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.
All but two (for justifiable reasons) of the best student laptop options cost less than £1000, and every single one has the Trusted Reviews stamp of approval. See below for the summary:
- Best value student laptop: Honor MagicBook 2020
- Best budget student laptop: Acer Chromebook 315
- Best all-rounder student laptop: Surface Laptop 3
- Best creative student laptop: Apple MacBook Pro
- Best student tablet: Apple iPad 7
- Best student Chromebook: Google PixelBook Go
- Best 2-in-1 student laptop: Surface Pro 7
- Best lightweight student laptop: Galaxy Book S
- Best Windows tablet for school: Surface Go 2
- Best gaming student laptop: ROG Zephyrus G14
For more in-depth details for each laptop, keep scrolling down or hit the hyperlink. And if you can’t find anything right now, keep this page bookmarked for future updates and reviews.
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. Acer Chromebook 315
Best budget student laptop
- Incredibly affordable price
- Big screen for a Chromebook
- Smooth performance for web browsing and video streaming
- Great selection of ports
- Poor battery life
- Unimpressive keyboard
- Heavy build
It’s unfortunately very difficult to find a new Windows laptop, with a half-good performance, available for less than £500. But if you’re willing to jump over to Chrome OS, you can find far cheaper devices, with the Acer Chromebook 315 costing a very attractive £269.99.
Chromebooks have come a long way in recent years, ditching plastic cases for shiny new metal ones, and upping the performance so you can trawl through Google and social media without slowdown. Acer’s Chromebook 315 also features a big 15.6-inch Full HD display, which is not only good for fitting more research notes onto the screen, but also beneficial for Netflix and YouTube content during your after-school break.
There are a few issues with this Chromebook, being rather hefty at 1.8kg and featuring a poor 5-and-a-half hour battery life, but if you don’t think such flaws will be an issue, then this Chromebook still represents fantastic value for students at either school or university.
- Read our full Acer Chromebook 315 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
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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. Google PixelBook Go
Best Chromebook for 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.
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
7. 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
8. Samsung Galaxy Book S
Best ultra-portable student laptop
- Incredibly light and small
- Outstanding battery life
- Lovely screen
- LTE connectivity very handy
- Performance only strong enough for basic tasks
- Software compatibility issues
- Not many ports
The Samsung Galaxy Book S is a perfect student laptop on paper, with a delightfully ultra-portable design, lengthy battery life and the super-handy LTE connectivity support which allows you to keep connected (SIM card required) when out of reach of a Wi-Fi network.
However, there are a few issues that hold it back. Firstly, at £999 this is not a cheap option, despite only having the performance power to handle basic tasks. Secondly, since it uses a Qualcomm architecture, compatibility with Windows 10 apps can be hit and miss. You’ll be fine sticking with the obvious picks such as Netflix and Spotify, but may see issues with more obscure options.
That said, we can still see the Galaxy Book S being a great student laptop. Bags can easily get hefty with text books, so having an ultrabook that weighs just 961 grams and measures in at 11.8mm thin could be useful indeed.
- Read our full Samsung Galaxy Book S review
9. Surface Go 2 (with Type Cover)
Best Windows tablet for high school students
- Slimmer bezels result in a more stylish design
- Bright and colourful display
- Good battery life
- Superb microphones and webcam
- Entry-level model has poor performance
- Windows 10 S mode has lots of restrictions
- Not a very touchscreen-friendly UI
- Type Cover is expensive and can’t replace keyboard
The Surface Go 2 is essentially a cheaper alternative to the Surface Pro 7, with a student discount dropping the price down to £379 (Type Cover not included). However, the cheaper Surface tablet comes with compromises.
We found the entry-level configuration to have a sluggish performance when running on (the optional) full-fat Windows 10 operating system. You can alternatively stick to the more touchscreen-friendly Windows 10 in S mode OS, but that will restrict you to Microsoft-approved applications, ruling out the likes of Google Chrome.
There’s still plenty to like about the Surface Go 2 though, with an excellent webcam, gorgeous screen and great battery life. We think it would be a particularly good option for students at school, with university goers likely needing that little bit more power.
- Read our full Surface Go 2 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