Home > Reviews > Best laptop for college students 2023

Best laptop for college students 2023

We cast our eye over the contenders for best college laptop in 2023
Last Updated on October 26, 2023

Finding the best laptop for college students can be challenging with all the selections out there.

The best laptops for college are generally those that are lightweight enough to carry around campus, powerful enough to not grind to a halt while studying, and versatile enough to be used for entertainment – whether that be everyday streaming or even gaming.

There’s also a consideration to be made as to what subject the person is taking, or using the laptop for the most. Designers, videographers, architects, or programming students will likely need something that has a powerful graphics card and CPU to handle more heavy-duty tasks, while those attending most other subjects will be able to get back with even a lower to mid-range laptop with a decent amount of RAM.

We’ve selected what we think are some of the best laptops for college students on the market today, including options for different budgets and uses. Let’s take a closer, and help you find the right one for you.

Products at a Glance

How we picked

In the process of selecting the best laptop for students, we carefully weighed several pivotal factors. Crucial considerations included graphics quality, storage capacity, and overall performance. Furthermore, laptops with great aesthetics and featured an array of ports received favorable rankings. Emphasizing laptops equipped with satisfactory camera and audio systems was another focal point. We also took a wide range of budgets into consideration to ensure comprehensive coverage.

Our Recommended

Best laptop for college students 2023

1
PROS
  • Fairly powerful M2 chipset
  • Bright and colorful screen
  • Excellent battery life
  • Superb build quality
  • Solid speakers
  • Solid webcam
  • Looks great
  • Light and portable
CONS
  • Higher-specced RAM & SSD options can get pricey
  • Webcam notch on top of screen can be irritating

The MacBook Air is the light, slimline variant of Apple’s laptop series, and this latest version from 2022 is an impressive device indeed. It comes with an M2 chipset with integrated graphics that is actually fairly powerful – good enough to perform reasonably well with rendering workloads in video/photo/audio editing software. Best of all, by MacBook standards, it’s not actually that expensive.

Coming with a 2560 x 1664 resolution 13.6-inch screen, the MacBook Air peaks at a max brightness of 490 nits, meaning you can use it to work outside unless its a particularly sunny day, whilst still being able to see the screen. The 100% sRGB coverage and high color accuracy also mean you can use it for color work on the sRGB spectrum (though sadly not DCI-P3). The webcam ‘notch’ which cuts into the top of the screen is a bit irritating at times, but aside from this its a beautiful display.

The screen is fairly small, but it’s plenty big enough for taking notes, web browsing, and writing up documents. Its small size also makes it highly portable, along with the thin dimensions and very light weight (2.7lbs), impressive considering its fairly powerful in processing terms. Equally impressive considering the small chassis size (and therefore limited room for the battery) is the 14 hour battery life  – which is ideal for a lengthy day of studying on the move.

This laptop have exceptional build quality, looks great, has a good keyboard, trackpad, and good speaker audio (not as good as the MacBook Pro’s but noticeably better than 99% of Windows laptops). In summary there aren’t a great deal of downsides to this machine – the only real consideration is that the base-model variant only comes with 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD, and if you want to upgrade either the memory or the storage this does cost quite a bit extra, however these base specs are plenty good enough for the average student as is.

2
PROS
  • Lush bright screen
  • Great contrast and 100% sRGB color gamut
  • Quiet fans
  • Very thin and portable
  • Superb build quality
  • Good quality keyboard & touchpad
  • Great battery life on the 1200p version
  • Fast microSD reader
CONS
  • Fairly expensive
  • Disappointing battery life on the 4K version
  • Speakers aren't as good as the MacBook

If you’re after a high-end Windows device with the option for touch screen functionality then the Dell XPS 13 is an excellent choice. Another 13-inch laptop (the Dell XPS 15 also exists if you want something larger) it’s not quite as light as the MacBook Air but is still very portable and pleasingly slimline, plus arguably looks even better.

There are a myriad of loadout options for the XPS 13, including both touch screen and non-touch screen, and either 1920×1200 resolution (i.e. 1200p) or 3840 x 2400 (i.e. 4K) – both of which are 16:10 for extra screen headroom when working. Be advised though that whilst the 1200p variant has a very impressive 15 hour battery life (of non-strenuous use with battery saving measures switched on), the 4K variant is limited to only 7 hours. Most versions come with an OLED panel that offers great contrast ratios and 100% sRGB color replication.

Every model comes with Intel Iris Xe integrated graphics, and different Intel CPU SKUs from both the 12th gen and 13th gen depending on how much power you need and how much money you’re looking to spend. Some of the 12th gen models can now also be bought for a siazable discount online, which is welcome as full price this machine is again ab it on the pricey side. You do get a very high quality device for your money though, with a very good keyboard, trackpad, and great overall build quality, with fans that run quiet even under strain.

3
PROS
  • The best keyboard for typing
  • Enhanced security features
  • Solid battery life
  • Rugged build quality
  • 16GB RAM & 1TB SSD for the price
  • Good array of ports including for ethernet connection
CONS
  • Disappointing speakers
  • Mediocre webcam
  • Utilitarian aesthetic isn't for everyone

The Lenovo ThinkPad series are a long running line that is well known for their sturdy and secure laptops with perfect typing keyboards. Although these are targeted primarily at business consumers, they’re also perfect for students (as long as how your laptop looks isn’t that important to you at least).

This particular ThinkPad E14 G3 is an older (but cheaper as a result) 14-inch model that comes with and AMD Ryzen 7 5700U CPU, 16GB of DDR4 RAM, and a 1TB PCIe SSD – more storage an memory than you’ll get with any of the other picks on this page for a similar price.

The keyboard is the same one in most Thinkpad machines: a unique design that’s halfway between a low-travel chiclet keyboard (similar to a MacBook for instance) and a tactile mechanical keyboard, with ergonomically shaped keys of perfect size and spacing to reduce typing errors. The I/O socket selection is good plus it comes with both an HDMI port for connecting to displays and a RJ-45 ethernet port.

You don’t have to worry much about damaging this laptop in your bag/rucksack as it’s built to a military standard (literally – MIL-STD 810G to be precise). It’s also among the most secure laptops you can buy, with features including a Kensington lock, fingerprint sensor, Windows Hello compatibility, TPM 2.0 data encryption, and ThinkShield software.

You get about 10 hours of battery duration, which is pretty solid, and although the webcam quality is less than great and the speakers leave something to be desired, you can always just wear headphones to get around this latter point at least.

4
PROS
  • Good battery life
  • Light and portable
  • Touchscreen
CONS
  • Touchpad could be better

If you’re looking for the best 2-in-1 laptop for college, then we think the HP Envy x360 is the way to go.

While some 2-in-1 laptops don’t pack much of a punch when it comes to power and performance, this offering from HP delivers more than you’d expect. Thanks to its AMD Ryzen 7 CPU, you can use this for practically anything without it feeling unresponsive or sluggish.

Of course, the standout feature of this laptop is its display – namely its unique functionality. Boasting an FHD, 15.6-inch touchscreen, this is the kind of setup that’s super useful for students who may find themselves taking notes on cramped desks, traveling across campus or back home, or even studying design.

With 16GB of RAM, this laptop is actually more akin to something you could use for business than a laptop for students – but the more the better in our eyes. More RAM means, in short, everything runs more smoothly. It’s especially useful if you’re working on a lot of different browser tabs or programs.

Overall, we think this is a great choice for a 2 in 1 laptop for college students, and while it is a little on the expensive side – it’s something that shouldn’t let you down anytime soon.

 

Things to consider when buying a laptop for college

How much RAM does a college student need?

8GB of RAM is the minimum we’d recommend for today’s student, and will probably suffice for most people. This amount is primarily required as web-browsers are very memory-hungry, and if you go for less than this you’ll struggle to have a multitude of tabs open on your browser at the same time. 16GB of RAM is the upper end of what you’ll need and will let you have multiple applications open simultaneously and/or a large number of browser tabs.

How much SSD storage does a college student need?

This heavily depends on the type of course you’re taking. If you’re doing a course where you have to handle large video files then this can use a lot of SSD storage space. High resolution image files, PDF documents, or high sample rate audio recordings can also take up a reasonable amount of disk space (though much less than video). For your average student though who will mostly be using text documents and spreadsheets, 128GB – 256GB could be quite sufficient.

How much should I spend on a college laptop?

As above – this all depends on your requirements. If you don’t need much, then don’t spend much. A basic, budget friendly college laptop could cost as little as $300 – $500. More premium devices with better battery life, brighter displays, better speakers, processing power, RAM, and storage space will cost more money.

Best laptop for college students 2023 FAQs

Which laptop is best for college students?

The ideal college laptop for most students should have keyboard that is good to type on, be easily portable, a screen with decent brightness, and be as affordable as possible.

There are various brands which offer models that cover all these bases, and we’ve listed a few for your delectation.

Is a Chromebook good for college?

Chromebooks work well for students that have a strong and persistent internet connection (likely most of them if they’re living on campus) who are fine with storing all their files online/in the cloud and supplementing this with external SSD storage.

If however you need ample disk storage, RAM, and processing power, then you’d be better off with a Windows laptop that has better specs in these areas.

Our Verdict

We think the ultimate laptop for college students is the versatile, impressive, and powerful MacBook Pro 2023 M2 edition. Boasting a stunning screen, sleek and durable build, and powerful M2 chip, this is a laptop that can practically do it all. It’s great for all types of subjects too, but we think creatives may get the most out of this machine. Sure, it’s pricey, but this a laptop that’ll last well past your college days…and then some.