• MacBook Air M1

    Best MacBook for students

    $899 at Amazon

    Price alerts on for Apple MacBook Air M1 (256GB, space gray)

  • HP Pavilion Aero 13

    Best lightweight laptop for students under $800

    $550 at HP

  • Acer Chromebook Spin 513

    Best Chromebook for students

    $500 at Amazon

  • Lenovo Yoga 7i

    Best Windows 2-in-1 laptop for students

    $800 at Best Buy

    Price alerts on for Lenovo Yoga 7i

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If you’re in college or will be going in the future, the most important tool you could have is a reliable laptop. It can be incredibly difficult to get by without one. Taking notes and writing essays is so much easier with a laptop as opposed to pen and paper. So when you start looking for a laptop, what are some of the things you should consider? You’ll need a laptop with strong battery life as well as something that’s light enough to carry around all day, from your commute to class and back. You don’t have to break the bank, either. A basic, entry-level laptop will cover you for general classwork, but the more you’re able to spend, the longer it will likely last you — important if it needs to last you four years or more. 

With the supply chain issues and chip shortages we’ve seen over the last few years, you might think it’s hard to get your hands on a decent budget-friendly laptop for school. However, it’s still possible to find laptops and two-in-ones with the latest processors from AMD and Intel, which help performance and battery life over previous generations. It’s a great time to shop, too, with Black Friday and other holiday sales happening right now. 

What’s the best laptop for college?

Right now, Apple’s MacBook Air M1 is the best laptop for most students. (The M1 Air happens to be $200 off right now for Black Friday, too.) But if that doesn’t meet your needs, we’ve rounded up several college laptop picks that will serve most students well in school and beyond. The majority of our picks for the best college laptops run between $500 and $1,000. If you’re looking for a more affordable laptop — or if you’re open to an alternative to Apple’s MacOS and Microsoft Windows
 — we recommend checking out the best Chromebooks for students
 (just make sure any software you need for classes is supported). On the flip side, if you’re searching for a more powerful laptop, or a gaming laptop
that doubles as one for college, we have some suggestions for those, too. So if you’re ready to upgrade your tech, keep reading our list of the best laptops for college.

Best laptops for college

Stephen Shankland/CNET

MacBook Air M1

Best MacBook for students

Despite the availability of the bigger and better M2 MacBook Air, the M1 MacBook Air (one of the first to switch from Intel to Apple silicon) is sticking around and that’s a good thing. Apple’s entry-level laptop is still our go-to recommendation for a MacOS laptop for basic everyday use. It has great performance and long battery life — up to 18 hours — and is a solid choice for school and entertainment anywhere.

Like the previous Mac laptop models, the M1 Air has Apple’s Magic Keyboard, Touch ID, a Force Touch trackpad and a 13.3-inch Retina display. If you’re a college student, it’s hard to go wrong with the new MacBook Air.

MacBook Air M1 review

Read our MacBook Air M1 review.


$899 at Amazon$800 at Best Buy$999 at AppleYou’re receiving price alerts for Apple MacBook Air M1 (256GB, space gray)

Josh Goldman/CNET

HP Pavilion Aero 13

Best lightweight laptop for students under $800

HP packed a lot of value into the Aero 13: Eye-pleasing magnesium-aluminum chassis, strong processing performance, long battery life, a bright, colorful display and a weight of just 2 pounds (0.94 kilograms). Amazingly, considering all that it offers, it has a regular starting price of less than $800 but it’s regularly on sale for less than $700. 

HP Pavilion Aero 13 review

$550 at HP

Josh Goldman/CNET

Gateway GWTN141

Best laptop for college around $500

Gateway was known for low-cost desktops and laptops in the 1990s. The brand was revived in 2020 for a new lineup of laptops and tablets sold exclusively through Walmart. We tested the 15- and 14-inch models and the latter is our pick. The Intel Core i5 processor provides reliable performance despite being paired with cheaper components. The keyboard is comfortable but not backlit and the touchpad isn’t the most precise. Also, the built-in fingerprint reader is hit-or-miss. Still, it has lots of ports so connecting a mouse or an external display isn’t an issue and the full-HD display is decent, too, all things considered. Plus, the battery lasted a couple of minutes shy of 10 hours on our streaming video test. The 2021 model is still available at a significant discount compared to the 2022 model released in July with a 12th-gen Intel Core i5 processor. New or old, both are good deals.

$349 at Walmart$549 at Walmart

Josh Goldman/CNET

Acer Chromebook Spin 513

Best Chromebook for students

Acer’s Spin 513 is an update of sorts to one of the best Chromebooks from 2021, the Spin 713. It’s a two-in-one convertible Chromebook with a 13.5-inch display that has a 3:2 aspect ratio. The extra vertical space means less scrolling when you’re working. The screen size is also close to that of letter-size paper, making it comfortable for notetaking in tablet mode with a USI pen. Compared to the 713, it drops a couple of noncritical features like an HDMI output in favor of a more affordable price. It has amazing battery life, though, and a sturdy fanless design, making it silent — perfect for quiet classrooms, lectures or video calls.

$500 at Amazon$500 at Best BuyYou’re receiving price alerts for Acer Chromebook Spin 513 (CP513-2H)

Lenovo Yoga 7i

Best Windows 2-in-1 laptop for students

This thin, 3-pound convertible is a solid choice for anyone who needs a laptop for office or schoolwork. The all-metal chassis gives it a premium look and feel, and it has a comfortable keyboard and a responsive, smooth precision touchpad. As a two-in-one, you can use it as a laptop or tablet and it supports pen input with Lenovo’s optional Active Pen. It also has a physical shutter for its webcam that gives you privacy when you want it. And it has a long battery life to boot at 12 hours, 45 minutes in our tests. The latest version with 12th-gen Intel processors starts at $999 (although you can find it on sale for less). However, 2021 models with 11th-gen Intel processors are great performers, too, and can be found at a discount.

$800 at Best Buy$640 at AmazonGet Price AlertsYou’re receiving price alerts for Lenovo Yoga 7i

More back-to-school recommendations

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