds
Acer Chromebook Spin 11 – Long Battery Life
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 about 2.76 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.
Hardware specifications for Acer Chromebook Spin 11
CPU: Intel Celeron N3350 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 500 | RAM: 4GB RAM| Screen: 11.6-inch HD (1,366 x 768) IPS touch | Storage: 32GB eMMC SSD | Operating System: Chrome OS| Battery Life: 9 hours| Weight: 2.76 pounds
Microsoft Surface Pro 7 – For Architecture students
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 Pro gives you a little of both there, which makes it a great hybrid option.
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 Pro 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.
Hardware specifications for Microsoft Surface Pro 7
CPU: Core i7-1065G7 processor | Graphics: Iris Plus 940 graphics card | RAM: 16 GB| Screen: 12.3-inch, 2736 x 1824 (267 PPI) touchscreen | Storage: 512 GB SSD | Operating System: Windows 10 Home | Battery Life: 10.5 hours | Weight: 1.74 pounds
Lenovo X1 Carbon – For Business Students
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 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.
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.
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.
Hardware specifications for Lenovo X1 Carbon
CPU: 10th Gen Core i7-10510U processor | Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics 620| RAM:16 GB | Screen: 14-inch LCD 1920×1080 resolution (400 nit); 3840 x 2160 VESA400 HDR with Dolby Vision (500 nit) | Storage: 512 GB SSD | Operating System: Windows 10 Pro | Battery Life: 19.5 hours | Weight: 4.6 pounds
Dell XPS 15 – For Graphic Design Students
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.
Hardware specifications for Dell XPS 15
CPU: Intel Core i7-9750H Processor | Graphics: NVIDIA GTX 1650 4GB GDDR5 | RAM: 16 GB RAM| Screen: 15.6″ 4K UHD (3840×2160) Touch Display, | Storage: 512 GB SSD | Operating System: Windows 10 | Battery Life: Dell XPS 15 7590 | Weight: 4 pounds
Dell G5 15 – Entry level gaming laptop
Gaming is a big pastime for most students but sadly they can’t afford the really high end gaming laptops and experience gaming to its fullest. Thankfully we have the Dell G5 15, an entry level gaming laptop that’s still expensive but within an affordable reach for college students.
This gaming laptop features state of the art specs with its 9th Gen Intel Core i7-9750H, 16GB DDR4 RAM, and NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650 graphics card. With specs as powerful as this you can run most high-end games at high graphic settings and above without suffering from lag or frame drops.
It also has a 15 inch screen with 1920 x 1080 resolution allowing the gamer to immerse themselves in another world and forget their worries as a student. Gamers will have less problems with noisy fans because the Dell G5 15 also features an advanced cooling system that ensures your fans don’t run wind turbines while gaming.
Lastly, the Dell G5 15 is pretty slick for a gaming laptop making it portable and easy to carry around compared to other bulkier gaming laptops.
Hardware specifications for Dell G5 15
CPU: 9th Gen Intel Core i7-9750H | Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650 with 4GB GDDR5 Graphics | RAM: 16GB DDR4 2666MHz RAM| Screen: 15. 6-Inch FHD (1920 x 1080) Anti-Glare LED backlight Non-Touch narrow Border IPS display| Storage: 256GB SSD and 1TB SATA | Operating System: Windows 10 Home | Battery Life: 7 hours | Weight: 8.58 pounds
HP Envy – Powerful processor
If you’re the type of student who loves to multitask and have multiple tabs on their browser and run multiple programs on the background, then chances are that your laptop can’t handle it and lag or even worse! Crash and lose all of your valuable progress.
The solution to this might be to stop multitasking and limit the number of programs you run on the side but you get things done slower this way and for a student time is very valuable.
A good solution to this if you have the cash to spare is to get a laptop with a powerful processor and the HP Envy fits the bill. Featuring the latest Intel Core i7-10510U Processor, this laptop will be able to handle tons of resource demanding programs and still function smoothly.
Asides from the processor, the laptop has 16 GB of RAM and a very large storage space of 1,256 GB of storage memory. Now the diligent student can keep all of their notes, projects, and movies without worrying about spac.
Lastly, the laptop has a long battery life of 9 hours making it really convenient to bring to school.
Hardware specifications for Lenovo HP Envy
CPU: Intel Core i7-10510U Processor (10th Gen, upto 4.90 GHz, 8MB Intel Smart Cache, 4-Cores) | Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce MX250 2GB GDDR5 Integrated Graphics | RAM: 16 GB DDR4 SODIMM RAM | Screen: 17.3 inch diagonal Full HD (1920×1080) 16:9 Aspect Ratio Touch Display | Storage: 256 GB SSD + 1TB HDD | Operating System: Windows 10 Pro-64 Operating System | Battery Life: 9 hours | Weight: 6.14lb
Picking The Best Laptop For College Students in 2021
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. Or you can check out overall laptop choice!
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).
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.
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!
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
Which laptop processor is best for students?
The ideal laptop processor for students would definitely be an i5 processor. It falls within the range of affordability without giving up much power.
What is the best laptop brand for college students?
There is no best brand but there are top laptop brands that students agree on. These brands are Dell, Lenovo, and Acer.
Should I get a 2 in 1 laptop for college?
It depends on what you’re planning to do with your laptop. If you want to just take notes with it and browse the internet, then a 2 in 1 laptop is a good idea. It’s portable and they’re usually affordable.
What is the best laptop size for college?
The best laptops sizes should range around 12-15 inches. Laptops within this size range are easier to carry while still being powerful enough to run resource-intensive software that college students will be using for their course.
Do I want Mac OS or Windows 10?
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.
Should I pick a Chromebook for my college laptop?
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.
What other features do I need to consider?
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.