For better or worse, there’s no concrete system to determine which are the best laptops for college students. If you’re headed back to school this fall and in the market for a laptop, deciding which one to buy might feel like a near-impossible task, especially since you’ll be spending even more time on it this semester due to the pandemic-induced shift toward online learning.
With so many software options, processors, and other features to consider, weighing the pros and cons of each is definitely worth your while, as painstaking as it can be. There’s no avoiding the fact that laptops are the most expensive kind of school supplies, and it’s absolutely worth your while to do a bit of digging before investing in one.
We’re here to make your search as easy as possible. Ahead, check out Teen Vogue’s picks for the best college laptops for the upcoming semester, complete with accessible explanations and pros and cons for each.
There’s no one-size-fits-all “best laptop,” so keep your specific needs in mind (big screen for Netflix? Fast processing for all your open tabs?) as you browse.
The HP Chromebook is the budget-friendly laptop to buy for fall. Beyond its rave reviews, it features 4GB of random access memory, or storage directly within the device, along with 32GB of storage in its drive. Equipped with user-friendly Google Chrome OS and Intel Celeron N3350 processor, its 11.6-inch width may seem small, but it doesn’t sacrifice the screen’s quality HD resolution. Not to mention the fact that its size makes it one of the most portable laptops you can buy.
Pros: Affordable, compact, free security software
Cons: Small screen, low memory
Acer Chromebook 314
This laptop sells out all the time, and it’s no wonder why: the Acer Chromebook 314 gives you access to a state-of-the-art computer for just under $300. That’s a steal for a laptop with a 14-inch HD screen, Intel Celeron N4000 processor, built-in virus protection, and automatic update system. It comes with 4GB of device memory, which may not seem like much, but since it’s a Chromebook, you’ll also receive an additional 100GB of Google Drive space to store and back up as many files as you want. Some Amazon reviewers have mentioned that it’s prone to physical damage, but as long as you take care of it, you shouldn’t have any real issues.
Pros: Affordable, Google Drive storage, automatic updates, student discount
Microsoft Surface Pro 7
Microsoft’s Surface laptops start at $750 for a model with an efficient Intel Core i3 processor, 4GB of RAM, and 128GB of drive memory. At 12.3 inches wide, the Surface Pro can function as both a laptop and tablet, but you’ll have to purchase the keyboard attachment separately. If the total price of all that sounds steep, you’ll be happy to learn that the device qualifies for a 10 percent student discount when purchased from Microsoft’s site. With a high-resolution screen, Dolby Audio system, HD cameras, and a battery that lasts all day, it’s the ultimate back-to-school companion for a largely digital semester.
Pros: Touch screen, student discount, doubles as a tablet, Dolby Audio
Cons: Keyboard sold separately
Lenovo Yoga Chromebook
You can use Lenovo’s Yoga Chromebook as a traditional laptop, a compact tablet, or propped up using the keyboard as a stand or tent. It comes with a top-of-the-line Intel Core i5 processor and an audio system so clear that it’ll make a Zoom meeting feel IRL. It also comes with two USB-C ports, a micro-SD card slot, and a USB 3.1 port. Since it’s a Chromebook, it’s equipped with Google Chrome OS that’s universally easy to understand. Receive 5% off your entire purchase through Lenovo’s student discount program with ID.Me. A note: Some reviewers say that the Yoga Chromebook doesn’t function all that well as a tablet, though it’s marketed as a 2-in-1 device.