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Best student laptop 2020: A notebook for every budget

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

What is the best student laptop?

Finding the best student laptop for your studies, whether you’re going to school or university, is becoming increasingly more important.

Buy a cheap Chromebook with a shoddy processor, and it could take a painfully long time to finish your research and complete your homework. And nobody wants to write essay after essay on a flimsy keyboard that encourages typos. 

On the flip side, students probably don’t have the budget to buy laptops that cost over a grand, making it very difficult to find the perfect balance between performance and price. 

To make your studies as stress free as possible, we’ve rounded up a list of the best student laptops we’ve reviewed. All but two (for justifiable reasons) are underneath the £1000 price point, and every single one has the Trusted Reviews stamp of approval. See below for the summary: 

  • Best student laptop overall: Honor MagicBook 2020
  • Best budget student laptop: Acer Swift 1
  • Best all-rounder student laptop: Surface Laptop 3
  • Best student laptop for creatives: Apple MacBook Pro 16-inch
  • Best student tablet: Apple iPad 7
  • Best student Chromebook: Google PixelBook Go
  • Best 2-in-1 student laptop: Surface Pro 7
  • Best ultra-portable student laptop: Samsung Galaxy Book S
  • Best Windows tablet for high school: Surface Go 2
  • Best gaming student laptop: Asus ROG Zephyrus G14
  • Best eye-catching student laptop: Avita Liber 14

For more details on each student laptop, keep scrolling down where you’ll find more in-depth descriptions and specs. 

MagicBook 14

 

1. Honor MagicBook 14 (2020)

Best value Student Laptop

Pros:

  • Student-friendly premium style
  • Superb value
  • Pleasant typing experience
  • More than capable productivity performance

Cons:

  • 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. 

Acer Swift 1 SF114-32

2. Acer Swift 1

Best budget student laptop

We continually check thousands of prices to show you the best deals. If you buy a product through our site we will earn a small commission from the retailer – a sort of automated referral fee – but our reviewers are always kept separate from this process. You can read more about how we make money in our Ethics Policy.

Pros

  • Ideal for light PC work
  • Nice price
  • More than enough ports
  • Fingerprint scanner is a nice addition

Cons

  • Below average battery life
  • Viewing angles and max brightness aren’t great

If the MagicBook is slightly too expensive, then the Acer Swift 1 is a superb alternative, costing just £400. Having a Windows 10 laptop at a Chromebook price is mostly unheard of these days, so it’s a great option for those on a tight budget who don’t fancy the locked-down operating system of ChromeOS. 

With an Intel Pentium processor, this is admittedly a low-performance laptop that will only be able to handle basic tasks. Even having too many browser tabs open simultaneously will see this laptop slow down to unbearable speeds. But if you’re careful with the workload you throw its way, this is still plenty powerful enough to power through essays, presentations and cheeky Netflix procrastination. 

The six-hour battery life is also a bit of a concern, but as long as you make sure to keep it charged during lessons, then it shouldn’t be a problem. So yes, you’ll have to make compromises with this laptop, but they’re more than worth it since you’re saving a few hundred quid when compared to rivals.

We continually check thousands of prices to show you the best deals. If you buy a product through our site we will earn a small commission from the retailer – a sort of automated referral fee – but our reviewers are always kept separate from this process. You can read more about how we make money in our Ethics Policy.

Buy Now from EBay for $279.99
Also available at Amazon ($298.00)

Surface Laptop 3

3. Surface Laptop 3

Best all-rounder student laptop if you’re happy to pay more

Pros

  • Classy, ultra-portable design
  • Excellent performance
  • Stunning 3:2 display
  • Fantastic keyboard

Cons

  • 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. 

We continually check thousands of prices to show you the best deals. If you buy a product through our site we will earn a small commission from the retailer – a sort of automated referral fee – but our reviewers are always kept separate from this process. You can read more about how we make money in our Ethics Policy.

Buy Now from EBay for $1159

MacBook Pro 16

4. Apple MacBook Pro 16-inch 

Best student laptop for creative courses

We continually check thousands of prices to show you the best deals. If you buy a product through our site we will earn a small commission from the retailer – a sort of automated referral fee – but our reviewers are always kept separate from this process. You can read more about how we make money in our Ethics Policy.

Pros:

  • Incredibly powerful
  • Bigger display still looks stunning
  • Scissor keyboard a huge improvement
  • More stylish with smaller bezel

Cons:

  • 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. 

We continually check thousands of prices to show you the best deals. If you buy a product through our site we will earn a small commission from the retailer – a sort of automated referral fee – but our reviewers are always kept separate from this process. You can read more about how we make money in our Ethics Policy.

Buy Now from Amazon for $2,149.00
Also available at EBay ($3199.99)

ipad 7

5. Apple iPad 7 (with Smart Keyboard)

Best Apple tablet for students

We continually check thousands of prices to show you the best deals. If you buy a product through our site we will earn a small commission from the retailer – a sort of automated referral fee – but our reviewers are always kept separate from this process. You can read more about how we make money in our Ethics Policy.

Pros:

  • Affordable
  • iPadOS is great
  • Support for Pencil and Keyboard
  • Bigger 10.2in display

Cons:

  • 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.

We continually check thousands of prices to show you the best deals. If you buy a product through our site we will earn a small commission from the retailer – a sort of automated referral fee – but our reviewers are always kept separate from this process. You can read more about how we make money in our Ethics Policy.

Buy Now from EBay for $329

6. Google PixelBook Go 

Best Chromebook for students

We continually check thousands of prices to show you the best deals. If you buy a product through our site we will earn a small commission from the retailer – a sort of automated referral fee – but our reviewers are always kept separate from this process. You can read more about how we make money in our Ethics Policy.

Pros:

  • Fantastic keyboard
  • An attractive and understated look
  • Impressive battery life
  • Android apps on Chrome can be useful (even if buggy)

Cons:

  • 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. 

We continually check thousands of prices to show you the best deals. If you buy a product through our site we will earn a small commission from the retailer – a sort of automated referral fee – but our reviewers are always kept separate from this process. You can read more about how we make money in our Ethics Policy.

Buy Now from Amazon for $560.00
Also available at EBay ($644.97), and B&H ($649)

Surface Pro 7 back

7. Surface Pro 7

Best 2-in-1 student laptop

We continually check thousands of prices to show you the best deals. If you buy a product through our site we will earn a small commission from the retailer – a sort of automated referral fee – but our reviewers are always kept separate from this process. You can read more about how we make money in our Ethics Policy.

Pros:

  • Full-fat Windows 10 application library
  • Excellent connectivity
  • Solid build quality

Cons:

  • 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. 

We continually check thousands of prices to show you the best deals. If you buy a product through our site we will earn a small commission from the retailer – a sort of automated referral fee – but our reviewers are always kept separate from this process. You can read more about how we make money in our Ethics Policy.

Buy Now from Amazon for
Also available at EBay ($699), BuyDig.com ($749), and B&H ($749)

Samsung Galaxy Book S

8. Samsung Galaxy Book S 

Best ultra-portable student laptop

We continually check thousands of prices to show you the best deals. If you buy a product through our site we will earn a small commission from the retailer – a sort of automated referral fee – but our reviewers are always kept separate from this process. You can read more about how we make money in our Ethics Policy.

Pros:

  • Incredibly light and small
  • Outstanding battery life
  • Lovely screen 
  • LTE connectivity very handy 

Cons:

  • 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. 

We continually check thousands of prices to show you the best deals. If you buy a product through our site we will earn a small commission from the retailer – a sort of automated referral fee – but our reviewers are always kept separate from this process. You can read more about how we make money in our Ethics Policy.

Buy Now from Amazon for $1,349.00
Also available at EBay ($999), and Verizon ($999.99)

Surface Go 2

9. Surface Go 2 (with Type Cover)

Best Windows tablet for high school students

We continually check thousands of prices to show you the best deals. If you buy a product through our site we will earn a small commission from the retailer – a sort of automated referral fee – but our reviewers are always kept separate from this process. You can read more about how we make money in our Ethics Policy.

Pros

  • Slimmer bezels result in a more stylish design
  • Bright and colourful display
  • Good battery life
  • Superb microphones and webcam

Cons:

  • 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. 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. 

We continually check thousands of prices to show you the best deals. If you buy a product through our site we will earn a small commission from the retailer – a sort of automated referral fee – but our reviewers are always kept separate from this process. You can read more about how we make money in our Ethics Policy.

Buy Now from Amazon for $397.99
Also available at EBay ($399.99), and BuyDig.com ($399.99)

Asus ROG Zephyrus G14

10. Asus ROG Zephyrus G14

Best student laptop for gamers

We continually check thousands of prices to show you the best deals. If you buy a product through our site we will earn a small commission from the retailer – a sort of automated referral fee – but our reviewers are always kept separate from this process. You can read more about how we make money in our Ethics Policy.

Pros:

  • Incredible CPU performance
  • Great for Full HD gaming
  • Ultra-portable design
  • Impressive battery life

Cons:

  • 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 (available in July) will cost just £1000, making it a good-value option for any student looking to juggle gaming and coursework as efficiently as possible. 

We continually check thousands of prices to show you the best deals. If you buy a product through our site we will earn a small commission from the retailer – a sort of automated referral fee – but our reviewers are always kept separate from this process. You can read more about how we make money in our Ethics Policy.

Buy Now from Amazon for $1,579.99
Also available at EBay ($1281.99)

Avita Liber 14

11. Avita Liber 14

Best eye-catching student laptop

Pros:

  • Flashy looks
  • Premium design for its price
  • Pleasant keyboard experience
  • Decent display

Cons

  • Poor battery life 
  • Performance issues above simple tasks

If you’re more bothered about your laptop’s looks than its performance, then the Avita Liber 14 is one of the best picks. It comes with various pattern decals, going above and beyond the colour variety that the Surface Laptop 3 offers. The Liber is also available at a very affordable price, and worth considering if you’re on a tight budget.

However, you sacrifice a lot for this flashy style and low price. With an Intel Core i3-8130U processor, you’ve got one of the weakest performances on this list. It can handle basic workloads, but opening multiple tabs on your browser will cause a bit of a slowdown. Battery life is also poor, so you’re going to have to sit next to a power socket in lectures.

Still, if you’re after style over substance, the Avita Liber 14 is a decent option, especially since it’s available at such a low price.

Unlike other sites, we thoroughly review everything we recommend, using industry standard tests to evaluate products. We’ll always tell you what we find. We may get a commission if you buy via our price links. Tell us what you think – email the Editor

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