What is the best student laptop in 2020?
These days, having the best student laptop possible is even more important for your studies than sharpening all your pencils. This is especially true since schools and universities across the globe have been conducting more lessons remotely.
To make it easier for you to find the best student laptop possible, we’ve assembled a list of latest and greatest device that we’ve reviewed, including picks from Apple, Microsoft and Google.
1. Honor MagicBook 14 (2020)
Best value Student Laptop
- Student-friendly premium style
- Superb value
- Pleasant typing experience
- More than capable productivity performance
- Webcam position on keyboard
- Below average display
We reckon your best student laptop bet is the Honor MagicBook 14 (2020). With a £549.99 price, it may not be described as ‘cheap’, but since it boasts similar ultrabook quality to rivals that cost a few hundred quid more, it represents fantastic value.
With MacBook styling, decent Ryzen-based performance and a solid keyboard, the MagicBook hits all the core needs for students. It’s also got a decent port selection, which will prove useful to anyone frequently backing up work via an external hard drive or USB stick.
There is one major drawback with this laptop though, as the webcam is located under the keyboard, popping up when prompted. With video calls now a frequent focus in education, having your tutor and fellow students see up your nostril may be a massive turn off, but that can always be addressed with an external webcam.
- Read our full Honor MagicBook 14 (2020) review
2. Lenovo Chromebook Duet
Best budget student laptop
- Very affordable price
- Bundled keyboard offers versatility
- Superb screen for video content
- Excellent battery life
- Lack of headphone jack
- Poor speaker quality
- Keyboard is uncomfortably small
If you’re a bargain hunter looking for the best possible student laptop deal, then you need to check out the Lenovo Chromebook Duet. At just £299.99 you get the tablet device itself, a detachable keyboard and a cover that can also be used as a stand. This is basically the same deal as the iPad and Surface Go 2, but at a significantly cheaper price since the accessories are included in the box.
The biggest problem for students is the keyboard. It’s great as far as detachable keyboards go, but those who need to hammer out 10,000-word essays on the frequent may want the real deal instead, as typing on the small keys can get uncomfortable.
But if you just need a device for jotting down notes, writing up homework and conducting research by browsing the web, then the Duet won’t let you down. With all that in mind, this is probably a better bet for school children rather than anyone heading off to university.
- Read our full Lenovo Chromebook Duet review
3. Surface Laptop 3
Best all-rounder student laptop if you’re happy to pay more
- Classy, ultra-portable design
- Excellent performance
- Stunning 3:2 display
- Fantastic keyboard
- Middling battery life
- Lack of Thunderbolt 3
While the Surface Laptop 3 isn’t our absolute favourite productivity laptop (that title goes to the Dell XPS 13 2020), we chose to include it since it’s incredibly good value when benefiting from the student discount, seeing the price tumble down to a decent £899.
Yup, we know that’s still pretty expensive, but in return you’re getting one of the very best laptop processors available, which even allows you to dabble with casual gaming and video editing thanks to the Ice Lake integrated graphics.
The Surface Laptop 3 is available in a range of colours for slick styling, features one of our favourite laptop keyboards and has a 3:2 screen that’s ideal for browsing the web. The underwhelming battery life (around six hours) is the only fly in the ointment, but that should still easily last you through your lectures.
- Read our full Surface Laptop 3 13 review
4. Apple MacBook Pro 16-inch
Best student laptop for creative courses
- Incredibly powerful
- Bigger display still looks stunning
- Scissor keyboard a huge improvement
- More stylish with smaller bezel
- Very expensive
- Stingy port offering
- Lack of Wi-Fi 6
The Apple MacBook Pro 16-inch stands out like a sore thumb in this ‘best student laptop’ list, being over a grand more expensive than every other entry. But if you’re a design or animation student who needs that extra GPU grunt, then the MacBook Pro is our top recommendation.
Apple has made a number of improvements to its latest Pro laptop, most notably being the switch to the scissor-switch keyboard for an excellent typing experience. The bezel has also been slimmed down, not only resulting in a more modern-looking design, but also allowing Apple to fit a slightly larger screen.
But while this is undoubtedly a fantastic laptop, it’s also extremely expensive. If you’re studying a university course that only requires you to take notes and hammer out essays, then the MacBook Pro is overkill. Only consider the MacBook Pro an option if you’re on a creative-focused course such as graphic and game design.
It’s also worth taking note that Apple looks set to refresh the MacBook Pro in 2021 with its own Apple Silicon processor. If you can wait that long, we recommend doing so but simultaneously understand that may not be possible if your courses start in September.
- Read our full MacBook Pro 16-inch review
5. Apple iPad 7 (with Smart Keyboard)
Best Apple tablet for students
- iPadOS is great
- Support for Pencil and Keyboard
- Bigger 10.2in display
- The display isn’t laminated
- 32GB starting storage feels low
Okay, so the Apple iPad 7 isn’t strictly a ‘laptop’ but pair it with the sold-separately Smart Keyboard and it practically becomes one. The keys may not be as good as those found on a traditional laptop, but for note taking at lectures or homework for high school students, it shouldn’t be an issue.
It’s worth bearing in mind that you’re locked to the iPadOS software here, so can’t go download anything you see like with Microsoft Windows. That said, Apple’s store is very robust, allowing access to the likes of Microsoft Word and Photoshop.
The main appeal here is the price. The total cost of the iPad 7 and Smart Keyboard comes to £508, which is cheaper than most alternatives. Plus, the tablet form-factor comes in handy for video streaming and on-screen doodling, giving it oodles of versatility.
- Read our full Apple iPad 7 review
6. Avita Pura
Best budget Windows laptop
- Decent screen for the price
- Pleasing typing experience
- Good port selection
- Great for basic needs
- Durable plastic build
- Poor speakers
- Chunky bezel
- More expensive model faces tougher competition
Not willing to sacrifice Windows but want a cheap-as-chips laptop? We hear you. The Avita Pura is the best compromise, running on the Windows 10 in S Mode operating system and available at a very enticing price. This is essentially Microsoft’s take on ChromeOS, with the laptop focusing mainly on apps and restricting third-party downloads, but the likes of Microsoft Word, Netflix and Spotify all work here.
The Pura offers a great all-round performance at its budget price, featuring a superb keyboard, decent display and plenty of ports for you to stuff your USB sticks into. The design isn’t quite as luxurious as your typical Windows laptop, but that’s to be expected at this price. There are, however, a multitude of colour options to make it stick out of the grey and silver laptop crowd.
- Read our full Avita Pura Review
7. Google PixelBook Go
Best Chromebook for college students
- Fantastic keyboard
- An attractive and understated look
- Impressive battery life
- Android apps on Chrome can be useful (even if buggy)
- Can get far too expensive if you upgraded specs
- No fingerprint scanner / facial unlock
- Have to get the top model for 4K screen
Chromebooks are a Marmite subject, as while generally being an incredibly affordable option, they also typically suffer slow CPU speeds and flimsy designs. The Google PixelBook Go is a fantastic compromise, set at a fairly reasonable price while also flaunting the same quality you’d typically find from a premium ultrabook.
With impressive battery life (it lasts 11 hours and 45 minutes during our testing) and decent performance, this Chromebook should make a good companion for your studies, whether that’s completing high-school homework or university-level essays. It’s also more powerful than the Duet, and so can breeze through web browsers without much slowdown.
However, we’d recommend only considering the £629 model, as the more high-spec configurations are simply too expensive – you might as well get a proper Windows 10 laptop when approaching the £1000 price point.
- Read our full Google PixelBook Go review
8. Apple MacBook Air (2020)
Best lightweight Apple student laptop
- New keyboard is a huge improvement
- The most affordable Mac
- Design still holds up
- Great speakers and fast Touch ID
- Performance not as good as Windows rivals
- Little improvement to battery life
- Terrible webcam
- Port layout is a bit annoying
The MacBook Air (2020) is a great student laptop choice if you’re invested in Apple’s ecosystem but don’t want to pay a pretty penny for the all-powerful Pro model. Weighing just 1.29kg, it’s dead easy to carry around and has all the desired specs to power through productivity tasks thanks to the jump to Intel’s 10th Generation processors.
The most welcome upgrade of all for the MacBook Air is the move to a scissor-switch keyboard, making the keys significantly more comfortable to type on. The laptop also comes in multiple colour options, so you’re not limited to boring silver.
There are a couple of limitations. There’s no USB-A port, and the webcam is pretty poor which is unfortunate given current circumstances. You can also get more powerful Windows laptops at a cheaper price such as the Honor MagicBook 14 and Surface Laptop 3. But if you’d watch stick to Apple’s polished macOS software, then the MacBook Air (2020) is still a superb student laptop option.
- Read our full Apple MacBook Air (2020) review
9. Surface Pro 7
Best 2-in-1 student laptop
- Full-fat Windows 10 application library
- Excellent connectivity
- Solid build quality
- Type Cover costs extra
- Not a big step up from Surface Pro 6
Fancy a tablet as well as a laptop? The Surface Pro 7 is capable of filling both roles when accompanied by the (sold separately) Type Cover. And since you can knock the price down with a student discount on the Microsoft store, it proves an excellent proposition for your studies.
A 10th Generation Intel Core chip ensures this device, despite its tiny size, is just as capable as more expensive ultrabooks. Microsoft also offers a slew of different accessories, including the S-Pen stylus. You will have to spend extra for such accessories, but having the option is still a plus in our books.
If you just want a classic clamshell laptop design, then you’ll find better value elsewhere. But if you reckon you’ll get a lot of use out of the tablet form factor, then the Surface Pro 7 gets a big thumbs up from us. And if that isn’t powerful enough for you, consider the Surface Book 3 instead.
- Read our full Surface Pro 7 review
10. Asus ROG Zephyrus G14
Best student laptop for gamers
- Incredible CPU performance
- Great for Full HD gaming
- Ultra-portable design
- Impressive battery life
- Lack of RGB lighting
- No integrated webcam
- Underwhelming SSD speeds
Moving across the country (or abroad) to university means it’s unlikely you’ll be able to justify lugging a titan-sized gaming PC with you. If you don’t want to sacrifice your hobby, then you’ll want a laptop that can handle both gaming and student duties; step in the Asus ROG Zephyrus G14.
Hitting the scales at 1.69kg means the Zephyrus G14 is one of the lighter gaming laptops and should be fairly easy to carry around in a bag. It also has a superior battery life to most rivals, managing to last six and half hours when sticking to basic tasks such as web browsing and video streaming. Asus has not had to sacrifice gaming performance to achieve all this either, with our benchmark results showing the RTX 2060 model can handle any AAA title in Full HD.
And while this configuration is admittedly expensive for students, the upcoming RTX 1650 variation will cost just £1000, making it a good-value option for any student looking to juggle gaming and coursework as efficiently as possible.
- Read our full Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 review