What Is The Best Laptop For Students You Can Buy
If you’re looking for a laptop for sixth form, university or any other form of education, it can be tough to know which device to go for. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution that will work for every student what someone needs from a laptop is highly dependent on what they’re studying and how they plan to spend their free time.
With that in mind, we’ve aimed to include a range of options in this chart to suit different types of students. There should be something here for everyone, but don’t be concerned if your favourite device is lower on the list – we can recommend all these devices for students.
Most are on the more affordable end of the market, but if some are out of your price range it’s worth checking out our best budget laptop chart. Conversely, if money is no object, you might want to consider our pick of the very best laptops on the market.
As you might imagine, there are plenty of things to consider when buying a student laptop. It’s worth reading our buying advice at the bottom of the page before you pull the trigger.
Read our full Honor MagicBook Pro review
Best Laptops For College Students In 2021
The best laptops for college students are powerful enough to let you tackle all your school projects, with enough portability and power capacity to get you through a full day of classes. Whether you’re going back to school in person or attending classes remotely, having the right laptop is key.
Our best college laptop picks all share a few common traits. Not only do they have great to excellent battery life, which is critical when you’re running between classes on campus all day, but they offer fantastic bang for your buck, with multiple models under $1,000 as well as some higher-priced laptops that are fantastic investments.
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And if you’re worried about spending over $1,000, know that our picks are made with your future in mind. The MacBook Pro isn’t cheap, for example, but mine has lasted me 8 years, which is enough time for undergrad and graduate school .
Read on for our picks of the best college laptops you can buy now.
Storage Solutions In Laptops: Ssds Are Tops
With the increasing prevalence of cloud storage and web applications, having plentiful local storage space is somewhat less vital now than it used to be, but you should still make sure that your laptop meets your needs. If you plan to install a lot of programs or want to hang on to lots of large media files, you’ll need 500GB of space or more. If you don’t foresee needing all that local storage, or are content with leaving a lot of your work online, you can get by with a laptop with less space.
Whichever way you go, remember that storage affects speed, too. If you go with a hard drive because you get more storage for less money, know that it will be noticeably slower than a snappy-feeling solid-state drive . The higher cost and lower capacity of a faster SSD is a trade-off that some students are willing to make. We strongly recommend SSDs for laptops that are carried around campus a lot, since the SSDs are impervious to drop damage. Plus, they are a lot faster than hard drives and give a laptop a much snappier perceived feel.
The good news is that by plugging an external hard drive or external SSD into one of your laptop’s USB ports, you can add more space whenever you need it. Although you probably won’t have to do this unless you’re a video junkie or an aspiring filmmaker, it’s a good option to have.
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What Is A 2
A 2-in-1 laptop is a device that operates both like a laptop and a tablet. As a tablet laptop hybrid, it’s lightweight and offers tablet-style features like a touch screen, but has an operating system like a PC. To put it simply, it’s a laptop that turns into a tablet.
A 2-in-1 laptop is a great option for a college student who prefers to keep up with one device for all their school needs. It’s thinner and sleeker than the traditional laptop which makes 2-in-1 laptops quick and easy to pack up and put in a backpack. Some come with detachable keyboards, while others offer attached keyboards with a 360-degree hinge. Both options showcase the 2-in-1 laptop’s versatility compared to the traditional laptop or tablet. In class or watching a lecture? There’s options for that too. Take notes by typing on the attached or detached keyboard, but there’s also the stylus option where you can take notes directly on to the touch screen. Check out options at HP, Lenovo or Dell.
Due to the thin nature of the 2-in-1 laptop, one of the biggest disadvantages is the processing power. If you’re wanting to utilize it for both school work and gaming â a traditional laptop is your best bet.
Whether your child is learning at home or at school, a laptop, tablet or Chromebook is an essential tool for them to excel in their classes, complete their homework and stay in touch with friends and family.
Laptop Features That Business Schools Recommend
The question of having the right kind of business school laptop often comes down to simple prioritization, with cost usually at the top of most students concerns. But before you start roaming for discount deals, making sure your laptop has the right specifications is key. Fortunately, manybusiness schools, such asUCLA Anderson School of Management, offer prospective MBAs a guide to what kind of computer theyll need for the program. UCLAs laptop recommendations are detailed below:
UCLA Andersons computer recommendations for its MBA students.
Major laptop companies like Lenovo and Apple have all or most of the suggested specifications, such as webcam interface, integrated graphics cards, and 802.11 wireless connectivity included standard in newer models.
However, even when looking for a brand new laptop, one major element to take note of is the power of the hard drive. Even devices that would be considered in the mid-to-upper price tier, such as the Apple Macbook Pro and Dell XPS, do not come standard with a 256 GB SSD . Rather, the base-level models are usually paired with a 128 GB SSD, and there is a distinct price difference in comparison to 256 GB SSD models. Of course, for the handy few, installing your own SSD card into the computer is possible, and can mitigate much of the cost differential. But for most students, opting for a model with 256 SSD standard will be the most reasonable route.
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Could You Get By With A Tablet And Keyboard
Perhaps, but ask yourself: What’s the real benefit? Most students need a keyboard for taking notes and writing papers, so do you really need one that’s removable? Are you ever going to use the screen all by itself — especially if it’s a large, unwieldy screen, like 12-13 inches? A detachable keyboard is one more thing to keep charged, one more thing to lose or accidentally leave behind in your dorm room.
Lots of students are drawn to the 12.3-inch Microsoft Surface Pro 6, but I don’t like it. For starters, Microsoft stubbornly continues to charge extra for the keyboard instead of just bundling it. The tablet alone starts at $899 the keyboard will run you another $130. I honestly don’t see the point for the same money you can get a 13.3-inch laptop or convertible. Meanwhile, the Surface’s rear-hinge design has always made it awkward to use on your lap, and it might also be a poor fit on those little auditorium-seat desks.
Similarly, Apple has tried to turn iPads into laptops, but once again I think it’s a foolish hybridization. If you opt for a 9.7- or 10.5-inch iPad, you’ve got a screen that may prove too cramped for comfort. A 13.3-inch iPad solves those issues, but now you’re looking at a much higher price tag — and a tablet that’s far too large to use comfortably as a tablet. Same lap/small-desk issues as the Surface, too.
Galaxy Book Flex 133 Qled Laptop By Samsung
With 256 gigs of memory and eight of RAM, its a solid performer, and has a fast-charging battery that lasts for up to 18.5 hours. But the real show-stopper is its flip-screen design that opens just shy of 360 degrees, allowing for presentations and unparalleled group activity. It also features a touchscreen, making it as much a tablet as laptop. Fans of Samsungs eye-popping TV colors will recognize the same Quantum Dot tech, which makes this a great streaming device.
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Don’t Sweat The Storage
Once upon a time, the rule for buying a computer — any computer — was “buy the largest hard drive you can afford.” These days, it’s usually preferable to choose speed over size. That means forgoing the 1TB traditional hard drive in favor of a smaller-capacity solid-state drive , which will make even a lower-end laptop run at a faster clip while at the same time helping extend battery life.
OK, but can you really get by on, say, 256GB of storage, or even 128GB? That’s what you’re likely to find in a lot of the more affordable laptop models. But remember, we’re living in a cloud-powered world: Most students stream their music and movies from services like Spotify and Netflix, and therefore don’t need a ton of local storage for media. Documents consume very little space, and will likely be housed on Google Drive or Office Online anyway.
Advantages Of Using Desktop
If you choose a desktop computer instead:
- You get more computing power for gaming, creation, and entertainment at a lower price point
- You enjoy the customizability of a desktop for future needs.
- You want built-in components, such as extra USB, HDMI, DVD-ROM, card readers, etc.
Desktop computers have become smaller and lighter over time. The latest models are rather slim and can often sit on the desk next to your monitor without crowding your workspace.
You may also opt for the sleek all-in-one models that combine everything into the display for the most efficient use of space.
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Desktop Vs Laptop For Work
If your primary purpose for buying a new computer is for work, then whether you should get a laptop or desktop all depends on what kind of work you are doing.
If you are a graphic designer, or you create/edit videos, or you undertake any other kind of demanding tasks, a desktop might be your best option as it will provide you with more power for your budget.
Or, if you are working from an office or from your home, and you dont need to leave your place of work often, a desktop will be a solid option.
On the flip side, though, if you need the mobility of a laptop, whether thats because you travel frequently for work, or you like to go to coffee shops to work, or even if you work from home and you like to be able to work from anywhere in your house, a laptop will be the better option for you.
Even if your line of work requires a lot of power from your system, there are high-end laptops out there that will work for you Just note, though, that youre going to pay exponentially more for a high-end laptop than you would for a high-end desktop.
But, overall, either a laptop or desktop could be the better option for work-related purposes. It just depends on whether youre a stationary worker or a mobile worker
First Off: Research Your College
The first, and most important, thing to do is check with your school for specific system requirements. They may have hard-and-fast hardware recommendations.
Some colleges and universities want their students equipped with Windows-based laptops, to cut down on software incompatibility issues or to keep technical support concentrated on one platform. Others don’t care which operating system you use, whether it’s Windows, macOS, or even Linux if you’re a hard-core type. Some institutions have onsite computer repair centers that service only laptops purchased from the university or an affiliated computer store on campus using one of these facilities, the turn-around time will be much quicker than if you were to send it overnight to the original manufacturer.
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Best For Getting Into Gaming
- High-refresh display with support for AMD FreeSync
- Potent Ryzen 4000 series processor
- 16GB of RAM in under-$1000 test configuration
- Good battery life and speakers
- Wi-Fi 6 support
- Single-color keyboard, versus RGB keyboard of the Alpha 15
- CPU runs hot under load
- Can’t quite match gaming frame rates of GeForce GTX 1660 Ti notebooks
Which Operating System Is Best
Before you begin to evaluate features, you’ll start with the essential question that has plagued PC shoppers for decades: Which operating system should I choose?
This is not the Mac vs. Windows debate of old. New Apple laptops aren’t available for less than $500ânot even close. The MacBook Air, Apple’s least-expensive notebook, starts at $999 and is still overkill for an elementary- or middle-school student. If you’re an Apple fan and want to raise your son or daughter to be one too, you’re best off giving them a hand-me-down and buying a new MacBook or MacBook Pro for yourself.
Reused Macs aside, most parents will choose between Windows 10 and Chrome OS, the operating system from Google. In addition to running web apps within the Chrome browser, Chrome OS can also designed for Android smartphones and tablets, including Microsoft Office. If you’ve decided against buying a smartphone for your kids but they talk your ear off about wanting to play mobile games, buying a Chromebook might be a good compromise.
If your child’s school has specific software that runs only on Windows, your operating system choice will be decided for you. If not, you’ll want to take a close look at Chrome OS, since a few Chromebooks include decidedly kid-friendly features . Again, check out the Chromebooks-for-kids story referenced earlier for more on the specifics around this OS.
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The Best Laptop Deals For Kids This Week*
*Deals are selected by our partner, TechBargains
If your child is also of the age that they may be looking to play PC games on the same machine that they’ll use for schoolwork, that is a whole other set of considerations. We’ll address that in a section near the end of this article, but know that gaming machines cost more than our other picks here.
Microsoft Surface Go 2
Why you should buy this: This versatile laptop from the Surface Line can handle a wide variety of school tasks.
Whos it for: Students who are interested in more power and spec options than a Chromebook can provide.
What we thought of the Microsoft Surface Go 2:
Microsofts Surface line is powerful, includes portable modes like the Go 2, and offers plenty of customization options for you to boost performance. The latest version of the 10.5-inch Surface Go 2 is better than ever, available at a low price for those on a budget, and compact enough to fit in any pack or case you might be using.
While configuration options may vary, the affordable version of the Go 2 includes an Intel Ptenium 4425Y processor, 4GB of RAM, and 64GB of on-board storage space, with a battery rated for up to 10 hours of work. Connections are managed with a USB-C port, and theres also a headphone jack for wired audio devices.
One notable caveat while this is one of the most affordable Surface laptops, youll still need to get the Signature Type Cover to use it as a laptop instead of just a tablet. On the other hand, if youre more of a tablet fan, but sure to pick up a Surface Pen, too. These options make the Surface Go 2 an alternative option to Chromebooks that many may appreciate.
Read our full review of the Microsoft Surface Go 2
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Top Five Student Laptop Considerations
To start, here are five of the top things to think about when buying a laptop to use as a student:
- Battery life: If youre going to be out at lectures and seminars all day, and you cant guarantee youll have access to a plug socket, youll want a laptop that can achieve at least eight hours of battery life in our tests.
- Weight: If you sling your laptop into a light bag or satchel, youll want one that weighs less than 1.5kg, so it doesnt start dragging you down late in the day.
- Screen size: If you dont plan on taking your laptop out of halls, go for a bigger screen size, from 15.6 inches up to 17.3 inches.
- Fast wi-fi: Some laptops have better wi-fi connections than others, so check our reviews to see whether we comment on particularly slow wireless connectivity that could affect your work.
- Performance: Dont overspend on a laptop thats far too powerful for your needs. If youre only going to be working on basic essays, you dont need to spend £1,000 on an ultra-premium high-performance laptop. Similarly, you dont want to underspend on a laptop that won’t deliver the performance you need if youre going to be editing videos. Our guide on how to buy the best laptop explains more.
Go to our full list of independent laptop reviews.