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The 5 Best Laptops for College in 2023

No matter when you're starting, you'll want the best laptop for college to get you through the semester.

Joshua Goldman Managing Editor / Advice
Managing Editor Josh Goldman is a laptop expert and has been writing about and reviewing them since built-in Wi-Fi was an optional feature. He also covers almost anything connected to a PC, including keyboards, mice, USB-C docks and PC gaming accessories. In addition, he writes about cameras, including action cams and drones. And while he doesn't consider himself a gamer, he spends entirely too much time playing them.
Expertise Laptops, desktops and computer and PC gaming accessories including keyboards, mice and controllers, cameras, action cameras and drones Credentials
  • More than two decades experience writing about PCs and accessories, and 15 years writing about cameras of all kinds.
Joshua Goldman
3 min read
$800 at Best Buy
Apple's M1-powered 13-inch MacBook Air
MacBook Air M1
Best MacBook for students
$800 at Best Buy
$529 at HP
HP Pavilion Aero 13
HP Pavilion Aero 13
Best lightweight laptop for students under $800
$429 at HP
HP Pavilion 14 laptop open and facing to the right on a green background.
HP Pavilion 14
Best 14-inch laptop on a budget
$750 at Walmart
Lenovo Yoga 7i 2022 14-inch two-in-one laptop in stand mode with the display facing left on a yellow background.
Lenovo Yoga 7i
Best Windows 2-in-1 laptop for students
$750 at Walmart
$565 at Amazon
Acer Chromebook Spin 513 on a green background
Acer Chromebook Spin 513
Best Chromebook for students

It's nearly impossible to get through college without a laptop, and that's why you want the best one possible for the job. Taking notes the old-fashioned way just isn't feasible anymore, but with so many laptop options on the market, it can be difficult picking the right one for you. We've done the research and testing to find the best laptop for college in 2023. 

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.

What's the best laptop for college?

Right now, Apple's MacBook Air M1 is the best laptop for most college students. 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

Apple's M1-powered 13-inch MacBook Air
Stephen Shankland/CNET

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 Apple MacBook Air M1 (Late 2020) review.

HP Pavilion Aero 13
Josh Goldman/CNET

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

HP Pavilion 14 laptop open and facing to the right on a green background.
Josh Goldman/CNET

The HP Pavilion 14 is a budget laptop that looks and performs above its price. At 3.2 pounds (1.4 kilograms), the laptop can easily be a daily carry for school or work. It could also be a good home office laptop that can be easily connected to a monitor, keyboard and mouse at a desk, but also has a screen that's comfortably large enough for full-time use. It's just a solid everyday laptop with a clean design. The starting price is $650, and the configuration we tested is normally $800, but it goes on sale for much less (most recently it was $550). 

HP Pavilion 14 review

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.

Acer Chromebook Spin 513 on a green background
Josh Goldman/CNET

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.

Best Laptops for 2023

A selection of the best laptops you can buy right now.

See the full list of best laptops for 2023

More back-to-school recommendations