The 8 Best Laptops for College Students to Buy in 2017

Find the perfect laptop computer to get you through college

Acer Chromebook R 11 Convertible
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Getting ready to head off to college? You might want to splurge on a new laptop for your studies. But most college students have to work with a limited budget, which usually means making a compromise. The most important thing to keep in mind (besides your budget) is your personal needs. If your major requires you to run programs like Photoshop, then you will need at least 8 GB RAM and an Intel i5 Processor. Of course, design and portability are important considerations, too. With so many things to think about, we created a list of the best college laptops, so all you have to worry about is finding your way to class on the first day of the semester.

The Acer Aspire E 15 sits at the crossroad between value and performance in a way that only a college student could truly appreciate. This device is half the price of some ultrabooks out there, but boasts really impressive specs that translate into the perfect campus laptop. An incoming freshmen can confidently coast on this device through their entire four years at school, and even take it to grad school after that.

First off, you get a 7th Generation Intel Core i5 processor, 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD, and a capable graphics card in the Nvidia 940MX that can run most games at a decent clip. That means that this laptop can handle intensive graphic design programs or other major-specific software that budget laptops stall on.

It’s a bit heavy at 5.27 pounds, but the extra weight is justified with a large 15.6” true HD screen, DVD drive and a six-cell battery that holds a 12-hour charge. It also comes with USB Type-C, USB 2.0 and USB  3.0 ports, and the latest WiFi 802.11 ac. And the obsidian black case looks attractive, despite being made of plastic instead of metal.

Sometimes paying a little bit extra gets you a whole lot more. That’s the case with Asus’s best-selling “premium budget” F556UA-AB32. It is not the cheapest in the budget category, but it packs enough upgraded graphics and computing power to justify the purchase.

First, it is the cheapest laptop that offers Full HD (1920 x 1080) resolution on a beautiful 15.6-Inch screen. If you ever plan on watching movies on your laptop (and you will, trust me), then this upgrade will make a world of difference. And its Intel Core i3 processor, 4 GB RAM, and 802.11ac WiFi will let you run those videos lag-free, which is more than can be said for other budget laptops.

The case sports a simple but stylish design of concentric matte black circles, and an ergonomically designed keyboard feels very comfortable. Sure, this device won’t play the latest games or stand toe-to-toe with devices like the Spin, but it will satisfy everything the normal user wants without breaking the bank. 

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

Every college student needs a laptop that can both handle homework, but also be there in the early morning hours when you’re five hours deep into a Netflix binge. The Acer Chromebook R 11 gets an A+ in both. 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, it multitasks with ease. And once you’ve submitted that report, you can flip the screen all the way backward 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 through all your classes and then some, plus you get 100GB of free storage on Google Drive for two years.

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

When you’re constantly dashing between your dorm room, the library and the lecture hall, you need a laptop that can keep up. And if its name is any indication, the MacBook Air is one of the most portable computers on the market. At .68 inches thin and 2.96 pounds light, it’s easy to toss into your backpack and won’t weigh you down as your trekking across campus.

But don’t let its small frame deceive you: The MacBook Air is remarkably powerful. It houses a 1.6 GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 (Turbo Boost up to 2.7 GHz) and has 8 GB of 1600 MHz LPDDR3 RAM to boot. Reviewers on Amazon agree that its 13.3-inch LED-backlit 1440 x 900 display is among the best and brightest out there, and they praise its backlit keyboard for helping them through late-night assignments. On top of that, it lasts up to 12 hours between charges, so you don’t have to tote around a clunky charger.

The ASUS Chromebook C202 is a rugged computer that’s capable of braving all the elements on the periodic table. It has a spill-resistant keyboard, a rubber bumper to protect it from bumps and scratches and nano-molding technology on its edges and corners to reduce impact of falls. It scored magnum cum laude on a drop test, capable of landing safely from up to 3.9 feet. 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. On the inside, it packs an Intel Celeron N3060 Processor with 2M cache, up to 2.48 GHz and 16GB of flash storage. If that doesn’t earn it a spot on the honor roll, we don’t know what does.

College students have a plethora of laptop options to choose from in the space, but the combination of portability and budget-friendly pricing make the HP Stream 14-inch laptop a great choice. The 14-inch display combined with a 3.17-pound lightweight plastic frame makes it a perfect companion for backpacking to and from classes. Powered by an Intel Celeron 1.6GHz, dual-core processor, 4GB of RAM and a 32GB eMMC drive, this laptop is built with the student in mind. While the 32GB eMMC drive doesn’t offer a lot of storage, Microsoft bolsters storage with 1TB of OneDrive cloud space and Office 365 (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook) free for one-year. Additionally, you can spring for a separately-purchased microSD card and triple your storage allotment for less than one-quarter of the laptop's total price.

Ideally, a student would utilize the Stream 14 for classwork and Web browsing. You get the full power of Windows 10, a quick start up and shut down (thanks to the eMMC drive), as well as an aesthetically pleasing design available in both blue and purple.

Let’s face it: You rarely see a designer who isn’t using a Mac. That’s in large part due to the fact that Mac screens are so beautiful. And the 2017 reboot of Apple’s beloved MacBook Pro is no exception: It features a gorgeous 2,880 x 1,800-pixel, 500-nit Retina display. It also packs a powerful Radeon Pro discrete GPU that, when combined with 4GB of GDDR5 memory, delivers smooth real-time performance when carrying out tasks such as rendering 3D models in Autodesk Maya 2017.

Apple’s addition of the Touch Bar replaces those dusty function keys with an interactive bar that changes based on what you’re doing to show you relevant tools. In Final Cut Pro, for example, you can navigate through your project with an interactive display of your entire timeline, and in Adobe Photoshop, you can adjust your layers, pick a hue and control brush size. So whether you’re heading to Graphics 101 or beginning your senior capstone project, you won’t want to be caught using anything but this omnipotent laptop.

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

If you’re a student who prefers to take notes by hand but then has trouble organizing them come exam time, consider purchasing Microsoft’s Surface Book. It’s a handy 2-in-1 laptop with a detachable screen that makes it easy to use like a notepad. It comes with a Surface Pen, which has 1,024 levels of pressure sensitivity and an eraser on the other end. The fact that it runs Windows 10 means you’ll have access to a store full of apps designed to enhance the Pen’s usability, such as OneNote, Xodo and more.

The Surface Book’s 13.5-inch, 3:2-aspect-ratio PixelSense screen has a bright display and a superb resolution of 3,000 x 2,000, making viewing media a delight. It’s powered by a 6th-Generation Intel Core i5 or i7 processors with up to 16GB of memory and 1TB of storage. Its silver case looks and feels a lot like a MacBook, but when your Apple-addicted classmates see how versatile the Surface Book is, they’ll be begging to take notes for you.

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