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The 6 Best Laptops For College - Spring 2024 Reviews

Best Laptops For College

If you're going off to college, you'll need a laptop that can handle your school workload. Depending on your program, the best laptop for students may be a simple Chromebook, an ultraportable Windows laptop or MacBook, or a powerful mobile workstation. Preferably, you'll want a portable, well-built device with enough battery life to get you through the day. As you'll be working a lot on the laptop, you should also look for a device with features contributing to a good user experience, like a sharp and bright display, a comfortable keyboard, and a responsive touchpad. It's also important to consider the port selection if you use multiple peripherals or external displays. Of course, price is a big concern for some students, so we've also included picks for the best budget laptops for students.

We've bought and tested over 115 laptops. Below, you'll find our recommendations for the best laptops for college you can buy. You can also see our recommendations for the best student Chromebooks, the best lightweight laptops, and the best 15-16-inch laptops.

  1. Best Laptop For College

    The best laptop for college we've tested is the Apple MacBook Air 13 (2024). This premium model is ideal for college students who need a thin, light laptop to write papers, browse the web, and consume media. Apple's base M3 SoC is well suited to light productivity tasks and even some video editing and 3D graphics. Plus, it doesn't even need a cooling fan, so you won't have to worry about loud fan noise in classrooms and libraries. It provides an amazing user experience, sporting a sharp, bright display, a spacious keyboard, and a gigantic haptic touchpad; its battery life is also excellent, though it takes a while to charge to full. Port selection is its biggest weakness as it only has two USB-C/Thunderbolt 3 ports, and these ports will only output to two external displays if the lid is closed. The Apple MacBook Air 15 (2024) is also a good choice if you want a bigger screen. It also has better-sounding speakers but costs more.

    For Windows users, we recommend the LG gram 14 (2023), a 14-inch ultraportable. Like the MacBook Air, it provides a great user experience overall with a nice screen, comfortable keyboard, and responsive touchpad. The display doesn't get quite as bright as the MacBook's, but it's enough for good visibility in most indoor settings. It has a wider port selection, which includes two USB-C/Thunderbolt 4s, allowing you to connect two external 4k displays at 60Hz with a single cable. You can configure it with an Intel 13th Gen Core i5 or i7 CPU and up to 32GB of RAM and 1TB of storage. Performance is excellent for a thin and light laptop as it can easily handle light productivity tasks. Besides the display's brightness, the only other downside is that its magnesium alloy chassis doesn't feel nearly as sturdy as the MacBook Air's all-aluminum build. It's definitely lighter at only 2.1lbs, though.

    See our review

  2. Best Mid-Range Laptop For College

    If you want something less expensive than the Apple MacBook Air 13 (2024) but not overly cheap, check out the Lenovo Yoga 7i 16 (2023). This 2-in-1 convertible has a large 16-inch display, giving you plenty of room for side-by-side windows and making multitasking easier. While there's an FHD+ display option, we recommend getting a QHD+ panel, which looks sharper and gets brighter to combat glare. Don't worry about battery life; even the QHD+ model will last the whole day with light use. There's Wi-Fi 6E, a fingerprint sensor, a facial recognition camera, and a wide port selection, including two Thunderbolt 4s and an HDMI. Its Intel 13th Gen CPUs can easily handle general productivity tasks; however, don't expect to do anything overly intensive due to thermal throttling. While the webcam's video quality provides you with a fairly detailed image, it has an unnatural tint, and the microphone picks up some background noise.

    Another mid-range laptop worth mentioning is the Acer Chromebook Spin 714 (2022). It's also a 2-in-1 convertible, but it has a smaller 14-inch screen and runs Chrome OS. If you like taking handwritten notes, it supports pen input and comes with a stylus that you can dock into the side of the laptop for transport. Its Intel 12th Gen CPU has more processing than you'd ever need on a Chromebook, but know that Chrome OS is limited in the type of applications you can install, so make sure you can do everything through a Chrome browser or an Android app. Unfortunately, this model is getting hard to find because there's a newer 2023 version, which we haven't tested but expect to perform similarly. The upgrades include faster Intel 13th Gen CPUs and a 1440p webcam. You can see the 2023 model on Amazon and Best Buy.

    See our review

  3. Best Budget Laptop For College

    The best budget laptop for students we've tested is the Acer Swift 3 14 (2020). Acer's Swift models aren't exactly considered budget, but because this is an older model from 2020, the price has decreased considerably, making it a great option for those on a tight budget. It's compact and lightweight, and its battery lasts over 13 hours on a full charge. You get a nice FHD IPS display, a decent keyboard, and a wide port selection that includes two USB-As, one USB-C/Thunderbolt 4, a full-size HDMI, and a headphone jack.

    In terms of hardware, you can get this laptop with Intel 11th Gen Core i5 or i7 CPU configurations, up to 16GB of memory, and up to 512GB of storage. The Intel 11th Gen CPUs are a few years old but are still more than adequate for general productivity tasks like text processing, web browsing, spreadsheets, and video playback. Our only major complaint is the webcam's video quality, as the image looks underexposed, and the microphone sounds staticky.

    See our review

  4. Best Cheap Laptop For College

    The Lenovo IdeaPad Slim 3i Chromebook 14 (2023) is the best laptop for students we've tested in the cheap category. It's a great option if you only need a simple device to browse the web and write papers. Its compact design makes it easy to carry around, and its battery lasts about 13 hours of light use. The Core i3 configuration (paired with an FHD display, 8GB of RAM, and 128GB of storage) is regularly on sale for around $400 to $500 USD on Lenovo's website. There are cheaper configurations, but we don't recommend them unless you have an extremely light workload.

    As for the user experience, its FHD display looks sharp, gets bright enough for use in well-lit settings, and supports touch input. However, the keyboard feels mushy, and the touchpad is small and sometimes unresponsive. Its 1080p webcam is excellent, which is surprising for a budget-friendly Chromebook. Again, ensure you can do everything through a Chrome browser or Android app; otherwise, it's best to go with a Windows laptop like the Acer Swift 3 14 (2020) above.

    See our review

  5. Best Workstation For College

    For students in more technical fields who need a high-performance laptop to run intensive applications, we recommend the Apple MacBook Pro 14 (M3, 2023). Like its M2 predecessor, this new M3 model has a sleek, compact design, a sturdy build, and all-day battery life. It provides a fantastic user experience with its sharp Mini LED display, comfortable keyboard, and gigantic, easy-to-use haptic touchpad. You get tons of ports to connect peripherals and external displays and an outstanding 1080p webcam for video calls. You also get a fingerprint sensor so that you can log in quickly.

    Apple's M3 Pro/Max SoCs can easily handle demanding tasks, making this laptop a great option for students in programming, 3D graphics and animation, or science and engineering. The fans remain quiet under load, so you don't have to worry about causing too much noise in a quiet classroom or library. If screen real estate is more important than portability, you can get the larger Apple MacBook Pro 16 (M3, 2023). It's the same device but with better-sounding speakers and a longer battery life. The only downside is its higher price.

    The Dell XPS 15 (2023) is also a great choice if you prefer or need Windows. Like the MacBook Pro 14, it's a premium model that provides a great user experience. You can configure it with up to an Intel 13th Gen Core i9-13900H CPU and an NVIDIA GeForce RTX 4070 discrete GPU, giving you plenty of processing power for intensive tasks. You can also play more games than on a MacBook because there's a wider selection of Windows games. That said, there are a few tradeoffs, like its display's limited 60Hz refresh rate and its terrible 720p webcam. The battery lasts over 11 hours of light use, which isn't as good as the MacBook Pro 14 but still excellent.

    See our review

  6. Best Gaming Laptop For College

    Current Deal: The ASUS TUF Gaming A16 Advantage Edition (2023) has dropped in price by $350 at

    If you want a laptop that can double as your gaming rig, the ASUS TUF Gaming A16 Advantage Edition (2023) is an excellent option. You can get this laptop with an AMD Ryzen 7 7735HS or Ryzen 9 7940HS CPU paired with an AMD Radeon RX 6700S or Radeon RX 7700S discrete GPUs. These GPUs are capable, mid-range graphics processors that deliver high, consistent frame rates in demanding AAA games at 1080p or 1440p. Display options include a 165Hz FHD+ and a 240Hz QHD+ panel; both are 16-inch panels with VRR support to minimize screen tearing. The RAM and storage drive are user-replaceable, so you can easily upgrade later on. The Wi-Fi adapter is also replaceable—the existing adapter only supports Wi-Fi 6.

    Port selection is excellent; you get two USB-As, two USB-Cs (not Thunderbolt or USB4, unfortunately), an HDMI 2.1, and an Ethernet port. This model stands out because its battery lasts easily through a typical day of light use. It also charges quickly in under two hours, which is pretty impressive for a 90Wh battery. Unfortunately, the cooling fans get pretty loud, and the deck gets toasty under heavy loads. Portability can be challenging, as it's a rather bulky and heavy device.

    See our review

Notable Mentions

  • ASUS Zenbook 14 OLED (2024): The ASUS ZenBook 14 OLED (2024) is a good option if you want a Windows alternative to the Apple MacBook Air 13 (2024) but one with a higher-resolution display than the LG gram 14 (2023). Its OLED display is a huge upgrade over the LG; however, OLEDs are susceptible to permanent burn-in, and the higher resolution and refresh rate take a toll on the battery life. It's worth noting that ASUS has recently been subject to controversy regarding unnecessary charges during warranty service. See our review
  • HP Spectre x360 14 (2024): The HP Spectre x360 14 (2024) is a great alternative to the Apple MacBook Air 13 (2024) if you prefer a Windows 2-in-1 convertible. Its port selection includes two Thunderbolt 4s that, unlike the MacBook Air, support multiple external displays with the screen open. It also has a nicer 2.8k OLED display with a higher 120Hz refresh rate and stylus support; however, the screen doesn't get as bright to combat glare, and not every model comes with a pen in the box. Also, this is a more expensive alternative than the LG gram 14 (2023). See our review
  • Framework Laptop 13 (2023): The Framework Laptop 13 (2023) is a great alternative to the Apple MacBook Air 13 (2024) if you want an easily repairable and upgradeable laptop. This 13-inch ultraportable model's design lets you replace any component in the laptop. The parts are available to buy from Framework, and the company provides online manuals to guide you through the replacement process. However, its build quality, display, touchpad, speakers, and webcam aren't as good as the MacBook Air. See our review
  • Dell Inspiron 16 2-in-1 (2023): The Dell Inspiron 16 2-in-1 (2023) is a good alternative to the Lenovo Yoga 7i 16 (2023). It has a slightly sturdier build and doesn't throttle as much as the Lenovo, but it doesn't support Thunderbolt 4 or USB4, and its battery life is shorter at around 10 hours of light use. Another tradeoff is the display, as it's only available with a dimmer FHD panel. See our review
  • Lenovo IdeaPad Slim 3i 15 (2023): The Lenovo IdeaPad Slim 3i 15 (2023) is a good alternative to the Acer Swift 3 14 (2020) if you want a more recent device with newer, faster CPU options. It has a slightly better keyboard and touchpad than the Acer; however, its battery life is much shorter, at around six to seven hours of light use. Another tradeoff is its more limited port selection, as it doesn't support Thunderbolt 4, and its HDMI port is limited to the 1.4 standard. See our review

Recent Updates

  1. May 16, 2024: Replaced the Asus Zenbook 14 Flip OLED (2023) as a Notable Mention with the HP Spectre x360 14 (2024), as the HP has better battery life and performance over time. Minor text changes for accuracy and clarity.

  2. Apr 17, 2024: Replaced the M2 Apple MacBook Air 13 (2022) with the M3 Apple MacBook Air 13 (2024). Added the ASUS Zenbook 14 OLED (2024) as a Notable Mention.

  3. Mar 18, 2024: Minor text changes to provide information regarding the new M3 MacBook Airs. Replaced the Lenovo Legion Pro 5 Gen 8 16 (2023) with the ASUS TUF Gaming A16 Advantage Edition (2023) because the ASUS has much longer battery life and is cheaper. Removed the Lenovo Slim Pro 7 14 (2023) because it's discontinued.

  4. Feb 22, 2024: Minor restructure to put the Apple MacBook Air 13 (2022) as the top pick instead of the Apple MacBook Pro 14 (M3, 2023) because the MacBook Air is a better option for the majority of students, while the MacBook Pro 14 is a high-performance device better suited for students in more technical fields.

  5. Jan 24, 2024: Replaced the Apple MacBook Pro 14 (M2, 2023) with the Apple MacBook Pro 14 (M3, 2023) because the M3 model is better overall, and the M2 is discontinued. Added the Lenovo IdeaPad Slim 3i 15 (2023) as a Notable Mention.

All Reviews

Our recommendations above are what we think are currently the best laptops for college students to buy. In addition to the test results, we factor in the price (a cheaper laptop wins over a pricier one if the difference isn't worth it), feedback from our visitors, and availability (no laptops that are difficult to find or almost out of stock everywhere).

If you prefer to make your own decision, here's the list of all of our laptop reviews, sorted by price from low to high. Keep in mind that most laptops are available in various configurations, and the table only shows the results of the model we tested, so it's best to see the full review for information about other variants.