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Best Laptops for College Students

According to our testers, these models score high marks for performance and battery life

After completing the painstaking process of choosing the right college, students are routinely confronted with yet another big decision: "Which laptop do I buy?"

Unlike microwaves and twin-sized sheet sets, a computer is a deeply personal purchase—one that, for better or worse, you're likely to be stuck with for the next four years. So before making a final call, be sure to do your homework. 

Take a moment to consult the school website for guidelines. University IT departments often provide a list of computer requirements (along with links to exclusive student discounts from manufacturers such as Dell, HP, and Lenovo). Business and engineering students, for example, may have to use Windows-based software that doesn't work on an Apple computer unless they partition the hard drive. Those in creative fields such as film and design may find themselves in need of a Mac operating system.

Be careful, though. School requirement lists are not always up to date. Case in point: More than a few strongly recommend laptops with optical drives for CD/DVD use, even though that technology has largely vanished from laptops in recent years.

Below are some of the best laptops for college from companies including Apple, Dell, Lenovo, and LG. All feature solid-state drives, which tend to be more expensive. But they're also speedier and more reliable than a traditional spinning hard drive.

Each laptop has at least 8GB of RAM. According to Antonette Asedillo, a Consumer Reports tester, you can get by with 4GB of memory for basic web browsing and word processing. But if you find yourself performing tasks beyond that, you'll wish you had spent the money to upgrade. “Definitely err on the side of more," she says, "because upgradable RAM is becoming rare.”

All use an Intel Core i5 or i7 processor. The i5 can handle most everyday tasks including web browsing, video streaming, and photo editing via the Photoshop app. The i7 is better for demanding tasks, such as 4K video editing and top-tier gaming. 

Best of all, these laptops come recommended by our testers, who have reviewed 17 new models this year (not counting Chromebooks, which we review separately), grading them on nearly 200 data points. To make sure each specimen is just like the one you might take home, we purchased every last model from a retailer.