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Top 10 Best Laptops for College Students in 2021

It can be hard to find the best laptop for college students since your study might demand the most innovative features but you have a certain budget limit that you can’t afford to compromise on.

Reasons to look for a good laptop for college

It’s a new year, and that means one thing: the majority of students are going back to school. With a new school year, some students, especially those going to college, will need a new laptop.

Unfortunately, choosing a laptop for a student is not that easy because there’s so much to consider. How much horsepower should the laptop have? Is a Chromebook suitable for your coursework? How much should you spend?

Luckily, we’ve done the legwork for you, and compiled a list of the best computers for college. We have also shared a couple of guidelines to help you make an informed decision.

Best under $400

Acer Aspire 5 laptop

Acer Aspire 5 laptop

Its AMD Ryzen 3 3200U Dual-Core Processor allows students to perform day-to-day computing tasks with ease.

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The Acer Aspire 5 comes highly recommended for college students because it strikes an excellent balance between price and features.

It has a low price tag, yet it offers features, such as a backlit keyboard, full HD resolution and up to 7.5 hours of battery life. You also get multiple connectivity options, which include HDMI, USB 2.0 and USB 3.1.

Best 2-in-1 premium laptop

Lenovo Flex 14 laptop

Lenovo Flex 14 laptop

It’s one of the few 2-in-1 laptops that’s affordable and has a premium construction.

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There’s something alluring about 2-in-convertible laptops like the Lenovo Flex 14-inch. It offers the portability of a tablet and the processing power of a premium-quality laptop.

Though a little pricey, it’s worth the investment. It’s equipped with the powerful Ryzen 5 3500U mobile processor, letting you perform a variety of functions including streaming, working and gaming.

This minute laptop runs on Windows 10, and offers up to 10 hours of battery life.

Best under $300

Hp Stream laptop

Hp Stream laptop

It’s an excellent budget alternative for students looking for an affordable Chromebook. It also comes with a year’s subscription to Microsoft Office 365 and uses a low-powered CPU consuming less power than regular laptops.

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Not every student has $500 or more to purchase a laptop. Luckily, the HP Stream 9MV74UA#ABA offers a good selection of features without the sticker shock.

The 14-inch laptop comes fitted with Intel Celeron N4000 processor, enabling you to complete your assignments in a speedy manner and stream during your free time.

Another impressive feature of the HP Stream is its thin and lightweight design. Thus, it’s incredibly easy to carry from one location to another. 

Best mac

Apple Macbook Air laptop

Apple Macbook Air laptop

It is the first MacBook Air using the M1 chip; hence its improved performance.

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If you’re ready to invest in a laptop that looks and feels premium, Apple MacBook Air fits that bill.

It has high-end features, which you won’t find in lower-priced models. A good example of these is the fact that it runs on the 10th generation Intel Core I3 processor. According to Apple, this results in twice the speed of standard CPUs.

At 1.2kg, this laptop is also pretty lightweight. It means you can lug it around all day long and not worry about getting fatigued. The 12-hour battery life is another trait that makes it perfect for a college student.

Best 360° design

Acer Chromebook laptop

Acer Chromebook laptop

It has up to four modes you can choose from: laptop, display, tent, and tablet mode, giving you a range of setups to pick from.

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Laptops designed to run on Google’s Chrome operating system offer several perks. They’re cheap, durable and have long battery lives.

This is precisely what the Acer Spin 311 offers, and then some. For one, it’s an extremely unique convertible.With other convertibles, you only get to choose between the laptop and tablet modes. But the Acer adds display and tent modes to its collection.

This laptop also provides a decent amount of storage (up to 100 GB on Google Drive space). Plus, its battery can last for a whopping 10 hours, enabling you get a lot of work done on a single charge.

Best under $500

Lenovo Ideapad laptop

Lenovo Ideapad laptop

The Lenovo Ideapad 3 has a higher speed than previous versions. Integrating the 256 GB SSD storage makes it ten times faster than models equipped with standard hard drives.

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Lenovo ticks nearly every box when it comes to what you’d want in a Windows 10 laptop. Solid build for optimal durability, check. Fast and powerful processor, check. Seamless connectivity, check.

Generally, there’s not much that we can fault this laptop for. It even offers a physical shutter for your webcam, offering you maximum privacy. This, in turn, puts your mind at ease whenever you’re using the laptop.

Another nifty addition to this Windows 10 laptop is Q-control. This feature is meant to help you shift easily between “max mode”, which offers a fast performance, and “battery saving mode”.

Best affordable mac on a budget

Apple Macbook Air

Apple Macbook Air

Adding to Apple’s macBook models, its CPU has been updated making it more powerful than last year’s iteration.

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For those college students who swear by Apple products, but aren’t ready to break their banks, this renewed Apple Macbook Air MJVM2LL/A is a great buy.

It doesn’t skimp on any features, and yet it’s relatively affordable. For the price, you’ll get an 11.6-inch laptop, which runs on OS X Yosemite. Also on offer is 128 GB SSD, Intel HD Graphics 6000 graphics, and multiple connectivity options.

Best for studying & gaming

Acer Nitro 5 laptop

Acer Nitro 5 laptop

Apart from speed, gamers want a laptop that remains cool regardless of the hours spent playing games. The Nitro 5 laptop is cool throughout your gaming sessions, thanks to its dual fan construction.

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Do you love to spend your free time playing PC games? If you do, the Acer Nitro 5 is the most suitable laptop.

Although it costs slightly more than a standard college laptop, it offers a slew of features which are sure to improve your gaming experience. You’ll get a full HD widescreen 15.6-inch display for optimal viewing, a 9th generation Intel core processor for speed, and NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650 graphics.

Given all these features, it’s not surprising that Nitro 5 is on the heavier side of the weight spectrum. It means you’ll need to invest in a sizable backpack too.

Best for creative courses

HP Ryzen 3 6BW41UA-cr laptop

HP Ryzen 3 6BW41UA-cr laptop

It’s one of the most affordable models when it comes to laptops that are powered by AMD Ryzen.

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For students taking a major in creative courses, the HP Ryzen 3 6BW41UA-cr is a superb choice. It boasts a speed of 3.5 GHz, which means you’ll never have to worry about your softwares running too slowly.

Furthermore, it comes with several connectivity options, allowing you to upload or transfer media content with ease. The 14-inch laptop runs on Windows 10, and it offers 4GB of RAM to work with.

Best under $600

Asus Vivobook 15 laptop

Asus Vivobook 15 laptop

This highly-portable laptop keeps everything lightweight, but it’s powerful enough to handle heavy-duty computing activities including photo editing.

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The F512DA-EB51 VivoBook 15 is not going to win any awards for storage, but as far as lightweight laptops are concerned, it’s an excellent choice. The 15.6-inch laptop has an ultra-thin display with a bezel that is almost non-existent.

Despite its slim profile, the F512DA-EB51 packs a ton of features under its hood. For starters, it’s powered by a powerful AMD Quad Core processor. The laptop, which runs on Windows 10, also offers you AMD Radeon Vega 8 graphics.

Also important to point out is the ergonomic design of the keyboard. This component is designed to tilt to help you maintain a more comfortable typing position.

What to look for in a good laptop for college

If you’re a college student, you probably use your laptop for a lot more than just completing class assignments. Chances are, this gadget is also your primary source of entertainment – whether you use it to watch movies or play games.

Taking these into account, there’s a lot you need to consider when purchasing the idea laptop. Here’s a quick guide to help you navigate the market and find your ideal computer.

Determine your budget

The easiest place to start is to decide just how much you want to spend on this affair. This will help to narrow down your options.

When making the budget decision, ensure you consider the specifications that are important to your line of work, and how these features might impact the cost.

For instance, if you’re a graphic design student, you’ll want to choose a machine with high-end CPU for faster processing, a graphics card, bigger screen size and more. Some of these features will likely cause the price to soar.

Choose an operating system

Once you’ve determined how much you’d like to spend, the next step is to pick an operating system (OS).

Windows 10 is the most popular, and most recommended for college work. However, it boils down to your personal preferences. For instance, if you’re a diehard fan of Apple products, and are willing to splurge, then you can choose a laptop with Mac OS.

If you’re looking to save a few pennies, however, a computer that runs on Linux operating system is the most pocket-friendly.

When deciding the OS to choose, consider the software you use in your coursework. You may discover that some software runs on only a particular OS.

Screen size matters

A computer’s screen size is another aspect you should take into account. This is primarily because it affects the overall weight and size of the device.

If you choose one whose screen is bigger than 15.6 inches, there’s a high chance that it won’t fit in a standard backpack. However, if it’s too small, let’s say, 13.3 inches, it might not offer ample workspace.

Whichever size you decide to go for, take note of the machine’s weight. Any model that weighs more than 4 or 5 pounds, will likely be too heavy to schlep around college all day long. I find a 13- to 14-inch screen to be the sweet spot when you consider portability and usability.

Check the battery life

If you intend to purchase a large desktop computer, which you’ll permanently place near an outlet, then battery life is not an ise. But if you plan to use your laptop on the go or in places where you won’t have easy access to electricity, then be sure to check out the battery life.

Ideally, you want a model that can provide 7 hours of endurance, although anything above 8 hours is the best.

When it comes to this spec, I’d recommend against relying on the manufacturer’s word. Instead, go through other buyers’ reviews and see what they have to say about that laptop’s battery life.

FAQ

Can I use my laptop while it’s charging?

Yes, you can. There’s no problem with using a laptop while it’s plugged in. Most laptops automatically switch to a power saving mode if you use them when plugged in. This practice helps to extend usage.

How long can a college laptop battery last?

The battery life varies significantly between different brands. But, if you’re doing light computing like web browsing, you can get up to 5 hours from the cheapest models or up to 12+ hours from the best laptops.

Can I get by with a tablet and detachable keyboard instead of a computer?

Sure you can, but I wouldn’t recommend it. A keyboard is one more device that you’ll need to charge, one more gadget that you could accidentally leave behind in the library or dorm room.

Besides, there are some very affordable computer models. It means purchasing a tablet and keyboard doesn’t make economic sense either.

Final verdict

If you’re looking for a computer suitable for your coursework, then you need one that is reliable. This way, it won’t disappoint you when you’re making a presentation for your project or working on class assignments at 4 a.m. in the morning.

To find the best computer, first compare its price-to-performance ratio. You want a highly-functional laptop, but one within reasonable price limits. The next factors you should consider are battery life, storage, and connectivity options. You may also consider its size and weight, since you’ll likely have to carry it around.

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