Having a reliable laptop is essential in college — it can be hard to get by without one. Many university courses allow or even require students to use their laptops in class for various purposes. Having a laptop with a long battery life is essential for taking notes during long lectures. You also want one light enough and small enough to fit in a backpack or purse for easy travel. Performance and longevity are also important to consider. A basic entry-level laptop will cover you for the general class, but the more you can spend, the longer it will last you — important if it needs to last you four years or more.
With the supply chain issues and chip shortages we’ve seen in recent years, you might think it’s hard to get a decent budget-friendly laptop for school. However, it is still possible to find laptops and two in one with the latest processors from AMD and Intel, which help with performance and battery life compared to previous generations.
The majority of our picks for the best college laptops cost between $500 and $1,000. If you’re looking for a more affordable laptop — or if you’re open to an alternative to MacOS and Microsoft Windows
— we recommend checking out the best Chromebooks for students
(just make sure any software you need for courses supported). On the other hand, if you’re looking for a more powerful laptop or a gaming laptop
that doubles as one for college, we have some suggestions and for them. So if you’re ready to upgrade your tech, keep reading for our list of the best laptops for college.
Despite the availability of the bigger and better M2 MacBook Air, the M1 MacBook Air (one of the first to switch from Intel to Apple silicon) remains, and that’s a good thing. Apple’s entry-level laptop is still our top MacOS laptop recommendation for basic day-to-day use. It has excellent performance and long battery life — up to 18 hours — and is a solid choice for school and entertainment anywhere.
Like previous Mac notebook models, the M1 Air features Apple’s Magic Keyboard, Touch ID, a Force Touch trackpad, and a 13.3-inch Retina display. If you’re a college student, it’s hard to go wrong with the new MacBook Air.
Read our MacBook Air M1 review.
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HP put a lot of value into the Aero 13: Sleek magnesium-aluminum chassis, strong processing performance, long battery life, bright, colorful display, and a weight of just 2 pounds (0.94 kg). Surprisingly, considering all it offers, it has a regular starting price of less than $800, but regularly sells for less than $700. Read our HP Pavilion Aero 13 review.
Gateway was known for low-cost desktop and laptop computers in the 1990s. The brand was revived in 2020 for a new line of laptops and tablets sold exclusively through Walmart. We tested the 15-inch and 14-inch models, and the latter is our choice. The Intel Core i5 processor delivers reliable performance despite being paired with cheaper components. The keyboard is comfortable but lacks backlighting and the touchpad isn’t the most accurate. Also, the built-in fingerprint reader is hit-or-miss. However, it has plenty of ports, so connecting a mouse or an external display isn’t a problem, and the full-HD display is also decent, all things considered. Additionally, the battery lasted a few minutes short of 10 hours in the video streaming test. The 2021 model is still available at a significant discount compared to the 2022 model that launched in July with a 12th generation Intel Core i5 processor. New or old, both are good deals.
Acer’s Spin 513 is an update to one of the best Chromebooks of 2021, the Spin 713. It’s a two-in-one convertible Chromebook with a 13.5-inch display that has a 3:2 aspect ratio. The extra vertical space means less scrolling when you’re working. The screen size is also close to that of letter-sized paper, making it comfortable for taking notes in tablet mode with the USI pen. Compared to the 713, it drops some non-critical features like an HDMI output in favor of a more affordable price. However, it has amazing battery life and a rugged, fanless design that makes it quiet — perfect for quiet classrooms, lectures or video calls.
Get Price Alerts for Acer Chromebook Spin 513 (CP513-2H)
This slim, 3-pound convertible is a solid choice for anyone who needs a laptop for office or school work. The all-metal frame gives it a premium look and feel, and it features a comfortable keyboard and a smooth, responsive precision touchpad. As a two-in-one, you can use it as a laptop or tablet, and it supports pen input with Lenovo’s optional Active Pen. It also has a natural shutter for the webcam that gives you privacy when you want it. And it has a long battery life to boot at 12 hours and 45 minutes in our tests. The latest version with 12th generation Intel processors starts at $999 (although you can find it on sale for less). However, 2021 models with 11th Gen Intel processors also perform well and can be found at a discount.
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