Every college student needs a laptop, but with so many options, the choice can be a daunting one. 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.
If you’re undecided on your major or your school doesn’t have any particular 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 greater) screen for easy multitasking. We also have a detailed list of laptop buying tips for students.
Best Overall: Asus ZenBook UX330UA – From $699.00
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 $700, you get a sharp 1080p screen, a generous 256GB SSD and a speedy 7th Generation Intel Core i5 CPU. Best of all, the UX330UA lasts over 10 hours on a charge so you can leave your power brick back in the dorm room.
Pros: Long-lasting, affordable for students, Great screen
Cons: Too much bloatware; Stiff touchpad
Key Specs: Core i5 Kaby Lake CPU, 13-inch, 1080p display, 256GB SSD
For Science Students: Dell XPS 13 – From $799.00
Regardless of whether you’re devoted to organic chemistry, anthropology or atmospheric science, you need a solid machine like the Dell XPS 13. This system packs up to powerful 8th-generation quad-core processor with 16GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD. The virtually borderless, 13-inch display with full HD resolution will make sure your notes and graphs pop, giving the illusion of a much bigger screen. The latest version lasted for a wild 16 hours on our battery test.
Pros: Epic 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-inchtouch screen display;
For Campus Gamers: Alienware 13 with OLED Display – From $999.00
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.
Pros: Sleek design: Beautiful OLED display; Comfortable keyboard; Long-lasting;
Cons: Expensive for a student budget; Runs hot;
Key Specs: Up to Core i7 CPU; Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 or 1060 GPU; 13.3-inch display
For Art & Design Students: Apple MacBook Pro 13-inch – From $1649.00
The latest 13-inch MacBook Pro has upgraded to a 7th-generation Core i5 CPU for even more performance than ever before. You’ll get through all of your classes with 8 hours of battery life, and at just 3 pounds it’s easy to pack into 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: Awesome display; Strong speakers for dorm dance parties; Fast transfer speeds;
Cons: Pricey; No USB Type-A ports;
Key Specs: Up to Core i7 CPU; Up to 1TB storage; Thunderbolt 3 ports; 13-inch display
For Business Students: Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon – From $1403.00
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 a vibrant 1080p or 2K display, a super-svelte 2.49-pound body and one of the best keyboards you can get on any laptop. Better still, this Intel 7th Gen Core-powered Ultrabook lasts over 12 hours on a charge and packs a wide variety of ports, including Thunderbolt 3, USB 3.0 and Ethernet connectors.
Pros: Long-lasting battery; Light enough for a backpack; Vivid screen;
Cons: Pricey on a student budget; Tinny audio;
Key Specs: Core i5 or i7 CPU; 1080p display; Up to 512GB SSD; 14 inch, 1080p display
For Computer Science Students: Lenovo ThinkPad T470 – From $1248.00
When you’re coding all night, you shouldn’t have to worry about running out of juice. The ThinkPad T470 provides more than 17 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. A Thunderbolt 3 port also lets you connect to external graphics docks for extra processing power.
Pros: One of the best keyboard you’ll find; Thunderbolt 3; Long battery life
Cons: Dim screen; Less than stellar speakers
Key Specs: Up to 1080p. 14-inch display; Up to Core i7 CPU; Up to 512GB SSD
For Film & Animation Students: Apple MacBook Pro 15-inch -From $1549.00
Tap your creative energy with the updated 15-inch MacBook Pro. Apple has upped the ante with a faster 6th Gen Intel CPU, AMD Radeon Pro 455 graphics and its new Touch Bar. Video editors and animators will love the Touch Bar, which replaces the function keys with a custom toolset that can be different in Photoshop than it is in Final Cut. Four Thunderbolt 3 ports make it easy to connect to multiple 4K displays or transfer uncompressed media files to external backup drives with ease.
Pros: 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
For Medical Students: Microsoft Surface Book – From $1199.00
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 Surface Book 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.
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 inch, 3000 x 2000 display
For Engineering & Architecture Students: Dell Precision 5520 Workstation – From $1399.00
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 in order to get premium processing power. This 4.4-pound 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: Wecbam looks up your nose;
Key Specs: Up to Core i7 CPU, Nvidia Quadro GPU, 15-inch, 1080p display
For Law Students: Microsoft Surface Pro – From $799.00
Microsoft’s Surface Pro 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 Surface Pro 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.
You’ll have to pay extra for the Surface Pen and Type Cover keyboard, but having both accessories makes it easy to take notes or write legal briefs whether you’re sitting down or standing in line to get into the lecture hall. The front and rear cameras take great pictures so you can easily capture the whiteboard at the front of your classroom or pages from a book at the law library.
Pros: Great performance; Brilliant display
Cons: Type cover and Surface Pen sold separately; Mediocre battery life
Key Specs: Up to Core i7 CPU, Up to 16GB of RAM, Up to 1TB SSD
For Students On a Budget: Acer Aspire E 15 (E5-575-33BM) – From $349.99
If you’re on a shoestring 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. It has every port you’ll need, including USB Type-C. It will also survive a day of classes with more than 8 hours of battery life. If you have a bit more to spend, you can get a Core i5 CPU, 256GB SSD, 1080p display and 8GB of RAM with the ($580) E5-575G-57D4 configuration.
Pros: Affordable; FHD display; Lots of ports;
Cons: Screen has narrow viewing angle; Lousy webcam;
Key Specs: Core i5 CPU; 256GB SSD; 1080p display;
Whatever laptop you get, you’ll also 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. If you’re going to use a multi-monitor setup in your dorm room, try a good docking station, either over USB or Thunderbolt 3.