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.
Find the Best College Laptop For You
By Anna Attkisson, Managing Editor — Last Updated: June 17, 2014
It's lightweight (just less than 3 pounds) and easy to type on, offers zippy performance, and lasts for more than 12 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. Plus, at $999, this ultraportable is a good value.
Apple MacBook Air 13-inch Review
Engineering is a big field with many subdisciplines, but for many of those, you'll need a powerful PC. Some of the software these college students will need to run -- such as AutoCAD, MATLAB and Simulink -- won't run on a MacBook. The HP ZBook 14 fits the bill nicely. This Windows 7 Pro (64-bit) system comes with a 14-inch, 1920 x 1080-pixel display and a sleek design. Inside, you'll find a fast 2.1-GHz Intel Core i7 CPU with 16GB of RAM, and a 240GB solid-state drive (SSD).
HP ZBook 14 Review
Budding programmers need a best-in-class keyboard and excellent screen for all those hours of staring at zeros and ones. That's why the 14-inch, 1920 x 1080p display and excellent tactile feedback offered by the Lenovo ThinkPad T440s make it a top choice. Well, that and some powerful components, such as a 2.6-GHz Intel Core i5 CPU with 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD.
Lenovo ThinkPad T440s Review
With a gorgeous aluminum design; a 15-inch, 1080p display; and an Intel Core i7 CPU, making charts and reading spreadsheets have never been so enjoyable. You'll also get plenty of storage via a 1TB, 5,400-rpm hybrid drive. The Nvidia GeForce GT 750M graphics will also allow economics students to unwind after class with some fragging fun.
Dell Inspiron 15 7537 Review
Those with a boardroom in their future will love what the ThinkPad X240 has to offer. This business-friendly ultraportable sports a simple but elegant black aesthetic and a comfy palm rest. The X240 is also built to last, thanks to its internal roll cage, carbon-fiber lid and magnesium bottom. The best part? You'll get a whopping 20 hours of endurance with the extended battery.
Lenovo ThinkPad X240 Review
The Toshiba Chromebook was practically built for online-college students. We love both the affordable $279 price tag and the more than 8 hours of battery life. At 3.3 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.
Toshiba Chromebook Review
Architecture majors should make the Dell Precision M4800 their own. This mighty but portable workstation may be just what the professor ordered, with its Intel Core i7 quad-core CPU with 8GB of RAM. The Windows 7 Professional (64-bit) OS and Nvidia Quadoro K2100M graphics mean you'll be tackling AutoCAD and Adobe's Creative Suite with ease.
Dell Precision M4800 Review
Creative pros prefer Macs, so film and animation students should start off on the right foot with the 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display. Thanks to the quad-core Core i7 processor and Nvidia GeForce GT 750M GPU, they'll enjoy excellent overall performance and graphics power. In addition, the sharp 2880 x 1800p screen delivers an impressive amount of detail. The iLife and iWork suites come free on this notebook, plus your budding Scorsese will get nearly 9 hours of battery life.
Apple MacBook Pro 15-inch with Retina display Review
Young doctors need a workhorse that just doesn't quit, just like them. Some medical schools discourage the use of MacBooks. The Dell XPS 15 boasts a 3.2-GHz Intel Core i7 CPU with 16GB of RAM and a 512GB SSD. The sharp 3200 x 1800p display will show you every vein and muscle in anatomy class. The gaming-friendly Nvidia GeForce GT 750M GPU will allow you to take full advantage of what little downtime you have.
Dell XPS 15 Review
Regardless of whether you're devoted to organic chemistry, anthropology or atmospheric science, you need a solid machine like the HP Spectre 13t. This Windows 8.1 system packs a powerful dual-core Intel Core i5 CPU with 4GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD. The beautiful 13.3-inch display with a 1920 x 1080p resolution will make sure your notes and graphs pop.
HP Spectre 13t Review
The 2.4-GHz Intel Core i5 CPU with Intel Iris graphics make the MacBook Pro an excellent choice for art and design students. The 13-inch display should be able to handle whatever you can throw at it, while also being portable enough for toting around campus (or other places you'll feel inspired). Add 9.5 hours of endurance, and you have a masterpiece of a laptop.
Apple MacBook Pro 13-inch with Retina display Review
Students of the law should start by looking for a PC, because chances are, some of the exams you'll be required to pass won't work on a Mac. Beyond that, a Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 2 Pro should offer all the flexibility and power you need. Not only does this hybrid feature a touch screen and tabletlike functionality, but it also houses a zippy 1.6-GHz Intel Core i5 CPU with 4GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD.
Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 2 Pro Review