The 10 best laptops for students in 2017: top laptops for college and high school

Update: With the Asus ZenBook UX305 no longer being sold, we’ve swapped it out for the new and improved Asus ZenBook UX310UA, complete with a better screen and a more contemporary assortment of ports. 

They may not be as easy to upgrade as a desktop, but laptops still have their place in the world (yes, even on planes). Especially when you’re in high school or college, you want your mouse, monitor and keyboard to all be packed in one device. Hastily moving your things from classroom to classroom, it’s no wonder laptops are getting thinner and longer lasting either.

Whether you crave the autonomy of playing your favorite PC games on the go or simply prefer the efficacy of drafting up documents using a full-size physical keyboard, the top laptops for students have it all. Even if you spend most of your study time binging shows on Netflix instead, a laptop is truly the one device to marry productivity and leisure.

With hybrids, Ultrabooks, traditional clamshells and – more portable than ever – gaming laptops in tow, these are the best laptops for college or high school. To get straight to the reviews, check the links below, or keep reading for a brief synopsis of each of these top laptops for students.

best laptops for students

Packing a high-resolution screen and serious processing power, there's more to the Dell XPS 13 than its status as a tightly kept Ultrabook. Now featuring new processors and better integrated graphics, clearly there’s an advantage to the Dell XPS 13 besides the fact that it comes in Rose Gold.

The 13-inch display, crammed into an 11-inch body, a worthy rival to a certain other aluminum laptop line. What’s more, the Dell XPS 13’s utility is extensive, spanning everything from writing to video editing to everything in between.

Read the full review: Dell XPS 13 review

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. 

Supporting Windows Hello through its 720p HD webcam, you can sign in to the Samsung Notebook 9 Pro using nothing but your face. 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 as of this writing. UK and Australian readers: check out a fine alternative in the HP Spectre x360 15.

While we can admit that Google’s Chromebook Pixel and the HP Chromebook 13 were handsome and built to last, their high price tags weren’t well justified. That’s why Asus has taken it upon itself to craft a full-fledged premium 2-in-1 Chromebook that retails for a fraction of the price. 

The Asus Chromebook Flip’s pair of USB Type-C ports, dazzling screen and stunning MacBook-esque looks render it an essential inclusion on our best laptops for students list, especially when you consider its pristine value. And with a battery life of 10 hours and 46 minutes, the Asus Chromebook Flip ought to last you an entire work day, even if the speakers aren’t great.

Read the full review: Asus Chromebook Flip

Microsoft Surface Pro 4

Given the amount of effort that was clearly put into the Surface Pro’s improvements over the TechRadar-recommended Surface Pro 4 of 2015, it’s a wonder Microsoft’s latest iteration of the Surface Pro drops the number altogether. This is – in every way, shape and form – the Surface Pro 5 we’ve been waiting for, from its rounded edges to its refined selection of accessories.

There’s also the fact that the Surface Pro draws inspiration from the Surface Studio insofar as it bends back 165 degrees. The only real downside then (besides having to buy the Surface Pen separately this time) is that only the i7 version of the Surface Pro can compete with even the most affordable iPad Pro.

Read the full review: Microsoft Surface Pro

  • This product is only available in the US and Australia as of this writing. UK readers: check out a fine alternative in the Lenovo Miix 510.

best laptops for students

For less than a grand, you could get a MacBook Air, complete with a sub-1080p screen and a Broadwell processor… or you could buy a Samsung Notebook 7 Spin. A 2-in-1 laptop with an HDR, full HD touchscreen, the Spin is home to both a discrete Nvidia graphics chip and a 6th-generation Intel Core “i” CPU. 

Considering the sheer horsepower you can exert from this thing and – we can't stress this enough – an HDR screen, the Samsung Notebook 7 Spin is as suited for the classroom as it is in your dorm. Though the spinning hard drive and 480p webcam aren’t ideal, they keep the price of the Samsung Notebook 7 Spin modest and its reputation positive.

Read the full review: Samsung Notebook 7 Spin

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

While a gaming laptop might sound ideal for homework by day and taking out waves of enemies by night, it’s normally a steep investment with little room for upgrades. Ditching the Alienware moniker for once, the Dell Inspiron 15 Gaming doesn’t cost much and exhibits unparalleled performance for the price.

For the price, you wouldn’t even be able to afford a MacBook Air, and this is a laptop that can handle practically every game you throw at it, albeit not at the highest settings. 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.

Read the full review: Dell Inspiron 15 Gaming

After the wonderfully brilliant Asus Zenbook UX305 was discontinued, we were skeptical that Asus could follow it up with something even better. After all, with the MacBook Air all but buried, Microsoft’s partners have fewer incentives to keep innovating with their direct competitors. 

Still, the Asus ZenBook UX310UA surprises with the same all-aluminum chassis we’ve come to know and love in addition to a higher resolution screen and an impressive swath of ports, including the latest USB-C interface. The best news is that it does all of that without slipping above the price point of the current MacBook Air, making it an even better value.

Read the full review: Asus ZenBook UX310

best laptops for students

The Surface Laptop is Microsoft’s first stab at a “traditional” laptop, if you can even call it that knowing full well that its PixelSense touchscreen and Alcantara keyboard are anything but conventional. Featuring a full stack of U-series 7th generation Intel Core “i” processors, the Surface Laptop beats out Apple’s 12-inch MacBook any day of the week, and for a lower starting price at that.

Despite the ports being limited to USB 3.0, Mini DisplayPort, a headphone jack and Surface Connect, the Surface Laptop is appealing for its laudable design, beautifully vivid screen and impressive performance. So while upgradeability is practically nonexistent and the pre-installed Windows 10 S operating system is comparatively limited, the premium cost isn’t without merit. The Surface Laptop is nothing more, but nothing less, than it claims to be.

Read the full review: Surface Laptop

Huawei is in an interesting position. Globally, the company ranks third in smartphone sales, but it’s still yet to become a household name outside of China. This could all change with the introduction of the MateBook X, a thin and light notebook that resembles a MacBook, but turns out to be so much more. 

Instead of wielding a measly Intel Core M- or Y-series processor, the Huawei MateBook X goes for gold with a full on U-series CPU of the Core i5 and i7 variety without resorting to a clunkier form factor. Other than the lukewarm battery life and a notable shortage on ports, this is an honest first attempt at crafting a premium Windows notebook with portability at the forefront.

Read the full review: Huawei MateBook X

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

Apple 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display (early 2015)

For students impressed by the sleek-and-alluring 12-inch MacBook, but unsatisfied by the lack of power and ports, the 13-inch MacBook Pro is the obvious resolution at long last. With battery life exceeding seven hours and a powerful Intel Core i5 processor, the latest 13-inch MacBook Pro is replete with everything you need to get through the coming semesters.

The 13-inch, late 2016 MacBook Pro weighs only 3.02 pounds (1.37kg), making it lighter than ever before as the result of a slimmed-down, “butterfly” mechanism-powered keyboard and stealthy cooling system. The MacBook Pro even manages a larger trackpad despite the laptop itself being thinner. And, like all macOS-outfitted devices, it ships with Pages, iMovie and Garageband pre-installed at no extra cost.

Read the full review: Apple MacBook Pro (13-inch, Late 2016)

Gabe Carey has also contributed to this article

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