Best laptops for college students in 2023

The first semester of college is fast approaching, and you’ll want a laptop that can last the distance while you study. Here are our favorites.

Whether you’re starting your first college semester as a freshman or returning to continue your journey toward graduation, having a capable laptop that can help you learn is essential. The market is full of similar-seeming laptops, and while that’s true enough, it’s the other features that make them suited to your choice of major. Maybe you want a versatile 2-in-1 or tablet for school so that you can take notes on your feet while on rounds in medical school. Perhaps you need more power for running simulations or prefer to work untethered in the college quad on a cellular connection.



Whatever your major, you’ll want enough power to handle coursework, both in researching and writing to get them submitted in time. Nobody has time for a slow machine these days, and thankfully, the latest generation of hardware from all manufacturers comes with plenty of performance. Whether you want to play games in your downtime, or veg out with a movie on a quality screen, we’ve got your back so you can concentrate on studying your course and not spec sheets. I’ve put together the best college laptops, sorted by major, with a couple of devices that are more general use.

The best laptop for college students in 2023

MacBook Air (M2) Best for Battery Life

Power for days

$949 $1099 Save $150

The MacBook Air M2 is one of the best mainstream laptops you can spend money on for college. The main reason is that the powerful M2 chip sips battery, so you can go through a full day of classes without needing to carry a charger around.


  • Crazy battery life
  • M2 is a very powerful chip
  • Great webcam and display


  • Limited to one external display
  • Only two Thunderbolt / USB ports

$1099 at Amazon (13 inches) $1200 at Amazon (15 inches) $949 at Best Buy (13 inches) $1299 at Best Buy (15 inches)

While some majors require more powerful hardware, or the ability to run specialized software packages, the majority of college students require only a few features for their laptops. Chiefly is battery life, both so it won’t run out during a lecture, and also so you can leave the charger at home. A good keyboard is also important, a touchpad that’s responsive and accurate and a capable webcam. Many good laptops fit these requirements, but only one is way in front of the pack.

MacBooks have long been a staple of college campuses, and the latest MacBook Air will likely show up everywhere this year. It’s a fantastic laptop whether you opt for the 13-inch or 15-inch screen size, and it will stay responsive and productive for the entirety of your college degree and beyond. The Apple-designed M2 chip inside is based on Arm technology, giving you mobile device battery life while also performing at the level you’d expect of a premium laptop. You can probably leave the charger in your dorm while out at lectures and not worry about running out of juice.

Both screen sizes have Retina displays, promising a coherent user experience on both with P3 Wide Color, and sharp screens. The screen is also brighter, at up to 500 nits, enough to work in most conditions easily. The new 1080p webcam is a welcome addition, although it means a divisive screen notch to accommodate its larger size. You can now get it in four colors, Space Grey, Silver, Midnight, and Starlight, and it weighs from 2.7 pounds for easy portability. It also has two USB4/Thunderbolt ports, a headphone jack, and the return of the MagSafe connector, so you can use both of the USB ports for other devices.

Apple MacBook Pro (2023) Best for Computer Science Majors

You’ll want to be able to code in Swift

$2200 $2500 Save $300

The MacBook Pro comes with upgraded M2 Pro or M2 Max processors, which bring more power for chewing through coursework. This will handle any workload you can think of, for many years to come so it will last as long as your degree takes.


  • Oodles of power
  • Will be powerful for years to come
  • Battery life is great


  • Expensive
  • Heavy

$2200 at Amazon (14 inches) $2249 at Amazon (16 inches) $1999 at Best Buy (14 inches) $2499 at Best Buy (16 inches)

While the MacBook we just discussed is enough for most tasks, sometimes you need a little more power. The latest MacBook Pro comes in 14-inch and 16-inch sizes, powered by either Apple’s M2 Pro or M2 Max silicon. We’ve reviewed the 16-inch model powered by the M2 Max, and found that it had more power than we actually needed, even for 4K video editing. That’s why I’m recommending the M2 Pro variants for Computer Science majors, as you can gain some additional battery life while saving some money.

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This is the best Mac anyone can buy, with an insane amount of power under the hood. After the complaints about the HDMI and SD card slots being stripped from models after 2016, Apple uncharacteristically brought both back for the latest MacBook Pro starting in 2021. That means you don’t need dongles or a docking station to use an external display with HDMI or to take images off a camera’s SD card.

Both screen sizes have Liquid Retina XDR displays, which use Mini LED backlighting to provide over 1,000 nits of full-screen brightness for HDR content and 500 nits for sustained SDR. It also has ProMotion, with a max 120Hz refresh rate that dynamically changes to save on battery life. This isn’t quite the color accuracy or deep blacks of OLED, but it’s pretty close and doesn’t suffer the same worries about burn-in, an important consideration if you’re going to have a screen of code displayed for most of the day.

The M2 Pro processor can have up to 64GB of unified memory, which should be enough for any coding environment. If you find you need more, the M2 Max can have up to 96GB of RAM, but you’ll pay handsomely for the extra capacity, as is the case with any Apple device.

Lenovo ThinkPad P16 Gen 2 Best for Engineering Students

Portable workstation for simulation needs

The Lenovo ThinkPad P16 Gen 2 is a mobile workstation with the ability to be stuffed full of high-end hardware to run simulations and even do a little gaming on the side.


  • 13th-gen Intel Core HX-series processors with vPro
  • Powerful graphics options
  • OLED option with multi-touch


  • Heavy
  • Expensive

$1499 at Lenovo $2228 at B&H $2982 at CDW

Engineering majors know their course load is going to be heavy, and require the use of specific software packages that only run on Windows machines. That’s why I recommend the ThinkPad P16 Gen 2, which is designed to be a mobile desktop replacement. We’ve reviewed the Gen 1 of this behemoth of a laptop, and it gave nearly desktop-class performance from a relatively portable device.

The Gen 2 has 13th-gen Intel Core HX-series processors for up to 24 cores and 32 threads of mobile computing prowess. That is backed up by up to 192GB of DDR5, a colossal amount of memory for running huge datasets in simulations. This can be specified as ECC as well, for the ultimate in data integrity. While the base model uses Intel UHD graphics, you can add one of six discrete graphics options, ranging from an Intel Arc Pro A30M with 4GB of memory to a powerful Nvidia GeForce RTX 5000 Ada Generation Laptop GPU with 16GB of VRAM. That’s a lot of power, and explains the 230W power adapter the laptop comes with.

The 16-inch display has a pleasingly thin bezel around it, making this workstation seem more slimline. You can opt for a UHD+ (3840×2400) OLED with multi-touch if you want the best image quality, or select an IPS panel with varying resolutions between FHD+, Quad-HD+, and UHD+. Connectivity-wise, you get HDMI 2.1, two USB-A 3.2 Gen 1 ports, two USB4/Thunderbolt ports, one USB-C 3.2 Gen 2, a 3.5mm audio jack, and a relatively rare port, an SD Express 7.0 card reader. While it doesn’t have an onboard Ethernet port, you can opt for 4G LTE for cellular connectivity wherever your labs’ projects take you. That might be worth including, as it’s a relatively minor increase in price over the laptop’s already high price.

HP Spectre x360 13.5 (2023) Best for Business Students

Versatile convertible touchscreen

$1330 $1400 Save $70

The 13.5-inch HP Spectre x360 is a convertible with a 3:2 aspect ratio screen, perfect for scrolling through spreadsheets or product briefs. It’s also got a 5MP webcam to make you look great on video calls, and has an OLED screen option.


  • 3:2 display with an OLED option
  • 5MP webcam for video calls and meetings
  • Versatile convertible form factor


  • Expensive when add options
  • A little heavy for a convertible

$1330 at HP $1500 at Best Buy $1750 at Best Buy (OLED)

The HP Spectre range has some great laptops, all focused on productivity tasks. The Spectre x360 we’re talking about here comes in 13.5-inch screen size and is a great choice for business majors looking to analyze data and create presentations.

The 13.5-inch model is probably the best bet for most users, and it’s powered by 13th-generation Intel Core processors up to a Core i7-1355U with 10 cores and 12 threads. That’s plenty of performance for daily tasks.

Currently, the only way to get 32GB of RAM is to get it directly from HP. They’re all soldered on, so no upgrading after the fact. HP goes up to 1TB of SSD storage on this convertible. That, coupled with cloud storage, should be plenty for all the documents or school projects you’ll need to house during your studies and beyond. It’s also relatively light, with the 13.5-inch topping the scales at a hair over 3 pounds. That’s not the lightest, but it’s far from the heaviest laptop of this form factor.

The 3:2 aspect ratio of the 13.5-inch display is perfect for scrolling through documents or spreadsheets. Some models come with an FHD+ (1920×1280) resolution display, or you can upgrade to a 3000×2000 resolution OLED display for the best image quality available on this laptop. All models have a 5MP webcam which will make you look great on video calls, or remote classes if you’re not on campus.

Microsoft Surface Pro 9 with 5G Best for Nursing School

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Versatility and note taking are essential

$1170 $1300 Save $130

The Surface Pro 9 is one of the only devices that can properly replace both a tablet and a laptop, with an Arm processor running Windows 11 that gives impressive battery life. It also has optional 5G to work anywhere, a touchscreen and stylus support, and the ability to run Android apps.


  • Tablet format for versatility with great battery life
  • Touch and stylus support
  • 5G option for working anywhere


  • Not powerful enough to edit video
  • Reduced selection of Arm-comnpatible programs
  • Only two USB-C ports

$1200 at Best Buy $1170 at Amazon $1400 at B&H

Nursing students have a grueling course load, long hours, and a longer number of years before they can practice professionally. Along with a comfortable pair of shoes, the next most important tool is a versatile laptop like the Surface Pro 9 with 5G. This tablet/laptop is Microsoft’s best Surface device, powered by an Arm processor for phenomenal battery life and always-on connectivity.

The 13-inch display is touch-enabled and also supports the Slim Pen 2, so on-the-go notetaking is super slick. It’s also running at a 120Hz refresh rate, making on-screen interactions and digital notes appear smooth and fast. This can be set to adjust between 60Hz and 120Hz dynamically, but as it’s on Arm, the battery drain from using 120Hz isn’t as noticeable as with Intel models.

The 5MP front and 10MP rear cameras are good enough for telehealth, or for taking pictures of injuries or rashes to aid in identification. They also support Windows Studio effects, for AI enhancement of background blur, automatic framing, and other quality-of-life improvements. It’s fanless, so it won’t make noise while on rounds or when talking to patients. And the 5G connectivity means you can always access important notes or save them to the cloud, instead of relying on congested hospital Wi-Fi networks. The aluminum casing will hold up being carried around daily, and at under 2 pounds, it won’t tire your arms out as much as larger devices. An unfortunate downside is that it only has two USB-C ports.

The only real annoyance is that the keyboard and the pen are added extras that you have to purchase separately. Yes, the Surface Pro 9 5G isn’t fully featured for $1,299, you need to buy more things. It’s absolutely worth buying the pen, but you can use any Microsoft Pen Protocol stylus, from $25 no-name brands on Amazon to more expensive ones. The Surface Keyboard isn’t necessary, as you can use any Bluetooth keyboard, but it does protect the tablet somewhat as it acts as a case too.

Dell XPS 13 Plus (2023) Best for Law School

You deserve the best for those long hours

The Dell XPS 13 Plus is our favorite 13-inch laptop, with futuristic styling, plenty of power, and a great screen no matter which option you choose.


  • Great display with an OLED option
  • Future-forward styling
  • Great touchpad with haptic feedback


  • 720p webcam is dated
  • Only two USB/Thunderbolt ports

$1699 at Dell $1950 at Best Buy

Dell has some of the best laptops on the market, and with the XPS 13 Plus, the company adds another to the list. It’s perfect for law school students, as it has power and style and is lightweight enough to carry around all day. It’s our favorite 13-inch laptop, and it might soon be yours, too.

See, this ultraslim laptop is hewn from a single block of aluminum. That gives it a coherence to form that most laptops can’t match, and Dell adds some futuristic features to make it even more stylish. The most visible is the keyboard, which looks like it was lasered out of the block of aluminum that the chassis is made from, similar to the old Moto Razr design. The function keys are capacitive, the touchpad is invisible on the palm rest and has haptic feedback, and the keys aren’t islanded like most laptops. That makes it perfect for the style-forward lawyer-in-training and easy to type on, which is great for the amount of legal briefs and essays you will be handing in.

The display is also great, whether you opt for the standard IPS, 13.4-inch 16:10 option in either 1920×1200 or 3840×2400 resolutions or the premium 3.5K (3456×2160) OLED option. Reading legal briefs isn’t fun, but the perfect blacks of OLED will give you less eye strain, and that’s the option I’m recommending you pick up. But really, all three screen options are great, with accurate colors and good brightness levels. What’s a minor quibble is that Dell is still using a 720p webcam in 2023. It’s the only real annoyance on this laptop, but feel free to go elsewhere if you require a better image. The other thing to note is that you only get two USB4/Thunderbolt ports, which is common on this form factor but does mean carrying dongles or using a dock is a necessity.

ASUS TUF Gaming A17 (2023) Best for Gaming and College

It’s not all about the coursework

$1400 $1800 Save $400

The Asus TUF Gaming A17 gaming laptop is a 17.3-inch display monster with AMD Ryzen 7000-series processors and Nvidia GeForce RTX 40-series graphics chips, great for playing games in-between classes and coursework.


  • Powerful 7000-series AMD Ryzen processors
  • Nvidia GeForce RTX 40-series graphics chips
  • Up to Quad-HD 240Hz panel


  • Heavy
  • You’ll need to carry the charger around

$1250 at Adorama $1400 at Newegg $1193 at Amazon

Gaming is a popular pastime and is also a great way to unwind and destress from the demands of your college program. Asus has some of the best gaming laptops, and this TUF Gaming A17 is no exception. This 17.3-inch laptop comes with AMD Ryzen 7000-series processors and a choice of Nvidia GeForce RTX 40-series graphics chips to blast out frame rates and coursework in equal measure. That’s paired with up to 32GB of DDR5 RAM and up to 2TB of NVMe SSD.

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To display those high FPS scores, Asus has two screen options (although only the lesser spec version seems to be available currently). There’s an FHD (1920×1080) IPS with a 144Hz refresh rate, which will be smooth while displaying games. The display that’s still to hit the market is a Quad HD (2560×1440) IPS panel running at a 240Hz refresh rate and 100% of the DCI-P3 color gamut. It’s not clear when this will be available, but it’s the display to wait for if you can. You get tons of ports, as expected, on a laptop of this size, including HDMI 2.1 FRL, two USB-A 3.2 Gen 1 ports, one USB-C 3.2 Gen 2 that supports DP alt mode, Power Delivery and G-SYNC, a USB-C USB4/Thunderbolt port, and a 3.5mm audio jack. You also get an Ethernet port, a rarity as most laptops have dropped this functionality.

This laptop will need a sturdy bag to carry around, as it starts at 5.73 pounds. It’s slightly smaller than the 17.3-inch screen would have you think, at 15.55 inches long and a full inch thick on the thickest side. The 90Wh battery won’t last that long if being used for games, but with conservative power plan tweaks, it might last most of your lectures without needing to plug in. You’ll need to carry the power brick around anyway, but that’s the trade-off for having a more powerful, gaming-capable laptop.

Lenovo ThinkPad X13s Best for Connectivity

Work from anywhere with cellular coverage

$960 $1120 Save $160

The ThinkPad X13s is one of the most powerful Windows on Arm devices, with the power to keep you productive from wherever you may be, thanks to optional 5G mmWave connectivity.


  • Optional 5G mmWave connectivity
  • Crazy battery life
  • Super-light


  • Windows on Arm is still lackluster
  • Limited to Edge and Firefox browsers

$995 at Lenovo $960 at Best Buy $1215 at Amazon

The liberating part of owning a laptop for college is that you can work anywhere you have a Wi-Fi signal. That’s great most of the time, but what if you prefer to work in the middle of the quad? Well, there’s a growing number of laptops with integrated LTE or 5G connectivity, and the Lenovo ThinkPad X13s is one of the best. It’s powered with a Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3, a cousin of the processor that’s likely in your smartphone, and has optional 5G mmWave when a compatible SIM card is inserted.

The inclusion of 5G wouldn’t be much without portability, and the ThinkPad X13s has that too. It comes in a 2.35-pound chassis, and with a 16:10 aspect ratio screen, it’s easy to carry around. The weight doesn’t mean skimping on power, as the SoC is paired with 16GB of RAM and a 512GB SSD. Most laptops in this form factor have Thunderbolt ports, but the ThinkPad X13s has two USB-C 3.2 Gen 2 ports, a limitation of the Qualcomm platform it runs on. That’s okay, as they’re plenty fast, it’s just worth knowing so you get the correct docking station type if you want one for your desk. The keyboard is what you’d expect from a device with the ThinkPad name, and yes, it has the signature TrackPoint.

The other benefit of the Snapdragon platform is insane battery life, with the 49.5Wh integrated battery regularly lasting for seven and a half hours or more in our testing. There are not many laptops that can boast of that, and the other notable one is also running Arm, the MacBook Air.

The best laptop for most college students is the MacBook Air M2

The MacBook Air M2 isn’t just one of the best Macs ever released, it’s one of the best laptops, full stop. The M2 chip has tons of power for productivity tasks, and it’s also power-efficient, so you get hours and hours of battery life. You can get one with either a 13 or 15-inch screen, and even the larger screen is fairly lightweight to carry around. Oh, and it doesn’t use a cooling fan, so it’s silent all the time. That’s a winning combo whether you’re in lectures, the library, or bashing out a dissertation in the local coffee house.

If your major requires some specialized hardware for tasks that Apple silicon can’t run, then you’ll want to look at the AMD and Intel offerings on this list. Some have discrete graphic chips for intensive tasks and gaming, or the ability to load up on memory and storage beyond what Apple offers. And both the Surface Pro 9 and ThinkPad X13s have the option for 5G connectivity, meaning you can work from anywhere with a cellular signal.

MacBook Air (M2) Editor’s Choice

Power and battery life in one slim package

$949 $1099 Save $150

The MacBook Air M2 is one of the best mainstream laptops you can spend money on for college. The main reason is that the powerful M2 chip sips battery, so you can go through a full day of classes without needing to carry a charger around.

$1099 at Amazon (13 inches) $1200 at Amazon (15 inches) $949 at Best Buy (13 inches) $1299 at Best Buy (15 inches) $1099 at Apple (13 inches) $1299 at Apple (15 inches)

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