The 14 Best Laptops for College Students to Buy in 2018

Find the perfect laptop computer to get you through college

Our editors independently research, test, and recommend the best products; you can learn more about our review process here. We may receive commissions on purchases made from our chosen links.

Congratulations — you’re heading off to college! You’ve already bought new linens and a mini fridge for your dorm, but now you need a computer. You probably have a limited budget to work with, but, luckily, there are plenty of reasonably priced models out there that don’t make too many sacrifices. We’ve rounded up a list of laptops perfect for students and even tested a few out for ourselves.

Our Top Picks

Best Overall: Acer Chromebook R 11

4.4

Every college student needs a laptop that can handle both homework and extra-curricular internet use — like those early morning hours when you’re five hours deep into a Netflix original series. The Acer Chromebook R 11 gets an A+ for both. The convertible, 360-degree laptop/tablet runs on Chrome OS, so you can download apps — both productive and just for fun — from the Google Play Store and use Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides to complete your classwork.

With an Intel Celeron N3150 Quad-Core Processor 1.6GHz with Intel Burst Technology up to 2.08GHz combined with 4GB of onboard memory and 32GB of internal storage, the Chromebook R 11 multitasks with ease. Built-in virus protection — which updates itself automatically — also safeguards your files, so you don't have to worry about crashes or data loss. And once you’ve submitted your report or finished your online quiz, you can flip the screen all the way back to enjoy your favorite games and shows in tablet mode on its 11.6-inch HD IPS touch display with 1366 x 768 resolution. The battery life is rated at about 10 hours, so it’ll last you a full day of classes and then some. You also get 100GB of free storage on Google Drive for two years, so you won't have to worry about storing important documents or photos.

Want to take a look at some other options? See our guide to the best 2-in-1 laptops.

Best for Durability: ASUS Chromebook C202SA-YS02

3.7

The ASUS Chromebook C202 is a rugged computer that’s capable of being repeatedly thrown in your backpack. It has a spill-resistant keyboard, a reinforced rubber bumper to protect it from minor drops and scratches, and nano-molding technology on its edges and corners to reduce the impact of falls. In a drop test, the Chromebook C202 was capable of withstanding a fall from as high as 3.9 feet — and that's particularly impressive given it only weighs 2.65 pounds.

The C202’s 11.6-inch 1366 x 768 display even comes equipped with anti-glare technology, so you can work while you catch some rays on the quad. With a 180-degree hinge, you can also manipulate the laptop into whatever angle you like. On the inside, it packs an Intel Celeron N3060 Processor ( 2M cache up to 2.48 GHz) and 16GB of flash storage. The Chromebook runs on, you guessed it, Chrome OS, so you can download and edit files via Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides. Like other Chromebook models, the C202 also employs automatically-updating anti-virus protection so you don't have to worry about accidentally downloading any malicious software when you're surfing the web.

Interested in reading more reviews? Take a look at our selection of the best ASUS laptops

Best Lightweight: ASUS ZenBook S

4.5

The ASUS ZenBook S is one of the most rugged and portable laptops out there, with a 2.2-pound, 0.5-inch thick design made from aerospace-grade aluminum. It’s got a neat backlit, tilting keyboard, too, that can angle your typing surface by 5.5 inches. This function also allows for additional airflow which helps keep the machine cool — in tandem with a copper-alloy heat pipe and liquid-crystal-polymer fan — so it won't sound like a rocket ship when it's working hard. Add in a headphone jack and three USB-C ports (with two that can handle Thunderbolt 3 cables) and you’ve got some serious connectivity in this highly portable device.

The ZenBook S also comes with Alexa integration for voice commands and a lithium polymer battery that can last up to 9 hours without a charge. You can gear it up with either an i5 or i7 Intel CPU for some serious power in exceptionally small form, and you can outfit your ZenBook S with either 8GB or 16GB of RAM for a smooth, multi-app running experience. If you’re looking for something a little different, you can opt for the laptop in Deep Dive Blue or Burgundy Red. Media-types will dig being able to add a 4K glossy touchscreen as an option, with HD glossy non-touch or HD anti-glare screens as the other two. 

Best Ultrabook: Acer Aspire E 15 E5-576-392H

The latest Acer Aspire model is the ideal mix of value and performance that's built to last through all your college years. It’s also significantly cheaper than most high-end laptops, which college students can truly appreciate. First off, it contains an 8th-Generation Intel Core i3 processor, 6GB dual-channel memory, and a 1TB hard drive. It also features Intel Turbo Boost Technology for smooth video streaming and high-speed performance, along with a long-lasting 13.5-hour battery. The hardware should satisfy the needs of most college students, but if your workload is particularly demanding, then upgrading the memory or hard drive is a simple process — just open the easy-access compartment in the bottom of the laptop to replace the parts.

The Acer Aspire is built for both work and entertainment. The 15.6-inch screen features full HD resolution, although the color isn't as vibrant as some of its competitors. This model is also on the heavier side at 5.27 pounds. However, it comes with a DVD drive, SD slot, and has port space for USB 3.0, 2.0, Type-C, as well as Ethernet and HDMI inputs. As an added bonus, you can even charge your USB-connected devices when the laptop is powered down. 

Want to take a look at some other options? See our guide to the best Acer laptops

Best Budget: Acer Aspire 1

For just a tiny bit more than $200, you can have a solid laptop from Acer, one of the more reliable budget computer makers. Sure, it’s not going to do super well with high-end video editing or gaming, but the Aspire 1 comes with a 14-inch, full HD screen — that's a resolution of 1920 x 1080 — which is perfect for your Netflix binging needs. It’s also got 4GB of RAM, 32 GB of flash storage, and a Intel Celeron 1.1 GHz processor, which is plenty enough for word-processing, web surfing, and streaming music. Windows 10 S will also let you install and run any apps from the Windows Store, which will most likely be plenty enough for any college student.

The 4810mAh, two-cell, lithium-ion battery should last up to nine hours — so you can pack in long library study sessions without worrying about finding an outlet. The Aspire 1 doesn’t rock an optical drive, but it does have a single USB 3.0 port and two USB 2.0 ports to keep you connected to things like printers and your smartphone. The dimensions are decent, with a 13.5 x 9.7 x 0.7-inch profile, though it is a bit heavy at 3.64 pounds. Luckily, you’re young and strong and the price is right.

Want to take a look at some other options? See our guide to the best laptops under $500

Best Under $300: Asus VivoBook E403NA

Given its reasonable price tag, you may assume that the Asus VivoBook E403NA skimps on features, but lucky for budget-minded shoppers, that's not the case. Sure, it's not cut out for hardcore gaming or video editing, but it’s got some phenomenal student-friendly specs for its deceivingly attractive price. You can boost the Intel Celeron dual-core N3350 processor up to 2.4GHz for a bit more oomph, and the screen offers a 14-inch full 1080p HD display for when you take a break from studying to check in on your latest Netflix obsession. You’ll get a copy of Windows 10 along with the laptop, which you’ll be able to run for up to twelve hours straight thanks to the 57WHr lithium-ion battery. The 64 GB of eMMC flash storage and 4GB of RAM give you enough storage for local files and smooth, fast booting and application switching.

The VivoBook also has the latest fast Wi-Fi with an 802.11ac dual antenna. Need ports? The VivoBook has one USB 2.0 port and two USB 3.0 ports to connect to anything you might need to, like printers or smartphones. It’s also pretty darn portable at 3.3 pounds and 13.3" x 9.3" x 0.7" — making it super easy to toss into a backpack on your way to class.

Best Under $500: HP 15-BS013DX

If you have a $500 budget to play with, you'll have no trouble finding a value laptop suitable for college students. Right now, our favorite is the HP 15-BS013DX which delivers a 15.6-inch touchscreen, an Intel i3-7100U processor, a 1 TB hard drive (AKA tons of storage), and a full 8 G of RAM to keep things responsive and smooth. The Intel HD Graphics 620 card will run some decent games when you need to take a break from your studies, too. Add Bluetooth, two USB 3.1 plugs, and an HDMI port, and you’ve got a killer machine that will feel equally at home in the coffee shop as in the class (or dorm) room.

While it might be a bit unwieldy at 15" x 10" x 0.9" and 4.5 pounds, the trade-off in power and ability is well worth the extra heft. Reviewers on Best Buy and Amazon really like the features included (touch screen, more RAM, etc.) for the price — especially if you'll be doing little more than surfing the web, streaming videos, and typing up Word documents.

Best for Portability: Apple MacBook

While the MacBook Air was once called the thinnest and lightest laptop ever, the title has been ceded to Apple’s latest output: the 12-inch MacBook. Weighing just 2.03 pounds and measuring 0.52 inches thick, the MacBook is extremely portable, but also hosts a ton of higher-end specs, like a Retina IPS-backlit screen that shows over three million pixels at 2304 x 1440 resolution, an Intel Core M 1.1 GHz processor, an HD Graphics 5300 chip, and LED-backlit keys.

MacOS is one of the best operating systems out there for those of us who just want things to work but aren’t ready to make the jump to online-only Chromebooks. You’ll also get 8 GB RAM (configurable up to 16 GB) and 256GB of fast SSD storage, 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, and a host of ports, including USB 3.1, Display, and Audio ports. Add to that a Force-Touch trackpad that can manage multi-touch gestures, and you’ve got a super-portable powerhouse (with up to ten hours of battery life) that will keep you productive and satisfied wherever you are on campus. You can pick one up in one of four metal finishes: silver, space gray, gold, or rose gold.

Best Budget for Portability: ASUS ZenBook Flip UX360CA

If your budget can’t quite accommodate a MacBook, the ASUS ZenBook Flip is definitely a decent alternative. It’s got an Intel Core M3 processor, 8 GB of RAM and 256 GB of storage on an SSD to keep things zippy and good-looking. You’ll also get a full 1920 x 1080p touchscreen-enabled HD 13.3-inch display with an integrated Intel HD graphics 515 chip for some moderate gaming ability. It’s also packing one USB 3.1 type-C port, along with two USB 3.0 jacks, and a Micro HDMI port so you can connect it to any modern big screen TV or projector.

The ZenBook Flip comes with Bluetooth 4.1, fast 802.11ac Wi-Fi radios, and a 54 WHrs battery, which should let you go for at least 7 hours between charges. You’ll also get Windows 10 and Microsoft’s voice assistant, Cortana, with Voice-Premium service (it’s the first ZenBook to offer Cortana). The 8.7 x 12.7 laptop weighs 2.9 pounds and measures just 0.5 inches thick, making it a great little laptop to sling in your backpack and keep it with you all day on campus. All that for around $700? Yes, please.

Best for Engineering Students: ASUS T8TJG

Asus T8TJG
 Courtesy of Amazon

If you need a powerful workhorse of a machine for heavy engineering simulations, you won’t find much better than the ASUS T8TJG convertible laptop. While it’s marketed as a gaming rig, the T8TJG comes with enough power, graphics, and storage to make your engineering life just as sweet. The flip and fold design lets you use the T8TJG as either a laptop or a tablet, and the keyboard is backlit for working on your homework late into the night. You’ll get a bright, 15.6-inch touchscreen with 1920 x 1080 resolution, an NVIDIA 2GB GeForce 940MX graphics card, and an Intel Core i7-7500 2.7 GHz dual-core processor along with a full 16 GB of RAM and a 2 TB hard drive.

TheASUS T8TJG's four-cell lithium-ion battery will keep you running heavy workloads, while you’ll have a ton of ports to stay connected: one USB 3.0, one USB 2.0, a headphone/mic jack, and an HDMI port capable of connecting to classroom projectors so you can show off your latest 3D models. The T8TJG is 0.9-inches thick and weighs 5.07 pounds — a bit heavy, sure, but the power (and price) is well worth it.  

Best for Visual Art and Design Students: Apple 15-inch MacBook Pro (2018)

The gold-standard for powerful, durable, rugged laptops is the MacBook Pro. While this line of high-end computing devices is never going to be on anyone’s budget list, students in the graphic arts, film, or other creative fields will definitely benefit from a MacBook Pro purchase. The base model comes with a 2.2 GHz 6-core Intel Core i7 processor that you can boost up to 4.1 GHz, a gorgeous Retina display with new True Tone color technology, a fancy Touch Bar across the top of the keyboard, and Touch ID for unlocking your ‘Book with your fingerprint. The 4G Radeon Pro 555X will let you get visually creative as well as run some decent gaming sessions, and the 16 GB of Ram and 256 GB SSD will make sure you have enough storage and power to run your apps and games.

The new MacBook Pro also comes with four Thunderbolt 3 ports (which support USB-C 3.1 as well), a responsive backlit keyboard, and with macOS, the operating system of choice for creative types. At 4.02 pounds and height of .61 inches, this powerhouse is also pretty portable and will stay charged through 10 hours of straight use.

Want to take a look at some other options? See our guide to the best MacBooks

Runner-Up, Best for Art and Design: ASUS ZenBook Pro UX501VW-XS74T

If the MacBook Pro is a little too high-end for your budget, you might consider something like the Asus ZenBook Pro which has a ton of power for a little less scratch. You’ll get a 15.6-inch IPS UHD touchscreen display with up to 3840 x 2160 (4K) resolution along with an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960M 4GB graphics card for extra visual power. You’ll feel good with the 16 GB of RAM and 512 GB SSD drive, too. An Intel Skylake core i7 quadcore processor starting at 2.6 GHz will keep your apps and activities snappy, while a copy of Windows 10 Pro 64-bit — as opposed to the more typical Windows 10 Home edition — will let you run all the latest apps from Adobe, like Photoshop and Premier.

Sure, this 15.1" x 10" X 0.8" laptop comes in at 5 pounds and has a 6-hour battery life, but the tradeoff on price is well worth it. Amazon reviewers note how this laptop compares favorably to similar options from Dell and Apple while coming in at a much less expensive price. 

Best for Business Students: Lenovo ThinkPad E570

Lenovo ThinkPad E570
 Courtesy of Walmart

Business students don’t need the hottest graphics card or high-end display, but you will want something with at least 8 GB of RAM and a full number keyboard for those late-night spreadsheet sessions. Lenovo’s ThinkPad line of laptops are pretty great for business work in general and the E570 fits the bill for a very competitive price.

The base model starts under $1,000, which will still get you a capable Intel i5 processor, 8 GB of RAM, and a 256 GB SSD for a good amount of storage and snappy file management. There are plenty of USB ports to connect mice, smartphones, and printers, and a gigabit Ethernet port for those legacy business network connections. It runs Windows 10 Pro 64-bit, has a DVD +-RW rewritable drive, and a 720p webcam for remote business and class meetings. It’s even got a fingerprint reader to keep your data safe and secure. Sure, it’s a bit heavy at 5 pounds and not super stylish, but the included number pad and solid battery life make it a screaming bargain for students who have to deal with a lot. 

Best for Gaming: Dell G5 Gaming

Sure, you want a laptop that can handle all the classwork and homework you can throw at it, but at the end of the day, you’re probably going to want to game on your PC. You’ll want a GPU that can handle the graphics of modern games as well as a powerful enough CPU to run their non-visual components, as well. The Dell G5 15 Gaming laptop has a 6GB NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 for stunning graphics ability as well as an Intel i7 processor to keep things rolling.

When purchasing your Dell G5, you can choose from 8 GB to 32 GB of RAM and either an HDD or SSD for storage space and speed. There are two USB 3.1 ports with power share for gaming peripherals, one USB 3.1 port, a headphone/mic jack for gaming headsets and a dedicated LAN Ethernet port for lag-free wired network connections. The 15.6-inch IPS FHD display keeps things bright, and the HDMI 2.0 port will make sure you can output to a bigger 4K monitor with ease. Is it heavy and thick? Yes, it is (5.57 pounds isn’t exactly light), but the added power under the hood make it worth the extra back strain if you carry it around to classes.

Still can't decide on what you want? Our round-up of the best gaming laptops can help you find what you're looking for.

Tested by

How We Tested

Our reviewers spent 88 hours testing two of the most popular laptops on the market. We asked our testers to consider the most important features when using these laptops and we've outlined them here so that you, too, know what to look for when shopping.

What to Look for in a College Laptop

Operating system - Apple’s Macs are known for having an intuitive interface that’s sleek and ideal for designers, while Windows PCs are capable of more customization and are often better suited for productivity.

Portability - If you need something that’s easy to toss into your backpack, you might prefer a smaller and lighter model like a two-in-one. However, if you’re mostly working in your dorm, a larger laptop might not be so cumbersome. For creative or design students, a larger screen is likely necessary.

Budget - Between buying textbooks and planning spring break, college doesn’t come cheap. If you’re looking to save a few dollars on a laptop, you can still get plenty of premium features, like a cutting-edge processor or advanced security features. If you’ve got some cash to spare, you might be more comfortable splurging on a MacBook, which have unrivaled displays.

Test Results: Acer Chromebook R 11 Convertible, 11.6-Inch HD Touch Screen (Best Overall)

4.4

What We Like

  • Stylish design

  • Intuitive touchscreen

  • Google integration

What We Don't Like

  • Inconsistent touchpad

Our testers loved the fact that this laptop was integrated with Google, reporting that it made it easier for them to power through daily tasks. One of our reviewers also raved about its speed and responsiveness, saying it was “intuitive” and a “joy” to use. However, one of our testers did experience some ghost clicking, which caused the cursor to click on things when the user didn’t mean to. (This can usually be remedied by restarting the computer.)

Test Results: ASUS Chromebook C202SA-YS02 11.6-Inch (Best for Durability)

3.7

What We Like

  • Very portable

  • Great value

  • Impressive battery life

What We Don't Like

  • Limited features

  • Screen on the smaller side

Our testers loved the fact that this laptop was integrated with Google, reporting that it made it easier for them to power through daily tasks. One of our reviewers also raved about its speed and responsiveness, saying it was “intuitive” and a “joy” to use. However, one of our testers did experience some ghost clicking, which caused the cursor to click on things when the user didn’t mean to. (This can usually be remedied by restarting the computer.)

Test Results: ASUS ZenBook S (Best Lightweight)

4.5

What We Like

  • Very portable

  • Crisp screen display

  • Comes with case

What We Don't Like

  • Can get hot with sustained use

Our testers loved that the ZenBook S was slim and portable: “You can easily hold it in one hand or carry in a small bag. I liked how it felt compact,” one wrote. Our reviewers also reported that the laptop has a crisp screen display, great-quality sound, and impressive battery life. One of our testers summed it up: “I felt the computer met and exceeded expectations for working quickly and being easy to use.”