The best laptops for students

If you're off to uni, you'll need a decent laptop - here is our shortlist of the best laptops for students

Man using laptop at university

by Kirk Schwarz |

Firstly, congratulations. If you’re here, you’ve clearly made it into higher education - way to go. You’ve managed to hit the books hard for the past decade in what must feel like the mother of all training montages. But boy, did that hard work pay off!

Of course, becoming a university student is fraught with tough choices. Where do I live? What course do I take? Which bar does the best student nights? With so much stress, it’s only fair that we take a load off and help you pick a decent laptop to see you through the next few years...

The good news is that we have something for everyone here, from the basic entry level models, to something a bit more beefed up. Keep on reading for our pick of the best laptops for students.


Best laptops for university

Acer Chromebook 15
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A consummate note taker, this Chromebook packs in a large 1080p 15.6in screen and apes the flawless design made so popular by Apple. 12 hours of battery life is more than enough for a full day's class - with extended lunchtime Facebooking - and the Google Chrome OS allows you instant access to over 2 million apps… and only about a million of them are Angry Birds! At a touch under 2kg, it's light enough to carry between lectures, and while the specs aren't mind-blowing, the Dual-Core Celeron boasts a base 1.60GHz clock speed, and you also get 4GB of internal RAM - more than enough for non-intensive programs and web browsing. It does only come with 32GB hard drive though, so be prepared to invest in an external drive if you're looking for more space.

Microsoft Surface Pro 7
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Microsoft, AKA the king of PC, has truly cracked the code for 2-in-1s thanks to the Surface range. For the money, you'll get an ultra-light and versatile tablet, jam-packed with the power of a laptop. To start it boasts an ultra-impressive 10.5-hour battery life, and weighs just 0.77kg! As with a tablet, you'll get a touchscreen, which measures 12.3 inches, and boasts a screen resolution of 2736 x 1824 pixels. Under the hood is an 10th Gen Intern Core i5 processor and 128GB SSD, and the model we've chosen also boasts 8GB of RAM. Not only will you be able to take notes with the wireless keyboard (or you can use one of these brilliant alternatives), but you'll also be able to run photo editing software too - bonus!

Dell XPS 13
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Dell is a bit of a household name around computer users, and has built a reputation for supplying reliable workhorses. The XPS 13 packs in an 8th Gen Quad Core i7 processor, 512GB internal SSD. The 16GB RAM is perfect for intensive programs, and the processor speed of up to 4GHz will allow you to edit photos, as well as compile video. It competes well in the battery life stakes, offering up to 12 hours on the go, and the 13.3 inch 4K InfinityEdge Touch Display is perfect for high-resolution workflows. You even get an Intel UHD Graphics 620 shared graphics card. To make things even better, this ultra-slim laptop weighs in at a mere 1.23kg - outstanding!

Huawei MateBook X Pro (2020)
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Huawei? The phone guys? Seriously? Yes, very seriously! This laptop has been gaining some impressive reviews since it's launch, and for good reason. For the price, you'll get a stunningly thin design and 13.9 inch touchscreen with 3000x2000 pixel resolution capable of displaying 4K video. The 10th Gen Intel i5 processor packs a 4.2GHz speed, while the 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD and NVIDIA GeForce MX150 graphics card should allow for some fairly intensive processing chops. The battery promises an impressive 13 hours of video playback, and the large keyboard and trackpad should make capturing lectures a breeze. If you want something to handle Photoshop, but don't want to drop over twice the price, this is well worth a look.

HONOR MagicBook 14
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Lightweight, affordable and with a luxury feel, the MagicBook 14 is ideal for throwing in your rucksack for a lecture or seminar. With a clear 14-inch screen, 8GB RAM, 256 GB PCIe NVMe SSD and Windows 10, you can store files, write your dissertation and even stream Amazon Prime with ease. The speakers are very good for a laptop in this price range, as is the keyboard and trackpad. Plus, the fingerprint login makes it really easy to access when you need to jot something down quickly. Read our full review here.

Apple MacBook Pro 15-inch (2020)
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Welcome to the fray, Apple fans. We didn't want you to feel left out! Of course, with the ultra-premium powerhouse, there's a lot to love. The design is revered for good reason and looks stunning. However, peeking inside you'll see an M1 chip, with an 8-core CPU that delivers up to 2.8x faster performance, 8-core GPU with up to 5x faster graphics for graphics-intensive apps and games, 16-core Neural Engine for advanced machine learning and 8GB of unified memory so everything you do is fast and fluid. There's also a Superfast SSD storage launches apps and opens files in an instant. This is more than enough to handle those power-hungry apps like Photoshop, Illustrator and Premiere Pro, making this the perfect choice for anyone heading into the realm of digital media. While you can upgrade the internals, it will have to be done at the purchase stage… which doesn't come cheap.

Lenovo IdeaPad Slim 1
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The IdeaPad Slim 1 is a reliable laptop - AMD's affordable processor and 4GB RAM may be modest in the grand scheme of things, but it's a good little combination that can handle school work, internet browsing and online chatting comfortably. The battery life is nice, clocking in at eight hours - though take this with a pinch of salt, as this will vary depending on tasks.64GB of eMMC memory helps keep documents stored and ready, while the Windows 10 OS is user-friendly and familiar. This laptop also comes with a free one-year subscription to Microsoft 365 Personal (worth £59.99), giving access to all the essential programs like Word, Excel and PowerPoint, in addition to some free cloud storage via OneDrive.

Which laptops are best for students?

Picking a new computer can be a very personal affair, and one that you’ll need to live with, so make sure you choose wisely. For instance, are you Mac or PC? Do you want something that will let you take notes and crib on YouTube, or something that doubles as a personal life assistant?

If you’re choosing a graphic design or film making course, you’re likely to want something a bit more ramped up than your average notepad, but do you have to go for the expensive MacBook Pro option?

On the flip side, if you’re not looking to run labour-intensive programs, and you neither know or care what GPU acceleration is, wouldn’t you rather go for inexpensive and functional - after-all, the price of nights out isn’t as cheap as it used to be!

What to read next

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