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The best laptops for students in 2020

best laptops for students
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

If you're looking for the best laptops for students in 2020, then you've come to the right place. No matter what course they are on, or if they are going to school, college or university, it's essential to get the best laptop for their needs, and we're here to help.

In fact, in this current climate where many students may find they need to study remotely, getting the best laptop for students is even more important.

When picking the best laptop for the student in your life, there are certain things you need to look out for. First of all, you'll want a laptop that offers excellent value for money, but isn't underpowered. Ideally, a laptop should last their entire course – if not longer (keep them safe with one of the best laptop bags). This means  you'll want 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, as you don't want to have to hunt for a power socket in a classroom or lecture hall.

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

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.

Acer Chromebook 314

(Image credit: Acer)

02. Acer Chromebook 314

The best 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.

In our view, the Acer Chromebook 314 is the best 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.

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.

Dell Latitude 7490

(Image credit: Dell)

03. 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

(Image credit: Apple)

04. Apple MacBook Air (2019)

The best Apple laptop for students

CPU: 1.6GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 | Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics 617 | RAM: 8GB – 16GB | Screen: 13.3-inch (diagonal) 2,560 x 1,600 LED-backlit display with IPS technology | Storage: 128GB – 1TB SSD | Dimensions: 11.97 x 8.36 x 0.61 inches (30.41 x 21.24 x 1.56cm; W x D x H)

Lovely design
Screen is great
Fantastic battery life
New lower price
Underpowered
Lack of storage space

If you've got a decent amount of cash to spend on a student laptop – or the bank of mum and dad is feeling particularly generous – then the Apple MacBook Air (2019) is arguably the best laptop for students you can buy. Apple has given its thin and lightweight laptop a refresh, adding True Tone technology to its display and an even more reliable keyboard. 

Hardware specs remain the same as the 2018 version, but what makes the MacBook Air such a good choice for students is its reliable performance, slim design (which makes it comfortable to carry around in a backpack all day) and excellent battery life. It's not the most powerful laptop on this list – so if you need something for heavy-duty graphic editing, check out the MacBook Pro, which is also on this list.

Also, Apple has just released the new MacBook Air (2020), with improved components and a lower price.

Dell G5 15 5590

(Image credit: Dell)

05. 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)

06. 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 6

Image Credit: Microsoft

07. Microsoft Surface Pro 6

The best laptop for students who need it for programming/coding

CPU: 5th-Generation Intel Core i5-i7 | Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics 620 | RAM: 8-16GB | Screen: 12.3-inch, 2,736 x 1,824 PixelSense display | Storage: 128GB-1TB SSD | Connectivity: 802.11ac Wi-Fi; Bluetooth 4.1 | Camera: 8MP rear-facing, 5MP front-facing | Weight: 1.73 pounds | Size: 11.5 x 7.93 x 0.33 inches (W x D x H)

Quad-core processor
Insanely portable
No USB-C

Microsoft's Surface Pro 6 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.

Dell XPS 15 2-in-1

Image credit: Dell

08. Dell XPS 15 2-in-1

The best laptop for students who want it for drawing/sketching

CPU: Intel Core i5-i7 | Graphics: Radeon RX Vega M GL Graphics with 4GB HMB2 Graphics Memory | RAM: 8GB | Storage: 512GB PCIe SSD

Stunning design
Impressive integrated graphics
A little noisy

The Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 is one of the finest convertible laptops in the world, packing in a huge amount of power into an impressively slim body. It offers enough power to keep up with graphic design applications, and its touchscreen works great with a stylus – making it the ideal choice for students who need a laptop they can draw or sketch on.It's thin and light enough to comfortably carry around with you, and it offers a decent amount of connectivity as well, including two Thunderbolt 3 and two USB-C, plus a headphone jack and MicroSD card reader. It is pricey, but Dell often features the laptop in its sales, so you can often find it at a very compelling price.

It's thin and light enough to comfortably carry around with you, and it offers a decent amount of connectivity as well, including two Thunderbolt 3 and two USB-C, plus a headphone jack and MicroSD card reader. It is pricey, but Dell often features the laptop in its sales, so you can often find it at a very compelling price.

Asus Chromebook Flip

(Image credit: Asus)

09. 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.

Image Credit: Microsoft

Image Credit: Microsoft

10. Microsoft Surface Go

The best laptop for word processing and general studying

CPU: Intel Pentium Gold 4415Y | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 615 | RAM: 4GB – 8GB | Screen: 10-inch 1,800 x 1,200 PixelSense Display | Storage: 64GB – 128GB SSD

Affordable
Beautiful style
Keyboard comes separate

Microsoft's affordable Surface Go 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.

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