Best Laptops for Students 2017: 9 great-value laptops for making notes and media production

It’s almost back-to-school time, so we’ve put together a roundup of the nine laptops we believe will best serve the needs of school, college and university students. 

There are a variety of laptops available in the market, and picking a single machine to cover the array of activities for which a student might need a device 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, which includes a section of machines as well as 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.

While this guide covers laptops, it’s worth remembering that if you already have a desktop PC or will only be making sparse notes, then a laptop might not be what you need at all. For example, consider the Google Pixel C, a lightweight Android tablet with a keyboard dock that you can take with you everywhere. Got a bit more cash, perhaps one of the new iPad Pros will be more your thing? Even the Lenovo Yoga Book, which is certainly of niche appeal, might be your best bet.

This Week’s Best Laptop Deals

Asus VivoBook E200HA at Amazon.co.uk | Was £229.99 | Now £167.99

Lenovo Ideapad 510S at Amazon.co.uk | Was £669.99 | Now £519.99

Asus ZenBook UX310UA at Amazon.co.uk | Was £799.99 | Now £669.99

Microsoft Surface Pro at Amazon.co.uk | Was £1249 | Now £1179

Acer Chromebook 14 at Amazon.com | Was $299 | Now $259

Asus ZenBook UX310UA at Amazon.com | Was $759.99 | Now $669.99

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Key features:

  • Quad-core Intel Atom processor
  • 11.1-inch 1366 x 768-pixel screen
  • Weight: 980g
  • 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 damage. We should know, after all: a member of the TrustedReviews 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 budget laptops, there are some compromises. Of course, the biggest is performance: realistically, you’ll only be able to have a few active tabs open at a time when browsing the web before it starts to chug.

If you’re prepared compromise middling performance for 12 hours of battery life, however, the Asus VivoBook E200HA is well worth it.

View now at Amazon

Read the full Asus VivoBook E200HA review

Acer Swift 1

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Key features:

  • 1.1-2.5GHz Intel Pentium N4200
  • 4GB memory
  • 13.3-inch Full HD display
  • Weight: 1.3kg
  • Review price: £350

Acer’s Swift lineup brings premium design at a sub-£400 price point. This 1.3kg, 13.3-inch machine is one of the nicest-looking budget laptops available today, and it offers impressive performance elsewhere, too.

The screen, for example, is surprisingly good for the money, packing a Full HD resolution, good viewing angles and a solid user experience overall. Battery life is less than Acer claimed it would be, but with conservative use this laptop should be able to make it through most of a school day.

Since this laptop is powered by a low-power Intel Pentium processor, performance is leisurely. This effectively means you’ll need to balance the programs and browser tabs you have open at once to ensure you don’t overload it. But if you’re already coming from a cheap laptop, this shouldn’t come as much surprise.

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Read the full Acer Swift 1 review

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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’s effectively a glorified web browser.

Since everything from emails to photo editing and writing documents can now be done from within web apps, there isn’t much that you can’t do on a Chromebook that you can do on a Windows machine.

The Acer Chromebook 14 looks near-identical to a MacBook Air, with an aluminium composite body and black chiclet keyboard. It’s slightly bigger, but weighs in at just 1.55kg – which is pretty light for a 14-inch laptop.

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

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Read the full Acer Chromebook 14 review

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Key features:

  • 1.1-2.5GHz Intel Pentium N4200
  • 4GB RAM
  • 14-inch Full HD screen
  • Weight: 1.5kg
  • Review price: £300

The L403 is a similar offering to the Acer Swift 1, coming equipped with a low-power Intel Pentium processor, 4GB of RAM and an attractive price point. The L403 is a decent mid-sized portable laptop, weighing in at just 1.5kg.

We had a build-quality issue with the keyboard – which we believe was just bad luck – but, nonetheless, it’s worth remembering that when you don’t pay a lot for a laptop, you might run into minor problems.

The screen is a Full HD model, and we weren’t particularly impressed by its viewing angles. But the faults are made up for by the excellent battery life of around nine hours. If you’re going to be in lectures taking notes all day, this is a great companion.

Read the full Asus VivoBook L403 review

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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 it isn’t it won’t suffice for proper video or photo editing due to its lack of colour coverage.

For the money, there isn’t a lot better on the market than the Swift 3. Be warned, however, Acer has launched a new version of the Swift 3 – and, like many things affected by the crazy-world currency markets, this model offers you a bit less for your money. It’s still good, but you should grab 2016 models while you can.

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Read the full Acer Swift 3 2016 review

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Key features:

  • Dual-core Intel Core i7-6500U
  • 256GB SSD and 500GB hard disk
  • 13.3-inch 3,200 x 1,800-pixel screen
  • Weight: 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 weighs just 1.45kg, and it manages working battery life of around six 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 with ease.

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

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Read the full Asus ZenBook UX310UA review

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Key features:

  • Core m3, Core i5 (both fanless) and Core i7 options
  • 4-16GB RAM
  • 12.3-inch, 2736 x 1824-pixel touchscreen display
  • Surface Pen
  • Review price: £2149
  • Starting price: £799 (£719 for students)

Microsoft’s latest Surface Pro retains its crown as the finest premium 2-in-1 tablet on the market right now. And it’s an even better deal for students, with prices starting at just £719 for a basic, Intel Core m3-powered model.

We reviewed one of the top-spec, most powerful Core i7 models, but the cheaper, lesser-equipped models will be perfectly fine for those with light usage demands, who only want to take notes on the excellent touchscreen.

You’ll need to pay extra for the keyboard and stylus additions, which is a trifle mean, Microsoft – but some retailers occasionally sell bundles including one or the other.

Alternatives include the Asus Transformer 3 Pro and the Samsung Galaxy Book, which both have their own strengths and weaknesses, but are much cheaper.

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Read the full Microsoft Surface Pro review

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Key features:

  • Intel Core i5 or i7 processors
  • 8GB RAM
  • 128-256GB SSD
  • 14-inch Full HD display
  • Weight: 1.7kg
  • Review price: £450

The Ideapad 510S will soon be replaced by the Ideapad 520S, but there are still plenty of last year’s model on sale. And they’re great.

While the 510S is a bit of a heavyweight at 1.7kg, it manages excellent build quality, good performance (you can pick up a Core i7 model for under £650) and a decent screen, which ticks a lot of boxes.

Battery life is excellent, too, with our battery tests posting a score of 10 hours. A full day of work on the 510S is very possible.

All in all, the 510S is a great mid-range machine for students who need a trusty companion for lectures and need to be able to work from the library – and it’s capable of some media-editing workloads to boot.

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Read the full Lenovo Ideapad 510S review

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Key features:

  • 2.8-3.8GHz Intel Core i7-7700HQ
  • 4GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 Ti
  • 16GB RAM
  • 256GB SSD, 1TB hard disk
  • 15.6-inch Full HD screen
  • Weight: 2.65kg
  • Review price: £1099

If you fancy yourself as a gamer and need a machine powerful enough for video editing and photography work, the Inspiron 15 Gaming is a great choice.

We love its powerful processor and great graphics chip for Full HD gaming, and the 256GB SSD is fast enough to keep the system ticking over nicely. Even battery life is excellent.

Our main complaint is the Full HD screen, which isn’t very good. The main problem is viewing angles, which are narrow and leave the screen looking dark and unsaturated. It isn’t a complete deal breaker, though; plus there are models with higher-quality, IPS screens, available. Dell has also said that the cheaper models will eventually all come with better screens, although this hasn’t happened yet.

Of the new breed of sub-£1000 gaming laptops, the Inspiron 15 Gaming is our favourite so far.

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Read the full Dell Inspiron 15 7000 Gaming review

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