The 8 Best Laptops for College Students in 2020 – Reviews and Comparison

By | October 28, 2020

With so many laptops available for college students to choose from, it can be challenging to find the right laptop for taking notes, writing papers, making presentations, watching tutorial videos and taking online classes.

Not to mention keeping up with your social network, streaming movies, and posting photos.

Laptops are growing more indispensable for students each year, as many colleges and universities are trying to implement a mix of in-person and remote learning.

Even if you're only learning from home a few days a week and heading to campus the rest of the time, a laptop you can use wherever you are is essential.

If you're a student on a budget, you can easily go for an entry-level laptop with a decent hard drive, graphics card, display, and battery life.

But rather than going for a super cheap laptop, sometimes it's worthwhile to spend a few hundred more on a machine with longer battery life, a faster SSD, and better performance.

How to Choose

Laptops come in a huge variety of features and specifications and you need to carefully assess your needs to find the best one. Key features to consider would be Display size, RAM memory, battery life, graphics card and cpu.

If you looking for a highly portable and light weight laptop you have to go for a smaller display size around 13.5 inches as smaller laptops are lighter.
Also note that smaller laptops may be better battery life but that is not always the case.

For general usage about 4GB ram would suffice, but if you intend to play games or if you are going to open a lot of Chrome tabs, we recommend 8GB RAM. Certain applications are very RAM intensive.

For storage type we always recommend SSD or the superior M.2 NVME storage. They are smaller, compact and much faster than HDDs. Storage can be anywhere between 128-512 GB. For additional storage you can buy a separate external ssd or hdd. That way you can keep your laptop budget low.

Graphics card is an important component that affects price and portability. We recommend integrated gpus, as they are cheaper and keep the laptop light weight and portable. You can also run games that are 2D or don't require high end graphics cards. A dedicated graphics would make not only increase the weight of the laptop, but also its price.

Besides those features you also have to consider the cost and budget. Whatever you are willing to spend, make sure that you get a laptop that proves useful and productive for your daily needs.

Our Top Picks for Best College Students Laptops

The following are some of our best picks for college students. Display size ranges from 11.6" to 15.6". SSD is 128-256GB.
Most have integrated GPUs and 2 core processors.

1. Acer Aspire 5 Slim Laptop - Full HD, 15.6", 128GB SSD, 4GB DDR4 RAM, IPS, AMD Ryzen 3 3200U, Vega 3 Graphics, 7.5 hours battery life Check Price
2. HP 1W830UA Windows 10 Notebook - HD Display, 15.6", 128GB SSD, 4GB DDR4 RAM, Intel Core i3-1005G1, Intel UHD Graphics, 7 hours battery life Check Price
3. Lenovo Ideapad 330 Laptop - HD LED Backlit Display, 15.6", 256 SSD, 8GB DDR4 RAM, AMD A9-9425, AMD Radeon R5 Graphics, 5 hours battery life Check Price
4. ASUS VivoBook L203MA - HD Display, 11.6", 64GB flash storage, 4GB RAM, Intel Celeron N4000, 10 hours battery life Check Price
5. HP Envy X360 - Full HD Display, 15.6", 256GB, 8GB RAM, AMD Ryzen 5 2500U, AMD Radeon RX Vega 8 Graphics Integrated, 10.5 hours battery life Check Price
6. Lenovo Flex 11 - HD Touchscreen Display, 11.6", 64GB eMMC SSD, 4 GB RAM, Intel Pentium Silver N5000, 6 hours battery life Check Price
7. Microsoft Surface Laptop (1st Gen) - LED-Lit Display, 13.5", 128Gb Storage, 4GB RAM, Intel Core i5, Intel HD 620, 14.5 hours battery life Check Price
8. ASUS Chromebook C523 - HD Display, 15.6", 32Gb Storage, 4Gb RAM, Intel Dual-Core Celeron N3350, Intel HD Graphics 500, 10 hours battery life Check Price

1. Acer Aspire 5 Slim Laptop

This is a budget 15.6’’ IPS panel laptop, but it’s far from ordinary in its class. The Aspire 5 Slim comes packing midrange features like Full HD IPS display, 128GB SSD, and AMD Ryzen 3 3200U, 4GB DDR4 rated at 2400MHz.

Further, it comes with a 47Wh battery with up to 7.5 hours of battery use at a decidedly budget price.

Acer Aspire 5 Slim Laptop

Acer Aspire 5 Slim Laptop

Features

  • AMD Ryzen 3 3200U dual-core processor (Up to 3.5GHz)
  • 15.6” Full HD (1920 x 1080) Widescreen LED-backlit IPS Display
  • 4GB DDR4 RAM
  • 128GB SSD
  • AMD Radeon Vega 3 Mobile Integrated Graphics
  • 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0
  • Windows 10 S
  • 3.97 lbs
  • 1x USB 3.1 port, 2x USB 2.0 ports, 1x HDMI port
  • 7.5 hours of battery life
  • Backlit keyboard

Pros

  • Full HD gives perfect resolution on a 15.6-inch display
  • Overall color reproduction is good and the screen pleasant to use
  • The keyboard is nicely spaced, with a great backlight and a nice soft typing experience
  • Good connectivity and an Ethernet port
  • Build quality feels very solid

Review

Performance is an area where this laptop really shines as a budget machine. The i3 processor may only offer two cores in a four-core world, but they’re fast cores and two is still plenty for a majority of the things most people use their PC for.

The fact that this laptop comes with a proper SSD rather than a slow hard drive or EMC storage is also a huge boost to performance. The upgradable 4GB RAM also allows you to easily juggle 2-3 applications.

2. HP 1W830UA Windows 10 Notebook

This is a solid machine with great specs for its price. The HP 1005G1 features a 15.6” HD display, 128SSD, 4GB RAM, and a 10th Gen Intel Core i3-1005G1 at 3.4GHz. The battery life lasts for up to 7 hours. For a perfectly decent and usable mid-range business laptop, this seems like a great way to go.

HP 1W830UA Windows 10 Notebook

HP 1W830UA Windows 10 Notebook

Features

  • 10th Gen Intel Core i3-1005G1 (Up to 3.40 GHz)
  • Intel UHD Graphics
  • 15.6" diagonal HD SVA BrightView micro-edge WLED-backlit, 220 nits, 45% NTSC (1366 x 768)
  • 4 GB DDR4 SDRAM
  • 128GB SSD
  • Built-in HD Webcam with Dual Speakers
  • 1 x USB-C 3.1 port, 2 x USB 3.1 port, 1 x HDMI port, 1 x AC smart pin port, Multi-format media card reader

Pros

  • Solid build: all plastic but doesn’t feel cheap
  • Solid Display and Performance
  • Keyboard is backlit and pleasant to type in
  • One of the lightest budget laptops at 3.7 pounds

Review

Web browsing, document creation, spreadsheets are all very comfortable and you’ll be able to take advantage of the extra space offered over a lower resolution. Viewing angles are as excellent as they should be on an IPS display allowing for a great off-center viewing experience.

In this display, one failure is brightness, which can be adequate for indoor work. As an extra feature, the screen leans all the way back to 180 degrees.

3. Lenovo Ideapad 330

The Lenovo IdeaPad 330 has a 15.6-inch HD LED-backlit display with a resolution of 1366x768. The display has an energy-efficient design which means extended battery life and reduced utility bills. It features an impressive 8Gb DDR4 memory for smooth multitasking capabilities and 256 SSD.

Finding a laptop with the right balance of performance, portability, and price can be a real challenge sometimes. Usually, you end up sacrificing premium elements in order to reduce cost, but with Lenovo, you get a laptop that runs everyday tasks without any lag.

Lenovo Ideapad 330

Lenovo Ideapad 330

Features

  • 7th Generation AMD A9-9425 Processor (Dual-Core, Up to 3. 7 GHz)
  • 15. 6 Inch HD (1366x768) NON-Touch anti-glare LED backlight display, 200 nits
  • 8GB DDR4 RAM
  • 256GB SSD
  • AMD Radeon R5 Graphic, supports two independent displays
  • DVD-RW, Webcam, HDMI, 4-in-1 Media Card Reader (MMC, SD, SDHC, SDXC)

Pros

  • Sturdy aluminum chassis
  • DVD-RW

Review

The laptop has a minimal design and sleek body, adequate for a professional context. Considering how cheap this laptop can be, they didn’t sacrifice a rigid chassis, keyboard is one of the most premium elements, with a tactile response that makes it really nice to type on.

This is a laptop that is all about functionality. Features an 8th gen i5 processor, an AMD Radeon R5 Graphic, an AMD A9-9425 up to 3.7 GHz, DVD-RW, and an HDMI port.

4. ASUS VivoBook L203MA Laptop

The ASUS VivoBook L203MA is designed to help you be productive all day, even when you're on the go. This compact and lightweight 11.6-inch HD laptop runs on the Intel Celeron Dual Core processor and provides a long-lasting battery.

ASUS VivoBook L203MA Laptop

ASUS VivoBook L203MA Laptop

Features

  • Intel Celeron N4000 Processor (4M Cache, Up to 2. 6 GHz)
  • 11. 6 inch HD (1366 x 768) display
  • 4GB LPDDR4 RAM
  • 64GB em flash storage
  • One year of Microsoft Office 365 included
  • HD Webcam
  • Thinness: 0. 7 inches; Weight: 2. 2 pounds (Battery included)

Pros

  • Portability
  • Up to 10 hours of battery life
  • USB-C

Review

With eMMC and Windows 10 storage preloaded in S mode, it offers full compatibility with a wide range of software and peripherals. It is the best laptop for people on the go.

Although the screen is just an 11.6″, it can produce very crisp, bright colors with HD resolution. Despite having a shiny or glossy looking lid, the dot patterns somehow prevent your laptop to be a fingerprint magnet.

The keyboard deck has matte warm grey colored plastic which looks classy if you are seeing it yourself. You get an 11.6-inch laptop - smaller, but also lighter, weighing only 2.2 pounds

5. HP Envy X360

This is a 2-in-1 laptop, perfect for business and everyday use. It’s a nice metal build, easy to open but a little heavier than some of the other options on this list. The best thing about the 2-in-1 form factor is that you can use it as a regular laptop or you can lay it flat and use it as a tablet.

HP Envy X360

HP Envy X360

Features

  • AMD Quad-Core Ryzen 5 2500U Processor, 2.0GHz Base Frequency, Up to 3.60GHz, 6 MB Smartcache
  • 15.6" Full HD ( 1920 x 1080 ) IPS Touchscreen WLED Display
  • 8GB DDR4 SDRAM
  • 256GB SSD
  • AMD Radeon RX Vega 8 Graphics Integrated
  • 1 x USB 3.1 Type-C port, 2 x USB 3.1 port, 1 x HDMI port, 1 x Headphone/microphone Combo Jacks, 1 x microSD Media Card Reader
  • Built-in FHD IR Webcam
  • Backlit Keyboard
  • Up to 10.5 Hours Battery Life

Pros

  • Bright screen, perfect for inside or even coffee shops
  • Can be used in laptop mode, tent mode or tablet mode

Review

The laptop features a 15.6" Full HD IPS Touchscreen Display, 8GB DDR4, an AMD Quad-Core Ryzen 5 2500U processor, and a 256 GB SSD. The Keyboard is backlit, the IPS full HD display sets it apart from the most laptops in its price range.

One of the first laptops to sport AMD's latest fourth-generation Ryzen U-series processors, the HP Envy x360 13 combines above-average computing performance with a thin, light, and stylish chassis. It also includes a convenient automatic webcam privacy filter, a high-quality screen, and a comfortable keyboard.

6. Lenovo Flex 11 Chromebook

The Flex has a Lenovo signature hinge which makes it easy to switch from laptop to tablet mode. It’s made of plastic but it doesn’t feel cheap. It’s quite portable weighing under 3 pounds.

It features an 11.6 Inch HD Touchscreen Display, Laptop Intel Pentium Silver N5000 Processor, and 4GB DDR4. It’s a remarkably inexpensive Windows laptop and tablet that can handle the basics.

Lenovo Flex 11 Chromebook

Lenovo Flex 11 Chromebook

Features

  • Intel Pentium Silver N5000 Processor
  • 11.6’’ HD Touchscreen Display
  • 4GB DDR4 RAM
  • 64GB of eMMC SSD
  • Dolby Audio Premium
  • 1x USB 3.0 port, 1x Type-C port, 1x HDMI port and a 4-in-1 card reader
  • Ergonomic keyboard and precise touchpad
  • Weight: 2.75 pounds

Pros

  • The screen is not very bright
  • Low price
  • Strong battery life
  • Survives minor drops
  • Includes a USB-C port

Review

The Lenovo Flex 11 Chromebook is plastic, not aluminum, and it has an 11.6-inch display with just 1366x 768 pixels rather than 1080p or higher resolution. But it's an IPS touch screen in a flip-and-fold convertible chassis.

This Chromebook is a well-equipped and semi-rugged convertible-hybrid laptop that offers just enough features to make it a strong bargain over other budget laptops.

7. Microsoft Surface (1st Gen) D9P-00001 Laptop

Surface Laptop strikes exactly the right balance of power, portability, utility, and design for most people; albeit at a slightly higher price than its direct competitors. Although you’d find many laptops at this price point, all those laptops ask you to make more uncomfortable compromises than the Surface Laptop.

Microsoft Surface (1st Gen) D9P-00001 Laptop

Microsoft Surface (1st Gen) D9P-00001 Laptop

Features

  • 7th generation Intel Core i5 processor
  • 13.5" LED-Lit Screen
  • 4GB RAM
  • 128 GB of storage
  • Up to 14.5 hours of battery life
  • Luxurious fabric-covered keyboard
  • 3.5mm headset jack.
  • The exterior has an aluminum casing

Pros

  • Great Balance of Power and Thinness
  • Beautiful touchscreen

Review

Microsoft Surface features an Intel Core i5, 13.5" LED-Lit Screen, 128 GB SSD, and 4 GB of Ram Memory.

8. ASUS Chromebook C523 Laptop

With its sleek design and big 1080p touch screen, the 15.6-inch Asus Chromebook C523 is an unusual bargain: a budget-friendly big-screen Chromebook.

ASUS Chromebook C523 Laptop

ASUS Chromebook C523 Laptop

Features

  • Intel Dual-Core Celeron N3350 Processor (2M Cache, up to 2. 4 GHz)
  • 14’’/15.6’’ HD NanoEdge Display with 180 Degree Hinge
  • 4 GB RAM
  • 32GB eMMC Storage
  • 10 hours battery life

Pros

  • Price
  • A sleek design with a part-aluminum solid build
  • A crisp 1080p panel
  • Nice keyboard and touchpad

Review

The Chromebook C523 doesn’t suffer from cramped keys like many other Chromebooks and delivers a generous 15.6-inch touch display inside a sleek chassis with enjoyably thin bezels. Add in its aluminum lid, and it looks and feels like it should cost a bunch more.

You’ll also find two Asus Chromebook C523 models: they feature a 14 inch and 15.6-inch display, respectively, and an Intel Dual Core Celeron Processor, 32GB of flash storage, and a 1.366x768 pixel non-touch display. It offers a stellar design, sufficient specs to comfortably power Chrome OS at a reasonable price.

Conclusion

You may have noticed that the laptops for college I've chosen aren't bangers that are going to impress you with incredible performance and the most premium designs. When you're in college, you won't need the absolute best laptops available on the market.

Rather, what students need is a reliable, entry to a mid-level machine with enough computing horsepower and battery life to get you through the day. The models mentioned above are all around $500 and below. Making them rather the cheapest laptops available.

For everyday schoolwork, basic web browsing, and word processing, most students can even get away with a Chromebook. But if you want a machine capable of more than running web applications and Android apps, a Windows laptop is what you should buy.

Once you've decided on which OS you want to work on, your processor is what you should be looking at next. Should you start running out of capacity before the school term is over, there's always the option of offloading your older data to an external hard drive or upgrading your machine with a larger drive yourself.

The laptops on this list sacrifice less than what is to be expected for the price and are great buys depending on what you're looking for. Although it's not perfect, it's a lot more than what competitors have to offer for the price point.

Also bear in mind that the laptops are not good for gaming either. As a college student if you plan to play competitive 3D games over local network then you would need one with a dedicated graphics card.

Laptops with dedicated graphics card will also have a more powerful CPU and more RAM and SSD space. This will drive the overall cost significantly up compared to a budget laptop. If you wan't gaming then go for one with a dedicated graphics card. The prices of such laptops will usually be upwards of $700.

Resources and References

For more information about the laptops check out the official website at the links below:

#3 Lenovo 330-15AST
#4 ASUS VivoBook L203MA Laptop
#6 Lenovo Flex 11 Chromebook
#7 Microsoft Surface (1st Gen) D9P-00001 Laptop
#8 ASUS Chromebook C523 Laptop

About Silver Moon

A Tech Enthusiast, Blogger, Linux Fan and a Software Developer. Writes about Computer hardware, Linux and Open Source software and coding in Python, Php and Javascript. He can be reached at [email protected].

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