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The 11 best laptops for college students in 2022

Updated 2 months ago
Published Oct 7th, 2022 9:15PM EDT
Image: golubovy/Adobe

The best laptops for college students should be able to perform basic productivity tasks quickly and have good battery life. We’ve laid out a bunch of great options for you here.

They should also be good enough for extracurriculars and light enough to carry around. You need to pick a laptop that performs adequately, is durable, and doesn’t have you breaking the bank.

If you’re a student and you’re looking for one to help tackle your group projects, late-night study sessions, or just streaming your favorite shows when you aren’t in class, we’ve got you covered.

Deals you can get right now:

We’ve curated this list of the best budget laptops for college students categorized according to different criteria. We’ll also share a few tips that will be useful in picking a laptop for college, so make sure you scroll to the end.

Best laptop for students overall: Acer Swift 3 (AMD)

Acer Swift 3 (AMD)

Overall best college laptop: Acer Swift 3 (AMD)
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Pros

  • Superb battery life
  • Affordable
  • Powerful laptop

Cons

  • Not-so-great speakers
  • The display isn’t very bright.
  • Patchy keyboard backlight

Why we picked it

The Acer Swift 3 performs brilliantly for its affordable price point. Its Ryzen 7 4700U CPU delivers high processing power. The laptop also has a battery life of up to 11 hours, perfect for students, and it has a great selection of ports. It features USB Type-C, HDMI, and USB Type-A ports.

Although it has a plastic finish, the laptop does not feel cheap. It also supports Windows Hello, which uses the fingerprint sensor or webcam. The Acer Swift 3 is easy to carry around as it weighs just 2.7 pounds. All these are why the Swift 3 is our pick for the overall best college laptop.

What to note about it

With a maximum brightness of 300 nits, the Acer Swift 3 (AMD) tends to look somewhat dim. The quiet keyboard is excellent for typing, but the backlighting raises some concerns. The speakers on the laptop also leave much to be desired. However, all these details can be overlooked, given that the Acer Swift 3 costs less than $700.

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Best budget Windows laptop for college students: Asus Zenbook 14 OLED

Asus Zenbook 14 OLED

Asus Zenbook 14 OLED
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Pros

  • Crisp OLED display
  • Long battery life
  • A decent number of ports
  • Reasonably priced

Cons

  • Loud fans

Why we picked it

The Asus Zenbook 14 is the updated version of Asus’s flagship Ultrabook series. It is a thin, lightweight, high-performance laptop with good battery life and Wi-Fi 6 support. Its vivid 2.8k OLED display is quite eye-catching, and at 14 inches, the laptop features a decent amount of screen space.

Asus claims the OLED Zenbook 14 has a maximum brightness of 550 nits. This version also covers the standard RGB color space completely. The Zenbook 14 has a Gen 2 3.2 USB Type-A port, a 3.5mm audio jack, a MicroSD slot, two Thunderbolt 4/USB Type-C ports, and an HDMI 2.0b port.

The 12-core Intel Core i5-1240p processor enables the laptop to operate at impressive speeds. The battery can last up to 18 hours on a single charge, which is incredible. The 3.06-pound laptop is also not too heavy to carry around campus.

What to note about it

The NumberPad 2.0 feature means the touchpad doubles as a numeric keypad, which is not that useful. The numeric keypad can also toggle on unintentionally and doesn’t work very smoothly.

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Best budget MacBook for college students: Apple MacBook Air (M1, Late 2020)

Apple MacBook Air (M1, Late 2020)

Best laptops for college - Apple MacBook Air (M1, Late 2020)
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Pros

  • Stellar battery life
  • Excellent display
  • High-quality keyboard and touchpad
  • Impressive performance for its price point
  • iPhone and iPad app support

Cons

  • Limited ports
  • No touchscreen option
  • Thick bezels

Why we picked it

The MacBook Air is a high-performance laptop from Apple costing less than $1000. Its amazing battery life makes it well-suited for college students who might not have the time to charge in between classes. It is also quite lightweight and easy to carry around at 2.8 pounds.

This MacBook Air comes equipped with the Apple M1 chip, which makes it perform much better than its predecessors. The device also features unmatched integration with the iPhone and supports iOS and iPadOS apps.

The late 2020 MacBook Air has a stylish unibody metal construction with three color options. Silver, Gold, and Space Gray. It features Magic Keyboard, which is great for typing for long hours, and a high-quality and responsive touchpad.

What to note about it

Although the Apple MacBook Air (M1, late 2020) features only 8GB of RAM, it is excellent for most students’ computing needs. It is well-suited for writing, researching, and basic video and photo editing.

The improved webcam also makes it perfect for those in remote learning programs, thanks to signal processing in the M1.

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Best small laptop for college students: Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 2

Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 2

Best small laptop for college students: Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 2
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Pros

  • Updated CPU
  • Comfortable keyboard
  • Elegant design
  • Affordable
  • Exchangeable SSD and chassis parts

Cons

  • Screen resolution is less than 1080p
  • Poor webcam

Why we picked it

The Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 2 is an improvement on the Surface Laptop Go. It features an updated processor, the 11th Gen Intel Core i5-1135G7.

The resolution of the 12.4-inch PixelSense display is not the best, and the screen space is relatively small. However, the 3:2 aspect ratio is nice as it reduces the amount of scrolling you have to do. The battery lasts for over 12 hours which is pretty impressive. The Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 2 weighs 2.5 pounds, which is super portable.

The Surface Laptop Go 2 comes in Sage Green, Ice Blue, Platinum, and Sandstone color variants.

What to note about it

The Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 2 is great for everyday productivity and for users who favor portability. If you’re on a tight budget, this is a good option for you. While its keyboard has asatisfying typing layout, it’s not backlit. So you might not be able to use it in poorly lit environments.

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Best gaming laptop for college students: Asus ROG Zephyrus G15

Asus ROG Zephyrus G15

Best laptops for college: Asus ROG Zephyrus G15
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Pros

  • Longer battery life than most gaming laptops
  • Sharp display with a fast refresh rate
  • Great for gaming and productivity

Cons

  • Crappy webcam
  • Less battery life than most productivity-focused laptops

Why we picked it

The ASUS ROG Zephyrus G15 is a high-performance gaming laptop more reasonably priced than its counterparts. This laptop does more than just gaming; it is also great for everyday productivity.

Its high-resolution screen has a refresh rate of 165Hz, perfect for lag-free online gameplay. The punchy keyboard has an excellent feel, dedicated one-touch media controls, and is backlit. Its RGB lighting is also super cool aesthetically.

Its battery life of over eight hours is double that of gaming laptops in the same class. The top and bottom-firing speakers on the Zephyrus G15 also deliver excellent sound.

What to note about it

The underside of the Zephyrus G15 gets very heated even when you’re not playing games. This extends to the keyboard and touchpad too. Its GPU is also below par compared to its competitors, such as the Legion 7i.

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Best laptop for creatives: MacBook Pro 13-inch (M2 Processor)

MacBook Pro 13-inch (M2 Processor)

Best laptops for college - MacBook Pro 13 (M2 Processor)
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Pros

  • Impressive battery life
  • Sharp display
  • Great performance
  • Lightning-fast SSD
  • Magic Keyboard

Cons

  • Limited ports
  • Same design as the predecessor

Why we picked it

The MacBook Pro 2022 offers great performance and battery life thanks to Apple’s M2 chip. It is the lightest and less expensive than the larger MacBook Pro models. Its sharp, 500-nit display makes it great for photo and video editing, which is why it’s our pick for the best laptop for creatives.

Its 18-hour battery life is also highly impressive; the same goes for the webcam. Still, at 720p, the webcam floors the competition thanks to the image processing unit. The 13-inch MacBook Pro also retains the Touch Bar touchscreen strip that runs along the top of the keyboard.

What to note about it

The 13-inch MacBook Pro features two Thunderbolt 4/ USB Type-C ports and a headphone jack. One of these ports functions for charging, so this is a very limited selection of ports. Asides from this, it is excellent for students who are creatives and general computing tasks.

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Best budget Chromebook for college students: Lenovo Chromebook Flex 5i (13″)

Lenovo Chromebook Flex 5i (13″)

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Pros

  • High-performance
  • Responsive keyboard
  • Sleek design

Cons

  • No HDMI port
  • The display is somewhat dim

Why we picked it

The Flex 5i’s Intel Core processor gives it enough processing power to perform everyday productivity tasks. It has an audio jack, a microSD card slot, and USB 3.2 Type-A and Type-C ports. The 720p webcam and mic quality are adequate for video calls.

The webcam has a physical privacy shutter. The Flex 5i’s keyboard is backlit and has extremely satisfying clicky keys. Its battery life is just enough to get you through the day.

What to note about it

The Chromebook Flex 5i lacks an HDMI port. You’ll need a USB-C DisplayPort dongle to connect an external monitor. Its peak brightness of 250 nits is quite inadequate.

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Best premium Windows laptop for college students: Dell XPS 15 OLED

Dell XPS 15 OLED

Best laptops for college- Dell XPS 15 OLED
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Pros

  • Fantastic 3.5k OLED display
  • Superb performance
  • Slim chassis
  • Spacious keyboard and touchpad

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Sub-par 720p webcam
  • Below-average battery life

Why we picked it

The Dell XPS 15 can do anything from gaming to 3D design and everyday productivity tasks. This premium windows laptop combines a 12th gen Intel Core i5-12500H processor, 16GB of RAM, a 512GB SSD, and Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 Ti. All in a sleek chassis. These make the XPS 15 perfect for multitasking.

Its InfinityEdge bezel makes this laptop’s display one of the highest-resolution displays on the market. The XPS 15 has three USB Type-C ports, an SD card slot, a 3.5mm earphone jack, and USB-A and Ethernet adapters.

The speakers on this laptop pack a punch and sound great. The XPS 15 features Waves Maxx Audio Pro technology and Waves professional tuning. The companion app also has many EQ presets.

The XPS 15’s keyboard is backlit and has comfortable key travel. The large trackpad is also very responsive. The palm rests on the laptop are covered with soft, textured carbon fiber for maximum comfort.

What to note about it

The webcam produces low-quality pixelated images. At over $2000, the XPS 15 is nowhere near cheap. But that doesn’t mean it’s not worth the price. If you want all the features of a desktop computer in a laptop, then this PC is just for you.

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Best 2-in-1 laptop for college students: Lenovo Yoga 7i 14 Gen 7 (2022)

Lenovo Yoga 7i 14 Gen 7 (2022)

Best laptops for college - Lenovo Yoga 7i 14 Gen 7 (2022)
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Pros

  • Supports pen input
  • Vivid 2.2k touchscreen
  • Great performance and battery life
  • Decent selection of ports
  • Comfortable keyboard and touchpad

Cons

  • The active pen does not come included
  • Limited gaming and media creation potential

Why we picked it

The Lenovo Yoga 7i (2022) is a 2-in-1 convertible laptop that can be used in tablet and tent modes. Its 16:10 aspect ratio does not require a lot of scrolling and is great for tablet mode. The 14-inch panel peaks at a brightness of 324 nits and registers 100% of the sRGB color gamut.

It is made of strong anodized aluminum with rounded edges that allow you to hold the device comfortably. It has two USB-C Thunderbolt 4 ports, a micoSD card slot, a USB 3.2 Type-A port, an audio jack, and an HDMI video output port. The Lenovo Yoga 7i supports Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth 5.2.

The laptop is equipped with stereo speakers, a pair of tweeters, and dual woofers, which produce fantastic audio quality. It also supports Dolby Atmos and has a Smart Amplifier.

The keyboard is extremely comfortable to type on, with sufficient key travel and Lenovo’s signature scalloped key design. The touchpad is wide and supports multitouch gestures.

The 1080p webcam offers great image quality and has a privacy shutter. It is also Windows Hello compatible. The Yoga 7i has two color variants: Storm Blue and Arctic Gray.

What to note about it

The Lenovo Yoga 7i features active stylus support but does not come with the active pen included.

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Best light laptop for students: HP Pavilion Aero 13

HP Pavilion Aero 13

Best laptops for college - HP Pavilion Aero 13
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Pros

  • Sleek, lightweight chassis
  • Robust selection of ports
  • Speedy eight-core Ryzen 7 CPU
  • Competitively priced
  • Colorful display

Cons

  • No card slot
  • Small deck
  • No touch screen
  • Poor webcam

Why we picked it

The HP Pavillion Aero has an AMD Ryzen processor, which allows it to perform excellently. At just 2.2 pounds, the HP Pavillion Aero is an extremely lightweight laptop to carry. It has a sleek magnesium-aluminum chassis and comes in Gold, Rose Gold, and Silver. Its 13.3-inch, 1920 x 1200-pixel IPS display is very bright and colorful.

The Aero 13 has an excellent battery life of 12 hours. It has two USB 3.0 Type-A ports, a USB-C port, a headphone jack, and an HDMI monitor port. The keyboard’s keys are well-sized and spaced. The key travel is also adequate.

What to note about it

The Pavillion Aero is missing a MicroSD slot, and the keyboard deck is quite small. But ultimately, these are not that consequential.

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Best overall business laptop for college students: Lenovo Thinkpad X1 Carbon (Gen 9)

Lenovo Thinkpad X1 Carbon (Gen 9)

Lenovo Thinkpad X1 Carbon (Gen 9)
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Pros

  • Extremely lightweight
  • Premium keyboard
  • Great battery life
  • Crisp display

Cons

  • Poor webcam
  • No SD card slot

Why we picked it

The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon (9th Gen) features several improvements over its predecessors. The 11th Gen Intel processors enable it to perform excellently, and the laptop has a battery life of 15 hours. It also features a 14-inch FHD+ display with narrow bezels and an aspect ratio of 16:10. The Intel Iris Xe graphics render pictures with stunning color accuracy and clarity.

Wi-Fi 6 support allows for lightning-fast internet connections and eliminates lag. The keyboard is another incredible feature of this laptop. The ThinkPad’s class-leading keyboard truly blows away the competition.

The laptop uses powerful quad speakers and has a commendable number of ports. The ThinkPad X1 Carbon manages to house all these in a highly lightweight chassis. All ThinkPads are tested against 12 military-grade requirements. Hence, be rest assured that the X1 Carbon can function in extreme conditions.

What to note about it

The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon (9th Gen) does not feature an SD card reader. Its 720p webcam is also below par when compared to the competition. The top configurations of this laptop can also cost a pretty penny, so base models will do if you’re on a budget.

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How to pick a laptop for college

Picking a laptop for college comes with many considerations. The most important thing is finding out your school’s system requirements. Some universities require a specific OS for uniformity and software compatibility. This prevents isolated complaints from students. You can also ask if they have discounts from specific sellers, which can save you a few hundred dollars.

If your college has no strict laptop requirements, there are other things to note. We understand that most college students don’t have an endless supply of cash to blow on a laptop. Hence, your budget is crucial. Knowing how much you plan to spend on a laptop allows you to work around your needs. Plus, there are always some of the best cheap laptops to take a look at.

The next consideration is the intended use. Are you going to be performing only basic productivity tasks, creating content, playing games, or engaging in other creative pursuits? Depending on your answer to this, you can find out what laptop specifications will work for you.

FAQ

What is a good price for a laptop for college?

You can get a good budget laptop for about $300 – $800. However, if you’re not on a budget, there’s nothing wrong with shelling out over a thousand dollars to purchase a laptop.

What is the most popular size laptop for college students?

14-inch laptops are the most common college laptops for students. They’re usually quite portable and offer enough screen space for various tasks.

How much RAM do I need for college?

A laptop with 8GB of RAM should be adequate for college students. This amount of RAM is sufficient for most basic computing needs.

Are HP laptops good for college?

Yes, HP laptops are good for college. The brand has many budget laptops for college students.

What brand of laptop is best for students?

We can’t definitively say which brand is the best college laptop as this depends primarily on need and budget. Based on the purposes you have in mind, you might need a Mac, gaming laptop, Chromebook, or Windows laptop.

How much should I spend on a laptop for college?

This largely depends on how much you can afford or are willing to spend. You can get Chromebooks for as low as $300, which are usually good enough for everyday tasks. However, if you have particular needs that a Chromebook can’t meet, you can opt for Windows laptops, Macs, or Ultrabooks.

How many GB should a laptop have for college?

A college laptop should have a storage space of at least 256GB. Also, SSDs are preferred over hard drives as the latter can slow down your laptop.

What processor do I need for college?

Typically, an Intel Core i5 processor should be enough for whatever productivity tasks college students need to carry out.

More coverage: See the best laptops this month!

Toby Grey - BGR Guides Contributor

Toby Grey contributes as a How To expert for BGR. Typing away like a keyboard super hero, he covers just about anything you can think of. If Toby isn't writing, he's probably reading a book or playing video games.