The best laptops for college students this year
There’s an old saying that goes, “You’ll never get all of your work done without one of the best laptops for college.” Or, something along those lines. Yet, here at TechRadar, we understand that not everyone can afford the newest, most expensive hardware. After all, you’re already busting your butt trying to keep up with financial aid bills.
- Discover the best laptops you can buy in every category
Luckily, you don’t need deep pockets to afford one of the best laptops for college, nor should you worry about their premature demise. Designed for the ambitious, albeit turbulent lifestyles of students enrolled in college or university, all 10 of our selections below have been pitted against the rest so that we could deliver honest and accurate purchasing advice.
1. Dell XPS 13
Powerful, functional, aesthetically pleasing
CPU: 7th generation Intel Core i3 – i7 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 620 | RAM: 4GB – 16GB | Screen: 13.3-inch FHD (1,920 x 1,080) – QHD+ (3,200 x 1,800) InfinityEdge | Storage: 128GB – 512GB SSD
As we patiently await its swanky Alpine White follow-up slated for 2018, the Dell XPS 13 of today is still a force to be reckoned with. Packing 7th- and 8th-generation Intel Kaby Lake processors as well as improved integrated graphics, clearly there’s an advantage to the Dell XPS 13 other than its sumptuous Rose Gold finish. The 13-inch screen, crammed into an 11-inch body, makes it a worthy rival to a certain other aluminum laptop line. Ultimately, this leaves the Dell XPS 13’s utility extensive.
Read the full review: Dell XPS 13 review
2. Samsung Notebook 9 Pro
The dawn of a new era for 2-in-1 laptops
CPU: 7th generation Intel Core i7 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 620 – AMD Radeon Graphics (2GB GDDR5) | RAM: 8GB – 16GB | Screen: 13.3-inch – 15.6-inch FHD (1,920 x 1,080) LED display with Touch Screen Panel | Storage: 256GB SSD
The Samsung Notebook 9 is what other 2-in-1 laptops have aspired to be since their conception. It hones in on the S-Pen, Samsung’s own proprietary stylus with 4,096 levels of pressure sensitivity (the same as Microsoft’s new Surface Pen), a nifty little accessory that conveniently doesn’t require charging. Although the touchscreen display is only 1080p, at between 350 and 450 nits of brightness, you won’t be paying any mind to the pixels, or lack thereof. Plus, the lengthy battery life more than makes up for this hybrids few setbacks.
Read the full review: Samsung Notebook 9 Pro
- This product is only available in the US as of this writing. UK and Australian readers: check out a fine alternative in the .
3. Asus Chromebook Flip
Asus’ premium Chromebook has a modest price
CPU: Intel Core m3 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 515 | RAM: 4GB | Screen: 12.5-inch, Full HD (1,920 x 1,080) LED backlit anti-glare | Storage: 64GB eMMC + TPM
The Asus Chromebook Flip C302 could be seen as an apology for Google’s own missteps with the Chromebook Pixel that preceded it. Rather than costing over a grand for unnecessarily high performance that would put a lot of Windows notebooks to shame, Asus has cut the price in half while adding a 360-degree hinge that effectively makes it a 2-in-1 laptop, but with Android apps from the Google Play Store that only sweeten the deal.Now you can experience a Chromebook whose style rivals that of the MacBook Pro without spending even remotely what you would on one of Apple’s machines.
Read the full review: Asus Chromebook Flip
4. Microsoft Surface Pro
The tablet that can replace your laptop
CPU: 7th generation Intel Core m3 – i7 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 615 – Iris Plus Graphics 640 | RAM: 4GB – 16GB | Screen: 12.3-inch, 2,736 x 1,824 PixelSense display | Storage: 128GB – 1TB SSD
The 2017 Surface Pro is – in every way, shape and form – the we’ve been waiting for. From its rounded edges to its refined selection of accessories, there’s no denying it’s a true successor. There’s also the fact that the Surface Pro draws inspiration from the Surface Studio insofar as it bends back 165 degrees. The only real downside then (besides having to buy the Surface Pen separately this time) is that only the i7 version of the Surface Pro can compete with even the most affordable .
Read the full review: Microsoft Surface Pro
- This product is only available in the US and Australia as of this writing. UK readers: check out a fine alternative in the .
5. Samsung Notebook 7 Spin
MacBook Pro size and power, MacBook Air price
CPU: 6th generation Intel Core i7 | Graphics: Nvidia GeForce 940MX (2GB DDR3L); Intel HD Graphics 520 | RAM: 12GB – 16GB | Screen: 15.6-inch Full HD (1,920 x 1,080) LED with touch panel | Storage: 1 TB HDD – 1TB HDD; 128GB SSD
For less than a grand, you could get a MacBook Air, complete with a sub-1080p screen and a Broadwell processor … or you could buy a Samsung Notebook 7 Spin. A 2-in-1 laptop with an HDR, full HD touchscreen, the Spin is home to both a discrete Nvidia graphics chip and a 6th-generation Intel Core “i” CPU. Though the spinning hard drive and 480p webcam aren’t ideal, they keep the price of the Samsung Notebook 7 Spin modest and its reputation positive.
Read the full review: Samsung Notebook 7 Spin
- This product is only available in the US and UK as of this writing. Australian readers: check out a fine alternative in the .
6. Dell Inspiron 15 Gaming
Work hard, play hard, this laptop does it all
CPU: 7th generation Intel Core i5 – i7 | Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050; Intel HD Graphics 620 – GTX 1050 Ti; Intel HD Graphics 630 | RAM: 8GB – 16GB | Screen: 15.6-inch FHD (1,920 x 1,080) – UHD (3,840 x 2,160) anti-glare LED-backlit | Storage: 1TB HDD – 1TB HDD; 128GB SSD
Ditching the Alienware moniker for once, the Dell Inspiron 15 Gaming doesn’t cost all that much considering its rather lofty specs. Even if it can’t max out every game you throw at it, the Dell Inspiron 15 Gaming is both cheaper than a MacBook Air and way more capable. And, if you were worried about the battery life, the Inspiron 15 Gaming lasted a whole 5 hours and 51 minutes in our tests, longer than some Ultrabooks priced significantly higher. Whether for coursework or leisure, this laptop can do it all.
Read the full review: Dell Inspiron 15 Gaming
7. Apple MacBook Pro (13-inch, Mid-2017)
The MacBook Pro of the future, right now
CPU: 7th generation Intel Core i5 – i7 | Graphics: Intel Iris Plus 640 – 650 | RAM: 8GB – 16GB | Screen: 13.3-inch, WQXGA (2,560 x 1,600) IPS | Storage: 256GB – 1TB SSD
The 2017 MacBook Pro doesn’t offer much in the way of distinguishing itself from its predecessor, but it is a testament to just how much you can improve something by simply swapping up internal components and calling it a day. Because it’s finally equipped with the newest generation of Intel processors and faster-than-ever PCIe 3.0 SSD storage, the MacBook Pro comes easily recommended, undeterred by its reluctance to bring back legacy ports like HDMI and standard USB. This is, through and through, a laptop built for the future.
8. Asus ZenBook UX310UA
Feel old yet, MacBook Air?
CPU: 7th generation Intel Core i3 – i7 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 620 | RAM: 4GB – 16GB | Screen: 13.3-inch FHD (1,920 x 1,080) – QHD+ (3,200 x 1,800)
After the wonderfully brilliant was discontinued, we were skeptical that Asus could follow it up with something even better. Still, the Asus ZenBook UX310UA surprises with the same all-aluminum chassis we’ve come to know and love in addition to a higher resolution screen and an impressive swath of ports, including the latest USB-C interface. The best news is that it does all of that without slipping above the price point of the current MacBook Air, making it an even better value.
9. Surface Laptop
Designed for students from the OS up
CPU: 7th generation Intel Core i5 – i7 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 620 – Iris Plus Graphics 640 | RAM: 4GB – 16GB | Screen: 13.5-inch, 2,256 x 1,504 PixelSense display | Storage: 128GB – 512GB SSD
The Surface Laptop is Microsoft’s first stab at a “traditional” laptop, if you can even call it that knowing full well that its PixelSense touchscreen and Alcantara keyboard are anything but conventional. Featuring a full stack of U-series 7th generation Intel Core “i” processors, the Surface Laptop beats out Apple’s 12-inch MacBook any day of the week, and for a lower starting price at that. Despite the ports and operating system being limited, the Surface Laptop is appealing for its laudable design, beautifully vivid screen and impressive performance.
Read the full review: Surface Laptop
10. Acer Swift 3
Ultrabook performance for half the price
CPU: 7th generation Intel Core i3 – i7 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 620 | RAM: 4GB – 8GB | Screen: 14-inch FHD (1,920 x 1,080) ComfyView IPS | Storage: 128GB – 256GB SSD
The Acer Swift 3 looks like a normal laptop, and while you could make the argument that it is, most “normal” laptops are either overpriced or underpowered these days. The Acer Swift 3, however, demonstrates a solid mix of performance and value, brandishing full-on Ultrabook-class Core i processors serving up and a passive battery life of over 8 hours
Read the full review: Acer Swift 3
- This product is only available in the US and UK as of this writing. Australian readers: check out a fine alternative in the Dell Inspiron 13.