Best Laptops for College Students

In our tests, these models score high marks for things like portability, performance, and battery life

Illustration of the best laptop for college students

If you're a student or a parent in need of a laptop, prepare to pounce on this month's back-to-school sales.

According to data from the research firm Gap Intelligence, laptop prices often drop to Black Friday levels in late July and August.  We’re talking significant discounts on top-rated models from companies like Dell, HP, and Microsoft.

You’ll find useful deals on software, too. Adorama just shaved $30 off the 2019 Home & Student Edition of Microsoft Office, for example.

But be prepared to move quickly. Many of the laptop models in our ratings are in short supply these days, due to the manufacturing challenges created by the coronavirus pandemic and the increased demand from people working from home.

And, unlike microwaves and twin-size sheet sets, a computer is a deeply personal purchase, so it pays to do your homework before reaching for your wallet on behalf of your child.

Start by consulting your school's website for guidelines. University IT departments often provide a list of computer requirements and links to exclusive student discounts from manufacturers. Business and engineering students, for example, may have to use Windows-based software that doesn't work on an Apple computer without modifications or specialized software. Those in creative fields such as film and design may find themselves in need of macOS.

Below you’ll find some top picks from our testers. As you'll see, this is one of the few times when we recommend splurging on higher-end specs, because you want a machine that serves you well for the next four years—which might as well be eons in the tech world.

Most feature solid-state drives, which are speedier and more reliable than a traditional spinning hard drive; 8GB of memory to keep things from slowing to a crawl when you have lots of browser tabs open; and an Intel Core i5 (or AMD equivalent Ryzen 5) processor, which should dispatch with all but the toughest tasks (think 4K video editing) with relative ease.

Better yet, all the models have been graded by our testers on nearly 200 data points. To keep manufacturers from tinkering with our results, we purchased every last machine from a retailer. That way the one in our lab is no different from the one you take home.