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Find an affordable laptop for every type of student.

Joshua Goldman Aug. 7, 2021 12:00 p.m. PT
  • Best MacBook for students MacBook Air M1 Jump to details $900 at Best Buy
  • Best all-purpose Windows laptop for students Lenovo Yoga 7i Jump to details $750 at Lenovo
  • Best Chromebook for students Acer Chromebook Spin 713 Jump to details $699 at Best Buy
  • Best lightweight laptop for students under $700 Acer Swift 3 Jump to details $790 at Newegg
  • Best Windows 2-in-1 for students Microsoft Surface Pro 7 Jump to details $699 at Best Buy
  • Best entry-level gaming laptop for students Dell G15 Jump to details $927 at Dell
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If you're a college student, you know you need a good laptop to get you through. A laptop is one of the most important academic tools you'll need, and you'll want it to last a long time. For $300, you can get an entry-level laptop that will do the job. But if you're willing to shell out a few hundred more, you can get a college laptop with a faster solid-state drive, longer battery life and overall better performance.

With the current chip shortages, you might think it's hard to find a good budget-friendly laptop for school. Luckily, you can still get your hands on laptops and two-in-ones with the latest processors from AMD and Intel. The only PCs you might have to wait for are those featuring the new powerful 11th-gen Intel Core processors that promise to increase performance in laptops for gamers and creators. You'll find a few models on this list with those processors, but more are expected to be available later this summer -- just in time for your fall semester.

Read more: Back-to-school deal: Get an M1 MacBook Air for $750 from Best Buy

Note that most of our choices for the best laptops for college run between $500 and $1,000. If you're looking for a less expensive college laptop -- or if you're open to an alternative to Apple's MacOS and Microsoft Windows -- we recommend checking out the best Chromebooks for students. On the flip side, if you're searching for a more powerful laptop for college, or a gaming laptop that doubles as a college laptop, we have some suggestions. So if you're ready to upgrade your tech, keep reading for our list of the best laptops for college.

Best MacBook for students

MacBook Air M1

Stephen Shankland/CNET

The newest, fanless Apple MacBook Air hits all the right notes: This powerful laptop is back to the old $999 starting price, and if you're a teacher or student, you can take off an additional $100, thanks to Apple's educational discount. The base model features Apple's M1 processor with an eight‑core CPU, seven‑core GPU and 16‑core Neural Engine. Stepping up from the baseline Macbook model will bring you an eight-core GPU and double the storage capacity with a 512GB SSD, but you'll be forking out an additional $250.

Like the previous Mac laptop models, the M1 Air has Apple's Magic Keyboard, Touch ID, a Force Touch trackpad and a 13.3-inch Retina display. If you're a college student, it's hard to go wrong with the new MacBook Air.

Read our MacBook Air M1 review.

 

$900 at Best Buy $839 at Adorama $999 at Apple

Best all-purpose Windows laptop for students

Lenovo Yoga 7i

Sarah Tew/CNET

This thin three-pound two-in-one is a solid Windows operating system choice for anyone who needs a college laptop for schoolwork. The all-metal chassis gives it a premium look and feel, and it has a comfortable keyboard and responsive, smooth precision touchpad. The 14-inch display gives you more room to work than competing 13-inch models at this price. As a two-in-one, you can use it as a laptop or tablet and it supports pen input with Lenovo's optional Active Pen. Though it's light on extra features compared to its premium linemate, the Yoga 9i, it does have one of Lenovo's sliding shutters for the webcam that gives you privacy when you want it and a fingerprint reader for fast sign-ins. It also has a long battery life to boot.

$750 at Lenovo

Best Chromebook for students

Acer Chromebook Spin 713

Josh Goldman/CNET

Tired of trying to work on documents or spreadsheets on a small widescreen display? The Acer Chromebook Spin 713 uses one of Acer's bright VertiView displays, a 13.5-inch 2,256x1,504-pixel touchscreen with a 3:2 aspect ratio. As the name implies, it gives you more vertical room to work, but it still has the width of a typical 13.3-inch laptop with a 16:9 ratio. Between that and its battery life, which lasted nearly 13 hours in our tests, it's a great laptop for getting more work done in a day -- and it's still thin and light enough for an everyday carry. 

The latest version of this Chromebook is the first to receive Intel's Evo verification, which means you'll be getting the best possible mobile experience with this model. It's also the first with Thunderbolt 4 support, which lets you connect to multiple external displays as well as providing fast data speeds and networking. Read our Acer Chromebook Spin 713 review.

Read our Lenovo Yoga C740 (14-inch) review.

 

$699 at Best Buy

Best lightweight laptop for students under $700

Acer Swift 3

Josh Goldman/CNET

A remarkable college laptop deal for simple tasks like email, word processing and much more, thanks to the new AMD Ryzen 5 and Ryzen 7 processors. This budget laptop has a backlit keyboard, a fingerprint reader and a USB Type-C port, too. The Acer Swift 3 is also an incredibly lightweight laptop -- less than 3 pounds -- for a machine that can be found for less than $700.

In addition to this Acer Swift, we're also fans of the Acer Aspire 5, which has a larger 15.6-inch display. The Acer Aspire 5 is available in a variety of configurations starting as low as $405 but can go up to $711 if you want entry-level discrete graphics for basic gaming and content creation.

$790 at Newegg

Best Windows 2-in-1 for students

Microsoft Surface Pro 7

Sarah Tew/CNET

The Surface Pro remains the standard-bearer for Windows devices that work as both a Surface laptop and touch screen tablet, though this convertible laptop makes for a better tablet than it does for a laptop. (If you're looking for the opposite in a student laptop, Lenovo's two-in-one Yoga devices are better laptops than they are tablets.) In addition to the typical great performance and battery life you can expect, the seventh-edition Surface Pro finally gets a USB-C port. The Surface laptop's super-portable size makes it an ideal student laptop for high school and college students who may be carrying a lot of gear. Though this company still sells the Surface laptop Pro without its essential Type Cover keyboard and Surface Pen included, it can frequently be found for a relatively cheap laptop price-- sometimes with one or both accessories.

Read our Surface Pro 7 review.

 

$699 at Best Buy

Best entry-level gaming laptop for students

Dell G15

Lori Grunin/CNET

Dell streamlined its G-series gaming laptops, going from three models down to just one Dell laptop-- and it's all for the best. Instead of having to decode the various feature and quality differences between them, there's just one chassis available with a variety of configurations starting at $927. All of the processors can be paired with up to a 6GB Nvidia RTX 3060, 8GB or 16GB of memory and up to 1TB of storage. They're basically a more budget-friendly version of those from its Alienware division, but still capable of playing the latest AAA titles. 

$927 at Dell CNET Now

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