Best College Laptops 2016

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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. Sure, the student bookstore probably has some good discounts on computers, but will any of those be the right laptop for your studies? 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. Then, you'll want to pick up a few extras, such as a comfortable mouse and a well-appointed backpack. And don't forget to preload some antivirus software before you head to campus.

Best Laptop for College (Overall)

Apple MacBook Air 13-inch

Editor's Choice

It's lightweight (just less than 3 pounds) and easy to type on, offers zippy performance with a Core i5 processor and 128GB of flash storage, and lasts for 14 hours on a charge. What more could a college student want from an all-purpose laptop? We also love the Air's sleek and sturdy aluminum design. Starting at $999, this ultraportable is a great value. 

Apple MacBook Air 13-inch Review

  • For Science Students

    Dell XPS 13 (2015)

    Editor's Choice

    Regardless of whether you're devoted to organic chemistry, anthropology or atmospheric science, you need a solid machine like the Dell XPS 13 (2015). This Windows 8.1 system packs a powerful 5th-generation Core i5 processor with 4GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD. The virtually borderless 13-inch display with a 3200 x 1800-pixel resolution will make sure your notes and graphs pop, giving the illusion of a much bigger screen. The $899 XPS 13 lasts nearly 12 hours on a charge, while the $1,299 version adds a touch display and comes with 8GB of RAM.

  • For Computer Science Students

    Lenovo ThinkPad T450s

    Editor's Choice

    The ThinkPad T450s has what budding developers and IT managers need, including a best-in-class keyboard for typing commands quickly, a full HD for putting code files side by side and over 15 hours of battery life. A durable chassis and a powerful Intel 5th generation Core series processor round out this impressive package.

    Lenovo ThinkPad T450s Review

  • For Business Students

    Lenovo ThinkPad X250

    Editor's Choice

    Whether you're sitting in a lecture hall or doing work for that make-or-break internship, the ThinkPad X250 is your best business-learning tool. Its small, lightweight chassis fits easily on your lap, a tiny desk or a tray table, while a snappy keyboard and full-HD screen make taking notes, crunching spreadsheets or editing presentations a breeze. With over 15 hours of battery life, the X250 lets you leave your AC adapter at home.

    Lenovo ThinkPad X250 Review

  • For Online-College Students

    Toshiba Chromebook 2

    Editor's Choice

    The Toshiba Chromebook 2 was practically built for online college students. We love both the affordable, $269 starting price tag and the nearly 8 hours of battery life. At less than 3 pounds, this 13-inch machine is pleasantly portable as well. The dedicated row of Chrome OS-specific keys will come in handy, and the crisp audio quality will make listening to lectures (and music) a pleasure.  

  • For Film & Animation Students

    Apple MacBook Pro 15-inch with Retina Display

    Editor's Choice

    Tap your creative energy with the updated 15-inch MacBook pro with Retina Display. Apple has upped the ante by adding much faster flash storage along with optional AMD Radeon R9 M370X graphics, which should make quick work of any project. Still, the entry-level $1,999 model with Intel Iris graphics should still be plenty powerful for most students. Add in a Force Touch trackpad and longer battery life, and you have a winner.

    Apple MacBook Pro 15-inch with Retina display Review

  • For Medical Students

    Asus ZenBook Pro UX501

    Editor's Choice

    With the gorgeous 4K, ultra-HD touch screen on the Asus Zenbook UX501J, you'll see every piece of the human body in living color. The Intel Core i7 processor with Nvidia GeForce GTX 960M graphics and a 512GB SSD all add up to one powerful study companion. Its all-aluminum design and concentric speakers are sure to turn heads, as will its affordable $1,499 price.

    Asus ZenBook Pro UX501 Review

  • For Engineering & Architecture Students

    Lenovo ThinkPad W550s

    Engineering and architecture are big fields with many subdisciplines that require a powerful PC like Lenovo's ThinkPad W550s. Some of the software these college students will need to use -- such as AutoCAD, MATLAB and Simulink -- won't run on a MacBook. This rugged, Windows 8.1 (upgradable to Windows 10 for free) system comes with a 15.5-inch, 2880 x 1620-pixel display and a classic workhorse design. Inside, you'll find a 2.6-GHz Intel Core i7 CPU with 16GB of RAM and a 512GB SSD.

  • For Art & Design Students

    Apple MacBook Pro 13-inch with Retina Display (2015)

    The latest 13-inch MacBook Pro offers speedy performance, a top-notch screen and excellent endurance -- everything that an art and design student needs. Plus, there's a new Force Touch trackpad that saves you time. The starting config offers a 2.7-GHz Intel Core i5 CPU with 8GB of RAM and a 128GB flash storage drive, plus a 13-inch, 2,560 x 1,600-pixel display that's sharp and colorful. Add 12 hours of battery life, and you have a masterpiece.

  • For Law Students

    Microsoft Surface Pro 4

    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.