THE IDEAL COLLEGE LAPTOP MAY EXIST
However, somewhere between performance, size, weight, and price, there is a machine that will satisfy you (and your parents). Every year, we put dozens of laptops and tablets through their paces. Our top picks for students returning to school this year are listed below. There’s something here for every student and every budget, whether you’re taking classes in person or online—or a combination of the two.
Check out our other back-to-school guides, such as the Best Laptops, Tablets, Laptop Bags, Student Email Discounts, and Dorm and College Gear.
August 2022 update: We’ve updated all of our recommendations to include the most recent models with the most up-to-date specifications. We’ve also included some general laptop purchasing advice.
Best Laptop for College Students
IdeaPad Flex 5 from Lenovo
Lenovo’s AMD-based IdeaPad 5, which includes a Ryzen 5 processor, is an excellent student laptop. There’s plenty of power, a nice 14-inch IPS display, 16GB of RAM, and a 256GB SSD. The 360-degree hinge allows it to be used as a tablet or stand to watch movies in your dorm. To fully utilise the 2-in-1 design, purchase the digital pen ($40). Another reason we like the IdeaPad is its numerous ports: Two USB-A ports, an HDMI port, an SD card reader, one USB-C port, a headphone jack, and a charging port are included (though you can use the USB-C to recharge the laptop too).
If you’re a computer science major or plan to do some video editing, the more powerful Ryzen 7 version is only slightly more expensive. Look for the following specifications: AMD Ryzen 5, 16GB RAM, and 256GB SSD
Ultraportable and lightweight for College
The Dell XPS 13 (2021)
WIRED recommends Dell’s XPS 13 as one of our favourite Windows laptops (8/10). Everything we like about it—light it’s (2.8 pounds), it has plenty of power, and the display is stunning—also makes it an excellent college machine. The XPS 13 comes with two display options: 1080p or 3.5K OLED. The 1,080-pixel screen will give you a few more hours of battery life, but you’ll be staring at this thing all day, so you should upgrade. The impact of all that screen on battery life depends on your workload, but with the OLED, you should be able to get through a full day of classes on a single charge. If you require more battery power, consult our Best Portable Power Banks guide.
Best College Macbook
MacBook Air from Apple (2020)
If you want a Mac, the Air (9/10, according to WIRED) is your best bet. It’s small and light, with a pixel-dense 13-inch LCD display and all-day battery life. Apple’s M1 machines wake up instantly from sleep, which is convenient when you’re scrambling into your seat and the teacher has already begun class. Because the MacBook Air is fanless, you can use it in lecture halls and libraries without disturbing your classmates with the jet engine woosh of a cooling fan.
Apple recently released a new version of the Air with an upgraded M2 processor, but given the price increase, the M1-based MacBook Air is more than adequate for most student tasks. The M1 model comes standard with 8 gigabytes of RAM, but it can be upgraded to 16 if you have it. Unless you intend to store a large amount of media, the 256-gigabyte SSD should suffice. Remember that if you use an education email and purchase the MacBook through Apple’s Education Store, you can save $100.