Here’s my pick of 2020’s most affordable and durable student laptops
The best laptop buy for college is one that has good performance along with good graphics and sound, and all at a great overall price. Some additional features are required such as ample storage space, good WiFi connectivity, less weight so the laptop is easy to carry, keyboard feel and features and so on.
College students constantly need to work on their laptop computers for their class assignments, college email, online courses, perhaps some gaming and more.
Most people in this day and age use a computer for everything from banking to buying groceries. But the one thing different with college students is that, after paying for college tuition and so many other related expenses, they are routinely short on cash.
For this reason, I’ve selected a list of 10 laptops at the lowest price point ($150-$370 range) that still have great features and computing power.
Laptop versus Chromebook
A laptop is simply a smaller version of a computer that is portable so we can easily carry it around when needed. The components in a laptop are much smaller. Previously laptops used to be more expensive than desktop computers but nowadays laptops have become much cheaper. They typically run on Windows or Linux or Mac operating system.
Chromebooks have lately become very popular and they run on Google’s Chrome O/s. They load much faster than a typical Windows or Linux laptop but they have limited capabilities than a laptop. Firstly, all applications in a Chromebook run via the Chrome browser. Editing documents is done via Google docs, photo editing is via online photo editing software and so on.
Applications on a Chromebook need to be downloaded from the Google Play store similar to what you would do on your smartphone. All Chromebooks are provided ample Google cloud storage.
In terms of hardware, there is no difference between a regular laptop and a Chromebook and some people simply format a Chromebook and install Linux or Windows on it to make it into a regular laptop.
Note that Chromebooks tend to run faster and have more battery life than regular laptops since everything is handled by the Chrome browser. Also, they come with less disk storage since files get saved to the Google cloud and this is the reason why Chromebooks are also much lighter and easier to carry.
This might be a good trade-off for those who are willing to compromise on laptop functionality and work only within the Chrome browser for all application needs.
Recommended for All New Laptops
There are many companies and software that are vying for attention from consumers. The laptop companies also routinely have tie-ups with software product firms for pre-installing a trial or demo version of typical applications into the brand new laptops.
That is the reason why most new laptops have so much of the disk space already used up with applications which the buyer may never even use. In addition to disk space, these applications also eat up on the computer’s memory at run-time.
Therefore, when buying a new laptop, it is imperative that you remove this application bloatware either manually, (or) through fresh Windows 10 installation (or) by installing a brand new version of Linux on it.
Laptop/ Chromebook Features and Description
|S. No.||Feature||Description||Options/ Additional Notes|
|1||Processor/ CPU (Central Processing Unit)||The processor is responsible for the machine speed and performance when running many applications.||
|2||Memory/ RAM (Random access memory)||This is the used for running the applications in real time, When one application is used, the memory is freed for other applications to use that memory space.||
The more the amount of memory the faster the computer will function. When a computer has less memory, it will use disk memory as virtual memory and the disk access slows down applications. So more memory/ upgrading memory is beneficial for performance.
|3||Display and Graphics||Apart from the display width and resolution, the clarity and sharpness of the screen display is also important.||
HD display with IPS LCD displays have more color quality and sharpness than LED displays.
Other than the screen capability and brightness, the processor is responsible for the graphics processing and uses the in-processor memory for loading graphics.
|4||Operating system (O/s)||This can be Windows, or any one of the Linux flavors, Mac or Android.||
Windows O/s and office applications are more expensive than their Linux counterparts. There are in fact a lot of open source and free software available on the Linux platform. Mac laptops and the O/s is the most expensive though some people prefer a Mac for the design/aesthetics. The Linux O/s itself has many flavors which are open source, one such popular one is Ubuntu Linux.
Many laptop come with Windows 10 in S Mode which allows only applications to run that are downloaded from the Microsoft app store. To overcome this requirement, just switch off the S Mode by following the Microsoft documentation.
|5||Disk storage||The best drive in terms of speed is SSD which works from a microchip and has no moving parts.
The connector is called SATA or mini-SATA or mSATA for laptops that are much smaller than a PC.
Newer SSDs use NVMe as the connector which is faster than SATA drives but more expensive.
This has a moving arm and requires mechanical movement to access disk data. Therefore, it is slower than SSDs but is also a lot more inexpensive.
However the price of SSDs has been decreasing quite a lot and most people use SSDs as their 1st bootable drive on any PC or laptop.
|6||Device upgrade||The most common components that people upgrade are the memory (Ram) and the disk storage.||
When buying a laptop, it is good to know that there is room for upgrading the memory and the storage.
More memory directly affects performance and makes the applications on the laptop to run much faster. As we use a laptop for longer, the files start filling up and so adding more storage capacity is always welcome.
|7||Wireless||More bandwidth makes the browsing and internet applications to run faster.
As for the frequency, each wireless standard supports a specific frequency range.
The more frequencies supported, the faster it is likely to be.
|8||Sound||Good, loud and clear sound from the laptop speakers is what we look for.||Location of the speakers may also affect sound clarity.|
|9||Keyboard and Mousepad||
Soft touch and quiet keys with a QWERTY layout is expected. Some keyboards also have back-light for easy typing.
|A smooth and responsive mousepad is also recommended.|
Number of USB 3.0 and USB 2.0 ports. USB 3 ports are about 10 times faster than USB 2.0.
|Apart from the power connection and a laptop lock, a HDMI port and a headphone/mic connection is generally required.|
It is best to choose a laptop that is easy to carry around, so choose one that meets your weight requirements.
|12||Durability/ Outer casing||The outer casing of laptops is either plastic or metal. Metal casings are more durable than plastic, aluminum casing is also good for this.||
There are also some laptops that not only have a metal casing but also have rubberized finish and edges. These are by far the most durable laptops and will not get damaged if dropped accidentally.
If you anticipate the laptop will be used in rugged conditions, also check if it is water resistant.
Laptops Main Features Comparison Checklist
|Processor/ CPU||Memory||Display / Graphics||O/s||Disk storage||Device Upgrade||Wireless|
|Acer Aspire 5 Slim Laptop||AMD Ryzen 3 3200U – Dual core (Up to 3.5GHz)||4GB DDR4||15.6 in LCD IPS,
1920 x 1080
|Windows 10 in S Mode (switchable to Windows 10 Home)||128GB SSD NVMe||Yes has empty slots for Memory and Disk||802.11 ac|
|HP 15.6″ HD 2019 New Touch-Screen||Intel Pentium Silver N5000 Quad-Core (Up to 2.7GHz)||4GB DDR4||15.6-inch LED HD, 1366 x 768 resolution||Windows 10||128GB SSD + 1TB Hard drive||4 GB can be replaced with 8GB||WiFi 802.11 ac, b/g/n, Bluetooth|
|2019 Newest Lenovo IdeaPad 15.6″||AMD A9-9425 Dual Core processor 3.1 GHz||4GB DDR4||15.6″ 1366 x 768 HD||Windows 10 in S Mode (switchable to Windows 10 Home)||128GB SSD + DVD-RW||4GB stick can be replaced with 8GB||802.11ac|
|ASUS VivoBook 15 Thin and Light Laptop||Intel Dual Core i3-8145U Processor (up to 3.9 GHz)||8GB DDR4||15.6 inch HD – average display||Windows 10 in S Mode (switchable to Windows 10 Home)||128GB NVMe SSD||Yes, but no empty slots, will have to replace||802.11 ac,b,n|
|ASUS Chromebook C202SA-YS02||Intel Celeron N3060 Dual core Processor (up to 2.48 GHz)||4 GB DDR3||11.6 inches HD 1366×768 Anti-Glare Display||Chrome OS||16 GB||SD card slot||802.11ac|
|Acer Chromebook 14, Aluminum||Intel Celeron N3160 Quad-Core Processor (1.6GHz up to 2.24GHz)||4GB DDR3||14″ Full HD IPS (1920 x 1080)||Chrome OS||32 GB||NO SD card slot||802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.2|
|Samsung Chromebook 3 XE500C13-K02US||Intel Celeron N3050 Dual-core processor (2.16 GHz)||4 GB DDR3L||11.6” HD Anti-Reflective Display LCD||Chrome OS||16 GB||SD card slot||802.11ac|
|Lenovo Chromebook C330 2-in-1||MediaTek MT8173C Quad-core processor (2.1 GHz)||4 GB LPDDR3||11.6-Inch HD (1366 x 768) IPS Display||Chrome OS||64 GB||Micro-SD card slot||802.11a, 802.11b, 802.11g|
|Acer Chromebook R 11 Convertible||Intel Celeron N3150 Quad-Core (1.6GHz up to 2.08GHz)||4GB DDR3L||11.6″ HD 1366 x 768 resolution, LCD IPS||Chrome OS||32GB||SD card slot||802.11ac|
|2018 Acer 15.6″ HD WLED Chromebook||Intel Celeron Processor N3060 Dual core (1.6GHz up to 2.48 GHz)||4GB LPDDR3||15. 6″ 1366 x 768 HD resolution||Chrome OS||16GB||SD card slot||802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.|
Laptops Other Features Comparison Checklist
|Sound||Keyboard / Mousepad||Battery||Ports||Weight||Value/ Extra features||Tilt/ Touch screen|
|Acer Aspire 5 Slim Laptop||Good audio quality||Backlit, works ok, Flimsy mousepad||6 hrs with moderate load, max up to 7.5 hrs||One 3.1 USB, Two 2.0 USBs, Ethernet, Power and Mic||3.97 lbs||Good value, back casing is metal||180 degrees Tilt|
|HP 15.6″ HD 2019 New Touch-Screen||Ok||Back-light||5 hrs||One 3.1 USB, One 2.0 USBs, 1 RJ45 Ethernet, 1 HDMI, Power and Mic||4.41 lbs||Touch screen|
|2019 Newest Lenovo IdeaPad 15.6″||Ok||Keyboard Backlight, touchpad flimsy||3+ hrs||Two USB 3.0 ports, Ethernet, HDMI, Power and Headphone / Mic||4.63 lbs||Average display||No|
|ASUS VivoBook 15 Thin and Light Laptop||Average quality||Backlit with fingerprint sensor||4 hrs – turning off back-light gives more battery life||Two 3.1 USBs, Two 2.0 USBs, 1 RJ45 Ethernet, Power and Mic||3.75 lbs||1 yr accidental damage protection||No|
|ASUS Chromebook C202SA-YS02 11.6“
||Good loud sound||Ok keyboard and mousepad||10 hours||Two 3.0 USB ports, Power and Mic||2.2 lbs||Rugged use, water resistant, drop-proof||180 degrees Tilt|
|Acer Chromebook 14, Aluminum||Great||LED-backlit keyboard and mousepad||12 hours||2 – USB 3.0 Ports, HDMI port, Power and Mic||3.42 lbs||100% Aluminum Chassis||No Tilt|
|Samsung Chromebook 3 XE500C13-K02US||Ok||Ok keyboard and mousepad||11 hours||One 3.1 USB, One 2.0, HDMI port, Power and Mic||2.54 lbs||Spill-resistant keyboard, Solid finish||No Tilt|
|Lenovo Chromebook C330 2-in-1||Great sound||Good feel keyboard and mousepad||10 hours||One USB 3.0, One USB 2.0 port, HDMI port, Power and Mic||2.64 lbs||Sturdy and solid||Touch screen, 360 degrees tilt|
|Acer Chromebook R 11 Convertible||Good||Ok keyboard and mousepad||10 hours||One USB 3.0 Port, One USB 2.0, One HDMI port, Power and Mic||2.76 lbs||WiFi Issues||Touch screen, 360 degrees tilt|
|2018 Acer 15.6″ HD WLED Chromebook||Great||Good keyboard back-light and mousepad||12 hours||Two USB 3.0 ports, One HDMI port, Power and Mic||4.41 lbs||Sturdy and solid even if occasionally dropped, good display and battery life||No tilt or touch screen|
Overall Best Laptop – Acer Aspire 5 Slim Laptop
When taking all the factors into consideration, the Acer Aspire 5 Slim Laptop is the overall best laptop and provides the best value for money. It has solid processing power with a IPS LCD display which enables a sharp and clear display quality with good color production and viewing angles. It also has extra slots for upgrading both the memory and the disk space with a SATA SSD storage. The compatible memory sticks can be found here and costs just a bit more.
It also has good sound quality with sufficient battery life and a doable weight for a laptop. The main downside is the flimsy mousepad which can be easily resolved with a USB wireless mouse.
Most Rugged and Lightweight – ASUS Chromebook C202SA-YS02 11.6“
This ASUS Chromebook C202SA-YS02 11.6″ has rubberrized edges and has performed very well in drop tests and spill tests. It has a spill-resistant keyboard as well. The display is very standard and basic and it does not have the kind of sophisticated laptop/ chromebook look that most professionals expect.
However, it has the right set of features and if you expect to carry it around a lot for rough use, you can be assured that it will continue to stay in fact and not cause any issues. The weight at 2,2 lbs is also something that is quite hard to find in most laptops or chromebooks.
Great Feel with Extra Features – Lenovo Chromebook C330 2-in-1
If you are looking for a smooth-touch laptop that looks extra-sophisticated with a touchscreen and 360 degrees display tilting angles, this Lenovo Chromebook C330 2-in-1 is for you. It also comes with great sound, is light-weight at 2.64 lbs, has about 10 hours of battery life, and is a sturdy and well-built chromebook.
The other good thing is that at 64 GB SSD storage, it has much more disk storage than most typical chromebooks. There is also a micro-SD slot if you wish to add on extra external storage. It can be used as a laptop or tablet/iPad mode and has a good LCD IPS display for good colors and viewing angles.
I hope you enjoyed this review of the Student’s Best Laptop Buy For 2020!
Now that you have the college laptop part taken care of, check out the College Student Success Strategies for most efficient way to do college.
Let me know what you think in the comments section below.