Best laptops for college students 2018: the best laptops for school work

Best laptops for students

While we patiently await the Surface Laptop 2, there are still plenty of amazing laptops for college students to decorate their dorms with. The best laptops for college students are going to be elegantly designed and powerful enough to handle anything the semester throws at them. Beyond that, everything we’ve included in this list is affordable enough for even the most frugal students to justify.

However, as cash can be hard to come by for most students, the best laptops for students won’t be featuring the latest and greatest AMD Ryzen and Coffee Lake CPUs and Vega graphics. Still, things have changed since the days of tiny netbooks with noisy fans and frustrating performance. The best laptops for students in 2018 are slim, powerful and nigh-silent There have been plenty of advances recently making laptops a seamless component of your learning experience, rather than distracting you from it.

These next few years are going to be a hassle for certain, but it’s worth the effort if you want a degree to prove that you’re worth the income you’re going to make. To alleviate some of the frustration, below we’ve listed the best laptops for students that you can buy for yourself or a loved one today. No longer will you have to limit yourself to an old clunker suffering from poor performance and a virtually nonexistent battery life.

1. Dell XPS 13

Get back to class with the best-in-class

CPU: 8th-generation Intel Core i5 – i7 | Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics 620 | RAM: 4GB – 16GB | Screen: 13.3-inch FHD (1,920 x 1,080; non-touch) – UHD (3,840 x 2,160; touchscreen) | Storage: 128GB – 1TB SSD

Gorgeous new design
Impressive performance
Steeper starting price
White option is pricier

What’s the XPS 13 if not the best? For three years in the running, we’ve been unable to answer this question due to Dell’s stunning flagship Ultrabook, well, being the best. Thin, light and ready to rumble once again, the Dell XPS 13 is more powerful than ever, albeit at a higher starting cost than before. Then again, the slight bump in cost means you can expect an 8th-generation Intel Core i5 processor at the very least, paired with a gorgeous (and bezel-less) InfinityEdge anti-glare display as well as an Alpine White-woven-into-Rose Gold color option. It’s a bit more expensive than the traditional Platinum Silver version, but it’s worth it for the cred.

Read the full review: Dell XPS 13

2. Samsung Notebook 9 Pro

The dawn of a new era for 2-in-1 laptops

CPU: 7th generation Intel Core i7 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 620 – AMD Radeon Graphics (2GB GDDR5) | RAM: 8GB – 16GB | Screen: 13.3-inch – 15.6-inch FHD (1,920 x 1,080) LED display with Touch Screen Panel | Storage: 256GB SSD

Uses S-Pen to great effect
Excellent look and feel
Inconsistent battery life
Downward-firing speakers

The Samsung Notebook 9 is what other 2-in-1 laptops have aspired to be since their conception. It hones in on the S-Pen, Samsung’s own proprietary stylus with 4,096 levels of pressure sensitivity (the same as Microsoft’s new Surface Pen), a nifty little accessory that conveniently doesn’t require charging. Although the touchscreen display is only 1080p, at between 350 and 450 nits of brightness, you won’t be paying any mind to the pixels, or lack thereof. Plus, the lengthy battery life more than makes up for this hybrids few setbacks.

Read the full review: Samsung Notebook 9 Pro

  • This product is only available in the US and UK as of this writing. Australian readers: check out a fine alternative in the HP Spectre x360 15

3. Asus Chromebook Flip

Asus’ premium Chromebook has a modest price

CPU: Intel Core m3 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 515 | RAM: 4GB | Screen: 12.5-inch, Full HD (1,920 x 1,080) LED backlit anti-glare | Storage: 64GB eMMC + TPM

Elegant tablet mode
Gorgeous, vivid screen
No out-of-box Android app support
Middling speakers

The Asus Chromebook Flip C302 could be seen as an apology for Google’s own missteps with the Chromebook Pixel that preceded it. Rather than costing over a grand for unnecessarily high performance that would put a lot of Windows notebooks to shame, Asus has cut the price in half while adding a 360-degree hinge that effectively makes it a 2-in-1 laptop, but with Android apps from the Google Play Store that only sweeten the deal.Now you can experience a Chromebook whose style rivals that of the MacBook Pro without spending even remotely what you would on one of Apple’s machines. 

Read the full review: Asus Chromebook Flip

4. Samsung Notebook 9 (2018)

We can think of 9 reasons to buy this laptop

CPU: 8th-generation Intel Core i7 | Graphics: Nvidia GeForce MX150 | RAM: 16GB DDR4 | Screen: 15-inch FHD LED | Storage: 256GB SSD

 Fantastic Performance 
 Great battery life 
 Not enough storage 

It should come as no surprise that the Samsung Notebook 9 has a gorgeous display, considering who made it. But, even beyond the screen, this laptop just breathes quality, from its useful fingerprint scanner, insane portability to its bleeding-edge, 8th-generation Intel Core i7 processor. Sure, its keyboard is a bit lackluster, and you’ll fill up the storage quickly but even those flaws are serviceable. Finally, thanks to its insane battery life, this is hands down one of the best laptops students can buy in 2018.

Read the full review: Samsung Notebook 9 (2018) 

Microsoft Surface Pro 4

5. Microsoft Surface Pro

The tablet that can replace your laptop

CPU: 7th generation Intel Core m3 – i7 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 615 – Iris Plus Graphics 640 | RAM: 4GB – 16GB | Screen: 12.3-inch, 2,736 x 1,824 PixelSense display | Storage: 128GB – 1TB SSD

Hugely improved battery life
Comfier, punchier type cover
Surface Pen pulled from package
Only Core i7 can challenge A10X

As we wait for the Surface Pro 5, the 2017 Surface pro is still the most advanced Windows tablet on the market. Everything from its rounded edges to its refined accessories all but screams that it’s the next generation of the Redmond hardware lineage. There’s also the fact that the Surface Pro draws inspiration from all-in-one PCs in the way it can bend back 165 degrees. The only real compromise here is that only the i7 version of the Surface Pro can give Apple’s cheaper, entry-level iPad Pro a run for its money. 

Read the full review: Microsoft Surface Pro

6. Acer Aspire E15

All work and a little play

CPU: 8th-generation Intel Core i5-8250U | Graphics: Nvidia GeForce MX150 | RAM: 8GB DDR4 | Screen: 15.6-inch FHD (1,920 x 1,080; non-touch) | Storage: 256GB SSD

 Work friendly keyboard 
 Lots of ports and inputs 
 Flimsy construction 

While it might not win any beauty contests, the Acer Aspire e15 does one thing, and it does it well: work. If you need a laptop that you can carry with you between classes and get some work done, without needing to break open the piggy bank, this laptop will go a long way. Rocking one of the new 8th-generation Coffee Lake U-series CPUs, you’ll never have to worry about your laptop holding back your studying. Just don’t expect a chassis you can proudly display in the coffee shop.

Read the full review: Acer Aspire e15 

7. Samsung Notebook 7 Spin

One step back, but not too shabby

CPU: 8th-generation Intel Core i5 | Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics 620 | RAM: 8GB | Screen: 13.3-inch full HD (1,920 x 1,080) LED with touch panel | Storage: 256GB SSD

Excellent keyboard
Long battery life
Fuzzy 480p webcam
Stylus not included

It shares a name with one of our past favorites, and though we still adore the Samsung Notebook 7 Spin, we admit that it’s not the same device it once was. Instead, it’s a 13-inch convertible laptop that literally bends over backwards to suit your creative needs. Although you won’t find an included stylus in sight, nor are discrete graphics present in this year’s model, the lengthy battery life and punchy processor nearly makes up for any concessions.

Read the full review: Samsung Notebook 7 Spin

  • This product is only available in the US and UK at the time of this writing. Australian readers: check out a fine alternative in the Asus ZenBook Flip UX360

8. Acer Chromebook 15

The 15-inch Chromebook that plays for keeps

CPU: Intel Pentium N4200 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 505 | RAM: 4GB | Screen: 15.6-inch FHD (1,920 x 1,080) multi-touch IPS display | Storage: 32GB eMMC

Unbelievable battery life
Attractive, fanless design
Trackpad feels clunky
Easy to weigh down with tabs

It’s not every day that you see a 15.6-inch Chromebook decked out with a full HD, 1080p touchscreen. However, it’s even less frequent that we get on our hands with a laptop that lasts this long under pressure. Surviving 16 hours and 47 minutes in our signature battery test, the Acer Chromebook 15 prioritizes having an excellent battery life over everything else. Although it’s performance is still satisfactory given its low-power Intel Pentium processor and flexible operating system, its long battery life and outstanding looks separate it from the pack.

Read the full review: Acer Chromebook 15

  • This product is only available in the US at the time of this writing. UK and Australian readers: check out a fine alternative in the Asus Chromebook Flip 

9. Dell Inspiron 15 Gaming

Work hard, play hard, this laptop does it all

CPU: 7th generation Intel Core i5 – i7 | Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050; Intel HD Graphics 620 – GTX 1050 Ti; Intel HD Graphics 630 | RAM: 8GB – 16GB | Screen: 15.6-inch FHD (1,920 x 1,080) – UHD (3,840 x 2,160) anti-glare LED-backlit | Storage: 1TB HDD – 1TB HDD; 128GB SSD

Affordable gaming setup
Stellar battery life
Trackpad is touchy
Screen is lacking

Ditching the Alienware moniker for once, the Dell Inspiron 15 Gaming doesn’t cost all that much considering its rather lofty specs. Even if it can’t max out every game you throw at it, the Dell Inspiron 15 Gaming is both cheaper than a MacBook Air and way more capable. And, if you were worried about the battery life, the Inspiron 15 Gaming lasted a whole 5 hours and 51 minutes in our tests, longer than some Ultrabooks priced significantly higher. Whether for coursework or leisure, this laptop can do it all. 

Read the full review: Dell Inspiron 15 Gaming

10. Apple MacBook Pro (13-inch, Mid-2017)

The MacBook Pro of the future, right now

CPU: 7th generation Intel Core i5 – i7 | Graphics: Intel Iris Plus 640 – 650 | RAM: 8GB – 16GB | Screen: 13.3-inch, WQXGA (2,560 x 1,600) IPS | Storage: 256GB – 1TB SSD

Stronger processor
Faster RAM
Subpar battery life
Keyboard learning curve

The 2017 MacBook Pro doesn’t offer much in the way of distinguishing itself from its predecessor, but it is a testament to just how much you can improve something by simply swapping up internal components and calling it a day. Because it’s finally equipped with the newest generation of Intel Kaby Lake processors and faster-than-ever PCIe 3.0 SSD storage, the MacBook Pro comes easily recommended, undeterred by its reluctance to bring back legacy ports like HDMI and standard USB. This is, through and through, a laptop built for the future.

Read the full review: Apple MacBook Pro (13-inch, Mid-2017)

Watch the video below for the top 7 things to consider when buying a laptop. 

Gabe Carey has also contributed to this article