The best student laptops in 2024: top laptops for school

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REASONS TO BUY
REASONS TO AVOID
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REASONS TO BUY
REASONS TO AVOID

If you’re looking for the best student laptops on the market then you’re in the right place. Whether you’re a student yourself, or searching for the perfect productivity machine for a friend or family member, we’re here to provide you with our top picks which score for hardware, battery life, price-to-performance ratio and more.

While searching through the vast sea of the best laptops can be intimidating, we’ve narrowed the parameters down here to include a mixture of the best Ultrabooks and best MacBooks as well as the best gaming laptops. That means you’ll have the full perspective of options across different operating systems and the choice of integrated or discrete graphics solutions, too. 

This is because there may be a need for more graphics and processing power, particularly if there’s a requirement for 3D rendering and modeling. Additionally, as we’ve seen the recent rise of AI-powered laptops, you may want to consider a notebook featuring a dedicated NPU on the chip which can accelerate AI-related tasks.

Budget is also a massive part of the puzzle when choosing one of the best student laptops. That’s why we’ve also thrown in some of the best Chromebooks on the market as well as Windows and macOS options. Google’s laptops are priced very aggressively and ideal for more basic usage.

The best budget laptops are also a vein you’ll want to consider if affordability is a primary concern. However, if versatility is the main goal then we recommend checking out the best 2-in-1 laptops which pull double duty as a laptop and dedicated tablet. This could be an ideal avenue for creatives, as they can sketch or take notes right on the display with a stylus.

Australians can check out our best laptop deals and best cheap laptop deals pages.

The quick list

If you want to get right to it and see the best student laptop in every category, check out our quick roundup of top picks below. Don't worry though, you can easily jump to a more detailed view of every pick along with a price comparison tool to help you find the best laptop deals for students no matter your budget.

The best student laptop overall

An acer aspire 5 on a wooden desk

(Image credit: Future)
The best student laptop overall

Specifications

Best for: All students
CPU: Up to Intel Core i7-1165G7 or AMD Ryzen 7 5825U
Graphics: Integrated Iris XE or Radeon graphics
RAM: Up to 16GB DDR4
Screen: up to 17.3-inch 1080p
Storage: Up to 512GB SSD

Reasons to buy

+
Competitive price
+
Solid build, with a 1.7kg weight
+
Decent battery life for the price

Reasons to avoid

-
Modest performance
-
720p webcam
-
Limited port selection
Buy it if:

✅ You’re on a budget: This entry-level model only costs around $600/£450, which makes it a capable option for budgeting students.

✅ You travel a lot: It’s not an ultrabook, but a sturdy design and weight of just 1.7kg mean that the Aspire 5 will happily live in your backpack all day long.

Don't buy it if:

You’re a gamer: Acer’s website talks about a discrete GeForce graphics card, but most Aspire 5 models rely on more basic integrated graphics.

❌ You need all-day battery life: Six and a half hours certainly isn’t bad for a laptop in this price range, but you’ll need to spend a bit more if you need a long-lasting laptop.

The Acer Aspire 5 (2022) remains our pick as the best student laptop you can buy right now. That's because it's got a low price, but decent specs (OK, the 11-gen Intel CPU isn't the most recent, but it does the job well, especially compared to the processors you find in similarly-priced laptops) mean it's a dependable performer for most day-to-day tasks students will use it for.

As it's a Windows 11 laptop, it can run full-desktop applications, unlike Chromebooks which often have to make do with pared-back apps that don't offer the full range of features.

Of course, you need to set your expectations for this laptop. It's price and age means this isn't going to be a powerful laptop that can handle media editing or gaming, but for writing up essays and researching for your course, it remains an excellent choice, especially if you're on a budget, but don't want a Chromebook.

Read our full Acer Aspire 5 (2022) review

The best budget Chromebook for students

A Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 3 Chromebook on a desk

(Image credit: Future)
The best budget Chromebook for students

Specifications

Best for: Budget-minded students who don’t need a lot of power
CPU: MediaTek MT8183 Processor (2.0 GHz)
Graphics: Integrated graphics
RAM: 4GB LPDDR4
Screen: 11.6-inch HD 1366 x 768 IPS
Storage: 64GB eMMC Flash Memory

Reasons to buy

+
Excellent value
+
Well built
+
Battery life is good

Reasons to avoid

-
Dated design
-
Not very powerful
Buy it if:

✅ You’re after a great value 2-in-1 Chromebook: Despite its low price, this Chromebook punches above its weight.

✅ You want the flexibility of a 2-in-1 device: Not only can this be used as a laptop, but it can turn into a tablet-like device as well.

Don't buy it if:

You need a powerful device: While the Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 3 is fine for daily web browsing and media streaming, we wouldn't recommend it for anything more intensive.

❌ You want a great display: The small size and resolution of the screen keeps the price down, but that means it doesn't wow.

The Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 3 Chromebook is a decent Chromebook for students who are looking for a bargain. Its low price means this isn't a particularly powerful device, even by Chromebook standards, but ChromeOS runs impressively well, and it won't let you down for day-to-day tasks like web browsing, document creation and emailing.

It can also be used for media streaming when you're winding down after a day of studying, though the small screen isn't ideal for truly immersing yourself in TVs and films.

The Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 3 Chromebook is a great laptop for students because of its 2-in-1 design, which can be quite rare for laptops at this price. This allows you to use it as both a laptop and as a tablet-like device, and this kind of flexibility is super handy for students - especially as it means they don't need two separate devices.

The battery life lasted an excellent 16 hours in our video playback test when we reviewed the Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 3 Chromebook, so it'll easily last an entire school day without needing to be charge.

Read our full Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 3 Chromebook

The best overall Chromebook for students

A Lenovo IdeaPad Duet 5 Chromebook on a wooden table

(Image credit: Future)
The best Chromebook for students overall

Specifications

Best for: All students who have some room in their budget
CPU: Qualcomm Snapdragon 7c Gen2 2.55GHz
Graphics: Qualcomm Adreno GPU
RAM: 8GB LPDDR4
Screen: 13.3-inch 1920 x 1080p multitouch OLED, 400 nits
Storage: 128GB eMMC

Reasons to buy

+
Excellent screen
+
Phenomenal battery life
+
Respectable performance

Reasons to avoid

-
Flimsy keyboard
-
Difficult kickstand
-
Stylus not included
Buy it if:

✅ You want the best 2-in-1 Chromebook around: The flexible design of this Chromebook is ideal for students who want both a laptop and a tablet-like device.

✅ You want outstanding battery life: Hitting almost 19 hours on a single charge, there are few laptops or other Chromebooks that can match the IdeaPad Duet 5's lasting power.

Don't buy it if:

You want a cheap Chromebook: The premium features on the Duet 5 Chromebook means that this is relatively expensive, though still a lot less than most Windows laptops.

❌ You want more of a tablet-first form factor: The aspect ratio and 13.3-inch display size makes this bulkier than a standard tablet.

The brilliant Lenovo Duet 5 Chromebook is a great example of how Chromebooks don't need to be cheap, budget affairs. Thanks to its gorgeous 1080p OLED display, 8GB RAM and Qualcomm Snapdragon 7c Gen2 processor, this is one of the most powerful Chromebooks out there, and is ideal for students who want a device to work and watch movies on.

The design itself is excellent, with a slimline body and detachable keyboard - there's certainly no chance of this being mistaken for a budget device. And as a 2-in-1 device, you can use this as both a traditional laptop, or a tablet-like device. Putting it into 'tent mode' also makes it a small screen for watching TV and movies on - so this is a great option for students who don't have the money (or space) for multiple devices.

In our review, we were particularly impressed by the stunning OLED screen - which is a rarity in Chromebooks, and thanks to its Snapdragon CPU, battery life is amazing, lasting over 16 hours in our tests. That blows past most Windows 11 laptops and MacBooks - and even a lot of Chromebooks as well. So, students can happily work on the Lenovo Duet 5 Chromebook for multiple school days without needing to charge. All of these premium features does mean the price tag is higher than you may expect from a Chromebook, but it still offers plenty of value, making it a great option for students with a bit of flex in their budgets.

Read the full Lenovo IdeaPad Duet 5 Chromebook review

The best premium Chromebook for students

An Acer Chromebook Spin 514 on a kitchen counter

(Image credit: Future)
The best premium Chromebook

Specifications

Best for: students who need a more serious Chromebook
CPU: Up to AMD Ryzen 5 5625C
Graphics: Integrated Radeon graphics
RAM: Up to 8GB LPDDR4X
Screen: 14-inch FHD (1920 x 1080p) multitouch
Storage: Up to 128GB eMMC

Reasons to buy

+
Great performance
+
All-day battery life
+
Fantastic screen

Reasons to avoid

-
No included stylus
-
Expensive for a Chromebook
-
Configurations can be hit or miss
Buy it if:

✅ You need a powerful Chromebook: Despite being similar in price to a mid-range Windows laptop, this is a more high-end Chromebook with solid internal specs to match.

✅ You care more about performance than aesthetic: Not that this looks hideous, but it certainly doesn't have the fancy trimmings of something like the HP Dragonfly Pro Chromebook.

Don't buy it if:

You're on a very tight budget: Though not quite as pricey as other premium Chromebooks, this might be out of reach if you're seeking something sub-$500/£500.

❌ You need a Windows or a Mac laptop: If most of your workload and casual computer needs to be done on a full operating system, this one's not for you.

The Acer Chromebook Spin 514 might be a bit on the pricier side when it comes to Chromebooks, but it offers a lot for the money: powerful components, great user accessibility, and strong versatility thanks to its 360-degree hinge and touch display - just like the best 2-in-1 laptops. When we reviewed it, we praised its great performance, robust build quality, and all-day battery life.

Still, starting at the $500/£500 mark means the Spin 514 is cheaper than many Windows laptops with similar specs, and it should still be accessible for students who want a high-end Chromebook. It's not the most expensive Chromebook on the market - that would be the HP Elite Dragonfly Chromebook.

Pricing aside, this is a solid 2-in-1 laptop with great internal specs, meaning that it should be easily capable of lasting through three, four, or even five years of study at university. A student laptop is often an investment - and in this case, you can rest assured it's a good one.

Read the full Acer Chromebook Spin 514 (2022) review

The best premium Windows student laptop

A Dell XPS 13 (2022) on a wooden table

(Image credit: Future)
An excellent choice of compact laptop for students

Specifications

Best for: High school through college students who need more performance
CPU: Up to 12th Generation Intel Core i7
Graphics: Up to Intel Iris Xe Graphics
RAM: Up to 32GB LPDDR5
Screen: 13.4" FHD+ (1920 x 1200) InfinityEdge Non-Touch – 13.4" UHD+ (3840 x 2400) InfinityEdge Touch
Storage: Up to 1TB M.2 PCIe SSD

Reasons to buy

+
Clean, refined design
+
Sensible pricing
+
Super lightweight and portable

Reasons to avoid

-
Controversial redesign
-
Not many physical ports
Buy it if:

✅ You want ultraportability: There are very few laptops out there that are this easy to carry around. It also looks fantastic so you shouldn't have any qualms about showing this one off.

✅ You want a great value: The Dell XPS 13 (2022) feels like a very premium item that was mistakenly given a budget friendly price.

Don't buy it if:

You want great performance: It's a great everyday performer that will handle general workloads, but beyond that, this laptop is going to struggle.

❌ You loved the older XPS 13 design: If you're a fan of the old XPS 13s, it is very likely that you are going to dislike this laptop.

The Dell XPS 13 is the archetypal ultrabook: the perfect combination of reliability, portability, and sensible pricing. The XPS line has long been a favorite of ours, and for good reason. Refined designs and good performance are the hallmarks of this laptop series, making them perfect for the discerning educatee.

For those looking for something with a bit more oomph, you might want to consider the Dell XPS 15 - the XPS 13's big brother, which offers a larger screen and a dedicated GPU for students who need the processing power to work on video-editing or 3D-modelling workloads. The XPS 13 is more compact, but runs on CPU-integrated graphics, meaning it's best suited to ordinary tasks like word processing, web browsing, and answering emails.

That slightly more modest power level allowed Dell to make this one of the most compact laptops around, though - it's incredibly thin and light, making it easy to toss into a bag and sprint across campus. With some very competitive pricing on the entry-spec models, the Dell XPS 13 is one of the best choices for students who prefer Windows to ChromeOS or macOS.

Read our full Dell XPS 13 (2022) review

The best creative laptop for students

Apple MacBook Air (M2, 2022) on a white desk in a studio

(Image credit: Future)
The best laptop for creative students

Specifications

Best for: Students wanting to go into creative fields
CPU: Apple M2 chip with 8‑core CPU
Graphics: Integrated 8/10-core GPU
RAM: Up to 24GB unified LPDDR5
Screen: 13.6-inch 2560 x 1664 Liquid Retina display
Storage: Up to 2TB SSD

Reasons to buy

+
Slick redesign with a bigger display
+
Top-notch performance
+
Battery life is great
+
Silent in use

Reasons to avoid

-
Previous model is better value
Buy it if:

✅ You need a powerful laptop for content creation: While the MacBook Pro 13-inch beat the new MacBook Air to the punch by being the first M2 MacBook, the MacBook Air (M2, 2022) is a much better buy for most people.

✅ You want a thin and light laptop: The MacBook Air (M2, 2022) remains one of the best thin and light laptops you can buy, and with the new design, it’s more svelte and impressively modern.

Don't buy it if:

You’re after the cheapest MacBook: The new MacBook Air didn’t just get new hardware and a new design – but also a new, higher, price tag as well. 

❌ You need ports: The thin and light design comes at a cost of ports, and the new MacBook Air comes with just two Thunderbolt ports.

If you've got serious creative ambitions as a student - whether as a hobbyist or as part of your coursework - then there's arguably only one best choice of laptop. Apple's M1-powered MacBooks made a big splash when they first launched in 2020, proving that Apple's in-house silicon could serve as a creative yet compact powerhouse, and the M2 follow-up is no different.

With incredible performance thanks to the M2 system-on-a-chip (SoC), this is the laptop you want if your aim to spend a lot of your time at college working on creative projects; be they 3D design, digital art, video editing, or animation. The M2 MacBook Air can handle it all.

Of course, you're still paying the 'Apple Tax', so this is one of the most expensive laptops on this list - though macOS fans on a tighter budget should still consider the excellent 2020 M1 MacBook Air - but its outstanding build quality, phenomenal battery life, and high performance more than justify the price of admission. The only potential downside we found in our testing was that the fanless design (while good for keeping the laptop running silently) could lead to a bit of thermal throttling during very extended use, but thankfully that's an edge issue that shouldn't cause the average user any problems!

Read our full MacBook Air (M2, 2022) review

The best affordable 2-in-1 laptop for students

A Dell Inspiron 14 2-in-1 on a wooden table

(Image credit: Future)
An excellent compact 2-in-1 from Dell

Specifications

CPU: Up to Intel Core i7-1255U
Graphics: Intel Iris Xe Graphics
RAM: Up to 16GB DDR4
Screen: 14-inch FHD+ (1920 x 1200) Touch, 60Hz
Storage: Up to 512GB PCIe NVMe SSD

Reasons to buy

+
Great value for money
+
Good battery life
+
Solid performance

Reasons to avoid

-
Somewhat heavy for a compact laptop
-
No included stylus
Buy it if:

✅ You want a well-rounded 2-in-1 laptop: It performs incredibly well in the areas it needs to like speed and an HD display, and even in areas it doesn’t like gaming or battery life.

✅ You need longer battery life: Its battery lasts quite long for a 2-in-1, lasting nearly eight hours or a full work day and boasting a fast charge time.

Don't buy it if:

You want something thinner and lighter: Though it’s a great laptop, it’s a bit on the heavier and thicker side at a little over three pounds and under an inch.

❌ You need a 2-in-1 with a tablet pen: This is a laptop made for work, which would have been perfect for an included tablet pen to go with it. 

The Dell Inspiron 16 2-in-1 is a great laptop, but it's a tad on the large side for the average student (and a bit expensive too). On the other hand, its little sibling the Inspiron 14 2-in-1 could be the perfect college companion.

Besides the smaller 14-inch display, it's largely similar to the bigger Inspiron 2-in-1 model: strong performance, versatility thanks to its touchscreen and 360-degree hinge, and competitive pricing. It does fall short in the same areas as the 16-inch model, with the lack of a bundled stylus being a key point of contention in our review.

Despite this, we still found a lot to love when reviewing the Inspiron 14 2-in-1. The 1080p webcam is a nice touch for video calls and virtual classes (who'd want 720p in 2024?), and the overall performance is strong - with even some light gaming possible. The battery life and speedy charge time were also excellent to see, making this a hard laptop for us not to recommend. 

Read the full Dell Inspiron 14 2-in-1 review

The best premium 2-in-1 laptop for students

An Acer Spin 5 (2022) on a wooden desk

(Image credit: Future)
The best premium student 2-in-1

Specifications

Best for: Students with a larger budget who love taking notes on 2-in-1s
CPU: Up to 12th-gen Intel Core i7
Graphics: Integrated Intel Iris Xe
RAM: Up to 16GB LPDDR5
Screen: Up to 14-inch 2560 x 1600 touchscreen
Storage: Up to 1TB SSD

Reasons to buy

+
Outstanding audio/visual package
+
Clever touch stylus pen usage and storage
+
Good performance

Reasons to avoid

-
Fairly basic design
-
Noisy fan
-

Buy it if:

✅ You need a powerful 2-in-1: Not only does the Acer Spin 5(2022) handle general computing tasks easily, there’s also enough performance power to handle creative tasks. 

✅ You require a great screen and speaker combo: Between the lovely 14inch 2.5K screen and excellent DTS compatible speakers, there’s much to appreciate on the audio/visual side of things.

Don't buy it if:

You don’t like loud cooling fans: When running general apps like web browsers and video conferencing software, the fans on the Acer Spin 5 (2022) get loud. 

❌ You want a 2-in-1 with a bit of design pizzaz: Looking a lot like its older sibling, the angular form factor with the steel gray and rose gold accents lacks excitement. 

Acer's Spin series of laptops and Chromebooks have been good choices for students for years, thanks to their solid performance and good versatility. The 'spin' part of the name refers to their 360-degree hinges, which combined with a touchscreen let you flip instantly between laptop and tablet mode - and the Acer Spin 5 (2022) is a great example of this.

A built-in garaged stylus that charges when it's nestled inside the laptop makes this a fantastic laptop for artistic types, and the all-day battery life means you'll still have charge leftover when the school day is done to kick back and watch some Netflix. Add a high-quality webcam for distance learning and some generally strong performance in our internal tests, and you've got one stellar student laptop.

This is one of the more expensive laptops on this list, marking it out as a more premium device, but for those students who are willing to view their college laptop as an investment, it's a great choice that should carry you through several years of coursework.

Read our full Acer Spin 5 (2022) review

The best gaming laptop for students

MSI GF63 Thin gaming laptop open on a wooden desk, with a plant next to it.

(Image credit: Future)
The best gaming laptop for students

Specifications

Best for: Students who like to game, as well as engineering students
CPU: Intel Core i5-10500H - i7-11800H
Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 - RTX 3050 Ti
RAM: Up to 32GB DDR4 RAM
Screen: 15.6-inch 1920x1080 IPS-level, 144Hz
Storage: Up to 1TB PCIe SSD

Reasons to buy

+
Excellent performance given the price
+
Solid build quality
+
Good range of ports

Reasons to avoid

-
Average battery life
-
Some annoying bloatware
-
Charge cable can block a USB port
Buy it if:

✅ You want to game on a budget: Gaming laptops can be bloody expensive, but the MSI GF63 Thin walks the line between value and performance expertly.

✅ You need a multi-purpose laptop: Decent performance in just about every area and a reserved design means that the GF63 Thin can happily double as a laptop for study.

Don't buy it if:

You need good battery life: The battery life on offer here is far from dismal, but it’s not what we’d call impressive.

❌ You want high-resolution gaming: While some gaming laptops offer models with different screen resolutions, the GF63 Thin is only available at 1080p

Even the most studious of students need some downtime, but even the best cheap gaming laptops can cost way more than a student's budget can afford. Fortunately, for them, the MSI GF63 Thin is almost tailor-made for their academic and non-academic needs.

While it might not have the portability of a MacBook Air or Dell Inspiron 14 2-in-1, the GF63 Thin is still fairly manageable for a gaming laptop. What's more, its specs include up to an Intel Core i7-11800H CPU, up to an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 Ti GPU, and plenty of RAM, so performance isn't going to be too much of an issue. When we reviewed it, we ruled that it offered fantastic value for money in terms of performance, and the dedicated GPU means that it should handle graphically-intensive tasks better than many of the other laptops on this list.

Those beefy specs are also going to be great for productivity work, especially if you're going into technical fields like engineering which often require special computer hardware for coursework. The MSI GF63 Thin is a fair compromise, then, between getting your school work done and having something to mess around with once you're done — all without absolutely blowing a hole in your budget.

Read the full MSI GF63 Thin (2022) review

The best oled laptop for students

An HP Envy 13 x360 on a wooden table

(Image credit: Future)
The best student laptop for working outside

Specifications

Best for: Students who like to work outside and need performance
CPU: 12th Gen Intel Core i5 - i7
Graphics: Intel Iris Xe Graphics
RAM: Up to 16GB
Screen: 15.6-inch 1920 x 1080 400-nit multitouch-enabled IPS
Storage: Up to 1TB SSD

Reasons to buy

+
Great battery life
+
All-around solid performance
+
Extremely portable

Reasons to avoid

-
Wonky touchpad
-
No HDMI port
Buy it if:

✅ You want an extremely portable 2-in-1: This laptop is lightweight, slim, and keeps the screen size reasonable, which makes for a highly portable machine.

✅ You want an OLED laptop with a great battery life: This 2-in-1 laptop has an excellent battery life, which is especially impressive due to the OLED screen that accompanies it.

Don't buy it if:

You prefer a high-quality touchpad: The touchpad on this machine isn't bad, but it's sloppy at times, even with the sensitivity cranked up.

❌ You want a flashier laptop: This laptop is highly practical with very few visual frills, so those who prefer a more aesthetically pleasing machine should feast their eyes on something else.

If you’re seeking a thin and easy-to-carry laptop for schoolwork with a brilliant OLED screen and great battery life, the HP Envy 13 x360 may be the ideal - and affordable - option for you. Much more accessible than the Spectre line, price-wise, the Envy 13 x360 is a fantastic 2-in-1 laptop, especially for budget-minded students.

The fact that it can compete with 16-inch 2-in-1 laptops in terms of performance is even more impressive. We’ve been able to run spreadsheets, word processors, conference calls, and multiple browser tabs playing videos at the same time without issue. Our battery life experience with the Envy 13 x360 has been quite excellent as well, giving up a little over nine hours in our movie battery test. 

It’s not exactly a budget buy, but considering the OLED technology you’re getting that delivers vivid colors, it’s pretty reasonably priced. On top of that, the keyboard is solid and its port selection is varied, perfect for students with a lot of flash drives and for connecting to an external monitor.

Read our full HP Envy 13 x360 (2022) review

How to choose the best student laptop for you

The best student laptop is going to give you the right balance between sufficient performance for productivity tasks, affordability for a student's budget, and durability to handle the kind of wear-and-tear that a student can put their laptops through – and having it look good never hurts.

But that can be a hard thing for students and families to balance, especially if they aren't as familiar with computer hardware as they'd like to be. Fortunately, there are some general guidelines that you can follow to get the right student laptop for your needs and budget.

How to choose the right laptop for students

There are a few other boxes that the best student laptops should check besides being able to handle the demands of your coursework. One of the biggest considerations you should have when choosing a student laptop is battery life - you need something that will last all day during your classes and still have juice leftover for late nights studying at the library.

Student laptops should also ideally be both versatile and lightweight because you’ll want something that can multitask all the programs you’ll need without being a drag to carry around campus. Versatility is crucial with a student laptop, especially with majors that will have you flipping back and forth between a published paper and the essay you’re trying to finish in time.

Budget is also a major consideration in choosing the best student laptop for your university experience. Not everyone can shell out a ton of money for a student laptop - we absolutely understand that - so you need to be sure to pick something that meets all your criteria without going overboard on your budget. It’s easy to find a great student laptop within your price range these days, and even better when you find a sale and get a good deal on it.

Is a MacBook a good laptop for students?

This is a slightly loaded question, because ultimately the best operating system for students (whether that's Windows 10 or 11, macOS, or ChromeOS) will always come down to which OS the student in question prefers to use. Some of us are married to the effective functionality of Windows; others might prefer the aesthetically pleasing UI of Apple devices, or the Android-esque, streamlined user experience Chromebook provide.

If you're already comfortable using a specific operating system, making the leap can be tricky. ChromeOS is arguably the easiest to pick up and use, but changing to MacOS after a decade spend familiarizing yourself with Windows might lead to confusion. Take this into consideration when choosing a new laptop for school or college.

On the hardware side, we're pleased to say that MacBooks are more competitive than ever. Apple's fantastic M1 and M2 chips are much more capable of running demanding tasks than processors with integrated graphics, making Apple laptops excellent all-rounders for the busy student. However, if you need to run highly intensive software, it's worth considering a Windows laptop with a dedicated GPU - ideally an Nvidia RTX one - since this will give you a lot more grunt in GPU-accelerated programs.

Which is better for students: a laptop or a desktop?

Simply put, most college-level students will need a laptop for their studies at this stage. While having a computer of some kind is practically a necessity at this point - with the rise of remote learning and content creation among university students - a laptop can be thrown into a rucksack and taken along to lectures and workshops, unlike a desktop PC.

Yes, a desktop will typically offer more processing power and the advantage of a bigger screen, but you might end up spending more (especially once you factor in the need for peripherals) and then still find yourself needing a portable device for note-taking and working on the go. If you've already got a small tablet or laptop that you can take out and about, you might want to consider buying one of the best desktop computers, but otherwise, we recommend you get a more capable laptop and use that in lieu of a desktop.

How we tested these student laptops

We know that buying a new laptop can be a huge investment. Even more so with laptops for college students. That’s why we take our jobs seriously, and test every laptop we recommend on this list extensively. 

That process involves using them in our day-to-day lives to see how long their battery lasts, how robust they are – college kids have hectic lives, after all, and how cool they stay under pressure. We also look at their design, including how stylish they are, if they are thin and light enough to carry around with, and how comfortable they are to work on. Because the webcam and microphone in a laptop are also incredibly important, especially these days, we take time to test those out as well.

When it comes to performance, we use a mix of real-world tests and synthetic benchmarks to see how powerful (or not) these laptops are. This means using Windows 10 (or Chrome OS on Chromebooks and macOS on MacBooks) and running various apps and seeing how fast they load, noting down any problems. 

Battery lives are also important, so we’ll keep track of how long we can use the laptop without needing to charge it. To get specific numbers, we also run our own battery life benchmark that plays a looped 1080p movie until the battery dies and the PC Mark 10 battery life benchmark, which replicates real-world usage, such as web browsing and document creation. These tests give us an excellent idea of how long the batteries in these laptops last.

When all is said and done, we then take everything we’ve learned about the laptop and compare it to its price, to see if it offers the best value to students.

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