Best overall

Dell XPS 13

The XPS 13 (starting at $799 is a premium laptop offered by Dell, and it is a superb match for students. Sporting the latest generation of Intel processors, even in the base model configuration, the slim and powerful notebook will be more than a match for both studies and downtime.

Bottom line: Great overall product with enough punch for demanding tasks.

One more thing: It has a backlit keyboard for those late-evening sessions.

Why the XPS 13 is the best laptop for students

Picking the best laptop before heading back to school (or graduating) in 2018 doesn't have to be yet another chore on the list of things to get done. The beauty of the XPS 13 is you're able to configure it exactly how you wish. Need more than 128GB of solid state drive (SSD) storage? Simply add a 256GB drive when ordering or install one after the laptop gets delivered, if you can save money through Amazon or another online retailer. Then you have a Full HD display with barely any bezel, which can be bumped to QHD with touch-screen support.

Speaking of specifications, the XPS 13 was recently refreshed by Dell to include Intel's seventh-gen "Kaby Lake" processors. These components are matched with at least 4GB of RAM and Killer 1535 wireless connectivity. The latter improvement with the XPS 13 is a major benefit for students, thanks to its excellent wireless range and reliability. The laptop can also be personalized with a choice of color: silver or rose gold.

The keyboard is likely what will be used the most, and this is probably the laptop's weak spot. It's not the worst keyboard by any means, but it's also not among the best. With only 1.3 mm of key travel (how far the key can be pressed down), it can feel somewhat "mushy" to those who are used to desktop mechanical keyboards or other portable PCs with enhanced means of input. There's also an issue with oil stains after considerable amounts of use.

Overlooking the keyboard, you have a super-portable laptop with a gorgeous display and excellent performance. Couple all that with improved battery life (thanks to expanded capacity and the newest processors) and you've got one fantastic device for any student.

See our review of the XPS 13

Runner-up

Acer Swift 3

Powered by an Intel Core i5-8250U processor alongside 8GB of RAM, this capable Acer laptop (costing just $649 is ready to go with up to 10 hours of use. Take advantage of the 14-inch display and super-fast SSD for maximum productivity.

If you need a little more performance, a model with a more powerful Intel Core i7-8550U is available for $949.99, though the already capable Core i5 should be more than enough to handle most tasks both at school and home.

Bottom line: The Acer Swift 3 is a good, portable notebook that won't break the bank.

One more thing: The battery can last up to 10 hours on a single charge.

Best portable

ASUS ZenBook UX331UA

This ZenBook laptop (commanding a price tag of $799 is made out of aluminum, sports an Intel Core i5 processor, 8GB of RAM, and has a great keyboard for those intense Word document sessions. Being rather thin and light also makes this ASUS notebook incredibly portable.

Bottom line: The ASUS ZenBook UX331UA is arguably the best looking and most portable laptop in our roundup.

One more thing: There's a built-in fingerprint sensor for additional security.

Best affordable

Chuwi Lapbook

Chuwi is a Chinese brand you might not be familiar with but that is putting out some really great, really affordable Windows 10 hardware. This 12-inch Lapbook has a 2736 x 1824 display, making it quite the viewing experience, coupled with some decent internal hardware for the price.

You'll find an Intel Apollo Lake Celeron N3450 processor, 6GB of RAM, and 64GB of internal capacity with expandable storage. It has a full-size keyboard and a decent trackpad, too, not to mention all the ports you need and a 36.48Wh battery with quick charging capabilities.

It looks great, and it costs only $419.99. There's a lot to like and very little to complain about.

Bottom line: The Chuwi Lapbook looks and performs great at a ridiculously low price.

One more thing: The Lapbook 12.3 has a display with a higher resolution than Full HD for less than $450.

Best professional

Microsoft Surface Pro

The Surface Pro is Microsoft's main tablet-come-laptop combo, and it starts at $799. Depending on your desired configuration, the Surface tablet can be as powerful as your needs require, with the option of an Intel Core i7 processor. Solid construction meets powerful components and a stunning overall design.

It's also available at a discounted $719 for eligible teachers, students and parents.

Bottom line: The Surface Pro brings a whole new level of productivity to the portable-PC table.

One more thing: Special pricing for students means there are savings to be had ahead of a new term.

Conclusion

The XPS 13 by Dell is a stunning laptop and is one of our favorites. A gorgeous design, solid performance and reliability make it fit for purpose at college. Should you need a little more, Microsoft's Surface line-up is where it's at, taking into account student discounts.

Best overall

Dell XPS 13

The XPS 13 (starting at $799 is a premium laptop offered by Dell, and it is a superb match for students. Sporting the latest generation of Intel processors, even in the base model configuration, the slim and powerful notebook will be more than a match for both studies and downtime.

Bottom line: Great overall product with enough punch for demanding tasks.

One more thing: It has a backlit keyboard for those late-evening sessions.

Updated August 16, 2018: We updated this guide to make sure it still offers only the best laptop recommendations for high school students.

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