The Best Laptops for College Students in 2022 (2022)

The Best Laptops for College Students in 2022 (1)

Our Experts Have Tested 122 Products in the Laptops Category in the Past Year

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For students, a laptop is as essential as textbooks and a school ID—and not just for taking notes and writing papers. It also needs to handle your extracurricular activities, from streaming movies and music to keeping up with your social networks, posting photos, gaming, and video chatting with the 'rents back home. With more colleges and universities mixing on-campus and remote learning, a laptop you can use wherever you are is essential.

A college laptop must also respect your budget while lasting through four years of undergrad and maybe a year or two of grad school. Lucky for you, we've collected our favorites from recent reviews—notebooks that not only fit the above criteria but (for the most part) are priced under $1,000, so they won't replace tuition as the biggest threat to your bank account. Check them out, then keep reading to learn the details of what to look for while shopping.

The Best Student Laptop Deals This Week*

*Deals are selected by our commerce team

  • Dell Inspiron 16 5620 Intel i7 512GB SSD FHD+ Laptop(Opens in a new window)$799.99(List Price $949.99)
  • Acer Nitro 5 Intel i5 RTX 3050 256GB SSD 15.6" Laptop(Opens in a new window)$795.72(List Price $839.99)
  • HP Victus Ryzen 5 RTX 3050 512GB SSD 16.1" Laptop(Opens in a new window)$899.99(List Price $1,029.99)
  • HP 15 Intel i7 512GB SSD 16GB RAM Touch Laptop(Opens in a new window)$669.99(List Price $799.99)
  • Dell XPS 13 9315 Intel i7 1TB SSD 32GB RAM Laptop(Opens in a new window)$1,399with code 100OFF1499

Our 10 Top Picks

Best Overall Value Laptop for Most College Students

The Best Laptops for College Students in 2022 (2)

MSI Modern 14

4.0

$501.95 at AmazonSee It(Opens in a new window)

Why We Picked It

Here's the knock on the MSI Modern 14: Its 128GB solid-state drive is too small for lots of bulky files like videos, though it's enough for four years' worth of documents and spreadsheets. Otherwise, the Modern gives you quite a bit in a trim 2.8-pound package—aluminum instead of plastic construction, 8GB of memory instead of an inadequate 4GB, a backlit keyboard, and decent display quality and battery life, all for a surprisingly low $449.99.

Who It's For

This MSI is no speed demon or gaming laptop, but it's capable, highly portable, and cheap. It's a backpack accessory you won't have to apologize for.

MSI Modern 14 Review

Best 2-in-1 Convertible for College

The Best Laptops for College Students in 2022 (3)

Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 5i 14

4.0

$599.99 at LenovoSee It(Opens in a new window)

Why We Picked It

At 3.3 pounds, the Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 5i is a little heavy for a 14-inch ultraportable. That's because it's a convertible whose screen flips and folds from laptop to tablet mode, pausing in between for kiosk or easel modes—if you're torn between a laptop and tablet, or anticipate annotating documents or sketching or scribbling with a stylus (our test unit came with one, though not all configurations do), the Flex 5i hits the sweet spot. It's available in a variety of Intel- and AMD-powered models for under $1,000.

Who It's For

Business users like convertible laptops because they can prop them up for PowerPoint presentations. You may not give as many, but the IdeaPad Flex 5i can handle almost anything you throw at it, giving you the option of pen as well as keyboard input for a reasonable price.

Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 5i 14 (2021) Review

Best Affordable macOS Laptop

The Best Laptops for College Students in 2022 (4)

Apple MacBook Air (M1, Late 2020)

4.5

$1,449.99 at AmazonSee It(Opens in a new window)

Why We Picked It

To get the obvious out of the way, the new-for-2022 MacBook Air with Apple's more powerful M2 processor is a faster, more desirable machine; if you can swing its $1,199 starting price or a costlier upscale configuration, don't look back. But the M1 version of Apple's lightest portable is still a highly capable, lovable laptop for $999. Weighing a trim 2.8 pounds, it offers a sharp 13.3-inch Retina display; elegant unibody metal construction in Space Gray, Gold, or Silver; one of the best keyboards and arguably the best touchpad on any laptop; snappy performance and unbeatable integration with the iPhone; and phenomenal battery life (29 hours in our video-playback test).

Who It's For

Apple still insists touch screens are only for tablets and phones, but otherwise it's hard to find fault with the system that invented the ultraportable category. The MacBook Air remains a great grab-and-go productivity partner for almost any around-campus computing task short of hardcore gaming.

Apple MacBook Air (M1, Late 2020) Review

Best Light Laptop for College

The Best Laptops for College Students in 2022 (5)

HP Pavilion Aero

4.0

$549.99 at HPSee It(Opens in a new window)

Why We Picked It

There are very few laptops easier to carry than HP's Pavilion Aero—it weighs just 2.2 pounds, with a sleek magnesium-aluminum alloy chassis available in several colors. An AMD Ryzen processor gives the Pavilion potent performance to go with its comfortable keyboard and attractive display, and it lasted an impressive 12 hours in our battery rundown test. It even has the HDMI monitor and USB Type-A ports the legendary Dell XPS 13 lacks.

Who It's For

It's not hard to find a take-it-anywhere ultraportable (though most are half a pound heavier than the Aero), and it's not hard to find a good laptop for $1,000. But it's not easy to find both in one machine. The Pavilion Aero is a surprisingly premium piece from HP's unassuming consumer brand that is a great match for highly mobile campus dwellers.

HP Pavilion Aero Review

Best Small Laptop for College

The Best Laptops for College Students in 2022 (6)

Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 2

4.0

$649.99 at AmazonSee It(Opens in a new window)

Why We Picked It

The Surface Laptop Go 2 occupies a middle ground between Microsoft's mini tablet (the Surface Go 3) and its mainstream clamshell (the Surface Laptop 4). It starts at a low $599.99 ($799.99 as tested), but is more stylish and better made than many budget notebooks, with a squarer 3:2 aspect ratio screen that lets you see more of a webpage or word processing document without scrolling. The PixelSense display is on the small side, at 12.4 inches, and its resolution isn't ultra-sharp, but the Laptop Go 2 weighs only 2.5 pounds despite a battery that lasts over 12 hours, so it's hard to complain.

Who It's For

If your collegiate laptop hunt is shadowed by a tight budget and portability is a priority, the Surface Laptop Go 2 is a fairly well-equipped winner. Available in four snazzy colors, it gives you some of the chic of a MacBook and even offers replaceable parts for sustainability and longevity.

Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 2 Review

Best Budget Gaming Laptop for College

The Best Laptops for College Students in 2022 (7)

MSI Katana GF66

4.0

$1,269.00 at AmazonSee It(Opens in a new window)

Why We Picked It

You may not go to Faber College (you've seen Animal House, right?), but all work and no play makes a dull student. MSI has a laptop for you: The Katana GF66 is an exceptional value among 1080p gaming laptops, with a speedy Intel Core i7 CPU and Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060 GPU, plus a roomy 1TB solid-state drive. It'll play the latest, most demanding titles at frame rates approaching those of much more costly machines, with a 144Hz screen refresh rate to show them to their best advantage.

Who It's For

No 15.6-inch laptop is particularly portable (this one weighs 5 pounds), and few gaming rigs boast of their battery life (the MSI just cleared four hours in our tests). But if gameplay is a priority, the Katana GF66 will outrun almost anything in its price class. And yes, it's fine for writing and researching papers and answering emails, too.

MSI Katana GF66 Review

Best 15- or 16-Inch Desktop Replacement for College

The Best Laptops for College Students in 2022 (8)

Dell Inspiron 16 Plus (7610)

4.0

$999.00 at Dell TechnologiesSee It(Opens in a new window)

Why We Picked It

Most laptops that earn the label "desktop replacement" have 15.6-inch screens. The Dell Inspiron 16 Plus has a slightly larger display with impressively sharp 3K resolution (3,072 by 1,920 pixels), plus a graphics card fast enough for gaming (Nvidia's GeForce RTX 3050) and a beefy eight-core Intel Core i7 processor, all for under $1,400 as tested. Like all desktop alternatives, it's not ideal for toting around campus from dorm to classroom—it weighs 4.4 pounds—but it's a sensational midrange value.

Who It's For

We love 13- and 14-inch ultraportables as much as anybody, but when you're logging lots of hours or pulling an all-nighter to finish a report, there's no shame in giving your eyes a break with a bigger screen. The Inspiron 16 Plus is one of Dell's best bargains and a great general-purpose PC.

Dell Inspiron 16 Plus (7610) Review

Best 17-Inch Desktop Replacement for College

The Best Laptops for College Students in 2022 (9)

Asus VivoBook 17 M712

4.0

$869.00 at AmazonSee It(Opens in a new window)

Why We Picked It

Speaking of giving your eyes a break, there's no mainstream laptop display larger than 17.3 inches diagonally. The Asus VivoBook 17 M712 not only weighs less than most machines its size—five pounds, which may be a chore to carry to class but sure beats the seven- and eight-pounders we've seen—but costs considerably less, with our test unit only $550 at Amazon. Part of its low price comes from an AMD Ryzen 3 processor that's a couple of generations older than the latest and greatest, but its performance is perfectly adequate for everyday apps, and its matte-finish screen kills glare without killing color brilliance.

Who It's For

The VivoBook's seven-hour battery life is disappointing, but 17.3-inch laptops are rarely seen hauled around campus (and seven hours is enough to get through two or three classes in a day if you do decide to take it with you). You won't mistake it for a deluxe workstation or a gaming rig, but as budget laptops go, it's kind of a big deal if you need the biggest screen possible but don't have the room for a desktop monitor.

Asus VivoBook 17 M712 Review

Best 2-in-1 Tablet for Note-Taking

The Best Laptops for College Students in 2022 (10)

Why We Picked It

Most 2-in-1 portables—PCs that give you a choice of working in laptop or tablet mode—are convertibles with pivoting but permanently attached keyboards. Microsoft's Surface Pro 8 is the top Windows detachable, a 13-inch tablet that jettisons its folding keyboard cover for times when you only want to carry the 1.96-pound slate and a stylus pen for jotting notes or dashing off a drawing. It's expensive, especially since Microsoft sells the keyboard and pen as extra-cost accessories rather than standard equipment, but it's a full-fledged, high-performance alternative to a conventional clamshell. A well-designed kickstand and the snap-on keyboard give you full laptop functionality, though like all detachables, it's a bit wobbly perched in your lap as opposed to placed on a desk or table.

Who It's For

Like Apple's iPad but with an even better software library (the full universe of Windows apps), the Surface Pro 8 is a clever handheld computer that makes a paper pad or notebook look primitive. If you can afford a well-equipped Core i5 or Core i7 model, it'll serve you well with unbeatable tablet/laptop versatility for in-class note-taking, out-of-class video watching, and lots else around campus.

Microsoft Surface Pro 8 Review

Best Chromebook for College

The Best Laptops for College Students in 2022 (11)

Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 5 Chromebook (2021)

4.0

$429.99 at AmazonSee It(Opens in a new window)

Why We Picked It

If your college or university doesn't require specific Windows or macOS programs (especially demanding apps like computer-aided design for engineering or the Adobe Creative Cloud suite for graphic design and video editing), there's a lot to be said for choosing Google's Chrome OS—lower cost, seamless automatic upgrades, and no need for antivirus software, for example. Lenovo's IdeaPad Flex 5 Chromebook is an affordable three-pound convertible with a peppy Intel Core i3 processor and relatively fast and roomy solid-state drive instead of the wimpy eMMC flash storage of most Chromebooks. It's a great platform for cloud-based productivity using the Google Workspace apps and Gmail (or the online or Android versions of Microsoft Office).

Who It's For

Boasting a snappy keyboard and nine-hour battery life, the 13.3-inch Flex 5 is a friendly partner for everything from YouTube and Netflix to videoconferencing and collaborating on Google Docs. Check your school's software dictates before you buy, but you might find it a great general-purpose bargain.

Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 5 Chromebook (2021) Review

How to Buy a Laptop for College

How do you narrow down the list above, let alone other laptops not mentioned here, to find the right one to be your college colleague? Some of the questions to ask apply to all laptop shoppers, whether families with kids or corporate executives; others are specific to higher education. Let's run down what you need to know.

Check With the School: Do College Students Get Laptop Discounts?

The first, and most important, thing to do is check with your school for specific system requirements and negotiated discounts. They may have hard-and-fast hardware recommendations available at special prices from vendors. (Or not.)

Some colleges and universities want their students equipped withWindows-based laptops, to cut down on software incompatibility issues or to keep technical support concentrated on one platform. Others don't care which operating system you use, whether it's Windows,macOS, or even Linux if you're a hardcore type. Some institutions have onsite computer repair centers that service only laptops purchased from the university or an affiliated computer store on campus. Using one of these facilities, the turn-around time will be much quicker than if you were to send it overnight to the original manufacturer.

Most schools do offer price breaks for particular vendors and include extensive software bundles, which can shave off a good amount from your laptop purchase. So you might want to look into the campus store as a first shopping destination, before you hit your local superstore or favorite online seller.

How Heavy Should a College Laptop Be?

Not every student will agree, but depending on how far you'll haul it every day, a big-screen notebook may not be such a good idea.

It's nice to have a mini home theater in your dorm room or play the latest games in big-screen glory, but a 5-pound-plus laptop with a 15-inch or 17-inch screen will be a chore to haul across campus while you're running from class to class. You're better off with something that's light: If screen size matters less to you than convenience, a super-thinultraportablemight be the way to go.

For most people, a 13- or 14-inch widescreen panel is ideal, as it will make room for other items in your backpack and minimize the weight burden. Depending on your tolerance level, a smaller display works as long as you understand that full web pages and productivity applications will involve more scrolling, and fonts will appear smaller than they do on larger screens, assuming the same resolution and zoom level.

The Best Laptops for College Students in 2022 (12)

(Credit: Zlata Ivleva)

Essays, research papers, and chatting online with your classmates will take up most of your computing time, so a full-size keyboard and a comfortable touchpad are crucial. Also know: When you venture smaller than a 13-inch-class laptop, you run the risk of not getting the same typing experience. The easiest way to ensure that you have the best keyboard is to stop by a brick-and-mortar store and spend some time typing on prospective choices of different size classes.

If you do decide to buy a smaller, less expensive laptop, it's probably worth investing in a standalonekeyboardyou can keep at home or in the dorm for when you need to do a lot of typing. A desktop monitor you attach via HDMI could be a nice complement, too.

What Processor to Get in a College Laptop?

Laptops offer a wide selection of processors across both budgets and usage cases—you can choose one that maximizes performance, or one that favors battery life. Or you can select one that plays to both strengths: Intel's Core CPUs confer the benefits of both power and battery efficiency. AMD's Ryzen mobile chips are less common but have also emerged as viable picks for ultraportable laptops.

The Best Laptops for College Students in 2022 (13)

(Credit: Zlata Ivleva)

If you desire all-day battery life, and spend almost all of your time in a web browser, you might want to consider going with a Chromebook. These typically run on low-powered processors (Intel Celeron and Pentium chips, in most cases), but these CPUs suffice for the kinds of workaday online tasks that Chromebooks excel at. (More about Chromebooks in a bit, below.) If performance, on the other hand, ranks high on the list, a Mac with an Apple M1 or M2 chip, or a Windows laptop with at least an Intel Core i5 or AMD Ryzen 5, gives you the most oomph. (If you want to dig deeper, our guide to laptop processors gets into lots more detail on understanding CPUs for laptops.)

If you like playing games in your downtime, you might want to splurge on a more expensivegaming laptop. Most general-purpose machines, especially at under-$800 prices, won't have the kind of discrete graphics chip (GPU) necessary to make the hottest AAA game titles look good and play smoothly. But if you hunt around a little, youcanfind gaming laptops these days starting at around $700 tp $800 with a decent Nvidia GeForce GTX or (less commonly) AMD Radeon RX GPU for playing games at 1080p and moderate or better settings. (See our guide to thebest cheap gaming laptopsfor lots more about budget GPUs, and about how to buy just enough gaming machine for your needs.) A powerful GPU can also help in certain high-end and scientific applications that can benefit from GPU acceleration, but, like a high-powered processor, they also feast on the battery.

The Best Laptops for College Students in 2022 (14)

(Credit: Zlata Ivleva)

The good news is that, in most other cases (unless, say, you're an architecture major with a heavy reliance on CAD software), integrated graphics solutions should suffice for the day-to-day tasks you'll face. This is the graphics silicon built into the processors of most budget and midrange laptops. Today, that overwhelmingly means some form of Intel integrated graphics: Intel HD Graphics, Intel UHD Graphics, Intel Iris/Iris Plus graphics, or Intel Xe Graphics. Our reviews will detail their comparative performance levels, but none is a match for even a moderate dedicated GPU. (Read more about limits of gaming on the integrated graphics processors in mainstream laptops.)

SSDs Are Tops: How Much Storage to Get in a Laptop for College?

With the increasing prevalence of cloud storage and web applications, having plentiful local storage space issomewhatless vital now than it used to be, but you should still make sure that your laptop meets your needs. If you plan to install a lot of programs or want to hang on to lots of large media files, you'll need 500GB of space or more. If you don't foresee needing all that local storage, or are content with leaving a lot of your work online, you can get by with a laptop with less space.

The Best Laptops for College Students in 2022 (15)

(Credit: Zlata Ivleva)

Whichever way you go, remember that storage affects speed, too. If you go with one of the increasingly uncommon budget laptops that uses a hard drive, because you get more storage for less money, know that it will be noticeably slower than a snappy-feeling solid-state drive (SSD). The higher cost and lower capacity of a faster SSD is a trade-off that some students are willing to make, and most should. Westronglyrecommend SSDs for laptops that are carried around campus a lot, since the SSDs (if not the laptop itself) are impervious to drop damage. Plus, being a lot faster than hard drives, they give a laptop a much snappier perceived feel.

The good news is that by plugging anexternal hard driveor external SSD into one of your laptop's USB ports, you can add more space whenever you need it. Although you probably won't have to do this unless you're a video junkie or an aspiring filmmaker, it's a good option to have.

Gamers may want to take an altogether different view. With many AAA game installations topping 40GB or 50GB each, a small SSD can get eaten up fast. You'll want to think about that before you buy a machine, say, with a 256GB SSD alone, or at least be prepared to swap games on and off the drive as you tire of or complete them. You really need to insist on at least a 500GB SSD in a gaming laptop.

What Kind of Battery Life to Expect From a College Laptop?

A sizablebatterycan be your biggest ally on a day filled with classes and extracurricular activities. A few school-oriented laptops come with multiple battery options. Most, though, have only one—and it's not removable.

In this case, figure out where battery life ranks in the grand scheme of things. If removable batteries are an option (most of the time, they are not, alas), it might be a good idea to get a second one, or a larger "extended" one if available, at the time of purchase. The more "cells" the battery contains within a given model line, the better the battery life, all else being equal.

The Best Laptops for College Students in 2022 (16)

(Credit: Zlata Ivleva)

A big battery can mean some heft, but the weight gain is well worth it if it means leaving the system unplugged from dawn until dusk. This is where our reviews come in especially handy; we've tested every laptop that passes through our labs for battery runtime with nonstop video playback, so you can get a good idea of relative endurance between models.

Are Chromebooks Good for College?

In the past several years, we have seen a strong push by Chromebook manufacturers into the education market. Chromebooks themselves have gone from being glorified netbooks running ChromeOS to laptops that are still web-centric but have a relatively full feature set. If, like many schools, the one you're attending puts its coursework in the cloud, a Chromebook can offer you much of the functionality of a regular laptop, and it may deliver longer battery life.

It will also likely cost you a lot less than other types of notebooks. Prices for basic Chromebook models typically run between $200 and $400 (although higher-end models can go for as much as $1,000). Just be sure you have ready access to constant, stable Wi-Fi, as there is scant local storage on these systems, and you have to plan ahead to use them effectively offline.

The Best Laptops for College Students in 2022 (17)

(Credit: Molly Flores)

PC gamers, of course, won't find much use for one of these laptops; they only run Chrome OS apps and Android apps from the Google Play store. But a Chromebook can also be a good, inexpensive second laptop you carry around campus to take notes, while your beastly gaming rig (or desktop gaming PC, for that matter) hangs back at the dorm or at home. (In the market for a ChromeOS laptop? We've rounded up today'sbest Chromebooks.)

Are 2-in-1 Laptops Worth It for College?

In recent years, a new category of laptop has emerged. Hybrids, also known as 2-in-1s, are capable of functioning as traditional clamshell-style laptops when you need them to, but can transform into tablets when that's a more convenient form for what you're doing. Some (generally calledconvertibles) sport a folding design that flips the keyboard out of the way, usually by rotating all the way around its hinge. Others ("detachables") allow you to dock a tablet/screen portion of the PC with an accessory keyboard for laptop-like functionality.

The Best Laptops for College Students in 2022 (18)

(Credit: Molly Flores)

A budget 2-in-1 might be just what you need to fill a number of roles. One thing to be mindful of: If you are considering a detachable 2-in-1 design, make sure the keyboard base is included in the price. In some cases, it is; in others, it is an added-cost accessory that will bump up the price, sometimes by more than you'd expect. (See how we test laptops.)

How Long a Warranty to Get in a College Laptop?

Almost every laptop you might buy today is backed by at least a one-year warranty on parts and labor. Extended warranties are also available, but whether they're worth it depends on who you are as a user.

For starters, know that the standard warranty doesn't cover accidents that stem from a spilled drink or a drop on concrete. Most manufacturers sell accident coverage as a separate plan, on top of extended warranties that supplement the standard one, so you might end up spending close to $300 for three years of coverage. Apple offers a maximum extended warranty of three years, while some makers of Windows laptops will offer up to four years.

The Best Laptops for College Students in 2022 (19)

(Credit: Zlata Ivleva)

In our opinion, if the warranty costs more than 15% of the total laptop price, you're better off spending the money on backup drives or services that minimize downtime in case something does go awry. Of course, you can't put a price on peace of mind. In rare instances, the logic board or the display—the most expensive pieces of a laptop—can fail and cost you in repairs half or more of what the laptop is worth. Faulty inner components (excepting the battery) usually break down during the first year, though; anything after that is probably more about regular wear and tear.

This again, though, is a case where the college itself may be an X-factor. Some schools have special arrangements with specific vendors for onsite service of their laptops, so it could pay, once again, to check with the college's bookstore or computer store to see if any such special circumstances apply.It's possible, say, that you could get parts and repairs for your Lenovo ThinkPad done overnight.

So, What Are the Best Laptops for College Students?

As in so many things...it depends. True, there are ever more choices on the market today, and slogging through them can be daunting. No worries, though: We did the work for you.

Scroll or swipe down for detailed specs on the hottest laptops to grace the dorm room, college classroom, and campus quad for this school year. And if you or the person you're shopping for is closer to graduation than freshman year, you should check out our guide to the best laptop for each type of graduate, which offers better choices for career-specific options. For more general factors to look for when shopping, check out ouroverall top laptop picks, as well as our favoritebudget notebooks.

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