The Best Laptops for College Students

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A laptop is a foundational tech tool for students for academic tasks such as writing papers and taking notes in class as well as educational and entertainment viewing on Netflix, YouTube and the like. But are the best laptops for college?

Students on a budget can easily spend $200 to $400 for an entry-level laptop with a decent hard drive, graphics card, display and battery life. But we think it’s worthwhile to spend a few hundred more on a machine with long battery life, a faster SSD and better performance. This list of the best laptops for college students is based on our own hands-on use and benchmark testing. We update it regularly as we review new products

The newest MacBook Air hits all the right notes: It's back to the old $999 starting price and it has Apple's new Magic Keyboard, which most people prefer to the previous model's butterfly design. Even better, this Apple laptop features current-era Intel processors, a new Force Touch trackpad and 256GB of storage for the entry-level configuration. The major drawback: The base model features a Core i3 processor, and stepping up to the Core i5 costs an extra $100.
The Surface Pro remains the standard-bearer for Windows devices that work as both laptop and tablet, though this convertible laptop makes for a better tablet than it does for a laptop. (If you're looking for the opposite, Lenovo's two-in-one Yoga devices are better laptops than they are tablets.) In addition to the typical great performance and battery life you can expect, the seventh-edition Surface Pro finally gets a USB-C port. Its super-portable size makes it ideal for high school and college students who may be carrying a lot of gear.
The Yoga C740 Chromebook is a great, affordable student laptop. It has a touchscreen display, terrific battery life and enough performance for everyday office and entertainment tasks. The all-metal chassis gives this touchscreen laptop a premium look and feel, and it has a comfortable keyboard and a responsive, smooth, precision touchpad. Though it's light on extra features compared to the higher-end C940, it does have one of Lenovo's sliding shutters for its webcam that gives you privacy when you want it.
If you're committed to the Windows operating system and want a balance of portability, power and price, it's hard to find a better 13-inch laptop than the XPS 13. Dell has been making incremental improvements to this Dell XPS 13 machine for so long that it's hard to find a flaw. For 2020, Dell made the laptop even smaller, while making the screen larger and increasing performance for both CPU and graphics-intensive tasks. It's not a huge leap, but it's still the best in the category.
Dell's G-series deliver a smart balance of build quality, battery life and performance, with plenty of graphics card power for college students looking to play the latest AAA games when they aren't hitting the books. The slim, compact design masks its gaming pedigree and because it's no longer brand-new -- you're getting a ninth-gen Intel Core processor -- there are plenty of bargains to be found. This machine currently starts at around $850, and we've found some pretty powerful configurations on sale for around $1,000.
The layout is idiosyncratic, with the multicolored, backlit keyboard sitting flush with the front edge of the machine and the touchpad positioned off to the right. Asus claims it's built the world's slimmest gaming laptop, and whether that's true or not -- the goalposts are always moving, after all -- the Zephyrus S, measuring less than 16mm thin, is unquestionably sleek as hell. (The trick here is a bottom panel that rises up in the back when the lid is opened, allowing for better airflow.)