Few groups benefit as much from laptop computers as college students. The best laptops for college provide the freedom to work on projects anywhere, whether you’re typing a paper in a coffee shop or bringing your project back home during spring break.
However, not all laptops are created equal, and choosing the best laptop for college requires thought and consideration. Before taking the plunge, it’s a good idea to consider what you will be using your laptop for, what features you really need and what kind of budget you are working with. This will enable you to make the best choice for a long-term investment.
Best Laptops for College Students: What to Look For in 2020
The first thing to consider when planning to buy laptops for college is how they will be used. You need to be sure that the computer you choose will be capable of doing everything that you require and will have enough horsepower to stay useful for several years. However, you don’t want to pay for features that you’ll never use.
Consider your lifestyle and study habits. Will you:
- Be researching and writing a lot of papers?
- Bring the laptop to class to take notes?
- Produce a lot of Powerpoint presentations?
- Build multi-media projects?
A student attending art school to study computer animation will have very different needs than someone who simply wants a lightweight portable computer for note-taking during class. Things to consider when looking for a laptop might include:
- How big do you need it to be? If you’re going to be carrying it around all day, you’ll want something smaller and more lightweight. If you’re going to be working on multimedia projects or handling graphics, you may need a larger monitor.
- What kind of software will you need? If you’ll require specialized programs, you’ll need to choose a laptop that can handle them. Bear in mind that laptops are not as easily customized as desktops, so you’ll want to buy what you need up-front in case it can’t be changed later.
- Will there be compatibility issues? Mac vs PC is still a major debate for some users. If you’ll be working on a lot of group projects, it might be worth checking to see what most people in your major use. This can save you from frustrating compatibility issues later.
It’s also important to consider extra-curricular activities you will be using the laptop for. A primary consideration for many young students is gaming. If you intend to do much heavy gaming on your laptop, you will need very different specifications than if you will use it primarily for studying. However, some students purposely choose a lower-powered machine so that they will not be tempted to spend time playing games instead of studying.
Regardless of what you choose, the best laptops for college will be those that meet the needs of the student and are versatile enough to last for many years and many different purposes.
Important Laptop Features
The first thing to consider when looking at laptops for college are physical features. If you will require a large screen or full-sized keyboard, you can dismiss a smaller “notebook” computer. Another factor to consider is battery life. Some of the smaller, more lightweight laptops also have exceptional battery, allowing you to spend hours away from home working on a project without fear of losing power. If you’ll be doing most of your work at your dorm room or apartment, however, this may not be important.
You should also consider the style of laptop that best suits your needs. Traditional “clamshell” laptops open up, with the monitor and keyboard attached at a hinge. Other “2-in-1” options work more like tablet/computer hybrids, allowing you to utilize a touch-screen and work on the device without a keyboard or mouse. Depending on your needs, either can be useful.
The laptop’s operating system should be the next thing to consider. You will need to decide whether you’re looking for a Mac or PC, and spend some time researching the options for both. If it’s important to you to sync your laptop with a smartphone or tablet, it may be worthwhile choosing the same operating system across all of your devices.
Finally, it’s a good idea to look at the specific details of the laptop, including its memory, processing power, graphics capabilities and software compatibility. If you know what you’ll be using the computer for, you’ll have an easier time judging whether the available features of a specific model are right for you.
Considering Your Budget
The best laptop for college use should also be affordable. You don’t want to buy a computer that’s too cheap and low-quality to perform the functions you require, but you also don’t want to sacrifice your book or gas money on an over-powered machine.
This is why it’s a good idea to honestly assess your budget first to determine how much you can afford. You can then limit your shopping to the most likely contenders within your price range and avoid the struggle of finding the perfect machine only to discover that it’s outside of your budget.
Prices can vary depending on the style of laptop and what additional features it may come with. Some of the most affordable laptops for college students are small, lightweight and designed primarily for browsing the internet. They may double as tablets. On the higher end, more powerful laptops will be more expensive, especially if they have a lot of processing power and high graphics capabilities. For most purposes, a college student should expect to pay between $200 and $1,000 for a laptop, with most models falling somewhere in the middle.
Top 3 College Laptops for 2020
There are many available laptops on the market, but these are some of the best laptops for college students this year. If you’re shopping for a new laptop, start your search here; even if you don’t choose one of these, seeing the variety of available options can help to guide your search.
Best All-Around Multi-Tasker
With its Intel Core i5-5200U processor and 8GB of DDR4 memory, this mid-size laptop has plenty of power and versatility. The 15.6-inch screen gives plenty of space for working on projects or watching movies without making the laptop too big to fit into a book bag, and with 12 hours of battery life, it can outlast any long study session.
The laptop comes equipped with built-in stereo speakers, five USB ports, built-in HD webcam, DVD drive, SD card reader and backlit keyboard. It comes pre-loaded with Windows 10 and Cortana.
At about $700 new, this laptop is not one of the most affordable on the market but it is a good value for its power. Refurbished models purchased from the manufacturer are cheaper, available for less than $600.
– An extra 8GB card of RAM can be added, providing a total of 16 GB.
– The SSD hard drive provides significantly better speed and load times.
– It can run most modern games without problems.
– Excellent processing speeds and graphics quality make it ideal for streaming or watching DVDs.
– Fast loading times for online browsing.
– The CPU is less powerful than a dedicated gaming laptop.
– 12 hours of battery is a best-case scenario; expect closer to 8 hours for regular use.
– Office Suite and antivirus software must be purchased separately.
– The battery cannot be removed and replaced.
– Some users have reported problems with the screen being especially delicate or flimsy.
– Some users have reported trouble connecting to wifi during setup.
Best Laptop for Creative Arts Majors
For students studying art, film, photography or animation, some special features must be taken into consideration. For years, Mac OSX has been the preferred choice for artists and those studying creative endeavors. Many of the best software applications for creatives are native to Mac, and if you know you’ll be working with these programs, you deserve the best MacBook in your budget.
Despite the small 12-inch screen, this MacBook has a mighty 2304 x 1440 screen resolution, providing crisp images and a brilliant display for all of your projects. With an average battery life of 10 hours, this slender 3.2-pound machine is perfect for working on the go.
The 1.1 GHz processor and 256GB SSD provide plenty of speed and power to run all of your favorite apps. It is a pricier option, available for $1,268, but it is a powerful and well-designed college laptop for people who need everything a Mac has to offer.
– Sleek, lightweight design available in four colors: gold, silver, rose gold, space grey.
– High-resolution screen is perfect for graphic design and similar projects.
– Compatible with all OSX apps for aspiring creatives.
– Small, lightweight and easy to carry in a backpack.
– Built-in speakers with great sound quality.
– Not as powerful as the MacBook Pro.
– There’s a learning curve for people not accustomed to using OSX.
– More expensive than many college budgets.
With 2GB of RAM and just 32 GB SSD, this laptop lacks the power and capacity of the others on this list. However, its highly affordable price point of just over $200 makes it an attractive option for college students on a budget, and it’s one of the most durable and sturdy economy models available.
This ultra-portable 2-pound laptop has a 13.3-inch screen with a 1366 x 768 resolution and Intel HD Graphics card. It lacks the memory and processing to handle intensive tasks like gaming or graphic design, but what it lacks in power it makes up for in durability. If you need a laptop that can survive the rigors of your day-to-day life, this work-horse is perfect for you.
– Available in four bright colors: cobalt blue, violet/purple, horizon blue and orchid magenta.
– Comes equipped with Windows 10 and a one-year subscription to Office 365.
– Strong but sleek design holds up to wear and tear.
– Highly affordable.
– Not enough processor strength or storage to handle most games or intensive software.
– Comes with standard software the user may not want.
– Battery is built-in and cannot be removed.
– No capacity for upgrades.
If you’re looking at laptops for college students, these options may give you a great place to start. As long as you take the time before shopping to consider your budget and needs, you can search for a laptop that will meet all of your requirements while staying within your budget.