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The best affordable laptops for students, from budget laptops to workstations
If you’re a student, you want one of the best college laptops. But with so many choices at so many prices, it can be homework in itself to find out the very best laptops for students.
When you’re looking for the best affordable laptops for students, make sure it has sure it has long battery life and fast CPU performance.
Whichever laptop you get, you’ll also want to pick up a few extras, such as comfortable mouse, a well-appointed backpack and perhaps a solid all-in-one printer. Without further ado, here are the best college laptops, including some budget picks for those dreading tuition payments.
What is the best collage laptop?
If your budget is a bit more flexible, consider buying the Envy’s more premium sibling, the Spectre x360 13. This gorgeous device gets you the convenience of a 2-in-1 laptop, more power and an overall fancier chassis. Similarly, the XPS 13 2-in-1 and Yoga C940 are great 2-in-1 laptops for college students.
Apple fans who prefer macOS should opt for the new MacBook Air. With its improved keyboard, the Air is a better choice than the pricier MacBook Pro (13-inch) until Apple refreshes that powerful model. If you don’t have a budget and need a powerful machine for crunching numbers or designing 3D models, consider the 16-inch MacBook Pro or the Dell XPS 15.
Dell XPS 13 (2020)
The best premium Windows 10 laptop
CPU: Intel Core i3/Core i5/Core i7 (10th Gen) | GPU: Intel Iris Plus | RAM: 8GB/16GB | Storage: 256GB/512GB/1TB/2TB | Display: 13.4-inch, 1920 x 1200 or 4K | Size: 11.6 x 7.8 x 0.6 inches | Weight: 2.8 pounds
The Dell XPS 13 is a serious workhorse and the best premium laptop for college students. Powered by a 10th Gen Intel Core i7 processor with integrated Intel graphics, the notebook is ready for work or play. And with over 12 hours of battery life, you’ve got plenty of time for both, The notebook consistently performed either better or on a par with competing systems.
But rest assured, the laptop is just as pretty as it is powerful. The company managed to make a laptop that’s smaller and lighter than previous models. Despite the smaller size, Dell added some big changes, including a larger track pad and keyboard. Plus, you get a 13.4-inch, near-bezelless display on every side –– the first in the world to do so.
It’s an exercise in patient restraint, improving the notebook in a bunch of small ways that add up to a big leap for the system. If you’re looking for the total package, the Dell XPS 13 is the laptop for you.
HP Envy x360 13 (2020)
CPU: AMD Ry zen 5 4500U | GPU: AMD Radeon Graphics | RAM: 8GB | Storage: 256GB | Display: 13.3-inch, 1080p | Size: 12.1 x 7.7 x 0.7 inches | Weight: 2.9 pounds
The HP Envy x360 13 is the best laptop for under $1,000 and one of the best Ultrabooks on the market. While it doesn’t come with a stylus (neither does the Surface Pro), the Envy is a 2-in-1, which lets you flip it into tent or tablet mode. What makes this such a fantastic value is its entirely aluminum design and Herculian AMD Ry zen processors.
In our testing, we found that an Envy x360 13 with a Ry zen 5 4500U CPU can outperform laptops with 10th Gen Intel chips. This specific Envy costs just $800 and can outmuscle laptops that cost well over $1,000, including the exorbitant MacBook Pro. Moreover, the Envy x360 13 has a bright, vivid 13.3-inch display and a comfortable keyboard.
There is very little we don’t like about the Envy x360. If you can get over the lack of a Thunderbolt 3 port and IR camera, then it is the ultimate money-saving laptop.
HP Spectre x360 (Late 2019)
The best 2-in-1 laptop
CPU: Core i5/Core i7 | GPU: Intel Iris Plus | RAM: 8GB/16GB | Storage: 256GB/512GB/1TB | Display: 13.3-inch, 1080p or 4K | Size: 12.1 x 7.7 x 0.7 inches | Weight: 2.7 pounds
The Spectre x360 13 is the best 2-in-1 laptop ever and one of the best college laptops for students with about $1,000 to spare. Updated with a 10th Gen CPU and a more modern design, the Spectre x360 13 is improved in almost every way over its excellent predecessor.
Highlights of this laptop include its stunning design, a bright 1080p display, epic 13+ hour battery life and fast overall performance. You also get a webcam kill switch for shutting out snooping creeps, and a super comfortable keyboard.
Apple MacBook Air (2020)
CPU: Intel Core i3/i5/i7 (Y-series) | GPU: Intel Iris Plus | RAM: 8GB/16GB | Storage: 256GB/512GB/1TB/2TB | Display: 13.3-inch, 2560 x 1600-pixel | Size: 11.9 x 8.4 x 0.6 inches | Weight: 2.8 pounds
If you prefer macOS to Windows 10, then there’s only one 13-inch laptop you should consider: the Apple MacBook Air (starting at $999). The biggest improvement to this year’s model is the new keyboard, which fixes all the issues we had with the previous Butterfly version.
Other improvements include more powerful 10th Gen Y-series processors and a superfast SSD. The 13.3-inch Retina display is still a sight to behold, and the MacBook Air remains the sleekest laptop in Apple’s lineup. Of course, you still get everything that makes Apple’s laptops so popular: a gorgeous unibody aluminum design, good speakers and solid battery life. In the end, the MacBook Air is a great laptop for students and the best choice for those who prefer macOS over Windows.
HP Envy 13 (2019)
The best overall laptop
The best laptop for students is now better than ever. Refreshed with a new design, powerful speakers and useful security features, the new HP Envy 13 is the best sub-$1,000 laptop for students or anyone who needs a portable machine with loads of power and long battery life (11+ hours on the FHD model).
New to the 2019 version is a fingerprint sensor and a webcam kill switch that shuts power to the camera so you don’t have to worry about people snooping on you. Combine those features with a sleek chassis, bright 4K or 1080p display and plenty of performance from 8th Gen Core i5 and Core i7 CPUs, and it’s easy to see why the Envy 13 is the best college laptop for students. And frankly, given that this is a budget laptop compared to many of the others on this list, the Envy 13 is an awesome choice.
Lenovo Yoga C940
CPU: Up to Intel Core i7-1065G7 | GPU: Intel Iris Plus | RAM: Up to 16GB | Storage: Up to 2TB | Display: 14-inch, 1080p or 4K | Size: 12.6 x 8.5 x 0.6 inches | Weight: 3.1 pounds
With the Yoga C940, Lenovo took a proven formula and refined it. Subtle design improvements, longer battery life (up to 11:46) and refreshed 10th Gen Intel processors make the Yoga C940 a worthy successor to last year’s excellent Yoga C930 and one of the best student laptops.
As you’d expect from a Yoga-series laptop, the C940 has a premium, ultra-portable chassis and a unique hinge that doubles as a soundbar speaker. As a 2-in-1, that hinge can rotate 360-degrees to convert the Yoga C940 into a proper tablet. When it comes to viewing content, the Yoga C940’s 1080p and 4K displays are crisp, vibrant and bright — just beware, the UHD display drains the battery.
For all the basics it gets right, my favorite things about the Yoga C940 are its extra features. Those include a webcam cover (no more need to buy tape), a slot for the included stylus and a fingerprint sensor.
Apple MacBook Pro (16-inch, 2019)
The 16-inch MacBook Pro is just your type if you’ve been waiting for Apple to make a better keyboard. The Magic Keyboard on this premium laptop ditches the Butterfly mechanism in favor of a scissor switch, and the result is a much more comfortable typing experience. You also get a bright and sharp 16-inch display with slimmer bezels, powerful performance from an available Core i9 CPU and robust AMD Radeon 5300M or 5500M graphics.
You also get up to 64GB of RAM and 8TB of storage if you really want to splurge. The 11 hours of battery life is another plus on this laptop, dwarfing the runtimes of its competitors. The 16-inch MacBook Pro is pricey, and Apple still doesn’t include full-size USB ports, but overall this is a very formidable workstation for creative pros.
Chromebook Spin 713
If you’re a Chrome OS users who want more flexibility than what the Google Pixelbook Go offers, then don’t hesitate to buy the Acer Chromebook Spin 713. This excellent 2-in-1 laptop costs only $629 yet it delivers a gorgeous 13.5-inch display and fast performance thanks to its Intel Core i5-10210U CPU.
Better yet, with a battery life of nearly 12 hours, the Chromebook Spin 713 will last you an entire school day as you bounce from one class to the next. The laptop’s flexible design means you can use it to draw, take hand-written notes, or quickly share a project with a classmate by folding the display back.
Given its flexible design, fast performance, gorgeous display and outstanding battery life, the Chromebook Spin 713 is a top laptop for all students from K-12 and into college.
Dell XPS 15
Productivity, multimedia and even a bit of gaming — the Dell XPS 15 can do it all — and do it well. Starting at $1,299, the XPS 15 offers an attractive, slim design that’s bursting with power. The company managed to make the laptop 5.5% smaller than the previous model while making the keys and touchpad significantly larger. And while that might seem minor, the four-border InfinityEdge bezel has made possible one of the highest resolution displays on the market.
And if that isn’t enough, check under the hood and you’ll find an 10th Gen Intel Core i7 Comet Lake H-Series processor and an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 Ti. The laptop dominated on all of our benchmark tests including our graphics test. That means you could get a solid gaming session going in a pinch. It’s a jack-of-all-trades system that excels at just about everything.
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon (7th Gen)
Lenovo didn’t make many changes to our favorite business laptop but the new ThinkPad X1 Carbon now flaunts Intel 10th Gen CPUs. On top of delivering fast performance, you get long battery life (on the 1080p model) and two gorgeous, 1080p and 4K display options, all in an impossibly lightweight chassis (2.4 pounds).
But it’s still those classic ThinkPad features — a durable design (with MIL-STD-810G strength), best-in-class keyboard and stealthy black/red aesthetics — that carry the X1 Carbon to greatness.
Yes, we wish the ThinkPad X1 Carbon hadn’t ditched the SD card reader in the previous, and top configurations can get very expensive, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a better overall business machine.
Google Pixelbook Go
The best Chromebook
CPU: Intel Core i5-8200Y | GPU: Intel UHD 615 | RAM: 8GB | Storage: 128GB | Display: 13.3-inch, 1080p | Size: 12.2 x 8.1 x 0.5 inches | Weight: 2.3 pounds
The Google Pixelbook Go is a fantastic laptop for students because you get the same sleek elegance as the Pixelbook but at a much lower cost. Starting at $649, the Pixelbook Go is among the cheapest laptops on this list, yet it delivers a lightweight chassis, fast performance and epic battery life.
More classrooms are shifting to Chromebooks, so the Pixelbook Go should feel familiar to students. It’s an easy-to-use, lightweight operating system centered around the Chrome browser. What makes the Pixelbook Go such a good option is that it’s durable and powerful enough to survive for several years, so buy it for your freshman child and it should last him through high school graduation and into college.
How to choose the best affordable laptop for students
There are a number of factors students should consider before buying a laptop for college.
When it comes to specs, we recommend buying a laptop with an Intel U-series or H-series Core i5 CPU, at least 8GB of RAM (16GB is great) and a minimum of 256GB of storage. AMD is coming in hot with its 4000-series chips, so keep an eye out for those. You might notice that the new MacBook Air 2020 doesn’t fit those requirements (it has a low-power Y-series CPU) but it’s still a good option if you prefer macOS and don’t want to spend a fortune. Speaking of which, Chromebooks like the Pixelbook Go offer excellent value for college students.
Battery life is another key component of any good college laptop. If you plan to take the notebook to class or the library, don’t count on there being an outlet! Consider a laptop that gets at least 9 hours of battery life, which should be enough to get you through a couple of classes with enough juice for studies.
Other things that will help you punch up a successful report or research complex topics include a comfy keyboard and sensitive touchpad. And when it’s time to relax, be sure to get a laptop with a vivid and bright display (like any of those listed here).
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