Best college laptops in 2020: Best laptops for students

best college laptops - HP Envy 13

If you're a student, you want one of the best college laptops. But with so many choices at so many different prices, it can be homework in itself to find out the very best laptops for students. 

When you're buying a laptop for school, make sure it has sure it has long battery life and fast CPU performance. And if you prefer to take notes by hand, buy one of the best 2-in-1 laptops. We're still in a process of reviewing some laptops that could find their way on this list, so be sure to check back in every now and then. 

Whichever laptop you get, you'll also want to pick up a few extras, such as a comfortable mouse, a well-appointed backpack and perhaps a solid all-in-one printer. Without further ado, here are the best college laptops, including some budget picks for those dreading tuition payments. 

What is the best college laptop?

We feel pretty strongly about the Envy 13 and its 2-in-1 twin, the Envy 13 x360, as the best laptops for college students. Not everyone is on a budget, but most folks will want to save as much money as possible so they can pay off student loans. 

That's where the $800 Envy 13 comes in. It's a sub-$1,000 laptop with the look and feel of a more premium machine. The Envy also delivers fast performance, it has a great screen, and it's portable enough to carry around campus. Then there's the Envy 13 x360, which has all of those traits but is assisted by AMD's powerful new Ryzen 4000 CPUs. 

If your budget is a bit more flexible, consider buying the Envy's more premium sibling, the Spectre x360 13. This gorgeous device gets you the convenience of a 2-in-1 laptop, more power and an overall fancier chassis. Similarly, the XPS 13 2-in-1 and Yoga C940 are great 2-in-1 laptops for college students. 

Apple fans who prefer macOS should opt for the new MacBook Air. With its improved keyboard, the Air is a better choice than the pricier MacBook Pro (13-inch) until Apple refreshes that powerful model. If you don't have a budget and need a powerful machine for crunching numbers or designing 3D models, consider the 16-inch MacBook Pro or the Dell XPS 15. 

We should also point out that Intel has new 11th Gen Tiger Lake CPUs, which will power the next fleet of laptops going from 2020 into 2021. Top models, including the Dell XPS 13, Asus ExpertBook B9, Acer Swift 7 and Asus ZenBook S are already confirmed to launch in the coming months with the new chips. Along with performance gains, 11th Gen CPUs should deliver surprisingly capable gaming performance from the integrated Iris Xe graphics.  

Best laptop for college: HP Envy 13 (2019)

A premium package at a surprisingly affordable price, the HP Envy 13 is the best college laptop. 

1. HP Envy 13 (2019)

The best overall laptop

CPU: Intel Core i5/Core i7 | GPU: Intel UHD Graphics 620/Nvidia GeForce MX250 | RAM: 8GB/16GB | Storage: 256GB/512GB/1TB | Display: 13.3-inch, 1080p or 4K | Size: 12.1 x 8.3 x 0.6 inches | Weight: 2.8 pounds

Attractive, portable chassis
Fast performance
Bright display
11+ hours of battery life (FHD model)
No Thunderbolt 3

The best laptop for students is now better than ever. Refreshed with a new design, powerful speakers and useful security features, the new HP Envy 13 is the best sub-$1,000 laptop for students or anyone who needs a portable machine with loads of power and long battery life (11+ hours on the FHD model). 

New to the 2019 version is a fingerprint sensor and a webcam kill switch that shuts power to the camera so you don't have to worry about people snooping on you. Combine those features with a sleek chassis, bright 4K or 1080p display and plenty of performance from 8th Gen Core i5 and Core i7 CPUs, and it's easy to see why the Envy 13 is the best college laptop for students. And frankly, given that this is a budget laptop compared to many of the others on this list, the Envy 13 is an awesome choice. 


Dell XPS 13 (2020)

The best overall laptop, the Dell XPS 13 is the best college laptop for science students.  (Image credit: Future)

2. Dell XPS 13 (2020)

The best premium Windows 10 laptop

CPU: Intel Core i3/Core i5/Core i7 (10th Gen) | GPU: Intel Iris Plus | RAM: 8GB/16GB | Storage: 256GB/512GB/1TB/2TB | Display: 13.4-inch, 1920 x 1200 or 4K | Size: 11.6 x 7.8 x 0.6 inches | Weight: 2.8 pounds

Attractive, premium chassis
Powerful performance
No bezels whatsoever
Excellent battery life
Lacks legacy ports

The Dell XPS 13 is a serious workhorse and the best premium laptop for college students. Powered by a 10th Gen Intel Core i7 processor with integrated Intel graphics, the notebook is ready for work or play. And with over 12 hours of battery life, you've got plenty of time for both, The notebook consistently performed either better or on a par with competing systems.

But rest assured, the laptop is just as pretty as it is powerful. The company managed to make a laptop that's smaller and lighter than previous models. Despite the smaller size, Dell added some big changes, including a larger trackpad and keyboard. Plus, you get a 13.4-inch, near-bezelless display on every side –– the first in the world to do so. 

It's an exercise in patient restraint, improving the notebook in a bunch of small ways that add up to a big leap for the system. If you're looking for the total package, the Dell XPS 13 is the laptop for you. 


The HP Envy x360 13 is the best laptop for under $1,000, offering similar benefits to the Spectre at a lower price.

The HP Envy x360 13 is the best laptop for under $1,000, offering similar benefits to the Spectre at a lower price. (Image credit: Laptop Mag)

3. HP Envy x360 13 (2020)

The best 2-in-1 laptop

CPU: AMD Ryzen 5 4500U | GPU: AMD Radeon Graphics | RAM: 8GB | Storage: 256GB | Display: 13.3-inch, 1080p | Size: 12.1 x 7.7 x 0.7 inches | Weight: 2.9 pounds

Outstanding performance
1080p display is bright and vivid
Stylish and compact aluminum design
Long battery life
No IR camera

The HP Envy x360 13 is the best laptop for under $1,000 and one of the best Ultrabooks on the market. While it doesn't come with a stylus (neither does the Surface Pro), the Envy is a 2-in-1, which lets you flip it into tent or tablet mode. What makes this such a fantastic value is its entirely aluminum design and Herculian AMD Ryzen processors. 

In our testing, we found that an Envy x360 13 with a Ryzen 5 4500U CPU can outperform laptops with 10th Gen Intel chips. This specific Envy costs just $800 and can outmuscle laptops that cost well over $1,000, including the exorbitant MacBook Pro. Moreover, the Envy x360 13 has a bright, vivid 13.3-inch display and a comfortable keyboard. 

There is very little we don't like about the Envy x360. If you can get over the lack of a Thunderbolt 3 port and IR camera, then it is the ultimate money-saving laptop.

See our HP Envy x360 13 (2020) review

MacBook Air 2020

Apple's new MacBook Air for 2020 improves upon its predecessor with a better keyboard and 10th Gen CPUs (Image credit: Future)

4. Apple MacBook Air (2020)

The best 13-inch Apple laptop

CPU: Intel Core i3/i5/i7 (Y-series) | GPU: Intel Iris Plus | RAM: 8GB/16GB | Storage: 256GB/512GB/1TB/2TB | Display: 13.3-inch, 2560 x 1600-pixel | Size: 11.9 x 8.4 x 0.6 inches | Weight: 2.8 pounds

Sleek design
Great battery life
Powerful sound
Magic keyboard is clicky and comfy
Underwhelming performance

If you prefer macOS to Windows 10, then there's only one 13-inch laptop you should consider: the Apple MacBook Air (starting at $999). The biggest improvement to this year's model is the new keyboard, which fixes all the issues we had with the previous Butterfly version. 

Other improvements include more powerful 10th Gen Y-series processors and a superfast SSD. The 13.3-inch Retina display is still a sight to behold, and the MacBook Air remains the sleekest laptop in Apple's lineup. Of course, you still get everything that makes Apple's laptops so popular: a gorgeous unibody aluminum design, good speakers and solid battery life. In the end, the MacBook Air is a great laptop for students and the best choice for those who prefer macOS over Windows.


Beautiful, powerful and flexible, the HP Spectre x360 is the best 2-in-1 college laptop for students. 

Beautiful, powerful and flexible, the HP Spectre x360 is the best 2-in-1 college laptop for students.  (Image credit: Laptop Mag)

5. HP Spectre x360 (Late 2019)

The best 2-in-1 laptop

CPU: Core i5/Core i7 | GPU: Intel Iris Plus | RAM: 8GB/16GB | Storage: 256GB/512GB/1TB | Display: 13.3-inch, 1080p or 4K | Size: 12.1 x 7.7 x 0.7 inches | Weight: 2.7 pounds

Stunning, ultraportable design
Epic battery life
Bright, vivid display with thinner bezels
Fast overall performance
Lots of bloatware
Shrill speakers at max volume

The Spectre x360 13 is the best 2-in-1 laptop ever and one of the best college laptops for students with about $1,000 to spare. Updated with a 10th Gen CPU and a more modern design, the Spectre x360 13 is improved in almost every way over its excellent predecessor. Our only reservation about buying it is that the Envy x360 13 delivers much of the same but at a lower price. 

Highlights of this laptop include its stunning design, a bright 1080p display, epic 13+ hour battery life and fast overall performance. You also get a webcam kill switch for shutting out snooping creeps and a super comfortable keyboard.

0 Comments