A sturdy yet lightweight laptop with reliable performance is a prerequisite for college. So much of our world has moved to digital and virtual quarters – college included – especially after the pandemic. A dependable computer will serve you well for not just taking notes and working on assignments but also conducting research, connecting with peers, and winding down at the end of the day.
Best Laptops for College 2023: Portable & Powerful Campus Devices
We have recommendations tailored to students across majors and budgets. It’s time to make the most of and give your best in college, whether you do virtual or in-person classes. These picks also work well for clubs, events, and entertainment sessions with friends.
MacBooks for multimedia and art students
There’s a reason Apple has been synonymous with creativity for decades now. The good old MacBook remains a solid choice for creative arts students, like photography, illustration, film editing, design, and animation.
The 14.2″ Apple 2023 MacBook Pro is incredibly efficient (M2 Pro) and offers 16GB RAM and a 512GB SSD. It can comfortably run A/V applications like Adobe Creative Cloud and Affinity Designer – resource-intensive and likely to slow down a less capable machine.
You also get glorious visuals with Mac: a Liquid Retina XDR screen with HDR, over 1000 nits of brightness, and spatial audio. Apple ensures good battery backup and multiple connectivity options like Thunderbolt 4 ports and HD cameras – a must for college students to liaise with fellow students and access essential data.
A more portable option for students who must work on the run is the 15.3″ Apple 2023 MacBook Air. It weighs only 3.3 lbs and is 0.45″ thin. Moreover, it offers 18 hours of battery backup and two Thunderbolt ports to free your mind of stress while traveling. It is a terrific option for students who want sharp and color-accurate displays (P3 wide color) for their projects.
Dell XPS for portable and sustainable performance
The Dell XPS series is sustainable, stylish, and well-connected – perfect for contemporary college life. For around $1,500, you can get the XPS 13; it runs on an Intel Core i7 processor and allows you to avail of up to 32GB RAM and 2TB storage (SSD). You can optimize the performance mode based on the requirement.
Students can pick a display option that matches their needs and budget. For instance, a UHD+ monitor is better for multimedia studies, but an FHD+ may be enough for day-to-day tasks on/off campus. Dell focuses on keeping things light and sleek for college life – this XPS laptop weighs just 2.71 lbs and measures 0.60″ in thickness.
It also delivers around 13 hours of battery backup and charges rapidly, improving the flexibility of use as you hop from class to dorm or public transport.
HP laptops: versatile choices for the campus
From lightweight convertibles and Chromebooks to heavy-duty performers – HP has cultivated a vast range for college goers. A 2-in-1 laptop can be helpful for college students, providing flexibility and mobility as you move between classes. The HP Spectre x360 14t is a good option for around $949.99.
It has a nifty 360° design and a lightweight build of 3 lbs. The performance, led by an Intel Core i5 CPU, is ample for daily computing tasks like working on assignments, browsing your e-mail, or streaming multimedia. You may upgrade to 16GB and 2TB of SSD storage when your needs escalate.
The camera is a hallmark of this range, equipped with an appearance filter and backlight adjustment. HP also offers Thunderbolt 4 ports and decent battery backup to have your back through the day.
Another perfect option for college students who need to work on video editing or other multimedia projects is the 14″ HP Dragonfly Pro Chromebook. It costs around $1,000, packaging a lot into its lightweight build. The specs are wholly satisfying for the price range – an Intel Core i5 CPU, 16GB RAM – but the ultra-bright display (1200 nits and 100% sRGB) and Bang & Olufsen audio are the cherries on the cake.
HP has always focused on a seamless, connected, and secure user experience, which is ideal for campus life. For instance, this laptop has a good battery backup of over 11 hours, an 8MP camera, and a fingerprint reader. Plentiful unplugged usage gives students the flexibility to study wherever they want.
The classic Pavilion remains a terrific choice for college life. It has evolved considerably from a satisfactory all-rounder with good battery backup to a performance-focused machine with dedicated graphics. For instance, the 14″ HP Pavilion Plus has an Intel Core i7 CPU, RTX 2050 graphics, and 16GB RAM. For approximately $1,200, you get a 2.8K OLED screen with HDR and reduced blue light emissions.
Microsoft Surface for standout style
College is a pivotal time to define your unique style statement – why should your laptop be anything but personalized? The 13.5″ Microsoft Surface provides multiple color options and elegant Alcantara fabric.
Performance-wise, it does a decent job with an Intel i5 CPU and Dolby Vision and Atmos for cinematic excellence. Surface laptops are stylish, light, and portable, with a battery backup of up to 18 hours and tablet comfort.
ASUS laptops for multimedia and gaming
Beyond classes, campus life can also encompass another focus: entertainment! The ASUS ROG line is ideal for laptops specializing in gaming, multimedia content editing, and courses like animation or design.
The ASUS ROG Strix G16 costs a tad over $1,300. It has a superb configuration: an Intel Core i7 CPU, 16GB RAM, RTX 4060 graphics, and a 512GB SSD. ASUS uses a MUX Switch to optimize performance based on your requirement. The display is above par: Dolby Vision, a 165Hz refresh rate, and Pantone validation for color accuracy.
Versatile Acer laptops for everyday studies and entertainment
A speedy and contemporary alternative for college goers is Acer, packed with multiple choices like Predator and Swift. The Predator Helios 16 is a gaming machine powered by an Intel Core i7 processor, RTX 4060 graphics, and a 1TB SSD.
True to its commitment to gaming, Acer infuses these models with a high refresh rate (165Hz) and offers per-key RGB backlighting with abundant personalization options. It makes a well-rounded option for college students who want a laptop for work and serious play.
Students will also benefit from the multiple connectivity options, including Killer Wi-Fi 6E and two Thunderbolt 4 ports. One glitch: these devices can cost over $1,600, so your budget must allow it.
The Acer Swift Go series has been popular with this audience for a while, noted for its mobility and affordability. The Acer Swift Go 14 weighs 2.76 lbs and costs roughly $900. It has an attractive assortment of features: a 100% sRGB color gamut, a QHD camera with auto framing and gaze correction, and Killer Wi-Fi 6E for consistent connectivity. The performance is also noteworthy for the price – an Intel Core i7 CPU and 16GB RAM.
What should you look for in a college laptop?
For starters: you want a device that delivers reliable performance for your daily projects, internet research, video calls, multimedia streaming, and the like. Getting a laptop with an Intel Core i5 processor or above, a minimum of 8GB RAM, and at least 512GB of space is safe. Multimedia students or those keen on gaming should consider dedicated graphics, for instance, RTX 40 GPUs.
A high-res display with sufficient brightness and a wide color gamut becomes crucial for students pursuing design, illustration, and similar majors. Although 13″ and 14″ screens are preferred, students who must multitask should consider a larger screen to track everything.
College laptops should also have connectivity options – Thunderbolt 4, Wi-Fi 6/6E, webcams, etc. – to stay connected with peers, professors, and your data repositories. Other considerations are portability and security options like fingerprint readers. There’s also no harm in humoring your style and personal aesthetics – brands like Acer and Microsoft have unique styling options.
How much RAM do you need in a college laptop?
As a rule of thumb: 8GB RAM is sufficient for typical computing activities on campus (think: checking your e-mail or streaming a video on Wi-Fi).
However, that will be inadequate if your classes involve CPU-intensive applications. For instance, electrical engineering may require you to execute simulation software. Graphic designers must run creative applications like Adobe Premiere Pro and Photoshop. We suggest getting 16GB RAM in such cases.
How much should you spend on a college laptop?
Keeping to a budget is essential for students, many of whom have loans, strict allowances, and limited dispensable income. You may wish to keep costs under $1,000. However, more powerful devices with steeper specs will cost you more: $1,500 to $2,000. Some affordable brands to consider are HP, ASUS, and Acer.
While cutting costs is vital for students, you may wish to invest in a laptop that can last for some years after graduation. It will save you from the hassle of financing another device before settling into a job.