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Best Laptops for Students 2017: 8 laptops for light work and media production

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Laptops for students aren't always the obvious choices for everybody else. We've picked eight of our top picks for best student laptop.

The world of laptops is full of variety, and picking one single machine to cover the variety of activities a student gets up to is certainly a tough ask. Take a look at our Top 10 Tips to Follow when buying a laptop, then look at our list of top choices below

We also have a more general Best Laptop buying guide, with a larger variety of machines and a few more expensive options. Gaming more your thing? Check out our Best Gaming Laptop guide for some proper gaming beasts.

Whether you're on a course that requires you to work on 3D graphics, videos or photography, or you just want a bargain basement machine to sling into your bag as you dash out of halls on your way to a Monday morning lecture, there are tonnes of great deals out there just waiting to be snaffled.

The 2017 back-to-school season will be starting soon, so a mix of new laptops and great deals on last year's laptops will start flowing in. Stay tuned to this page for deals as they arrive.

While this guide covers laptops, it's worth remembering that if you already have a desktop PC or will only be making sparse notes, you might not even need a proper laptop to get what you need done. For example, consider the Google Pixel C, a tiny, lightweight Android tablet with a keyboard dock that you can take with you everywhere without even thinking about it. Got a bit more cash, perhaps one of the new iPad Pros is more your thing? Even the Lenovo Yoga Book, which is certainly of niche appeal, might be your best bet.

This Week's Best Laptops Deals

Surface 3 at Amazon.com | Was $499 | Now $319

Asus Zenbook UX305 at Amazon.com | Was $699 | Now $635

Asus E200HA
Key features:
  • Weighs just 980g
  • Quad-core Intel Atom processor
  • 11.1-inch 1366x768-pixel screen
  • Review price: £230

Best cheap laptop for students

This is our new favourite netbook for a few reasons: First, it's one of the lightest laptops we've ever reviewed, but feels robust enough to be slung into any bag without immediately taking damage. We should know; a member of the Trusted team owns the previous generation of this device, the X205TA, and despite undergoing a huge amount of abuse, it's still rocking to this day after two years.

Like any cheap laptops, there are compromises. Of course, the biggest is performance: you'll only be able to realistically have a few active tabs open at a time when browsing the web before it starts chugging.

But if you're prepared to expect middling performance for 12-hour battery life, it's well worth it.

Best Under £200

Key features:
  • 11.6-inch, 1,366 x 768 display
  • Free Office 365 Personal subscription
  • Excellent speakers and battery life
  • Review price: £179.99
If you’re on a really tight budget and don’t want a Chromebook, you can’t go wrong with the HP Stream 11. It’s a Windows 8.1 laptop that costs less than £200, which is astonishing. It also comes bundled with a one-year subscription to Microsoft Office 365 Personal worth £59.99 and 1TB of OneDrive cloud storage, where you can stash all of your files and photos.
 
Unusually for a machine this cheap, it doesn’t look like a piece of slate was used as the Stream’s main design influence. Instead, it comes clad in either bright blue or pink plastic, resulting in a bold, eye-catching look. It’s also slim and light enough to fit easily into any messenger bag or rucksack, and comes with a wide selection of ports.
 
The only real sticking point is the display, which is a grainy 11.6-inch, 1,366 x 768 affair. It’s not terrible, but you won’t be able to watch Full HD movies on it. The DTS stereo speakers are nice and loud, however, so music sounds great, and the HP Truevision HD webcam is good enough for Skype video calls.
 
Performance, powered by a 2.16GHz (2.58GHz with burst) Intel Celeron N2840 processor and 2GB of RAM, is suited to light activities like word processing and browsing the web, but it can handle HD videos too. The battery will typically provide eight hours of mixed use, which should just about get you through a heavy day of lectures.

Acer Chromebook 14
Key features
  • Thin and light metal design
  • Great battery life
  • Chrome OS
  • Review price: 289

Chromebooks offer an excellent alternative to more expensive Windows laptops, with the only trade-off being a much more simple operating system that is effectively a glorified web browser.

Since everything from emails to photo edition and writing documents can now be done from with web apps, there’s not an awful lot you can’t do in some way on a Chromebook that you can do on a Windows machine.

The Acer Chromebook 14 looks almost exactly like a MacBook Air, with an aluminium composite body and black chiclet keyboard. It’s slightly bigger but still weighs just 1.55kg, which is pretty light for a 14-inch laptop.

It’s not powerful; its Intel Celeron processor is only capable of lightweight tasks, but with long battery life it’s a great secondary PC for when you’re out on campus or heading into class.

Acer Swift 3
Key features:
  • Thin, all metal design
  • Good battery life
  • SSD included
  • Review price: £650

The student appeal of the Swift 3 is down to its great performance and light weight. This 14-inch machine weighs in at 1.5kg, which is easily light enough to sling into a bag. There's a choice of specifications starting at just £500 for a Core i3 model, with our best pick being the dual-core Core i5 and 256GB SSD for £650.

Battery life is solid at over seven hours, and the Full HD screen is good for the money, although not good enough for proper video or photo editing due to its lack of colour coverage. 

For the money, there's not a lot better than the Swift 3.

HP Pavilion 15-au072sa
Key features:
  • Dual-core Intel Core i3 processor
  • 15-inch display
  • Decent battery life
  • Review price: £399


The HP Pavilion 15 earned itself a fairly modest score in our review, but it’s still a decent laptop for those with light usage demands. Its big screen and relatively powerful Intel Core i3-6100U processor make browsing and word processing work nice and easy.

It even looks good, with a lovely white design that stands out amongst the many black laptop slabs you’ll see around.

We weren’t blown away by the speed of the hard disk or the quality of the screen, but this is the sort of laptop that gradually gets cheaper and cheaper over time, so it is well worth a look.

Best Cheap Hybrid

Key features:
  • 10.8-inch, 1,920 x 1,280 display
  • microSD card slot
  • Nine-hour battery life
  • Complementary Office 365 subscription
  • Review price: £575
Essentially a smaller, cheaper version of the Surface Pro 3, the Surface 3 is a great option for students who need a tablet that can serve their basic computing needs. The 10.8-inch display is generous yet practical, and it only weighs 887g with the keyboard attached.

It isn’t the most powerful Windows machine, but it’s versatile, stylish and fun to use. Battery life is excellent and the core features, including the screen, connections and keyboard, are all impressive. Our only criticism is that it’s awkward to use on your lap.

Asus ZenBook UX310UA
Key features:
  • Dual-core Intel Core i7-6500U
  • 256GB SSD and 500GB hard disk
  • 13.3-inch 3,200x1,800-pixel screen
  • 1.45kg
  • Review price: £800

One of the best-value ultraportables around, the Asus ZenBook UX310UA is a great choice for students who want a machine that’s both light and powerful.

It’s relatively light at 1.45kg and manages working battery life of around 6 hours at relatively low brightness.

Performance is great, too. That sprightly SSD works nicely with the Core i7 processor to make Full HD video editing smooth, and it also handles photo editing easily.

There are several models available starting at £550. The best overall compromise is probably the £650 Core i5-powered machine that’ll still manage decent multimedia performance.

Asus N552VW 5

Key features:

  • Powerful processing and graphics performance
  • Ultra HD screen
  • SSD and HDD combination
  • Review price: £979

It may not be much to look at, but the Asus N552VW is an excellent laptop for students who work in demanding multimedia courses that require the use of 3D graphics and video editing. What's more, the dedicated graphics card on this machine will be more than powerful enough for Full HD gaming when the work eases off (or your procrastinating).

What's more, its Ultra HD screen means those on photography courses will be well served. Battery life isn't great, so this isn't a laptop for taking off campus. With that said, it'll last as long as your average lecture so if you prefer to take notes on your laptop, it'll do just fine.

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