Best laptops for college students in 2021 (Top 9 reviewed)

Best laptops for college students

With distance learning and a work-from-home situation, every family member needs to have a laptop. Moreover, if you are a college student, you need one that can help you with a smoother transition between your online college lectures and a gaming or movie party by the end of the day.

And to pick up a suitable gadget, it has to meet your requirements and criteria. After all, it’s a big financial investment, and you are only going to buy one laptop for all your college years. I have compiled a list of the best laptops for college students, depending on the unique use case, to help you make the right choice.

But first, you must consider the following: Why do you need a college laptop? Is it because you want to flex around having the most expensive one? Or you need one to get through the college as well as your side hustle? If you have the clarity, dive into our list!

Note: The pricing may vary depending on the Amazon sellers. Kindly refer to the Amazon links for updated prices.

  1. Apple
  2. HP
  3. Acer
  4. Dell
  5. Lenovo
  6. Acer Aspire 5
  7. ASUS
  8. Lenovo IdeaPad 3
  9. Lenovo Chromebook Flex 5

1. Apple M1 MacBook Air (2020): Editor’s choice

  • CPU: Apple M1 chip with 8-core CPU
  • GPU: 7-core GPU, 8-core GPU
  • RAM: 8GB
  • Display: 13.3 inches
  • Storage: 256GB to 2TB
  • Weight: 2.8 pounds
Apple MacBook Air 2020 with Apple M1 Chip

Ever since its launch, MacBook Air had always been known for its price and size over its performance. But that changed with the release of the M1-powered MacBook Air in November 2020.

At $999, the M1 MacBook Air offers the best value among Macs with a nearly 18-hour battery life, superior ultra-slim build, and gorgeous display. It’s so light (weighing just 2.8 pounds) compared to other Windows laptops that it is perfect for students who have to travel a lot or work on the go!

However, its 8GB RAM isn’t expandable as it is integrated with the M1 chip. But it has its benefits. For instance, since everything is in the same chip, the transmission speed and performance are much better than Intel-powered 8GB RAM. To prevent maxing out the storage, you can consider buying the 16GB RAM and 512GB storage variant, but that will make it a bit more pricey.

This MacBook Air also upgraded from the annoying butterfly keyboard to its Magic keyboard that features a Touch ID fingerprint reader. If you are a fan of Touch Bar, you will be disappointed as it’s limited to MacBook Pro laptops as of now.

MacBook Air is perfect for a graphics designing student or normal usage. But if you need to connect plenty of peripherals, you may need to budget for a dock as it only features 2 USB-C ports.

Unless you are into professional-level video editing or number crunching, you can easily strike out more expensive devices like MacBook Pro or iMac Pro. MacBook Air will easily get the work done.

Tip: If you are a student, teacher, or staff member, I recommend buying it from the Apple Education Store. You’ll get a discount of up to $100.

Pros

  • Superfast SSD
  • HD webcam
  • Retina display 

Cons

  • Does not support some Windows apps. 

Price: $999

Check out on Amazon

2. HP Envy X360 2-in-1 (2020): Best for management students

  • CPU: AMD Ryzen 5 4500U
  • Graphics: Integrated AMD Radeon
  • RAM: 16GB
  • Display: 15.6″ FHD IPS Touchscreen
  • Storage: 512GB SSD
  • Weight: 4.41 pounds
HP Envy best laptop for college students

HP Envy X360 (2020) is a convertible laptop that’s almost as good as HP’s flagship laptop, Envy X360 15 (2021) while being more affordable. It marries the superior performance of the AMD Ryzen 5 4500U processor with its gorgeous touch display, making it more powerful and enabling you to use a stylus for drawing purposes.

I am yet to have hands-on experience, but it looks promising with nearly 10 hours of battery life. The best features have to be QuickDrop for seamless file sharing between your laptop and mobile, AI noise cancellation on Intel modes, a fingerprint reader, and a physical camera shutter. 

HP Envy X360 is a great convertible PC under my college laptop recommendations, especially for management graduates. It creates an excellent first impression for those presentations and can keep up with the pressure you deal with, with its extensive battery.

Pros

  • Value for money
  • Impressive design
  • Great performance
  • Flexibility in customizations
  • AI noise cancellation for Intel modes

Cons

  • A little heavy

Price: $859

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3. Acer Swift 3 (2021): Best for Affordability

  • CPU: AMD Ryzen 7 4700U
  • RAM: 8GB
  • Graphics: AMD Radeon
  • Display: 1080p 14 inches
  • Storage: 512GB SSD
  • Weight: 2.65 pounds
Acer Swift 3 Best laptop for college students

Acer Swift 3 checks all the boxes for a good college laptop; it is affordable, the battery life and performance redefine excellence, and lightweight and compact arrangements let you carry it anywhere with ease.

Talking about the design, the metallic finish has to be the selling point of the laptop; even the keyboard has a similar finish. You will also notice a Windows Hello-enabled fingerprint reader. Overall an impressive design. The display colors aren’t that vibrant. They could have been better, which makes the display a little under average. Although, they are way better than their predecessor.

The performance, however, is exceptional, which makes it one of the best laptops for multitasking. When I tested the device, I had nearly 100 tabs open across five windows, and two of them were playing music. None of them slowed down the laptop. It also offers 11 hours of battery life, making it a pretty good deal for the price it comes in, taking you through to the day on campus.

You also get an Intel variant of this model at $699 approx, but I have picked the AMD variant because it has taken the industry by storm, leaving Intel behind.

Don’t forget to use the camera for your extended Zoom calls (lectures or virtual dates); the 720 pixels quality is impeccable.

Pros

  • Affordable ultrabook
  • Does not heat up
  • Faster performance
  • Impressive data transfer speed
  • Great battery life

Cons

  • Average display

Price: $629

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4. Dell XPS 13 (9310): Best premium college laptop

  • CPU: Intel Core i7-1185G7
  • Graphics: Intel Iris Xe
  • RAM: 16GB
  • Display: 13.4″ FHD+ InfinityEdge Touch 
  • Storage: 512GB
  • Weight: 2.8 pounds
DELL CPS 13 best laptop for college students

Perfection comes at a cost. Dell XPS cannot get any better; you will know by the end of the review. Maybe that’s why it is one of the most expensive ones on our list of the best laptops for college students. Well, the performance indeed is the one to receive all the credit for this near-perfect gadget. However, the design is to be blamed as well. 

XPS 13 is available with all the processors, i3, i5, and i7, so you can pick the one that suits your needs and budget the best. Other upgrades include the optional 4K Infinity Edge display. This is one of the sleekest designs. It is compact, lightweight, and has a premium feel.

Well, you can get it in either black or silver colors or pay $45 extra for the Arctic White variation. The bezels are reduced to such an extent that it almost makes the device look bezel-less, sounds perfection, right?

Talking about the performance, you don’t have to worry a tiny bit about multitasking, operating with nearly 50+ tabs at the same time. It fails to beat M1 Macbook Air’s performance but gives a tough fight with its video editing and rendering skills. The battery life is impressive, with up to 11 hours of surfing time without hunting for the charger. 

I would suggest going for the device if you are looking for a premium laptop that will last you longer while getting through all the RAM-consuming work like video or photo editing, gaming, extensively heavy usage, etc. It surely makes a great buy if you are a medico student or a mass com student. 

Pros

  • Premium design
  • Incredible performance
  • Perfect display
  • Great at multitasking

Cons

  • Video rendering could have been faster

Price: $1497

Check out on Amazon

5. Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3 Laptop: Best for gamers

  • CPU: AMD Ryzen 5 
  • Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650
  • RAM: 8GB
  • Display: 15.6 inches 1920 x 1080
  • Storage: 256GB SSD
  • Weight: 9.55 pounds
Lenovo Ideapad gaming 3 best laptop for college students

Lenovo’s IdeaPad Gaming 3 is a must-have for all the gamers in the house, be it a developer or a streamer. Armed with a Ryzen 5 4600 H, your device flies to the moon with lightning speed. Not to mention how capable this IdeaPad can handle the streaming when it comes to the earlier models. 

It is a no-brainer that the performance here is robust. While the storage and RAM may be a tad bit disappointing, but they are user-upgradable. What else does a gamer need? With the in-built CPU and GPU, I managed to play Dota 2 and COD without lagging. I even tried streaming COD, and boy, was I happy with the performance. (Read: Device not hanging). 

Talking about the display, the 15 inches display works perfectly for your eyesight, and the color palette that the device has is pretty impressive. You shouldn’t think twice if you are remotely into gaming and want your laptop to handle your studies and gaming.

Pros

  • User upgradeable storage
  • Impeccable display
  • Great performance
  • Appealing design, wider screen

Cons

  • Battery life can be a little better
  • Bulky

Price: $699.99

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6. Acer Aspire 5: Best for everyday use

  • CPU: AMD R series 2.6 GHz
  • Graphics: Radeon™ Vega 3 Graphics
  • RAM: 8GB
  • Display: 15.6 inches 1920 x 1080
  • Storage: 256GB SSD
  • Weight: 3.97 pounds
Acer Aspire 5 best laptop for college students

While Acer Aspire 5 may not match the high-end laptops mentioned in the list, it does a pretty good job handling basic college work, making it a hot favorite amongst students of all kinds.

The device is available in both AMD and Intel configurations, leaving enough room for you to pick the right one. The aluminum look of the device adds to the class appeal of it, but it is not the thinnest in the list; one of the lightest, sure!

Talking about its display, it does a reasonably good job compared to the other budget-friendly models such as Lenovo Yoga C740 Asus Chromebook. The color scheme is pretty inspiring, and the vibrancy makes online streaming pretty fun to watch. 

If there is one thing that sells the laptop for me, it has to be the keyboard. The full-size keyboard is so fun for typing fast, making it the right choice for all those unending assignments and writers jabbing all the time. I tested the keyboard for a good hour and was surprised to see my fingers not feeling the pain at all!

Acer Aspire 5 has a pretty mediocre performance but surely emerges as a winner for the best laptops for students under $500. The poor performance comes in terms of its battery life, barely touching the 6-hour mark. The more you put it on standby, the more battery it drains.

Pros

  • User-upgradable hardware
  • Affordable
  • Impressive keyboard 
  • Audio quality on point.
  • Does not lag. 

Cons

  • The trackpad could have been better.

Price: $489.99

Check out on Amazon

7. ASUS Chromebook Flip C434: Best Battery life 

  • CPU: Intel Core m3-8100Y
  • RAM: 4GB
  • Display: 14 inches 1080p touch screen
  • Storage: 64GB 
  • Weight: 3.1 pounds
ASUS Chromebook 5 best laptop for college students

Imagine being the best Chromebook in the market with no resemblance to a Chromebook whatsoever! Yeah, that’s Asus’s Flip C434 for you. The 2-in-1 gadget offers nearly 10 hours of battery life, Android app support, and the best possible keyboard to support all your typing needs.

It has a sharp display, which keeps up with the vibrancy of the image. This Chromebook is well equipped with bottom-firing speakers that offer fantastic sound quality. It almost feels like your laptop is attached to a speaker. The performance is beyond exceptional; you can have many tabs open in the background without getting your work affected.

The cherry on the cake is the 2-in-1 setup that you get in this range. Type all you need and use it as a Tab for presentations. Its selling point has to be the full-screen video experience that you share with the laptop. Forget every other feature mentioned in the list; buy it for the streaming experience and trust me, you will not regret it. 

It can be upgraded to high-end versions, getting Intel Core i5 and i7 processors, provided that you are willing to pay the price for it.

Pros

  • Amazing speakers
  • Great battery life
  • Exceptional typing keyboard
  • Versatile form factor
  • Appealing design

Cons

  • Touchpad could’ve been better

Price:  $449.99

Check out on Amazon

8. Lenovo IdeaPad 3: Best budget laptop

  • CPU: AMD Ryzen 3
  • Graphics: Radeon Vega 3
  • RAM: 4GB
  • Display: 15.6 inches 1366 x 768 pixels
  • Storage: 256GB 
  • Weight: 4.84 pounds
Lenovo IdeaPad 3 Best laptop for college students

Being a college student, you have to manage many things, your finances being the core to it. Thus, if you need a good enough laptop to get you through college, this is it! Lenovo IdeaPad 3 is the most budgeted laptop that also offers a good entry-level gaming experience. 

The cumulative efforts of the CPU and GPU give you an exceptional multitasking performance. IdeaPad 3 also offers battery saving mode and Max mode to switch between the fastest performance to enhance the performance.

Coming to the video output, the 15.6 inches screen gives you a great video streaming experience with crystal clear sound backed up by Dolby Audio. However, the battery life touching nearly 5 hours can be disappointing. 

I highly recommend Lenovo IdeaPad 3 if you are on a tight budget but still want a gaming laptop. Moreover, it handles multitasking with perfection. However, I wished it was a bit slim. It’s challenging to carry this bulky device around.

Pros

  • Affordable
  • Entry-level gaming
  • Privacy shield above the webcam
  • Good at multitasking
  • SD card reader

Cons

  • Average battery life
  • Heavy to carry

Price: $359.99

Check out on Amazon

9. Lenovo Chromebook Flex 5: Best affordable Chromebook

  • CPU: Intel Core i3 10110U
  • Graphics: Integrated Intel UHD
  • RAM: 4GB
  • Display: 13.3″ 1920 x 1080 pixels touch display 
  • Storage: 64GB 
  • Weight: 3 pounds
Lenovo Chromebook Flex Best laptop for college students

Nicely named, the Lenovo Chromebook Flex 5 is one of the smoothest Chromebooks in the market. It is 2-in-1, which means a touchscreen display to convert it into a tablet, but the gadget is more of a laptop than a tablet. The display is just fantastic because of its color palette, which makes the pictures quite appealing. However, the screen can be a bit dim, even with its full brightness. 

I admire its backlit keyboard, an advancement you will not see with this price tag. Its keys are placed in such a way that it makes typing a smooth experience. Since its performance, it’s 4 GB RAM, do not expect to open 100 tabs at once and then compare the system lag. However, 20 tabs at once should do a fine job. 

Also, while playing the Android games on the device, you will not experience a slowdown. Flex 5 is undoubtedly worth all your money; getting a convertible at this price with no lagging issues, great display, audio, and video quality, and strongly built hardware can keep your system running smoothly for a couple of years and get you through college.

If you are planning to use a Chromebook as a primary device, I would recommend getting this one if you don’t have heavy usages like gaming or video editing. 

Pros

  • Does not lag
  • Smooth keyboard
  • Elegant looks
  • Decent RAM
  • Fine touchscreen display

Cons

  • Screen brightness needs improvement

Price: $391.99

Check out on Amazon

How to choose the best college laptop for yourself?

When it comes to picking the right college laptop, you cannot rely on just your finances because there is more than one factor to consider. For instance, a video editor student may be looking for a device with faster rendering skills, whereas a commerce graduate might need a smoother keyboard for faster typing.

Let me simplify the process with you if you have made up your mind to get yourself a new laptop; kudos! You are halfway there. Now you need to pay close attention to these pointers before investing your money in your gadget.

  • RAM
  • Battery Life
  • Form Factor
  • Keyboard quality
  • CPU
  • Storage
  • Build quality
  • Graphics
  • Cost factor

Understand each of these, know which one is right for you and then jot them down. Now, set up a budget and look for options that fit your requirements.

Having trouble picking up a suitable college laptop? Let me know in the comment section below.

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