Skip to main content

Best student laptops in 2021: We select the top 10

best student laptops
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Choosing from the best student laptops is one of the wisest investments you can make for the student in your life. While most students have now returned to classrooms, there's still a lot of remote learning, so laptops remain incredibly important.

These portable PCs are great for writing up coursework and essays, while researching. With video calling apps and best-in-class webcams and microphones, they will also allow students to attend online classes and lectures as well.

The best laptops for students will be thin and light enough for them to be easily carried around school or campus, while also being robust enough to survive being thrown in a backpack.

Top 5 student laptops

We've picked some brilliant student laptops that will appeal to all kinds of budgets. They all feature excellent battery lives that will keep you working throughout the day without worrying about plugging it in. We've also included some powerful laptops that are great for students that are studying subjects which require plenty of power - such as graphic design.

Buying a new laptop can be confusing, so in this guide we've explained what makes these devices such good purchases, so you can buy in confidence. Our built-in price comparison tool will also help you find the best price for these laptops from around the internet.

For more information, jump to the what to consider when buying a student laptop section. And if you're specifically after one of Apple's products, check out our guide on how to get an Apple student discount. If you want some ideas on the best iMac alternatives, we've got you covered. 

The best student laptops available now

Image of the back of the Acer Swift 3CB

(Image credit: Acer)

01. Acer Swift 3 (2020)

The best student laptop overall

Specifications
CPU: 11th-generation Intel Core i5 – i7
Graphics: Intel Iris Xe Graphics
RAM: up to 16GB LPDDR4X
Screen: 13.5” 3:2 IPS VertiView Display or 14” 16:9 FHD IPS
Storage: up to 1TB PCIe Gen SSD
Reasons to buy
+Highly portable+Excellent multitasker
Reasons to avoid
-Speakers are "meh"

The Acer Swift 3 (2020) ticks pretty much every box for what makes the best student laptops. It's affordable, without making too many compromises, and yet it's powerful enough to easily handle day to day tasks, including web browsing and document creation, making it perfect for students.

It's also thin and light enough to easily carry around school or campus, but with a decent build quality which means it won't easily break. The latest model brings some choice hardware upgrades, so it's now a better performer than ever before, and battery life has been given a boost as well.

It's not the most powerful laptop in the world, and it won't handle games, but for an affordable and dependable student laptop, this one is hard to beat.

Two Acer Chromebook 314 laptops, one closed, one open

(Image credit: Acer)

02. Acer Chromebook 314

The best budget Chromebook for students

Specifications
CPU: Intel Celeron N4000
Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics 600
RAM: 4GB
Screen: 14-inch LED (1366 x 768) high definition
Storage: 32GB eMMC
Reasons to buy
+Excellent battery life and performance+Bright, crisp screen
Reasons to avoid
-No touchscreen-No fingerprint reader

Many of the best student laptops are Chromebooks due to their fantastic value for money. They run Chrome OS, which is less resource-hungry than Windows 10, which means Chromebooks can use lower-powered hardware and still offer excellent performance. 

This means Chromebooks are often a lot cheaper than Windows 10 devices, and the Acer Chromebook 314 is in our view the best budget Chromebook for students. With a low price, it means you're not blowing your student loan on a laptop, and it still offers great features including a bright and vibrant 14-inch display and 12 hour battery life. So, you can work on this thing throughout an entire school day, and you'll still have battery life left over.

The keyboard is also incredibly comfortable, which is very important in a student laptop, as you're going to be doing a lot of typing on this thing.

It's also a good media playing machine, so you can whack on Netflix 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.

Google Pixelbook Go with the screen open showing the Chrome OS desktop

(Image credit: Google)

03. Google Pixelbook Go

The best Chromebook for students

Specifications
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
Reasons to buy
+Incredible battery life+Amazing ‘Hush’ keyboard
Reasons to avoid
-No biometric login

The Google Pixelbook Go is the best Chromebook money can buy right now – which also makes it one of the best student laptops as well. While the Acer Chromebook 314 is higher up on this list because of its ultra-low price, the Pixelbook Go is the better all-round Chromebook, packing a premium design and powerful components that would shame many Windows 10 laptops.

Even with its more premium bells and whistles. the Pixelbook Go is still a lot more affordable than many other laptops, and it's got a fantastic battery life as well. It's slightly more expensive than many other Chromebooks, but you really are getting some brilliant extras with this thing, including a fantastic screen, excellent webcam (essential these days with lots of remote learning) and top-notch performance.

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.

The Pixelbook Go is starting to show its age a bit, however, so we'd like to see Google announce a follow-up soon. However, Chromebooks don't age as quickly as Windows laptops, thanks to Chrome OS, so this is still a great performing laptop, and it's now cheaper than ever.

MacBook Air (M1, 2020) with lid open showing colourful background desktop

(Image credit: Apple)

The best MacBook for students

Specifications
CPU: Apple M1 chip with 8‑core CPU
Graphics: Integrated 7-core – 8-core GPU
RAM: 8GB – 16GB unified memory
Screen: 13.3-inch 2560 x 1600 Retina display
Storage: 256GB – 2TB SSD
Reasons to buy
+macOS Big Sur is fast and responsive+Battery life is great
Reasons to avoid
-Fanless design could impact performance

At the end of 2020, Apple produced what many people (including us) think is the best laptop it ever made - the M1-powered MacBook Air. Rather than using hardware made by Intel, Apple has created its own chip to power the new MacBook Air, and it's a gamble that has paid off massively.

Performance is excellent, easily beating older MacBook Airs, and it has a hugely improved battery life as well. It can now also run iOS apps, giving you a larger library of apps than ever before. Its screen also supports the P3 colour gamut, making this an excellent laptop for photography or video editing students. It's also the most affordable MacBook, and while it's more expensive than other laptops, it offers you the cheapest way to get a MacBook, making it a great choice for students with a slightly larger budget. See our MacBook Air (M1, 2020) review for more details.

Microsoft Surface Go 2 with keyboard attached and the desktop showing

(Image credit: Microsoft)

05. Microsoft Surface Go 2

Premium design, more affordable price

Specifications
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
Reasons to buy
+Affordable+Can run full Windows 10
Reasons to avoid
-No Touch Cover or stylus included-Base model's specs are weak

If you're looking for a student laptop that can also be used as a tablet, then the Microsoft Surface Go 2 is an excellent choice. Offering the premium and stylish build quality of Microsoft's other Surface products, the Go 2 is a lot more affordable.

While it's not as powerful as the Surface Pro 7, for example, it's more than capable of  helping students with their studies. From researching on the web, to writing up documents or creating presentations in Microsoft Office, the Surface Go 2 is a great choice, and it runs Windows 10, so you have access to a wide variety of applications as well.

Not only is it a tablet that's great for scribbling down notes using a stylus (or watching Netflix on when you have some down time), if you get the keyboard attachment (which we strongly recommend), you can comfortably type up whole essays on this thing as well.

Recently, Microsoft revealed the Surface Go 3, which looks to be another affordable tablet for students. This should make the Surface Go 2 even more affordable as prices drop, which makes this an even better buy for students.

LENOVO IdeaPad Duet laptop with a Google Doc spreadsheet open

(Image credit: Lenovo)

06. Lenovo IdeaPad Duet Chromebook

A brilliant affordable Chromebook for students

Specifications
CPU: MediaTek Helio P60T Processor
Graphics: ARM G72 MP3 800GHz
RAM: 4 GB LPDDR4X
Screen: 10.1" FHD (1920 x 1200) IPS, glossy, touchscreen, 400 nits
Storage: 64 GB eMMC
Reasons to buy
+Lightweight+Long battery life
Reasons to avoid
-Not the most comfortable keyboard

The Lenovo IdeaPad Duet Chromebook is another fine example of why Chromebooks make some of the best student laptops, as it combines a low price with some genuinely great performance.

Unlike some super-cheap laptops, the Lenovo IdeaPad Duet Chromebook can be used as both a traditional laptop, or as a tablet. With Chrome OS, the operating system that powers Chromebooks, now able to run Android apps, it means when in tablet mode, you have access to loads of great apps that have been specifically designed for tablets.

Meanwhile, when the keyboard is connected, you're able to use the Lenovo IdeaPad Duet Chromebook as a laptop, which is perfect for typing out long essays on, though we did find the keyboard a little cramped.

Still, this is a laptop that students can buy that will double up as two devices, and that can save you money in the long run, especially at this low price.

Acer Chromebook Spin 311 with the screen open and Chrome OS interface showing

(Image credit: Acer)

07. Acer Chromebook Spin 311

A great 2-in-1 Chromebook for students

Specifications
CPU: Intel Celeron N4000
Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics 600
RAM: 4GB
Screen: 11.6" HD (1366 x 768) 16:9 IPS touchscreen
Storage : 64GB Flash Memory
Reasons to buy
+2-in-1 design+Easy to carry
Reasons to avoid
-Dim screen-Looks a bit dated now

Having a convertible device like the Acer Chromebook Spin 311 is perfect for students. It means you can work on it like a traditional laptop, then turn it into a tablet-like device for certain tasks. Thanks to its hinge, which allows you to flip the screen backwards, you can also use it in 'tent' mode, allowing you to turn it into an ideal screen for unwinding in front of Netflix on after a hard day's studying.

It's impressively compact, making it easy and comfortable to carry around with you throughout the day, while still being comfortable to use for long periods of time. Best of all, it offers fantastic value for money due to its relatively low price, easily making it one of the best laptops for students in 2021.

Dell G3 15 gaming laptop with the screen open and the desktop showing

(Image credit: Dell)

08. Dell G3 15

The best gaming laptop for students

Specifications
CPU: 9th Generation Intel Core i5 – i7
Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050 – 1660 Ti with Max-Q Design
RAM: 8GB – 16GB
Screen: 15.6-inch FHD (1920 x 1080) Anti-glare LED Backlit Non-touch
Storage: 1TB HDD – 512GB SSD
Reasons to buy
+Affordable+Great performer
Reasons to avoid
-Flimsy build

Being a student involves a lot of hard work, but you still need to unwind and blow off steam. If you like doing that by playing games, then getting a gaming laptop like the Dell G3 15 is ideal. It also means you don't have to lug around a big gaming desktop if you're moving to Uni.

The Dell G3 15 also proves you don't have to spend a fortune if you want a great gaming laptop. This is an affordable gaming laptop that offers excellent performance with modern games without leaving you with no money for rent or study essentials.

While the spec isn't going to let you play intensive games like Cyberpunk 2077 with ray tracing and other visual effects all whacked to max, you'll still be able to play almost any modern game with a few tweaks.

MacBook Pro 13-inch (M1, 2020) with the screen open and the desktop wallpaper showing

(Image credit: Apple)

Apple’s little MacBook Pro gets a big refresh

Specifications
CPU: Apple M1 chip with 8‑core CPU
Graphics: Integrated 8-core GPU
RAM: 8GB – 16GB unified memory
Screen: 13.3-inch 2560 x 1600 LED-backlit Retina display
Storage: 256GB – 2TB SSD
Dimensions (H x W x D): 30.41 x 21.24 x 1.56 cm
Reasons to buy
+Huge battery life+Great performance
Reasons to avoid
-Still lacks ports

If you're a student looking for a powerful laptop, and you want an Apple device, then the new MacBook Pro 13-inch (M1, 2020) is for you. Like the new MacBook Air, this new MacBook Pro also comes with the M1 chip, but with a few tweaks to make it even more powerful. This means this is an absolute beast when it comes to video editing or 3D rendering.

It's also got the best battery life ever in a MacBook, while keeping that gorgeous thin and light design that MacBooks are renowned for.

Without doubt, this is one of the best, and most powerful, student laptops money can buy right now. It's expensive, but definitely worth the investment if you need something with a bit more oomph. See our MacBook Pro 13-inch (M1, 2020) review for more details.

Microsoft Surface Pro 7 with a keyboard attached

(Image credit: Microsoft)

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

Specifications
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)
Reasons to buy
+USB-C finally+Now with Wi-Fi 6
Reasons to avoid
-Not the longest battery life

While not strictly a laptop, the Microsoft Surface Pro 7 more than earns its place on this list of the best laptops for students. It's actually a Windows 10-powered tablet, but by attaching the Type Cover, which is an optional extra, you can turn it into a laptop-like device that's perfect for writing up essays on.

As a tablet, it's also compact and easy to carry around, and it's powerful as well. It comes with a quad-core Intel processor, and up to 16GB of RAM, which means it can handle pretty much any app you need for your studies. And, as we mentioned earlier, it runs on a full version of Windows 10, so you have a huge library of compatible software.

It also features a USB-C port and Wi-Fi 6 connectivity, and you can configure it before you buy to ensure you're getting a device that's ideal for your needs - and your budget. Our Microsoft Surface Pro 7 review has more details.

Like the Surface Go 2 above, the Surface Pro 7 is getting a follow-up: the Surface Pro 8. This is another premium tablet from Microsoft, this time coming with Windows 11 pre-installed. When it does launch, expect the Surface Pro 7 to drop in price, making it an even better buy for students.

Best student laptops: What to consider

If the laptop is going to be used by students studying specialised subjects, then you may need something that's a bit more powerful – for example, graphic design students may benefit from a laptop with a modern graphics card. You'll certainly want something that will last at least three years, if not longer. What you don't want to end up with is a laptop that halfway through a course gives up the ghost.

But not every student will need massive specs. Many Chromebooks make excellent student laptops, replacing massive storage with a super speed. 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.

The best student laptops also offer excellent battery life. You'll want something that lasts all day in lessons and lectures (either when studying at home, or if you're on campus), and when the battery does run out, it needs to be able to be recharged quickly.

Which laptop brand is best for students?

When buying a student laptop, you want a device that is well built, affordable and reliable. Students rely on their laptops, so you want to buy from a brand that offers great build quality and customer support should something go wrong. The best brands for this are Dell and HP.

However, Apple and Microsoft are also brilliant brands for laptops for students, as they both offer discounts for students, making their premium devices far more affordable.

Read more:

Matt Hanson

Matt has been a technology journalist for well over a decade, writing for publications such as T3, MacFormat and Creative Bloq. He's a senior editor of TechRadar, Creative Bloq's sister site, where he can be found writing about and reviewing laptops, computers, monitors and more. He often writes for Creative Bloq, helping creatives find their perfect laptop or PC.