Get a MacBook Air. It's priced well, it's beautifully designed, it's fast and powerful, it's got stellar battery life, it's tiny enough to haul around to classes, and Apple offers stellar customer service at its many Apple retail stores. There's very little it can't do, and if you've got some kind of special need--like, say, super high-end video editing, or competitive gaming, or certain programs you need--you already know it, so ignore this and get whichever machine suits your needs. But that's hardly anyone, really, and the MacBook Air can tackle pretty much anything you throw at it. And Apple gives nice little discounts for students.
Our friend Kyle Wagner over at Gizmodo, an excellent gear reviewer, likes the Acer Aspire S7
for a Windows 8 laptop. It's a MacBook-Air-style machine, meaning very small and light, with a solid-state drive rather than a hard drive. But Windows 8 is still in its early stages and has had a mixed reception
, and besides, the Aspire S7 is a few hundred dollars more than the tried-and-true MacBook Air.
As far as specific model, there are a couple things to keep in mind. The 11-inch is tremendously portable, and actually plenty big enough for regular computing. But if you're planning on playing games, watching movies (like, if you're not heading to college with a TV in tow), or doing a lot of photo work, it might make sense to opt for the 13-incher.
Buy: Apple MacBook Air
(starting at $1,000)