Nearly 18 million students are enrolled at the 4,000 universities and colleges in the United States. Each and every one of them will need a computer, but with so many options, the choice can be a daunting one. Start by reviewing our recommendations for the best laptop for your college major, and then check with your specific school to make sure its configuration meets the minimum requirements.
You'll also want to pick up a few extras, such as a comfortable mouse, a well-appointed backpack and perhaps a solid all-in-one printer. And don't forget to preload some antivirus software before you head to campus.
No matter what their major, most students want a laptop with a great keyboard, sharp screen and long battery life. For a price most freshmen can afford, the ThinkPad 13 offers a full HD display, an SSD, 9 hours of battery life and the best notebook typing experience money can buy. Even better, Lenovo's lightweight laptop passes several durability tests and offers a USB Type-C port for next-gen peripherals and chargers.
|Best College Laptops 2017|
|Lenovo ThinkPad 13||Best Laptop for College (Overall)||4.5 out of 5|
|Dell XPS 13||For Science Students||4.5 out of 5|
|Alienware 13 with OLED Display||Best for Campus Gamers||4 out of 5|
|Apple MacBook Pro 13-inch (2016)||For Art & Design Students||4 out of 5|
|Lenovo ThinkPad T460||For Computer Science Students||4 out of 5|
|Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon||For Business Students||4 out of 5|
|Apple MacBook Pro 15-inch||For Film & Animation Students||4.5 out of 5|
|Microsoft Surface Book||For Medical Students||4 out of 5|
|Dell Precision 5510 Workstation||For Engineering & Architecture Students||4 out of 5|
|Microsoft Surface Pro 4||For Law Students||3.5 out of 5|
|Lenovo ThinkPad 13 (7th Gen Core)||New and Notable||N/A|
Regardless of whether you're devoted to organic chemistry, anthropology or atmospheric science, you need a solid machine like the Dell XPS 13. This system packs a powerful 7th-generation Core i5 processor with 8GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD. The virtually borderless, 13-inch display with full HD resolution will make sure your notes and graphs pop, giving the illusion of a much bigger screen. The $899 XPS 13 lasts nearly 14 hours on a charge, while the $1,399 version adds a touch display.
If you want a laptop that's portable enough to take to class or the library but powerful enough to play your favorite games, look no further than the Alienware 13. This lightweight gaming behemoth has a gorgeous 13.3-inch OLED display, the first ever on a laptop, and the ability to play demanding titles like Metro: Last Light at very high frame rates.
Whether you're editing images in Photoshop or creating videos in Final Cut, the latest 13-inch MacBook Pro has the performance you need to get the job done in a lightweight package you can carry to class. The 3-pound laptop features a speedy 6th Generation Core i5 CPU with Intel Iris Graphics, lightning-fast PCIe storage and nearly 10 hours of battery life. We recommend buying the MacBook Pro without the Touch Bar to get better battery life at a better price.
When you're coding all night, you shouldn't have to worry about running out of juice. The ThinkPad T460 provides more than 13 hours of battery life, along with a screen that's sharp enough for multitasking, a comfortable keyboard and enough processing power to compile all your projects.
You may only be an intern, but why not carry the same kind of laptop as a CEO? The 14-inch ThinkPad X1 Carbon is ready for the boardroom with your choice of a vibrant 1080p or 2K display, a barely-there 2.6-pound chassis, a snappy keyboard and a luxurious glass touchpad.
Tap your creative energy with the updated 15-inch MacBook Pro. Apple has upped the ante with a faster 6th Gen Intel CPU, AMD Radeon Pro 455 graphics and its new Touch Bar. Video editors and animators will love the Touch Bar, which replaces the function keys with a custom toolset that can be different in Photoshop than it is in Final Cut. Four Thunderbolt 3 ports make it easy to connect to multiple 4K displays or transfer uncompressed media files to external backup drives with ease.
A detachable 2-in-1 with a screen that turns into a standalone tablet is idea for taking notes as you do your hospital rounds or work standing up in a lab. The Surface Book provides an excellent slate experience, with a gorgeous 13.5-inch display and a stylus that feels a lot like a real pen. When paired with its comfortable keyboard, Microsoft's notebook lasts more than 12 hours on a charge and, unlike most detachables, balances easily on your lap.
If you're doing CAD work or 3D modeling, you need a high-end mobile workstation. However, the Dell Precision 5510 shows that you don't need to settle for an ugly, bulky laptop in order to get premium processing power. This 4.6-pound system is about as thick as a MacBook Air and has a gorgeous edge-to-edge display, along with a powerful Xeon processor and Nvidia Quadro graphics.
Microsoft's Surface Pro 4 is a great pick for students who need a system that's as good in the courtroom as it is in the classroom. Its folding kickstand and brilliant 12.3-inch display make the SP4 a great presentation device, while its best-in-class folding keyboard ensures you'll get a full laptop experience when it's time to get some writing done. The SP4 also comes with Microsoft's Surface Pen, which can open OneNote with a single button press so you can jot down a quick note or remark, even when you're on your feet. While you'll need to remember to tack on an extra $130 to the Surface Pro 4's $799 starting price for its folding Type Cover, most students can save 10 percent instantly just by using their .edu address when checking out on Microsoft's store.
Due out in early Q1 of 2017, this update to our favorite college laptop swaps in a more powerful and power-efficient Intel 7th Gen Core Series CPU. The new ThinkPad 13 will also add three key options: a touch screen, a backlit keyboard and a speedy PCIe SSD.