Heading to college or starting a new year of high school can be difficult enough without extra financial pressure, so we've put together our guide to the best laptops for students to help you make the right choice.
If you're not familiar with the best student laptops, though, it can be hard to know what to buy – which is why we've crunched the numbers to reveal which nine laptops can handle the rigors of academic life.
Scour our list and you'll find laptops with processors that can handle essay-writing, creative work and multi-tasking. We've tested machines with huge batteries – perfect for tackling a long day of lectures. Elsewhere we've picked out portables with great displays and speakers for watching movies and box sets, and some have beefy Nvidia graphics for gaming and esports.
Our selections also include lightweight machines for campus transport, notebooks with great webcams for video calls, and rigs with top-notch keyboards and loads of ports. The list includes laptops for every budget, which is critical when you need kit that doesn't cost the earth. Combine that with the brilliant student laptop deals out there and you're bound to find the perfect student laptop at a reduced price.
There's no shortage of student tech advise elsewhere, either: explore our advise on the best MacBooks for students or best tablets for students, and if you need some more specialized kit, there's our best laptops for coding and programming and best laptops for photo editing guides too.
Best laptops for students
Apple now sells two varieties of MacBook Air. Both remain superb, but the updated M2 model delivers loads of upgrades.
The biggest change is the new M2 processor, which supplies improved performance in tough creative situations, like photo- and video-editing. You’ll have to spend more to get your hands on this silicon – the entry-level Air M2 costs $1,199 / £1,249 and $1,499 / £1,549 for a beefed-up GPU and larger SSD – but if you need power for creative workloads, that’s worthwhile.
Apple has improved the Air in other departments. It’s got a sleeker, lighter design, and larger and brighter screen, and a crisper FaceTime camera – it’s moved from 720 p to 1080 p. Elsewhere, you’ll find improved audio quality, support for high-impedance headphones, and a MagSafe port for easier, faster charging that doesn’t occupy a Thunderbolt socket.
The Air retains the same superb keyboard, robust aluminum chassis and fantastic all-day battery life. As ever, you’ll get better performance from a MacBook Pro, and the MacBook Air M1 remains a great choice for good-looking, light and capable everyday computing.
If you’d like a slim, light Apple rig with more power, ports and features, though, the Air M2 is a superb choice – it will tackle virtually every student scenario.
The Apple MacBook Pro 13 has long been a campus favorite, and there’s no sign of that changing with the latest iteration of this impressive notebook.
The 13.3 in display has vivid colors and a high resolution, so movies and TV shows look fantastic. The display sits above some of the best speakers you’ll find on any small laptop, and the MacBook’s fifteen-hour battery life means you’ll have the longevity for a full day.
Apple’s keyboards remain brilliant, and this smaller MacBook has a superb trackpad and a customizable Touch Bar. It’s got a decent 720 p webcam, and it can run iOS apps and games alongside Mac OS software. The only real issue is a lack of physical connectivity – the MacBook has two Thunderbolt ports, but no full-size USB connectors.
On the inside, Apple’s M1 processor tackles anything shy of the toughest creative workloads. Everything’s contained in a robust aluminum chassis that only weighs 3 lbs (1.4 kg), so it won’t bog you down.
The MacBook Pro 13 is sturdy, fast, and stylish, with the ability to succeed in almost every area. It’s not as expensive as newer MacBook Pro machines either, with prices that start at £1,299 / $1,299, although we’d recommend upgrading to 16 GB memory for better multi-tasking performance.
With its clean aluminum design the HP Envy 13’s looks decent, and its 1.3 kg weight and 17 mm body mean it’s easy to slip inside a bag and take to lectures.
The comfortable and quiet keyboard is ideal for the library or lecture theatre, and the 1080 p touchscreen is versatile, bright, and bold.
HP’s notebook has full-size USB ports, which is rare on such a slim machine, and it has reasonably punchy speakers. The Envy has a webcam, but no Thunderbolt or HDMI.
On the inside, it’s available in two configurations: an Intel Core i5 model with 8 GB of memory and a Core i7 spec with 16 GB of DDR4 RAM. The former is fine for everyday work, and the latter is well-suited to trickier tasks. On the battery front, expect between 12 and 14 hours of longevity – a healthy result.
These configurations aren’t too expensive: the Core i5 rig costs $939 / £899, while the Core i7 machine arrives at $1,049 / £1,049. It’s also worth remembering that HP offers 14 in, 15.6 in, and 17.3 in versions of this machine if you’d like something larger.
The lower price does mean that the HP has some minor issues: build quality could be better, and Apple and AMD processors are faster. They’re not dealbreakers though, and the HP Envy 13 stays one of the best laptops for students on a budget.
The Dell XPS 13 is another reliably excellent laptop from Dell. Its milled aluminum and carbon fiber body mean it’ll looks just as good as anything else in the lecture hall, and it’s strong and light.
The Dell has a satisfying keyboard, a large touchpad, and a battery that lasts between 12 and 18 hours. It’s packed with features, too: it has a Windows Hello webcam, Thunderbolt 4 ports, and a microSD card slot alongside reasonable speakers. You don’t get full-size USB ports, though.
The Dell XPS 13 is available with three displays. The 16:10 aspect ratio means more vertical space, and all have tiny bezels and superb quality – so your box sets and creative work will look great. The 1920 x 1200 screen is an ideal everyday display, while the higher-resolution panels are better for more demanding users with thicker wallets. The OLED display is particularly dazzling.
Intel’s low-power Core i5 and Core i7 chips are good, with the latter providing enough power for most work tasks, and the XPS is available with 32 GB of memory.
The Dell XPS 13 is not the most affordable student laptop. Its cheapest rigs cost $1,319 / £1,099, and you’ll have to spend more for Core i7 CPUs and high-resolution displays. However, if you’ve got the cash, the Dell XPS 13 is the best high-end Windows laptop for students.
While it has been replaced by the newer M2 model, the MacBook Air M1 is still a great choice for students. It weighs just 1.29 kg and it’s only 16 mm thick – and, despite that, it’s got a rock-solid aluminum body with a great-looking design in three colors. If you want a machine that’ll turn heads and survive busy campus life, this is a top contender for one of the best laptops for students.
The 13.3 in display has a 2560 x 1600 resolution alongside bold colors, which means your browser windows, work apps, and media all look fantastic. The speakers are decent, too – easily good enough for movies and music, even if they lack a little punch. Battery life peaks at 14 hours, and the MacBook has a couple of Thunderbolt ports and a webcam, but that’s it for connectivity. The keyboard is responsive and suitable for a day of working.
On the inside the Apple M1 processor will handle almost any student task – you’ll only need more power if you want to run high-end design or creative software. We’d recommend the 16 GB Air to get the most out of multi-tasking, and the reduced price of $999 / £999 is a great deal.
If you want to stick with Mac OS, you’ll get more speed, battery life, and storage on the MacBook Pro. However, if you want the slimmest, lightest Apple laptop around, then the MacBook Air is excellent.
The HP Envy x360 13’s prices almost always duck below $1,000 / £1,000, which is a great starting point for a student laptop, and it’s the only convertible in this group – so you can flip it around and use it as a tablet or prop it up to watch movies or TV shows. When student laptops need to exhibit versatility, that’s a boon.
The lightweight HP Envy x360 has good build quality, and its 1080 p display has solid contrast and reasonably accurate colors – you’ll only be disappointed if you want to use this machine for color-sensitive creative tasks. The speakers are fine for casual media, but they’re not brilliant and lack bass.
This rig has full-size USB ports, a comfortable keyboard, and a webcam with a privacy shutter and a microSD card reader. On the inside, it’s available with AMD Ryzen 5 and Ryzen 7 chips and their Intel equivalents. The AMD chips are better, with the former fine for everyday multi-tasking and the latter more powerful. Expect up to 11 hours of battery life.
It’s cheaper, so you do get what you pay for and you can get better tech elsewhere if you’re willing to pay more, but the HP Envy x360 13 remains a good choice for students who want a versatile and affordable convertible.
- Read our full HP Envy x360 13 review.
Convertible laptops are usually small, but there’s no such compromise on the Spectre – this notebook has a 16-inch OLED display. The 16:10 touchscreen has a monster 3840 x 2400 resolution, it displays the DCI-P3 color gamut and it includes a Tilt Pen – it’s unrivaled for creative work.
The robust aluminum chassis flips into tablet and tent modes, so you can deploy the Spectre like a laptop, TV screen or graphics tablet. Its Intel Core i7-1260P processor is ideal for mainstream creative tasks even if it can’t cope with top-end work, but that should be enough for student scenarios – especially with 16 GB of memory and an Intel A370M GPU.
Connectivity is good thanks to two Thunderbolt ports, an HDMI 2.1 output and a microSD slot, and internally you get a 5 mp webcam, a fingerprint reader and a superb keyboard. The 2 kg weight isn’t bad for a 16 in device, and the HP’s battery lasts for a working day. There aren’t many negatives, although the Bang & Olufsen speakers aren’t very good.
Whilst not cheap, the Spectre offers fantastic value for money when you consider that large OLED screen and convertible form. For art and design students, it’s a stunning buy, but it's probably overkill for most students.
- Read our full HP Spectre x360 16 review.
There’s lots to like about the Vero’s eco-friendly credentials: thirty percent of the chassis is made from recycled material, and those percentages increase in the screen, keyboard and packaging.
That’s great if you want eco-friendly tech, and the Vero continues to impress. Acer’s latest models have new Intel Core i5-1235U and i7-1255U processors, with the former ideal for everyday work tasks and the latter capable of light content creation. For student workloads, those processors are ideal. You’ll have to pay $899 / £899 for the Core i7 model and $749 / £749 for the Core i5 rig.
We criticized the Vero in the past for connectivity issues, but those have been fixed with the additions of Thunderbolt 4 and USB charging. This year’s model has improved Bluetooth 5.2 and the slower USB 2.0 ports have gone.
Its keyboard remains impressive, the battery lasts for an entire day, but the screen is mediocre and the chassis is bulkier and heavier than most contemporaries. You’ll have to pay extra to fix those issues, though, and the Vero is a good option in key areas. It’s ideal if you want affordable, eco-friendly computing.
Loads of schools use Chrome OS now, so it makes sense that students want to continue embracing Chrome OS at university – and the Google Pixelbook Go is your best Chrome OS option.
Chrome OS is now a mature operating system that’ll tackle virtually any student task, and this matte aluminum body is sturdy and stylish. Combine that with the impressive 1080 p display and quiet, comfortable keyboard and you’ve got a tempting all-rounder that lightweight and easy to carry around.
On the inside, the Chromebook is available with older Intel Core m3, i5, and i7 processors. The m3 chip is suitable for basic tasks, the Core i5 CPU is a good everyday chip, and the Core i7 CPU is ideal for mainstream creative work. We’d also recommend the 16 GB option if you want to enjoy flawless multi-tasking. Battery life sits at a reasonable 12 hours, and pricing is decent: the Pixelbook Go starts at $649 / £629 and ranges up to $1,399 / £1,329.
Elsewhere, the Pixelbook Go has a webcam and two USB-C ports, but sadly no full-size USB ports. It’s only got mediocre speakers, too.
The Pixelbook won’t suit everyone, so those with more demanding needs will find extra power and features elsewhere. But, if you want to use Chrome OS then the Pixelbook Go is the best choice.