School supply shopping gets a lot more fun when you get to college. From dorm decor to new textbooks, from degree-specific requirements to the best laptop for college, there’s a lot to gather before you start your first year. The last is the laptop, which is often the most challenging decision. How can you know which is best for you?
When choosing a laptop for college, you might be surprised to discover many more options than just Mac or PC. Apple, Windows, Chromebook, 2-in-1 laptops… the list goes on, making your decision even harder than it seemed to begin with.
Here are the best laptops for college in 2022:
- Best overall: HP Envy 13
- Best price: Acer Swift 5
- Best under $500: Acer Aspire 5
- Best for Apple users: MacBook Air
- Best for Windows users: Dell XPS 13
- Best Chromebook: Acer Chromebook Spin 713
- Best 2-in-1 laptop: Microsoft Surface Pro 8
Best Overall: HP Envy 13
- READY WHENEVER INSPIRATION STRIKES: Create anytime, anywhere with a battery that lasts as long as your day does. Advanced privacy features let you keep your creations secure until you're ready to share them
- UNHACKABLE SECURITY FOR YOUR PEACE OF MIND: State-of-the-art security features include an unhackable camera shutter, microphone mute button and integrated fingerprint reader
- BIOS RECOVERY AND PROTECTION: Automatically checks the health of your PC, protects against unauthorized access, secures local storage and recovers itself from boot-up issues
- ENVIRONMENTALLY CONSCIOUS: Low halogen, mercury-free display backlights, arsenic-free display glass in this ENERGY STAR(R) certified, EPEAT(R) Silver registered ENVY
- BRING YOUR VISIONS TO LIFE WITH SUPER-FAST PROCESSOR: Intel(R) Evo(TM) platform powered by 11th Generation Intel(R) Core(TM) i7-1165G7 Processor, Quad-Core, up to 4.7 GHz with Intel(R) Turbo Boost Technology
A vibrant and colorful display, sleek and lightweight design, a fast Core i5 CPU, and a long battery life of more than 11 hours make the HP Envy 13 a favorite of many college students. This particular model comes with a 13.3-inch, 1080p display. With 16 GB of RAM and 256 GB of storage with space for an external hard drive to be attached, the HP Envy 13 is seemingly designed with the college student in mind. It checks all the boxes of what a college student might need without breaking the bank. Best of all, it isn’t packed with advanced features that might not be useful to an average student.
Check out HP Envy 13 on Amazon.
Best Price: Acer Swift 5
- 8th Generation Intel Core i5-8250U Processor (Up to 3.4GHz)
- 14" Full HD (1920 x 1080) Widescreen IPS Multi-Touch Display
- 8GB LPDDR3 Memory, 256GB SSD
- Windows 10 Home
- Up to 8-hours Battery Life
How can you be sure you’re getting the most bang for your buck? Sometimes, the most expensive laptop isn’t always the best. Likewise, the cheapest might not be a great buy. It’s a delicate tightrope to walk.
For students, the laptop with the best price is the Acer Swift 5. Intelligently designed with high-speed performance, the Swift 5 has an Intel Core i7 CPU, 16 GB of RAM, and over 1 TB of SSD storage. Moreover, it features a 14-inch 2560 x 1600 display and weighs less than three pounds. While its price tag is up there, its design, features, and specs make it worth purchasing.
Check out Acer Swift 5 on Amazon.
Best Under $500: Acer Aspire 5
- 8th Generation Intel Core i5-8265U Processor (Upto 3.9 gram Hz) | 8 GB DDR4 Memory | 256 GB PCIe NVMe SSD
- 15.6 Inches Full HD (1920 x 1080) Widescreen LED-backlit IPS Display | Intel UHD Graphics 620
- 1 - USB 3.1 Type C Gen 1 port, 2 - USB 3.1 Gen 1 Ports (one with Power-off Charging), 1 - USB 2.0 Port & 1 - HDMI Port with HDCP Support
- 802.11ac WiFi | Backlit Keyboard | Fingerprint Reader | Upto 9.5 Hours Battery Life
While the Acer Aspire 5 might sound similar to the Acer Aspire 5, the Aspire is the cheaper model. Coming in under $500, it’s remarkably more affordable. However, Acer doesn’t sacrifice performance despite its much lower price point. Equipped with the latest Intel chips and a comfortable keyboard and touchpad, the Acer Aspire 5’s specs far exceed its shockingly low price of under $500. Its battery might not last as long as the competition’s (or even as long as other Acer models). You won’t also get the same performance you’ll see in laptops that cost two or three times Acer Aspire 5’s price, but for students on a budget, this laptop can perform everyday tasks like emailing and word processing.
Check out Acer Aspire 5 on Amazon.
Best For Apple Users: Macbook Air
- All-Day Battery Life – Go longer than ever with up to 18 hours of battery life.
- Powerful Performance – Take on everything from professional-quality editing to action-packed gaming with ease. The Apple M1 chip with an 8-core CPU delivers up to 3.5x faster performance than the previous generation while using way less power.
- Superfast Memory – 8GB of unified memory makes your entire system speedy and responsive. That way it can support tasks like memory-hogging multitab browsing and opening a huge graphic file quickly and easily.
- Stunning Display – With a 13.3” Retina display, images come alive with new levels of realism. Text is sharp and clear, and colors are more vibrant.
- Why Mac – Easy to learn. Easy to set up. Astoundingly powerful. Intuitive. Packed with apps to use right out of the box. Mac is designed to let you work, play, and create like never before.
Everyone knows that Apple is a reputable brand, so weighing its pros and cons won’t do much good to change anyone’s mind. You’re either an Apple fan or not. If you are, and you’re a college student in search of a laptop, then the Macbook Air is the choice for you. Its performance capabilities, incredible battery, shockingly slim and lightweight design, and ability to integrate with other Apple products like your Watch, iPhone, iPad, and AirPods make it an unbeatable choice (especially if you’re already a fan of the brand). The Pro is just as good of a choice; unless you’re performing high-performance tasks such as video editing, you should be okay with an Air.
Check out Macbook Air on Amazon.
Best For Windows Users: Dell XPS 13
- 13.4" FHD (1920 x 1200) InfinityEdge Touch Anti-Reflective 500-Nit Display
- 11th Generation, Intel Core i7-1185G7 Processor (12MB Cache, up to 4.8 GHz)
- 16GB 4267MHz LPDDR4x Memory Onboard, 512GB M.2 PCIe NVMe SSD
- Intel Iris Xe Graphics with shared graphics memory
- Killer Wi-Fi 6 AX1650 (2 x 2) and Bluetooth 5.1
For those who’d opt for a PC over a Mac, there are all notable Windows laptops worth exploring. However, we aren’t here to examine the pros and cons of different laptops. We’re here to talk about the best. And that has to be the Dell XPS 13. Offered with Intel Core i3, i5, or i7, depending on the model, the Dell XPS 13 is like the PC answer to the MacBook. It also comes with different RAM, storage, and display options ranging from 8-16 GB of RAM, 256 GB-2 TB of storage, and 2K-4K 13-inch display. All these features make it a highly customizable choice for various college students with different needs.
Check out Dell XPS 13 on Amazon.
Best Chromebook: Acer Chromebook Spin 713
- 13.5" Acer VertiView 2K 2256 x 1504 Widescreen IPS LED-backlit Touch Display (3:2 aspect ratio) | Intel Iris Plus Graphics, 1.6GHz Intel Core i5-10210U quad-core processor with up to 4.2GHz speed and 6MB cache memory
- 128GB PCIe NVMe SSD, 8GB LPDDR4X Memory
- Backlit Keyboard | Fingerprint Reader, Intel Wireless Wi-Fi 6 AX201 802.11ax
- 2 - USB 3.1 Type C port supporting USB 3.1 Gen 2 (up to 10 Gbps), DisplayPort over USB-C, Thunderbolt 3, USB Charging, DC-in, 2 - USB 3.2 Gen 1 port (one featuring power-off charging) & 1 - HDMI 2.0 port, Up to 15 Hours Battery Life
- 360° flip-and-fold design, Rechargeable Acer Active Stylus with Wacom AES 1.0, Chrome OS
While Apple and PC are undoubtedly the most popular and well-known computer brands on the market, one name has been on the rise in recent years: the Chromebook. Known for being more affordable than either of its two competitors without sacrificing much on performance, battery, or display, the Acer Chromebook Spin 713 is the best of its kind. With an Intel Core i5 CPU, 8 GB RAM, 256 GB of storage, and a 13.5-inch 2K display, the Acer Chromebook Spin 713 is a dependably worthy option for college students searching for a good Chromebook. Its battery lasts 10 hours or more, meaning you won’t have to worry about rushing to the nearest wall outlet in the middle of class.
Check out Acer Chromebook Spin 713 on Amazon.
Best 2-in-1: Microsoft Surface Pro 8
- The power of a laptop with the flexibility of a tablet, and every angle in between, with 13” touchscreen, iconic built-in Kickstand, and detachable Keyboard.
- Windows 11 brings your closer to what you love. Family, friends, obsessions, music, creations — Windows 11 is the one place for it all. With a fresh new feel and tools that make it easier to be efficient, it has what you need for whatever’s next.
- The first Surface Pro built on the Intel Evo platform. Do it all with the Intel Evo platform — performance, graphics, and battery life in a thin and light PC.
- The best pen experience on Pro with rechargeable Surface Slim Pen 2 and Surface Pro 8, for the natural feeling of pen on paper,(4) securely stored in Surface Pro Signature Keyboard.
- Type in comfort. Sleek and compact, Surface Signature Keyboard performs like a traditional laptop keyboard complete with a full function row and backlit keys.
Laptop or tablet? It’s been a considerable debate for several years now, but thankfully, there’s no need to compare the pros and cons of the two. Not with the invention of 2-in-1 laptops. A growing trend in college classrooms and lecture halls the world over, the Microsoft Surface Pro 8 is a good option for those searching for the best of all 2-in-1 laptops. Capable of functioning as both a laptop and a tablet, the Surface Pro 8 gives college students the large display, the high performance, and the versatile compatibility they need to succeed. While it might come at a higher price than your average tablet, it still comes at a lower price than many top-of-the-line laptops. It’s truly the best of both worlds.
Check out Microsoft Surface Pro 8 on Amazon.
How To Pick The Best Laptops For College: Step by Step
Choosing the best laptop for college requires much more than just weighing the pros and cons of your favorite models. It would help if you considered these four factors that matter to laptop users:
- Syllabus Requirements
Start by looking at what your degree or specific courses require of you. If you’re studying a subject that isn’t necessarily computer-heavy, you go for some of the cheaper, more lightweight laptops. If your degree field requires heavy computer use, pick a more robust and reliable laptop that can handle demanding tasks. Of course, if you aren’t sure what your syllabus will require, ask a fellow student or reach out to your advisor for help. You can even ask the employees at your school store if need be.
Another crucial thing to consider is performance. How long will your daily lectures be? How much homework do you expect to have? What kind of classwork are you going to be doing on your laptop? Ask around for answers if you’re not sure. Battery life, hard disk storage, and RAM are performance specs worth considering.
Just as vital as performance is portability. Will you be trekking across campus, or are all your classes based in the same building? Will you have long days and packed weeks, or will you only have one or two classes every few days? The weight of your laptop can make or break you if you aren’t careful. A lightweight laptop might be a better option for students who’re always on the move. Those who don’t walk far or have many classes can get by with a slightly heavier laptop.
Last but not least is the price. Ranging anywhere from under $500 to well over $2,000, the cost of a laptop can vary dramatically. Set a budget, then go from there. Other considerations will have to fit within that budget. You might have to make some sacrifices. A good rule of thumb is to buy a laptop you can afford.
What To Know Before Buying One of the Best Laptops For College
Before buying a laptop for college, consider some of the many student deals available. Some online retailers like Amazon or Walmart might have great deals at various times of the year, while other retailers like Apple or your school store might offer discounts based on your student status. Before you make that purchase you need to make, you should do some searching around to make sure you’re getting the best deal on the market. You might be able to shave off $100 or $200 from that price tag you’re looking at.
Using One of the Best Laptops For College: What it’s Like
As with any new product, you can always expect a period of adjustment as you get accustomed to your new purchase. This is especially true if you’re a Mac loyalist switching to PC or vice versa. If you find yourself metaphorically lost at sea with your new laptop, there are always plenty of helpful online tutorials. These videos and guides can help you get the most out of your new laptop so that you’ll be ready and able to succeed by the time your first lecture begins or your first assignment is due.