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Best laptop for students UK 2022: Fast, reliable student laptops for school, college and university

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In search of top-of-the-class tech? These are the best laptops for students available

Using the right tool for the right job is crucial when studying, meaning there's never a bad time to invest in the best laptop for students you can afford.

Demand for student laptops has surged during the global pandemic, with students of all ages needing reliable devices to use both at home and in the classroom.

We've tested a huge range of laptops and this article documents those we deem best suited for student life.

Your age, the level at which you're studying and your budget will determine which student laptop is right for you, so we've also included a buying guide detailing the key things to consider when buying a laptop for school, college or university.

Whether you're in the market for something lightweight and versatile or something that'll pack a punch performance-wise, we've got an option for you. There's a student laptop to suit everyone's needs and, importantly, budget. Read on to find your perfect studying companion.

Huawei MateBook D15 down to only £450

Huawei laptops are always worth keeping an eye on for price cuts and this one is a doozy. This model comes with a decent 15.6in 1080p display, a chassis carved from solid-feeling aluminium and a price that's reduced from an average of around £640 to a hugely tempting £450.
Amazon
Was £640
Now £450

Best laptop for students: At a glance


How to choose the best laptop for school, college or university

How much should I spend on a student laptop?

Depending on what your studies involve and whether you plan on using your laptop for play as well as work, you can spend anywhere between a couple of hundred and a couple of thousand pounds on a student laptop.

If you're on a tight budget or buying a laptop for your child to use for schoolwork, we recommend checking out our list of the best cheap laptops and the best laptops for kids.

However, if you want a device that will last you a number of years and has the capability to support a spot of light gaming, we recommend spending between £500 and £1,000. In this price bracket, you'll find laptops that offer impressive performance coupled with attractive build quality.

READ NEXT: The best school bags

Do I need a fast processor and loads of RAM?

Processors and RAM aren’t too important if you just want a laptop for writing essays on – even a cheap Chromebook is good enough for Google Docs and searching the internet.

However, if your studies require the use of more demanding software for photo or video editing, 3D design, or crunching databases, it’s worth putting money towards a more powerful CPU. Intel's Core i5 and i7 processors are a solid choice, while AMD's Ryzen range of processors often rival Intel's in terms of performance but come with a smaller price tag.

More RAM is always welcome, as it means you can leave more applications and browser tabs open before your laptop grinds to a halt. You should look for a laptop with at least 4GB RAM, though we'd encourage you to go for one with 8GB RAM if your budget allows it.

How much storage do I need?

This will be determined by how you plan on using your student laptop. If you're going to be saving lots of documents locally and plan on downloading numerous applications, you'll find storage gets eaten up pretty quickly. A laptop with 128GB of storage will suffice for most students but 256GB is a safer bet if you don't want to have to uninstall and delete things a year or two after buying your new device.

It's important to look at the type of storage a laptop has in addition to how much of it you're getting. A student laptop with a proper SSD (solid-state drive) is preferable as they're faster than mechanical hard disks and eMMC flash storage.

What else do I need to look out for?

If you can try out a laptop before buying, then do so. Everyone has a different idea about what constitutes a comfy, usable keyboard or touchpad, and while we pay close attention to those aspects in our reviews, it’s well worth trying it out for yourself. Equally, what some people might consider a heavy, bulky laptop might be entirely manageable by other people’s standards.

Similarly, it’s worth keeping an eye out for USB-C or USB 3 ports as they add a little future-proofing and introduce the capacity for faster file transfers – which is handy if you want to be able to back up your data to external drives.

Talking of which, it’s well worth leaving some room in your budget for a good quality external USB hard drive, or just making sure to use a cloud storage service to keep your documents backed up. Even the best laptop for students can be damaged, lost or stolen so it pays to make sure your coursework doesn’t disappear along with it.

READ NEXT: Best external hard drives

The best laptops for students

1. M1 Apple MacBook Air (2020): The best MacBook for students

Price: £999 | Buy now from Amazon

In a surprising turn of events, Apple released two new iterations of the MacBook Air in 2020. The first saw the iconic ultraportable updated to house Intel's tenth-gen processors, while the old keyboard was replaced by Apple's new "MagicKeyboard" complete with improved travel and damping to each key.

However, it was the second iteration that really pushed the series forward, thanks to the incorporation of Apple's very own M1 processor and it's that version we've linked here. In his review of the M1 MacBook Air, our Head of Reviews, Jon Bray, described it as "the ultraportable laptop to beat" thanks to it being "stunningly fast, quiet as a mouse and reasonably priced" while also delivering excellent battery life of close to 15 hours.

Simply put, this is the best MacBook for students, bar none, and right up there with the best laptops we've ever seen.

Read our M1 Apple MacBook Air (2020) review for more details

Key specs – Processor: Octa-core Apple M1; RAM: 8GB; Storage: 256GB SSD; Screen size: 13.3in; Screen resolution: 2,560 x 1,600; Weight: 1.29kg


2. Dell XPS 13 9310: The best Windows laptop for students

Price: From £1,099 | Buy now from Dell

The latest XPS 13 houses 11th-gen Intel silicon and is a solid step up from its tenth-gen predecessor when it comes to performance and battery life. It remains one of the best looking laptops around, too, with a compact, sleek build characterised by an attractive aluminium chassis and carbon fibre interior.

Its keyboard is one of the best we've tested as well, thanks to a smart layout and keystrokes that feel just right when typing. If your studies require a lot of essay writing, you'll find the XPS 13 a dream to work on.

There are various display options available but we reviewed a unit featuring an FHD non-touchscreen. The 16:10 aspect ratio is more pleasant to work on than a 16:9 display, peak brightness of 566cd/m2 enables you to work comfortably on the laptop while outside and both sRGB colour coverage and accuracy are excellent.

It may not be on quite the same level as Apple's MacBook Air or MacBook Pro, but if you're in search of a premium Windows laptop to use while studying, there aren't many better than the Dell XPS 13 9310.

Read our Dell XPS 13 9310 review for details

Key specs – Processor: Intel Core i5-1135G7, i7-1165G7 or i7-1185G7; RAM: 8/16/32GB; Storage: 512GB/1TB SSD; Screen size: 13.3in; Screen resolution: 1,920 x 1,080, 3,456 x 2,160 or 3,840 x 2,400; Weight: 1.2kg

Buy now from Dell


3. HP Pavilion 14: The best-value touchscreen laptop for students

Price: From £549 | Buy now from Currys

This attractive notebook from HP surprised and delighted our reviewer with its inclusion of appealing features rarely found at such an affordable price, namely a fully touch-enabled FHD display and a fingerprint scanner for quick and easy signing-in.

But the Pavilion 14 has a few other strings to its bow, too. Its Bang & Olufsen-branded speakers are among the best we've ever heard from a semi-budget laptop, build quality is good and battery life of eight hours is enough for pretty much any student's needs.

The lack of a keyboard backlight is a little disappointing and if you're looking for a vibrant, colour-accurate display, you'll find better options elsewhere. However, as a value-for-money package, the HP Pavilion 14 is hard to beat. It's lightweight, looks great and offers little luxuries like a touchscreen while delivering solid performance across the board.

Read our HP Pavilion 14 review for details

Key specs – Processor: Intel Core i3-1115G4, i5-1135G7 or i7-1165G7; RAM: 8/16GB; Storage: 256/512GB SSD; Screen size: 14in; Screen resolution: 1,920 x 1,080; Weight: 1.4kg

Buy now from Currys


4. Acer Swift 3 (NX.ABNEK.00A): The best budget compact laptop

Price: £729 | Buy now from AO

If what you want out of a laptop is a good screen and good battery life combined with low weight and low price then the latest Acer Swift 3 is the machine for you. It has a well made aluminium chassis, weighs just 1.2kg and is small enough to slip into even the most petite of backpacks, plus its 13.5in 1,920 x 1,080 panel is bright, sharp and colourful.

Acer hasn’t scrimped on the internal specification, either. The Swift 3’s 11th Gen Intel Core i5 CPU may not be quite the latest thing but it does the job; there’s also a decent 8GB of RAM and a pretty quick 512GB SSD for storage. Connectivity is generous (2x USB-A, 1x Thunderbolt 4 USB-C, 1x HDMI 2.1) and the keyboard comes with a nice bright backlight. There also a fingerprint reader to add some biometric security into the mix.

With decent battery life – In our video run-down test, the Swift lasted nearly 11-and-a-half hours, which is impressive – and fast charging this is a fantastic compact laptop at a very reasonable price. The only criticism we can make is that the RAM is soldered to the motherboard and can’t be upgraded.

Read our full Acer Swift 3 review for details

Key specs – Processor: 4-core Intel Core-i5 1135G7; Display size: 14in; RAM: 8GB; Storage: 512GB SSD; Display resolution: 1,920 x 1,080; GPU: Intel Iris XE; Refresh rate: 65Hz; Weight: 1.2kg


5. Acer Chromebook Spin 713 (2021): The best Chromebook for students

Price: £650 | Buy now from Argos

The latest version of Acer’s excellent Chromebook convertible still looks and feels like a premium laptop despite costing a whole lot less. It combines a superb, high-resolution, square 3:2 aspect ratio screen with a flexible 2-in-1 design and an updated specification built around Intel’s 11th generation Core i3 and Core i5 processors. Even the base-level version with an Intel Core i3-1115G4 is faster than the Core i5 Chromebooks we reviewed last year, handling multiple apps and heaps of browser tabs with ease.

With around nine hours of battery life you can just about scrape through a day of lectures and learning and everything else is exceptionally good, with great colour reproduction from the screen, rich audio, a fine webcam and a keyboard that’s a pleasure to type on. Add advanced connectivity, complete with Thunderbolt 4 and Wi-Fi 6, and you’ve got a laptop that’ll last throughout your studies, and then some.

Read our Acer Chromebook Spin 713 review for more details

Key specs – Processor: Intel Core i5-1115G4; RAM: 8GB; Storage: 256GB SSD; Screen size: 13.5in; Screen resolution: 2,256 x 1,504; Weight: 1.4kg

Buy now from Argos


6. HP Chromebook X2 11: The best detachable Chromebook for students

Price: £549 | Buy now from Currys

Students looking for a 2-in-1 laptop on a budget might find HP’s latest Chromebook hard to beat. It’s the nearest thing to a Chrome OS version of Microsoft’s Surface Go 3 and Surface Pro 8, with a slightly bigger screen and better real-world performance than the former, plus a much lower price tag than the latter.

Shorn of its clip-on keyboard cover and magnetic back cover, it works just like a tablet but with the bundled accessories attached it functions just like an ultraportable laptop. It’s versatile and great for working in places where you haven’t got a huge amount of space.

On paper, it shouldn’t feel much faster than the Surface Go 3 but, in practice, Chrome OS and web apps are light on resources, and you’ll find the overall experience very smooth, even with a half-dozen browser tabs open and video streaming in the background. Add an impressive Full HD screen and an 11-hour battery life and you have a great choice for working on the move, although you might want to plug in a bigger screen if you have a lot of research and coursework to plough through.

We’d like a bit more body to the keyboard and more warmth and weight to the sound but, otherwise, the Chromebook X2 11 is a fantastically functional 2-in-1 device.

Read our full HP Chromebook X2 11 review for more details

Key specs – Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 7c; RAM: 8GB; Storage: 128GB eMMC; Screen size: 11in; Screen resolution: 2,160 x 1,440; Weight: 1.03kg

Buy now from Currys


7. Acer Chromebook Spin 513: The best low-cost Chromebook for students

Price: £399 | Buy now from Currys

If money’s tight – and it usually is for students – this low-cost Chromebook is a seriously strong option. It’s a 2-in-1 convertible Chromebook with a 13.3in Full HD screen, and it’s slim and light enough to tackle even the toughest day on campus. Yet it can be yours for under £400.

The trick is that it uses Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 7c chipset; one of the first specifically designed by the smartphone chip giant for powering laptop and desktop computers. The Spin 513 is no computing powerhouse, but it’s fast enough for taking notes, writing coursework, editing photos, and doing research on the Web, and it’ll run for over ten hours without a top-up.

You can use it as a massive tablet or put it in tent mode for a Netflix binge, and you still get an effective keyboard and touchpad. And while the screen isn’t the brightest, it’s not the anaemic, low-contrast horror you might expect for the money. As long as you’re happy running Web-based or Android apps, this is a cracking laptop at a price most can afford.

Read our Acer Chromebook Spin 513 review for more details

Key specs – Processor: Qualcomm 7c; RAM: 4GB; Storage: 64GB eMMC; Screen size: 13.3in; Screen resolution: 1,920 x 1,080; Weight: 1.29kg

Buy now from Currys


8. Honor MagicBook 15: Best value big screen laptop for students

Price: £649 | Buy now from Currys

If you’re looking for pure screen acreage on a student budget, the Honor MagicBook 15 is an excellent choice. It has a beautiful design, handles day-to-day PC tasks with ease, and offers better battery life, colour accuracy and CPU performance than similar, higher priced rivals such as the Huawei Matebook D15 (2020). As an added perk, we found that this laptop's battery recharged pretty quickly, which is especially handy if you forgot to plug in the night before an important lecture.

The MagicBook 15’s main strength is in its design. Its keyboard, speakers and build quality are a masterclass in minimalism. Featured here is an all-metal body and smooth matte finish that’s complemented by extremely narrow bezels that make the 15.6in display seem even larger. In terms of connectivity, you’ll get a USB-A 2.0 port, 3.5mm headphone jack, a USB-C port, a USB-A 3.2 Gen 1 port and an HDMI output port. While the keyboard has a quiet 1.3mm actuation point that doesn’t require loud hammering for note-taking, we did find that the fans can be a tad noisy – a small gripe in an otherwise excellent student laptop.

Read our full Honor MagicBook 15 review for more details

Key specs – Processor: AMD Ryzen 5 5500U with Integrated AMD Radeon GPU; RAM: 8GB; Storage: 512GB SSD; Screen size: 15.6in; Screen resolution: 1,920 x 1,080; Weight: 1.5kg

Buy now from Currys


9. Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 2: The best budget Windows laptop

Price: From £549 | Buy now from Microsoft

The original Microsoft Surface Laptop Go occupied this slot on the list for years, but now there's a new contender: the Go 2. It won't set the world on fire as an update, but Microsoft has made just enough changes to make it the best cheap Windows laptop for students.

First, it looks stunning: the lid and keyboard are crafted from matte-finish aluminium, while it weighs an ultraportable 1.1kg. That makes it ideal for carrying to lectures. Open the smooth hinge and you'll be greeted by a keyboard that's satisfying to use and a 12.4in, 1,536 x 1,024 touchscreen display that's crisp and accurate.

Inside, you're getting more than enough performance grunt for studying, writing and even photo-editing tasks. It won't conk out halfway through the day, either, with a battery life of 9hrs 36mins in our video-rundown test. That's over two hours longer than the first Laptop Go.

In short, there's very little not to like about the Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 2. Yes, it could have more ports (you're only getting one USB-C and USB-A), but this is an exceptional and affordable main machine that won't let you down.

Key specs – Processor: Intel Core i5-1135G7; RAM: 8GB; Storage: 256GB SSD; Screen size: 12.4in; Screen resolution: 1,536 x 1,024; Weight: 1.1kg

Buy now from Microsoft


10. Acer Swift 5 (2021): A Windows laptop to rival the MacBook Air

Price: £899 | Buy now from Amazon

If you've got a grand to spend on a student laptop, our first recommendation would be the MacBook Air above. But if you're not a fan of macOS and want to stick with Windows, the new Acer Swift 5 is an excellent choice.

The entry-level model we tested houses an 11th-generation Intel Core i5 processor, 8GB of RAM, integrated Intel Iris Xe graphics and a 512GB SSD and performed well across our various performance and benchmarking tests. The Swift 5 remained cool and ran quietly throughout those tests, which is always reassuring, and battery life clocked in at a very respectable 11hrs 15mins.

With connection ports aplenty, a colourful, vibrant touchscreen display and weighing a mere 1kg, the Acer Swift 5 is a highly capable, ultraportable laptop that you won't regret spending a chunk of your student loan on.

Read our Acer Swift 5 (2021) review for details

Key specs – Processor: Intel Core i5-1135G7 RAM: 8GB; Storage: 512GB SSD; Screen size: 14in; Screen resolution: 1,920 x 1,080p; Weight: 1.05kg

11. Microsoft Surface Laptop 4 13.5in: The best Microsoft laptop for students

Price: From £699 | Buy now from John Lewis

Much like its third-generation predecessor, the Surface Laptop 4 is a high-quality ultraportable laptop. It's wonderfully light, looks great and its 13.5in touchscreen is superb. The 2,256 x 1504 resolution display is limited to covering the sRGB colour gamut but does so very capably, covering over 95% of it with excellent accuracy. Peak brightness is high enough to ensure readability in most conditions, although the screen's glossy finish does catch reflections, which is important to remember if you plan on studying outdoors.

There are both AMD and Intel-powered models available, but the base specification houses an AMD Ryzen 5 4860U processor, 8GB RAM and 256GB SSD. We tested a model with very similar specs (the review unit housed 16GB RAM and isn't available in the UK) and the Surface Laptop 4 actually outperformed the M1 MacBook Air in our in-house 4K media benchmark test. However, its graphical credentials are less impressive and battery life falls short of other attractive student laptops such as the Dell XPS 13, Samsung Galaxy Book Pro and aforementioned MacBook Air.

Although it can't quite overhaul the M1 MacBook Air as the best value ultraportable student laptop on the market, the Surface Laptop 4 is a device any student would happy to own and use as their day-to-day work machine.

Read our Microsoft Surface Laptop 4 review for details

Key specs – Processor: AMD Ryzen 5 4680U; RAM: 8GB; Storage: 256GB; Screen size: 13.5in; Screen resolution: 2,256 x 1,504; Weight: 1.27kg

12. LG Gram 17: The best large-screen laptop for students

Price: From £1,099 | Buy now from Amazon

If your studies require the use of a large screen you won't find a better-equipped laptop than the LG Gram 17. It's powered by 11th-generation Intel silicon and delivers speedy performance coupled with impressive battery life.

At just 1.35kg, it's the lightest laptop of its size and the keyboard feels good to type on, plus there's a number pad too, which is a welcome inclusion. The 17in display is the star of the show, however, covering 99% of the DCI-P3 colour gamut with excellent accuracy. The 16:10 aspect ratio makes the screen a joy to work on and a polarising layer helps readability outdoors despite the screen's glossy finish.

If you're after a laptop that works brilliantly as both a mobile workstation and desktop replacement, the LG Gram 17 is pretty much the perfect solution - just make sure you've got a bag big enough to carry it around. Should the 17in model be a tad too large for your requirements, the Gram 16 offers a very similar experience in a more compact package.

Read our full LG Gram 17 (2021) review for details

Key specs – Processor: Intel Core i5-1135G7 or i7-1165G7; RAM: 8 or 16GB; Storage: 512GB or 1TB SSD; Screen size: 17in; Screen resolution: 2,560 x 1,600; Weight: 1.35kg

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