Finding the right laptop for you isn’t always a clear decision, especially when it’s for a category as wide as “college laptops.” To put some parameters on it, however, when I think of a college laptop I’m thinking of something relatively affordable, somewhat basic, yet capable of performing a wide swath of functions. After all, some majors in college actually require some serious power, while others will only require access to email and Wikipedia.
Before moving further, I’d direct you to our piece on how to buy a laptop. Regardless of whether it’s for college or not where you’ll get some important knowledge on how to choose between a Chromebook, a MacBook, or a Windows Ultrabook.
Without further ado, here are the five best laptops you can buy for college right now:
5. HP Chromebook 13
Chromebooks are a great option for college students who want something affordable that will mostly be used for word processing, email, and web browsing. Not only does the HP Chromebook 13 look stunning, its performance shows that at $499, the laptop can go toe-to-toe with $1,000 Ultrabooks and still hold its own. HP defied expectations by delivering a premium notebook with solid performance at a price point that no one else is able to match.
With a build quality that rivals the $1299 MacBook, the Chromebook 13 manages to beat Apple’s laptop in many ways while coming in at a $499 starting price. Compared to the MacBook, you’ll find more ports, a higher resolution display and a more usable keyboard on the Chromebook 13 in a package with a similar all-metal build quality. For Chromebooks on the higher end of the price scale, the HP Chromebook 13 just might be the new standard.—Chuong Nguyen
4. Dell XPS 15
Photo by Craig Barritt / Stringer / Getty Images.
The XPS line has been one of our favorites for years, available in 13-inch, 15-inch, and 2-in-1 form factors. With its newest processor update, Dell has restated its fight for the position the XPS 15 for the best Windows laptop you can buy at this price point.
Not only does it check on the boxes in terms of performance, battery life, and display—it’s also got the most beautiful design you’ve ever seen. With its nearly bezel-less display, you can be assured that the XPS 15 will fit great in your backpack, look impressive on a desk, and can even handle the editing on that class video project you’re working on.—Luke Larsen
3. HP Spectre x360
Aside from some compromises in battery life that comes with a high resolution 4K display, the 2017 Spectre x360 13-inch is the closest thing we have to laptop nirvana right now. HP’s Midas touch gives us a sturdy unibody metal body with an elegant copper design, robust performance with the latest Intel processor and a keyboard that’s a dream to type on.
Add to that the versatility of a convertible hinge, pen support for inking and creative work and future-proof potential with Thunderbolt 3 ports and you have a laptop that you’ll be happy with for years to come.—CN
2. Surface Pro
The Surface Pro isn’t technically a traditional laptop, though it’s certainly just as powerful, useful, and capable as one. Microsoft gave the Surface Pro meaningful upgrades this year, even if the design remains largely unchanged from the prior iteration. The Surface Pro gains newer Intel Kaby Lake processors, and the Core i7 model benefits from even better graphics performance with support for Intel’s Iris Plus discrete GPU, all wrapped in the iconic form factor complete with a kickstand. Better battery life, optional LTE configurations (coming later this year) and more options for fanless configurations round out some of our favorite feature upgrades for 2017.
As priced, the Surface Pro remains a halo product to showcase the versatility of the Windows 10 operating system. If you want the best showcase tablet from Microsoft’s engineering efforts, the Surface Pro retains its position as an aspirational piece of hardware targeted at creatives.—CN
1. MacBook Air
Photo by mama mia / Shutterstock.
I was sure that the life of the MacBook Air series of laptops had come to an end, right up to the point where Apple announced its update this Spring. Although you may be tempted to choose the flashier MacBook or the more powerful MacBook Pro, the MacBook Air really does sit at a perfect price point for a college student.
With its updated processor bump up to 1.8Ghz, the MacBook Air won’t be dead in the water in a year and a half—it’s sure to last you all four years of late night studying (and Netflix-binging). It’ll most likely be phased out as the MacBook comes down in price, but for now it’s the best candidate for a Mac-minded college student.—LL