They may not be as easy to upgrade as a desktop, but laptops still have their place in the world (yes, even on planes). Especially when you’re in high school or college, you want your mouse, monitor and keyboard to all be packed in one device. Hastily moving your things from classroom to classroom, it’s no wonder laptops are getting thinner and longer lasting either.
Whether you crave the autonomy of playing your favorite PC games on the go or simply prefer the efficacy of drafting up documents using a full-size physical keyboard, the top laptops for students have it all. Even if you spend most of your study time binging shows on Netflix instead, a laptop is truly the one device to marry productivity and leisure.
With hybrids, Ultrabooks, traditional clamshells and – more portable than ever – gaming laptops in tow, these are the best laptops for college or high school. To get straight to the reviews, check the links below, or keep reading for a brief synopsis of each of these top laptops for students.
1. Dell XPS 13
Powerful, functional, aesthetically pleasing
CPU: 7th generation Intel Core i3 – i7 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 620 | RAM: 4GB – 16GB | Screen: 13.3-inch FHD (1,920 x 1,080) – QHD+ (3,200 x 1,800) InfinityEdge | Storage: 128GB – 512GB SSD
Faster than ever
Same long-lasting battery
Still poor webcam position
No Windows Hello
Packing a high-resolution screen and serious processing power, there’s more to the Dell XPS 13 than its status as a tightly kept Ultrabook. Now featuring new processors and better integrated graphics, clearly there’s an advantage to the Dell XPS 13 besides the fact that it comes in Rose Gold.
The 13-inch display, crammed into an 11-inch body, a worthy rival to a certain other aluminum laptop line. What’s more, the Dell XPS 13’s utility is extensive, spanning everything from writing to video editing to everything in between.
Read the full review: Dell XPS 13 review
2. Samsung Notebook 9 Pro
The dawn of a new era for 2-in-1 laptops
CPU: 7th generation Intel Core i7 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 620 – AMD Radeon Graphics (2GB GDDR5) | RAM: 8GB – 16GB | Screen: 13.3-inch – 15.6-inch FHD (1,920 x 1,080) LED display with Touch Screen Panel | Storage: 256GB SSD
Uses S-Pen to great effect
Excellent look and feel
Inconsistent battery life
The Samsung Notebook 9 is what other 2-in-1 laptops have aspired to be since their conception. It hones in on the S-Pen, Samsung’s own proprietary stylus with 4,096 levels of pressure sensitivity (the same as Microsoft’s new Surface Pen), a nifty little accessory that conveniently doesn’t require charging.
Supporting Windows Hello through its 720p HD webcam, you can sign in to the Samsung Notebook 9 Pro using nothing but your face. Although the touchscreen display is only 1080p, at between 350 and 450 nits of brightness, you won’t be paying any mind to the pixels, or lack thereof. Plus, the lengthy battery life more than makes up for this hybrids few setbacks.
Read the full review: Samsung Notebook 9 Pro
3. Asus Chromebook Flip
MacBook quality for a Chromebook price
CPU: 6th generation Intel Pentium – Core m7 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 515 | RAM: 4GB – 8GB | Screen: 12.5-inch FHD (1,920 x 1,080) LCD | Storage: 32GB – 128GB eMMC
Elegant tablet mode
Gorgeous, vivid screen
No out-of-box Android app support
While we can admit that Google’s Chromebook Pixel and the HP Chromebook 13 were handsome and built to last, their high price tags weren’t well justified. That’s why Asus has taken it upon itself to craft a full-fledged premium 2-in-1 Chromebook that retails for a fraction of the price.
The Asus Chromebook Flip’s pair of USB Type-C ports, dazzling screen and stunning MacBook-esque looks render it an essential inclusion on our best laptops for students list, especially when you consider its pristine value. And with a battery life of 10 hours and 46 minutes, the Asus Chromebook Flip ought to last you an entire work day, even if the speakers aren’t great.
Read the full review: Asus Chromebook Flip
4. Asus Zenbook UX305
Ultrabooks at their finest hour
CPU: 6th generation Intel Core m3 – m5 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 515 – 5300 | RAM: 8GB | Screen: 13.3-inch FHD (1,920 x 1,080) – QHD+ (3,200 x 1,800) | Storage: 256GB – 512GB SSD
Incredibly thin and light
Wonky video driver
It’s not a MacBook Air knockoff if it’s better, right? Considering the price, the Asus ZenBook UX305 kicks Apple’s thin-and-light in the tail. Featuring a full HD screen, a whole 8GB of RAM and up to 512GB of SSD storage, the Asus ZenBook UX305 is a steal.
Like the Dell XPS 13 listed above, the UX305 is further proof that you can find a truly primo, general use laptop for less than a thousand bucks. The ZenBook UX305 is an attractive, honest-to-goodness laptop that serves as a testament to the demand for well-rounded Ultrabooks.
Read the full review: Zenbook UX305
5. Microsoft Surface Pro
The tablet that can replace your laptop
CPU: 7th generation Intel Core m3 – i7 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 615 – Iris Plus Graphics 640 | RAM: 4GB – 16GB | Screen: 12.3-inch, 2,736 x 1,824 PixelSense display | Storage: 128GB – 1TB SSD
Hugely improved battery life
Comfier, punchier type cover
Surface Pen pulled from package
Only Core i7 can challenge A10X
Given the amount of effort that was clearly put into the Surface Pro’s improvements over the TechRadar-recommended Surface Pro 4 of 2015, it’s a wonder Microsoft’s latest iteration of the Surface Pro drops the number altogether. This is – in every way, shape and form – the Surface Pro 5 we’ve been waiting for, from its rounded edges to its refined selection of accessories.
There’s also the fact that the Surface Pro draws inspiration from the Surface Studio insofar as it bends back 165 degrees. The only real downside then (besides having to buy the Surface Pen separately this time) is that only the i7 version of the Surface Pro can compete with even the most affordable iPad Pro.
Read the full review: Microsoft Surface Pro
6. Samsung Notebook 7 Spin
CPU: 6th generation Intel Core i7 | Graphics: Nvidia GeForce 940MX (2GB DDR3L); Intel HD Graphics 520 | RAM: 12GB – 16GB | Screen: 15.6-inch Full HD (1,920 x 1,080) LED with touch panel | Storage: 1 TB HDD – 1TB HDD; 128GB SSD
Graphics narrowly miss the mark
For less than a grand, you could get a MacBook Air, complete with a sub-1080p screen and a Broadwell processor… or you could buy a Samsung Notebook 7 Spin. A 2-in-1 laptop with an HDR, full HD touchscreen, the Spin is home to both a discrete Nvidia graphics chip and a 6th-generation Intel Core “i” CPU.
Considering the sheer horsepower you can exert from this thing and – we can’t stress this enough – an HDR screen, the Samsung Notebook 7 Spin is as suited for the classroom as it is in your dorm. Though the spinning hard drive and 480p webcam aren’t ideal, they keep the price of the Samsung Notebook 7 Spin modest and its reputation positive.
Read the full review: Samsung Notebook 7 Spin
7. Dell Inspiron 15 Gaming
Work hard, play hard, this laptop does it all
CPU: 7th generation Intel Core i5 – i7 | Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050; Intel HD Graphics 620 – GTX 1050 Ti; Intel HD Graphics 630 | RAM: 8GB – 16GB | Screen: 15.6-inch FHD (1,920 x 1,080) – UHD (3,840 x 2,160) anti-glare LED-backlit | Storage: 1TB HDD – 1TB HDD; 128GB SSD
Affordable gaming setup
Stellar battery life
Trackpad is touchy
Screen is lacking
While a gaming laptop might sound ideal for homework by day and taking out waves of enemies by night, it’s normally a steep investment with little room for upgrades. Ditching the Alienware moniker for once, the Dell Inspiron 15 Gaming doesn’t cost much and exhibits unparalleled performance for the price.
For the price, you wouldn’t even be able to afford a MacBook Air, and this is a laptop that can handle practically every game you throw at it, albeit not at the highest settings. And, if you were worried about the battery life, the Inspiron 15 Gaming lasted a whole 5 hours and 51 minutes in our tests, longer than some Ultrabooks priced significantly higher.
Read the full review: Dell Inspiron 15 Gaming
8. Surface Laptop
Designed for students from the OS up
CPU: 7th generation Intel Core i5 – i7 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 620 – Iris Plus Graphics 640 | RAM: 4GB – 16GB | Screen: 13.5-inch, 2,256 x 1,504 PixelSense display | Storage: 128GB – 512GB SSD
Windows 10 S is limited
The Surface Laptop is Microsoft’s first stab at a “traditional” laptop, if you can even call it that knowing full well that its PixelSense touchscreen and Alcantara keyboard are anything but conventional. Featuring a full stack of U-series 7th generation Intel Core “i” processors, the Surface Laptop beats out Apple’s 12-inch MacBook any day of the week, and for a lower starting price at that.
Despite the ports being limited to USB 3.0, Mini DisplayPort, a headphone jack and Surface Connect, the Surface Laptop is appealing for its laudable design, beautifully vivid screen and impressive performance. So while upgradeability is practically nonexistent and the pre-installed Windows 10 S operating system is comparatively limited, the premium cost isn’t without merit. The Surface Laptop is nothing more, but nothing less, than it claims to be.
Read the full review: Surface Laptop
9. Huawei MateBook X
More than just a Chinese MacBook knock-off
CPU: 7th generation Intel Core i5 – i7 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 620 | RAM: 4GB – 8GB | Screen: 13-inch, 2,160 x 1,440 IPS | Storage: 256GB – 512GB SSD
Beautiful and unique display
Great audio capabilities
Limited connectivity options
Huawei is in an interesting position. Globally, the company ranks third in smartphone sales, but it’s still yet to become a household name outside of China. This could all change with the introduction of the MateBook X, a thin and light notebook that resembles a MacBook, but turns out to be so much more.
Instead of wielding a measly Intel Core M- or Y-series processor, the Huawei MateBook X goes for gold with a full on U-series CPU of the Core i5 and i7 variety without resorting to a clunkier form factor. Other than the lukewarm battery life and a notable shortage on ports, this is an honest first attempt at crafting a premium Windows notebook with portability at the forefront.
Read the full review: Huawei MateBook X
10. Apple MacBook Pro (13-inch, Late 2016)
The MacBook Pro of the future, right now
CPU: 6th generation Intel Core i5 – Core i7 | Graphics: Intel Iris Graphics 540 | RAM: 8GB – 16GB | Screen: 13.3-inch WQXGA (2,560 x 1,600) | Storage: 256GB – 1TB SSD
USB-C ports force compromise
Keyboard too shallow for some
For students impressed by the sleek-and-alluring 12-inch MacBook, but unsatisfied by the lack of power and ports, the 13-inch MacBook Pro is the obvious resolution at long last. With battery life exceeding seven hours and a powerful Intel Core i5 processor, the latest 13-inch MacBook Pro is replete with everything you need to get through the coming semesters.
The 13-inch, late 2016 MacBook Pro weighs only 3.02 pounds (1.37kg), making it lighter than ever before as the result of a slimmed-down, “butterfly” mechanism-powered keyboard and stealthy cooling system. The MacBook Pro even manages a larger trackpad despite the laptop itself being thinner. And, like all macOS-outfitted devices, it ships with Pages, iMovie and Garageband pre-installed at no extra cost.
Read the full review: Apple MacBook Pro (13-inch, Late 2016)
Gabe Carey has also contributed to this article