The best student laptops provide an all-round great device for all your social and academic needs. You're likely going to be using your laptop 24/7 when at school or at home, so performance really is key!
In this round-up, we've included some of the best laptops for students to suit everyone's needs and budget. From laptops for creative students to those who love to game in their spare time, this list is sure to include a laptop that has everything you need to maximize your student life.
And we know that students want to get the best value for money, so we've been realistic about the budget you might have to spend, and while there are some laptops on the pricier end of the scale for those who need that extra bit of power, we've also included some great bargains that are sure to see you through your college years.
Since hybrid working is a way of life now, you can grab some great deals and discounts on many of these laptops, so check out our list below to find the one that's right for you!
The best student laptops you can buy today
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If you’re an Apple devotee, then the Apple MacBook Air is a great choice of laptop, especially for creatives such as graphic designers or movie-makers. That's because there's more power on board, thanks to Apple's M2 processor. This laptop is one of Apple’s slimmest and lightest, making it super easy to carry around in your bag.
This laptop uses Apple’s M2 silicon, which boosts performance compared to what you'd normally get for this price. As a result, however, it’s not the cheapest option going for students, but it is still one of the more affordable MacBook options, so if you do have some flexibility in your budget then this one’s well worth the investment.
Want to know more? Read our full MacBook Air M2 review for the full pros and cons of this student laptop option
For the vast majority of students, the best student laptop available today is the HP Pavilion 14. Combining strong all-around specs, which include an 8th generation Intel Core i5-8250U CPU, Intel UHD Graphics 620 GPU, 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD, along with a simple yet stylish design and crisp screen, for the money you can't do better running Windows 10.
The system's build quality is also good, and you get dedicated HDMI, USB Type-C and networking ports, too, meaning that hooking the machine up in your dorm or in class is easy. Battery life sits at up to 11 hours, and the machines come pre-installed with a fresh copy of Windows 10 Home.
In our HP Pavilion 14 review we said that "with good looks, a great screen, and superior audio, this mid-range laptop offers excellent value."
Cheaper and more expensive student laptops are available on this list, as well as options from Apple that run macOS. However, for an affordable sweet spot, look no further than the HP Pavilion 14.
Compare our top recommendations in HP Pavilion 14 vs Dell XPS 13 (2020): which student laptop is right for you?
Although it's a little pricier than other Chromebooks, Google's Pixelbook Go brings premium looks and build quality for a fraction of what you'd pay for a similarly impressive PC or Mac. The touchscreen is superb, the webcam makes you look great, and the battery life is stellar. We described it in our review as "the best Chromebook ever... it is, quite simply, superb".
If you've previously looked at Chromebooks but felt they weren't powerful enough then we think the Pixelbook Go may change your mind: although the processor is relatively low-powered compared to, say, Apple's M1, the Chrome OS operating system has been designed to be as lightweight as possible and doesn't need the same amount of horsepower as rival operating systems do.
The LG Gram 16 is one of the best combinations of a large screen and a lightweight chassis – it's almost perfect if that's what you're looking for in a Windows laptop, especially if the MacBook Air or MacBook Pro options on macOS don't appeal to you.
No, it's not the cheapest going, which might make it out the reach of some students, but it's the big screen real-estate that really helps sell this laptop. It's not miles away from the critical four-figure sales mark, which for a screen of this size and quality isn't too shabby at all.
Has this big-screen laptop sparked your interest? Read more about it in our full LG Gram 16 review.
The Dell XPS 13 series has consistently wowed us here at T3, and the latest version of the laptop continues that trend – it's powerful, supremely well built, and compact, so just about everything you could possibly want in your search for the best student laptop around during back to school season.
With the latest 11th-gen Intel processors installed and up to 16GB of RAM installed, this is a portable computer that's going to be able to handle everything that you want to throw at it. From late-night Netflix to early-morning essay writing, you'll find the Dell XPS 13 a capable and competent laptop.
The Dell's 13.4-inch display has really tiny bezels and a can, if desired, be ramped up to a 4K resolution or even 3.5K OLED, although we think for most people Full HD is just fine. The color reproduction and detailing are superb anyway.
In our Dell XPS 13 review, we said: "the 4K display on the XPS 13 is impressive but with the addition of the OLED screen the bar has been raised."
To find out how this premium student laptop compares to a more budget-orientated one, check out our Dell XPS 13 (2020) vs Acer Chromebook 315 comparison feature.
If you need sleekness and power, and you're prepared to pay for it – but at the same time you still want something that isn't too difficult to carry around or stuff into a backpack – then consider the 13-inch MacBook Pro M2 from Apple (and yes, the keyboard has finally been fixed).
A variety of different configurations are available to suit your needs and budget, but it's possible to get this laptop specced out very well indeed if you're planning on doing any serious image or video editing. Don't underestimate everything you get with macOS too, with Apple's apps improving all the time.
Macs aren't the way to go if your budget is tight, but if you can afford the 13-inch MacBook Pro then you won't be disappointed – it'll last you well through your years of education and probably beyond as well.
If you need a laptop that you'll easily be able to slip into your bag to carry between home and your classes then you should definitely consider the Lenovo Yoga Slim 7i Carbon.
It's no bigger than a notepad and weighs less than a 2.2lbs, so it's super portable. Even the charger will be easy to carry with you, it looks more like a smartphone charger than one made for a laptop.
Being so small doesn't mean that you won't get decent specs though, it packs in the 11th gen Intel Core processors which makes it a great choice for getting productive, although I wouldn't rely on it for heavy photo and video editing. Its solid performance is paired with a crisp, detailed screen as well as a sleek, stylish design and a keyboard that feels satisfying and reliable to type on.
In our Lenovo Yoga Slim 7i Carbon review we say that "students, in particular, will love the fact that it’s so light. It means you can keep it in your bag to go between home, the library and lectures without feeling weighed down."
The one major downside is the average battery life, you will definitely need to plug it in at some point during the day. Luckily though, it doesn't take long to recharge.
Unlike some of the other options on this list, the Lenovo Yoga Slim 7i Carbon won't give you a big display and premium features like a touchscreen or fingerprint sensor, but it will be ideal for anyone who wants style and portability from their laptop without spending a huge amount of money.
Up to this point nothing else on this list has featured a convertible format, i.e. a hinge that can rotate through 360-degrees and provide both 'tablet' and 'laptop' forms (even an upright 'tent' mode if it's of use to you). That's where the Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 comes in.
With its stylus input option, this is a great solution if you're after a Windows laptop that can cater for drawing, note-taking, annotation and such like. It's powerful enough, although not super-powered, but also silent thanks to passive cooling technology.
If this convertible sounds like a good fit, and you're keen for the stylus input, then take a look at our full Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 review for more info
If you’re looking for an affordable laptop then the Acer Swift 3 is worth considering. Not only is it slim and lightweight enough to carry around with you, but it also looks quite sleek in comparison to other laptops at this price with a backlit keyboard and slim bezels around the 14inch display.
It’s not all about looks though - this laptop has a decent-quality screen, a fingerprint sensor to keep it secure and the battery life is excellent. You get a lot for your money here.
While this is a great basic laptop, you do lose out on performance. So if you need it for anything creative like graphic design or photo editing then look elsewhere. But for those that just need a laptop to type out essays and stream Netflix shows, this will be a decent choice.
In the market for a sensibly-priced Windows laptop to help you get the best when back at school? Read our full Acer Swift 3 review to see if it fits the bill
Not feeling the Dell XPS 2-in-1? Then HP has a great alternative 2-in-1 option in the HP Envy x360 13. It manages to marry some decent specs with some very decent looks at a price that's not quite as exorbitant as you might expect, looking at it.
This is a laptop that's going to handle most of the tasks you throw at it, thanks to decent-powered innards, but it's not going to handle intensive gaming and video editing. Still, it's perfect for writing up essays, or doing some research on the web, or putting together a budget spreadsheet to work out where all your money is going.
Especially as this is a 2-in-1, so when the working day is over you can flip the HP Envy x360 into 'tent mode' and enjoy some Netflix or YouTube on the bright, crisp 13.3-inch screen.
Does this convertible laptop sound like your dream study companion? Read our full HP Envy x360 review to learn more about its potential
What makes a student laptop different from a regular laptop?
Truth be told, one of the primary things that separate student laptops from, say, the best laptops overall, or more specialist systems like gaming laptops and 2-in-1 laptops, is that their prices tend to be more affordable for those heading into academics.
A lot like with the best Chromebooks on the market, shopping for a student laptop is kinder to the wallet. On that note, it may also be worth scoping out T3's best tablets guide, too, as with a keyboard cover many of today's top slates are more than capable of acting as a student laptop.
While for those students who need to do a lot of reading, then picking up one of the best Kindle ereaders could be a wise investment.
We’ve also seen some manufacturers – hello, best Dell laptops – make giant leaps that make their products even better suited to student life than they already were. But as our best student laptops guide demonstrates, there’s much more to picking a student laptop than going for the cheapest one.
We don’t quite know what this academic year holds, but we do know that no matter what kind of learning you’ll be doing – fully remote, in-person or a mix of the two –these laptops will be the perfect companions for studying, for staying in touch with friends and family and for creativity too.
Oh, and lastly, if you're looking to build a better home or dormitory office for study, we think it's well worth checking out our best office chairs guide, as it will mean you can work for long hours in comfort.
How do I choose the best student laptop?
We hope our student laptop guide proves invaluable for anyone out there shopping for a system that's capable, a decent value, and a boon to your productivity. We're constantly updating this list with newer models and updated information, so be sure to keep checking back regularly, and we've also included some crucial buying advice to help you narrow down the ideal learning tool for going back to school.
Today's computers need to be able to do much more than the primitive number-crunchers of old. They need to support a huge range of software, given that several courses have special requirements, as well as the standard office packages.
When it comes to software, Microsoft's Office 365 suite is free for students, and there are also Google's Chromebooks and the associated Google Docs suite to consider as well, with the latter also free to use.
These laptops need to be able to run HD video lectures without shuddering of course, while a set of good speakers always comes in handy when the university day is done. These machines have to be affordable too, given the increased cost of schooling all around the world.
Integrated webcams are important as well, for web lectures and broadcast media-related courses, but these are now included as standard on every laptop. You'd be hard-pressed to find a model without one.
Which laptop brand is best for students?
For the money, Dell laptops tend to offer a solid balance of performance and value for the price. If you're sticking to a tight budget like most students are, Dell offers some of their more popular laptops for as low as $350. If you're just writing papers or doing online classes, these work wonderfully.
In some cases, however, more power is needed as you may be working with coding software or more resource intensive tasks. Options like Microsoft's Surface Go 2 is quite the machine, offering a good amount of power – as well as 2-in-1 laptop tablet capabilities – at a very reasonable price point.
Anything above these needs, such as 3D modeling or rendering, is going to need higher end specs. These will come at a higher price point, but are loaded up with higher amounts of RAM, faster processors and purpose-built GPUs. Lenovo's ThinkStation workstation laptops for example have a much higher performance level.
How we test student laptops
Laptops are very versatile and powerful tools, which means that there is a lot to consider when buying one. As such, we approach testing student laptops with this in mind, parsing down the process according to what a buyer would consider in-store.
Firstly, we evaluate the build quality and design of the system. Here we're looking for signs of robustness and quality, as well as overall fit and finish. It is at this stage that we also evaluate the student laptop's screen, judging its color balance, fidelity and features, such as anti-glare coatings or tiny bezels.
Next up we evaluate the student laptop purely from a hardware point of view, both on paper and in practice. So we check out its core specifications, such as processor, RAM, storage capacity and graphics chip, before benchmarking the overall package with a brace of benchmarking tools.
We then move onto the more experiential side of the reviewing process, which encompasses what the laptop's operating system and software are like to use, as well as how it performs in the real world – such as, how is the student laptop to carry around, or how well does it perform in a coffee shop.
Lastly, we take a look at any of the system's noteworthy features, such as RGB lighting systems, mechanical keyboards, built-in webcams, touchscreens, rotating screens, stylus support, biometric sign-in options and more. We also provide a rough, real-world take on the system's battery life at this point, too.
Only after these stages are complete do we officially score the student laptop, with a 5-star system (1 being the worst, and 5 being the best) used. If the student laptop scores highly, it is then considered for T3's best student laptop buying guide, which is designed to showcase the very best systems on the market.
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