Best Laptops For College 2022

The best laptops for students in 2022, from MacBooks to Chromebooks, plus the best student discounts

What makes the best laptop for students? It’s a combination of portability, connectivity and price, with today’s students likely to be Wi-Fi warriors who use their machines on the go and who attend lectures via Zoom as well as in the flesh.

In recent years, there’s been a trend towards ultra-slim machines that don’t skimp on performance (sparked by Apple’s MacBook Air and its many imitators), so there are some extremely powerful laptops which can easily be carried in a bag, most of which make a good laptop for students.

Other laptops bridge the gap between tablet and traditional laptop, with detachable keyboards and swivelling screens for added portability. Below, I explain how to choose the best laptop for university, but if you're pressed for time, here's a quick look at this year's best.

At a glance - the best laptops for students in 2022

Best overall – Apple Macbook Air

Best for gamers – ASUS ROG Zephyrus G14

Best for portability – Lenovo Yoga Slim 7i Carbon

Best for battery life – LG Gram

Best for power – Huawei Matebook

Best budget laptop – Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 2

Best Chromebook – Samsung Galaxy Chromebook 2 360

So what are the ingredients for a great student laptop? I spoke to Charles Griffiths, Head of Innovation and Technology at IT services provider AAG, who has long experience sourcing technology for the education sector, about the best student laptop deals.

Charles says, “You don't need the most expensive student laptop on the market, but you also don't want the cheapest one either. Find something that's in the middle. Mid-range laptops tend to be more durable than the cheapest options, so it's best to choose something that will last the length of your course to find a good laptop for students .”

Student discount laptops

It’s worth noting that students can benefit from steep discounts and student laptop deals when buying from manufacturers including Apple, Dell, Lenovo and Samsung, Griffiths says.

Apple and Dell student discounts range from 10% up to 20% depending on device, so it’s always worth Googling, for example, "ASUS student discount", so that you can find out if there are any student discount laptops available.

How to choose the best student laptops

When picking the best laptop for university students, think closely about what you actually need, Griffiths advises.

Both RAM and storage are measured in gigabytes, or GB. More gigabytes of storage means you've got more room for files and applications. RAM, meanwhile, is your computer's working memory. A higher RAM will mean a faster, more capable machine.

Four gigabytes of RAM should be fine for a general purpose student laptop, Griffiths says, handling basic tasks such as email, web browsing and word processing.

“If you plan on using the laptop for more demanding tasks like video editing or gaming, I would suggest one with 8GB or 16GB RAM. If your studies require the use of demanding software, for example; engineering, video editing and music production will require a more powerful processor. Intel’s Core i7 and Apple's M1 and M2 chip processors are a popular choice that allow you to create, edit and share 4K content smoothly.”

When choosing storage, 256GB will offer ample room, says Griffiths. But if you use cloud storage and external hard drives, it’s possible to get away with an 128GB solid state drive (SSD), which will usually lower the price considerably.

Some laptops come in the form of a tablet or convertible, offering creative students a way to write or draw on screens, and a good ‘half-way house’ between tablets and laptops - but Griffiths warns on hidden costs with such machines.

He says, “It’s worth noting that additional elements of a tablet such as pens and detachable keyboards can add up to be quite costly and sometimes cost more than a decent laptop. For students whose courses are heavily essay based or require the use of complex software, a good student laptop is probably more suitable and a safer bet.”

Griffiths says that if he was shopping for student laptops himself, he would probably opt for a MacBook Air, due to how light and portable it is. He also praises Microsoft’s Surface machines and Dell laptops. “The new Macbook Air with the new M1 processor is ultraportable, fast, super quiet and still reasonably priced,” he says.

Student Laptops – The Right Fit

“What kind of computer do I need?” is a common question from incoming students.

While some schools and colleges don’t require a personal computer, having one makes college life much easier. If you decide to bring a computer to Mizzou, it’s important to get the right computer for you and your major. Be sure to check Let Your Major Be Your Guide for recommendations.

Since college students are always on the move, bringing a laptop is the popular choice on campus. Some students prefer to use a tablet for digital textbooks, in addition to using a laptop. DoIT provides computing sites for student use across campus and in residence hall groups, where desktop computers, printers, and specialized software are available.

You can bring your computer from home or purchase a new one. Check out the recommendations below to help you make the right laptop decisions.

Best Laptops For College 2022

Whether it's taking notes, working on your latest research paper, or binge-watching Netflix, the biggest necessity for any college student is a laptop. You'll want one that's easy to tote around from class to class, has solid battery life, and packs a powerful enough processor to keep up with your workload, even when you're struggling to do the same. And, let's not forget an SSD so you can boot up quick at the start of class.

We're sure there's a long list of criteria for your dream laptop, and we want to be sure you choose the one that makes the grade. There are plenty of great-quality, long-lasting machines to get you through the next few years, so it would take a while to research exactly which models are best for you. So, we've gone ahead and done the homework for you. Check out some of our favorite student-friendly laptops

TL;DR – These are the Best College Laptops:

HP Pavilion Aero 13

Best Laptop for College

HP Pavilion Aero 13 6 See on Amazon

Display: 13.3” FHD (1,920 x 1,200) IPS Anti-glare | CPU: AMD Ryzen 5 5625U | GPU: AMD Radeon Graphics | RAM: 8GB | Storage: 512GB NVMe SSD | Weight: 2.2 pounds | Size: 11.72" x 8.23" x 0.67"

HP’s Pavilion Aero 13 is a solid all-around option offering a lot of bang for your buck. This laptop is available for under $700, but you’re getting a device that feels like it should come at a higher premium. Its internals are packed inside a sturdy magnesium chassis — no cheap plastic —- and weighs just 2.2 pounds. So, you can toss it in your bag without worry when you're running to and from classes. The FHD 13-inch display also rocks a work-friendly 16:10 aspect ratio. There’s even an anti-glare finish and 400-nit peak brightness, making for easy viewing even if you study outdoors from time to time.

Despite its price and low weight, the HP Pavilion Aero 13 comes running a six-core, 12-thread AMD Ryzen 5 5625U processor. That’s plenty of performance to handle your school workload. The base 8GB of memory and 512GB of NVMe SSD storage should serve most students well, as it can handle multitasking, video editing, and some casual gaming. If you’re worried about the battery conking out part way through class, you get over 10 hours of juice on each charge to keep you covered all day. There’s even a quick charge feature, boosting the battery from 0% to 50% in just 30 mins.

Microsoft Surface Go 3

Best Budget Laptop for College

Microsoft Surface Go 3 2 See on Amazon

Display: 10.5” (1,920 x 1,280) PixelSense Display | CPU: Intel Core i3-10100Y | GPU: Intel HD Graphics 615 | RAM: 8GB DDR3 | Storage: 128GB SSD | Weight: 1.2 pounds | Size: 9.65” x 6.9” x 0.33”

If you’re sticking to mostly research and writing on your laptop, then you can get by with an extra lightweight machine that’s also light on the wallet. The Microsoft Surface Go 3 is a tablet that totes all those attributes and gives you the flexibility of the latest Windows OS. Even when you’re hiking across campus from class to class, you’ll be happy to tote along this device weighing under 1.2 pounds. You even get a high-resolution 10.5-inch touchscreen display perfect for note-taking or sketching. But most importantly, this tablet should last through even your busiest school days thanks to an 11-hour battery life. Plus, it features fast-charging option so you can juice up your tablet quickly before class.

The Surface Go 3 packs some genuine greatness under the hood, too. This particular model runs on a surprisingly decent Intel Core i3-10100Y processor with a solid 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. Now, these aren’t the best specs out there, but it provides plenty of oomph, especially for a tablet. You’ll have no problem drafting documents, browsing the web, or streaming a Netflix show. Heck, you might be able to do some modest gaming. It's important to note that this model doesn’t include a keyboard, so you’ll have to factor in a travel keyboard as an added cost.

Apple MacBook Air M2

Best MacBook for College

Apple MacBook Air M2 12 See on Amazon

Display: 13.6" (2,560 x 1,664) Liquid Retina | CPU: Apple M2 | GPU: Integrated | RAM: 8GB (up to 24 GB) Unified Memory | Storage: 256GB SSD (up to 2TB) | Weight: 2.7 pounds | Size: 11.97" x 8.46" x 0.44"

Apple's latest MacBook Air is hands-down the best MacBook for college students, and there are some exciting upgrades to this new model. You now get a slightly larger display, coming in at 13.6 inches, though it still manages to be lightweight and super portable for taking along to class. There’s also a new 1080p camera to look stellar during online classes or FaceTiming friends and family back home. MagSafe charging is even available, making juicing up easy. However, the processors got the biggest upgrade— you now get Apple’s own M2 chip.

The Apple M2 features four high-performance cores and four high-efficiency cores, letting it speed through some tasks while sipping energy when doing more basic work. That all translates to an extended battery life that makes hopping from class to class a lot easier. Even the 8-cores on the integrated GPU are faster than the M1, so you'll be able to get a bit of gaming in when you need a break from homework. The improved Neutral Engine should also accelerate AI and machine learning. Plus, with support for iOS apps on the MacBook Air, you'll have plenty of ways to tackle your schoolwork and social life.

Microsoft Surface Laptop 5

Best "Windows-alternative" MacBook for College

Microsoft Surface Laptop 5 0 See on Amazon

Display: 13.5” (‎2256 x 1504) LCD | CPU: Intel Core i5-1235U | GPU: Intel Iris Xe Graphics | RAM: 8GB

LPDDR5X | Storage: 512GB NVMe SSD | Weight: 2.69 pounds | Size: ‎‎12.1" x 8.8" x 0.57"

Just like Apple’s Macbook Air, the Microsoft Surface Laptop 5 has a refined, toteable design that checks all the right boxes for students. Under the hood is a 12th gen Intel Core i5 processor paired with 8GB of LPDDR5X memory, providing enough muscle to speed along through research papers. However, if you want to game on this machine, you’ll probably be limited to streaming from the cloud.

The Surface Laptop 5 includes a solid 13.5-inch display with a sharp 2256 x 1504 resolution that gets surprisingly bright. And unlike Apple's MacBooks, it supports touch inputs and even precise stylus input. Microsoft packs all of this capability into a 2.69-pound package that's only a little over a half-inch thick while offering an all-day battery life despite its size.

MSI Sword

Best Gaming Laptop for College

Display: 15.6” FHD (1,920 x 1,080) 144Hz | CPU: Intel Core i5-12450H | GPU: Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 Ti (4GB GDDR6 VRAM) | RAM: 8GB DDR4 (3,200MHz) | Storage: 512GB NVMe SSD | Weight: 4.96 pounds | Size: 14.13" x 10.20" x 0.98"

Bringing your gaming PC to school probably isn't an option, so the next best thing is a gaming laptop . And, you’ll love the MSI Sword when it blasts through competitors in your favorite games. Of course, this is after you've finished your schoolwork. This gaming laptop is souped-up with an Intel Core i5-12450H processor and Nvidia RTX 3050Ti, giving it more than enough power to make full use of its 15.6-inch, 1080p 144Hz display. And, with 8GB of RAM, you should have little trouble multitasking. So in between heated Overwatch sessions, you can open tons of tabs in your browser to tackle a big research assignment.

The MSI Sword manages to be super affordable on top of its capability. It comes in under $1,000 but will have no problem cruising through even the most intensive of games. There’s also 512GB of storage, which is a good amount of space for your gaming library, but you may want to add another SSD for your school assignments. Speaking of school, MSI has managed to keep this laptop under five pounds, so you’ll have no problem taking it between classes.

Acer Swift 5

Best Lightweight Laptop for College

Display: 14” (2560 x 1600) 425-nit IPS touchscreen | CPU: Intel Core i7-1260P | GPU: Intel Iris Xe Graphics | RAM: 16GB LPDDR5 | Storage: 1TB NVMe SSD | Weight: 2.65 pounds | Size: 12.22" x 8.4" x 0.59"

The Acer Swift 5 won’t hold you back whether you’re doing your school work or getting from class to class, as it’s rocking an ultra-lightweight design and thin chassis for ultimate portability. If you want to enjoy the great outdoors while studying, the crisp IPS touch display even hits 425-nit brightness to ensure you can still see the screen. And the 9.5-hour battery life lets you keep up with your assignments while sipping on the battery for even long days away from an outlet.

Despite being conveniently compact, the Acer Swift 5 features powerful internals with its 12-core Intel Core i7 processor and 16GB of memory for a snappy response. It’s truly a multitasking maven, so you can run several applications and go overboard with the number of tabs open in your browser. And 1TB of storage will let you keep all your schoolwork on the laptop while providing a little space for casual games, which the Intel Iris Xe Graphics can handle.

Lenovo ThinkBook 14S Yoga Gen 2

Best 2-in-1 Laptop for College

Lenovo ThinkBook 14S Yoga Gen 2 0 See on Amazon

Display: 14” FHD (1,920 x 1,080) 300-nit IPS Touchscreen | CPU: Intel Core i7-1255U | GPU: Intel Iris Xe Graphics | RAM: 16GB DDR4 | Storage: 512GB NVMe SSD | Weight: 3.3 pounds | Size: 12.6" x 8.62" x 0.67"

Lenovo has a knack for making quality laptops that pack plenty of performance into an affordable package, and that carries over to its extensive series of 2-in-1 laptops like the Lenovo ThinkBook 14S Yoga. At a price hovering right around $1000, you get a 14-inch, Full HD display that supports stylus and touch inputs, making it ideal for those looking to take advantage of its 360-degree hinge to use it like a tablet when designing or editing. In fact, it comes with a stylus that conveniently slots into the chassis.

Beyond this machine’s handy convertible nature, it’s powerful enough to chug through all your papers and research—or streaming shows, movies, and some games while taking a break from coursework. That’s thanks to its combination of an Intel Core i7-1255U and 16GB RAM. The Lenovo ThinkBook 14S Yoga also blows most of our other picks out of the water in terms of connectivity, as it’s packing a USB-C 3.2 Gen 2 port, a Thunderbolt 4 port, an HDMI port, two USB-A ports, and a micro SD card reader.

Dell XPS 13

Most Portable Laptop for College

Dell XPS 13 0 See on Dell

Display: 13.4” FHD+ (1,920 x 1,200) 500-nit Anti-glare | CPU: Intel Core 1230U | GPU: Intel Iris Xe Graphics| RAM: 8GB LPDDR5 (5,200MHz) | Storage: 512GB NVMe SSD | Weight: 2.59 pounds | Size: 11.63" x 7.86" x 0.55"

Dell's XPS 13 line never fails to impress. It's been a staple workhorse among students and business users for a while, and somehow Dell continues to figure out ways to make it better. With the XPS 13, you get a thin and lightweight build, which features a 13.4-inch Full HD+ anti-glare display with 500-nit brightness. So, it’ll be easy to see everything under the bright fluorescents in the classroom or get work done in the quad on a sunny day outside. The battery can also keep up as you shuffle from class to class, but if you forget to charge it up, an express charge feature can boost you up to 80% in less than one hour.

Our favorite version of the XPS 13 comes in just under $1,000 and is packing a 12th generation Intel Core i5 processor along with 8GB of RAM and 512GB of storage. These internals should have no problem blasting through your coursework, and when you’re ready to take a break, it can take on some light gaming, too. However, if you think you might need more oomph, there are plenty of upgrade options available.

Google PixelBook Go

Best Chromebook For College

Display: 13.3” (1,920 x 1,080) Full HD Touchscreen Display | CPU: Intel Core m3 | GPU: Intel HD Graphics 615 | RAM: 8GB | Storage: 64GB SSD | Weight: 2.3 pounds | Size: 12.2" x 8.1" x 0.5"

Leave it to Google to set the standard for a device running on its own operating system. Chromebooks stand out for their effiency and affordability, and Google nails that with the PixelBook Go. This compact device is perfect for students running around campus and offers up a 13.3-inch display that has ample sharpness with a Full HD resolution.

It's powered by an 8th-Gen Intel Core m3 processor, which may not boast much horsepower, but the 12 hours of battery life might make up for that. And, with 8GB of RAM, this Chromebook is ready for all your multitasking when working on term papers or studying for an exam. Google Assistant is also baked right in, so you can easily set reminders for due dates and school activities.

What to look for in a Laptop for College

You may have noticed that the laptops for college we've chosen aren't bangers that are going to wow you with incredible performance and the most premium designs. This is all on purpose. When you're in college, you won't need the absolute best laptops available on the market. Rather, what students need is a reliable, entry- to mid-level machine with enough computing horsepower and battery life to get you through the day.

For everyday schoolwork, basic web browsing and word processing, most students can even get away with a Chromebook. But if you want a machine capable of more than running web applications and Android apps, a Windows laptop or MacBook is what you should buy.

Once you've decided on which OS you want to work on, your processor is what you should be looking at next. Intel Core i5 and AMD Ryzen 5 processors are mid-level mobile CPUs equipped with mobile graphics, which should be more than capable of any school projects you take on. That said, students enrolled in visual and creative classes will want a machine powered by at least an Intel Core i7 or AMD Ryzen 7 processor.

Those working with 3D modeling, video editing and other graphically intensive programs should also look into a laptop with discrete graphics options. The integrated graphics built into mobile CPUs are just not capable of keeping up with these demanding applications—though AMD's integrated Vega graphics have proven to be surprisingly powerful.

In terms of memory and storage, almost always go for a machine with at least 8GB of memory (or RAM) and some amount of SSD storage, the latter of which will make your machine run so much faster than a hard drive. If the notebook you're looking at only has room for one storage drive and it happens to be a solid-state drive, ensure that you chose a configuration with at least 256GB of storage space, which should be more than enough room to get through a semester. Once again those enrolled in a more creative curriculum that has them producing media should configure or upgrade their machine with larger SSDs and hard drive storage.

Should you start running out of capacity before the school term is over, there's always the option of offloading your older data to an external hard drive or upgrading your machine with a larger drive yourself.

Jason Cipriani has covered technology full-time for the past 8 years. During that time he has freelanced for the likes of CNET, Fortune, Time, ZDNet, Macworld, Wired, and TechRadar.

Danielle Abraham is a freelance writer and unpaid music historian.

Hunter Jones

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