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Best Student Laptop 2022: Top rated laptops for school and university

Trusted Reviews reveals the key things to look out for, how much you should spend and where to find discounts when you’re searching for the best student laptop

Introduction

With school and university now reopen following the start of term, it’s best to make sure you’ve got all the kit you need to make a success of the year. And finding the best student laptop for your studies is arguably the most important job of all.

But walking into Currys doesn’t always guarantee you the best value, so we’ve decided to step in and help. Our team of experts review countless laptops every year, so we’ve decided to create a list of the top rated laptops that fit the bill for students.

Every course and subject has different demands from a laptop, so we’ve made sure to include a great variety of options, from portable devices for on-the-go note taking to powerful machines that can handle a game design course.

Every laptop that we recommend has gone through a thorough testing process, as we use industry-standard benchmark software to compare processing speeds and professional equipment to ensure your screen can display picture perfect imagery.

Struggling to find the right student laptop for your studies in our list? No need to fret, as we’ll be updating this list throughout 2022 and beyond to account for any upcoming releases, such as with the Microsoft Surface Pro 9 or the Surface Laptop 5, if they’re any good of course.

And if you’re happy to widen your search, it’s worth checking out our Best Laptop, Best Budget Laptop and Best Gaming Laptop lists too.

Best student laptops at a glance

How we test

Learn more about how we test laptops

Every laptop we review goes through a series of uniform checks designed to gauge key things including build quality, performance, screen quality and battery life. 

These include formal synthetic benchmarks and scripted tests, plus a series of real world checks, such as how well it runs the most frequently used apps. 

We also make sure to use every laptop we review as our primary device for at least a week to ensure our review is as accurate as possible.

Apple MacBook Air M2 (2022)

Best student laptop you can buy
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Pros

  • Fantastic performance
  • Sleek, updated design
  • Excellent keyboard and trackpad
  • Long battery life

Cons

  • Expensive starting price and upgrades
  • More colours would have been nice
  • The M1 version remains an excellent buy for less

Students shouldn’t feel pressured into spending this much on a laptop, but the MacBook Air M2 (2022) is a great pick for those who can afford it and want a reliable machine that can tackle tasks tougher than simple browsing and word processing.

The M2 chipset at the heart of this machine not only chews through everyday tasks, but it’s more than fast enough for photo editing, 4K video editing and even some gaming. During the review process, our reviewer spent (far) too long playing Football Manager 2022 – for testing purposes, of course.

If your day mainly consists of typing, then the MacBook Air M2 (2022) is one of the best machines on this list. Our reviewer found the keyboard a joy with just enough travel and big function keys. Below the keyboard sits a huge trackpad that’s very responsive, and while this particular MacBook doesn’t feature a Touch Bar, it offers simple function keys in its place like pre-2016 MacBooks.

Battery Life is strong enough to make it through a full day of work. During our testing, the M2 MacBook Air lasted for 14 hours in a video loop test (two hours longer than the previous model). In addition,  the display is great for bouts of Netflix after class, and while it isn’t Mini LED like with the new MacBook Pro, the 13.6-inch IPS LCD panel here is still more than serviceable for work as much as it is for play.

If you don’t need the extra graphics firepower that the latest Air offers, it’s also worth checking out the more affordable MacBook Air M1 laptop. It may be a couple of years older, but it still provides a stellar productivity performance.

Reviewer: Max Parker
Full review: Apple MacBook Air M2 (2022) review

Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 2

The best value student laptop
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Pros

  • Fantastic value for money
  • Extremely portable design
  • Smooth performance for basic tasks
  • Better battery life than the original

Cons

  • Low-resolution display
  • Lack of keyboard backlight
  • No fingerprint scanner on base configuration

If you need a laptop for school or university, there’s a good chance you’ll be on a tight budget and can’t justify spending over a grand. If that’s the case, we recommend checking out Microsoft’s Surface Laptop Go 2.

This is one of the most affordable Windows laptops on the market, and yet still offers excellent build quality and is portable enough for frequent trips to the library.

Its processor is slightly out of date compared to more expensive laptops, but our tests proved it’s still perfectly speedy enough for day-to-day tasks such as web browsing, opening emails and hammering out essays. We’d only advise opting for a more powerful option if you need a laptop for gaming or content creation.

Our only major concern with this laptop is the poor screen resolution. At just 1536×1024, we found that video doesn’t look as sharp as it does on a more conventional 1080p laptop display. That dinky 12-inch screen isn’t ideal for video streaming either, proving problematic if you want to view multiple web browsers and apps simultaneously.

But if you don’t need a laptop for video streaming, or simply don’t care about crystal clear picture quality, then the Surface Laptop Go 2 remains one of the best student laptop options for your studies.

Reviewer: Ryan Jones
Full review: Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 2 review

Acer Chromebook Spin 513

Best Chromebook for students
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Pros

  • Super-light and portable design
  • Sharp display with decent colours
  • Outstanding battery life
  • Whisper-quiet performance

Cons

  • Flat speakers
  • Mediocre performance
  • No keyboard backlight

The Acer Chromebook Spin 513 is our favourite Chromebook on the market right now, and can be found for under £300, ensuring that it won’t make too much of a dent on your student loan. 

The Spin 513 weighs in at only 1.2kg and is very easy to take out on the go, which we found to be useful for hybrid working. Since this laptop runs on ChromeOS, this won’t be the best pick for those who need access to software like Adobe Photoshop, but is perfectly fine if you stick to the basics. For when you need to bang out an essay, the keyboard of the Spin 513 also proved to be responsive with a solid keypress, and it’s also a backlit keyboard too.

To go with its compact and lightweight design, the Spin 513 also features a 13.3-inch Full HD IPS display that’s also a touchscreen. During testing, it proved to offer some punchy colours and solid brightness. There also proved to be good viewing angles when watching videos on YouTube and Amazon Prime Video, although the standard issue 16:9 aspect ratio did peg its aesthetics back a little.

The Qualcomm Snapdragon 7c processor worked wonderfully for us during web browsing, word processing and didn’t falter when we ran multiple Chrome taps on it at once. The processor also doesn’t require a dedicated cooling system, meaning that this machine will run quietly during those late-night study sessions. 

The foldable design of the Spin 513 – as well as the bundled stylus – also means you can use this as a tablet if you want to kick back and watch some TV after a long day of classes. While we wouldn’t recommend this as a creative device, it will fare fine for any essay-based work and ChromeOS should ensure a seamless and simple experience.

Reviewer: Reece Bithrey
Full review: Acer Chromebook Spin 513 review

MacBook Pro 16-inch (2021)

Best student laptop for high-performance content creation
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Pros

  • Stunning display
  • Amazing performance
  • The ports and MagSafe are back

Cons

  • RAM upgrades are expensive

If you are looking for the best laptop performance for content creation, the MacBook Pro is your best bet. Our review gives this the title of best laptop for creative duties for a reason; the 14 / 16-inch Mini LED screen has a resolution of 3456 x 2234 and presents a wonderfully crisp and detailed picture based on our time using it, as well as also bundling in a 120Hz refresh rate for smoother output.

The latest MacBook Pro is available with either an M1 Pro or M1 Max chip, both offering blistering speeds that can handle everything from basic productivity tasks to complex 3D animation and 4K video renders. Our benchmark results show that there are very few laptops available that can deliver a performance as good as this for content creation as this particular MacBook came out as our top performer in each test.

We were also pleased to see Apple adding a number of ports to this laptop, with MagSafe charging, HDMI, Thunderbolt and an SD card reader all present and accounted for. In addition, its redesigned chassis offers a boxier look that users of older MacBooks will appreciate, with the same industrial charm.

Since the MacBook Pro is the most expensive laptop on this list, we would not recommend it to anyone who doesn’t need high-end performance. Any creative student will definitely see a stark difference between this laptop and many others in regards to demanding media tasks, though any essay writers out there don’t need to splash out this much to find their perfect laptop.

Reviewer: Max Parker
Full review: MacBook Pro review

Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio

Best student laptop for designers
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Pros

  • Versatile hinge is great for digital artists
  • Sharp and vibrant display
  • Top-class design and keyboard
  • Surprisingly good battery life

Cons

  • Weak graphics power compared to rivals
  • Screen lacks pro-grade colour accuracy
  • Stylus isn’t bundled in

The Surface Laptop Studio is the best laptop on this list for any students who like to create digital art. Featuring a versatile hinge that allows it to be used both as a clamshell laptop and a tablet, this is ideal for typing up essays as well as drawing directly onto the screen.

During testing, we loved how easy it was to pull the screen forward and magnetically clip it to the deck just above the trackpad. Unfortunately, the Microsoft Slim Pen is not bundled with this device and will need to be bought separately. However, if you do get one, we found it felt great on the touchscreen with the 4069 pressure levels available making it wonderfully reactive and great for digital painting and design work. 

The Surface Laptop packs an 11th-gen H-Series Intel processor – with i5 and i7 options available – with our unit performing well during basic tasks like web browsing and watching Netflix. This is not the most powerful laptop on this list, but its touch screen and versatile hinge set it apart from the rest, and it will work great provided you don’t need the most powerful specs. 

While the MacBook Pro is the better option for high-performance tasks, any student who creates digital art should still seriously consider the Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio.

Reviewer: Ryan Jones
Full review: Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio review

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FAQs

What should a student look for in a laptop?

A good keyboard, long battery life and snappy performance are all key things to consider when purchasing a student laptop. You’ll also want to make sure it isn’t too heavy, with 1.3kg and under being an ideal heft. Screen quality is worth thinking about if you plan on using the laptop for Netflix and YouTube.

Do students need a laptop with a GPU?

A dedicated GPU is only worth considering if you’re a creative/design student who will be doing lots of video editing, 3D modelling or animation. Gamers will also benefit from a powerful GPU. But be warned, a GPU will crank up the price, make the laptop heavier and shorten the battery life, so only get a laptop with one if it’s essential.

How much RAM does a student laptop need?

Honestly, most people will be fine with 8GB RAM, but it may be worth investing in 16GB of RAM or beyond for heavier workloads such as content creation and gaming.

Specs compared

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Trusted Reviews test data

PCMark 10
Cinebench R23
Geekbench 5 single core
Geekbench 5 multi core
3DMark Time Spy
CrystalDiskMark Read speed
CrystalMarkDisk Write Speed
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Why trust our journalism?

Founded in 2004, Trusted Reviews exists to give our readers thorough, unbiased and independent advice on what to buy.

Today, we have millions of users a month from around the world, and assess more than 1,000 products a year.

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