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The best laptops for students in 2020

best laptops for students
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Welcome to our pick of the best laptops for students in 2020. These days, there are a number of unique challenges to anyone who is currently studying, which means picking the best laptop for your needs is now more important than ever.

This is where our guide comes in. No matter what course you are on, if you're going to school, college or university, we'll have a brilliant laptop on this page that will suit your needs.

Picking the best student laptop involves a bit of research to make sure that the chosen device not only offers excellent value for money, but isn't underpowered. Also, a laptop should last the duration of a course – if not longer (one of the best laptop bags  will help). That means finding something that's future-proof for the next three years at least.

Battery life is also very important – the best student laptops will last all day in lessons and lectures. Another important consideration is storage. If you're a student in a creative field especially, you'll want a laptop that comes with plenty of hard drive space to store your work. For photography, video editing and music production students, we'd recommend going for at least 1TB. If it's image editing you'll be specialising in,  you might also want to consider one of these best laptops for Photoshop

That said, many Chromebooks are excellent student laptops, and you may notice that they don't come with as much storage as Windows 10 PCs and MacBooks. This is because the apps they run don't take up much space, and with built-in support for Google Drive, it means your documents are all saved in the cloud as well.

So, read on for our pick of the best laptops for students in 2020 – and let our built-in price comparison tool find the very best deals.

Acer Swift 3

(Image credit: Acer)

01. Acer Swift 3

The best laptop for students overall

CPU: up to Intel Core i7-8565U | Graphics: Nvidia GeForce MX150, Intel HD Graphics 620 or AMD Radeon Vega 8 | RAM: 4GB – 8GB | Screen: 14-inch FHD (1,920 x 1,080) ComfyView IPS – 15.6" Full HD (1920 x 1080) | Storage: 128GB – 1 TB HDD, 16 GB Intel Optane Memory

Superb keyboard and trackpad
Excellent performance
Very reasonably priced
Looks a little plain

When looking for the best laptop for students, you want something that offers enough power to handle most day-to-day tasks, like writing documents, browsing the web and creating presentations, while being light and small enough to carry to classes and affordable.

It's certainly a big ask, which is why the Acer Swift 3 is our pick as the best overall laptop for students. It offers plenty of power for work and studying, and despite its low price, it offers performance on par with more expensive laptops from the likes of Microsoft and Apple.

It also has a sturdy build quality which means it can be chucked into a backpack without too much worry, and it comes with a price tag that shouldn't dent any student loans. It's not the most powerful laptop in the world, but for many students, it'll be exactly what they need.

Google Pixelbook Go

(Image credit: Google)

02. Google Pixelbook Go

The best Chromebook for students

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

The Pixelbook Go is the best Chromebook money can buy right now - which also makes it one of the best laptops for students as well. Unlike its expensive predecessor, the Pixelbook Go brings Google's premium design to a more affordable Chromebook, which makes it a great choice for students.

While it still is pricey for a Chromebook, it's cheaper than many Windows 10 PCs, and it comes with the kind of hardware that justifies the price. So, it's got a bright and vibrant screen, long battery life that will last an entire school day, and a 1080p webcam - which is great for keeping in contact with friends, family and teachers remotely.

However, what really makes it stand out as a brilliant student laptop is its excellent keyboard. This really is one of the best keyboards we've seen on a laptop, and it means you can type on it comfortably all day long.

Acer Chromebook 314

(Image credit: Acer)

03. Acer Chromebook 314

The best budget Chromebook for students

CPU: Intel Celeron N4000 | Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics 600 | RAM: 4GB | Screen: 14-inch LED (1366 x 768) high definition | Storage: 32GB eMMC

Excellent battery life and performance
Bright, crisp screen
No touchscreen
No fingerprint reader

Chromebooks make brilliant laptops for students as they offer excellent value for money. They are often cheaper than Windows 10 laptops, while offering equal, or better, performance.

This is thanks to the Chrome OS operating system which powers the devices, as it is optimised to work on low-powered components. This also allows for fantastic battery lives as well, which means you can easily go a whole school day before needing to charge.

While the Pixelbook Go (above), is our pick for the best Chromebook overall, the Acer Chromebook 314 is the best budget Chromebook for students, as it offers excellent features, including a bright and vibrant 14-inch display, 12 hour battery life and a comfortable keyboard, which makes it excellent for writing up homework on, as well as watching videos when you (or the student in your life) needs to unwind - and all for a very affordable price.

Just bear in mind that Chrome OS doesn't run all of the programs you usually get on Windows 10, but there are usually great alternative applications.

Microsoft Surface Go 2

(Image credit: Microsoft)

04. 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 affordable Surface Go 2 is an excellent laptop/tablet hybrid for students that want something portable and stylish, to do general word processing on. As a Microsoft device, you can be confident that it runs Office programs, such as Word and Excel, with ease, and it's a brilliant little device for quickly jotting down notes – or if you get the keyboard attachment – writing whole essays on. The gorgeous PixelSense display is also great for watching some Netflix in your down time, too.

The second iteration of Surface Go products improves on the original thanks to a spec update which means Windows 10 and its apps run even better than before, making an already great student laptop even better.

Dell Latitude 7490

(Image credit: Dell)

05. Dell Latitude 7490

The best laptop for students with more budget

CPU: 8th-generation Intel Core i3 – i7 | Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics 620 | RAM: 4GB – 16GB | Storage: 128GB SSD – 512GB SSD

Reasonable price
Excellent performance
Great battery life
Dell proprietary PSU

The Dell Latitude 7490 is our pick for the best laptop for students for people who have more money to spend. This is because it ticks all the right boxes for students. So, its modern components are powerful enough for day-to-day work, with a choice of SSDs that keeps the laptop feeling speedy while also offering plenty of space for your important files and coursework. 

It has excellent battery life as well, which means you can carry it around with you in school or on campus all day without worrying about it running out of juice. Best of all, it's decently priced, so you're not spending a fortune – and Dell lets you customise the Latitude 7490 so that you can build a laptop that suits your needs and budget.

MacBook Air (2020)

(Image credit: Apple)

06. MacBook Air 2020

The best Apple laptop for students

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

If you are an Apple-loving student with a bit of budget to spend, then the thin and light MacBook Air (2020) will be the best student laptop for you. With improved components in the 2020 model, along with a massively improved keyboard and more storage space, this is a brilliant laptop for anyone looking for an Apple laptop to do their school work on.

It's also Apple's most affordable laptop, which means if your budget can't stretch to the more expensive (and powerful) MacBook Pro, this year's MacBook Air is a great alternative. Thanks to the latest Intel processors and Apple's class-leading design and build quality, the MacBook Air (2020) is in no ways a compromise.

Dell G5 15 5590

(Image credit: Dell)

07. Dell G5 15 5590

The best gaming laptop for sudents

CPU: up to 9th generation Intel Core i7-9750H | Graphics: up to Nvidia GeForce RTX 2070 with Max-Q | RAM: 8GB – 16GB | Screen: 15.6 inch FHD (1920 x 1080) IPS 300-nits – 15.6 inch FHD(1920 x 1080) 300nits IPS Anti-Glare LED with 144Hz refresh rate | Storage: 128GB SSD + 1TB HDD – 1TB SSD

Perfectly balanced feature set
Strong gaming performance
Great battery life
IPS panel is merely OK
Confusing configuration options

While being a student is no doubt hard work, you do need to have some downtime, so when you're taking a break from your studies, you may want to let of steam with a bit of gaming. If that's the case, you'll want a powerful – yet affordable – gaming laptop, which is why the Dell G5 15 5590 is our pick for the best gaming laptop for students. It has decent specs that will play the latest games smoothly at 1080p, as well has featuring a stylish design and great build quality, all for an impressively low asking price. Perhaps best of all, it offers 10 hours of battery life, which is pretty much unheard of in gaming laptops, and means you can use it as a productivity laptop when you need to work.

(Image credit: Apple)

08. MacBook Pro (15-inch, 2019)

The best laptop for graphic design students

CPU: 9th-generation Intel Core i7 – i9 | Graphics: AMD Radeon Pro 555X – 560X, Intel UHD Graphics 630 | RAM: 16GB – 32GB | Screen: 15.4-inch, 2,880 x 1,800 Retina display | Storage: 512GB – 4TB SSD | Dimensions (H x W x D): 34.93 x 24.07 x 1.55cm

Powerful
Decent configuration options
Screen remains gorgeous
Expensive
Lack of ports
Keyboard concerns remain

Voted as one of the best laptops for graphic design in our round-up, if that's what you're studying, you'd be hard pushed to find better than the MacBook Pro (15-inch). This incredibly powerful laptop has had a hardware upgrade for this year, making it more powerful than ever, and its discrete AMD graphics means it's easily powerful enough to handle intensive graphic design tasks. It is very expensive, but the powerful components, as well as Apple's renowned build quality, means this is a laptop that will last you for years – both during your studies and when you get a job.

Microsoft Surface Pro 7

(Image credit: Microsoft)

09. Microsoft Surface Pro 7

A brilliant tablet that can also double as a laptop for students

CPU: 10th Gen Intel Core i3 – i7 | Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics – Iris Plus Graphics | RAM: 4GB – 16GB | Screen: 12.3” PixelSense Display | Storage: 128GB – 1TB | Connectivity: 802.11ax Wi-Fi 6 (2 x 2 MIMO), Bluetooth 5 | Camera: 8MP rear-facing, auto-focus camera (1080p HD); 5MP front-facing, 1080p HD camera | Weight: 1.7 pounds (771g) | Size: 11.5 x 7.9 x 0.33 inches (292 x 201 x 8.5mm; W x D x H)

USB-C finally
Now with Wi-Fi 6
Overall loss in battery life
USB-C isn’t Thunderbolt 3

Microsoft's Surface Pro 7 is an ideal laptop for programming students, thanks to its compact design, great build quality and powerful components. Its quad-core Intel processor and decent amount of RAM (choose between 8GB and 16GB) means it can compile code quickly and easily, and as it runs Windows 10, you don't have to worry about compatibility issues. Just keep in mind that you’ll have to pay extra for the Type Cover, which adds a keyboard.

It now boasts a USB-C port and Wifi 6 connectivity, and Microsoft offers plenty of configuration options to allow you to design a Surface Pro 7 that best suits your needs and budget.

Asus Chromebook Flip

(Image credit: Asus)

10. Asus Chromebook Flip

The another brilliant Chromebook for students

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

Chromebooks are fantastic devices for students, thanks to their low prices, huge battery lives and – especially with laptops like the Asus Chromebook Flip - great build quality. This 2-in-1 Chromebook runs Google's ChromeOS. It's different to Windows 10, and can't run Windows apps, but it's easy to get the hang of, and ChromeOS has thousands of apps (along with Android apps, which it can now run) that means you'll likely find an alternative. 

The benefit of ChromeOS is that its lightweight, so batteries last longer, and its more secure – you don't need to worry about viruses. It also has a great selection of parental controls. The Asus Chromebook Flip comes with an Intel Core processor and a full-HD display.

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