The 14 Best Laptops for College Students of 2019
Our editors independently research, test, and recommend the best products; you can learn more about our review process here. We may receive commissions on purchases made from our chosen links.
Best Overall: Acer Aspire E 15 E5-576-392H
The latest Acer Aspire model is the ideal mix of value and performance that’s built to last through all your college years. It’s also significantly cheaper than most high-end laptops, which college students can truly appreciate. First off, it contains an 8th-Generation Intel Core i3 processor, 6GB dual-channel memory, and a 1TB hard drive. It also features Intel Turbo Boost Technology for smooth video streaming and high-speed performance, along with a long-lasting 13.5-hour battery. The hardware should satisfy the needs of most college students, but if your workload is particularly demanding, then upgrading the memory or hard drive is a simple process — just open the easy-access compartment in the bottom of the laptop to replace the parts.
The Acer Aspire is built for both work and entertainment. The 15.6-inch screen features full HD resolution, although the color isn’t as vibrant as some of its competitors. This model is also on the heavier side at 5.27 pounds. However, it comes with a DVD drive, SD slot, and has port space for USB 3.0, 2.0, Type-C, as well as Ethernet and HDMI inputs. As an added bonus, you can even charge your USB-connected devices when the laptop is powered down.
Want to take a look at some other options? See our guide to the best Acer laptops.
Best Under $500: HP 15-BS013DX
If you have a $500 budget to play with, you’ll have no trouble finding a value laptop suitable for college students. Right now, our favorite is the HP 15-BS013DX which delivers a 15.6-inch touchscreen, an Intel i3-7100U processor, a 1 TB hard drive (AKA tons of storage), and a full 8 G of RAM to keep things responsive and smooth. The Intel HD Graphics 620 card will run some decent games when you need to take a break from your studies, too. Add Bluetooth, two USB 3.1 plugs, and an HDMI port, and you’ve got a killer machine that will feel equally at home in the coffee shop as in the class (or dorm) room.
While it might be a bit unwieldy at 15″ x 10″ x 0.9″ and 4.5 pounds, the trade-off in power and ability is well worth the extra heft. Reviewers on Best Buy really like the features included (touch screen, more RAM, etc.) for the price — especially if you’ll be doing little more than surfing the web, streaming videos, and typing up Word documents.
Best for Portability: Apple MacBook
While the MacBook Air was once called the thinnest and lightest laptop ever, the title has been ceded to Apple’s latest output: the 12-inch MacBook. Weighing just 2.03 pounds and measuring 0.52 inches thick, the MacBook is extremely portable, but also hosts a ton of higher-end specs, like a Retina IPS-backlit screen that shows over three million pixels at 2304 x 1440 resolution, an Intel Core M 1.1 GHz processor, an HD Graphics 5300 chip, and LED-backlit keys.
MacOS is one of the best operating systems out there for those of us who just want things to work but aren’t ready to make the jump to online-only Chromebooks. You’ll also get 8 GB RAM (configurable up to 16 GB) and 256GB of fast SSD storage, 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, and a host of ports, including USB 3.1, Display, and Audio ports. Add to that a Force-Touch trackpad that can manage multi-touch gestures, and you’ve got a super-portable powerhouse (with up to ten hours of battery life) that will keep you productive and satisfied wherever you are on campus. You can pick one up in one of four metal finishes: silver, space gray, gold, or rose gold.
Best for Engineering Students: ASUS T8TJG
If you need a powerful workhorse of a machine for heavy engineering simulations, you won’t find much better than the ASUS T8TJG convertible laptop. While it’s marketed as a gaming rig, the T8TJG comes with enough power, graphics, and storage to make your engineering life just as sweet. The flip and fold design lets you use the T8TJG as either a laptop or a tablet, and the keyboard is backlit for working on your homework late into the night. You’ll get a bright, 15.6-inch touchscreen with 1920 x 1080 resolution, an NVIDIA 2GB GeForce 940MX graphics card, and an Intel Core i7-7500 2.7 GHz dual-core processor along with a full 16 GB of RAM and a 2 TB hard drive.
TheASUS T8TJG’s four-cell lithium-ion battery will keep you running heavy workloads, while you’ll have a ton of ports to stay connected: one USB 3.0, one USB 2.0, a headphone/mic jack, and an HDMI port capable of connecting to classroom projectors so you can show off your latest 3D models. The T8TJG is 0.9-inches thick and weighs 5.07 pounds — a bit heavy, sure, but the power (and price) is well worth it.
Best for Visual Art and Design Students: Apple 15-inch MacBook Pro (2018)
The gold-standard for powerful, durable, rugged laptops is the MacBook Pro. While this line of high-end computing devices is never going to be on anyone’s budget list, students in the graphic arts, film, or other creative fields will definitely benefit from a MacBook Pro purchase. The base model comes with a 2.2 GHz 6-core Intel Core i7 processor that you can boost up to 4.1 GHz, a gorgeous Retina display with new True Tone color technology, a fancy Touch Bar across the top of the keyboard, and Touch ID for unlocking your ‘Book with your fingerprint. The 4G Radeon Pro 555X will let you get visually creative as well as run some decent gaming sessions, and the 16 GB of Ram and 256 GB SSD will make sure you have enough storage and power to run your apps and games.
The new MacBook Pro also comes with four Thunderbolt 3 ports (which support USB-C 3.1 as well), a responsive backlit keyboard, and with macOS, the operating system of choice for creative types. At 4.02 pounds and height of .61 inches, this powerhouse is also pretty portable and will stay charged through 10 hours of straight use.
Want to take a look at some other options? See our guide to the best MacBooks.
How We Tested
We bought five top-rated laptops for college students that our reviewers tested for more than 100 hours. We asked our testers to consider the most important features when using these laptops, from their operating system to their durability. We’ve outlined the key takeaways here so that you, too, know what to look for when shopping.
What to Look for in a College Laptop
Operating system – Apple’s Macs are known for having an intuitive interface that’s sleek and ideal for designers, while Windows PCs are capable of more customization and are often better suited for productivity.
Portability – If you need something that’s easy to toss into your backpack, you might prefer a smaller and lighter model like a two-in-one. However, if you’re mostly working in your dorm, a larger laptop might not be so cumbersome. For creative or design students, a larger screen is likely necessary.
Budget – Between buying textbooks and planning spring break, college doesn’t come cheap. If you’re looking to save a few dollars on a laptop, you can still get plenty of premium features, like a cutting-edge processor or advanced security features. If you’ve got some cash to spare, you might be more comfortable splurging on a MacBook, which has unrivaled displays.
Test Results: Acer Aspire E 15 E5-576-392H (Best Overall)
What We Like
Extensive battery life
This laptop came highly recommended by our testers as an overall good value. “It offers a great-quality display, relatively high speeds, an easy setup, and a great operating system (Windows 10),” remarked one of our reviewers. Our testers also enjoyed the long battery life. In terms of negatives, one of our reviewers reported “frequent issues with internet connectivity,” which didn’t happen with another laptop, and also didn’t like all of the pre-installed software. But while one of our testers wished the laptop were more lightweight, she declared, “For an everyday budget laptop, this is a great choice.”
Test Results: ASUS Chromebook C202SA-YS02 11.6-Inch (Best for Durability)
What We Like
Impressive battery life
One of our testers liked the “no frills” approach this Chromebook takes to give students exactly what they need for class. She said, “For the price, this has everything you need for school or home — docs and sheets, a camera, Internet access, and durability.” This laptop’s battery life also gets an A+ from our testers: “For school, I’m positive this computer would last a full day,” said one, “and likely have time for homework back at home.”
Test Results: Acer Chromebook R 11 Convertible, 11.6-Inch HD Touch Screen (Best 2-in-1)
What We Like
Our testers loved the fact that this laptop was integrated with Google, reporting that it made it easier for them to power through daily tasks. One of our reviewers also raved about its speed and responsiveness, saying it was “intuitive” and a “joy” to use. However, one of our testers did experience some ghost clicking, which caused the cursor to click on things when the user didn’t mean to. (This can usually be remedied by restarting the computer.)
Test Results: ASUS ZenBook S (Best Lightweight)
What We Like
Crisp screen display
Comes with case
Our testers loved that the ZenBook S was slim and portable: “You can easily hold it in one hand or carry in a small bag. I liked how it felt compact,” one wrote. Our reviewers also reported that the laptop has a crisp screen display, great-quality sound, and impressive battery life. One of our testers summed it up: “I felt the computer met and exceeded expectations for working quickly and being easy to use.”
Test Results: HP 15-BS013DX (Best Under $500)
Our tester felt that this laptop’s battery life was good compared to similar models. He also liked its design but wished that its touchscreen was more pleasant to use: “Something about the glossy screen causes the finger to stick and skid across instead of sliding smoothly,” he said. Other negatives were that it comes with too much bloatware and that it doesn’t have a full HD display. Overall, he thought that “you can get better overall specifications and performance for less money, but this is a budget-priced laptop that performs well enough.”