Picking a laptop for online college is easy. For most students who need a computer for things like creating documents, slideshows, and browsing the web, a decent PC or even a Chromebook will do. If stability, reliability, and looks are your thing, then you may want to go with a pricier Macbook or Macbook Pro. Finally, If you want something more powerful for things like video-editing 4k footage or gaming (it’s always nice to take a break), one can opt for a nice PC with a powerful graphics card.
All of the laptops on our list are great, but they’re not all equally capable. That said, any of the laptops will be able to do the basic school stuff: document creation and research online. Some specific classes, however, may require PC-based applications (where a Mac or Chromebook won’t suffice). Also, if you want a very smooth experience, having a more powerful computer helps. All in all, be sure to check with your professor or other knowledgeable source regarding the kinds of apps you may need to run for your schooling.
In short, there’s something for everyone and at all price ranges and most of these computers will suffice for the needs of most users. Here’s the top 10 best laptops for online college students from lowest to highest price.
1. Asus Chromebook
Processor 1.8ghz Rockchip | RAM 4gb DDR3 | Hard Drive 16gb eMMC | Display 11.6″, 1366 x 768 | Weight 2lbs | Graphics Card None |
For people who can do it all with a web browser, the Asus Chromebook packs a lot of punch. While its specs are modest, don’t be fooled: Chrome OS is a very light operating system. Chromebooks are also known for their high quality keyboards and trackpad. If you find yourself only using your web browser to do most tasks, a Chromebook is a great buy. Not only are they fast, easy, and light, the battery life is killer. While these devices may struggle to do things like play 4K video or edit large batches of photos, they make up for it with a ton of practicality and a great price.
Price: $179 (6 percent off MSRP)
- Great for document creation with Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides (all of which can now be used offline)
- Decently fast for Chrome-based, simple applications
- Excellent battery life (12 hours)
- More stable than Windows
- Extremely affordable
- Lacks full HDMI, adapter is required
- Display could be better
- Not a full OS like Windows or Mac OSX
- Can’t be used for gaming, editing photos, or graphic design, though one can do simple stuff online, it’d be tough to do many photos or big projects
2. HP Notebook
Processor i3 – 7100u | RAM 8gb DDR4 | Hard Drive 1tb 5400RPM | Display 15.6″, 1366 x 768 | Weight 4.6lbs | Graphics Card Integrated |
This affordable PC is a great buy for those who can’t deal with the simplicity of Chromebook, but don’t want to spend too much cash. Its integrated graphics allow for playing light games and editing 1080p video, but with an i3 and a 5400 RPM hard drive, it’s not the fastest machine in the book. Still, for the patient among you who want a good deal, this is a capable computer. The display is nothing special, but it should get the job done fine. Plus, since this laptop has Windows, it will allow you to run Adobe Applications like Photoshop and Premiere, great for the aspiring media creator. Again, while it will be capable, this won’t be the best experience. For video and photo editing, it’s recommended one spends a bit more, but it can be done more easier here than on a Chromebook.
- Praised as usable for casual gaming; ran Skyrim smoothly
- Solid build quality
- Touch screen allows for some useful apps
- Three USB ports
- Good deal for the price
- Not great for multitasking
- One user had an issue with Windows Update
- Touchpad is merely OK
3. Dell Inspiron
Processor i5-6200u | RAM 8gb DDR3 | Hard Drive 1tb 5400RPM Hard Drive | Display 15.6″, 1920 x 1080 | Weight 5.36lbs | Graphics Card Integrated |
If you want to step up a bit, this Dell Inspiron offers a better processor, and a much better display, boasting a full 1920 x 1080 (1080p) resolution. Another wonderful perk is its backlit keyboard which allows you to make sure you can see the keys you’re pressing in the dark. Beyond this, however, this PC is largely similar to the above: it’s decent and usable for media and gaming, but it’s not particularly fast. Still, the addition of a more high resolution monitor and the i5 means it will be easier to work– and to watch Netflix. It’s fine for basic use and light photo editing- anything else won’t have great performance.
- Good value with solid parts
- Backlit keyboard is a nice touch for nighttime use
- Screen is crisp and clear; 1080P looks great
- Fast enough to run apps like Photoshop
- Has DVD drive
- Can’t play some modern games
- Start up time longer than some expected
4. ASUS Zenbook
Processor i5-7200U | RAM 8GB DDR3 | Hard Drive 256GB SSD | Display 13.3″, 1080P | Weight 2.6lbs | Graphics Card Integrated |
Now this is a great, affordable pick. Sure, this PC has similar specs to the above Windows computers, but it has one key edge: a 256gb SSD. This really makes a big difference in terms of apps being fast and snappy. While it will struggle with heavy photo-editing and modern games, it looks great, and feels great to use. This is a great Macbook alternative. For those who want a solid PC that will last, this is a great way to go. It’s nice to use and offers good quality in every meaningful department. While it can’t edit videos too well or play modern games, it should be more than enough for any common student usage.
Price: $699 (8 percent off MSRP)
- Very fast boot time of around five seconds
- Solid build quality with great display
- Great alternative to a Macbook at a cheaper price
- Includes SD Card reader slot
- One user had an issue with screen bleed from the display
- A small percentage of users had issues with reliability and needed new units
5. Dell 15.6″ Gaming Laptop
Processor i5-6300HQ | RAM 8GB DDR3 | Hard Drive 256GB SSD | Display 15.6″, 1080P | Weight 6lbs | Graphics Card GTX 960M – 4GB |
For the gaming-minded and video editor types, this PC is a great deal. While it’s slightly more expensive than the above computer, it offers a lot more performance. The GTX 960M is a solid graphics card and it will let you play modern games at decent settings. Naturally, this computer also has an SSD and 1080p resolution. It’s very capable. Of course, the sacrifice is that it is pretty heavy (over double the weight of the Zenbook). Still, for most people, a few extra pounds won’t hurt– given that this computer also has many more pounds of performance.
- Solid laptop capable of playing modern games at decent settings
- Decent computer for editing videos at 1080P
- Screen is praised as bright and sharp
- Fast boot time
- Sleek design
- Great value with solid specs
- Odd shape; does not fit in some laptop sleeves
- Some backlight bleed on display
- Trackpad isn’t great
6. Acer Aspire Gaming, Editing, and Design PC (Editor’s Choice)
Processor i5 7300HQ | RAM 16GB DDR4 | Hard Drive 256gb SSD | Display 15.6″, 1920 x 1080 | Weight 5.51lbs | Graphics Card GTX 1050 Ti – 3GB |
Now this is a capable PC. Boasting great sound, a cool looking build, a ton of RAM (16GB), and a very solid graphics card, this computer does it all. It’s perfect for people who want the PC but at a price that’s pretty reasonable. Another nice benefit, it can be easily upgraded should you chose to add more RAM or an additional hard drive (256gb can get crammed pretty quick). This is the Editor’s Choice because this PC won’t leave anyone wanting, and it’s very affordable. It’s great for games and any kind of editing. It’s not the most powerful PC on the list, but it can do a lot for a great price.
- Can play modern games at decent to good settings
- Can be easily upgraded in terms of RAM and SSD
- Sound is solid
- Good build quality
- Runs Overwatch and League of Legends well
- No CD/DVD drive
- One user had an issue with how the trackpad is off center
- Includes some bloatware
7. Macbook Pro
Processor Dual core i5 | RAM 8gb DDR3 | Hard Drive 128gb SSD | Display 13.3″ 2560 x 1600 | Weight 3.48lbs | Graphics Card Integrated |
Macs are for people who want nice computers that they never have to trouble shoot. This Dual Core Macbook Pro will also suffice for basic video editing (1080p), and light gaming, but not much else. Still, Macs are great looking and rock solid for students. This is a great computer if you like Mac OSX and you want a computer you never have to worry about, but that’s still capable of basic tasks (and more). Personally, my Macbook Pro has never had any technical problems and this is a very nice perk that one forgets is a perk until they own a Windows-based computer.
Price: $1199 (8 percent off MSRP)
- Mac reliability and solid performance
- Can be used for light gaming and video editing at 1080p
- Macs last longer than PCs, at least 5 years
- Solid state drive is fast
- Attractive appearance with sharp screen
- No CD/DVD drive
- Built-in speakers aren’t good
- Can’t be upgraded
8. Apple Macbook
Processor 1.2ghz Core M | RAM 8GB DDR3 | Hard Drive 256GB SSD | Display 12″, 2304 x 1440 | Weight 3.4lbs | Graphics Card Integrated |
Apple’s newest Macbook is one of the most stunning pieces of technology on the market, but it’s much more beautiful than it is functional. This model boasts a weak processor and a decent amount of RAM, but wow, it looks really nice. Battery life is great, and it’s a Mac so it will hold its value better and last longer. It’s no good for video editing or gaming, but it’s a great PC for basic student tasks like writing papers or doing research. It’s a reliable brand and a beautiful computer, but it’s a lot to spend on little more than a gorgeous Chromebook with an amazing screen– it’s one of two computers on our list that has a resolution greater than 1080p. It’s a beautiful device with a wonderful display that’s a joy to use, but it is limited in certain ways. For a certain person, however, this is a very impressive computer.
Price: $1228 (5 percent off MSRP)
- Speedy, attractive, and well-designed
- Mac are more reliable than PCs
- Keyboard has new butterfly design making it extremely responsive
- Screen is high quality and looks great
- Speakers are praised by users as best of any Mac laptop
- Extremely high price for low performance; computer struggles with games or editing
9. Microsoft Surface Book
Processor Intel i5 | RAM 8GB | Hard Drive 128GB SSD | Display 13.5″ removable tablet display, 3000 x 2000 resolution (75% as many pixels as 4K) | Weight 3.5lbs | Graphics Card Integrated |
Microsoft’s foray into original hardware is quite the stunner as well. Boasting a removable tablet display with almost as many pixels as 4k (about 75% as many), it’s great for anything a student would need to do, but unfortunately lacks a graphics card. Sure, it can play video games and edit videos, but not particular well. For everything else, it’s a great PC with liquid smooth performance and awesome battery life. It also doubles as a tablet and is a very fancy touch screen device, which may be useful for notetaking to some. Still, it’s a lot to spend on a PC that isn’t all that powerful. This really is a perfect computer for someone who wants a computer for a touch screen, solid performance, and a really nice display. Designers, illustrators, and photo editors are some people who might find these features particularly handy. Beyond that, there’s no need to spend this much cash for a great computer unless you love the form of a tablet.
- Fairly light for most laptops
- Great performance and reliability
- Praised as attractive and with a great touch screen
- Graphics card is decent for basic gaming
- 12 hour battery life
- One user found the screen to be way too small
- RAM can’t be updated
- Not as reliable as a Mac and just as expensive
- Updates frequently
10. Eluktronics Editing, Design & Gaming PC
Processor i7 6700HQ | RAM 32GB DDR4 | Hard Drive 512GB SSD, 1TB HDD (5400rpm) | Display 15.6″, 1080P | Weight 5.9lbs | Graphics Card GTX 1060 6GB |
For the person who wants a monster PC that can edit 4k video, play modern games at high settings, and is a multitasking beast, this PC does it all. It’s wicked fast with a great i7 processor, a ton of RAM (32GB!), and a mean graphics card, the GTX 1060. All of this power at a weight that isn’t crazy, a mere 6lbs. What else could you want? How about a backlit keyboard, a big SSD (512GB), and a data drive (one terabyte). This PC has it all for anyone to get their work done quickly and effectively. It’s also nice to have around should you choose to use your PC for more than just work. It’s a gaming beast. For those who can afford it, this computer offers a lot of value despite its high price. It will be able to play PC games well into the future. It’s a powerful machine, well worth investing in if you need that kind of performance.
Price: $1699.95 (24 percent off MSRP)
- Praised as high quality and great value on every level
- Fast enough for modern games at great settings
- Can be used to edit video at 4k (though it can’t be viewed at this resolution due to 1080p screen)
- Colored keyboard , webcam, and SoundBlaster audio card
- Decent speakers
- Data drive is slow, but it can be updated or replaced; machine has bays for three HDDs
- On the heavy side
- One user had an issue with updates bricking the machine
Still looking for the right laptop for online college? Browse more top-rated laptops on Amazon.
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