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Find an affordable laptop for every type of student.

Although a phone is central to social life in college, for most college students, a laptop is the main academic tool they’ll need. It’s likely to be one of the most significant investments, too.

Students on a budget may find a tolerable entry-level laptop — with a decent hard drive, graphics card, display and battery life — for under $300. But rather than go for a cheap laptop, we think it’s worthwhile to spend a few hundred more on a machine with a longer battery life, better performance, and a bigger, faster SSD hard drive. This list of the best laptops for college students is based on our own hands-on use and benchmark testing. We’ll update it regularly as we review new products.

Note that most of our choices for the best laptops for college run between $500 and $1,000. If you’re looking for a less expensive college laptop — or if you’re open to an alternative to Microsoft Windows and Apple’s MacOS — we recommend checking out the best Chromebooks for students. The best budget laptop options are less expensive but still powerful enough to handle student-life basics such as email, getting on the internet, creating documents or working with spreadsheets.

If you’re looking for something that can double as a gaming laptop, has a ton of storage or can handle powerful programs like video-editing software, however, read on for our picks of the best laptops for college students.

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Sarah Tew/CNET The newest Apple MacBook Air hits all the right notes: It’s back to the old $999 starting price, and it has Apple’s new Magic Keyboard, which most people prefer to the previous model’s butterfly design. Even better, this Apple laptop features current-era Intel processors, a new Force Touch trackpad and 256GB of storage for the entry-level configuration. The major drawback: The base model of this Apple MacBook Air with Retina Display features a Core i3 processor, and stepping up to the Core i5 costs an extra $100. Still, the brand new Apple MacBook Air and older models are frequently on sale. At the moment, the 2020 MacBook Air is available for around $950, which is a decent deal. That noted, the 2019 base configuration — which comes with an older but more powerful Core i5 processor — is still a great laptop worth a look, especially when it’s discounted to less than $900, even though you’ll be stuck with that pesky older MacBook keyboard design. Read our 2020 MacBook Air preview.

Sarah Tew/CNET If you’re committed to the Windows operating system and want a balance of portability, power and price, it’s hard to find a better 13-inch laptop than the XPS 13. Dell has been making incremental…

Justin Jaffe

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