We live in a World where remote learning is an exponentially growing phenomenon. For the second year in a row, most college students would be learning either remotely or under a Hybrid system that ensures minimal face-to-face time with the Teachers. While the Pandemic shoulders a major chunk of the blame for that, there are other reasons too, including but not limited to ease of access to experts, cost, and convenience.

In today’s day and age, college students need laptops for almost all kinds of college-related activities. These include taking online classes, compiling notes, creating presentations, and doing homework. They also save you the trouble of carrying a multitude of cumbersome books to college every day. Laptops perform another function too, which I believe is far more important than any functions mentioned above. Once you are done with classes and homework for the day and the varsity has sucked all of your will to live out of you, you can use the laptop to handle your social networks, listen to music, stream movies, play games, or perform other extra-curricular activities. Hence, given the multitude of uses, not having the best laptop for college students isn’t really an option.

If you think laptop shopping is an ordeal, try buying the best laptops for college. Students need to look out for particular specifications, which tends to limit their options.  These specifications vary from one discipline to another. Computer Science/ Engineering Students, for example, need to accommodate heavy, memory-intensive software and IDEs. Business Majors, on the other hand, need laptops for compiling notes and creating PowerPoint Presentations. Evidently, comparing laptop requirements for CS Majors and Business Majors is like comparing chalk and cheese! There are other constraints too, most notably budgetary. All of these limit your options and toughen the process of narrowing down your options. So, be this guide. By listing down the best laptops for college students, we intend to simplify this cumbersome process as much as possible.

Note: Discipline-specific laptops are beyond the scope of this guide and will be covered in upcoming articles. As of now, we are just looking for all-rounders that offer great value.

The Winners at a Glance: Best Laptops For College Students

In the process of writing this guide, we tried and tested some 40 odd laptops. We compared them on performance, portability, design, and build quality. During the process, these five laptops set themselves apart! So, if you are too lazy to scroll, get one of these, and you won’t be disappointed.

ImageProductDetailPrice
MacBook Air (M1, 2020)

MacBook Air (M1, 2020)

  • The best Laptop for College
  • Up to 15 hours of web battery life (30% more battery life than any other laptop on this list)
  • Stellar Overall and Gaming Performance
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Dell XPS 13

Dell XPS 13

  • Stunning Design
  • Top-of-the-line specifications
  • Suitable for Content Creation
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HP Envy 13 (2020)

HP Envy 13 (2020)

  • Best Laptop to take notes by hand
  • Suitable for Image Editing and Rendering
  • Offers advance privacy options
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Acer Swift 3 (AMD)

Acer Swift 3 (AMD)

  • Offers the best Value per Dollar
  • Multi-tasking Beast
  • Ultra-portable
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HP Pavilion 14

HP Pavilion 14

  • Best Budget Option
  • Exceptional audio and Video Quality
  • Best laptop for Students with minimal requirements
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Buyers Guide for Best Laptop for College Students

By now, we have listed down five of the best laptops for students and ranked them on the basis of a set of metrics. If you have made it this far, you are probably looking for these very metrics, and we’d hate to disappoint you. There are a number of things to consider before buying a Student Laptop. These include, but are not limited to, Degree Program, Battery Life, portability, price, and future-proofing that the laptop offers. Given that almost all these metrics are pretty generic, we won’t dive too deep into detail. Yet, we won’t miss out on a succinct list, either.

Discipline

I have said this already, but I can’t say it enough! If you are looking for suggestions on how to choose a student laptop, the first thing that you need to consider is your degree program. Some students, especially Engineering Students and Computer Science majors, need laptops with a lot more power than Students from other Degree Programs. If you have to run memory-intensive software or have high graphical demands, you should buy a laptop with considerable firepower. On the opposite side of the spectrum, if you have menial-to-moderate requirements, a budget laptop under $500 should suffice. 

Battery Life

With the ongoing pandemic and consequent remote learning, you don’t have to worry about battery timing. One day, however, Covid -19 would be gone for good, and we will return to our usual proximate learning. So, go for a Laptop with at least 6-8 hours of battery life. Buying a laptop with a long-lasting battery will save you the trouble of locating charging stations in the varsity. Not to mention the ordeal of the laptop battery draining off during classes.

Portability and Design

Regardless of what anyone says, size matters 😉 😉! In the case of laptops, however, BIGGER IS NOT NECESSARILY BETTER (Oh, how I wish this was true for all those other things 😢 😢). If I were to carry a laptop 8-10 hours a day, I would want it to be as sleek and compact as possible. Choosing a hefty portable beats the purpose of buying a laptop in the first place! There is no convenience in replacing those bulky, cumbersome books with an equally heavy laptop. So, go for a laptop with an 11’’ or 13’’ screen size that weighs less than 4 lbs. While you are at it, make sure to choose a design that protects the display and can resist wear and tear.

Consider Buying Touch Screen Hybrids

If you prefer to take notes by hand and feel at home on touch-screen devices, consider buying hybrid touch screen laptops. This way you would be able to use your laptop as both laptop and a tablet.  If you grew up using tablets and are failing to use laptops efficiently, you should definitely buy a touch screen hybrid laptop.  You will be pleasantly surprised by the increase in your efficiency after this seemingly menial adjustment. Modern Problems require Modern Solutions!

Price vs Future Proofing Tradeoff

Most college students are strapped for cash. Some even have huge college loans to pay. The Pandemic hasn’t helped either. Hence, it only seems sensible to invest in a budget option. In hindsight, however, you may go on to regret this decision. If you make the mistake of opting for a cheaper processor, memory, or GPU in order to save a few bucks, you may have to upgrade in the near future. On the other hand, if you opt for a moderate-to-premium option, it will serve you well both during the duration of the degree program and afterward, when you are working as a professional. Most laptops pay back their investments in full, so unless you are really strapped for cash, steer clear of budget options.

Operating System (Windows vs macOS)

While most colleges don’t care which operating you use, some colleges want their students to be equipped with certain OS-based laptops to cut down on incompatibility issues. In most cases, this OS is Windows.

Some varsities also have on-campus repair centers that service laptops from particular vendors and manufacturers. Their turn-around time is much quicker than original manufacturers. If you intend to live on-premises, buying one of these laptops will save you countless troubles.

5 Best Laptops for College Students

Having discussed the metrics in detail, it is finally time that we delve deep and review each of the best college laptops comprehensively. Of the major aspects that we will be reviewing, the most notable are Design, Build Quality, Portability, Audio and Display quality, ease of use, and Performance. 

1. MacBook Air (M1, 2020): The best MacBook for Students

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Specification

  • CPU: Apple M1 chip with 8-core CPU
  • Graphics: Integrated 7-8 cores GPU
  • Memory: 8-16 GB unified memory
  • Secondary Storage: 256 GB – 2 TB SSD
  • Display: 13.3-inch, 2560 X 1600 Retina display
  • Dimensions: 11.97 x 8.36 x 0.6 inches
  • Weight: 2.8 pounds
  • Battery Life: Up to 15 hours web battery life
  • Operating System: Mac OS

Design and Build Quality

While the heart may have changed, the body hasn’t! MacBook Air (M1, 2020) maintains the same iconic design that has become symbolic of Apple over the years, and I am totally okay with that. MacBooks have always been stylish yet sturdy notebooks with sleek unibody aluminum design. I’d take Apple’s minimalist design over any flashier laptop every day!

Once you open the lid, you will find a clean deck with a large keyboard and trackpad. It goes without saying that, with apple’s craftsmanship, comfort and ease of use are guaranteed.

Audio and Display

The 13.3-inch, 2560 by 1600 retina display is more vivid and colorful than its predecessors. It is, however, not as luminous as its predecessors, reaching only 366 nits of brightness compared to the latter’s 386 nits. That being said, you can still comfortably use the portable outdoors.

Don’t let MacBook Air’s size fool you- it is fully capable of firing at full throttle. The loud keyboard flanking speakers are a testament to that!

Portability

Weighing only 2.8 pounds and being only 0.6 inches thick, MacBook Air is one of the most, if not the most, portable laptops out there. The unending 15-hour battery life only strengthens that claim. So, just slip it into the bag and go about your business because you will hardly feel the weight!

Performance

M1 chip is a game changer! You can literally feel the performance gains as soon as you boot up your machine.  Speed gains are one thing, Software optimizations are another. The BigSur, too, feels fast and responsive. All in all, the rig impresses like no other. It will handle the most power-intensive tasks and some of the most graphic-intensive games. Make no mistake, though, this isn’t a gaming rig.

If you are a student with a flexible budget, don’t look beyond MacBook Air (M1, 2020).

Pros

  • Absolutely Ridiculous Performance
  • Exceptional Build Quality
  • Sleek, elegant design
  • Vibrant, colorful display
  • Unrivaled battery life
  • BigSur feels fast and responsive

Cons

  • Limited Ports
  • Mediocre Webcam

2. Dell XPS 13: Most Spectacular Design

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Specification

  • CPU: Intel Core i3/Core i5/Core i7 (11th Gen)
  • Clock Speed: Up to 4.7 GHz
  • Graphics: Intel Iris Xe Graphics
  • Memory: 8/16/32 GB DDR4 SDRAM Memory
  • Secondary Storage: 256 GB/512 GB/1 TB/2 TB SSD
  • Display: 13.4-inch, 1920 x 1200 or 4K Screen Display
  • Dimensions: 11.6 x 7.8 x 0.6 inches
  • Weight: 2.8 pounds
  • Battery Life: Up to 11+ hours
  • Operating System Microsoft Windows 10 Home(64-Bit)

Design and Build

Dell XPS 13 is just downright stunning! If you think I am using hyperbole, you need to see this thing. The sight of a frost-white aluminum exterior embedding a shining silver Dell logo is as aesthetically pleasing as you’d get from a laptop. The interior is as pristine as the exterior, featuring wide-spaced backlit keys and a massive glass touchpad. With regards to visual appeal, not many laptops could stand toe-to-toe with the new Dell XPS 13.

It may be thin, but it ain’t flimsy. Instead, it is solid and robust, so much so that you can open the rig using one hand with ease.

Audio and Display

Dell definitely flaunted its design prowess with XPS 13’s infinityEdge display. The bezels are so minimal that they feel non-existent. The colors are deep, vibrant, and precise. Also, unlike Acer Swift 3, this one is far from dull. With the rig boasting 500 nits of brightness, you can easily use it outdoors on the sunniest of afternoons.

Pity, the rig’s audio isn’t as immersive as its display! Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t bad at all. It’s just that XPS 13’s other features are so sublime, that audio quality seems a let-down. This can be attributed to XPS 13’s bottom-mounted speakers.

Portability

What makes Dell XPS 13 one of the best laptops for college is its ultra-portability. Weighing a meager 2.8 pounds and measuring 11.6 x 7.8 x 0.6 inches, you should be able to carry this rig with relative ease.  The launch of Tiger Lake processors has only made this portable more desirable for students by significantly enhancing its already long-lasting battery life.

Performance

Dell’s XPS 13 isn’t just a pretty face, it’s a workhorse! Powered by 11th generation Tiger Lake processors, this laptop can be used for content creation and even for gaming, given that you are willing to compromise on FPS for the most demanding games. As a student, XPS 13 is all you need and much more! You can use it to take notes, attend online classes, prepare slides, update social media, binge-watch Netflix, design graphics, and play AAA titles.

Pros

  • Workhorse
  • Visually Stunning
  • Long-lasting Battery Life
  • Unparalleled Display
  • Will future-proof your investment

Cons

  • Mediocre Audio Quality
  • Pricey Option for College
  • Limited Ports

3. HP Envy 13 (2020): Best 2-in-1 Laptop for Students

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Specification

  • CPU: Intel i7-1165G7
  • Clock Speed: 1.3 GHz, Turbo up to 4.7 GHz
  • Graphics: Coprocessor Intel Iris Xe Graphics
  • Memory: 8GB DDR4 SDRAM Memory
  • Secondary Storage: 512 GB SSD
  • Display: 13.3-inch, 1920 x 1080 resolution IPS Touch Screen Display
  • Dimensions: 12.07 x 7.66 x 0.65 inches
  • Weight: 2.86 pounds
  • Battery Life: Up to 11 hours and 45 minutes
  • Operating System: Microsoft Windows 10 Home(64-Bit)

Design and Build

HP Envy 13 may not be as stylish as Dell XPS 13, but aren’t simplistic yet svelte design and tapered sides all that students look for in a laptop these days? Featuring an all-metal chassis with sandblasted anodized finish and relatively thin bezels, HP Envy 13 definitely tends to my aesthetic appetite.

The only let-down in an otherwise premium laptop is the keyboard that flexes a little too much for my liking. If you have been using a glass trackpad, you may also be disappointed by the Envy 13’s plastic version.

Minus the keyboard and the trackpad, Envy 13 is as sturdy as any laptop out there. The screen hinge is firm and the metallic chassis feels as rigid as any.

Audio and Display

HP Envy 13 features a relatively unique quirk known as the BrightView, via which you can increase the brightness of the touchscreen display to up to 1000 nits. For context, most high-end laptops have this figure hovering around the 300 nits mark. While Envy’s color contrast holds its own against some of the most premium laptops, viewing angles are a bit disappointing. That can, however, be attributed to Envy’s commitment to privacy.

Unlike Swift 3, Envy 13’s sound quality is anything but underwhelming.

Portability

Measuring 12.07 x 7.66 x 0.65 inches and weighing 2.86 pounds, HP Envy 13 should be easy to carry across the campus. It should last you the entire day too unless you run the heaviest of workloads.

Performance

Don’t let Envy 13’s size fool you-combining state of the art Intel’s 11th generation processors with 8GB DDR4 SDRAM Memory and 512 GB SSD, it packs quite a punch. While it isn’t suitable for hard-core content creation, it performs image editing and rendering quite effortlessly. If you intend to play hardware intensive AAA title after university hours, steer clear of HP Envy 13.

Pros

  • Touchscreen Hybrid-Beneficial for keeping notes
  • Great Value
  • All-day battery life
  • Herculean Power
  • Features latest generation Intel Processors
  • Offers advanced privacy options
  • Ultra-portable design

Cons

  • Loud
  • Bouncy Keyboard
  • Reflexive Screen

4. Acer Swift 3 (AMD): The Best Bang for Buck

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Specification

  • CPU: AMD Ryzen 7 4700U Octa-Core
  • Clock Speed: Up to 4.1 GHz
  • Graphics: 512 MB Radeon
  • Memory: 8GB LPDDR4 Memory
  • Secondary Storage: 512GB PCIe NVMe SSD
  • Display: 14-inch, 1920 x 1080 resolution IPS Display
  • Dimensions: 12.73 x 8.62 x 0.63 inches
  • Weight: 2.65 pounds
  • Battery: Life Up to 11.5 hours (5 hours on average)
  • Operating System: Microsoft Windows 10 Home(64-Bit)

Combining uncanny performance and portability with a vivacious price tag, the Acer Swift 3 laptop punches well above its waist. It matches the performance of far more premium laptops and holds its own as far as pricing is concerned.

Design and Build Quality

Acer Swift 3 is neither ornate, nor eye-catching, and this coy charm works in its favor. With its simplistic design and surprisingly brawny build, Acer Swift 3 is definitely your perfect College companion! While it may not have the bells and whistles of some flashier portables, a reflexive Acer logo embedded in its silver metallic hood, and a polished aluminum and magnesium exterior ensure monotony isn’t a concern.  My only legitimate concern is the width of the horizontal bezels. I would have definitely preferred thinner top and bottom bezels, but you just can’t blame Acer for that, given they had to accommodate a 720p webcam. On the upside, the laptop has tapered sides that are thicker towards the display.

The interior seems an extension of the silvery metallic hood. The keys are silvery, so much so that they would be indistinguishable if it weren’t for the backlighting. While the size of the palm rest falls marginally short of optimal, the clicky keys make up for any loss of productivity. It required a bit of adjustment, but I was able to achieve my average word count per minute within a day’s usage. Talking of adjustments, you won’t have to make any on the laptop’s 4.2 x 2.6-inch precise and convenient touchpad.

Audio and Display

With its 251 nits of brightness, Acer Swift 3’s 14-inch display is passable at best. Hence, if you are interested in photography, graphic design, or video editing, you may want to pass on this one. It goes without saying that you also won’t be able to sit outdoors and complete your assignments. The bottom-facing speakers are almost as underwhelming as the display, so don’t expect them to blow you away!

Acer Swift 3 may not have the brightest display or the most immersive speakers, but it gets the job done. Also, cut it some slack! At its cost, the quality of display and speakers is passes with flying colors.

Portability

Measuring 12.73 x 8.62 x 0.63 inches and weighing a meager 2.65 pounds, I can conveniently say that no arms were harmed during the process of carrying this laptop! Couple this with its unending battery life, and you have one of the most portable laptops on the market.

Performance

Packing AMD Ryzen 7 4700U, 8 GB memory, and 512GB PCIe NVMe SSD is a multi-tasking beast! At one instance I had 20+ chrome tabs and Visual Studio (the perks of being a Computer Science Major) running and the laptop didn’t show any signs of slowing down.  You may find it inadequate if you intend to play highly graphic-intensive AAA titles after varsity hours, but that’s just because of its limited Graphic prowess.  All in all, Acer Swift 3 kicks some serious butt with its state-of-art Mobile Ryzen Chipset!

Pros

  • Multi-tasking Beast
  • Formidable Performance
  • Offers the best Value per Dollar
  • Clicky and Comfortable Keyboard
  • Convenient and Precise Touchpad
  • Comes with a Fingerprint Scanner
  • Sleek Design
  • Long Battery Life

Cons

  • Dim Display
  • Cramped Palm Rest
  • Limited Graphic Prowess
  • Substandard audio quality

5. Best Laptop for most Students: HP Pavilion 14

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Specification

  • CPU: Intel Core i5-1035G1
  • Clock Speed: Up to 3.6 GHz
  • Graphics: Coprocessor Intel UHD Graphics
  • Memory: 8GB DDR4-2666
  • Secondary Storage: 1TB SATA HDD 5400 rpm
  • Display: 14-inch, 1366 x 768 resolution
  • Dimensions: 12.87 x 8.88 x 0.7 inches
  • Weight: 3.52 pounds
  • Battery Life: Around 8 hours
  • Operating System: Microsoft Windows 10 Home(64-Bit)

Design and Build

Pavilion 14 supports the traditional HP look- silver-white aluminum casing to go with a centralized HP logo. It’s no Dell XPS 13, but it is still one good-looking laptop!

The interior is as flashy as the exterior, with the keyboard and trackpad occupying most of the space. The former is as spacious and as comfortable as any chicklet keyboard I have seen in recent times. The trackpad is precise, but you will need some time to adjust to the ‘Double Click’ right-click. Once you are there, however, there is no going back.

Display and Audio

Boasting a 14-inch full HD 1080p screen with solid brightness and warm saturated colors, Pavilion doesn’t come across as a budget option. In that regard, it is actually better than Acer Swift 3. The touchscreen is also responsive and accurate.

Another area in which Pavilion beats Swift 3 is the audio quality. I was actually pleasantly surprised with the Pavilion’s sound quality because you don’t expect budget options to have a dual speaker system!

Portability

Although it measures 12.87 x 8.88 x 0.7 inches and weighs 3.52 pounds, it feels lighter and smaller. Carry it all you want, you won’t get fatigued.  My only concern is its relatively shorter battery life. While the manufacturers have advertised 8 hours of battery time, I only got 6 browsing the web at 150 nits. That’s a setback, but surely not a dealbreaker!

Performance

If you are looking to design power-intensive graphics, edit videos, or play graphic-intensive games after varsity hours, Pavilion isn’t for you. It is an unremarkable budget option for students with limited system requirements.

Pros

  • Affordable
  • Sleek Design
  • Sturdy Build
  • Comfortable Keyboard
  • Exceptional Audio Quality

Cons

  • Below average Battery Life
  • Not great for highly demanding tasks

Which of these Laptops should I buy for college in 2022?

Each of these 5 products has been chosen after thorough research and analysis. All of these are exceptional in their own right. While some come with more bells and whistles, others are more economical.  That being said, your choice of rig should depend on 2 major factors:

  1. Budget
  2. Degree Requirements

For most students with minimal system requirements and an inflexible budget, HP Pavilion 14 is the way to go! It is inexpensive, powerful, and gets the job done!

On the opposite side of the spectrum, if you have a flexible budget, there is no reason to look beyond MacBook Air (M1, 2021). Not only does it offer uncannily performance and portability, but it also has a battery time of 15 hours. That’s at least 30% more than any other laptop on this list!

Well, there is one reason to look beyond MacBook Air-macOS. If you are a Windows fanboy or if your university has a strictly Windows OS policy, you may want to go with Dell XPS 13. Not only is it visually stunning, but it is also extremely powerful and portable.