Laptops 101: What's the best computer for your college major?
By Meghan McDonough
When you were younger, your back-to-school shopping list used to include spiral-bound notebooks, Trapper Keepers, and colored pencils (don't forget the protractor!). But you're an adult now (or at least that's what you've told your parents), and your back-to-school shopping list has changed. Now, instead of hitting up the B2S aisle at Target, you're heading to Best Buy or the Apple Store. Yes, there's only one thing you really need to start the year off right: a laptop.
This year, you'll be trading one type of notebook for another, much more expensive notebook. Before you break the news to your parents about how much you need for your new toy, you'll want to do some homework ahead of time. Not all laptops are created equal. What your friend majoring in English buys may be different from the laptop you buy for your CompSci major.
We consulted the Princeton Review's list of the most popular college majors and paired them with the best computer for each. That's one less piece of homework to cross off your list.
Business: Lenovo ThinkPad T431S ($1,049)
Once you graduate with your business degree and enter the working world, you'll quickly learn that Lenovo is the gold standard in business laptops. So, you might as well get used to working on a Lenovo early. The Lenovo ThinkPad T431S business Ultrabook is outfitted in boardroom black with a chiclet-style keyboard. It features an anti-glare matte display, so you'll be able to get your homework done outside while your Women's Lit friends are tossing around the Frisbee.
Equipped with an Intel Core i5 processor and above-average battery life, this 3.6-pound 14-inch laptop will quickly churn out PowerPoint presentations and rip through Access databases. Its beveled keyboard makes for a great typing experience, and the T431S is an excellent choice for people interested in mobile productivity. After graduation, the ThinkPad T431S will be your new best friend as you look for a job on Wall Street. Come to think of it, it might be your only friend on Wall Street.
English: Apple MacBook Air ($1,100)
While you spend the next few years looking for deeper meaning in James Joyce and crafting mediocre poetry before deciding to go to law school, you'll need a laptop with a comfortable keyboard and enough bells and whistles to keep you occupied during long hours of procrastination. That's why the status symbol of ever tortured-latte-sipping writer, the 13-inch Apple MacBook Air, is the laptop for you.
Thanks to its 4th-gen Intel Core i5 processor, and extremely quick solid-state storage, the Air has plenty of power. The 12 hours of wireless Web battery life will help you through all-nighters at the library, while the backlit keyboard will make writing papers after your roommate goes to bed much easier. However, with only 128GB of storage, you'll want to look into a cloud storage service if you want to save all your essays and poems for the next four years.
Education: Samsung Ativ Book 9 Lite ($800)
You believe the children are our future and you intend to teach them well. Educating yourself is, obviously, the best way to start, but don't forget that one of the most important tools for children are laptops. We don't recommend that you go through four years of college using a One Laptop Per Child notebook, or a Chromebook even, so set a good example with the Samsung Ativ Book 9 Lite.
This notebook will send you to the head of the class with its lightweight portability. At 3.5 pounds, you'll barely notice it next to all of your textbooks. The Ativ Book 9 includes a touchscreen, too, so it's perfect for swiping through presentations or demonstrating how to bring technology into the classroom. According to Samsung, the 1366 x 768 resolution display is actually 25 percent brighter than the average laptop screen, which should make working outside a little bit easier.
The Ativ Book 9 Lite gets an estimated 5.5 hours of battery life under strenuous use, which will come in handy when no plugs are available at Starbucks. With eight to nine hours of battery life possible with light use, this laptop will likely be able to get you through a day at school without having to bring along the charger.
Nursing: Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 11S ($750)
If anyone needs to pay extra attention in class, it's nursing majors. It could literally be a life-or-death situation if they don't (no pressure). So what's the best way to take notes on the fly and examine diagrams and illustrations with close-up detail? Use a hybrid notebook like the Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 11S. This 2.8-pound Ultrabook features an 11-inch display and boasts a battery life of up to 8 hours while doing light work.
Use it to type notes in class, then flip it over into tablet mode to review your facts before the test. Though our veins close up just thinking about it, the touchscreen tablet mode will be perfect for watching video examples of blood draws. Please be gentle.
Biology: Acer Aspire R7 ($1,000)
Maybe you'll go pre-med, or maybe you'll go into marine biology, or maybe you'll even grow a limb from stem cells. No matter what you do, you'll have a lot of studying to do and cell models to build before graduation. Make long hours in the lab easier with the Acer Aspire R7 ($1,000).
This hybrid computer features a floating touchscreen and a spacious 15.6-inch display. It's a little heavy, but you'll appreciate the large touch display while flipping through lab questions at your desk. Like the human body itself, the Aspire R7 can move into numerous positions, including a full-on tablet or a traditional laptop. Its fluid design may even make organic chemistry more understandable. On second thought, it probably won't.
Computer Science: Asus Zenbook UX51VZ ($1,950)
Voted most likely to have an awesome job upon graduation? That would be you, CompSci major. While you dream of working for Google at night, there's still a whole lot of theory and code to go through before you get your beanie. While you might think a bitchin' Alienware laptop will be your college companion, think again. Do you really want to sit in class with a throbbing rainbow-colored alien head facing your professor? Not if you want to be taken seriously.
Instead, consider the more refined-looking Asus Zenbook UX51VZ. It's clad in aluminum, but retains a bit of flash with its beautiful textured lid. Your eyes will appreciate the 1080p 15.6-inch display with plenty of screen real estate for keeping multiple windows open at one time. Plus, it packs an Intel Core i7 processor, Nvidia graphics, and 8GB of RAM so your code will compile quickly - as long as you wrote it correctly, of course.
Political Science: Dell XPS 13 ($1,000)
It's no secret that you dream of wheeling and dealing in Washington. Whether you get your chance as an intern or after graduation, make sure you're equipped with the right tools for the job. The Dell XPS 13 features an excellent keyboard and a speedy Intel Core i5 processor. Both will be key as you learn the dark art of political science and write papers on the importance of congressional debates. Plus, the XPS 13s 1080p display will be perfect for watching All the President's Men when you're relaxing on your first flight to the capital.
One important reminder - don't use the XPS 13s webcam to take dirty pictures of yourself. Seriously, just don't. They will find their way to the Internet one day when you're running for office.
This article was originally posted on Digital Trends