9 best student laptops 2017 for school, college or university

When it comes to both study and play, you’ll find a laptop to fit the bill here

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Off to college, university or going back to school? Need a laptop? Then look no further than this list. 

We're here to guide you through the process of selecting the very best laptop for school, college or university that's great for studying (and a bit of play as well, of course).

Our best student laptop of the moment is the fantastic Acer Chromebook 15. - providing you're happy with Google's Chrome OS rather than Windows 10 or OS X - read on for more about Chrome OS below. 

It may not be the most powerful laptop around, but it's thin, light and incredibly power efficient - meaning it won't let you down. If you want something a bit more standard, the Apple MacBook Air 13-inch is our pick. 

How to choose the best student laptop for you

Today's computers need to be able to do much more than the primitive number-crunchers of Turing's day. They need to support a huge range of software, given that several courses have special requirements, as well as the standard office packages – although that said, Google's Chromebooks and the associated Google Docs suite are extremely good (and free) substitutes.

They need to be able to run HD video lectures without juddering – and a set of good speakers always comes in handy when the university day is done. These machines also can't break the bank, given the increased cost of schooling all round the world.

Given that, these are our pick of the notebooks currently available, ranging from humble typing machines to top-of-the-line desktop replacements for those hoping for a bit of LAN gaming between all that work...

The 10 best student laptops you can buy today

These are the best school or college laptops you can buy, in order of preference.

1. Acer Chromebook 15

This Chrome OS laptop is an absolute bargain

Specifications
CPU: Intel Celeron 3205U 1.5GHz (dual-core)
Graphics: Intel HD Graphics
RAM: 4GB
Screen: 15.6-inch, 1,920 x 1,080 pixels
Storage: 32GB SSD
Connectivity: 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0
Camera: 720p
Weight: 4.85 pounds
Dimensions: 15.08 x 9.65 x 0.95-inches
Reasons to buy
+An amazing monitor+Long-lasting battery
Reasons to avoid
-Flat speakers-Big and heavy
Today's best deals

The Chromebook 15 is ridiculously cheap but very capable for the price. The hardware is in line with that price, with lower specs across the board, but the machine is running Chrome OS, so doesn't seem to mind. And that screen is an absolute delight. Again, its speakers are poor, with flat treble and weak bass – but at this price, you can afford an iPod as well.

2. Apple MacBook Air 13-inch

The Ultrabook inspiration plods on

Specifications
CPU: Intel Core i5 1.3GHz (dual-core, up to 2.6GHz with Turbo Boost)
Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 5000
RAM: 4GB
Screen: 13.3-inch, 1440 x 900 pixels
Storage: 128GB SSD
Connectivity: 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0
Camera: FaceTime HD
Weight: 2.96 pounds
Dimensions: 12.8 x 8.94 x 0.68-inches (W x D x H)
Reasons to buy
+Fantastic battery life+Haswell processors
Reasons to avoid
-No Retina Display-Dated design
Today's best deals

The Air may be in severe need of a redesign, like much of Apple's range, but it's still the machine that birthed the Ultrabook – slim-line with good core performance from a solid CPU and nippy storage. It's a pity so much of this machine is second-rate these days – particularly the oddly low-spec screen – but we wouldn't look anywhere else for reliability and customer support.

Read the full review: Apple MacBook Air 13-inch

3. Dell XPS 15

A portable 15-inch powerhouse

Specifications
CPU: 2.6GHz Intel Core i7 6700HQ (quad-core, 6MB cache, up to 3.5GHz with Turbo Boost)
Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GTX 960M (with 2GB GDDR5)
RAM: 16GB Dual Channel DDR4 (2,133MHz; 8GB x 2)
Screen: 15.6-inch, 4K Ultra HD (3,840 x 2,160) InfinityEdge touch
Storage: 512GB PCIe SSD
Reasons to buy
+Dazzling 4K display+Portable for a 15-incher
Reasons to avoid
-Average battery life-A bit heavy
Today's best deals

Like its smaller sibling, the awesome XPS 13, Dell's XPS 15 sports an almost bezel-less InfinityEdge display but is better for long hours of work because of the larger display. It brings the dual benefit of making whatever you're doing on its gorgeous 15-inch '4K' screen come to life while also lending it the dimensions of a 14-inch laptop. It's bag-friendly to boot and comes packing the goods, including an Nvidia GTX 960M mobile graphics card that's beefy enough to handle just about any game so long as you stick to 1080p. The XPS 15's battery life is its main weakness, so don't expect its runtimes to stretch into the double figures without taking a booster pack along for the ride.

Read the full review: Dell XPS 15

4. HP Spectre x360

Another Spectre that's oddly brilliant

Specifications
CPU: Intel Core i5 2.2 GHz
Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 5500
RAM: 4GB
Screen: 13.3 inches 1920x1080
Storage: 128GB SSD
Connectivity: 3x USB3
Camera: HD
Weight: 1.48kg
Dimensions: 12.79 x 8.6 x 0.63 inches
Reasons to buy
+Superbly thin+Vibrant, bright display
Reasons to avoid
-Too heavy to use as a tablet-Weird, wide trackpad
Today's best deals

There's something oddly brilliant about HP's Spectre range. Clearly intended to compete with Apple in terms of build quality, but priced just a tiny bit lower to gain some traction with potential buyers. The X360 is another convertible that allows you to fold the screen backwards to create a tablet-style device. This is ideal for Windows 10, although you'll probably not use it much as a tablet because it's still a laptop-weight device.

Read the full review: HP Spectre x360

5. MacBook Pro 13-inch

A class act

Specifications
CPU: From Intel Core i5 2.0GHz
Graphics: Intel Iris Graphics 540
RAM: From 8GB
Screen: 13.3- inch
Storage: From 128GB
Connectivity: USB-C
Weight: 1.37kg
Dimensions: 11.97 x 8.36 x 0.59-inches
Reasons to buy
+Superb display+Excellent battery life
Reasons to avoid
-Pricey
Today's best deals

The MacBook Pro is a larger, heavier machine than the MacBook Air we looked at above but it's also the powerhouse of the range. Starting at £1,449 it's not cheap, however. 

You'll get 10 hours out of the battery, in the ideal conditions, and the real keyboard makes for a pretty delightful user experience. Oh, and the trackpad - there's simply nothing like it on any PC we've ever used, it's a class act.

If you need Windows 10, that's no problem either, just install with Apple's Boot Camp.

6. Dell XPS 13

The most compact Windows laptop

Specifications
CPU: 2.3GHz Intel Core i5-6200U
Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 520
RAM: 8GB
Screen: 13.3-inch QHD+ (3,200 x 1,800)
Storage: 256GB SSD
Reasons to buy
+Gorgeous bezel-less display+Lightweight, compact frame
Reasons to avoid
-Off-centre webcam-Small frame limits battery life
Today's best deals

If you're looking for a Windows laptop, it's hard to go wrong with the Dell XPS 13. While it's more expensive than the Asus UX303 — particularly if you go for the QHD+ version — the XPS 13's InfinityEdge display makes it worth the money. It's surrounded by a bezel that's just millimetres thick, lending the 13.3-inch laptop a body that's closer to 11-inch laptops in size. It gives the XPS 13 excellent portability, and unlike the 12-inch MacBook Dell has done it without sacrificing ports or power. The XPS 13 packs Intel's latest Skylake processors under the hood, and features both Thunderbolt 3 and USB 3.0 ports.

Read the full review: Dell XPS 13

7. Asus ZenBook UX303

A slim and light metalhead

Specifications
CPU: 2.5GHz Intel Core i7-6500U
Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 520
RAM: 12GB (8GB DDR3L 1600MHz SDRAM, on-board memory 4GB
Screen: 13.3-inch IPS FHD (1,920 x 1,080)
Storage: 256GB SSD
Reasons to buy
+Solid build quality+Powerful components
Reasons to avoid
-Thicker than the UX305-Battery life could be better
Today's best deals

Asus has upped the ante with the UX303, which takes everything we loved about the UX305 while adding a premium metal body and Intel's full-fat Core i-series processors. If it's power that you seek, the UX303 can be fitted with Intel's Core i7-6500U, backed up by 8GB of RAM and a capacious 500GB hybrid solid state drive for a useful combination of capacity and speed. There's the option of a touchscreen or non-touch 1080p display, and Asus reckons you'll squeeze up to around seven hours of battery life out of the machine. It also wakes from sleep in just two seconds, putting an end to lengthy booting sessions.

8. Apple 12-inch MacBook

The most fashionable laptop around

Specifications
CPU: 1.1GHz or 1.2GHz dual-core Intel Core M processor
Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 5300
RAM: 8GB
Screen: 12-inch 2,304 x 1,440 pixel-resolution Retina display
Storage: 256GB or 512GB PCIe-based flash storage
Connectivity: USB-C (USB 3.1)
Camera: 480p FaceTime camera
Weight: 0.92 kg
Dimensions: 28.05cm x 19.65cm x 1.31cm (W x D x H)
Reasons to buy
+Thin and light+Retina display
Reasons to avoid
-One USB-C port-Shallow keyboard
Today's best deals

Apple's 12-inch MacBook isn't just the most portable MacBook of them all, you won't find a more compact laptop with a high-resolution display full stop. Every inch of Apple's impossibly-thin machine is gorgeous, but it comes at the expense of usability. 

With just one USB Type-C port, the MacBook requires an adapter if you want to use multiple USB devices - or a combination of peripherals and a display - at the same time. If you don't mind carrying one around in a case, the MacBook's surprisingly punchy speakers, good battery life and catwalk looks make it a unique (and fun to use) laptop.

Read the full review: Apple MacBook

9. Lenovo Yoga 900S

Lightweight and beautiful, with a twist

Specifications
CPU: 1.1GHz Intel Core m5-6Y54 (dual core, 4MB cache, up to 2.7GHz with Turbo Boost)
Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 515
RAM: 4GB LPDDR3 (1600 MHz)
Screen: 12.5-inch, 1,920 x 1,080 FHD IPS LED glossy multi-touch display
Storage: 128GB PCIe SSD
Reasons to buy
+Elegant design+Twists and bends
Reasons to avoid
-Shallow keyboard-Small trackpad
Today's best deals

Convertible laptops undoubtedly make better tablets when they're lightweight. The Yoga 900S is one such machine, weighing in at a svelte 2.2 pounds. What you get then, is a 12.5-inch laptop with a bright and colourful screen that can rotate into several different positions, making it easier to interact with touchscreen apps, do a bit of lightweight gaming or even a spot of reading laid back on the couch. In terms of design, the Yoga 900S borrows the Yoga 3 Pro's stylish watchband hinge design without charging the jewellery shop price tag. It's thinner too, while bringing the same pixel-packed 2,560 x 1,440 pixel-resolution display along for the ride.

Read the full review: Lenovo Yoga 900S