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The best student laptops 2020: all the best options for school

best student laptop
The best laptops for college students put value over having the top-of-the-line processors and graphics cards. (Image credit: Future)

The best student laptops aren’t always the cheapest options out there. When picking out a laptop for the new college student in your family, remember that students also require laptops that tick a few boxes beyond affordability. So, while laptops under $500 can be great candidates, paying a few extra bucks for a couple of extra useful features could prove more advantageous.

When picking the best student laptop for your kid, find something that can handle a student’s workload, have enough power for some post-coursework streaming and light gaming, and boast a battery life that will last at least a whole school day on a single charge. Also, go for something that’s thin and light. After all, a student’s backpack is heavy enough without a massive laptop weighing it down even more. 

We picked out the best student laptops 2020 has to offer, from the best Chromebooks to heartier devices with a more powerful operating system like Windows 10 or macOS. We’ve got something for every type of student, so whatever it is you or your kid needs, you’ll find something on this list. 

Google Pixelbook Go

The Google Pixelbook Go has earned our coveted “Editor's Choice” award in the Chromebook category. (Image credit: Google)

1. Google Pixelbook Go

Google’s best Chromebook for budget consumers

CPU: Intel Core m3 – i7 | Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics 615 (300MHz) | RAM: 8GB – 16GB | Screen: Full HD Display – 4K Ultra HD Molecular Display | Storage: 64GB – 256GB

Incredible battery life
Amazing ‘Hush’ keyboard
No biometric login

Have you been waiting for the day you can finally afford the premium price of Google Pixelbook? Well, with Google releasing Pixelbook Go, your wait is finally over. Granted, it isn’t quite the actual luxury device you’ve been dreaming of. However, rest assured, you will love this Chromebook, just as we have during our time with it. We love it so much, in fact, that it earned our coveted “Editor's Choice” award in the Chromebook category. It boasts incredible battery life, an even more impressive keyboard and a 1080p webcam, which you don’t see often in the more budget-friendly laptops even in 2020. And, that’s just to start.

Read the full review: Google Pixelbook Go

HP Chromebook 14

(Image credit: HP)

2. HP Chromebook 14

A well-balanced Chromebook

CPU: AMD A4 – A6, Intel Celeron N3350 – N3450 | Graphics: AMD Radeon R4 – R5, Intel HD Graphics 500 | RAM: 4GB – 8GB | Screen: 14-inch diagonal HD (1366x768) SVA anti-glare – FHD (1920x1080) IPS BrightView | Storage: 16GB – 64GB eMMC

Excellent keyboard and trackpad
Chrome OS is responsive
Crisp, vivid screen
Average battery life

The HP Chromebook 14 may not be as powerful as other Chromebooks, but this tiny laptop has a few aces up its sleeves, helping it secure a well-deserved top spot on our best student laptops list. Those aces include striking a good balance between ample screen space and portability, as well as a surprisingly excellent keyboard and a decent trackpad. That’s without mentioning how vivid the display and how low its price tag is.

Read the full review: HP Chromebook 14

Microsoft Surface Go 2

(Image credit: Microsoft)

3. Microsoft Surface Go 2

Premium design, more affordable price

CPU: 8th Gen Intel Core m3 – Intel Pentium Gold Processor 4425Y | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 615 | RAM: 4GB – 8GB | Screen: 10.5” 1920 x 1280 (220 PPI) PixelSense Display | Storage: 64GB eMMC – 128GB SSD | Connectivity: IEEE 802.11a/b/g/n/ac/ax, Bluetooth 5.0, Qualcomm Snapdragon X16 LTE Modem

Premium design
Affordable
Can run full Windows 10
No Touch Cover or stylus included
Base model's specs are weak

Microsoft’s devices are known for their higher price tags, which is why the Surface Go line proves popular with the more budget-conscious crowd. It’s Microsoft’s best affordable premium tablet, and the follow up, Surface Go 2, continues that tradition with its reasonable price and premium design. It even runs the full Windows 10 operating system, so it’s even more capable than other tablets out there as far as what applications it can run. Unfortunately, as with the original, it suffers from the same curse of being underpowered, especially at the base configuration. However, it does offer a slight bump in performance over its predecessor. If you’re looking for the best student laptops, this one’s certainly a great contender.

Read the full review: Microsoft Surface Go 2

Dell XPS 15

(Image credit: Dell)

4. Dell XPS 15 (2020)

All-powerful laptop for creative students

CPU: 10th Gen Intel Core i5 – i7 | Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics – NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650 Ti | RAM: 8GB – 64GB | Screen: 15.6" FHD+ (1920 x 1200) InfinityEdge Non-Touch Anti-Glare 500-Nit – 15.6" UHD+ (3840 x 2400) InfinityEdge Touch Anti-Reflective 500-Nit Display | Storage : 256GB – 2TB M.2 PCIe NVMe

Amazing speakers
Beautiful display
Comfy keyboard
GTX 1650 Ti is a little weak

The Dell XPS 15 might be a bit pricey for regular students, but it’s easily one of the best laptops for students in the creative field. Combining staggering power in a stylish thin and light chassis, this laptop doesn’t hold back when it comes to internals and features that improve your computing experience overall, whether you’re a film student or a graphic design one. Among those amazing features are a gorgeous bright display with 500 nits of brightness, an extremely comfortable keyboard, impressive speakers, and a terrific trackpad. We’re not saying that this laptop is perfect, but our coveted 5 out of 5 rating should speak for itself.

Read the full review: Dell XPS 15

Asus Chromebook Flip C436F

(Image credit: Asus)

5. Asus Chromebook Flip C436

A whole lotta hits

CPU: 10th Gen Intel Core i3 – i5 | Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics | RAM: 8GB – 16GB | Screen: 14-inch LED-backlit Full HD (1920 x 1080) 16:9 display | Storage: 512GB / 256GB / 128GB SSD

Superb performance
Premium build and features
Impressive keyboard
Subpar speakers
Erratic touchpad

Offering more robust processing and graphical prowess than its cheaper siblings, as well as higher quality construction, the Asus Chromebook Flip C436 gives the premium Chromebook market a slightly more affordable option. And, for that price, you’re also getting that impressively lightweight chassis, a stunning 1080p touchscreen, and a keyboard that could practically rival those on the Dell XPS and MacBooks, as well as a couple of extra features like a fingerprint sensor and Wi-Fi 6 support. This is definitely one of the best laptops for students looking into getting a Chromebook.

Read the full review: Asus Chromebook Flip C436

MacBook Air (2020)

(Image credit: Apple)

6. MacBook Air 2020

New and improved for 2020

CPU: Intel Core i3 – i7 | Graphics: Intel Iris Plus Graphics | RAM: 8GB – 16GB | Storage: 256GB – 2TB PCIe-based SSD | Dimensions: 30.41 x 21.24 x 1.61 cm

Lower price of entry
New 10th generation processors
Improved keyboard
Screen colors a little muted
Battery life only OK
Webcam still just 720p

Apple’s thinnest and lightest MacBook is back in 2020 with a vengeance. Not only has it fixed a lot of the complaints with its predecessors – namely, that problematic keyboard is now gone, replaced by a drastically improved keyboard. But it also comes with new and more powerful internal components, even more storage space options, and a lower price of entry. There are a couple of things we’d do better, like the muted screen and the average battery life, but this model of the MacBook Air is better than anything we’ve seen from the line so far. And, it’s definitely among the best student laptops of 2020.

Read the full review: MacBook Air (2020)

Acer Swift 3 2020

(Image credit: Acer)

7. Acer Swift 3 (2020)

Punches above its ultralight-weight

CPU: AMD Ryzen 5 3500 – 10th Gen Intel Core i5-1035G4 | GPU: AMD Radeon shared memory – Intel Iris Plus Graphics | RAM: 8GB | Storage: 128GB – 512GB SSD | Display: 14" Full HD (1920 x 1080) 16:9 – 13.5" (2256 x 1504) 3:2, IPS

Highly portable
Excellent multitasker
Very affordable for an Ultrabook
Speakers are "meh"
Not great for gaming

The most popular Ultrabooks out there can cost a fortune – you have to pay for that thin and light form factor, after all. Not with the Acer Swift 3 (2020). This is the Ultrabook for the masses, thanks to its low asking price for that lightweight design, decent battery life and brand new specs that deliver when it comes to multitasking. It’s definitely got all the makings of the best student laptop – including that smart design one could mistake for a MacBook Pro.

Read the full review: Acer Swift 3 (2020)

Asus Chromebook Flip

(Image credit: Asus)

8. Asus Chromebook Flip

Premium Chromebook specs, economic Chromebook pricing

CPU: Intel Pentium 4405Y – Intel Core m3-6Y30 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 515 | RAM: 4GB | Screen: 12.5-inch, FHD (1,920 x 1,080) LED backlit anti-glare | Storage: 32GB – 64GB eMMC

Elegant tablet mode
Tactile keyboard
No out-of-box Android app support
Middling speakers

The best student laptops aren't premium all-singing, all-dancing devices with huge price tags, as the excellent Asus Chromebook Flip C302 demonstrates. The Asus Chromebook Flip C302 brings a lot of what we love about Asus laptops to an affordable Chromebook that's ideal for day-to-day tasks and for students working on their homework. That means it's got excellent build quality, a fantastic design and packs some great hardware that makes it one of the best Chromebooks on sale in 2020, with an Intel Core processor, full 1080p display, touchscreen, backlit keyboard and USB-C port.

Read the full review: Asus Chromebook Flip

Dell Inspiron 13 7000 2-in-1

(Image credit: Dell )

9. Dell Inspiron 13 7000 2-in-1

A step up for Inspiron

CPU: 10th Generation Intel Core i5 – i7 | Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics | RAM: 8GB – 16GB | Screen: 13.3-inch FHD (1920 x 1080) – 15.6-inch UHD (3840 x 2160) Truelife Touch Narrow Border WVA Display with Active Pen support | Storage: Intel Optane Memory H10 32 GB with 512 GB Solid-State Storage – 1TB M.2 PCIe NVMe SSD

Competent performance
Highly versatile
Premium design
Quirky display
4K battery drain
Bunk speakers

The Dell Inspiron 13 7000 2-in-1 is a versatile 2-in-1 with a lot going for it under the hood.  This premium laptop is more than just about its premium design; it also has high-end internals to compete with the likes of the more powerful Dell XPS 13.  Rounding that out is a 4K display, and a clever stylus slot that makes us wonder whether they actually beat Microsoft to the idea. Granted, the display is a bit of a battery drain, and the speakers impressive, but this is still among the best student laptops out there.

Read the full review: Dell Inspiron 13 7000 2-in-1

MacBook Pro (13-inch, 2020)

(Image credit: Apple)

10. MacBook Pro (13-inch, 2020)

Worth the upgrade at the highest configuration

CPU: 8th-generation Intel Core i5 – 10th-generation Intel Core i7 | Graphics: Intel Iris Plus Graphics 645 | RAM: up to 32GB | Screen: 13-inch Retina display with True Tone | Storage: 256GB – 4TB SSD

Improved specs (on some models)
Larger capacity SSD for starting model
New keyboard is great
Entry-level model still has 8th gen Intel CPU
You still only get Thunderbolt 3 ports

The MacBook Pro (13-inch, 2020)’s entry-level model may miss out on some of the line’s new toys. However, going for the higher-end configurations will get you new (and powerful) Intel processors and improved RAM speeds for better performance, all packed in the 13-inch incredibly svelte body. Apple rounds it all out with that incredible Magic Keyboard from the new 16-inch, finally getting rid of that problematic keyboard. Even if you don’t go for the 10th-generation Intel Core configurations, you might still appreciate the fact that all models come with more storage capacity for the same price as their predecessors.

Read the full review: MacBook Pro (13-inch, 2020)

Bill Thomas, Michelle Rae Uy and Gabe Carey have also contributed to this article.