The Best Laptops for College Students in 2013
Going to college is an exciting time in a young person’s life. Unfortunately, it’s also a hectic time for both parents and students who have a 101 things to keep track of. To make things easier on you, we’ve put together an analysis and list of the best laptops for college students in 2013. Because we know many parents and students are on a budget, we’ve broken down our list by price range (with a focus on computers that have high consumer review ratings). We’ll start with notebooks and laptops under $300 before moving on to laptops under $500. And we’ll conclude with ultra laptops and Apple Macs, which all cost upwards of $750 or so. **For those of you who don’t know, RAM = random access memory, and dictates how fast a computer is. Hard drive = total memory (how much the computer can store). In both cases, the higher the better.
Laptops Under $300
At the entry level we have the Acer C710-2847 11.6″, with 2GB memory, an Intel Dual Core processor and 320 GB DDR3 RAM. Just a few short years ago, this computer would have been considered to be highly powerful. And for the most part it still is. If you are just doing simple Internet browsing and word processing, this computer will hold up just fine. If you plan on watching a lot of HD movies and/or will be using software that requires a large amount of processing power (like Photoshop), this computer is probably not going to be fast enough. Side note for students: this computer is not fast enough for most online gaming platforms.
With that said, this computer has a 3.9/5 star rating across 205 reviews on Amazon and a 4.3/5 rating across 400+ reviews on BestBuy.com. It is currently listed at $199.99 on BestBuy.com or $253.90 with Free Shipping on Amazon. Our second computer is the Samsung XE303C12-A01US, with an 11.6″ display, Samsung Exynos Processor, 2 GB memory and 16 GB Flash (eMCC) hard drive. Flash hard drives are slowly becoming the new standard in modern computing, as they are dramatically faster than standard spinning disk hard drives (they are used by Apple in their Mac Air line, which I am writing on now; I’ll never go back .
With that said, I am not too sure about Samsung’s internal processor (I am more comfortable with Intel processors). On the whole, this laptop is comparable to the Acer above, however it is likely to be faster given the Flash hard drive. This computer has a 4.3/5 rating over 648 reviews on BestBuy.com and is listed at $249.99. It also has a 4.1/5 over 2,131 ratings on Amazon.com, and is also listed at $249.99. Our last laptop on this list is the Toshiba Satellite C855D-S5104, with a 15.6″ display, AMD Dual Core Processor, 4 GB RAM (first 4GB on our list, and it can be upgraded to an impressive 16 GB), and 500 GB ATA Hard Drive. This computer is by far the winner in our laptops under $300 category. While we would like to see a Flash hard drive on this computer, the combination of 4GB RAM and a large 500 GB hard drive makes this the fastest performing laptop in the under $300 category. Add in the 15.6″ display and the inclusion of Windows 8, and there is almost no comparison between the other models listed in this price range. Unfortunately there are very few reviews surrounding this computer because it is so new.
Laptops Under $500
In our next category we’ll discuss the best laptops for college students under $500. In this category we will see 4GB RAMs, larger displays and larger hard drives more often. The first laptop we have in this category is the Lenovo IdeaPad 15.6″, with a 4GB DDR3 RAM and 500GB hard drive. The Lenovo is virtually identical to our last computer, as it comes with a 15.6″ display and entry-level Windows 8 software. Unlike our first two models, computers of this size will handle downloading and streaming of HD movies/videos better. They will also handle more intensive software programs for photo or video editing.
With that said, Lenovo’s inclusion of an Intel Pentium processor is disappointing. Pentium as Intel’s bottom of the line processors, and prevent computers like this from taking full advantage of the 4GB DDR3 RAM. This computer has a 4.2/5 rating over 65 reviews on BestBuy.com. The next computer on our list is the Acer Aspire V5 Series Touchscreen laptop, with a 11.6″ touch screen display, 4GB RAM, 320GB hard drive and Windows 8. This is the first touch screen we have seen, and it fits well with Windows 8 as Windows made a big push to incorporate touch screen capabilities into their newest operating system. This computer has an AMD Dual-Core processor and 4GB DDR3-SD RAM. And while the 320GB hard drive is nothing special, the combination of a dual-core processor and 4GB SD RAM makes this one of the fastest computers in it’s category. Combined with the touch-screen capabilities, this is a very enticing option at such a cheap price point. Further, the Aspire V5 Series has a 4.34 rating on Buy.com and sells for $318.99 on BestBuy.com. The next computer in our laptops under $500 category is the Dell Inspiron 17.3″ laptop, with a 4GB RAM and 500GB hard drive. This laptop comes with an Intel Pentium processor and features the largest screen we’ve seen up to this point so far. Perfect for Internet browsing, word processing, and slightly higher performance software applications.
Because it is is so new, it does not have any reviews yet. With Windows 8, and the given memory specifications, the main reason to get this computer over one of the others would be because of it’s large screen size. This laptop sells for $399.99 on Bestbuy.com. The next computer on our list is the HP Pavillion G6 15.6″, with a 4GB DDR3-SD RAM and 500GB hard drive. This model comes with an accelerated graphics processor and LED backlit definition display for crisp screen quality. And while we would still like to see a Flash hard drive, the fast RAM and large drive size ensure this computer will hold up under most conditions. And with a 4.5/5 rating on Best Buy, consumers seem to be happy with this model. It currently sells for $474 on Amazon.com. The last computer in our laptops under $500 category is the Acer 15.6″, with 6GB RAM and a 750GB hard drive. This is the highest combination of RAM and drive space we’ve seen up to this point. Further, Acer includes a AMD Quad-Core processor (first Quad we’ve seen) and 512MB of dedicated video RAM. Combine these with their unique Cine-Crystal LED backlit display is this is one of the nicest and most movie/photo friendly laptop on our list so far. It also has an HDMI output, allowing you to connect it to your HD-TV.
The Acer 15.6″ has a 4.3/5 rating on Amazon and goes for $499.99 on BestBuy.com. Laptops Over $500 This is our last category of laptops. The truth is there are hundreds of models available to you, and it would take way too long to review all of them for you. The 5 computers listed below are some of the best of the best based on their specs and more importantly consumer reviews. These are truly the best laptops for college students in 2013, and will last for years. The first on our list is the Asus Ultrabook 14″ touchscreen laptop, with a 4GB DDR3-SD RAM and 500GB hard drive. Unlike the computers above, this model features an Intel Core i3 processor. Intel’s Core series is the best on the market right now, and is standard in most high performance models. Long story short, it’s fast. This is one of the first computers that will be capable of handling software programs that really drain performance, like Photoshop or serious online gaming. It’s not as powerful as it could be, but this is probably the fastet model we’ve reviewed so far. Further, this computer is touchscreen, allowing you to breeze through Windows 8 with ease. And with a 14″ LED backlit HD screen, you can rest assured movies and videos will look crystal clear. This models goes for $529.99 on BestBuy.com. The next computer on our list is the Sony VAIO T Series Ultrabook, with a 15.5″ touchscreen display, 8GB RAM, 750GB hard drive + 24GB Solid State Drive, and Intel Core i5 processor. This is by far the most powerful and fastest model we’ve reviewed up to this point.
As you know, I prefer Intel Core i processors as they’re the best on the market. Further, the 8GB RAM and inclusion of a small Solid State Drive makes this a very high performing computer. And Sony is known for producing quality laptops that both perform well and last. This model is on sale for $849.99 on BestBuy.com. And of course, our list would not be complete without an Apple computer or two. The first Mac computer on our list is the Macbook Air 11″, with 4GB RAM, 64GB all Flash memory, and an Intel Core i5 processor. Don’t be deceived by the small numbers here – the all Flash drive makes this faster than PCs with 8GB RAM and 750GB hard drives. And while the storage size is not very high, that is the only area lacking in this computer (and can be easily solved with a cheap external hard drive).
I myself use the Macbook Air 13″ Core i5 and absolutely love it. Back then the 11″ came with a Core i3 (not as fast), and the 11″ screen was a little small – but I work online 8-14 hours/day. If you’re simply using it for Word processing and checking email, this computer will be more than enough. And for those of you doing serious computing – this thing is powerful, and can handle photo editing and more with ease. Just note that it does not include an ethernet port, and runs on Wifi only. This means those of you doing serious online gaming will need a seriously fast router. And last but not least, this model has a 4.6/5 rating over 80+ reviews on BestBuy and is on sale as of this writing at $939.99 (click here to buy). It also has a stellar 4.4/5 rating over 1,000+ reviews on Amazon, where it’s also on sale at $939.99. Both include Free Shipping. Choosing the last model for our list was tough. There are some PC (non-Mac) computers that are very high quality, and include the same basic features as top of the line Macs (Intel Core i7, 128-256 Solid State Drive, 8B RAM, etc). The problem is none of them justify the cost when you can get a similar Apple for nearly the same price. Unless you absolutely insist on using a PC, I have to give Apple the nod when it comes to non-custom high performance computers. Best Laptop for College…..Winner! Given this, the last model on our list is the Macbook Pro 15.4″, with a 500GB hard drive, 4GB DDR3 RAM, and Core Intel i7 processor. Unlike the Air, this model does not contain the all Flash hard drive. However, Apple uses top of the line materials for their drives, and you can rest assured this beast is fast. Further, the Intel i7 is one of the fastest non-custom chips on the market.
More importantly, this thing has a crystal clear, stunning display, and is larger than the Air at 15.4″ (versus the 11″ or 13″ the air offers). If you plan on doing serious photo or video editing, or serious online gaming, you’ll want an ethernet port, a large screen, and a fast processor; this computer has all three. It also has a CD drive, which neither the Air nor the cheaper laptops above contain. And with a pristine 4.5/5 rating over 600+ reviews on Amazon and a 4.7/5 rating on Best Buy over 160 reviews, your satisfaction is pretty much guaranteed. This model goes for $1,709 on both Amazon (click here to buy) and BestBuy.
Laptop Review Conclusion
That’s it for our review of the best laptops for college students in 2013. As we already mentioned, there are way too many models for us to review every one here. To do some more shopping, please visit Amazon.com’s laptop page by clicking here, or BestBuy.com’s laptop page by clicking here. Thanks and good luck in the new school year! And make sure to check out our page on the best laptops under $300.