If you're about to start your college tour, you'll need a laptop to get you through all the rigorous activities that your professors may throw at you, especially if you're getting into a creative field where you video and photo edit or run other graphics-intensive programs. And if you want to game on your day off, you'll need a GPU strong enough to do that as well.
So, when a user asked us on the Tom's Guide forums to find the best college laptop that does exactly that, but on a budget, we couldn't help but have a few ideas.
The user goes on to ask for a laptop under $1,400 that comes with an 8th Gen Core i7 CPU, a 15.6-inch (or bigger) display with high sRGB color gamut, a fully backlit keyboard with a number pad and an SD card slot.
It was tough to nail down all of the requirements on a sub-$1,400 budget, but we did find a few great college laptops that will net you enough of the required features that you'll have no issue tearing through everything school throws your way.
The Dell XPS 15 (4.2 pounds, 0.7~0.5 inches thin) is an obvious first choice because it'll meet most of your current requirements, but it cuts it pretty close to your budget. For $1,409, the XPS 15 will net you a Core i7-8750H processor with 8GB of RAM, an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 Ti GPU and a 256GB SSD.
We tested it with 16GB of RAM, and it took 10 minutes and 12 seconds to transcode a 4K video to 1080p on our HandBrake benchmark, while its GPU ran Rise of the Tomb Raider at 22 frames per second on Very High settings at 1080p. It landed under the 30-fps playability threshold, but you can easily dial down a few settings in Tomb Raider and other graphics-intensive games to get them above 30 fps.
Its 15.6-inch, 1080p panel is great for video and photo editing: It covered a solid 115 percent of the sRGB color gamut and registered 371 nits of brightness in our testing. It also boasts a wild 11 hours and 53 minutes of battery life.
The XPS 15 also has an SD card slot, which is another important feature. And while it does have a backlit keyboard, it is missing a number pad, so you'll have to sacrifice that at the very least.
Lenovo Legion Y7000
If you're looking to save some money and get even further away from your max budget, we recommend the Lenovo Legion Y7000 (5.3 pounds, 1.1~0.9 inches). For just $1,099, the Legion Y7000 offers you a Core i7-8750H processor with 16GB of RAM, a GTX 1060 GPU, a 256GB SSD and a 1TB HDD.
It took just 9 minutes and 24 seconds to complete the HandBrake benchmark and nailed 37 fps on the Rise of the Tomb Raider benchmark, making it more than capable of handling CPU-intensive games on high settings. And if you're interested in VR, it scored a solid 7 out of 11 on the SteamVR Performance Test, making it VR ready.
With its 15.6-inch, 1080p panel, you'll get all the color you need for video editing — the panel covered 153 percent of the sRGB color spectrum and emitted 277 nits of brightness. Be cautious, however: The battery lasts only 4 hours and 28 minutes on a charge.
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This machine comes with a fully backlit keyboard with a number pad, but it doesn't have room for an SD card slot, so you'll have to spring for an external one, which is relatively cheap.
HP Spectre x360 (15 inches, 2019)
If you stretch your budget slightly to $1,549, you can get the latest HP Spectre x360 (4.6 pounds, 0.8 inches), which comes with a Core i7-8750H processor with 8GB of RAM, a GTX 1050 Ti GPU and a 256GB SSD.
With 16GB of RAM, the Spectre x360 took 10 minutes and 45 seconds to finish the HandBrake benchmark, and it averaged a low 19 fps on the Rise of the Tomb Raider benchmark, losing out to the XPS 15 in both cases.
However, it has a sharp 15.6-inch, 4K panel that covered 157 percent of the sRGB color gamut and emitted 247 nits of brightness. Unlike the other two machines, this baby is a 2-in-1 that can flip 360 degrees to whichever position you want, and it also includes a stylus that you can use to draw on its touch-screen panel.
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For a laptop with a 4K display, the Spectre x360 lasted a surprisingly long 8 hours and 9 minutes on a charge. And with this machine, you get a fully backlit keyboard with a number pad. There's no SD card slot, but it does have a microSD card slot, if you happen to be using an adapter.
We hope that these laptops help you decide which laptop to choose for college. Let us know what you decide to go with!
Credit: Laptop Mag
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Rami Tabari is an Editor for Laptop Mag. He reviews every shape and form of a laptop as well as all sorts of cool tech. You can find him sitting at his desk surrounded by a hoarder's dream of laptops, and when he navigates his way out to civilization, you can catch him watching really bad anime or playing some kind of painfully difficult game. He’s the best at every game and he just doesn’t lose. That’s why you’ll occasionally catch his byline attached to the latest Souls-like challenge.