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Best laptop for college 2019: Top performers for students

Best laptop for college
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Welcome to our list of the best laptops for college students in 2019. With so many laptops on the market these days, it can be daunting knowing which device is best for you. 

If you aren't planning on using any complex software and just want to take notes and write papers, a Chromebook or budget laptop might fit the bill. They are slim, durable, and most importantly, cheap. 

Whereas if your major requires you to use Adobe software, CAD software or plenty of storage space in general, you'll want something more heavy duty – but that will cost you more. 

Of course, heading off to collage isn't just about all work and no play. If you're looking for a laptop that can entertain you during downtime between classes, then an affordable gaming laptop could be the ideal college laptop to take with you.

So, let us take you through our top picks for laptops to help you determine which device is right for you. 

Chromebooks

College students who only need a laptop that allows them to take notes and research online will benefit from Chromebooks. They tend to have less power and memory than other laptops, but they are reliable and inexpensive. Here's our pick of the best Chromebooks for college students.

Asus Chromebook Flip

(Image credit: Asus)

Asus Chromebook Flip

The best Chromebook for college students

CPU: Intel Pentium 4405Y – Intel Core m3-6Y30 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 515 | RAM: 4GB | Screen: 12.5-inch, FHD (1,920 x 1,080) LED backlit anti-glare | Storage: 32GB – 64GB eMMC

Elegant tablet mode
Tactile keyboard
No out-of-box Android app support
Middling speakers

The Asus Chromebook Flip is our pick for the best Chromebook for students. Despite its low price, it's got a fantastic design with a powerful Intel Core processor and 1080p display. So, it's ideal for college work, with enough power to run Chrome OS quickly and smoothly. For researching on the web, writing up reports and creating presentations, Chromebooks like the Asus Chromebook Flip are ideal, and its ultra-long battery life will make sure you don't run out of juice halfway through a lecture. Best of all, the Asus Chromebook Flip can be used as a laptop, or by flipping back the keyboard it can act as a tablet-like device, or put into 'tent mode' to watch videos on.

Dell Inspiron Chromebook 11 2-in-1

(Image credit: Dell)

Dell Inspiron Chromebook 11 2-in-1

Another great Chromebook for students

CPU: Intel Celeron N3060 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 400 | RAM: 4GB | Screen: 11.6-inch, HD (1366 x 768) touchscreen | Storage: 32GB-64GB eMMC

Durable
Long battery life
Not very powerful

The Dell Inspiron Chromebook 11 2-in-1 is another great example of a Chromebook that's ideal for students. It's cheap, but well put together and while there's no CD or DVD drive, you can easily access Google Docs, which allows you to save all your documents to the Google cloud, which means even if something happens to your computer, your documents will be saved online. For web browsing, document creation and even streaming videos via YouTube or Netflix, the Dell Inspiron Chromebook 11 2-in-1 is a fantastic choice to take with you to college.

Inexpensive Laptops

If you're looking for inexpensive school laptops, don't worry, they really do exist, and we've picked two of the best sub $500 laptops that make brilliant laptops for college students. When buying a cheap laptop for college, you'll have to make some compromises, so don't expect the most powerful laptops that can play the latest games and have ultra-thin designs. However, you don't need to make too many sacrifices, as the following laptops demonstrate.

Microsoft Surface Go

(Image credit: Microsoft)

Microsoft Surface Go

The best laptop under $500 so far

CPU: Intel Pentium Gold 4415Y | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 615 | RAM: 4GB - 8GB | Screen: 10.5-inch 1,800 x 1,200 PixelSense touch display | Storage: 64GB eMMC - 128GB SSD

Affordable 
Light and easy to hold 
Not as powerful as the iPad 
Type Cover not included

Microsoft's Surface Go is one of the best budget laptops around, which also makes it one of the best college laptops as well. This is because it combines the stylish thin and light design Microsoft's Surface devices have been renowned for, but with a budget price tag that makes it a brilliant choice for college. Its lightweight design makes it ideal for slinging in a backpack and carrying around campus all day, and unlike the Chromebooks above, it can run Windows 10 programs, making it a much more versatile laptop.

Asus Transformer Mini T102HA

(Image credit: Asus)

Asus Transformer Mini T102HA

A budget 2-in-1 bargain

CPU: Intel Atom x5-Z8350 | Graphics: Integrated Intel HD Graphics | RAM: 4GB | Screen: 10.1-inch 1,280 x 800 | Storage: 64GB eMMC

Built-in fingerprint sensor
11-hour battery life
Not the strongest performer
Charging via USB is slow

The Asus Transformer Mini is a fantastic compact laptop that can be used as a tablet-like device as well. It's not terribly powerful, but it makes up for that with an impressively-portable design that's still comfortable to work on, and an incredibly low price. If you don't want to spend a lot of money on a laptop for college, yet you still want something that's capable of most tasks you ask of it when studying, then this is a brilliant choice.

Standard Laptops

HP Pavilion 15

(Image credit: HP)

HP Pavilion 15

The best standard laptop for students

CPU: AMD dual-core A9 APU – Intel Core i7 | Graphics: AMD Radeon R5 – Nvidia GTX 1050 | RAM: 4GB – 16GB | Screen: 15.6-inch HD (1,366 x 768) – FHD (1,920 x 1,080); touch optional | Storage: 128GB SSD – 1TB HDD

Thinner and lighter
Tons of options
Shallow, squishy keyboard

The HP Pavilion 15 is a solid laptop for college, as it packs some decent specs while keeping costs at a sensible level. There's a range of configuration options available that lets you build a Pavilion 15 that's right for both your needs and your budget. It's a well-built laptop that's nicely designed and very reasonably priced.

Microsoft Surface Pro 6

(Image credit: Microsoft)

Microsoft Surface Pro 6

A brilliant hybrid laptop for college

CPU: 8th generation Intel Core i5 – i7 | Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics 620 | RAM: 8GB – 16GB | Screen: 12.3-inch, 2,736 x 1,824 PixelSense display | Storage: 128GB – 1TB SSD

Quad-core processors
Long battery life
Still no USB-C

The Surface Pro 6 is a fast Windows tablet that can easily turn into a laptop with the Surface Type Cover, making it one of the best laptops for students. It's got the gorgeous touchscreen and slimline design that Microsoft's Surface line of devices is famous for, and it has the some of the latest hardware packed into the slimline body, making it a brilliant performer for more strenuous tasks.

Software-Heavy Laptops - Graphic Design, Architecture, Engineering

If you're planning on working with the Adobe Creative Cloud towards a degree in design, odds are your classmates and professors will be using Apple computers.

This means, it will likely be easier to use the software on a Mac since the hotkeys and button icons will be the same as what your teachers teach you. Some might claim that the Suite works better on Mac vs. PC, but really, it's just a matter of preference.

MacBook Air (13-inch, 2018)

(Image credit: Apple)

MacBook Air (13-inch, 2018)

Thinner, lighter, more productive

CPU: Dual-core Intel Core i5 | Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics 617 | RAM: 8GB – 16GB | Screen: 13.3-inch, 2,560 x 1,600 Retina display (backlit LED, IPS) | Storage: 128GB – 1.5TB PCIe 3.0 SSD | Dimensions: 11.97 x 8.36 x 0.61 inches (30.41 x 21.24 x 1.56cm; W x D x H)

 Small, lighter design
 Beautiful Retina display  
 A bit underpowered 

The refreshed MacBook Air is one of the best laptops for college students. We've been waiting a while for Apple to update its thin and light MacBook, and the wait has been worth it. With 8th-generation processors, more RAM and faster SSDs, the MacBook Air is a very capable device that can handle intensive tasks. Even though it's plenty powerful, it's got a fantastic battery that will keep it going throughout the school day.

Dell XPS 13

(Image credit: Dell)

Dell XPS 13

New and improved for 2019

CPU: 8th generation Intel Core i5 – i7 | Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics 620 | RAM: 8GB – 16GB | Screen: 13.3-inch FHD (1,920 x 1,080) – 4k (3840 x 2160) | Storage: 256GB – 1TB SSD

Centered webcam
Battery life better than ever
Beautiful optional 4K display
2019 update isn't huge
Expensive

The Dell XPS 13 isn't just one of the best college laptops in the world, it's one of the best laptops ever made. It features a gorgeous thin and light design, and is packed with cutting-edge components, including an an 8th-generation Intel Core i5 or i7 processor and a bezel-less ‘Infinity Edge’ display. It's easily powerful enough for pretty much any task a student needs, and it'll turn heads when you take it out in a classroom. However it is expensive. Very expensive.

Gaming Laptops

Gaming laptops need a lot more power, storage space and a decent graphics card in order to keep up with today's video games. As such, they don't come cheap, with most costing over $1500. This, of course, puts student gamers in a difficult position. Fortunately, there are some gaming laptops that don't cost quite as much, like the ones we've picked below.

Acer Nitro 5

(Image credit: Acer)

Acer Nitro 5

A great budget gaming laptop for college

CPU: Intel Core i5 – i7 (8th-generation); AMD Ryzen 5 2500U | Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 – 1050 Ti (4GB GDDR5); AMD Radeon RX 560X | RAM: 4GB – 16GB | Screen: 15.6-inch FHD (1920x1080) | Storage: 256GB SSD or 1TB HDD (5400 rpm) – 128/256GB SSD + 1TB HDD

Adjust fans for your needs
Decent battery life
No SSD on cheapest models

Just because you're after a cheap gaming laptop for college, it doesn't mean you're stuck with a machine that can't handle the latest games. Sure, you'll need to dial the graphical settings down a bit, but this machine still runs games like Battlefield V like a champ. Its low price (for a gaming laptops) means it's an ideal choice for college students who want to game in their dorms.

Dell G3 15

(Image credit: Dell)

Dell G3 15

Excellent value for money

CPU: Intel Core i5 – i7 (8th-generation) | Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 – GTX 1060 (4GB GDDR5) | RAM: 8GB – 16GB | Screen: 15.6-inch FHD (1920x1080) | Storage: 128/256GB SSD

Fantastic performance for the money
Most models come with a 256GB SSD.
Build is a tad flimsy

If you can spare a bit more money, then the Dell G3 15 is a brilliant gaming laptop that comes with a choice of specifications. Again, you're not going to get the highest frame rates on ultra-graphics settings with this laptop, but what you are going to get is a dependable – and affordable – gaming laptop that's ideal for taking to college.