With picks from Apple, Asus, Dell, Lenovo and Microsoft, we’ve got an affordable laptop for every student.
We’re in full back-to-school mode now, making this one of the best times of the year to shop for a new laptop. You can now get entry-level laptops for college students on a budget for $200 to $400. But we think it’s worthwhile to spend at least a few hundred more to get a machine with long battery life and better performance. This list, which represents our top choices for best laptops for college, university and even high school students, is based on our own hands-on use and benchmark testing.
Most of our best laptops for college picks cost $500 or more. If you’re on a budget and looking for something less expensive — or if you’re interested in an alternative to Microsoft Windows and Apple’s MacOS — we’d recommend checking out our list of the best Chromebooks for students. Though the prices are generally lower, they’re great for student laptop basics like email, getting on the internet, creating documents or working with spreadsheets — especially if you’re already working with Google’s apps.
Disclosure: CNET may get a share of revenue from the sale of products featured on this page.
Best Mac valueApple MacBook Air (2018)
In 2018, Apple announced a new version of the MacBook Air — an evergreen favorite of college students — upgrading it with a Retina display, Touch ID and USB Type-C ports. This discount is just $50 shy of the all-time lowest price we’ve seen for that model — which is nearly identical to the brand-new one that debuted in July — except that it doesn’t have Apple’s True Tone display technology. But you do get an Intel Core i5 processor, 8GB of memory and a 128GB SSD of storage that’s faster than the one in the newer device.
In July, Apple lowered the list price of the brand new MacBook Air to $1,099. But that model — and the device from last year, featured here — have been heavily discounted over the past few months. We’ve always got the lowest prices in our roundup of the best MacBook Air deals.
Best Windows pickDell XPS 13
If you’re committed to the Windows operating system and want a balance of portability, power and price, it’s hard to find a better laptop than the XPS 13. This CNET Editors’ Choice is attractive, incomparably slim and offers a ton of customization (and price) options. Dell also makes a version with a 15 inch screen. Both start at around $1,000.
Best Windows 2-in-1Microsoft Surface Pro 6
The Surface Pro remains the standard-bearer for Windows devices that work as both laptop and tablet, though they’re better tablets than they are laptops. (If you’re looking for the opposite, Lenovo’s Yoga devices, which are also two-in-ones, are better laptops than they are tablets.)
Amazon is currently offering a sweet deal on a Surface Pro 6 with Type Cover for a budget price under $800. And keep in mind that Microsoft has announced an Oct. 2 event that is likely to yield new Surface devices.
Best entry-level gaming rigRazer Blade Stealth
Straight up, this laptop is among the best Windows alternatives to a MacBook Pro. And though Razer has already announced a new version featuring Intel’s Ice Lake chipset, Best Buy’s $500 discount on the previous model makes this device a certified bargain. Note that the step-up version of the previous model, with a 512GB SSD, is also on sale for $1,500.
Best 15.6-inch convertible ChromebookLenovo Yoga Chromebook C630
The Yoga C630 Chromebook is a great, inexpensive student laptop — one that doubles as an enormous tablet — with a killer 4K display and blazing performance for everyday productivity and entertainment tasks. This is the Chromebook version of Lenovo’s excellent C930, one of our all-time favorite two-in-one convertibles, which costs hundreds more.
Best pick for power gamersAsus ROG Zephyrus S
I reviewed the Zephyrus S last year and loved its 15.6-inch HD display screen and backlit keyboard. If you are looking for a gaming laptop, this configuration delivers very solid performance for the price: For around $1,400, you get an Intel Core i7 CPU and a GeForce GTX 1070, with 16GB of DDR4 RAM and a 512GB PCIe SSD.SEE AT AMAZONRead more on CNET