The new school year rolls around once more, and we’re sure people will be looking for Best Laptops for College Students. Here are our choices for the new year, attempting to cover the gamut of what the student might need.
Laptops for school need not be high end — as long as they’re reasonably light so they can fit in a backpack, pack in at least 4GB of RAM and have wireless networking capability, they should be perfectly fine for school use. As a result, ultrabooks are actually quite a good choice.
Apple MacBook Air 13
Apple’s upgraded MacBook Air is a seriously fast performer — even if you only use it as a Windows machine. The switch to Sandy Bridge puts Apple’s travel laptop on the top of the portable pile.
- Fast performance, Quick boot, Excellent battery life, Thunderbolt capable, Backlit keyboard
- Design hasn’t evolved much, Still low in the storage stakes, Parts of the base get warm, Lacks ports common in other laptops, Thunderbolt isn’t much use — yet
Apple MacBook Air 11
This year’s 11-inch MacBook Air improves on last year’s model in several significant ways and is by far the fastest ultraportable you’re likely to find, though some users will consider the limited flash storage space to be a hindrance.
- Dramatically faster than last year’s version, Backlit keyboard, High-speed Thunderbolt I/O port
- Entry-level Air still has the same limited fixed flash storage and RAM as last year’s version, Still no SD card slot, Ethernet port or 3G wireless option
HP Folio 13
Great build quality, phenomenal battery life and a lovely keyboard/touch pad combo make HP’s Folio 13 one of our favourite ultrabooks.
- Excellent build quality, Backlit keyboard, lovely touch pad, Gigabit Ethernet port
- Very slow video-encoding performance, Although loud, speakers are extremely treble biased and sharp, Port labels are under the laptop — how is this useful?
Toshiba Satellite Z835
Toshiba’s Satellite Z835 is without question the leading ultrabook in the market today. With extra ports, backlit keyboard and stellar battery life, it stands head and shoulders above competitors.
- Great battery life, Thin and light without compromising ports, Backlit keyboard
- Keyboard is a little mushy, shallow travel, Screen is worryingly flexible
Apple MacBook Pro 13
Despite retaining the same price and look as last year’s model, the new 13-inch MacBook Pro’s significant CPU and fantastic battery life make it one of the top laptops we’ve reviewed, provided you can live with passable integrated graphics.
- CPU updates offer big leaps in performance, Phenomenal battery life, Excellent ergonomics, keyboard and large, smooth multi-touch clickpad are still among the best available, 720p HD webcam
- Graphics performance is slightly worse than last year’s 13-inch Pro, 13-inch screen resolution still low compared with the MacBook Air, Thunderbolt port still an unknown until accessories become available, Limited upgrade options, No HDMI or Blu-ray
Dell XPS 14z
The XPS 14z is a great all-rounder, and we can see it entering the arsenal of both consumers and businesses alike.
- A great pitch for the perfect size/price/performance ratio
- Screen could be more vibrant, Ports on the rear are inconvenient, A third USB port wouldn’t go astray
Dell XPS 15z
For what you get for the price, the XPS 15z is a compelling mainstream laptop.
- Thinner than usual, Full HD screen, Backlit keyboard, Decent performance
- Still heavy, Keyboard doesn’t have the best response
Sony Vaio S Series
While there may be nothing about the Vaio S that immediately jumps out at you, it seems like it sits in that perfect sweet spot of price, performance and battery life. We could easily see ourselves tucking this under our arm as a trusted companion for tackling the computing day.
- Backlit keyboard, Switchable graphics means more battery life, Good battery life, Good price/performance ratio, Optional battery slice
- Switchable graphics aren’t as elegant as Nvidia’s solution
Toshiba Satellite L730
Toshiba’s Satellite L730 isn’t an exceptional Sandy Bridge laptop, but it’s a perfectly acceptable all-rounder.
- Decent performance at an acceptable price, It’s not black
- Hard drive shock sensor is very sensitive, Plastic build leads to clicky keys and optical drive, Battery life is only average
Alienware M11x R3
We still love the M11x, but with the ever-marching pace of technology, we’d like to see it go on a diet, get a better screen and a much better touch pad and buttons for the R4. And maybe, just maybe, make use of the currently pointless 3G slot.
- Great performance and battery life, Good sound for a tiny laptop, Backlit keyboard, USB 3.0 and gigabit Ethernet a welcome addition
- Still not using the 3G slot, Touch pad buttons can be improved, Screen isn’t as vibrant as we’d like