Best laptop for students 2020

1. Honor MagicBook 14 – Best Overall

2. Lenovo IdeaPad S340 – Best Value

Lenovo IdeaPad S340

3. HP Envy 13 – Best Premium

HP Envy 13 (2019)

4. Apple MacBook Air (M1) – Best Mac

Apple MacBook Air (2020) M1

5. LG Gram 16 – Best Big Screen

LG Gram 16 (2021)

6. Asus E410 – Best Budget

Asus E410

7. Surface Go 2 – Best Value Hybrid

Microsoft Surface Go 2

8. iPad Pro 12.9in (2020) – Best Premium Hybrid

iPad Pro 12.9in (2020)

9. Dell XPS 13 – Best Keyboard

Dell XPS 13 9300 (2020)

10. LG gram 14 – Best Portability

LG gram 14 (2020)

Your buying guide for the best student laptops in 2020

Do you need a £1,000 laptop? Will it get broken or worse, stolen? While more expensive laptops will give you better gaming performance, should you really be playing Fortnite for that many hours with those deadlines?

We jest really, students studying courses that require complex software – we’re thinking things like animation or video editing – will need a laptop with some high-end hardware. You don’t want to be waiting around forever for things to render when you have a deadline.

However, those who simply just need to write word documents and browse the internet can spend a lot less and still have a laptop that’s perfectly good.

Since there’s a wide range of needs out there depending on your circumstances, we’ve included a real mix of devices to choose from here including Chromebooks.

They might not technically be laptops but we’ve also included a couple of tablets since, with the help of a keyboard case and/or stylus, they could be a much better solution for some students.

Display

Most laptops are 13in and really this has been the sweet spot between size and portability for a long time. However, you can get smaller or larger displays depending on what you need to do.

Bear in mind that cheaper laptops will come with a lower-grade display which is likely to be on the dim side and not very crisp either. It’s just one of the compromises, so if you need to do something like photo editing then splashing a bit more cash will be well worth your while.

Dell XPS 13 (2019)

Components

You get what you pay for when it comes to laptops, so a model closer to £1,000 is going to have things like a better processor such as a Core i7, more memory and storage. It might even have a dedicated graphics card. All of this will come in handy if you’re doing more complex tasks.

Cheaper options may come with a lower-power Intel Pentium chip. They will also have a lot less memory and storage, so make sure it will be up to the job first.

Keyboard and trackpad

Not all keyboard and trackpads are made equal. MacBook trackpads are best in class, but you pay for the privilege, while what type of keyboard you prefer is quite a personal thing. 

Do you want a lot of travel on your keys, or something flatter and slim? Do you need a full-size keyboard with a numpad? Sacrificing that will allow you to get a more compact design handy for toting round campus.

Battery life

Everyone wants great battery life from a laptop. After all, no piece of tech is very useful if it dies halfway through your day of lectures. 

There’s no pattern to which laptops have the best battery life as more expensive ones may use the power up on fancy components. Meanwhile, a budget laptop might scrimp on the size of the battery to keep costs down.

Click through to the full reviews of the laptops we recommend to read about the battery life.

MacBook Air 2019

Ports and drives

It might not seem important now but think carefully about what ports you will need. Many modern laptops come with hardly any ports and they are often USB-C.

This means you can’t just plug in an old-school USB flash drive or HDMI cable without getting an adapter (or dongle). Since cheaper laptops are chunkier, they typically have more space for full-size ports and this could be a real boon.

Also, remember that laptops don’t come with a CD/DVD drive any more, so if you need one an external drive is a must.

Operating system

As well as all the above, you need to pick what operating system you want to use. Your main choices are Windows 10 and macOS and it’s likely you already know which one you prefer.

If not then check whether the software you need to run is compatible and simply whether you like using it. Try a friend’s or play with some in a physical store if you need to.

There are other options such as ChromeOS which is extremely easy to use, but does require an internet connection for full functionality. The tablets we’ve included are also intuitive, but again, make sure they will be able to run the apps you need first.

Find out how we test laptops.

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