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The Best Laptops for College Students of 2021

The wrong laptop can be detrimental to online quizzes, assignments and classes. These choices are well-suited for a college student’s needs.

Every editorial product is independently selected, though we may be compensated or receive an affiliate commission if you buy something through our links. Ratings and prices are accurate and items are in stock as of time of publication.

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College student sitting outside with a laptopaldomurillo/Getty Images

Choosing the Best Laptop for College

College students spend hundreds of dollars on textbooks and other university essentials each semester, but one school supply is more important than the rest: a laptop.

Most assignments are completed and submitted online these days. And some classes are completely virtual — more than ever these days. For these reasons, the best laptops for college students have a built-in camera, microphone and any program-specific needs, such as clear graphics for art and design students. Before making a purchase, consult your program director to see if a certain model is required for all students.

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Dell Xps 13 Laptopvia Amazon

Best Overall: Dell XPS 13

The Dell XPS is a great all-around solid laptop for college students — and anyone. It comes with 16 GB of RAM, 512 GB of SSD space, a touchscreen, backlit keyboard, a full HD display, bluetooth and an Intel Core i7 processor, giving it enough power for everyday use with plenty to spare for streaming, gaming or other activities when you’re not studying. This laptop will let’s you do everything.

The flicker-free, anti-glare screen will help reduce eye strain during those marathon cramming sessions. It weighs less than three pounds, so you can haul it around between classes without straining your back. And it will fit on those tiny flip-up desks in college classrooms. With a 14-hour battery life, you won’t have to constantly search for an outlet. It’s got a headphone jack, two Thunderbolt ports and a microSD card reader built into it, plus it comes with a USB-A adapter.

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Best Two-in-One Laptop: HP Envy x360

Students who prefer e-books over paper copies will appreciate this two-in-one model. Touchscreens are more user friendly for reading online, so instead of buying and juggling two devices they can turn the HP Envy x360 into a tablet on demand. This study tool comes in several styles, including 16 GB RAM, 512 SSD and Intel Core i7 — like the Dell XPS 13, but with USB and HDMI compatibility.

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Best Chromebook: Google Pixelbook Go

Chromebooks are known for their simplicity and affordability. The Google Pixelbook Go boasts 12 hours of battery life and lightning-fast charging speeds. This is a great laptop for college students who prefer Google products and programs. It ranges in price depending on the amount of memory you need, with options between 8 GB and 16 GB of RAM, as well as 64 GB and 256 GB of hard drive space.

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Best Laptop for College Students on a Budget: Acer Swift 3

The Acer Swift 3 is a trusty, budget-friendly piece of essential school technology. It will let you do the basics like writing papers, creating presentations, video calling and taking online exams. It has all the traditional ports — USB, USB Type-C, HDMI and an audio jack — so you won’t need to buy those adaptors. And it’s hundreds of dollars cheaper than some of the other models on this list. Depending on your needs, the AMD Ryzen 7 processor may be preferable to an Intel version.

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Best Laptop for Creative College Students: Apple MacBook Pro

For students studying the arts, Apple products are optimal. Macs are known for high-end graphics, and they’re popular in professional creative industries like graphic design and photography. The Apple MacBook Pro is significantly more expensive than any other item on this list. But if you have the budget for it, it’s worth the splurge. You can get it with an Intel Core i7 or i9, and you can also choose 512 GB or one TB of storage. The latest 13-in. model is a little cheaper than the 16-in. version, and it also features Apple’s new M1 chip, which gives the machine’s speed a nice boost.

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Gaming Laptop: Alienware M15 R4

Of course, college is all about balancing work and play, and a large portion of college students like to play video games during their down time. For a powerful computer that will transition seamlessly between a day of online classes, a gaming marathon and the newest Netflix docuseries, the Alienware M15 R4 is the way to go. This is a splurge item. The top-tier options include an Intel Core i9 processor, four TB of hard drive space and 32 GB of RAM memory.

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Affordable Gaming Laptop: Lenovo Legion 5

If you want a laptop with gaming capacity but don’t need the big name, there are plenty of more budget-friendly computers with high functionality and sharp graphics. The Lenovo Legion 5 is one highly-rated model. The 15.6-in. full HD screen and the 4GB GeForce GTX 1650 graphics card make for smooth, bright on-screen experience. One of the perks of using a gaming laptop for college is that they usually have an ethernet port. This model is also highly customizable if you’re looking to add storage or upgrade other parts for your needs. Directly connecting your computer to the ethernet lowers your chances of missing a quiz due to slow or spotty WiFi.

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