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Top 10 Best Laptops for College Students Consumer Reports 2020

With so many laptops available for students to choose from, it can be challenging to narrow the range and find the right one for college work.

In this buying guide, we’re going to break down the best laptops for college students on the market. Today we’ll be taking a look at laptops in every budget range, so regardless of whether you’ve got a few bucks to spare and want the best value or are looking for the best of the best will have an option for you. If you’re interested in finding out which laptop is best suited for your student college work, keep reading this guide.

Best Laptops for College Students

Here are what we think are the top rated and best laptops for college students by consumer reports in 2020.

PreviewProduct NamePrice
Apple MacBook AirBest MacBook for Students
Apple MacBook Air
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Asus Chromebook Flip C434Best 2 in 1 Chromebook For Students
Asus Chromebook Flip C434
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Acer Aspire 5 Slim LaptopGreat Budget Laptop For Students
Acer Aspire 5 Slim Laptop
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Microsoft Surface Pro 7Best Windows 2 in 1 Laptop For Students
Microsoft Surface Pro 7
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Dell XPS 13 LaptopBest Overall Laptop For Students
Dell XPS 13 Laptop
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#1. Apple MacBook Air 13 Inch (Best MacBook for Students)

Apple MacBook Air

At the top, we have the Apple Macbook Air, our pick for the best value Macbook for college students. With many models to choose from, it can be challenging to determine which Apple MacBook is the right choice for your needs.

Surprisingly, the Macbook Air is a powerful and portable laptop that students will always like. Not only for its construction but functions and capabilities as well, this 13 inch MacBook features a 1440×900 display with excellent brightness and color vibrance for work in video.

Powered by an Intel dual-core CPU and 8GB ram, which is a robust offering for a laptop in this class. Two Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) ports, which also support Charging, DisplayPort and USB-C 3.1 Gen 2. Open up a lot of external storage and high capacity connection options as well students will love how thin and light the Air is—making it easy to carry around campus under the arm or inside a backpack.

Its really easy to operate, as it used clamshell lid design, also the narrow bezels provides excellent display. The keyboard and trackpad are absolutely stellar and very responsive.

Battery life will last around ten hours, depending on the use, which is more than enough for a full day college use. It would have been nice to see a retina display for the price, rather than the included 1440×900 panel.

If the screen is important, you may opt for the Dell XPS thirteen; as it stands, the MacBook Air is all about value. It packs just the right amount of hardware into a superbly designed aluminum body that makes it easy to carry around and thin enough to use pretty much.

#2. ASUS Chromebook Flip C434 2-In-1 Laptop (Best 2 in 1 Chromebook For Students)

Asus Chromebook Flip C434

Next on the list is the ASUS Chromebook Flip C434 2-In-1 Laptop, our choice for the best two in one Chromebook. Not all Chromebooks are created equally, and two when one is even less. So the Asus Chromebook Flip C434 blends beautiful design with 2 in 1 functionality and the Chrome OS’s convenience.

Making it excellent for college students at a price tag under $500 dollars. The 14-inch full HD touchscreen features a narrow edge design that vastly reduces bezel sizes for an almost edge to edge viewing experience.

It is compartmentalized as a 14-inch display into a 13-inch laptop body when sized corner to corner. The screen produces incredible color accuracy right out of the box with no need for calibration, so you always get accurate color representation.

The 2 in 1 design of the C434 works via a 360-degree hinge that can quickly prop the laptop into a tent, stand, and tablet modes for different tasks. The ASUS Chromebook Flip C434 runs on a 3.4 GH.z Intel CPU with 4GB of ram, which takes advantage of the Chromebooks light operating system.

64GB of internal storage is good for documents and class materials as well. It also has all the inputs a student might need, including a micro SD card slot USB C ports and a headphone Jack. Though it can’t handle your tasks like high-end gaming or strenuous multitasking, it is perfect for students to work while still offering an excellent laptop for TV, movies, and some light gaming.

Those who want a bit more power may choose the Acer Aspire 5 Slim. The Chromebook Flip C434 is a great 2 in 1 option for those who want a solid ChromeOS based laptop with a beautiful design, high screen, and versatile setup options—perfectly designed for college students.

#3. Acer Aspire 5 Slim Laptop (Best Budget Laptop for College Students)

Acer Aspire 5 Slim Laptop

The Acer Aspire 5 Slim laptop, our pick for a great budget laptop for students. Students on a budget need a laptop that blends enough power to make it through daily tasks.

The Acer Aspire 5 Slim is a perfect example, best laptops for students under $300. It’s packed with slim hardware design and a good screen all in one affordable package. The Acer Aspire 5 Slim uses AMD Ryzen dual-core CPU, 4GB RAM and 128GB SSD.

The right hardware combo maintains a budget price, while still offering excellent performance for students who need to perform tasks without slowdown. It sports a full HD IPS display that produces high peak brightness for a budget level laptop.

Powered by a Vega 3 GPU for a little extra processing power making it great for more strenuous tasks like low to mid-range gaming. The narrow bezel design creates an almost edge to the edge viewing experience, which is a definite plus. It’s also very portable with a weight of just 3-pounds.

The aluminum lid is a nice aesthetic touch that gives the laptop a premium feel. It can be rotated back a 140-degrees to lie flat on the table, which is excellent not just for convenience but also for the safety of the hinge mechanism.

We would have liked to see USB C. ports and better battery life from the Acer Aspire 5 Slim, but it’s a budget level laptop that features some very nice hardware that students will appreciate for their daily use.

It’s got enough power to make it through school tasks and more than enough left over for a bit of fun when you want to relax after a hard day. It also won’t hurt to have a bit more mobile so you can see it anywhere around the house comfortably.

#4. Microsoft Surface Pro 7 (Best Windows 2 in 1 Laptop For Students)

Microsoft Surface Pro 7

Next, we have the Microsoft Surface Pro 7, our pick for the best Windows 2 in 1 laptop for students. With different products of windows 2 in 1 laptop available in the market, which can make its difficult to choose a winner.

The Microsoft Surface Pro 7 is a fantastic option for those who want not only a great laptop but also a dedicated tablet experience. The Surface Pro 7 runs on a 10th Gen Intel i5 CPU with 8GB RAM and 128GB of SSD storage.

It features an excellent 12.3-inch touch screen with pen stylus functionality for students to do work, take notes or doodle during the downtime.

The colors are incredibly vibrant and accurate, with a resolution of 2736×1824 and 267 pixels per inch, making for a tight, very detailed picture. Intel iris plus technology powers the graphics with a little extra processing power, great for multimedia, movies, and TV.

The built-in kickstand unfolds to prop the Surface Pro 7 into the laptop set up, which takes advantage of the separately sold type covered keyboard that attaches easily to the unit via a magnetic hinge. Lowering the kickstand creates a slightly elevated setup.

That’s a slight let down that the USB C. ports are Thunderbolt 3 enabled, but the Surface Pro 7 still offers excellent hardware and a versatile set of features. The 2 in 1 laptop for college students who want to draw or write with a pen as well as work within a dedicated laptop mode for typing tasks.

#5. Dell XPS 13 Inch 10th Gen Laptop (Best Overall Laptop For College Students)

Best Overall Laptop For College Students

Finally, we have the Dell XPS 13, our pick for the best overall laptop for students. It isn’t easy to narrow down the best all-around laptop for students who want a balance of power features and display quality.

The Dell XPS 13 is a fantastic option for students who wish to a top-quality laptop With all these in mind. Priced under $1500 dollars, it’s not meant for budget-conscious students, but it’s a versatile laptop for those who want more power not just for school but also for relaxation.

The Dell XPS 13 runs on an Intel Core i7 with 16GB ram and a generous 512GB SSD storage. The laptop equates to excellent overall power that can handle multi-tasking some light rendering video editing and even like gaming.

Thunderbolt 3 ports and a USB C port offers up a lot of options for storage expansion and high capacity device connection, and that’s rounded off by a micro SD card slot and a headphone Jack.

The display is luxurious, to say the least, offering 4K resolution visuals with astounding color accuracy, vibrancy, and a respectable 318 nits of brightness. Blacks are deep, rich, and high contrast, as well as balanced for a clear picture, even in a dark room.

The side-firing speakers produce incredible audio clarity and volume veteran nice plus for any laptop. The inclusion of a best in class keyboard and touchpad offers the icing on the cake rounding off an already excellent device.

The only drawback to this laptop is the somewhat disappointing battery life. That may make it less suited for those always on the go. If this is a concern, the Apple MacBook Air might be worth a look if you don’t mind sacrificing all the XPS thirteen power.

As it stands, the XPS 13 is ideal for students who want a premium level laptop for both college and play. It’s powerful enough to handle every college task and has your duties and fun related activities.

Best Laptops for College Students Buying Guide

When it comes to buying a new laptop, there’s much to think about when it gets very complicated very quickly. So hopefully these tips will make things a little bit easier. When it comes to buying your next laptop, I have also belonged to someone who recommended models that keep updating for a time in the description below. The first thing to think about does you want a laptop that runs windows mac OS or Chrome OS. You probably already know the answer.

If you’ve always used marks and maybe have an iPhone or iPad, then yeah, I’m like okay will pro with iMessage and drop will be best. They are beautiful laptops, and easy to use, but they can be costly, and you don’t have that many options.

Windows 10 laptops are great as you have a much bigger range to choose from for all budgets from thin and light ultrabooks to workstations to gaming laptops. Then those Chromebooks, which run on Google’s cloud-based ChromeOS. These are popular with college students as they are usually much cheaper.

It’s more like a terminal for accessing apps in the cloud-like Google docs Dropbox and the web browser. Despite what you read other buying guides, there is no right or wrong answer. It depends on you, but if you’re a student on a tight budget or want a basic laptop to access the web, consider a Chromebook. If you want a premium laptop and you have at least $1000 dollars to spend, then maybe consider a Macbook, but I think for most people, the safest bet is a Windows 10 laptops.

Just because of the enormous range of devices available in the market. Now despite what you may have heard, it is all about size and shape.

Screen Size

Laptops like the Microsoft Surface Pro 7 and Lenovo Yoga C940, also have tablet experiences with detachable keyboards, and 360-degree hinges, that can be flipped around. These are usually more expensive and more suited for mobile and power uses. Most of the laptops though, still use a traditional clamshell design with sizes ranging from 11 to 17 inches.

It’s pretty straightforward, generally the smaller screen, the lighter and more portable laptop is. Well, 15 inch laptops are more likely to have the option of higher power processors and dedicated graphics cards. The role somehow lies there like the LG gram 17; with a huge screen and super lightweight body, it is expensive.

When he uses low power processes that you’d usually found in 13-inch laptops, some laptops also have touchscreens, something hybrid two in one of the best for this as though it usually supports a stylus or pen, which is excellent for artists and designers.

The vast majority of laptops on 1080p or Full HD, and to be honest for 95% of us that’s prospects, but higher-end laptops now offer a 4K option. That means the screen is a lot sharper and has more pixels per inch, and because of the high-quality panels, usually more color IQ as well. So ideal for video and photo editing, most good reviews will include a screen’s sRGB, adobe RGB or P3 color ratings in that review.

The higher, the better, but doing actual color work to make sure you check before you buy the laptop. Talking about 4K laptops, the biggest downside other than being a bit more expensive usually is it has a massive impact on your battery life. Often you only get about half or maybe two-thirds of the battery, but you would otherwise have a big difference with a 1080P screen.

Also, it significantly lowers your frame rate and games as a lot supposed to push millions of more pixels. For gaming laptops, I think the best combination right now is a 15-inch screen with a 1080P resolution, and if possible, a high 120 or 124 refresh rate. Which will help everything look and feel a lot smoother?

Specs

Let’s talk about specs, and this is where things get a bit more technical. Either look for either an Intel i5 or i7 processor 8GB of ram 256Gb of storage and if you’re doing more intense graphical work gaming, a dedicated graphics card. Now, these specifications would be right for many people, although the more ram and storage the best and if you can afford it.

Regarding laptops, Intel pretty much dominates the market right now, although there are some excellent budget options with AMD chips. But for simplicity, I’ll stick with Intel, and the thing is it’s easy to go with an i5 processor along those poorly good recommendations. There’s a couple of things you need to think about because they’re not all made equal.

From processes to graphics, the vast majority of laptops, I see, use an integrated graphics chip. They don’t have a dedicated card, and that’s fine for basic tasks like streaming video, maybe doing some very lite photo editing. But anything beyond that they’re pretty terrible.

Although Intel’s latest 10th generation isolated processor, they come with Iris plus graphics. So, we’re saying integrated graphics get a bit better. Still, really if you want to do anything graphically intensive when there’s video editing or playing games, then you’re going to want to get a dedicated graphics card.

Ram and Storage

Ideally, look for 8GB or even 16gb, this will let you have more chrome tabs programs open at once without the system slow down. It’s not quite as important for gamers, but editors OR graphic designers should aim to 16gb or maybe even 32GB if you got the budget.

Also, storage while overseeing the bigger, the better means you have more room for your files, games, videos, and other things. But I see the one most important thing to take away from this buying guide if nothing else. You should make sure that your laptop has an SSD drive, which makes such a difference to how fast it boots up.

General responsiveness of your laptop usually you’ll get 128GB to 256GB, or 512GB options. Cheaper laptops may still have hard drives or HDDs, try to avoid these unless you see Intel Optane mentioned or something called SSHD. These are hybrids and offer decent bounce between speed and storage space.

Ports

If you are buying a new laptop, just one thing you need to consider really, and that’s USB-C.  Ideally, one that supports thunderbolt 3, which is the fastest kind of USB. Usually, you see a lightning logo next to it but look at the specs before you buy it. So thunderbolt 3 USB C ports are what you find on MacBook Air and MacBook Pro. That’s all we have, which can be frustrating, so you have to buy adapters while older USB types, HDMI card readers.

They will be handy, and most Windows laptops have a good range. Going forward, USB-C will be everywhere; mid to high-end laptops usually do have Thunderbolt 3. Although some like the latest Microsoft surface 3 laptop has USB C, but not Thunderbolt 3. Which I think is a bit short-sighted, especially given the price.

Battery 

Now when it comes to battery life, unfortunately, you can’t take the manufacturer’s claim as gospel. Until recently, they have just been doing local video playback with the brightness turned down, wifi off to test it. So it’s not a real-world use. If you see a laptop that says it has twelve hours of battery life in tech specs, don’t merely believe it. It always comes down to how you use it. When buying a laptop, it’s still a trade off between performance and battery life. Most of the laptops these days will give you at least six hours of real-world battery life.

Final Thoughts 

Last but not least, all the specs seem like a lot to think about, which to be fair and they are not. So you may want to look out for something called project Athena. It’s a new Intel program kind of like Ultrabook 2.0 where laptops have to meet a certain standard of some spec like having the latest 10th Gen processor, SSD storage, thunderbolt 3, Wifi-6, fast charging, and instant boot. Lots of great features to be part of the Athena program.

We are just now seeing the first wave of project Athena laptops come out, and you may start to see this logo more often. But it’s a great way to know without having to dive into all the tech specs, but you’re getting a high end and future proof laptop.

You can’t buy a lousy laptop anymore; they’re all variations of good and course value for money. But if you are not sure after reading all reviews, ask questions in the comments section.

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