The 10 Best Laptops for College Students

After going over our laptop reviews in the last few months, we’ve chosen 10 budget-friendly (mostly) computers that are ideal for college students. These range from little, bag-sized models that are ideal for note-taking in the classroom to more powerful ones which are better in a dorm room.

Of course, and this is particularly true if you’re looking for higher-end computers, you’ll also want to check out our continuously updated list of laptop reviews with the newest releases.

10 Best Laptops for College Students

10. Samsung Chromebook
Launch price: $330
Current price: $249
Our rating: 4.5 out of 5

If you’ve heard of Chrome OS, you know Samsung’s Chromebook is not like the mainstream Windows machines. It will almost certainly take a few days for you to get used to the Chromebook, unless you’re a serious Google addict who currently stores your life with Gmail, Calendar, Docs, and the like.

Unlike other laptops, the Chromebook doesn’t run Windows, Mac OS X, or Linux. Instead, it basically just runs a web browser — Google Chrome.

As a result, the Chromebook is primarily useful when you’ll always be around a Wi-Fi connection. Some of the apps have offline modes which allow you to use it otherwise, of course, but the online focus can take some getting used to it.

On the other hand, it’s light, slim, cheap, long-lasting, and quite secure against viruses, since it only runs a web browser and doesn’t use Windows.

9. HP Envy x2

Launch price: $750
Current price: about $650
Our rating: 4 out of 5

The HP Envy x2 is an impressive machine. It has outstanding industrial design which really shows off the power of hybrid laptop/tablet designs.

You can think of the Envy x2 in two ways. One, you can think of it as a regular laptop where you can take off the screen and use it as a tablet, which is quite handy during the day if you aren’t in the mood for a full computer.

On the other hand, you can attach the keyboard during class or while writing essays in a cafe, and get a traditional laptop experience. The keyboard side includes nothing essential to the computer, except for a second battery which goes a long way to extending the battery life.

8. Samsung Series 9 NP900X3D

Launch price: $1000
Current price: about $800
Our rating: 4 out of 5

The Samsung Series 9 NP900X3D looks just as stylish as Apple’s MacBook Air, and it’s a bit more inexpensive. Hold this 13 inch laptop and you’ll be amazed at how thin it is.

Though it is not a cheap laptop, it does have the power you’d expect from a premium, larger computer. We believe it’s a good buy, though it’s not an excellent one. If you aren’t looking for ultra-thin and ultra-light, you can get more performance for less money with a heavier laptop.

7. Lenovo IdeaPad Z500 Touch

Launch price: $1099
Current price: about $589
Our rating: 4 out of 5

Running Windows 8, the Lenovo IdeaPad Z500 Touch has a touchscreen panel which allows you to navigate on screen by prodding it.

It’s not the best looking laptop, but thanks to a Core i7 processor and a discrete Nvidia GeForce GT 740M graphics chip, the laptop has a very strong core which will handle almost any normal task. In terms of performance for the price, this Lenovo is a steal.

However, it is quite large and heavy, which makes it best for dorm room use only.

6. Asus VivoBook S400C

Launch price: $700
Current price: around $600
Our rating: 4 out of 5

The overwhelming impression we got is that the Asus VivoBook S400C is a very good laptop, even if we were disappointed by that touchpad gestures and battery life.

While the Core i3 processor isn’t great, it delivers solid performance. An integrated graphics processor is good for day to day use (though it probably won’t be satisfying for gaming). 3.5 hours of battery life is enough for some note-taking if you forget your charger.

Overall, the Asus VivoBook S400C is a well-appointed laptop that delivers your money’s worth.

5. Lenovo Yoga 11S

Launch price: $750
Current price: About $530
Our rating: 4 out of 5

Flexible and functional, the Lenovo Yogo 11S is exactly what we want to find in an Ultrabook. It’s light enough to travel, and small enough to easily tuck in a bag.

Thanks to an i7 processor and SSD, it’s extremely snappy to use. We particularly liked that you can get those options starting at $799.

Despite its size, you can easily use it like any other laptop with a full keyboard. The only downside is the keyboard isn’t backlit.

Overall, the 11-inch Lenovo Yoga 11S is great enough you’ll probably use it until grad school.

4. Macbook Pro 15-inch with Retina

Launch price: $2799
Current price $2799
Our rating: 4 out of 5

The Retina display is the most exciting feature on the newest Apple Macbook Pro. Thanks to a 2880×1800 resolution at 220 pixels per inch, that’s 3 million more pixels than an HDTV.

The Apple Macbook Pro 15-inch is also incredibly light, lighter in fact than the “regular” 13 inch model and only a millimeter thicker than the Macbook Air.

However, as it’s so light and thin, there’s no hard drive — it’s solid state only, which offers better speed and battery but lower capacity. Though it’s aimed at photographers, video editors, and graphics professionals, if you have the money, we recommend it.

3. Dell XPS 13

Launch price: $1210
Current price: about $800
Our rating: 4.5 out of 5

A bit cheaper than the Macbook, and it’s initially very similar too. The aluminum-adorned lid has a solid, high quality design.

Battery life is incredible, it lasted 325 minutes looping an HD video. This laptop is an excellent purchase if you want a reliable travel companion.

The Core i7 processor is quite powerful, the 8GB of RAM is huge, and the 256GB solid state drive is massive. (This last part is a main selling point.)

While the Dell XPS 13 is a bit more expensive, it’s still a worthwhile machine to consider.

2. Asus VivoBook S200

Launch price: $680
Current price: $500
Our rating: 5 out of 5

A fantastic 11.6 inch touchscreen gives the Asus VivoBook S200 almost everything you could want in a laptop, and at a very reasonable price.

While such a small computer will never be a media machine, the 500GB hard drive is quite spacious enough to bring along plenty of music and movies. Overall the Asus VivoBook S200 offers great looks, excellent performance, wonderful portability, and at a fantastic price.

1. 11-inch Macbook Air 2013

Launch price: $999
Current price: $999
Our Rating: 4.5 out of 5

This sixth-generation Macbook Air is powerful enough to use as your main computer. It has the same form factor as its predecessor, but it brings tremendous performance upgrades.

Unfortunately, it does not have the high-resolution Retina screen, which is so sharp the human eye can’t distinguish between pixels. Overall, though, the fantastic battery life, thin and light design, and lower price make the 2013 11-inch Macbook Air a better choice for students than the Macbook Pro.

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