With so many choices, picking the ideal laptop for your student may be the hardest part of the whole back to school shopping experience. To make things easier, I put together a list of the top 10 laptops for students. I grouped these based on a few key criteria that many people base their decision on. Read below for a full description of these criteria, but first here is the complete list of the top 10 laptops for 2017, and into 2018:
1 Alienware 15.6-inch Laptop or 17.3-inch Gaming Laptop (Gaming)
2 ASUS ROG Strix 17.3-inch Gaming Laptop (Gaming)
3 Microsoft Surface Laptop (Thin and Light)
4 ASUS 14-inch ZenBook UX430UA (Thin and Light)
5 Microsoft Surface Book 2 13.5-inch 2-in-1 Laptop (2 in 1 Convertible)
6 HP Spectre x360 Touchscreen Laptop 13.3 inch – OR 15.6-inch version (2 in 1 Convertible)
7 HP Stream 14-inch Laptop (Value)
8 HP 15.6-inch Laptop (Value)
9 HP 15.6-inch Touchscreen Laptop (Everyday)
10 Acer Swift 3, 14-inch Laptop (Everyday)
What do students like doing more than homework? For many, gaming is going to be high on that list. So it only makes sense to kick off any list of top 10 laptops for students with some choices that can pull double duty for PC gaming. Because they have high end specs (including powerful CPUs, dedicated graphics and plenty of RAM) these gaming laptops can also be a good choice for a student who needs high performance capabilities such as the ability to edit 4K video, or to crunch a lot of data. These laptops also meet the requirements needed for virtual reality.
Everybody knows the Alienware logo, and having it on a laptop means an excellent gaming experience in a compact package. Perfect for gaming on the go, or setting up a PC gaming rig in the limited space of a dorm room—no big computer or monitor required.
Even though it’s a laptop, there are no compromises on performance. Inside is an Intel Core i7 CPU at 2.8GHz, 16GB of fast DDR4 RAM, an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 video card with 6GB of dedicated GDDR5 RAM and 1TB of hard drive storage complemented by 128GB of zippy SSD storage. That hardware drives a 15.6-inch Full HD, IPS anti-glare display capable of 300-nits of brightness and offering G-Sync technology.
Connectivity is fast 802.11ac plus Gigabit Ethernet, and SuperSpeed USB 3.0, with a full complement of ports including USB-C.
Want even more screen real estate? The Alienware gaming laptop is also available in a 17.3-inch version.
ASUS is another PC gaming powerhouse with its Republic of Gamers (ROG) brand. This ROG Strix gaming laptop is a great choice for students who don’t have the room for a desktop PC and monitor, but want an uncompromising portable gaming experience.
Start with the display, which is a big 17.3-inches, with Full HD resolution. Processing power is provided by a 2.8 GHz quad-core Intel Core i7 with 16GB of DDR4 RAM on tap. A dedicated Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 video card with 6GB of video RAM pushes the pixels. And everything is faster—including game load times—because ASUS went with a 1TB FireCuda hybrid drive for storage. There’s no shortage of ports (including USB-C), and the keyboard is LED backlit and optimized for gaming.
Thin and Light
Some of the best back to school laptops for students are thin and light. Easy to fit in a backpack and light enough that they can easily carry them all day.
Microsoft Surface Laptop
Laptops don’t come much thinner or lighter (or more stylish) than the new Microsoft Surface Laptop. Equipped with a 7th generation Intel Core i5 CPU, 4GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD, it offers snappy Windows 10 performance. The 13.5-inch PixelSense touchscreen display offers crystal clear 2256 x 1504 resolution and the luxurious Alcantara fabric keyboard feels as good as it looks. With the Surface Laptop students can express themselves by choosing that Alcantara keyboard in Burgundy, Blue or Gold as well as the original Platinum.
Looking for thin and light? Look no further than this ASUS 14-inch ZenBook. There’s a lot more screen real estate than you might expect from an ultra-thin laptop that weighs just 1.3 kg. That’s because ASUS used a new NanoEdge bezel design, so you get a 14-inch Full HD display instead of the usual 13-inches. With an Intel Core i3 CPU, 8GB of RAM and a speedy 128GB SSD, this sleek laptop is perfect for slinging between classes. You can plug in virtually any peripheral—old or new—with USB 3.0, USB 2.0 and new USB-C ports, along with HDMI for connecting to an external display or even a big screen TV.
If you want a little more muscle, this ZenBook is also available in a Core i5 configuration. For even better performance, you can choose to ditch the integrated graphics in favour of a ZenBook with dedicated graphics in the form of an Nvidia GeForce MX 150 video card with 2GB of RAM.
There are plenty of choices in mobile computing’s hottest category, convertible and 2-in-1 laptops. Featuring the latest mobile-optimized CPUs, they offer performance and great battery life in a compact package. Most also offer touchscreen displays and the ability to convert to a tablet form factor. That means one less device to carry around, and the ability to hand-write notes or draw diagrams.
The Surface Book 2 is the flagship of Microsoft’s laptop lineup. And even though it functions without compromise as a laptop, its display can completely detach from the very cool Dynamic Fulcrum Hinge to become a standalone Windows tablet. This makes it perfect for use with Windows Ink (something I discovered when I reviewed the Surface Book 2).
Also worth noting is the resolution of its PixelSense display (an incredible 3000 x 2000 pixels packed into 13.5-inches), a 256GB SSD, and up to 17 hours of battery life. That’s a lot of class time without having to worry about a power outlet …
An Intel Core i5 is standard, but if you want more power on tap, Microsoft also offers a 13.5-inch Surface Book 2 that’s equipped with a Core i7 CPU.
Is it an ultra-thin laptop or a Windows tablet? The HP Spectre x360 is both and it deserves a a spot on any list of top 10 laptops.
Made from a block of CNC-machined aluminum, this laptop is both stunning and rock solid. Only 13.9 mm thick, it still offers an 8th generation Core i5 CPU, 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD to deliver on the performance front. Its 13.3-inch Full HD UWVA BrightView WLED-backlit multitouch-enabled display is brilliant and supported by premium Bang & Olufsen audio (something music and movie lovers will appreciate). The 360-degree hinge turns that display into a powerful Windows 10 tablet, with support for the included stylus. A full HD TrueVision webcam is perfect for college and university students to stay in touch with video chats.
Want to go big? HP also offers a 15.6-inch version.
You don’t have to break the bank to get a decent notebook computer. The next two entries on this list of the top 10 laptops for students are value options, ideal for shopping on a budget.
The HP Stream offers all the basics in a student laptop, providing an affordable Windows 10 experience. Hardware includes a dual-core Intel Celeron CPU, 14-inch HD display, 32GB of solid state storage, and fast 802.11ac Wi-Fi. The blue case makes for a fun look that stands out from more “serious” looking laptops. With its HDMI port, you can even connect it to a monitor or TV for a bigger view.
You also get a free one-year subscription to Office 365 Personal, something every student can use.
If you want something a little bigger in the value range, this HP laptop has a 15.6-inch HD display. The 1.5GHz AMD E2-9000e processor paired with 4GB of RAM is sufficient to run Windows 10 and handle basic computing tasks, while the 500GB hard drive has plenty of space for storing music, movies and other files. In comes with Windows 10 Home pre-installed.
To finish off this top 10 laptops list, it’s time to call out a few outstanding everyday options. These laptops don’t try to be super skinny or ultra-powerful, but they’re a solid option for being able to handle pretty much any tasks a student might have.
This laptop would be a good choice for a reliable portable computer that covers off all the basics. The 15.6-inch HD display is big enough for daily use. An Intel Core i5 CPU, 8GB of RAM and a 1TB hard drive provide the performance to run Windows 10 software including Microsoft Office, plus plenty of storage.
The Acer Swift 3 is a 14-inch laptop that has everything most students need, in a compact and affordable package. Instead of a 15-inch display, it sports a Full HD 14-inch LED display that helps to keep the size down.
At the heart of the system is Intel’s latest 8th generation, quad-core Core i5 CPU, with 8GB of RAM and 256GB of solid state storage. There are plenty of USB ports for accessories like mice, printers and external hard drives, HDMI for video output, and wireless connectivity is covered off with Bluetooth 4.0 and 802.11ac Wi-Fi.
Heading back to school, ramping up for a new semester or just ready to upgrade to something more suitable for your schoolwork? Make sure to check out the massive selection of laptops for students available at Best Buy. Whether you’re looking for a model that can handle gaming or just a basic laptop for writing essays and surfing the web, Best Buy has all the best choices in every size, form factor and price range.
[Editor’s note: this is an updated version of an earlier article. The laptops mentioned have been updated to reflect products that are currently available.]