Best student laptops 2020: the best laptops for students

Discover the best student laptop for going back to school and studying remotely

best student laptop 2020 back to school
(Image credit: Getty)

It's back to school, college and university season, which means plenty of people are looking for the best student laptop of 2020. Well, here you can take the stress and strain out of choosing a great system with T3's guide to the best laptops for students, which covers just about every need and budget imaginable.

The good news is that online retailers are keen to shift laptops to students, and will usually offer a host of tempting deals and discounts to get you to part with your cash: and deals to tempt students in, so keep your eyes peeled for the best student discounts on laptops while you shop. You may end up spending less than you budgeted for.

So whether you're heading off to university, picking up your studies at home, or anything in between, use our guide to the overall best student laptop to narrow down a device that's perfect for you – one that has the features you need at a price that suits.

The best student laptops you can buy today

HP Pavilion 14 best student laptops

The HP Pavilion 14 is an excellent choice if you want value for money during your student years.

1. HP Pavilion 14

The best student laptop for most people

CPU: 8th generation Intel Core i5-8250U
Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics 620
Screen: 14-inch (1,920 x 1,080)
Storage: 256GB SSD
Reasons to buy
+Strong all-round specs+Solid build quality that will last+Big internal storage space

We think that for the vast majority of students the best student laptop available today is the HP Pavilion 14. Combining strong all-round 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 the dorm or in class is easy. Battery life sits at up to 11 hours, and the machines comes pre-installed with a fresh copy of Windows 10 Home.

Cheaper and more expensive student laptops are available in this list, as well as makes from Apple that run macOS, however, for an affordable sweet spot then look no further than the HP Pavilion 14.

Best student laptop 2020 Dell XPS 13

The Dell XPS 13 is the best student laptop money can buy.

2. Dell XPS 13

The best premium student laptop

CPU: 8th-generation Intel Core i5 – i7
Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics 620
RAM: 4GB – 16GB
Screen: 13.3-inch FHD (1,920 x 1,080; non-touch) – UHD (3,840 x 2,160; touchscreen)
Storage: 128GB – 1TB SSD
Reasons to buy
+Powerhouse performance+Will last way beyond university

If you're looking for one of the most refined and revitalised laptops on the market, look no further than the impressive Dell XPS 13, which we consider the money-no-object best student laptop going today.

When it comes to performance you won’t be left wanting, thanks to its super slick 8th-generation Intel Core i5 – i7 CPU, while you can game lightly with the Intel UHD Graphics 620 graphics card.

Add in a repositioned webcam (for vlogging and streaming purposes, naturally) and a simply stunning 13.3-inch Full HD display and you’ve got a powerhouse in portable form.

The only caveat is it’s quite the investment, but it'll definitely see you through college, uni and beyond, and that raw quality and longevity, for us, make it an easy recommendation for students with deep pockets.

Best student laptop Acer Chromebook 15

If you're fine using Chrome OS, then the Acer Chromebook 15 is a great, budget-friendly student laptop choice.

3. Acer Chromebook 15

The best budget student laptop

CPU: Intel Celeron 3205U 1.5GHz (dual-core)
Graphics: Intel HD Graphics
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
+Quality screen+Long-lasting battery+Very attractive price point

The Chromebook 15 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 usage experience. 

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 iPod as well. One of the best student laptops going in 2020 for those shopping on a budget, and who don't need a host of extra bells and whistles.

Best student laptops 2020

Apple has revamped the Air in spectacular style, making it a great student laptop choice.

(Image credit: Apple)

4. Apple MacBook Air (2019)

The best student laptop for the vast majority of student Mac users

CPU: 1.6GHz Intel Core-i5
Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics 617
Screen: 13.3-inch LED 2560x1600 with IPS
Storage: 128GB or 256GB SSD
Connectivity: USB-C (USB 3.1)
Weight: 1.25 kg
Reasons to buy
+Thin and light+Retina display+Apple desirable

Following the untimely death of the 12-inch MacBook, Apple has made some adjustments to the MacBook Air lineup, dropping the price for the base-spec model to just £1,099 and boosting the internal components to offer both power and portability. 

For students, it's hard to do better than the MacBook Air: a beautiful design, the latest version of macOS, and enough oomph to play SIMS until your hearts desire ⁠— or to do uni work... Both models also feature what Apple describes as an updated keyboard, which seeks to fix some of the reliability issues that plagued the previous generations.

Those seeking more power or storage alongside the thin design will be pleased to know that Apple offers a range of upgrades. The £1,299 model, for example, doubles the base storage to 256GB.

Huawei Matebook X Pro best student laptop

The Huawei Matebook X Pro is among the most premium student laptops available in 2020.

5. Huawei Matebook X Pro

Mobile computing on steroids for students with serious studying (and entertainment) needs

CPU: 8th generation Intel Core i5 – i7
Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics 620, Nvidia GeForce MX150 2GB GDDR5
RAM: 8GB – 16GB
Screen: 13.9-inch 3K (3,000 x 2,080)
Storage: 512GB SSD
Reasons to buy
+Clean and vibrant display+Impeccable battery performance+Very strong hardware suite

If you're going to kickstart your education, regardless of the subject or the level, why not invest in a student laptop that's not only built to last, but also one of the most powerful laptops you can buy in 2020? That’s what Huawei is offering with the robust MateBook X Pro, and it's going to have you covered whatever your subject.

Its attractive and sleek chassis is home to a lovely 13.9-inch 3K display, a meaty Nvidia GeForce MX150 2GB GDDR5 GPU, and a battery that will serve you well through even the lengthiest of all-nighters.

With all these specs and more, the Huawei MateBook X Pro has proved itself the new gold standard, and one of the very best 2020 laptops for students available.

Best student laptops Dell Inspiron 14 3000

The Dell Insprion 3000 is without doubt one of the best student laptops for anyone shopping on a budget.

(Image credit: Dell)

6. Dell Insprion 14 3000

A brilliant budget buy for students

Processor: Intel® Celeron® Processor 4205U (2MB Cache, 1.8 GHz)
Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics 620
Storage: 128GB M.2 PCIe NVMe Solid State Drive
Display: 14-inch LCD 1366 x 768 resolution
OS: Windows 10 Home 64bit
Weight: 1.66 kg (3.68 lbs)
Reasons to buy
+Incredibly cheap+Solid internal hardware+Full fat Windows 10 experience

There's just so much to like about the Dell Inspiron 14 3000, and its crazy cheap price point is just the first. Next, it rock-solid internal hardware means that light computing tasks are handled with ease, while its stylish lightweight design also makes it incredible portable.

It's 14-inch LCD anti-glare screen is crisp, too, and with a full fat version of Windows 10 Home 64bit installed, it very much delivers the genuine experience out of the box. If browsing the internet, writing reports and essays, as well as storing your most valuable media and work is important to you, then the Insprion 14 3000 is a great companion.

The laptop also comes with a webcam so joining seminars and remote meetings is handled, while its SD card reader and multitude of ports makes it easy to hook storage up to it, as well as it to larger screens and peripherals.

Overall a brilliant cheap Windows 10 laptop that will be ideal for going back to school.

HP Envy x360 best student laptop

The HP Envy x360 is a powerful and versatile 2-in-1 student laptop.

(Image credit: HP)

7. HP Envy x360

A classy 2-in-1 student laptop

CPU: AMD Ryzen 5 2500U quad-core 2-3.6GHz
Graphics: AMD Radeon RX Vega 8
Screen: 13.3-inch FHD IPS LCD
Storage: 128GB SSD
Reasons to buy
+Very versatile form factor+Stylish design+Competitive price

If you like the HP brand but want to spend a little bit more than the Pavillion costs (see above), the HP Envy x360 might be for you. It manages to marry some decent specs with some very decent looks at a price that's not quite as exorbitant as you might think, looking at it.

With AMD powering the CPU and GPU, this is a laptop that's going to handle most of the tasks you throw at it, besides intensive gaming and video editing – 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.

And as this is a 2-in-1, 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. Definitely one for your best student laptops shortlist.

Lenovo Yoga 530 best student laptops 2020

If you're looking for a 2-in-1 computing experience then then Lenovo Yoga 530 is well worth a look.

8. Lenovo Yoga 530

Another strong student laptop that delivers 2-in-1 computing

CPU: Dual-core AMD Ryzen 3 2200U (2.5GHz-3.4GHz)
Screen: 14-inch, 1,920 x 1,080 pixel resolution
Storage: 128GB SSD
Reasons to buy
+Rotating hinge for the 14-inch display+Pick a colour to match your style+Rock solid hardware suite

Versatility is important for the students of today and a 2-in-1 like the Yoga 530 series from Lenovo doubles up as a tablet when you don't need a full laptop – perfect for taking into lectures or seminars with you. It'll even stand up in a tent position for when you're watching movies.

The specs are very competitive for the price (though a stylus costs extra), and the Lenovo Yoga 530 should be able to chew through all the tasks you give it fairly rapidly. If you're after something a little bit different from your student laptop in 2020, this is worth a look.

Best student laptop Dell XPS 15

The best student laptop running Windows 10 for tech enthusiasts right now is the Dell XPS 15.

9. Dell XPS 15

A portable student laptop powerhouse

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+Impeccable build quality+Premium-grade hardware

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 screen. 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 in terms of specs, 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. Even with that against it, it's still one of the best student laptops out there.

Read the full review: Dell XPS 15

Best student laptop MacBook Pro 15-inch (2018)

If money is no object, then the MacBook Pro 15-inch is the best student laptop you can buy running macOS.

10. MacBook Pro 15-inch (2018)

The best student laptop for Apple fans shopping at the premium end of the market

CPU: 8th generation Intel Core i7 – i9
Graphics: AMD Radeon Pro 555X – 560X, Intel UHD Graphics 630
RAM: 16GB – 32GB
Screen: 15.4-inch, 2,880 x 1,800 Retina display
Storage: 512GB – 4TB SSD
Reasons to buy
+Impressively thin design+Incredible performance+Gorgeous Retina display

The 15-inch Macbook Pro offers some of the most powerful specs on this list. If you're studying any form of graphic design or video production, then this might well be the machine for you. 

Those sturdy 8th generation Intel Core i7 – i9 processors will ensure any program you throw at it runs like a dream, while that AMD Radeon Pro 555X GPU is going to cover the most demanding graphical performance needs.

It also boasts an improved keyboard for quieter keystrokes, so you can even take it to the local library without fear of being kicked out for noise pollution. A simply stunning laptop and one of the best student choices.

Best student laptop Microsoft Surface Go Best laptops for students

If you need a lightweight 2-in-1 computing experience, then the Microsoft Surface Go is the student laptop for you.

11. Microsoft Surface Go

A budget 2-in-1 student laptop for lightweight computing

CPU: Intel Pentium Gold Processor 4415Y
Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 615
RAM: 4GB – 8GB
Screen: 10-inch
Storage: 64GB eMMC / 128GB SSD
Reasons to buy
+Incredibly portable+2-in-1 laptop / tablet versatility+Top build quality

If you're a student and need a system that can handle lightweight computing tasks, and can be carried around easily, and can transform into a tablet for entertainment and creative sessions, then the Microsoft Surface Go is an excellent option – especially so if you're shopping on a particularly tight budget.

Indeed, as we said in our Surface Go review, this system definitely delivers on the creativity chops. "The performance of the Surface Pen on the Go was impeccable," we noted, and "responsiveness felt instant and lines appeared smoothly as we sketched – there was no lag at all, which can be a killer for a drawing device."

It ticks all the boxes for one of the best student laptops in 2020 and the versatility of the form factor really makes it stand out. You've got a choice of configurations to pick from to balance power and price.

Best student laptop

Get top laptop and tablet performance in a single system with the Microsoft Surface Pro.

12. Microsoft Surface Pro

The best all-rounder student laptop for hybrid, 2-in-1 computing

CPU: 7th generation Intel Core m3 – i7
Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 615 – Iris Plus Graphics 640
RAM: 4GB – 16GB
Screen: 12.3-inch, 2,736 x 1,824 PixelSense display
Storage: 128GB – 1TB SSD
Reasons to buy
+Seamless 2-in-1 experience+Significantly better performance than previous model

A step up in terms of performance from the Microsoft Surface Go we highlighted above, the Microsoft Surface Pro delivers the same 2-in-1 versatility but more power and performance across the board. It's one of the best student laptops in 2020 if you've got a little bit more money to spend, though again multiple configurations are available.

This Pro model is as versatile as they come, with a 7th generation Intel Core m3 – i7 CPU and a fanless cooling system for truly silent running. If you’re looking to keep working on the commute to and from class, on campus, in halls or at home, the Surface Pro can flip in and out of either mode with silky smooth ease as well, making it very bus or train friendly.

Naturally, if you're a student and don't already have a tablet, then the Surface Pro can deliver excellent slate functionality, too, saving you money and keeping the amount of expensive tech you need to lug round to a minimum.

Lenovo IdeaPad L340 best student laptop

The Lenovo IdeaPad L340 gives you great gaming performance on a budget.

(Image credit: Lenovo)

13. Lenovo IdeaPad L340

One of the best student laptops with gaming credentials

CPU: Intel Core i5-9300H quad-core 2.4-4.1GHz
Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 4GB
Screen: 15.6-inch, FHD IPS LCD
Storage: 128GB
Reasons to buy
+GeForce GTX GPU on board+Top-rate fit and finish+Mid-tier price point

All work and no play makes for a very dull student experience, so you may well be looking for some gaming power when shopping for the best student laptop on the market – you just don't want to pay full whack in terms of price, which is understandable (that loan won't pay itself off).

Enter the Lenovo IdeaPad L340, a 15.6-inch gaming laptop that manages to keep the price down while ramping the specs up (take a look at that GeForce GTX 1650 graphics card with 4GB of video RAM). You should be able to play anything on this, even if you can't quite ramp up the quality settings to the very highest level.

That extra screen space comes in handy for work as well as leisure time, and the specs inside this laptop mean it should last you comfortably for the length of your course – unless you're studying to be an architect or a doctor, or something like that. It doesn't look half-bad, either.

best student laptop Acer Nitro 7

(Image credit: Acer)

14. Acer Nitro 7

The best student laptop for a bit of gaming on the side between assignments

CPU: 9th-generation Intel Core i7
Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 (3B RAM) or Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 (4GB RAM)
Screen: 15.6" Full HD IPS (1920 x 1080)
Storage: 256GB/512GB
Connectivity: 1x HDMI, 1 x USB 2.0, 1 x USB 3.1 (Type C), 2 x Thunderbolt 3
Reasons to buy
+For students who want to game+Plenty of power on board+Looks that stand out

Every student's need is slightly different, and some students will want a laptop that can handle a bit of gaming in between the essay writing and web browsing. If that applies to you, then the Nitro 7 from Acer is one of the more affordable gaming laptops that you're going to come across.

Under the hood you've got a 9th-generation Intel Core i7 processor, up to 16GB of RAM, up to 512GB of SSD storage, and an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 or GTX 1650 graphics card inside. Those are specs beyond what a lot of students might need, but they'll certainly handle everything you throw at it and then some.

In terms of design and use, it's hard to fault the Nitro 7 – though the glowing red keys and angular metal chassis won't be to everyone's taste. It's definitely got that premium feel and is going to stand out if you happen to pull it out in a classroom or lecture hall.

What is the best student laptop?

If you just want one single recommendation, then our top choice of best student laptop right now for most people is the HP Pavilion 14. This system has a powerful CPU, a quality screen and a great design. It's also available at firmly mid-tier price point.

There's also the rather brilliant Dell XPS 13 to consider, which we consider the best premium choice on the market, as well as the Acer Chromebook 15, which is a great all-round device that's ideal for all students – providing you're happy with Google's Chrome OS rather than Windows 10 or macOS.

For more information about both of these best student laptops in 2020, as well as more top notebook computers, then read on. Before we get to the main list, though, let's cover how to choose the best student laptop for you.

How to choose the best student laptop for you

We hope our student laptop guide proves invaluable for anyone out there shopping for a system that's capable, decent value, and a boon to your productivity. We're constantly updating this list too with newer models and updated information, so be sure to keep checking back regularly, and we've also included some clutch buying advice to help you narrow down the ideal learning tool.

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 juddering 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 round 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 pushed to find a model without one.

Given all that, these are our pick of the best student laptops 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...

Lead image credit: Getty