The Best College Laptops of 2015

As the start of the academic year inches ever so close, every student needs a good, reliable laptop on which to work and play. In this article we will explore the more premium laptops currently on offer that we think are the most suitable for university students.

The process of selecting the best college laptops of 2015 involved criteria like value for money, battery life, portability and more. You can find a detailed list towards the end of the article, where we also explain how a college laptop should be chosen and what common mistakes and misjudgements should be avoided.

Now, let’s move to the actual list! These are the 5 best premium college laptops you can buy in 2015 for just under $1000, sorted in no particular order:

Dell XPS 13 9343-2727SLV


Dell XPS 13-9343
Pictured: The sleek Dell XPS 13 9343-2727SLV Ultrabook

One of the best looking models on our list, the Dell XPS 13 is an head-turner with its narrow screen bezel and thin profile. Dell made the most recent iteration of the XPS 30% more energy efficient than the last one, which means the model we’re reviewing (and any others with Full HD display) will get you an amazing 15 hours of battery life, enough to plow through the whole day without needing to recharge.

Besides the truly exceptional and unparalleled battery life, the Dell XPS 13 9343-2727SLV is a true featherweight, weighing in a mere 2.6 pounds, light enough to carry around without even noticing it.

Built with premium materials, the Dell is machine constructed out of a single block of aluminum and features carbon fiber on the chassis to prevent overheating and to keep it from gaining unwanted weight.

The brilliant display features viewing angles of up to 170 degrees thanks to its IZGO2 IPS panel and, at 400 nits, it’s bright enough to use even in full sunlight without significantly affecting picture quality.

Click here to see the price of the Dell XPS 13 on Amazon


  • Exceptional battery life
  • Premium quality build materials
  • Incredibly lightweight


Product Dell XPS 13-93431
Processor Intel Core i5-5200U
Installed System Memory 4 GB
Storage Capacity 128 GB
Storage Type SSD
Screen Size 13″
Display Resolution 1920 x 1080
Touchscreen No
Graphics Card Intel HD Graphics 5500
Network and Communication 802.11ac WLAN
Bluetooth 4.0
Interface 2 x USB 3.0
1 x MiniDisplay Port
1 x Headphone/Microphone Combo
Operating System Windows 8.1
Other Features Backlit keyboard
Battery Life Up to 15 hours
Dimensions 11.98″ x 7.88″ x 0.6″
Weight 2.60 lbs
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ASUS Zenbook UX303LA-US51T


ASUS Zenbook UX303LA-US51T
Pictured: The stylish ASUS Zenbook UX303LA-US51T

The ASUS Zenbook UX303LA-US51T is packed with high quality components. Probably the most attractive and differentiating feature the Zenbook has is the screen: a Quad High Definition display, capable of rendering 2.5 times more pixels than a Full HD display. The 3200 x 1800 resolution really makes the screen come to life and brings an extra flavor of sharpness to your viewing experience.

The ASUS also impresses through its storage device capacity: 256 GB of space for a lighting fast SSD will be more than enough to hold all your files or music library, while allowing you to use programs and apps with great ease and virtually no lag time. The installed system memory will also make for a comfortable working and browsing experience, since 8 GB of RAM is rather enough for most applications to run smoothly.

The impressive build quality, the 8 hour battery life expectation (a really good prospect for a laptop with such a high quality display), the lack of 3rd party apps installed and being lightweight all suggest this is a good alternative for those students who want a good device with attractive features and plenty of power at the slight cost of portability.

Click here to find out more about the ASUS Zenbook on Amazon


  • Fantastic display
  • Great overall specs
  • Stylish and practical


Product ASUS Zenbook UX303LA-US51T2
Processor Intel Core i5-5200U
Installed System Memory 8 GB
Storage Capacity 256 GB
Storage Type SSD
Screen Size 13.3″
Display Resolution 3200 x 1800
Touchscreen Yes
Graphics Card Intel HD Graphics 5500
Network and Communication 802.11ac WLAN
Bluetooth 4.0
Interface 3 x USB 3.0
1 x HDMI
1 x MiniDisplay Port
1 x Headphone/Microphone Combo
Operating System Windows 8.1
Other Features Backlit keyboard
Battery Life Up to 8 hours
Dimensions 12.7″ x 8.8″ x 0.7″
Weight 3.2 lbs
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Lenovo ThinkPad T450s – 20BX001PUS


Lenovo ThinkPad 450s - 20BX001PUS
Pictured: The rugged Lenovo ThinkPad 450s – 20BX001PUS

The highly successful Lenovo ThinkPad 450s retains the same qualities that made the ThinkPad series legendary such as increased durability, uncompromising features and rugged minimalism. One of the main pluses of this special ultrabook is the number of ports: unlike the other laptops we’re reviewing in this article, the Lenovo ThinkPad 450s – 20BX001PUS comes with backward compatible technology such as a VGA port which is very useful if you have to plug it in a non-HDMI monitor or projector and RJ-45 Ethernet port, great for when you need extra bandwidth to stream content or download large files quickly.

The chassis, although far from elegant or stylish, has a certain nostalgic allure to it, backed up by great features such as spill-resistant keyboard, roll cage technology and a shock resistant hard drive case. So, the rugged looks actually have an explanation and considering all those features, the Lenovo comes through as rather light and thin (just 0.83 inches).

The specs are rather average when compared to the others: 500 GB of storage space on a hard disk drive and 16 GB of operating system reserved solid state drive, 4 GB of system memory and a 14 inch screen with 1400 x 900 resolution. However, what really makes this laptop shine is its fantastic durability.

Click here to see the price of the Lenovo ThinkPad 450s on Amazon


  • Durable and reliable
  • Spill resistant keyboard
  • Good overall specs


Product ASUS Zenbook UX303LA-US51T3
Processor Intel Core i5-5200U
Installed System Memory 4 GB
Storage Capacity 500 GB + 16 GB
Storage Type 7200rpm SATA HDD + M.2 SSD
Screen Size 14″
Display Resolution 1600 x 900
Touchscreen No
Graphics Card Intel HD Graphics 5500
Network and Communication 802.11ac WLAN
Bluetooth 4.0
Interface 3 x USB 3.0
1 x VGA
1 x MiniDisplay Port
1 x Headphone/Microphone Combo
Operating System Windows 8.1
Other Features Backlit keyboard
Battery Life Up to 8.5 hours
Dimensions 13.03″ x 8.9″ x 0.83″
Weight 3.48 lbs
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Apple MacBook Air MJVE2LL/A


Apple MacBook Air MJVE2LL/A
Pictured: The featherweight Apple MacBook Air MJVE2LL/A

The Apple MacBook Air is a worldwide success, and for good reasons. The build quality and ease of use is what most users rave about. The MacBook Air MJE2LL/A features a unibody design, meaning the whole notebook is made from one machined aluminum block, thus making it very durable and lightweight. It also comes with MagSafe 2 power connector, which is a magnetic power cord which prevents accidental detachment through progressive slipping of the cord out of the socket.

The battery life is also spectacular: one charge will last for 12 hours of normal usage, enough to plow through a whole day at college and at home afterwards, meaning you won’t have to carry extra weight in the form of a charger. Thin and lightweight, it’s a good travel companion to have with you when going to classes and thanks to OS X’s friendly and intuitive interface, you won’t encounter any problems with using it on a day to day basis.

Hardware-wise, the specs are just about right for any college student, although not nearly the best of the 5 laptops here: Intel i5 processor, 4GB of system memory, 128 GB of storage space via PCIe SSD and a high quality 13.3 inch 1440 x 900 display.

Click here to see the price of the Apple MacBook Air on Amazon


  • Lightweight & exceptional build quality
  • Very good battery life
  • Easy to use


Product Apple MacBook Air MJVE2LL/A4
Processor Intel Core i5
Installed System Memory 4 GB
Storage Capacity 128 GB
Storage Type SSD PCIe
Screen Size 13.3″
Display Resolution 1440 x 900
Touchscreen No
Graphics Card Intel HD Graphics 5500
Network and Communication 802.11ac WLAN
Bluetooth 4.0
Interface 2 x USB 3.0
1 x Thunderbolt 2
1 x MiniDisplay Port via Thunderbolt
1 x Headphone/Microphone Combo
Operating System Mac OS X Yosemite
Other Features Backlit keyboard
Battery Life Up to 12 hours
Dimensions 12.8″ x 8.9″ x 0.68″
Weight 2.96 lbs
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Acer Aspire R7-371T-59Q1


Acer Aspire R7-371T-59Q1
Pictured: The convertible Acer Aspire R7-371T-59Q1

The Acer Aspire R7-371T-59Q1 features a new, exiting and somewhat exotic ultrabook design. Thanks to Acer’s Ezel Hinge, the R7 is basically a high-end 2-in-1 convertible laptop, capable of 4 usage modes: laptop, tent, presentation and tablet. The hinge works by offering low resistance when switching modes and high resistance when using the touchscreen. Also, the display can be moved closer to the keyboard, making switching between keyboard and touchscreen usage easier and more natural.

The Acer’s tech specs are great: an Intel Core i5-5200U processor, 8 GB of system memory and 256 GB of available storage space via SSD and a 14 inch Full HD touchscreen. We’d say this is a laptop most suited for art students, since extra details such as the Acer Touch Tools or Acer Active Pen can really enhance the user’s experience by allowing to draw and sketch and bring to life that beautiful hinge design.

Click here to see the price of the Acer Aspire R7 on Amazon


  • Innovative design
  • Great hardware
  • Quality touchscreen


Product Acer Aspire R7-371T-59Q15
Processor Intel Core i5-5200U
Installed System Memory 8 GB
Storage Capacity 256 GB
Storage Type SSD
Screen Size 13.3″
Display Resolution 1920 x 1080
Touchscreen Yes
Graphics Card Intel HD Graphics 5500
Network and Communication 802.11ac WLAN
Bluetooth 4.0
Interface 2 x USB 3.0
1 x USB 2.0
1 x HDMI
1 x Headphone/Microphone Combo
Operating System Windows 8.1
Other Features Backlit keyboard
Battery Life Up to 8 hours
Dimensions 13.5″ x 9.1″ x 0.7″
Weight 3.31 lbs
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Our College Laptops Selection Criteria


When we chose the current laptop lineup to represent the best college laptops of 2015, we didn’t just start searching for the most expensive ultrabooks. Instead, we’ve devised a couple of essential criteria that we feel are important for any student to think about before buying a premium laptop.

Portability and Functionality

One of the most important factors to weigh in when choosing the ideal student laptop is portability. The laptop’s ability to hold a charge is a paramount requirement for those long hours spent inside class rooms and the more energy efficient it is, the better. Also, lightness is another feature we’ve looked for when doing the research for this article: since students spend a lot of time on route either to a classroom or to the dorm, a heavy 5-pound laptop quickly becomes tiresome and impractical.

By functionality we mean the laptop’s ability to make either the owner’s life or its own easier with extra features, such as a backlit keyboard or a more efficient cooling system or even proprietary software.

Optimum Performance

Every student has different needs and, depending on one’s major, different performance requirements from a college laptop. An engineering or architecture student will more than likely need a more powerful device than say, a law or arts student. But that doesn’t necessarily mean workstation-level performance. Sometimes a good enough processor, combined with adequate system memory and a capable SSD are all it takes to satisfy most needs.

Value for Money

Since we’ve delved in ultrabook territory with this article, it’s important to mention that we omitted some objectively good laptops because the price was too high. A good example is the Toshiba KIRAbook, which was just too expensive for an average college student, without offering much more features than the laptops we’ve listed here. Any student should also factor in the price when buying a laptop for college.

Future Proofing

This is a crucial parameter in choosing a good college laptop. Future proofing your purchase means choosing the best option for a long term commitment, and that usually means looking for new technology that won’t be obsolete by next year, searching for products built with quality materials and high manufacture standards and thinking about the potential resale value when you decide to upgrade.

References


1Dell 9343 Reference Guide
2ASUS Zenbook UX303LA-US51T Spec Sheet
3Lenovo ThinkPad T450s 20BX001PUS PSREF
4Apple MacBook Air Technical Specs
5Acer Aspire R7-371T-59Q1 Tech Specs

Intel Core i5-5200U Specifications
Intel Core i5-5200U CPU Benchmarks


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