Best overall

Dell XPS 13

Dell XPS 13

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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

The XPS 13 by Dell is the entry product in the XPS line of premium laptops, but it is an ideal match for students looking to take advantage of capable hardware to help with their studies.

Picking the best laptop before heading back to school in 2017 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

Practical

HP Notebook 15-ay011nr

HP Notebook 15

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Powered by an Intel i5 processor alongside 8GB of RAM, this capable HP laptop (costing just $540) is ready to go with up to seven hours of use. Take advantage of the 15-inch display for maximum productivity.

Bottom line: It's a good, portable notebook that won't break the bank.

One more thing: It comes with 1TB of internal storage.

Portable

ASUS ZenBook UX330UA-AH54

ASUS ZenBook UX330UA

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This ZenBook laptop (commanding a price tag of $699) 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: This is the best looking laptop in our roundup.

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

Affordable

HP X360

HP X360

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This is by no means the most powerful PC on our list, only featuring a Celeron processor and not even 1080p display resolution, but at $240 the HP X360 is an affordable laptop and is also a 2-in-1.

Bottom line: It's an affordable package that doesn't feature top-end hardware but does have a few tricks.

One more thing: The display can flip around and be used like a tablet.

Professional

Microsoft Surface Pro

Surface Pro 2017

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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.

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

One more thing: It's an excellent investment for any student who can take advantage of the pen functionality.

Best overall

Dell XPS 13

Dell XPS 13

See at Dell

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 03, 2017: We replaced the Surface Pro 4 with the new Surface Pro.