Each college student requires a laptop, but with so many options, the choice can be a daunting one. Start by analyzing our recommendations for the best laptop for your college major, and then compare with your specific school to get sure its configuration meets the least requirements.
If you’re undecided on your major or your school doesn’t have any particularly recommended specs, consider a laptop that’s lightweight (sub 4 pounds), lasts long on a charge (8+ hours) and has a high-res (1080 or higher) screen for smooth multitasking. We also have a complete list of laptop buying tips for students.
Best Overall: HP Envy 13t
Whether typing up a 100-page hypothesis or just getting notes in class, having a satisfactory, responsive keyboard allows you to get extra work done faster. Starting at under $900 ($1049 as tested), HP’s Envy 13t becomes one of the best keyboards in the manufacturers, along with a lightweight aluminum body and nearly 10 hours of battery lifetime. The 13.3″ laptop is powered by a fast 8th Gen Core i5 or Core i7 CPU and a PCIe SSD, giving it compelling performance.
Pros: Best-in-class keyboard; Powerful performance; Long battery life
Cons: Tinny audio: Accurate, but bland colors
Key Specs: Up to Intel Core i7-8550U CPU; Up to 4K touchscreen (1080p standard); Up to 1TB SSD; 2.93 pounds
Asus ZenBook UX330UA
Best Value: Asus ZenBook UX330UA
Asus’s 2.7-pound ZenBook UX330UA is light enough to carry to class, powerful enough to do almost any homework you can imagine and affordable enough not to break the bank. For under $750, you get a sharp 1080p screen, a generous 256GB SSD, and a speedy 8th Generation Intel Core i5 CPU. Best of all, the UX330UA lasts 9 hours on a charge so you can leave your power brick back in the dorm room. There’s also a $699-version that uses the older, 7th Gen Core i5 CPU and has over 10 hours of battery life.
Pros: Long-lasting, affordable for students, Great screen
Cons: Too much bloatware; Stiff touchpad
Key Specs: Core i5-8250U CPU, 13-inch, 1080p display, 256GB SSD; 2.7 pounds
Dell XPS 13
For Science Students: Dell XPS 13
Regardless of whether you’re devoted to organic chemistry, anthropology or atmospheric science, you need a reliable device like the Dell XPS 13. This system packs up to powerful 8th-gen quad-core processor with 16GB of RAM plus a 256GB SSD. And you have to enjoy the new redesign, which is thinner and comes in white. The virtually borderless, 13-inch display with full HD resolution will make sure your notes and graphs pop, giving the illusion of a much more significant screen. Most people will like the USB Type-C version, but last year’s update that remained for a hot 16 hours on our battery test is still accessible.
Pros: Lasting battery life; Speedy performance; Light and attractive design;
Cons: Poorly placed webcam that looks up your nose;
Key Specs: Up to 8th-Gen Core i7 CPU, up to 16GB of RAM, Up to 3200 x 1800, 13-inch touch screen layout;
For College Gamers: PowerSpec 1510
If you want a laptop that’s compact enough to take to class or the library but powerful enough to play your beloved games, the PowerSpec 1510 is right for you. For just $1,300, you get a Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 GPU, a 1080p G-Sync display and a ton of ports. Its Core i7 CPU will be high for multitasking while doing homework, for when the class takes advantage of your Steam account.
Pros: Excellent price for a laptop with a GTX 1070 GPU; Vibrant G-Sync display; A lot of ports;
Cons: Low audio; No gaming utility software;
Key Specs: Core i7 CPU; Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 GPU; 15.6-inch display;
MacBook Pro 13″ (Touch Bar)
For Art & Design Students: Apple MacBook Pro, 13-inchThe latest 13-inch MacBook Pro, has updated to a 7th-generation Core i5 CPU for even higher performance than ever before. You will get through all of your classes with 8 hours of battery time, and at just 3 pounds it’s easy to pack inside a bag. Between its Core i5 CPU, Intel Iris graphics and lightning-fast PCIe SSD, it’ll handle anything you throw at it. Want more battery life? Try a model without the Touch Bar.
Pros: the Awesome display; Strong speakers for dorm dancing parties; Fast transfer rates;
Cons: costly; No USB Type-A ports;
Key Specs: Up to Core i7 CPU; Up to 1TB storage; Thunderbolt 3 ports; 13-inch layout
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon
For Business Students: Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon
Whether you are an entrepreneur or aspiring CEO of a Fortune 500 organization, the X1 Carbon will let you live in leisure. The 14-inch ThinkPad X1 Carbon is ready for the boardroom with a vibrant 1080p or 2K layout (with an optional HDR option), an incredibly slim body and one of the most excellent keyboards you can get on any laptop. The 8th Gen Intel Core CPU is robust, and it lasts over 11 hours on a charge,
Pros: Long-lasting battery; Thin enough for a backpack; Vivid screen with discretionary HDR;
Cons: Pricey on a student account; Tinny audio;
Specs: Core i5 or i7 CPU; 14-inch 1080p or 2K display; Up to 1TB storage;
Lenovo ThinkPad T470
For Computer Science Students: Lenovo ThinkPad T470
When you are coding all night, you shouldn’t have to worry about running out of juice. The ThinkPad T470 gives more than 17 hours of battery life, along with a screen that’s sharp enough for multitasking, a satisfactory keyboard and enough processing power to compile all your designs. A Thunderbolt 3 port also lets you attach to external graphics docks for additional processing power.
Pros: One of the best keyboard you will find; Thunderbolt 3; Long battery time
Cons: Dim screen; Less than stellar speakers
Specs: Up to 1080p. 14-inch display; Up to Core i7 CPU; Up to 512GB SSD
MacBook Pro with Touch Bar
For Film & Animation Students: Apple MacBook Pro 15″
Tap your creative force with the updated 15-inch MacBook Pro. Apple has upped the ante with a high-speed 6th Gen Intel CPU, AMD Radeon Pro 455 graphics, and its brand-new Touch Bar. Video editors and animators will love the Touch Bar, which replaces the function keys with a custom toolset that can be distinctive in Photoshop than it is in Final Cut. Four Thunderbolt 3 ports get it easy to connect to various 4K displays or transfer uncompressed media files to external backup drives with ease.
Pros: a Gorgeous display; Long battery life; Fast performance
Cons: No USB Type-A ports; Runs warm
Key Specs: Up to Core i7 CPU, Up to Radeon Pro 560 GPU; Up to 1TB SSD. 15-inch display
Microsoft Surface Book 2
For Medical Students: Microsoft Surface Book 2 (15-inch)
A detachable 2-in-1 with a screen that turns into a standalone tablet is ideal for taking notes as you do your hospital routines or work lasting up in a lab. The Surface Book provides an outstanding slate experience, with a gorgeous 15-inch display and a stylus that seems a lot like a real pen. When paired with its satisfactory keyboard, Microsoft’s notebook lasts more than 12 hours on a charge and, unlike most detachable, balances comfortably on your lap. On your time off, the GTX 1060 GPU is excellent for gaming, video editing, or whatever hobby you’ll need to blow off steam.
Pros: Stunning display: Long battery life; Fast performance;
Cons: Difficult to open; Expensive;
Key Specs: Up to Core i7 CPU, Optional Nvidia GPU; 13.5 inches, 3000 x 2000 display
Dell Precision 5520
For Engineering & Architecture Students: Dell Precision 5520 Workstation
If you’re doing CAD work or 3D modeling, you need a high-end mobile workstation. However, the Dell Precision 5520 shows that you don’t need to settle for an ugly, bulky laptop to get premium processing power. This 4.4-sound system is just 0.44 inches thick and has a gorgeous edge-to-edge display, along with an Intel 7th Generation Xeon processor and Nvidia Quadro graphics. Best of all, the Precision 5520 lasts a full 11 hours and 57 minutes on a charge.
Pros: Durable; Long-lasting battery life; Strong performance;
Cons: Webcam looks up your nose;
Key Specs: Up to Core i7 CPU, Nvidia Quadro GPU, 15-inch, 1080p display
Microsoft Surface Pro
For Law Students: Microsoft Surface Microsoft
Surface Pro is an excellent pick for students who want a system that’s as good in the courtroom as it is in the class. Its folding kickstand and beautiful 12.3-inch display make the Surface Pro an excellent presentation device, while its best-in-class folding keyboard guarantees you’ll get a full laptop experience when it’s time to get some typing done.
You will have to pay extra for the Surface Pen and Type Cover keyboard, but having both associates makes it easy to take notes or write legal briefs whether you’re sitting down or standing in line to take into the lecture hall. The front and rear cameras make great pictures so you can quickly capture the whiteboard at the front of your class or pages from a book by the law library.
Pros: Great performance; Brilliant layout
Cons: Type cover and Surface Pen sold separately; Mediocre battery time
Key Specs: Up to Core i7 CPU, Up to 16GB of RAM, Up to 1TeraByte SSD
Acer Aspire E 15 (E5-575-33BM)
For Students On a Funds: Acer Aspire E 15 (E5-575-33BM)
If you’re on a shoelace budget and only need office and web apps for your major, the Acer Aspire E15 will do the job. It boasts a vivid, 1080p display, Core i3 CPU, 4GB of RAM and a 1TB HDD, and has every port you’ll need, including USB Type-C.and will also persist a day of classes with longer than 8 hours of battery lifetime. If you have a bit extra to spend, you can get a Core i5 CPU, 256GB SSD, 1080p layout and 8GB of RAM with the ($580) E5-575G-57D4 configuration.
Pros: Affordable; FHD display; Number of ports;
Cons: Screen has narrow viewing angle; Lousy webcam;
Key Specs: Core i5 CPU; 256GB SSD; 1080p display;
Whatever laptop you get, you will also want to pick up a few extras, such as a comfortable mouse, a well-appointed backpack and perhaps a reliable all-in-one printer. And don’t forget to preload some antivirus software before you head to campus. If you’re going to use a multi-monitor set in your dorm room, try a good docking station, either over USB or Thunderbolt 3.