Why you can trust ZDNET : Our process

'ZDNET Recommends': What exactly does it mean?

ZDNET's recommendations are based on many hours of testing, research, and comparison shopping. We gather data from the best available sources, including vendor and retailer listings as well as other relevant and independent reviews sites. And we pore over customer reviews to find out what matters to real people who already own and use the products and services we’re assessing.

When you click through from our site to a retailer and buy a product or service, we may earn affiliate commissions. This helps support our work, but does not affect what we cover or how, and it does not affect the price you pay. Neither ZDNET nor the author are compensated for these independent reviews. Indeed, we follow strict guidelines that ensure our editorial content is never influenced by advertisers.

ZDNET's editorial team writes on behalf of you, our reader. Our goal is to deliver the most accurate information and the most knowledgeable advice possible in order to help you make smarter buying decisions on tech gear and a wide array of products and services. Our editors thoroughly review and fact-check every article to ensure that our content meets the highest standards. If we have made an error or published misleading information, we will correct or clarify the article. If you see inaccuracies in our content, please report the mistake via this form.


The best laptops for college you can buy: Expert tested

We tested the best laptops for college students, grading their performance (and student discounts) to help you pick the right device for your studies.
Written by Kyle Kucharski, Editor

Why you can trust ZDNET

ZDNET's reviewers spend weeks to months testing each laptop on this list, using it for both everyday tasks like browsing, streaming, and gaming, to more performance-intensive work like photo and video editing. We aim to give you a view into how each laptop could actually fit into your life and workflow, and the pros and cons of their various features like performance, display, and battery life.

What to Consider






Storage and RAM





Apple MacBook Air M3 | Best college laptop overall
M3 MacBook Air with MacOS Sonoma wallpaper
Apple MacBook Air M3
Best college laptop overall
View now View at Apple
HP Dragonfly Pro Chromebook | Best Chromebook for college
Holding up the HP Dragonfly Pro Chromebook.
HP Dragonfly Pro Chromebook
Best Chromebook for college
View now View at HP
Acer Aspire Go 15 | Best college laptop under $500
Acer Aspire Go 15
Acer Aspire Go 15
Best college laptop under $500
View now View at Amazon
Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 | Best college laptop for gaming
Asus ROG Zephyrus G14
Best college laptop for gaming
View now View at Walmart
Lenovo Yoga Book 9i | Best 2-in-1 convertible laptop for college
The Lenovo Yoga Book 9i (2024) standing up with screens vertical.
Lenovo Yoga Book 9i
Best 2-in-1 convertible laptop for college
View now View at Best Buy

Choosing a laptop for college can be tougher than picking your major. You want to get something that will last for your time in school, but most students (or their parents) don't have a sky-high budget for high-end machines. Luckily, we can take some of the guesswork out of the process with our ZDNET expert-tested reviews, bringing five solid options to the forefront, each with specialized use cases.

Durability, portability, and of course performance, are the name of the game here. We personally went hands-on with these laptops to test them out, and we can vouch for each of them as having the right combination of features as the best laptops for college in 2024.  

Also: The best laptops of 2024

What's the best laptop for college right now? 

Our pick for the best laptop for college overall goes to the Apple MacBook Air M3. In terms of portability, sleek form factor, and a solid battery life, the MacBook Air M3 is as light as it is powerful, and is future-proofed to last the duration of a multi-year degree program. It might not be the best pick for you, however, so we included other options that round out the spectrum of most common use cases.  

The best laptop for college in 2024

Apple MacBook Air M3

Best college laptop overall

Our pick for overall best laptop for college is a no-brainer: The Apple MacBook Air M3 brings a portable, sleek form factor to match impressive performance that's pro enough for any student.

Available in a 13-inch and 15-inch display, the Air is as thin as it is light, and can be slipped into any backpack or bag without weighing you down. The MacBook Air M3 also is eligible for an Apple educational discount, perfect for students looking to save some cash on a new machine.

Review: M3 MacBook Air review: Apple's AI computer for the masses has arrived 

The M3 Air's 18 hours of battery life also is some of the best out there, removing the need of having you vie for outlets while on campus.

But it all comes down to this laptop's performance. The M3 chip's 16-core neural engine future-proofs it with AI readiness, while the option to load it with up plenty of storage offers plenty of space to stick with you during your time at university.

Apple MacBook Air M3 tech specs: 8-core CPU with 16-core Neural Engine | 8GB, 16GB, or 24GB of unified memory with 10-core GPU | 512GB, 1TB, or 2TB storage | LCD, 60Hz refresh rate, 500 nits max | Up to 18 hours of battery life | 13-inch: 2.7 points; 15-inch: 3.3 pounds

M3 MacBook Air with MacOS Sonoma wallpaper
Show Expert Take Show less

HP Dragonfly Pro Chromebook

Best Chromebook for college

Instead of going for a Mac or a Windows machine, Chromebooks, powered by ChromeOS are a solid third option, and the best one for college students is the HP Dragonfly Pro Chromebook.

Already called out as our pick for the best Chromebook for students, this intel-equipped laptop is stacked with quality hardware like a 12th Gen Intel Core i5 CPU, a super-bright display (the brightest I've seen on a Chromebook yet), and a sleek form factor that is just over three pounds, making it well-suited for the mobile college student.

Review: HP Dragonfly Pro review: The best Chromebook you can buy right now 

The Dragonfly Pro also stands out from the crowd with a flashy touch: RBG lights illuminate the keyboard with colorful, glowing keycaps in a variety of color schemes (that can be turned off when you're in class). And the haptic trackpad, by the way, is on par with a MacBook's, making it a breeze to use without a mouse. 

HP also offers an  on select laptops and computers as part of a membership program. 

HP Dragonfly Pro Chromebook tech specs: Intel Core i5-1235U | Integrated Iris Xe | 16GB memory, 256GB SSD | 14-inch WXQGA (1920 x 1200) display, 1,200 nits | Up to 11 hours of battery life | 3.33 lbs

Holding up the HP Dragonfly Pro Chromebook.
Show Expert Take Show less

Acer Aspire Go 15

Best college laptop under $500

We're calling the Acer Aspire Go 15 the best college laptop under $500, but it's actually well under that price. For just $300, this is a capable laptop that is ideal for students on a budget. Not everyone needs a powerful laptop decked out in high-end hardware, especially if you have a desktop as a primary computer. And for a portable notebook that is built to cover the basics, it doesn't get much more affordable than this. 

The Acer Aspire Go 15 has half the amount of RAM and half the amount of memory as the other Chromebook on this list, the HP Dragonfly Pro, but it's a third of the cost, making it a great bang-for-buck device or secondary laptop for use on the go. 

Review: I replaced my desktop with a $299 laptop for a week, and I was pleasantly surprised

I can see this laptop being ideal for business students, as the 15-inch screen gives enough room for working with spreadsheets and productivity software, where the full keyboard features a number pad on the right side. Add in a webcam, a good selection of ports, and a Kensington lock slot, and you have a laptop that has all your bases covered. In addition, the can knock some additional cost off of your purchase. 

Acer Aspire Go 15 tech specs: Intel Core i3-N305 | Integrated Intel UHD GPU | 8GB memory, 125GB SSD | 15-inch Full HD display | Up to 11 hours of battery life | 3.75 lbs

Acer Aspire Go 15
Show Expert Take Show less

Asus ROG Zephyrus G14

Best college laptop for gaming

You know what they say about all work and no play. Let's face it, college is a grind, so it's nice to be able to unplug by plugging into your favorite game. Luckily, there are laptops that can do both, and the Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 gives you the best of both worlds. This is a sleek and lightweight laptop that you can bring to class, but it's also powerful enough to run all your favorite games in the off-hours. Also, the  offers student discounts on select laptops after signing up through a brief application form.

Review: Asus' new laptop is a solid MacBook alternative that's better in several ways

Armed with an Nvidia GeForce RTX 4060 GPU and 2K resolution OLED screen, games look vibrant and crisp, while the laptop's flashy RBG lights can be turned off while you're in that history lecture. Best of all, the Zephyrus G14 is incredibly lightweight for the amount of power it has. In fact, it earned a spot on our best lightweight laptops for that very reason. 

Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 tech specs: AMD Ryzen 9 8945HS | Nvidia GeForce RTX 4070, 8GB | 32GB memory, 1TB SSD | 14-inch OLED display | Up to 12 hours of battery life | 3.3 lbs

Show Expert Take Show less

Lenovo Yoga Book 9i

Best 2-in-1 convertible laptop for college

In a sea of laptops that all look more or less the same, the Lenovo Yoga Book 9i dares to do something drastically different. Armed with two 13.3-inch touchscreen displays that can be configured in different ways, the Yoga Book 9i is the best choice for students that need a flexible 2-in-1 laptop and performance to boot.

The onboard Core Ultra 7 processor is snappy and well-optimized for AI, and comes with up to 32GB of RAM for more demanding tasks like rendering or video editing, both of which I can see being useful for art or media students.

Review: I tested Lenovo's dual-screen laptop and it improved my productivity in profound ways 

There are a few considerations, however. First, the $2,000 price tag puts it at the most expensive laptop on this list, although Lenovo does offer a student discount program. And the multiple configurations result in a device that comes with a separate keyboard, a stylus, and a kickstand, so there are more parts to carry around, potentially reducing its portability. However, the result is a stunning dual-screen laptop that's the best of its kind for college students looking for something different. 

Lenovo Yoga Book 9i tech specs: Intel Core Ultra 155U | Intel Iris Xe Graphics | 16GB RAM, 1TB, storage | Dual 13.3-inch 2.8K OLED, touchscreen, Dolby Vision, 400 nits, 16:10 | Up to 8 hours of battery life | 14", 3.8 pounds

The Lenovo Yoga Book 9i (2024) standing up with screens vertical.
Show Expert Take Show less

What is the best laptop for college?

The best laptop for college in 2024 is the Apple MacBook Air M3. Portable, powerful, and with a long-lasting battery, the MacBook Air M3 is a versatile workhorse that you can throw in a bag and take with you anywhere you go. The M3's 8-core CPU and 10-core GPU is armed to take whatever tasks your major requires of you, and the entire package weighs just 2.7 pounds.


Starting cost



Weight (lbs)

Apple MacBook Air M3


M3 8-core CPU

8GB up to 16GB, up to 512GB


HP Dragonfly Pro Chromebook


Intel Core i5-1235U, Intel Iris Xe

16GB, 256GB


Acer Aspire Go 15


Intel Core i3-N305, Intel UHD 

8GB, 128GB


Asus ROG Zephyrus G14


AMD Ryzen 9, GeForce RTX 4070



Lenovo YogaBook 9i


Intel Core Ultra 155U, Intel Iris Xe

16GB, 512GB


Which is the right laptop for college for you?

The right college for laptop depends on first on what you want to get out of it, and second, what your budget looks like. The laptops on this list cover a broad range of prices, but I also included some common use-cases that applies to many users.  

Choose this laptop for college…

If you want…

Apple MacBook M3

An all-around solid laptop that is portable, versatile, and high-performing. 

HP Dragonfly Pro

Portability alongside solid performance. 

Acer Aspire Go 15

An affordable laptop that can cover the basics, but don't need anything fancy.

Asus ROG Zephyrus G14

A laptop you can take to class, but can double as a gaming machine. 

Lenovo Yoga Book 9i

A dual-screen laptop that works for art or design classes, or a laptop with versatile configurations. 

Factors to consider when choosing a laptop for college

Different students are going to have different performance needs, and it's important to consider what exactly will be required in your courses before selecting a laptop. Students in media, design, animation, and production will likely need to opt for machines on the higher-end of hardware performance, while other students that will mainly be using their laptops for research and productivity apps may not need high-end GPUs or extensive memory. 

These are the factors that I weighed when selecting the best laptops for college students for this list, that you may also want to consider before you buy:  

  • Battery life: In order to be considered for this list, I considered machines with better-than-average battery life. This is one metric that will vary significantly based on use case, but all of these laptops will easily last an entire day on campus (eight hours) on one charge, even while undergoing demanding workloads
  • Price: Cost is an important factor, especially for students. I included laptops that cover a wide range of price points, from the inexpensive Acer Aspire Go 15 at just $300 to the pricier Lenovo Yoga Book 9i that will run closer to $2,000. Keep in mind that most computer manufacturers offer student discounts, and their buying links are included in each laptop's section on this page. 
  • Portability: Carrying around a heavy laptop all day while on campus is a tough ask. That's why all five of these laptops were considered to be light enough to be carried around a full day at school, the heaviest of which (the Acer Aspire Go 15) is only 3.7 pounds. 
  • Storage: The amount of storage on your college laptop determines not only how much data your computer can hold but also how fast it can move. If you plan to use this laptop for all of your college classes, you will likely need a larger amount of storage if you plan to store all those papers and projects on the local drive.

How did we choose these laptops for college?

We've tested hundreds of the best laptops on the market, and concluded that for the previously-mentioned categories of price, performance, battery life, portability, and storage, these laptops are the best choices for college students. Different students are going to have different needs, and no single laptop is going to be the "best" for all consumers, but all five of these laptops will perform well enough for a majority of students in 2024. 

Which operating system should you choose: Windows, MacOS, Chrome OS, or Linux?

While every computing platform has its loyal supporters, most people end up using a particular operating system because of key applications running on it, employer preferences, or budgetary constraints. Windows, which ranges from budget to premium, and Apple's MacOS, which is exclusive to premium devices, cover a broad spectrum. Chrome OS is mostly limited to mid-range devices.

Also: The best security keys you can buy: Expert tested

All Windows devices listed here meet the requirements for Windows 11. If you purchase a device with Windows 10 installed, you will be able to upgrade to Windows 11 if you choose to do so. Note that after October 14, 2025, Windows 10 support will end, and there will be no further security patches or feature updates.

What's the difference between a Chromebook and a Windows or Mac laptop?

While premium Chromebooks like the HP Dragonfly Pro are available, these lightweight models are generally considered more budget-friendly alternatives to traditional Windows or macOS devices.

Chromebooks operate on Google's Chrome operating system (OS) and are focused on mobile apps rather than traditional software. These laptops are used for basic browsing, studies, and entertainment, but if you have a particular software requirement, you must check for available support before you invest in a Chromebook. However, it is also possible to also use virtualization software (VMs) to circumvent such limitations. 

Are there alternative laptops for college worth considering?

Depending on what your major is, there may be alternative selections that perform just as well than the five mentioned on our best list. The following laptops should be mentioned as devices with more niche capabilities that could appeal to specific students.

View at Best BuyView at AmazonView at Amazon
Editorial standards