Best Budget Student Laptop for College in 2018

So let’s face it… Students aren’t known for having a lot of cash and unless you happen to have a rich family who is happy to buy you a top of the line laptop for college or university, then the latest MacBook Pro is probably a bit out of your reach price wise… Even if it isn’t then it’s still a bad bang for buck choice in general!

There are a lot of factors that go into choosing the best student laptop for you and ultimately it’s all about balancing your needs vif I s your budget. If you are a student doing an English degree then you may not need a massively powerful machine vs a computer science student who is using their laptops to render video and compile code.

We will try and assess which laptop is the best for each price bracket and you can pick one from the list that suits your needs the best.

Best Student Laptop Under $300 – Acer Chromebook 14

So if you are a student restricted to $300 then getting a windows laptop that isn’t horribly slow is next to impossible. Chromebooks, on the other hand, are capable of running better on low-end hardware and is a fantastic platform for anyone who doesn’t need specialized apps.

ChromeOS is now capable of running Android apps too so the restrictions on the apps that can be used is now not really an issue. We wouldn’t get this if you are a programmer who needs lots of specialized software. But if you need a laptop for browsing and writing then this Acer Chromebook 14 is perfect.

Internals

So a $300 laptop isnt going to be coming with a top of the line i7 processor… But a Chromebook doesn’t need one.

This little Chromebook comes with a dual core Intel Celeron N2840 and 4gb of ram which is plenty for running ChromeOS.

Battery Life

Battery life on this Acer Chromebook 14 shames laptops at 5x the price at around 10 hours of battery in everyday usage which is amazing considering the HP Chromebook 14 is also as thin as laptops 5x the price.

The impressive battery means you should be able to take the Acer Chromebook 14 to college without a charger and have plenty charge left over when you get home.

Keyboard

Acer know how to make keyboards and the keyboard on this chromebook has great travel and feedback and feels on par with laptops which cost much, much more.

Build Quality

Although this Acer Chromebook 14 is made entirely out of plastic, it is sturdy and doesn’t feel cheap at all.

Acer Chromebook 14 Specs:

  • 4gb of RAM (Don’t buy the 2gb model).
  • Intel Dual Core Celeron N2840.
  • Intel HD graphics.
  • 1366 x 768 screen.
  • 10 hour battery.

Pros:

  • 10 Hour battery.
  • Thin and Light.
  • Fast when compared to windows equivalent.
  • Cheap

Cons:

  • 720p Screen which isnt particularly bright.
  • ChromeOS may not be ideal for everyone.

Best Student Laptop Under $600 – HP Pavilion 17

So we have taken a bit of a step up in price and we think this is a necessary step to get into the “useful” area of windows laptops.

This 17 inch laptop is part of a dying breed. 17 Inch laptops are rare these days, with most manufacturers cutting 17 inch laptops in favor for smaller lighter devices.

A 17 inch screen though is perfect for students who don’t have the luxury of plugging into a secondary screen and want the extra real estate.

Internals

The HP Pavilion 17 comes with 1tb of storage, a 1600 x 900 pixel 17 inch screen, 8gb of ram and a capable i5 processor which places it in the realm of usability for more intensive users.

There is a 15 inch version of this notebook available through which comes with a marginally more powerful version of the i5 processor which may be more appealing to someone wanting something a tad more portable for carrying around campus.

Screen

HP Pavilion 17 obviously comes with a 17 inch screen which is what sets it apart from the other laptops in this article, since it’s the largest display on this list.

The 1600×900 display is sufficient for the price and is typical of what you may expect in this price bracket. It won’t blow you away but it will be plenty for most people who aren’t doing serious graphic work

Battery Life

The HP Pavilion 17 falls over a little here since it only gets around 5 hours of real world battery usage. This is likely due to it having to power the larger display.

This will mean that most students will want to carry a charger with them as it will not last a full day of use without a nearby wall to keep you going.

Keyboard

HP make some of the best keyboards on the market and this one is no different. It feels precise with good travel.

Build Quality

The build is entirely plastic but feels good overall. Expecting a full metal construction with these specs would push the price up.

Everything feels like it is built to last though and doesn’t feel cheap.

HP Pavilion 17 Specs:

  • 17 inch screen.
  • i5 7200u.
  • 8gb RAM.
  • 1600×900 Screen.
  • 5 hours battery

Pros:

  • The giant screen is ideal for students who are in need of more screen real estate.
  • i5 Processor and 8gb of RAM is enough for most.
  • Has 15 inch version if preferred

Cons

  • Limited battery life

Best Student Laptop Under $700 – Acer Swift 3

This is, in our mind, the best bang for buck laptop for students. The Acer Swift 3 is the perfect laptop for students because It’s thin, light, powerful and gives you almost everything you would find on a laptop that costs twice the price.

It even comes in different colors… which we all know is the most important part for any student!

Internals

The Acer Swift 3 comes with the latest generation of Intel i5 processors which bumps up the cores from 2 to 4 from the last generation and increases battery life by a large margin.

This notebook also comes with a GeForce 940MX graphics card which will have you covered for some light gaming in between classes. Don’t expect it to run super intensive games like Battlefield, but it will have you covered for a quick game of CSGO or Fortnite.

Screen

Another thing you won’t usually find on budget laptops is an IPS display and yet this Acer Swift 3 comes with a gorgeous 1080p IPS display, which is unheard of at this price point.

For anyone who doesn’t know what an IPS display is then it is the same technology that most phone manufacturers are using and basically allows more accurate brighter displays which have much better viewing angles, so your buddy sitting next to you in college will still be able to copy your work!

Battery Life

The battery on the Acer Swift 3 will get you up to 10 hours of usage, which again is great at this price point and means you can head off to college with no charging cable.

Keyboard

The keyboard on the Acer Swift 3 will rival any much more expensive laptops, getting a keyboard in this good in such a thin and light keyboard is becoming rare.

Build Quality

This gorgeous Acer Swift 3 comes with an all metal body which is the first aluminum laptop on our list so far and at this price point is astounding!.

The only thing that may give this laptop away is it has thicker bezzles than the more expensive XPS 13. But this is purely cosmetic.

It used to be that a budget laptop would mean a thick plastic beast which ran hot and didn’t last long but times have changed.

Who Should Buy this Laptop

Everyone!… almost.

This laptop will suit 95% students, since it has enough power to render videos, with a beautiful screen for photography and graphic design students, then a massive battery for the English student who just wants to be able to write all day without running out of battery.

If I was still a student and managed to beg, borrow and steal enough money, then this would be the laptop I would get.

Acer Swift 3 Specs:

  • i5 i5-8250U
  • 8gb RAM
  • 1080p IPS display
  • 14 inches
  • 12 hour battery

Pros:

  • Best bang for buck.
  • Gorgeous screen.
  • Powerful enough for almost everyone.
  • Thin and light.
  • Massive battery life.
  • Aluminum construction.
  • i5-8250U 4 core 8 thread processor.

Cons:

  • Pre-installed bloatware is annoying.
  • Thicker bezzles than a more expensive alternative.

Best Student Laptop Under $1100 – HP Pavilion 15.6

So we have taken a little step up in price now and with the step up in price we are stepping into a more powerful machine that will have enough power for more demanding users.

This isn’t the thinnest and lightest laptop available but it’s not a pig either and feels well built, it’s primary purpose is to provide as much power and utility as it can for a very reasonable price.

This laptop strikes a great balance for price vs performance. It’s not as sleek and light as the Acer but it provides the sort of power you get from much more expensive laptops at a much more manageable price. It also has more

Internals

The HP Pavilion that we have chosen here has the latest generation i7 CPU and 16gb of ram. This laptop really is a powerhouse machine that will suit students who are rendering videos and compiling code.

The step up in ram alone means you can have much more memory intensive apps like photoshop open at the same time without having massive slowdowns and the 512gb SSD is going to ensure everything opens quickly and feels snappy.

Screen

This HP Pavilion comes with a 1080p IPS touchscreen which looks sharp and bright at all angles.

Battery Life

The HP Pavilion is getting around 10 hours of battery life which for these specs is very impressive.

It wasn’t too long ago that these sorts of budget laptops were getting less than 5 hours of battery life so to get an all day battery on a budget laptop with this power is fantastic.

Keyboard

Again HP makes some of the best keyboards on the market. Unlike their thin and light laptops, the travel on the keys here is great and the keys feel responsive and crisp.

Build Quality

Just like the cheaper 17 inch HP Pavilion that we mentioned earlier, this 15 inch Pavilion comes with a full plastic construction.

But just like the previous Pavilion we mentioned it doesn’t feel cheap and expecting a full metal design would drive the price up to the range of the next laptop on our list.

Who Should Buy This Laptop

This is going to be the best bang for buck laptop for someone who requires a bit more umph than the Acer Swift 3 but can’t stretch to the price of something like a Dell XPS 15, which has very similar specs but in a more refined package in terms of design and build.

HP Pavilion 15.6 Specs:

  • 1080p IPS touchscreen
  • Intel i7 CPU
  • 16gb RAM
  • 512gb SSD
  • 10 hour battery

Pros:

  • Fantastic performance for the price.
  • Touchscreen.
  • Great battery life for the specs
  • Great connectivity

Cons:

  • Not as thin and light as a more expensive equivalent.

Best Laptop for Students Under $1600 – Dell XPS 15

This is a beautiful machine with an even more beautiful Infinity Edge 4k touchscreen display. It’s expensive but its worth every penny if you can afford it.

Internals

This is no slouch of a machine, with an Intel i7, 16gb of ram and a 512gb SSD just like the HP Pavilion we mentioned previously.

A GTX 1050 will also have you covered for some light to moderate gaming and will be right at home when doing some video editing or other graphics-intensive processing.

Screen

The stand out feature here is the infinity edge display… which is just fancy words for a near bezel-less display, which means that you can fit a 15-inch laptop in the space that a 14-inch laptop would normally take up. Not only is it more portable but it looks gorgeous too.

The display also happens to be 4k and touch-enabled and we were blown away by just how nice this display actually looks. Colors were accurate and everything was sharp and bright. This has to be one of the best displays on a laptop we have seen and is certainly the best display on this list.

Keyboard

We wouldn’t recommend a laptop for students that didn’t have a fantastic keyboard. Thankfully the keyboard on the Dell XPS 15 is second to none and felt crisp and accurate. Quite possibly the best on this list.

Battery Life

Driving all that power and the gorgous 4k display comes at the cost of battery life and unfortunately, it won’t last as long as some of the other laptops on this list.

It still pulls in a respectable 7 hours when using it relatively lightly though, which may mean you will have to carry along a backup cable just in case.

Build Quality

The build quality is second to none and everything on this laptop just feels premium.

The Dell XPS 15 has a full aluminum outer shell and a carbon fiber style (plastic) inner which feels comfortable to use and very sturdy. Although it does hold on to fingerprints.

Who Should Buy This Laptop?

This isn’t a cheap laptop by any means, but it’s certainly one of the best laptops that money can buy and when you stack it up to an equivalently specced MacBook Pro it starts to look like a bargain!

This is a great all rounder for someone who wants the top of the line performance in a sleek package… and can afford the price tag that comes with it.

Dell XPS 15 Specs:

  • Intel Core i7.
  • 16gb Ram.
  • Nvidia GTX 1050 4gb graphics.
  • 4k touchscreen infinity edge display.
  • 7 hour battery.

Pros:

  • Best display on a laptop.
  • Very powerful for the money.
  • Capable of gaming.
  • Very Nice trackpad and keyboard.

Cons:

  • Battery life is mediocre.
  • Starting to get more expensive for some students.

Most Powerful Laptop For Students Money No Object – ASUS ROG Zephyrus


So if you just need an absolute powerhouse of a laptop and money is no object, then the Asus Zephyrus is what you are going to need.

The Asus Zephyrus is more powerful than most high-end gaming rigs and comes in a form factor that would put some thin and light laptops to shame.

Build quality is brilliant with an all aluminum construction, which you would expect for the price!

Internals

This is no slouch of a laptop and the crowning jewel has to be the 8gb Nvidia GTX 1080 which will play any game on the market.

The Asus Zephyrus manages to pack this GTX 1080 into a thin and light package thanks to Nvidia’s new Max-Q technology which is their new method for shrinking their graphics cards onto a smaller board while reducing the heat output massively. All this combined means you need less cooling which is one of the biggest culprits in making gaming notebooks big and bulky.

The Intel Core i7 and 16gb of ram will crunch through anything you throw at it and the 512gb SSD should be plenty large enough for most.

Screen

The screen on this crazy laptop is designed specifically for gaming, so it comes with 120hz and G-Sync which eliminates screen teating in games.

It’s not as beautiful as the screen on the Dell XPS 15 but is designed to function well for gaming over everything else.

Keyboard

You probably noticed the oddly placed keyboard on this notebook. The keyboard has been moved in order to allow for venting to the GPU so that the fans can still flow without getting blocked or burning your legs.

The placement does feel odd at first but is something you get used to quickly.

The keys themselves feel great too, with good travel and a snappy feel.

Battery Life

All this power comes at a cost… and no we aren’t referring just to the dollars that you will have to rain down to buy this thing… The cost comes in terms of battery life. Expect 2-3 hours of real-world usage while not gaming. This is the price you pay for all that juicy power and it may be off-putting for some as it renders this laptop as more of a very portable desktop.

Build Quality

The build quality feels amazing on the Asus Zephyrus, with aluminum used all over and an overall solid feel.

We did feel that the venting area did have a little more flex than we would have liked, but this isn’t something that most students will really notice.

Who Should Buy This Laptop?

This laptop appeals to the mobile gamer who doesn’t want to be tied to a desktop and can afford to foot the bill that comes with such portability and power.

If you are a student studying game development then this would be your ideal machine.

Asus ROG Zephyrus Specs:

  • Intel Core i7.
  • Nvidia GTX 1080 8gb.
  • 16gb RAM.
  • 512gb SSD.
  • 120hz G-Sync 1080p screen.

Pros:

  • POWER!!!!
  • 120hz G-Sync display is perfect for gaming.
  • Thin and light… for a gaming notebook.
  • POWER!!!

Cons:

  • Dreadful battery life.
  • Very expensive… Although still cheaper than some averagely specced MacBook Pros.

Conclusion

If you just need a basic laptop and don’t have any specialist requirements for software then the sub $300 Acer Chromebook 14 is going to be perfect. It is surprisingly quick and is going to give a much smoother experience to a similarly priced Windows laptop.

For 90% of students, the Acer Swift 3 is going to have enough features and will be powerful enough. If it was me going back to college and I wanted the absolute best bang for buck laptop then this would be where my money would be going.

If you are a software engineering student or someone who just needs the performance then the HP Pavilion 15.6 laptop will have you covered. Its just as powerful as the Dell XPS 15 but costs much less. If you want a powerful yet pretty portable laptop though with a touch screen though then the Dell XPS 15 is ideal. It costs more and will be out of reach for a lot of students, but if you have the money then it’s a worthy investment.

If you just need 1 machine to do it all (except last a long time away from a wall), then the Asus ROG Zephyrus is about as good as it gets. This thing will put the majority of desktop gaming rigs to shame!

Overall Winner?

Everyone has their own needs but if we had to pick 1 laptop as the absolute best laptop for students then the Acer Swift 3 ticks all the boxes for the majority of students who just need a capable laptop for College.

The Acer Swift 3 manages to provide 95% of what an XPS 13 would provide (also a great laptop) but at a much better price. This laptop really does re-define what a budget laptop looks like.

Why No MacBooks?

Some of you Apple fans out there may be wondering why there are no MacBooks on the list.

Although MacBooks are beautiful machines and they integrate well with other IOS devices, there really isnt anything that a MacBook can do that a Windows laptop can’t do for less money. If you are in the Apple ecosystem and money is no object then, by all means, get a Macbook. But for the rest of us a Windows laptop is going to offer more bang for buck and is generally just going to be more capable.

 

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