College students are among the most ardent users of laptops, for they need their laptops for everything, right from taking notes in the classroom to working on assignments and projects, from watching movies with friends to creating path-breaking multimedia content.
But this audience does not only demand a laptop that caters to these requirements; the need of the hour is for a laptop that does it all in style.
When you’re out hunting for a laptop for college, you need to consider the overall package. So, while the specifications and the features offered will be important, so will the build and design.
Typically, you need a laptop you can lug around with you comfortably, without feeling burdened; it also needs to be resilient enough to sustain shocks and frantic use (read public transport and last-minute submissions).
These laptops are also versatile enough to suit a variety of majors and courses, but we have made your job easier by identifying their core purpose. So, let us get started with finding you the perfect college buddy, shall we?
- Laptop or Tablet for College: What to Choose?
- Our Picks: 10 Best Laptops for College Students 2021
- 1. Apple MacBook Air Laptop for Students
- 2. Apple MacBook Pro 13-inch Laptop for College
- 3. Microsoft Surface Pro 8
- 4. Acer Swift 3 SF314 Budget Laptop for College
- 5. Surface Laptop 4 (Best Design)
- 6. Dell XPS 13 9310 College Laptop
- 7. HP 15-dy2021nr 15-inch College Laptop
- 8. Lenovo Legion 5 Gaming Laptop for College
- 9. Acer Aspire 5 A515 Cheap Laptop for Students
- 10. Asus Chromebook Flip C436
- Best Laptop Screen Size for College Students
- Quick Checklist for the Ideal College Laptop
- How to Choose the Best Laptop for College
- Time to Head to College
Laptop or Tablet for College: What to Choose?
Life on campus can be demanding, involving late nights working on assignments and long lectures filled with note-taking. Picking a dependable computing companion is a must for a smooth college life as well as for improving your overall productivity. So, should you choose a laptop or a tablet?
Well, a tablet can be a smart choice for contemporary students who need to frequently use the browser, access apps on Google Play Store, read e-books, and engage in abundant wireless streaming. Tablets tend to hyper-mobile and lightweight, making them easy to carry around from class to class without fear of damage.
However, getting a laptop also comes with some intrinsic advantages. It is the closest to getting a full-purpose desktop, which means you will need it to run demanding applications or work on multiple browser tabs at the same time.
No matter how performance-oriented a tablet is, it can rarely match a laptop when it comes to activities like multimedia editing, building spreadsheets or gaming (yes, gaming is certainly a key college activity!).
Additionally, if you can see yourself needing to print out a lot of stuff or hop on to a LAN network, a laptop will serve you infinitely better than a tablet.
Here are some more considerations that will help you make this crucial decision:
- Battery life: Get a tablet if battery backup is paramount to you. These nifty little devices really have the knack of combining ultra-light build with massive unplugged usage. However, some computer manufacturers like Razer and HP have now launched laptops that can give many tablets a run for their money when it comes to battery backup. For example, the HP Spectre x360 can last on one charge for about 22 hours. The LG Gram laptop can run unplugged for almost 18 hours.
- Touch display: If you need a touchscreen, the scales automatically veer towards tablets. These come with responsive pens and support doodling, handwriting, etc. However, if you are going to be doing a massive amount of typing, a laptop will be a better choice. It can be painful to fiddle about with touchscreens after a point!
- Screen size: For students who wish to have a wide viewing experience, laptops offer much better real estate. This makes them good fits for those pursuing creative majors and anyone who anticipates gaming and movie-marathons as crucial components of their days.
- Resale: From a resale-value perspective, laptops offer a profitable deal. Since technology is getting more advanced even as you read this, it can be tempting or even necessary to invest in a new computing device in a year or so. The returns you can expect from a laptop are significantly higher than those from a tablet, making it a smarter choice from a financial standpoint.
- Connectivity: Get a laptop if you need to connect to multiple USB ports, HDMI, display ports, etc., to plug into external devices and peripherals like keyboards and mice.
Our Picks: 10 Best Laptops for College Students 2021
Are you gearing up to start college this year? Or looking to gift a cool, hyper-functional laptop to someone who is?
In either case, you need a device that has its finger on the pulse of the contemporary college crowd. Check it out the 10 best laptops for college 2021.
Best Laptops for College Students – Recommended Specs
|Processor||Intel Core i7 / AMD Ryzen 7|
|Graphics||Intel UHD Graphics / NVIDIA GTX|
|Memory||16GB DDR4 RAM|
|Storage||512GB NVMe SSD|
|Display||15.6″ Full HD (1920 x 1080)|
|Weight||Under 4 lbs.|
|Battery||Up to 15 Hours|
|OS||Windows 10 Home|
1. Apple MacBook Air Laptop for Students
A 13.3” laptop, the Apple MacBook Air is a good fit for campus life.
It has the performance for daily tasks and more, from taking down notes to streaming multimedia, thanks to the Apple M1 chip, 8GB RAM and 512GB SSD.
Display-wise, the Retina screen is set to wow users with its True Tone technology and Razor-sharp text clarity. Not only do you see more colors, but reading and enjoying multimedia content are also more satisfying.
Quite a portable device, this 2.8lbs laptop offers a backlit keyboard with a Touch ID for enhanced security and comfort. The stereo speakers are built to offer wider sound, thereby ensuring that you make no compromises on the auditory front.
Ensuring adequate connectivity are two Thunderbolt 3 ports (USB-C) that support rapid data transfer. Plus, since this computer can last unplugged for up to 18 hours, you can easily work on the move.
2. Apple MacBook Pro 13-inch Laptop for College
College means that you need a good quality laptop to keep up with the courses, the notes and everything in between.
In case you have been struggling to find a good one, the new Apple MacBook Pro 13-inch is likely one of the best MacBook for college, if not the best.
It is compact, portable and sleek, making it easier for you to carry around without any hassle. The price point is not the least but take it as an investment as it does make your overall college life a lot easier.
It comes with two finishes of silver and space gray. The 13.3” LED backlit display comes with the IPS technology for smoother visuals that don’t put strain on your eyes. It is also equipped with the True Tone technology.
It is also powered by 8-core CPU which is delivers up to 3.5x faster performance than previous Intel CPUs. As for the storage, it supports up to 512GB SSD along with up to 16GB RAM for smoother user experience.
3. Microsoft Surface Pro 8
Although released after a long wait, the Surface Pro 8 is an answer to all the college students’ needs.
From being a compact device to being a portable one, this matches up to all the requirements that a student needs in a laptop.
This powerful device encapsulates the functionalities of a laptop in a tablet like casing for on the go performance.
The device integrates the best of Windows 11, enabling users to work, play and create without any interruptions or delays.
It is powered by up to 11th Gen Intel Core i7-1185G7 Processor with Intel Iris Xe graphics for the ultimate productivity setup. Besides that, the integrated Thunderbolt 4 ports with Microsoft 365 apps enable seamless multitasking.
The Surface Pro 8 is equipped with a 13” PixelSense display with 1920p screen resolution and 120Hz refresh rate for the ultimate visual experience.
Also, it doesn’t compromise on the storage and memory and is backed with up to 1TB SSD of storage and up to 32GB RAM for the ultimate multitasking performance.
4. Acer Swift 3 SF314 Budget Laptop for College
Acer is a brand that people grow to like. If you have not used an Acer laptop before, it is likely that you wouldn’t know how good their devices are.
The Acer Swift 3 is one of the best available laptops in the market, especially because of the kind of features they pack in and the budget friendly price they come for.
It is quite thin and lightweight as well, which makes it easier for you to carry it around the college.
It is equipped with a 14” FHD widescreen IPS LED-backlit display with a screen resolution of 1080p. Coming round to the processors, it is powered by the AMD Ryzen 7 5700U octa-core mobile processor with Radeon graphics for smoother user experience.
It also comes equipped with all the connectivity options, which further ensure better performance as well.
For a device that is 0.63” thin and weighs 2.65lbs, this is likely one of the best available options, if not the best. It is also equipped with 512GB SSD along with 8GB RAM for smoother functions and operations without any hassle.
The device also supports around 11-12 hours of battery life, depending on your usage, which is pretty cool as well.
5. Surface Laptop 4 (Best Design)
With customized features like long battery backup (19 hours) and multiple connectivity options, the 13.5” Surface Laptop 4 is a great pick for college students.
Fueled by an Intel Core i5 processor, 8GB RAM, and a 512GB SSD, this laptop is adept at daily computing pursuits like taking notes, checking e-mail, and streaming multimedia content.
The quick-charging battery powers up to 80% in one hour, upping the portability quotient of this 2.76lbs laptop.
The elegant look and feel is a particularly appealing triumph for this computer, due in part to the premium Alcantara material.
A host of color options—sandstone, matte-black, ice-blue, platinum—add further customization to the mix.
6. Dell XPS 13 9310 College Laptop
Dell has always had a way with the college crowd, expertly creating laptops that are trendy yet resilient and capable of handling everyday tasks smoothly.
The XPS 13 9310 laptop is worth your consideration if you need an all-rounder with decent processing power (up to 11th gen Intel Core i7-1185G7, 16GB RAM and a 512GB SSD), a pleasant display (InfinityEdge, screen-to-body ratio of 91.5%), and good battery backup (up to 14 hours!).
Interestingly, Dell has infused this laptop with some stand-out features that the college-going audience should find useful. For instance, the FHD webcam located at the top of the display has a 4-element lens and temporal noise reduction for a crystal-clear video-calling experience.
You can also benefit from Dell Cinema and cherish the studio-grade picture and sound for both working in the classroom and entertainment after a long day.
The new Dell XPS 13 9310 is also one of the most mobile laptops on this list with a weight of only 2.64lbs, a thickness of 0.3–0.46”, and Corning Gorilla Glass 6 protection. Suffice it to say you can comfortably carry it with you and tune in wherever you fancy.
7. HP 15-dy2021nr 15-inch College Laptop
HP is a trust-worthy brand, something that you normally wouldn’t regret spending your money on. The HP 15-dy2021nr is a 15-inch FHD display laptop that has been tailored for the users who rely on their device to get by.
It is also equipped with the anti-glare widescreen LED-backlit display which further ensures smoother user experience beyond your expectations. It also packs in a 82% screen to body ratio as well.
The device is powered by the 11th Generation Intel Core i5-1135G7 processor with the Intel Turbo Boost Technology for smoother user experience beyond your expectations.
The fast boot up with the 256GB SSD ensures faster file transfers without waiting for hours on end. It also supports 8GB RAM that further ensures smoother user experience.
The device also comes with a longer battery life that lets you stay connected without any hassle at all. If you want a device with style and optimal performance, this is hands down the one.
The device is not the cheapest but it is hands down one of the worthiest investments that you would likely make for yourself.
8. Lenovo Legion 5 Gaming Laptop for College
Available at only $1049.99, the 15.6” Lenovo Legion 5 is a good all-rounder laptop suitable for college students.
Its processing chamber features an AMD Ryzen 7 5800H processor, 16GB RAM, and a 512GB SSD.
You can avail of an FHD screen with a narrow border and NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3050Ti graphics.
The screen resolution is an optimal 1920 x 1080, which adapts well to various kinds of content, from textbooks to photo albums and videos.
Add to that the 165Hz IPS display, and you have a classroom computer that doubles up as an entertainment platform or a multimedia editor.
While it is not an ultra-light machine at 5.29lbs, it scores portability points because of its connectivity options, especially the USB Type-C port.
9. Acer Aspire 5 A515 Cheap Laptop for Students
As a college student, you want a laptop that is performance intensive and comes in a sleek and compact design that you can carry around with ease.
The Aspire 5 from Acer ticks off all the requirements. Not only is it a mid-range laptop, the device is integrated with all the latest functions and features that you need for superior user experience and get your assignments done without any interruptions.
The superior feature of this laptop is that it combines great performance with long-lasting battery life, both of which are ideal for college students.
The device is equipped with a 15.6” FHD widescreen IPS-type display with 1080p screen resolution. Also, the device is integrated with Intel Iris Xe graphics for deeper and realistic color reproduction.
The laptop is powered by the Intel Core i5-1135G7 Processor. Also, the device is integrated with 8GB RAM and 256GB SSD for superior storage experience. The combination of the I/O ports with the wireless connectivity options make this a superior purchase.
10. Asus Chromebook Flip C436
A lightweight, good-looking, all-rounder laptop, the 14” Asus Chromebook Flip C436 suits the lifestyle of the contemporary campus-goer to a T.
It is powered by an Intel Core i5-10210U CPU, 16GB RAM, 512GB of storage, and 10 hours of battery backup.
The narrow-bezel touch display is so compact that it fits into the footprint of a 13” laptop. The 100% sRGB screen also has a smart 360-degree hinge that elevates the keyboard, makes typing easier, and delivers better audio. Further, it permits the user to mould the laptop into a tablet, tent or stand—talk about flexibility!
Portability-wise, this Chromebook packs a punch. It weighs only 2.58lbs and is 0.54” thick—perfect for backpacks. The backlit keyboard allows you to work from anywhere, lighting no bar. You can also avail of USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C ports for quick charging and data transfer.
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Best Laptop Screen Size for College Students
In the present laptop marketplace, you will find several form factors, starting at 11 inches and going up to 17. Which screen size would be ideally suited to college life? To answer this question, you need to ask yourself another: how do you imagine you will use your laptop? What computing requirements will your major and course have?
- 11-inch model: This is THE best option if portability is your top priority. Most 11-inch laptops are super light, mobile, and inexpensive. You can use them from most outdoor settings and pick them up with zero effort. Remember: these laptops are suitable mainly for standard requirements like working on documents and browsing the internet.
- 13-inch model: These are super-light too and incredibly portable. But they offer a little more real estate than their 11-inch counterparts.
- 14-inch model: You will be hard-pressed to find too many 14-inch laptops in the market. They offer an in-between package, the best offering of which is a large screen and long battery life. But they can be expensive–even more so than 15” laptops—and have not yet become incredibly popular.
- 15-inch model: This is a balanced choice that offers high performance as well as portability. Many 15” devices weigh in the range of 4–5lbs and are equipped with useful features for students, such as numerous USB drives, consistent internet connectivity, and decent battery life.
- 17-inch model: If your college major needs you to work extensively on multimedia content, heavy-duty programming, or 3D modeling, you should get a 17-inch laptop. It might be heavy, but it packs the performance and screen size you will require for majors such as architecture, graphic design or art. These laptops make ideal desktop replacements.
Quick Checklist for the Ideal College Laptop
Well, so you have now established the various parameters to consider while selecting a laptop for your college major and course. However, when you go out to pick your dream-machine, be prepared to be overwhelmed by a market that is bursting at the seams. Choices abound aplenty, with every brand vying with the other for market-share.
Keep this checklist with you to zero down on the perfect match and stop this important purchase decision from becoming as arduous as the final exam.
|Criteria||What to Look For|
|Screen Size||11- or 13-inch for ultra portability but regular performance|
15-inch for balance between high performance and portability
17-inch for desktop-replacement laptop with excellent performance but low portability
|Processor||Intel Core i5 or above for CPU-intensive majors (multimedia, graphic design, programming, etc.)|
Intel Core i3 for laptops that will perform routine tasks
|RAM||8GB and above|
|Memory Space||128GB and above SSD memory for CPU-intensive majors|
1TB HDD (hard disk drive) for laptops intended to perform routine tasks
|GPU||Integrated graphics for regular-use laptops|
Dedicated GPU (e.g., NVIDIA GTX) for college majors involving intensive multimedia needs
|Battery Life||8–10 hours for ultra-portable laptops|
4–6 hours for standard, mid-sized laptops
|Connectivity||USB ports (Type-C included) to connect to devices and peripherals like mice and USB-drives|
HDMI port (and other display ports like VGA and DVI) to connect to external displays – This will be important for most college majors as students frequently need to showcase presentations
SD card reader – You will need this to transfer photos and other files, irrespective of your college course
Ethernet port – Don’t assess this as a dispensable criterion if your laptop has Wi-Fi. You will need it to get onto the internet at a campus spot without Wi-Fi
|Keyboard and Touchpad||Ergonomic, tactile and backlit keyboard|
Large and precise touchpad, preferably with gesture support
How to Choose the Best Laptop for College
We recommend a straightforward action plan for this potentially life-altering decision—it has only four question-oriented steps.
- Step 1: How will you use your laptop in college?
If you need to use CPU-intensive applications like Adobe Premiere Pro, run complicated programming interfaces or play video games, get a laptop with a top-of-the-line CPU, i.e., Intel Core i5 or above. You’ll also require 8–16GB RAM and high-speed SSD memory (128GB and above).
Else, you can get by with a cheaper CPU with a lower RAM and memory provision.
- Step 2: How important is portability to you?
If your college days are sure to involve considerable travel, get a laptop that:
- Is lightweight with a reliable build: Look for a 2-in-1. You can get a convertible that adapts to various modes like tablet and tent or a detachable with an un-pluggable keyboard.
- Has a long battery life: Scout for ultra-portable laptops that offer 10+ unplugged hours.
- Has adequate connectivity: Hunt for laptops with USB Type-C ports, HDMI, SD card readers, webcams, and Ethernet ports.
However, if you foresee college life to be stationary, you can choose the standard clamshell design (laptops with open-and-close lids). Many conventional, mid-sized laptops offer between 4–6 hours of battery backup.
- Step 3: What kind of a keyboard and touchpad will you need?
Is your college major related to creative writing, graphic design or computer programming? Choose a machine that has an ergonomic, precise, and backlit keyboard. The touchpad should be large, comfortable and support multi-touch gestures.
- Step 4: Do you need your laptop to deliver stutter-free graphics in absolute detail?
This will be crucial if your major involves multimedia content production, engineering, graphic design, architecture, or computer programming. While you can get a laptop with integrated graphics, opt for one that has a dedicated graphics processor (GPU) if your budget allows it.
Time to Head to College
At the risk of echoing a cliché, we will say this: your college days are going to be life-changing.
To accompany you on this momentous journey, you need a computer that can fit into several shoes: understand the requirements of your major and course, follow you around as you trudge along the day, and become your friend and accomplice for allied as well as unrelated campus pursuits.
It can be daunting to acquire a laptop that has to meet such a tall order, but the options on this list are good places to start.
While laptop-shopping for college, keep in mind the considerations for your major first, ensuring that the gadget can run any applications, programs and software you may need.
Also, double-check that the battery life, screen size, processing configuration, storage space, and graphics offered are in tandem with your requirements.
Once you have zeroed down on laptops that are attuned to your college course, you can employ lookouts like aesthetics, budget and brand to seal the deal.
One final rule of thumb: seek to purchase a college laptop that employs future-compatible, advanced technology in both design and functionality. You are going to be in college for a while, and the tech world changes gears sooner than you can say Jack Robinson.
You would want a machine that can adapt to the changes and serve you well throughout your time on campus.