12 Best Laptops for College in 2017

Whether you are going to a community college or a 4-year University, you are going to need a laptop. As much as we love our desktop PCs, you can’t take them to class, and your dorm room is the limit. Many courses require them as well, which means you will need to consider your requirements when going in search of the best laptops for college.

Top 12 Laptops for College Comparison Chart

DesignNameAdditional OptionsBudget-FriendlyRating (1-5)
  1. HP Chromebook 14 Intel Celeron No Yes 4.5
  2. Apple MacBook Air MMGG2LL/A 13.3-Inch Laptop No No 4.5
  3. ASUS C302CA-DHM4 12.5-Inch Touchscreen Chromebook No Yes 4.4
  4. HP ENVY 13-ab016nr Notebook No Yes 4.3
  5. VAIO Z Canvas 12.3-Inch Laptop Yes No 4.3
6. Apple MacBook Pro MLVP2LL/A 13-inch Laptop Yes No 4.3
7. Microsoft Surface Pro 4 Yes No 4.3
8. Acer Chromebook 14 No Yes 4.1
  9. ASUS F556UA-AB54 NB 15.6″ Yes Yes 4.1
  10. Dell Inspiron i7559-2512BLK 15.6 Yes Yes 4.1
  11. Samsung Chromebook 3 XE500C13-K02US Yes Yes 4.1
  12. Acer Aspire E 15 E5-575-33BM No Yes 4.0

4 Things You Need to Consider in Order to Purchase a Great College Laptop

Here are a few shopping tips to help steer you toward the right laptop for your needs and budget.

  • Price – Let’s face it, college is expensive. Tuition alone can put parents (and students) in the poor house, not to mention books, food, and the usual everyday expenses. That means many consumers may not be able to afford the top-tier laptops. Depending on your major, you may need something with some oomph under the hood.

Netbooks are going to be too underpowered for most students, but newer Chromebooks and most Windows-based PCs are affordable and powerful. Apple’s laptops are in a league of their own but will be more expensive than similar laptops with better specifications.

As with many products, you will want to take your usage and needs into account first. If your major is computer science and you like to dabble in 3D modeling, you are going to need something like the MacBook Pro. On the flipside, journalism students would want something more agile with a long battery life and great connectivity options.

  • Storage Space – No matter how much you are planning to spend, storage is something to keep in mind when looking for the best laptop for college. Some courses won’t require half your hard drive, but as we all know, most of us store more than our work on our PC.

Music can quickly eat up your storage space. Even with the rise of the smartphone and mobile listening habits, you will want to make sure you have enough room for your essay and MP3’s. Video, games and other applications will eat away at your storage as well. It’s better to have it internally than to have to switch to an external source a few weeks in.

  • Size – College just isn’t for kids anymore as more adults have turned towards academia over the years. Regardless of your age, your back is something you will want to keep fresh. The best laptops for college students need to be in the “medium” range in most cases.

That means 13 to 15-inches and between 2-4 pounds. There are a wide variety of laptops in that range, and you can opt for a 2-in-1 if you truly need to save space. Those often have a detachable keyboard that allows the laptop to transform into a tablet. If you want a true laptop, some of the newer Ultrabooks allow for larger displays and still stay skinny. That said, dropping those extra pounds will come at a cost.

  • Operating System – This one is tricky and comes down to preference. Most programs and apps can be run across a wide variety of platforms. Some even offer up cross-platform compatibility which means you can start something on your PC and finish it up on your tablet.

Windows is by far the most widely accepted platform. There is an abundance of options to choose from with Windows-based laptops, and they are also some of the most configurable machines around. That means you will get options more often than not compared to other builds.

Despite Microsoft’s popularity, Apple is not far behind. The only thing that holds them back is the price of their machines and the limited amount of models. For every MacBook released, there are a hundred Windows laptops. On a positive note, their machines are known for running smoothly and are less likely to give you any issues than Windows laptops.

Google’s Chrome OS has quickly gained ground against the big two but does have some drawbacks. It’s not going to be familiar to new users, and your choice of programs is limited. Things have gotten better, but you will want to make sure any specialized software will run on a true Chromebook. The same goes for Linux although it has a far larger selection. If in doubt, go with Windows or the Mac OS.

Top 5 Best Laptops for College Reviews

1. HP Chromebook 14

If you just need a laptop for general use and are not overly concerned about the extras, the HP Chromebook 14 is a fine option. It’s one of the best laptops for college due to its low price and slim profile. It comes with a 14-inch display sporting as a resolution of 1,366 x 768 and is powered by a speedy Intel chip and 4GB of RAM. It’s fairly light at 3.4 pounds as well so it won’t bulge in your laptop bag.

The Chromebook 14 may be skinny, but it still has most of the essentials you’ll need for class and general usage. Web pages will load in a flash, and there is a slim HD TruVision Webcam included in case you get a little homesick. Other options to note include a media card reader, x2 USB 3.0 ports, and an HDMI out slot.

While affordable and sleek, the Chromebook family does not come without a few downsides. There is no optical drive so disk-based media is out, and you will only get 16GB of storage. It basically has smartphone guts in a laptop body. The Chrome OS is also something you will want to consider as this laptop will not run all applications.

2. Apple MacBook Air

The MacBook Air is a laptop that will be on many students wish lists. The brand carries an air of prestige, and let’s face it; Apple makes great tech. The MacBook Air is not as beefy as some of the other laptops on our list but can handle almost anything you throw its way.

There’s not much to say about this one under the hood. The Air isn’t built for brute power but does have 4-8GB of RAM and up to 256GB of flash-based storage. The display isn’t too shabby either, and the battery life is better than you’ll find on its big brother – the MacBook Pro. It is a great option for school and general usage although you may have issues with some of the more heavy graphics applications.

The current version of the MacBook Air is available with an 11.6-inch display or 13.3-inch display. Both are extremely light and thin as well with the smaller model measuring 12.8” x 8.94” x 0.68” with a weight just under 3 pounds.

3. ASUS C302CA-DHM4

The ASUS C302CA-DHM4 may not have a catchy name, but it is one of the best portable laptops around. It won’t take up much space in your bag due to its 12.5-inch display, and while it runs the Chrome OS, it has more bells & whistles than most of its brethren. It also has a 360-degree hinge allows you to put this one into tablet mode. That is a pretty nifty trick.

Whether you have the ASUS C302CA-DHM4 in “tent” mode or are typing away on a keyboard, the laptop will draw some stares. It has an aluminum body and slim profile but also has a strong battery with quick charging capabilities. It is not upgradeable or expandable although the 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage should work for most students. You always have the cloud and USB ports to turn towards if your storage space shrinks.

4. HP ENVY 13-ab016nr Notebook

If you are of a certain age, you or someone in your household has probably owned an HP Envy. It’s one of the longest running lines in laptop history along with the Thinkpad, MacBook and a handful of others. Unlike those laptops, the HP Envy 13-ab016nr is all about affordability and brute force power.

The Envy line has never been ugly, but their newest models do not break any new ground when it comes to design. They are also far from skinny but do have everything you need from a laptop. That includes an optical drive for DVDs and a Bang & Olufsen audio system to pound out the sound.

The HP Envy 13-ab016nr is a nice mid-range option for a college laptop. It won’t break the bank and has all the features you’ll work and leisure.

5. VAIO Z Canvas 12.3-inch Laptop

The VAIO Z Canvas is the last machine to make the cut on our best laptops for college list. It is also a hybrid or convertible laptop so you can use it as a slate as well. Unlike many 2-in-1 solutions, the Z Canvas has much power and is one of the sleeker options on the market. It is not cheap, however.

Some of the highlights in the current incarnation of the VAIO Z Canvas include a 12.3-inch IPS display with a resolution of 2,560 x 1,704. It comes with a digital pen and will run the latest version of Windows out of the box. The choice of OS allows for a wide variety of applications, so you won’t have to worry about that. Future-proofing won’t be a concern with this one either.

There are three versions of the VAIO Z available although each will have a Core i7. The base model has 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD while the flagship model doubles that with 16GB of RAM and a 1TB solid state drive.

Final Thoughts

Laptops are one of the tougher pieces of tech to wrap your head around. The insides frequently change while the shells tend to stay the same. It doesn’t help that manufacturers often slap a string of digits on new models instead of going with a simple “2017” edition either.

You don’t have to keep up with the trends to own a solid laptop for school or work. You just have to decide on how much storage and horsepower you want compared to your personal needs and course requirements.