Heading off to college this fall? A laptop is arguably the most important tool for achieving academic success. The right laptop can help you work smarter, faster, and more comfortably. College students have some specific needs when it comes to a new laptop. For the average student, a laptop needs to be reasonably priced, reliable, and fast enough to keep up with multiple tasks at one time. Our list includes several new-for-2015 laptop models, as well a slightly older model that is available at a nice discount. Read on to see our top five picks for the best laptops for college students who are heading back to school in 2015.
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1. New Apple MacBook (2015 Model)
The 2015 MacBook line is super light, super thin, and available in silver, space gray, or gold. These small laptops just launched a few months ago, and they pack a ton of power into a very small package. This model weighs just two pounds and is a mere 13.1mm thin. That lightweight design will save your back on long walks across campus.
This new trackpad has the taptic engine built in, which means this MacBook is borrowing some of the new tech you’d find inside the Apple Watch. You can click anywhere on the pad for the same sensation, or even customize the feel of the pad. New gestures called “force clicks” let you make a deep push with your cursor hovering over a word to get automatic Wikipedia info for that word. Force clicking on an address pulls up a map. Thoughtful shortcuts like that will make this laptop a great time-saver for students.
One interesting design feature is the lack of a fan. This laptop is so thin and small that it simply doesn’t need a loud cooling fan. That’s great news for college students who live in a dorm, and want to be able to work late at night without disturbing their sleeping roomie with a super loud fan.
With no fan, Apple used the space where a fan used to go to house extra batteries. In terms of specs, you’re looking at a 1.1 GHz Dual-Core Intel Core M Processor, which can Turbo Boost up to 2.4 GHz.
If you need a reliable, user-friendly laptop, you don’t have to worry about a new MacBook crashing the night before your term paper is due. If you opt for this great laptop, you might want to include a new MacBook bag or a 12-inch MacBook sleeve to protect your investment.
Price: $1,299 and up, depending on options selected
2. Toshiba Satellite C55-C5241 15.6 Inch Laptop (Intel Core i5, 8GB, 1 TB, Windows 10)
Released just ahead of this summer’s Windows 10 launch, this new Toshiba Satellite C55 will have the more user-friendly Windows 10 OS installed. This is a nice choice for college students who need a laptop that’s powerful enough to handle both serious homework and seriously fun downtime. This laptop is a nice choice for college students who do a lot of coursework involving large Excel spreadsheets or creating image-heavy presentations.
This workhorse is also ideal for playing multi-player games in your downtime. And if you’re the kind of college student who is multi-tasking with lots of open apps, this laptop can handle the strain. The large 15.6-inch screen is great for both gaming and putting together presentations for class.
In short, this is a solid laptop choice for a college student who loves gaming, multi-tasking, and saving money. At a fraction of the cost of a Mac, this laptop is also available for 25 percent off the list price for some added savings. With $150 in savings off the list price, you can stock up on tons of ramen for your dorm room.
Price: $449.99 (25 percent off MSRP)
3. Microsoft Surface 3
Can’t decide between a laptop and a tablet? Why not get the best of both worlds? The new Microsoft Surface 3 is here, and it’s a nice choice for college students who want a tablet to take notes during lecture, but also have a laptop for typing up those term papers.
The Surface 3 is significantly less expensive than the Surface Pro 3, with the Surface 3 starting at just $499 for the 64GB version. Those savings are good news for Microsoft fans with tight budgets, and pretty much every college student is living on a shoestring.
If you’re in the market for some productivity-boosting accessories, check out our guide to the best Surface 3 accessories.
Price: $499 and up, depending on configuration selected
4. Lenovo G50 15.6-Inch Laptop (Core i3, 6 GB, 500 GB)
Another brand new laptop, the Lenovo G50 that debuts this summer is a good option for college students who can get by on a slightly less powerful and less expensive Windows machine. This is a good fit for the average liberal arts student. This Lenovo is more than capable of handling tasks like creating simple presentations, browsing the web, video chatting with the folks back home, and streaming Netflix after a long day of classes. It can also handle the graphic requirements of simple, casual games (Minecraft players, this is your go-to laptop for college). If you need a budget-friendly laptop, and your course load isn’t too demanding, this Lenovo is a nice option for students in 2015.
Price: $349.99 (30 percent off MSRP)
5. Lenovo IdeaPad N20P 11.6-Inch Touchscreen Chromebook
This laptop may be a little older than the other devices we’ve highlighted on this list, but it’s still perfectly serviceable for many students. Plus, that slight age means you can get it for over 30 percent off. A Chromebook is a great choice for many liberal arts students and part-time students. If your course load only requires you to be able to surf the web, build spreadsheets, or type up papers in a word processor, then a bare bones Chromebook will meet your needs. While a Chromebook is generally a very lean machine with few bells and whistles, they are always much cheaper than a full-featured laptop.
This Lenovo Chromebook has 2GB of RAM, and just 16GB of solid state drive space. That’s not much space, but it should be plenty for people who store pretty much everything in the cloud. The screen is a bit small at 11.6 inches, but that smaller screen means that the battery can last for up to eight hours. If you need a small laptop with all-day battery life, this is a student-friendly laptop that will do the trick.
Price: $229 (31 percent off MSRP)