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, 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.

Best Laptop for College (Overall)

Lenovo ThinkPad 13

Editor's Choice

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.

Lenovo ThinkPad 13 Review

  • Best for Campus Gamers

    Alienware 13 with OLED Display

    Editor's Choice

    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.

    Alienware 13 (OLED) Review

  • For Science Students

    Dell XPS 13

    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. 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 T460

    Editor's Choice

    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.

    Lenovo ThinkPad T460 Review

  • For Business Students

    Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon

    Editor's Choice

    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.

    Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon 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

    Microsoft SurfaceBook

    Editor's Choice

    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 SurfaceBook 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.

    Microsoft SurfaceBook Review

  • For Engineering & Architecture Students

    Dell Precision 5510 Workstation

    Editor's Choice

    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.

    Dell Precision 5510 Review

  • 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.