It’s back to school, college and university time, and that means many of us are likely to be looking for the best student laptop of 2020. Our guide has been put together to help take the stress and strain out of choosing a great system – this is a definitive list of the best laptops for students, covering just about every need and budget imaginable.
Online retailers are keen to shift laptops to students, especially during back to school season and will usually offer a host of tempting deals and discounts to get you to part with your cash: and deals to tempt students in, so keep your eyes peeled for the best student discounts on laptops while you shop. You may end up spending less than you thought you would have to.
So whether you’re heading off to university, picking up your studies at home, or anything in between, use our guide to the overall best student laptop to narrow down a device that’s perfect for you – one that has the features you need at a price that suits. When you’re going back to school (or college or university), you want to make sure you’re well equipped.
Best student laptops and Black Friday 2020
The best Black Friday deals super sale is a great opportunity for students to bag a top laptop for their study. That’s because even the best student laptops, the systems that T3 recommends right here in this guide, get discounted for Black Friday, and that makes them even more affordable.
You only have to look at the sorts of large price cuts that retailers like Dell make, who are known worldwide as one of the foremost laptop makers going, to see how a student can kit themselves out for all of their undergraduate and post-graduate study with a superb laptop for very little money indeed.
As such, right now we’re recommending any student looking for laptop upgrade to get deals-active right now, as their ideal system may already be discounted.
Students in the USA should check out the best Amazon Black Friday deals, Walmart Black Friday deals, Best Buy Black Friday deals and Dell Black Friday deals.
While students in the UK should scope out the best Amazon Black Friday deals, Currys Black Friday deals, Argos Black Friday deals and John Lewis Black Friday deals.
Remember, though, it is crucial to still do your homework, as you want to land a top system with longevity and robustness built-in and not an end-of-line dud. That’s where reading T3’s best laptops for students guide is invaluable.
The best student laptops you can buy today
We think that for the vast majority of students the best student laptop available today is the HP Pavilion 14. Combining strong all-round specs, which include an 8th generation Intel Core i5-8250U CPU, Intel UHD Graphics 620 GPU, 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD, along with a simple yet stylish design and crisp screen, for the money you can’t do better running Windows 10.
The system’s build quality is also good, and you get dedicated HDMI, USB Type-C and networking ports, too, meaning that hooking the machine up in the dorm or in class is easy. Battery life sits at up to 11 hours, and the machines comes pre-installed with a fresh copy of Windows 10 Home.
Cheaper and more expensive student laptops are available in this list, as well as makes from Apple that run macOS, however, for an affordable sweet spot then look no further than the HP Pavilion 14.
The Dell XPS 13 series has consistently wowed us here at T3, and the 2020 version of the laptop continues that trend – it’s powerful, supremely well built, and compact, so just about everything you could possibly want in your search for the best student laptop around during back to school season.
With the latest 10th-gen Intel processors installed and up to 16GB of RAM installed, this is a portable computer that’s going to be able to handle everything that you want to throw at it. From late-night Netflix to early-morning essay writing, you’ll find the Dell XPS 13 for 2020 a capable and competent laptop.
It’s that 13.4-inch display with the super-thin bezels that really makes the XPS 13 stand out though: if you want to, you can go all the way up to a 4K resolution, but the 1,920 x 1,080 resolution models still look fantastic (4K doesn’t make a huge amount of difference on a laptop display this size).
The Chromebook 15 is a ridiculously cheap student laptop that’s also very capable. The hardware is in line with that price, with lower specs across the board – but as the machine runs Chrome OS, it doesn’t matter too much, with the laptop still delivering a fast and responsive usage experience.
And that 15.6-inch screen is an absolute delight, by the way. Again, its speakers are poor, with flat treble and weak bass – but at this price, you can afford an iPod as well. One of the best student laptops going in 2020 for those shopping on a budget, and who don’t need a host of extra bells and whistles.
Apple has made some interesting tweaks to the MacBook Air in recent years, pulling it back from near-obsolescence to make it just about the best Mac laptop option for students. It’s thin, it’s light, and it has just about enough power to handle all of the usual studenty tasks that you’re going to need it for.
The 2020 edition of the MacBook Air features the latest 10th-gen Intel processors, and you can kit it out with up to 16GB of RAM and up to 2TB of internal storage if you need to know – impressive specs by any standards.
Perhaps most importantly, the entry-level price is now below the £1,000/$1,000 mark, making it the cheapest MacBook that Apple has on offer at the moment. With macOS Big Sur on the way later in the year, the MacBook is going to get even more appealing as a device, as long as you can afford it.
Microsoft’s forays into the 2-in-1 market have been a huge success, revitalising the company’s image as a serious hardware maker right when it needed it. For people who want to get in on this without paying handsomely – so students, in other words – Microsoft has you covered with the second Surface Go.
It builds on what made the original Surface Go so good, adding a more premium-feeling design and a small specs bump to make sure you can get through all of the computing tasks that you need to get through. It also squeezes in a bigger-sized screen into a form factor the same size as the original Surface Go, but cutting down on the bezels.
You can eke out around five hours of use between charges with the Surface Go, and given its size and power, it’s perfect for jumping between the library and the lecture hall. In your calculations about whether or not to buy this, make sure that you factor in the extra cost of the Type Cover keyboard in as well, which you’re going to need to make full use of this as a laptop as well as a tablet.
If you’re going to kickstart your education, regardless of the subject or the level, why not invest in a student laptop that’s not only built to last, but also one of the most powerful laptops you can buy in 2020? That’s what Huawei is offering with the robust MateBook X Pro, and it’s going to have you covered whatever your subject.
Its attractive and sleek chassis is home to a lovely 13.9-inch 3K display, a meaty Nvidia GeForce MX150 2GB GDDR5 GPU, and a battery that will serve you well through even the lengthiest of all-nighters.
With all these specs and more, the Huawei MateBook X Pro has proved itself the new gold standard, and one of the very best 2020 laptops for students available.
There’s just so much to like about the Dell Inspiron 14 3000, and its crazy cheap price point is just the first. Next, it rock-solid internal hardware means that light computing tasks are handled with ease, while its stylish lightweight design also makes it incredible portable.
It’s 14-inch LCD anti-glare screen is crisp, too, and with a full fat version of Windows 10 Home 64bit installed, it very much delivers the genuine experience out of the box. If browsing the internet, writing reports and essays, as well as storing your most valuable media and work is important to you, then the Insprion 14 3000 is a great companion.
The laptop also comes with a webcam so joining seminars and remote meetings is handled, while its SD card reader and multitude of ports makes it easy to hook storage up to it, as well as it to larger screens and peripherals.
Overall a brilliant cheap Windows 10 laptop that will be ideal for going back to school.
If you like the HP brand but want to spend a little bit more than the Pavillion costs (see above), the HP Envy x360 might be for you. It manages to marry some decent specs with some very decent looks at a price that’s not quite as exorbitant as you might think, looking at it.
With AMD powering the CPU and GPU, this is a laptop that’s going to handle most of the tasks you throw at it, besides intensive gaming and video editing – it’s perfect for writing up essays, or doing some research on the web, or putting together a budget spreadsheet to work out where all your money is going.
And as this is a 2-in-1, when the working day is over you can flip the HP Envy x360 into tent mode and enjoy some Netflix or YouTube on the bright, crisp 13.3-inch screen. Definitely one for your best student laptops shortlist.
Versatility is important for the students of today and a 2-in-1 like the Yoga 530 series from Lenovo doubles up as a tablet when you don’t need a full laptop – perfect for taking into lectures or seminars with you. It’ll even stand up in a tent position for when you’re watching movies.
The specs are very competitive for the price (though a stylus costs extra), and the Lenovo Yoga 530 should be able to chew through all the tasks you give it fairly rapidly. If you’re after something a little bit different from your student laptop in 2020, this is worth a look.
Like its smaller sibling, the awesome XPS 13, Dell’s XPS 15 sports an almost bezel-less InfinityEdge display, but is better for long hours of work because of the larger screen. It brings the dual benefit of making whatever you’re doing on its gorgeous 15-inch 4K screen come to life while also lending it the dimensions of a 14-inch laptop.
It’s bag-friendly to boot and comes packing the goods in terms of specs, including an Nvidia GTX 960M mobile graphics card that’s beefy enough to handle just about any game so long as you stick to 1080p.
The XPS 15’s battery life is its main weakness, so don’t expect its runtimes to stretch into the double figures without taking a booster pack along for the ride. Even with that against it, it’s still one of the best student laptops out there.
Read the full review: Dell XPS 15
If you need sleekness and power, and you’re prepared to pay for it – but at the same time you still want something that isn’t too difficult to carry around or stuff into a backpack – then consider the 13-inch MacBook Pro from Apple (and yes, the keyboard has finally been fixed).
A variety of different configurations are available to suit your needs and budget, but it’s possible to get this laptop specced out very well indeed if you’re planning on doing any serious image or video editing. Don’t underestimate everything you get with macOS too, with Apple’s apps improving all the time.
Macs aren’t the way to go if your budget is tight, but if you can afford the 13-inch MacBook Pro then you won’t be disappointed – it’ll last you well through your years of education and probably beyond as well. The 10th-generation Intel chips are included, ahead of the switch to Apple Silicon.
All work and no play makes for a very dull student experience, so you may well be looking for some gaming power when shopping for the best student laptop on the market – you just don’t want to pay full whack in terms of price, which is understandable (that loan won’t pay itself off).
Enter the Lenovo IdeaPad L340, a 15.6-inch gaming laptop that manages to keep the price down while ramping the specs up (take a look at that GeForce GTX 1650 graphics card with 4GB of video RAM). You should be able to play anything on this, even if you can’t quite ramp up the quality settings to the very highest level.
That extra screen space comes in handy for work as well as leisure time, and the specs inside this laptop mean it should last you comfortably for the length of your course – unless you’re studying to be an architect or a doctor, or something like that. It doesn’t look half-bad, either.
We’ve always been fans of the Acer Swift series, and the 2020 edition of the Swift 3 has done nothing to change our minds. You get a 14-inch, 1,920 x 1,080 screen for staring at those essays and video streaming services, while under the hood everything is powered by Intel Core i5 or i7 chips.
The closer you look, the better the Acer Swift 3 gets – it supports the latest Wi-Fi 6 standards, for example, and has a decent selection of ports too (2 x USB-A, 1 x USB-C, and 1 x HDMI). At the top end of the configuration options, you can even have an Nvidia GeForce MX350 graphics card installed if you think you’re going to need it.
When you’re in the market for the best student laptop for going back to school, you want something that’s reliable, compact, easy to carry around, and great to look at – and the Acer Swift 3 ticks all of those boxes. Definitely one to get on your shortlist if you prefer Windows.
How to choose the best student laptop for you
We hope our student laptop guide proves invaluable for anyone out there shopping for a system that’s capable, decent value, and a boon to your productivity. We’re constantly updating this list too with newer models and updated information, so be sure to keep checking back regularly, and we’ve also included some clutch buying advice to help you narrow down the ideal learning tool for going back to school.
Today’s computers need to be able to do much more than the primitive number-crunchers of old. They need to support a huge range of software, given that several courses have special requirements, as well as the standard office packages.
When it comes to software, Microsoft’s Office 365 suite is free for students, and there are also Google’s Chromebooks and the associated Google Docs suite to consider as well, with the latter also free to use.
These laptops need to be able to run HD video lectures without juddering of course, while a set of good speakers always comes in handy when the university day is done. These machines have to be affordable too, given the increased cost of schooling all round the world.
Integrated webcams are important as well, for web lectures and broadcast media-related courses, but these are now included as standard on every laptop. You’d be hard pushed to find a model without one.