If you’re a student, you should have one of the best college laptops in 2020. But with so many options at so many different prices, it can be challenging to find the very best laptops for students. When you buy a college laptop, make sure it has a long battery life and fast overall performance. And if you like to take notes by hand, buy one of the best 2-in-1 laptops. We’re still reviewing several laptops that might find their way onto this list, so make sure you check in from time to time.
All of our best college laptops have a few things in common. Not only do they have an excellent battery life, but there’s also a great bang for your buck, with various models under $600 (and some higher-priced laptops that are an excellent investment).
Best College Laptops
Without further delay, here are the best college laptops, including some budget picks for those who are on a tight budget.
Acer Aspire 5
The best budget college laptop
The Acer Aspire 5 proves that you don’t have to spend a lot to get a great laptop. This notebook has a full HD screen that is pretty bright, so it’s great for surfing the web, doing quick photo editing, and watching videos on Netflix, YouTube, or Disney Plus. And it has all the power you want for everyday tasks and multitasking, thanks to a 10th generation Core i5 processor, 8GB of RAM, and 256GB of SSD. It’s all packed in a pretty lightweight 3.8-pound package.
The most pleasant surprise with the Aspire 5 is battery life. This laptop lasted almost 9 hours on our web surf battery test, which is very good for a 15-inch system. There are a few things we don’t like about this budget laptop; while the lid is made of aluminum, the rest of the machine is made of plastic. You shouldn’t expect to play the latest games either. But overall, the Aspire 5 is one of the best college laptops that you can buy right now.
HP Envy 13
A budget and premium laptop
HP has a long tradition of making PCs you can rely on, and the Envy 13 is no different – it’s one of the best choices for the best college laptops right now. We include it here because of its excellent balance between price and performance. This is a laptop that will last you a long time. The 13.3-inch, 1920 x 1080 resolution display is at the forefront here – bright and sharp and great for streaming video, surfing the web, and working on documents.
While creatives may want a little more in screen real estate, the smaller display size makes this a portable laptop, and thanks to its reliable build quality, it doesn’t feel like you have to be extra careful with it. With a choice of Intel’s Core processors inside and some compelling combinations of RAM and internal storage also available, this is a laptop ready to handle all but the most demanding tasks (don’t try to gamble on it). A special mention for the audio developed in collaboration with Bang and Olufsen, which sounds great.
MacBook Air 2020
Cheapest MacBook for Apple fans
It’s incredible what a difference the right keyboard makes. Since 1999 the MacBook Air 2020 has the improved Magic Keyboard, which replaces the butterfly switch with a scissor mechanism that allows you to type much more comfortably. Apple has also upgraded the Air to the 10th generation Intel Core processors (from 8th generation). It’s a Y-Series chip (which is not as powerful as the U-Series CPUs), but it turned out to be enough for everyday use and basic multitasking.
Apple not only lowered the price by $100, but it also doubled the standard MacBook Air storage, from a 128GB SSD to a 256GB drive, which still offers lightning-fast read speeds. The MacBook Air also has great endurance, with a battery that lasts all day. It took 9 hours and 31 minutes (almost 50 minutes longer than the regular system) for our web surfing test to charge the MacBook Air fully. Add to that Apple’s relatively bright and colorful Retina display and surprisingly powerful speakers, and you have one of the best college laptops.
Dell XPS 13 2020
The best laptop in the World
It’s hard to improve near perfection, but the XPS 13 2020 manages to make the best laptop even better – and it’s so good that the Dell XPS 13 won our title for the best laptop. Dell’s latest flagship PC features Intel’s latest 10th generation processors, making multitasking between apps and even doing some light gaming a breeze. The laptop’s Infinity Edge screen now has a screen ratio of 91.5% without getting in the way of your favorite movies and TV shows.
Some smaller improvements make the XPS 13 2020 better than its predecessors. The laptop’s comfortable keyboard is now edge-to-edge, and the touchpad is 17% larger, making it much easier to work with documents for long periods without getting cramped. With a few minor material changes, the beautiful aluminum design is even more attractive to use and hold, and the Dell XPS 13 2020 quickly catches the eye at the top of its class.
Microsoft Surface Go 2
The best 2-in-1 college laptop
College students looking for a portable 2-in-1 that can last for a while should take a closer look at Surface Go 2. Yes, the original Surface Go wasn’t a hit, but this model fixed almost everything wrong with the original. The thinner edges mean more screen space for your commands (and a more modern looking tablet). We would have ranked the Surface Go 2 slightly higher, but the 10.5-inch screen and keyboard may be small for some students.
Just as important, the battery life is more than 5 hours longer than the original Surface Go. Students will love the Microsoft Surface Go 2’s Zoom-ready webcam, a 5-megapixel 1080p front camera perfect for this era of online learning. Plus, you get Windows Hi biometric login to unlock the Surface Go 2 when you sit on it. If you get the 8th Gen Intel’s Core m3 version, you get the moderate multitasking capability you need to catch up on your course work (while streaming Spotify).
Google Pixelbook Go
A premium Chromebook for college students
For a premium Chromebook experience, look no further than Google’s Pixelbook Go. Kids may be mocking if their parents use the word “Chromebook” because they are synonymous with previous education, but this is a Chromebook for all ages. First of all, the sleek, lightweight design comes in two colors: Just black and not pink, which makes this Pixelbook not look like a MacBook Air. Besides, the quiet and comfortable keyboard is ideal for typing late at night when your roommates sleep.
Students in higher education will also appreciate the Pixelbook Go if they need to get some air away from a power adapter. The Go lasted over 11 hours on our Wi-Fi-based web surfing key. Oh, and don’t let your student think that the Pixelbook Go doesn’t have the speed they need: it has Intel Core m3 via Core i7 CPUs, so you don’t have to settle, plus up to 16GB of RAM for all the Chrome tabs you might need. Overall, this is one of the best college laptops.
Asus ZenBook 14
Good specs and tasteful design make this robust all-round laptop
A simply gorgeous laptop from Asus that we like to have in our best laptops list; if you want the perfect combination of power and style, this might be the case, and as a bonus, you get a trackpad that can also be used as a handy secondary display. If you look at the specs, you’ll see that this is a laptop that more than lends itself to any task you want to perform, even some low-resolution video editing and gaming (note the Nvidia GeForce option).
Despite all this raw power, the price is not too high. And then there’s the design: this is one of the best looking laptops we’ve seen, and even the display hinge is a work of art. It will rotate everything you need with aplomb, and it will look the part as you do it – what more do you need?
Acer Swift 3
The best budget laptop
Another budget laptop in our best college laptops list, the Acer Swift 3 runs on AMD Ryzen CPUs. This laptop goes toe to toe with the Dell XPS 13 and MacBook Pro. That’s how fast the Ryzen 7 4700U CPU is. The Swift 3 also wins points for its comfortable keyboard, which features clicking keys that provide plenty of feedback. Students also save login time thanks to the Swift 3’s built-in fingerprint reader on the keyboard deck.
And all this power is wrapped in aluminum and magnesium to make it look like a champion, too. The only major caveat is the display, which is on the dull and boring side of the equation. If your student already has another large screen for watching the best Netflix shows, consider the Swift 3: it’s a surprising beauty.
MacBook Pro 13-inch
A powerful MacBook for students
The MacBook Pro 13-inch 2020 solves the biggest problem with Apple’s other outstanding 13-inch laptop: the keyboard. By dropping the shallow keys of the older Butterfly keyboard in favor of the fabulous Magic Keyboard, the latest MacBook Pro 13-inch delivers the comfortable and responsive typing experience we’ve longed for on Apple’s flagship laptop. However, a great new keyboard isn’t all the new MacBook 2020 has.
The new 13-inch model gets a nice power boost with a 10th generation Core i7 processor, combined with its available 3733MHz RAM, blazing-fast SSD, and Intel Iris Plus graphics, provides reliable performance for multitasking and photo and video editing. The 2560 x 1600 on the MacBook Pro is still as beautiful as ever, and the laptop lasts almost 11 hours. Apple has doubled the price for RAM on the entry-level model, and you pay for the 10th generation power, but overall the latest 13-inch MacBook Pro is an outstanding laptop.
Asus Chromebook Flip C436
The best Chromebook for college
The best overall Chromebook, the Flip C436, is an excellent successor to the Flip C302CA, our previous topper. Not only do the super small edges allow Asus to fit its large 14-inch screen in a smaller chassis than you’d expect, that screen is both bright and colorful. What’s more, the aluminum design provides a more premium feel than most Chromebooks. Oh, and I almost forgot: it takes about 10 hours on a single charge.