As a college student, a reliable laptop is an essential tool for both your academic and personal life. From taking notes and writing papers to streaming media, gaming, and staying connected with friends and family, having a versatile laptop that can handle all of your activities is crucial. With the rise of hybrid learning, it's also important to have a device that you can use both on-campus and remotely.
Choosing the best laptop for college can be overwhelming, but it's important to have a reliable device that can handle all the things. Consider factors like portability, battery life, and user experience, as well as the specific needs of your program.
Whether you need a simple Chromebook, a portable Windows or Mac laptop, or a powerful mobile workstation, this guide for best laptop for college students will help you find the perfect fit for your budget and needs in 2023.
2023 College Laptop Buying Guide
To find the right laptop to be your college companion, you will need to narrow down your options. In order to do that, here are some important questions:
- What is your budget?
- What are your computing needs? Do you need a laptop with a lot of processing power, or will a more basic model suffice?
- What type of software will you be using? Make sure the laptop you choose is compatible with the programs you need.
- Do you need a lightweight and portable laptop for on-the-go use, or are you okay with a heavier model that may have more features?
- Do you need a laptop with a long battery life?
Other factors to consider include the laptop's screen size and resolution, storage capacity, and overall durability.
Laptop Discounts Available for College Students
The first step in finding laptop discounts for college students is to check with your school. They may have specific system requirements and negotiated discounts with vendors. It is worth inquiring with your school to see if they have any recommendations or special prices available.
When selecting a laptop for college, it is important to consider the operating system and technical support options available. Some schools may have specific requirements or preferences for certain operating systems, such as Windows, to ensure compatibility and ease of support.
Other schools may not have a preference, leaving students free to choose between Windows, macOS, or Linux. It may also be helpful to consider the availability of onsite computer repair centers, as these can often provide quicker turnaround times compared to sending the laptop to the manufacturer for repair.
Keep in mind that some onsite repair centers may only service laptops purchased from the university or an affiliated store.
What Is an Ideal Weight for a College Laptop?
The weight of a laptop can be an important factor for college students, especially if they will be carrying it with them to classes and other activities. A heavy laptop with a large screen, such as one that is 15 or 17 inches, may be less convenient to carry around campus compared to a lighter, ultraportable model.
If you prioritize convenience and portability, you may want to consider a laptop with a smaller screen size and a lighter weight. On the other hand, if having a larger screen is more important to you, you may be willing to accept a heavier laptop in order to get that feature.
When choosing a laptop for college, a screen size of 13 or 14 inches may be a good balance between portability and usability. A smaller display can be more convenient to carry in a backpack, but it may require more scrolling and result in smaller fonts when viewing full web pages or productivity applications.
On the other hand, a larger screen can offer a more immersive viewing experience, but it may come at the cost of added weight and bulk. Ultimately, the right laptop weight for you will depend on your personal preferences and needs.
Which Processor Is Best for a College Laptop?
When choosing a laptop for college, you will need to decide on a processor that meets your needs. Laptops come with a variety of processors that offer different levels of performance and battery life. Intel's Core CPUs are a popular choice because they provide a balance of power and efficiency. AMD's Ryzen mobile processors are also an option, particularly for ultraportable laptops.
If you enjoy gaming in your free time, you may want to consider purchasing a gaming laptop. These laptops are equipped with high-performance graphics chips, or GPUs, which are necessary for running the latest AAA game titles smoothly at high settings. Gaming laptops typically start at around $700 to $800, and can be found with either an Nvidia GeForce GTX or an AMD Radeon RX GPU.
While a powerful GPU can enhance your gaming experience, it may also drain the battery more quickly. Keep in mind that general-purpose laptops with lower-powered graphics chips may not be able to run the latest games at optimal settings. A powerful GPU can also be beneficial for certain high-end and scientific applications that can take advantage of GPU acceleration.
What Is the Optimal Amount of Storage for a College Laptop?
When choosing a laptop for college, it is important to consider how much storage you will need. While cloud storage and web applications have made it less essential to have a large amount of local storage, it is still important to ensure that your laptop meets your needs.
If you plan to install many programs or want to store large media files, you will need a laptop with at least 500GB of storage space. On the other hand, if you do not foresee needing as much local storage or are comfortable with storing much of your work online, you may be able to get by with a laptop with less space. Ultimately, the right amount of storage for you will depend on your personal needs and usage habits.
Also, it is important to consider the type of storage you want. Hard drives offer more storage space at a lower cost, but they can be slower than solid-state drives (SSDs). SSDs, on the other hand, are faster and more resistant to damage from drops, but they are more expensive and offer less storage space.
Students who carry their laptops around campus frequently may want to consider the added benefits of an SSD, such as its speed and durability, even though it may come at a higher cost.
If you need more storage space for your college laptop, you can always add an external hard drive or SSD by connecting it to one of the laptop's USB ports. This can be a useful option for students who need to store large amounts of media, such as video files or games.
Gamers in particular should be aware that many AAA game installations require 40GB or more of storage, so a small SSD may not be sufficient. It is recommended to have a laptop with at least a 500GB SSD if you plan to play a lot of games. Alternatively, you can swap games on and off the drive as needed if you have a smaller SSD.
How Much Battery Life Can be Expected From a College Laptop?
When selecting a laptop for college, it is important to consider the battery life. A laptop with a large battery can be useful for students who will be using it for classes and other activities throughout the day. Some school-oriented laptops offer multiple battery options, but most have a single, non-removable battery. It is important to consider the battery life when choosing a laptop to ensure that it can meet your needs throughout the day.
The number of cells in the battery can also affect the battery life, with more cells typically resulting in longer battery life. Keep in mind that other factors, such as the processor and screen size, can also impact battery life. It is important to consider the trade-offs between battery life and other features when selecting a laptop.
A laptop with a large battery may be heavier, but it can be worth the added weight if it allows you to use the system for a full day without needing to be plugged in. If battery life is a priority for you, you may want to consider a laptop with a larger battery, even if it means accepting some additional weight.
Are Chromebooks a Good Choice for College Students?
Chromebooks have become increasingly popular among college students in recent years due to their web-centric focus and relatively full feature set. They can offer much of the functionality of a traditional laptop and may have longer battery life, making them a good choice for students attending schools that use cloud-based coursework. If you are considering a Chromebook for college, it is important to make sure that it meets your needs and that it is compatible with any programs or software you will be using.
Chromebooks may not be a good choice for PC gamers, as they only run ChromeOS apps and Android apps from the Google Play store. However, they can be a good, affordable option for students looking for a secondary laptop to use for taking notes and other basic tasks while on campus. If you are a gamer, you may want to consider using a more powerful laptop or desktop gaming PC for gaming, while using a Chromebook for other tasks.
Are 2-in-1 Laptops a Good Choice for College Students?
2-in-1 laptops, also known as hybrids, are a relatively new category of laptop that offer the ability to function as both a traditional laptop and a tablet. Some 2-in-1s, known as convertibles, feature a design that allows the keyboard to be folded out of the way, usually by rotating around the hinge.
Others, called detachables, allow the tablet portion of the device to be docked with an accessory keyboard for laptop-like functionality. 2-in-1 laptops can be a good choice for college students who want the versatility of both a laptop and a tablet in one device.
What Is the Optimal Length of Warranty for a College Laptop?
Most laptops come with a one-year warranty on parts and labor, but extended warranties are also available. Whether or not an extended warranty is worth it depends on your needs and usage habits.
Keep in mind that standard warranties do not typically cover accidents such as spills or drops. Many manufacturers offer accident coverage as a separate plan, in addition to extended warranties that supplement the standard one.
These plans can be expensive, with costs ranging from around $300 for three years of coverage. Apple offers extended warranties for a maximum of three years, while some Windows laptop manufacturers offer up to four years of coverage. Consider your budget and your likelihood of needing repairs when deciding on an extended warranty.
In my opinion, extended warranties may not be worth the cost if they are more than 15% of the total laptop price. Instead, you may be better off using the money to purchase backup drives or services that minimize downtime in case of issues. It is important to consider the cost of the warranty in relation to the overall price of the laptop.
While extended warranties can provide peace of mind, it is worth noting that in rare cases, expensive components such as the motherboard or display may fail and cost more to repair than the laptop is worth.
Keep in mind that faulty inner components, excluding the battery, are more likely to fail within the first year, while issues after that may be due to regular wear and tear.
Best Laptop for College
Apple MacBook Pro 14
The Apple MacBook Pro 14 is an excellent choice for college students due to its premium build, long battery life, and portability. It can be equipped with an M1 Pro or M1 Max SoC, which provide powerful performance for a wide range of workloads.
This makes it well-suited for students in fields such as graphic design, architecture, or engineering. The MacBook Pro 14 does tend to get a bit warm under heavy load, but the fans remain quiet, making it a good choice for use in quiet classrooms or libraries.
The Apple MacBook Pro 14 (2021) offers a high-quality Mini LED display that is ideal for color-critical work, a comfortable keyboard, and a large and responsive haptic touchpad. It also features a fingerprint sensor built into the power button for quick login and a wide range of ports, including three USB-C/Thunderbolt 4s, an HDMI port, an SD card reader, and a high-output headphone jack.
If you need more screen real estate, the Apple MacBook Pro 16 (2021) is a similar device with a larger 16-inch display, slightly better-sounding speakers, and a larger battery. However, it does come with a higher price tag. Both the MacBook Pro 14 and 16 are excellent choices for college students.
Best Upper Mid-Range Laptop for College
Apple MacBook Air 13
For students who primarily need a laptop for lighter tasks such as text processing, web browsing, and video playback, the Apple MacBook Air 13 (2022) may be a better choice. This updated model features a new design with a slightly larger display and thinner bezels, improved 1080p webcam, and more powerful M2 SoC.
The display is also brighter, making it suitable for use outdoors in bright sunlight. It has a comfortable keyboard and large, responsive touchpad, as well as two USB-C ports and a dedicated MagSafe charging port.
I highly recommend the M2 MacBook Air, but it is a costly laptop, even more so than the older M1 model. But, Apple does still offer the M1 MacBook Air for sale in addition to the newer M2 model. The M1 model has an older design, a slightly less bright display, and a less powerful but still competent M1 processor. These trade-offs are relatively minor, so it is up to you to decide if it is worth paying more for the M2 model.
Best Chromebook for College
Acer Chromebook Spin 714
If you can make do with using Google Docs or the web or Android versions of Word and Excel for your coursework, then Chromebooks are a great option that can save you some money for other necessities like textbooks or pizza.
The Acer Chromebook Spin 714 is not only the best ChromeOS laptop I've seen, but it also compares favorably to the top Windows 2-in-1 laptops. It boasts a new 16:10 aspect ratio touch screen, support for an included stylus, and a durable yet stylish aluminum body.
With an Intel Core i5 processor and a sizable SSD, it offers quick performance, and it has useful ports such as Thunderbolt 4 and HDMI output.
The Acer Chromebook Spin 714 is an excellent choice for students if ChromeOS meets their needs and their school's software requirements. With a 2-in-1 design that includes a stylus, a growing number of apps and features, and a impressive battery life of almost 13 hours, this Chromebook is suitable for both freshman and graduate students.
Best Gaming Laptop for College
Razer Blade 14
If you need a laptop that can handle your school work and provide a good gaming experience in your free time, consider the Razer Blade 14 (2022). It is a high-end 14-inch laptop with a sturdy aluminum chassis and an elegant design.
Its AMD Ryzen processor and NVIDIA discrete GPU deliver smooth performance for AAA games and have the power to handle demanding tasks like 3D modeling and animation. The keyboard is spacious and comfortable to type on, with per-key RGB lighting, and it has a good selection of ports including an HDMI 2.1 port.
It also has a fast Wi-Fi 6E wireless adapter for low-latency online gaming. The battery lasts a little over an hour while gaming, which is on the shorter side but is common for laptops with powerful GPUs, so you'll want to keep the charger nearby. The power adapter is a bit large, but the laptop itself is compact and lightweight.
When buying a laptop for college, it is important to consider your specific needs and budget. Make sure to check with your school for any specific system requirements and discounts on hardware. Consider the operating system, processor, storage, battery life, and warranty when selecting a laptop.
If you need a lightweight and portable laptop, consider a 13- or 14-inch device with an SSD. For longer battery life, you may want to consider a Chromebook. If you need a powerful laptop for gaming or high-end applications, consider a laptop with a strong processor and GPU.
Remember to also consider the storage capacity you will need, and consider purchasing an extended warranty if you feel it is necessary. Overall, the best laptop for college will depend on your individual needs and preferences.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2023 Ionel Anton