The best student laptops on the market need to offer the versatility, power and mobility needed for academic life. As a student, you're on the move 24/7 with work, class, homework, and every other distraction out there, and the last thing you need is a laptop that doesn't work as well as you'd hope, or worse, doesn't work at all.
Which is why we've included laptops we've actually tried and tested in our guide to the best student laptops today. This ensures you'll find a machine that offers the ideal balance of performance, versatility, and value when it comes to school use without getting ripped off.
The student laptops you'll find in our guide are exceptional examples of what student on a budget can obtain. With hands on experience with each of these machines, we can be sure to recommend you only the best choice for your budget and needs..
What helps even more is retailers are really pushing student discounts on laptops with the change to more online-based classes and schooling, meaning there's some great student laptop deals to be found as well. This is even more true now that Back to School sales are kicking off soon, offering some of the machines you'll find in our list below on sale for outrageous prices.
The best student laptops you can buy today
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?
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 for 2022 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.
The Chromebook 315 is a ridiculously cheap student laptop that's also very capable. The hardware is in line with that price, with lower specs across the board – but as the machine runs Chrome OS, it doesn't matter too much, with the laptop still delivering a fast and responsive user experience.
Providing that you have an internet connection, which anyone with a smartphone does (hello portable hotspot), then this Chromebook unlocks the powerful and comprehensive G-Suite of applications, which includes Google Docs, GMAIL, Drive, Sheets, Slides, Calendar, Hangouts and more. Simply put, it delivers everything a student needs in class or when working on coursework and revising.
And that 15.6-inch screen is an absolute delight, by the way. Again, its speakers are poor, with flat treble and weak bass – but at this price, you can afford an iPhone or iPod as well. One of the best student laptops going in 2022 for those shopping on a budget, and who don't need a host of extra bells and whistles.
In the T3 Acer Chromebook 315 review we comment that "a big, beautiful screen, impressive battery life and a low, low cost makes this one of the best budget buys around."
Want to know how this system stacks up against our number one student laptop choice? Then be sure to scope out our HP Pavilion 14 vs Acer Chromebook 315 comparison feature.
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.
It's true that you need a substantial chunk of money to get one of the 14-inch or 16-inch MacBook Pro laptops from Apple, but if they are within your budget, you can't really do any better. These laptops will cope with everything that you can throw at them and then some, and they're guaranteed to offer many years of top-quality service in lecture halls and classrooms alike.
The M1 Pro and M1 Max processors that Apple has fitted in these devices offer a leap forward in terms of performance, while at the same time improving efficiency as well. In other words, you can expect stellar battery life from these models, so you don't have to worry about carrying a charger around with you all day (a key benefit for students of any description).
The Touch Bar-less keyboard and trackpad will give you a comfortable and reliable computing experience, while the upgraded 1080p webcam is perfect for all those video calls and conferences. Factor in the every-improving macOS software and it really is a winning combination, assuming you can save up enough.
As we say in the T3 Apple MacBook Pro review, "the MacBook Pro (2021) 14-inch and 16-inch models offer a screen to die for, class-leading power, and long battery life."
Designed with creatives in mind, The Asus Vivobook Pro 14X has some unique functionality to help you use software such as Photoshop, After Effects and Premiere Pro. This includes a virtual dial that lights up on the touchpad when you swipe the icon, allowing you to make fine control edits of your work.
This affordable laptop also offers a beautiful 14-inch OLED screen, with Pantone-certified colors and a high resolution of either 2880 x 1800 or 3840 x 2400, depending on the model you choose.
Performance, connectivity and battery life, meanwhile are good but not spectacular, and be aware there's no touchscreen or pen input. However, given the mid-range price of this laptop, these are compromises most creative students will be happy to live with.
In the T3 Asus Vivobook Pro 14X OLED review we say, "if you're a creative student or content creator at the start of their career, this mid-priced laptop is an excellent choice."
If you need a laptop that can be used to get productive during the day, and then to stream TV and movies in the evenings, the Samsung Galaxy Book Pro 360 will be a great premium option.
The 15.6inch FHD (1920 x 1080) screen is great for streaming video, and it can be pushed back by 360-degrees to transform it into a tablet. That opens it up for so many different types of work, be that typing out essays or making quick sketches. The 16:9 aspect ratio won't be for everyone though.
Our Samsung Galaxy Book Pro 360 review states that this laptop "is a productivity powerhouse. It has a long-lasting battery, strong performance and the included S Pen works perfectly with its responsive touchscreen."
One problem with large-screened portable computers is usually how bulky they are, it makes them difficult to put in your bag to take to class or to the library. That's not an issue here though as this laptop is seriously thin and lightweight considering. It only weighs 1.39kg!
While the MSI Katana GF66 won't get you the very best frame rates, it will run all the best games of the moment smoothly – and it costs considerably less than a lot of the mid-range and top-tier gaming laptops out there at the moment. The capable Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 Ti GPU means you'll be able to play anything you want at a decent level of quality, and the laptop stays relatively cool and quiet too.
What makes this a great student laptop, as well as a gaming laptop, is that there's a powerful 11th-gen Intel Core i7-11800H CPU inside, so it's going to speed through non-gaming tasks as well. The 15.6-inch display is a pleasure to work with and you've got the integrated webcam for your video calls too.
In the T3 MSI Katana GF66 review we say "the MSI Katana GF66 has an 11th-gen i7 Intel CPU and an Nvidia RTX 3050 Ti under the hood, and yet won't cost you much money at all..."
The design of the laptop isn't the most inspired, but that does mean that you can take it into lectures without drawing too much attention to yourself. If you're looking for a powerful all-round laptop that can cope with the best games around, and for a respectable price too, then the MSI Katana GF66 is a model you should be checking out while you're shopping around.
If you’re looking for an affordable laptop then the Acer Swift 1 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.
Our Acer Swift 1 review says "it’s sleek, slim and has a decent quality screen, a long-lasting battery and it even has a fingerprint sensor."
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.
Microsoft's forays into the 2-in-1 market have been a huge success, revitalizing the company's image as a serious hardware maker right when it needed it. For people who want to get in on this without paying handsomely – students, in other words – Microsoft has you covered with the second Surface Go.
It builds on what made the original Surface Go so good, adding a more premium-feeling design and a small specs bump to make sure you can get through all of the computing tasks that you need to get through. It also squeezes in a bigger-sized screen into a form factor the same size as the original Surface Go, but cuts down on the bezels.
You can eke out around five hours of use between charges with the Surface Go, and given its size and power, it's perfect for jumping between the library and the lecture hall. In your calculations about whether or not to buy this, make sure to factor the extra cost of the Type Cover keyboard in as well, which you're going to need to make full use of this as a laptop as well as a tablet.
In our Microsoft Surface Go 2 review we say "If you want a tablet you can turn into a real-life laptop, The Surface Go is the best in class. Just don’t expect it to match the power of a Surface Pro."
To learn more about this budget 2-in-1 student laptop check out our detailed should I buy the Microsoft Surface Go 2 guide, and to see how it performs against another top cheap laptop check out our Asus Vivobook 15 vs Microsoft Surface Go 2 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 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.
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.