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Best Laptops for Students in 2016: 8 great notebooks

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Best Chromebook

The school and university term starts sooner than you think, and it's time to start thinking about choosing a laptop. Here we take you through the buying process and show you what we think are the best laptops for students that we've reviewed.

As ever, there's a huge amount of choice on the market, so we've rounded up some super cheap machines along with some mid-range and high-end devices for those who prioritise power over portability.

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.

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.

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?

Watch – Trusted Explains: Laptops vs Tablets, which is best for you?

Our list includes models running all three of the major operating systems: Microsoft’s Windows, Apple’s OS X and Google’s Chrome OS. Chromebooks tend to be the cheapest of these, since functionality largely depends on being connected to the internet.

MacBooks, meanwhile, are several times more expensive, but are superbly built and subject to Apple Education discounts. Windows is the most wide-ranging OS, and runs on budget, mid-market and high-end models.

Hit the dropdown menu above to head straight to our short reviews or read on for more buying advice.

This Week's Best Laptops For Students Deals

We've found you great deals on laptops for students we recommend you buy.

HP Stream 11 at Amazon.co.uk | Was £179.99 | Now £149.99

Surface 3 at Amazon.co.uk | Was £575 | Now £389

MacBook Air 13 inch 2015 at Amazon.co.uk | Was £849 | Now £780

Asus N552VW at Amazon.co.uk | Was £1,100 | Now £959

Surface 3 at Amazon.com | Was $600 | Now $410

Asus Zenbook UX305 at Amazon.com | Was $815 | Now $725

MacBook Air 13-inch at Amazon.com | Was $1,099 | Now $961

Laptops for Students Things to consider

What makes the best laptop for a student? Here are few things to consider when looking for your perfect laptop.

Design and Build Quality

Nobody really wants to be weighed down by a laptop that breaks bag straps and functions better as a desktop. Thanks to more efficient hardware, fewer laptops require fans and so they’re getting thinner, lighter and more attractive by the year. All of the models in our round-up would fit comfortably into any standard rucksack or messenger bag and weigh comfortably less than 1.5kg.

We’ve also included highly-versatile hybrids that serve as both laptops and tablets. They’re equally adept at being used for typing up essays as they are for watching movies in bed or reading on the bus. A further bonus is that you won’t need to shell out on two separate devices. Generally, unless you need a more powerful laptop, it's best to look at thinner and lighter laptops under 2kg in weight.

Performance and Price

Hardware doesn’t just affect design, of course. Today’s best chips are powerful enough to handle complex 3D games and video editing, but they come at a cost, only featuring in the most expensive laptops.

The three priciest laptops in this round-up can be snagged for less than £700, depending on configurations and student discounts. They'll allow you to dabble with games and editing, but if you require a machine that can blast through such high-intensity tasks, we'd recommend shelling out extra to equip your model with a faster processor and additional RAM.

Generally speaking, however, students are restricted by tight budgets, and are thus constrained to the lower end of the market. Four of the laptops in this round-up cost less than £400, but offer excellent value for money. They're suitable for casual use, such as word processing, web browsing and streaming.

Battery Life

Unless you have guaranteed access to a power socket, there’s no point taking a laptop into university with you if you know it’ll run out of battery before the end of the day. Most of the laptops included here are well up for the task, and a couple are capable of going for over 10 hours between charges. That's enough to conquer even the most gruelling of lecture timetables, even if your brain can't.

Screen and Sound

Movies and entertainment are central to all students’ university experience, so it’s important to keep an eye out for display size and quality. Resolution isn’t everything, with colour reproduction, black levels and viewing angles each dramatically affecting picture quality. While screens measuring 10 inches and below are great for using on the go, reading on the bus for instance, 11-inch%2B panels offer a vastly superior movie viewing experience.

Related: Best headphones to buy in 2016

Several of the laptops in this list feature touch-enabled displays, which are often easier to interact with than traditional trackpads. The Surface Pro 3 arguably makes the most of this feature, thanks to the seamless integration of its excellent stylus with OneNote.

Sound quality, too, is worth considering, though it’s best to invest in a speaker if you’re serious about your music. While several of the laptops in this round-up deliver in terms of volume and clarity, they're all lacking in one key area – bass.

See also: Best Cheap Tablets

Turn the page to see our top eight laptops for students.

dourscot

September 5, 2013, 9:51 am

You have to be kidding.

Most students want a relatively cheap machine that won't kill their bank account if it gets stolen. A selection of £1,000 machines and a token Chromebook completely misses the mark.

Eric Sutton

September 11, 2013, 9:09 pm

Have to agree with dourscot, the selection is not for students, and the only one affordable is the Chromebook, problem with that machine is the lack of windows and Microsoft office, students need these tools, while google drive/docs is good for everyday common use write a letter, do a simple spreadsheet, it wont meet the benchmark for a university students needs. This review needs to go back to the drawing board and look at machines that are around the £200 to £400 mark with there needs took into account.

andyvan

September 12, 2013, 6:30 am

Thanks for your comments. We totally agree and we will be adding some cheaper models very shortly. We're testing them now.

gazzman

September 24, 2013, 11:55 am

just use zoo office or microsoft outlook on a chromebook if docs not for you.

Woohoo

October 17, 2013, 9:32 am

My daughter's needs at university are not governed by weight - she wanted a big clear screen, and leaves the laptop in her room, not carries it around. She also wanted a dvd drive to watch dvd box sets in down time. Seems to me you can't lump all students together for a suitable laptop - her brother has completely different student needs .... get some students to do some reviews for you!

alex stuart

November 5, 2013, 10:54 am

Your daughter needs a desktop then; a laptop should be portable and weight is an important part of that.

Randomiser

November 28, 2013, 10:24 am

If she is anything like my daughter she needs a laptop. It has to go back and forward between university and home every term and occasional weekends, so it needs to be transportable. Plus she watches DVDs and does lots of work curled up on her bed or a sofa and wants a computer she can use in that position.

Randomiser

November 28, 2013, 10:34 am

So if this is a group of best laptops, where is the list? Frankly, sites that make me work through every page of a group review rather than presenting the list with links on page one are pain in the posterior and a waste of time. I usually resolve to avoid them as much as possible in future.

Smoosh

January 6, 2014, 5:11 pm

These aren't all suitable for students - not all courses are identical (mine requires me to run programmes like AutoCAD and Google Sketch-Up), these aren't as easily run as Microsoft Office, and why are the majority of the laptops listed approximately £1,000? Surely that's too much money to be paying if you're a student or a student's parent?

IDK MAN 1000 is worth it

January 10, 2014, 9:22 pm

I agree and disagree. I agree that all courses aren't the same but the price mark at around 1000 seems pretty good. You pay for things like portability, battery life and an SSD for fast boot-up times.

When you factor in the key essentials, enough processing power and ram to browse, open big PDFs and run the latest MS Office or Open Office, we're looking at an entry level ultra-book.

It's worth paying 1000~ for something that will run well for 8 hours+

Having a machine that instantly boots up is also very beneficial, having an SSD instead of a hybrid or HD means that your laptop boots up instantly in a lecture.

Also - How long will a student own this machine? One year? Two years?

So many decisions.

Chuck

January 25, 2014, 6:42 am

Most of these laptops are either to expensive or just not powerful enough. As a student, what I look for in a laptop are:

Brands - Lenovo, samsung, asus, sony (for sound)
Processor - Intel core i5 3rd gen or higher or amd a8 or better
Bluetooth connectivity ( for my beats )
Battery - Atleast 5 hours of battery life (six cell batteries or better)
Screen size - 15 inches or more
Storage - 500gb HDD or more
Memory - 8 gb of ram or higher
Price range - ${ 400..600 } (roughly 300 - 400 pounds)

Last but not least, don't be afraid to buy refurbished laptops. Before you buy, make sure you find a website where people who have bought that same laptop have left some reviews. Remember to use Ebay!

Gary

February 6, 2014, 6:47 pm

I agree....just give us the list with pros and cons

xDiiThy@GamerzElite

March 12, 2014, 5:25 am

What laptop do u prefer

Chuck

March 12, 2014, 4:55 pm

I prefer a laptop that meets all the requirements I need from a laptop. Right now I have a Lenovo G510. 1Tb HDD, Intel core i5 4th gen, 8 GB ram. Price: ~$500. Although it is a bit bulky, but I don't mind because I usually don't carry it around anyway.

anonymous

March 12, 2014, 8:33 pm

Currently, I own a Toshiba Satellite E55t. 500GB HDD, i5-4200U Haswell 1.6ghz, 4 gb ram, touchscreen 1366x768. It is one of the lighter 15 inch laptops at 4.7 pounds. I got it for $799 in a tablet bundle at bestbuy. the included tablet is a toshiba encore 32gb which has an intel processor and runs win8.1. the laptop alone would cost $629.

MDodgen

March 26, 2014, 7:37 pm

I wish that I had that option for the bundle I could have easily used both this last quarter. happen to know if they're still running this special and if so where?

OMG UR DEAD

April 8, 2014, 11:32 am

I really want a laptop that is good for Minecraft and is cheap. Any suggestions?

Lai H.

April 9, 2014, 4:14 am

Thanks for the list. Even I'm not a student lol

OMG UR DEAD

April 9, 2014, 10:14 am

Ok Thanks!

Daniela Menendez

May 21, 2014, 12:01 am

I want a laptop that sounds great for music and has a long battery life. Some suggestions? Thank you!

liseetsa

June 14, 2014, 10:45 pm

Don't ever buy a sony! My Vaio case started cracking within weeks and is literally taped together. I have a new Dell but still use the Sony for backup. It hasn't been abused in anyway-- just the cheapest plastic case that cracked when I opened it, cracked somewhere else when I lifted it up--crazy. Too many other nice laptops out there to risk it falling apart on your desk. I cannot imagine if I traveled with it?

i <3 Haters

July 14, 2014, 9:17 am

u kidding right? just re-read what you wrote. you'll never find such laptop with 300-400 price range, this is amusing.
If you do however, and I am wrong, then do post here your brand and model, I am very curious

i <3 Haters

July 14, 2014, 9:24 am

As a student, I can advise MacBook Pro 13-15" (2010 and above, non retina, i5-i7, 250-500GB, 2.33-2.66 GHz) that will cost you 400-500 pounds if you find good deal. it is perfect , just PERFECT for everything that students do. You can install full Microsoft Office (paid for free from torrents) you can use any software that universities will require (most of them also have web-versions, so no problem) and you can also install Windows 7 (8 not sure) via BootCamp or Parallels.
I can tell you long stories why Mac is better than PC but let's leave this.
Mac for university = perfection

Jason

July 15, 2014, 10:00 pm

I know nothing about laptops but I am looking for one for college. I saw one in the costco ad:
$499.99
intel core i5 processor
8gb memory
1tb hard drive
dvd-rw
wireless-n
Dell Inspiron 3000 15.6" Laptop

Arka

July 25, 2014, 1:39 pm

asus x552cl even has a graphics card

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