As a college student, you’ve probably grown accustomed to hand-me-downs recently. As you focus on spending money on tuition and books rather than earning a significant disposable income over the next four years or so, you’ll crave a laptop that matches your budget. As we all know, students and laptops go together like professors and taking forever to grade papers, so fasten your seatbelts as we take a look at the best laptops for students as reviewed by TechRadar.
Aside from making sure it meets your monetary qualifications, what makes one of the best laptops for students is a) reliability and b) making the best of pricing with a perfect convergence of hardware and software to get you through the painstaking stresses of the semester. Not every recommendation on our list houses the newest processor or cutting-edge graphics, as much of those are reserved for PC gamers.
As an all-encompassing laptop guide for college students, we’re dead-set on providing suggestions for laptops that are functional as well as stylish enough that you won’t get looked down on for carrying it around. Then again, if anyone judges you based on your laptop of choice, maybe they aren’t worth having around. Social hierarchies considered, below you’ll find the best laptops for students like yourself as of 2018, fully tested, reviewed and ready to go.
What’s the XPS 13 if not the best? For three years in the running, we’ve been unable to answer this question due to Dell’s stunning flagship Ultrabook, well, being the best. Thin, light and ready to rumble once again, the Dell XPS 13 is more powerful than ever, albeit at a higher starting cost than before. Then again, the slight bump in cost means you can expect an 8th-generation Intel Core i5 processor at the very least, paired with a gorgeous (and bezel-less) InfinityEdge anti-glare display as well as an Alpine White-woven-into-Rose Gold color option. It’s a bit more expensive than the traditional Platinum Silver version, but it’s worth it for the cred.
Read the full review: Dell XPS 13
The Samsung Notebook 9 is what other 2-in-1 laptops have aspired to be since their conception. It hones in on the S-Pen, Samsung’s own proprietary stylus with 4,096 levels of pressure sensitivity (the same as Microsoft’s new Surface Pen), a nifty little accessory that conveniently doesn’t require charging. Although the touchscreen display is only 1080p, at between 350 and 450 nits of brightness, you won’t be paying any mind to the pixels, or lack thereof. Plus, the lengthy battery life more than makes up for this hybrids few setbacks.
Read the full review: Samsung Notebook 9 Pro
- This product is only available in the US as of this writing. UK and Australian readers: check out a fine alternative in the .
The Asus Chromebook Flip C302 could be seen as an apology for Google’s own missteps with the Chromebook Pixel that preceded it. Rather than costing over a grand for unnecessarily high performance that would put a lot of Windows notebooks to shame, Asus has cut the price in half while adding a 360-degree hinge that effectively makes it a 2-in-1 laptop, but with Android apps from the Google Play Store that only sweeten the deal.Now you can experience a Chromebook whose style rivals that of the MacBook Pro without spending even remotely what you would on one of Apple’s machines.
Read the full review: Asus Chromebook Flip
The 2017 Surface Pro is – in every way, shape and form – the next-generation Windows tablet we’ve been craving. From its rounded edges to its refined selection of accessories, there’s no denying it’s the next step in the Redmond hardware lineage. There’s also the fact that the Surface Pro draws inspiration from all-in-one PCs insofar as it bends back 165 degrees. The only real downside then (besides having to buy the Surface Pen separately this time) is that only the i7 version of the Surface Pro can compete with Apple’s cheaper, entry level iPad Pro.
Read the full review: Microsoft Surface Pro
For less than a grand, you could get a MacBook Air, complete with a sub-1080p screen and a Broadwell processor … or you could buy a Samsung Notebook 7 Spin. A 2-in-1 laptop with an HDR, full HD touchscreen, the Spin is home to both a discrete Nvidia graphics chip and a 6th-generation Intel Core “i” CPU. Though the spinning hard drive and 480p webcam aren’t ideal, they keep the price of the Samsung Notebook 7 Spin modest and its reputation positive.
Read the full review: Samsung Notebook 7 Spin
- This product is only available in the US as of this writing. UK and Australian readers: check out a fine alternative in the Asus ZenBook Flip UX360.
Ditching the Alienware moniker for once, the Dell Inspiron 15 Gaming doesn’t cost all that much considering its rather lofty specs. Even if it can’t max out every game you throw at it, the Dell Inspiron 15 Gaming is both cheaper than a MacBook Air and way more capable. And, if you were worried about the battery life, the Inspiron 15 Gaming lasted a whole 5 hours and 51 minutes in our tests, longer than some Ultrabooks priced significantly higher. Whether for coursework or leisure, this laptop can do it all.
Read the full review: Dell Inspiron 15 Gaming
The 2017 MacBook Pro doesn’t offer much in the way of distinguishing itself from its predecessor, but it is a testament to just how much you can improve something by simply swapping up internal components and calling it a day. Because it’s finally equipped with the newest generation of Intel processors and faster-than-ever PCIe 3.0 SSD storage, the MacBook Pro comes easily recommended, undeterred by its reluctance to bring back legacy ports like HDMI and standard USB. This is, through and through, a laptop built for the future.
Now that the MacBook Air is all but dead in the water in terms of innovation, there has to be something to replace it. The Asus ZenBook UX310UA is that spiritual successor you’ve been longing for. Surprising us with the an all-aluminum chassis that follows in the wake of the UX305 before it, this laptop comes stacked with a high quality display and an impressive swath of ports, including the latest USB-C interface. The best news is that it does all of that without slipping above the price point of the current MacBook Air, making it an even better value.
Read the full review: Asus ZenBook UX310
The Surface Laptop is Microsoft’s first stab at a “traditional” laptop, if you can even call it that knowing full well that its PixelSense touchscreen and Alcantara keyboard are anything but conventional. Featuring a full stack of U-series 7th generation Intel Core “i” processors, the Surface Laptop beats out Apple’s 12-inch MacBook any day of the week, and for a lower starting price at that. Despite the ports and operating system being limited, the Surface Laptop is appealing for its laudable design, beautifully vivid screen and impressive performance.
Read the full review: Surface Laptop
The Acer Swift 3 looks like a normal laptop, and while you could make the argument that it is, most “normal” laptops are either overpriced or underpowered these days. The Acer Swift 3, however, demonstrates a solid mix of performance and value, brandishing full-on Ultrabook-class Core i processors serving up and a passive battery life of over 8 hours
Read the full review: Acer Swift 3
Watch the video below for the top 7 things to consider when buying a laptop.
Gabe Carey has also contributed to this article