The best student laptops for school, college and university in 2024

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Three of the best student laptops on a red background

(Image credit: Future / Microsoft / Apple / Acer)

The list in brief ↴
1. Best overall: MacBook Air M1
2. Best Windows: Surface Laptop 4
3. Best Chromebook: Acer Spin 514
4. Best budget: Acer 314
5. Mid-range: MSI Prestige 14 Evo
6. Best hybrid: Surface Go 3
7. Best workstation: Dell XPS 17
8. Budget Windows: Acer Aspire 5
9. For creatives: Vivobook Pro 15
10. Most power: MacBook Pro 14
11. Best gaming: ASUS TUF A15
How to choose
How we test

The best student laptop for you will depend on your needs and budget. Different areas of study have different requirements in terms of computing power, with those on more tech-based creative courses usually needing higher specs. That said, all students can benefit from portability, long battery life and good value.

At Creative Bloq, we've been testing and reviewing laptops for over a decade using a mix of standardised benchmark tests and hands on use in real-life situations. To choose the best student laptops below, our reviewers specifically put the devices through their paces on the kinds of tasks students in different fields tend to require. We spend several days testing each device and comparing their specifications to pick of the best laptops for students with different needs.

We've focused on models that our testers have recommended for portability, battery life and value for money, which is often a major concern for students. For more options, try the best iMac alternatives, or the best Chromebooks for students. And don't forget to use the Apple student discount.

The quick list

The best student laptop overall

The 2020 MacBook Air, one of the best student laptops, on a deskCB

(Image credit: Future)
The best MacBook for students


CPU: Apple M1 chip with 8‑core CPU
Graphics: Integrated 7-core – 8-core GPU
RAM: 8GB – 16GB unified memory
Screen: 13.3in 2560 x 1600 Retina display
Storage: 256GB – 2TB SSD

Reasons to buy

Powerful M1 chip
Excellent battery life
Beautifully designed

Reasons to avoid

Fanless design can impact performance

The MacBook Air (M1, 2020) is currently the most affordable laptop in the Apple family, and while it's been overtaken in performance by the M2-powered MacBook Air, this older model remains our top pick as the best student laptop. That's because it's significantly cheaper while still performing well enough to easily handle most students' computing needs with ease.

More than half of the Creative Bloq team still uses this laptop daily, so we know it very well indeed. It's thin and light fan-less design makes it comfortable to carry around – ideal if you're lugging your laptop around campus or between home and the lecture theatre, and the absence of a fan also makes it very quiet, ideal for study in the library.

In our tests, the battery achieved well over a full day of use on a single charge, which will be reassuring for those who like to study at a cafe or other venue where you might not have ready access to a power outlet. It also has enough ports to support most of the peripherals you might want for college or school, such as a mouse or external storage. 

Although it's no longer Apple's newest, our reviewer noted that the M1 chip is well optimised for a wide range of applications, so regardless of if you're studying economics or visual design, there's very little that this compact, lightweight laptop can't handle, although we would consider a laptop with more memory if you're studying video editing or 3D design and your budget allows it.

See our full MacBook Air (M1, 2020) review for more details.

The best Windows laptop for students

Surface Laptop 4, one of the best student laptops, on a wooden table in an officeCB endorsed

(Image credit: Future)
The best Macbook rival for students


CPU: 11th-generation Intel Core i5 – i7 /AMD Ryzen 5 - 7
Graphics: Intel Iris Xe / AMD Radeon
RAM: 8GB – 32GB
Screen: 13.5in PixelSense (2,256 x 1,504) touch
Storage: 256GB – 1TB SSD

Reasons to buy

Can be configured to offer a lot of power
Beautiful screen
Comfortable keyboard

Reasons to avoid

Not enough ports

If you prefer a Windows laptop, we think the nearest equivalent for students is the Surface Laptop 4. Again, it's thin and light, ideal for carrying between study places, and the PixelSense touchscreen can stand up to creative work. 

We found the keyboard to be comfortable for long typing sessions – important for those on courses with a focus on essays and long assignments, while we got almost 14 hours of battery life when we tested the device with continuous video streaming, so it shouldn't let you down if you're studying away from a socket.

There's a choice of CPUs with integrated graphics from either Intel or AMD. We tested the Intel Core i5-1135G7 configuration with just 8GB of RAM and found it could cope with light photo-editing and design work. It's a really great choice for visual design students or anyone keen to use the touchscreen for simple graphic work. (Read our full hands-on Surface Laptop 4 review for more information).

On release, the Surface Laptop 4 was perhaps a little expensive for many student budgets, but the good news is that now that Microsoft released the Surface Laptop 5, there are often discounts on the 4, making it better value for students. And, as we noted in our Surface Laptop 5 review, the newer model offers a fairly minor upgrade for the price, anyway.

The best Chromebook for students

An Acer Chromebook Spin 514 sitting on a wooden tableCB endorsed

(Image credit: Future / Ian Dean)
The best Chromebook for students


CPU: AMD Ryzen 5 3500U processor quad-core 3.7 GHz
Graphics: AMD Radeon Graphics shared memory
Screen: 14in Full HD (1920 x 1080) 16:9 Touchscreen
Storage: 128GB eMMC

Reasons to buy

Fast and reliable performance
Large 14-inch FHD touchscreen
Sturdy aluminium frame

Reasons to avoid

Flash memory rather than SSD

If you're a student on a tighter budget, or you only need a laptop for taking notes and writing essays, a Chromebook may be all you need. These excellent value stripped back laptops run ChromeOS. That means you won't be able to use some of the desktop software that you would use on a Windows or Mac computer, but there is now a wide range of apps available for ChromeOS, and increasingly, many programs are available as browser-based apps.

We think the Acer Chromebook Spin 514 is the best Chromebook for students thanks to the 2-in-1 versatility of its laptop and tablet modes, a solid, durable build and a sharp 14-inch Full HD touchscreen. We tested the quad-core AMD Ryzen 5 configuration and found it could easily handle all the tasks ChromeOS is capable of. 

We found that the typing experience should be comfortable enough for those looking to write essays for university. And the solid metal chassis and sturdy hinges make this a reassuringly solid option for lugging around in a bag. There are plenty of ports for those who need to connect peripherals or additional storage to save their work. The screen is particularly impressive for a Chromebook, and means it could even please student artists, who will be able to make use of the tablet mode function, although it is a little heavy to hold. See more in our Acer Chromebook Spin 514 review.

Best budget Chromebook for students

The Acer Chromebook 314, one of the best student laptops, on a desk

(Image credit: Future)
This budget Chromebook offers excellent battery life


CPU: Intel Celeron N4000
Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics 600
Screen: 14in LED (1366 x 768) high definition
Storage: 32GB eMMc

Reasons to buy

Excellent battery life and performance
Bright, crisp screen
Great value

Reasons to avoid

No touchscreen
Only 32GB of storage

We think the option above is the best Chromebook for students, but there are cheaper options for those on a tighter budget. The Acer Chromebook 314 is more limited and lacks the touchscreen of the Spin 514, but we found that it does the job if you're looking to write up reports and essays.

We got 12 hours of battery life out of a charge, so this should do fine as a device to write on in lectures. The build quality is not as solid as on the Spin 514 and the screen is underwhelming, but Ian found it could cope with some basic art apps when connected to an Android tablet, which is ideal for those studying subjects like illustration.

It has plenty of ports to support peripherals, and if you're only working on text documents, you can easily work around the tiny 32GB eMMC of storage by keeping a portable SSD or flash drive handy to save all of your coursework or homework onto (the device comes with microSD slot in some regions).

See our in-depth Acer Chromebook 314 review for more details.

Best mid-range laptop for students

MSI Prestige 14 Evo B13M laptop sitting on stone patio

(Image credit: Future)
A solid Windows laptop for students


CPU: Up to 11th Gen. Intel® Core™ i7 U-Processor
Graphics: Intel Iris Xe Graphics
Screen: 14in FHD
Storage: 512GB NVMe SSD

Reasons to buy

Great security features
Looks the part
Relatively portable

Reasons to avoid

Integrated graphics only
Pedestrian screen resolution

For a Windows option firmly in the middle of the range, we think the MSI Prestige 14 Evo is a good option for students, with enough specs to cover a wide degree of uses while keeping costs down. We found that, like all MSI laptops, this is a well-built machine that can handle being carried around while sporting a sleeker and less bulky design than the boxy gaming laptops the company is known for. 

With 16GB of RAM, we found it had enough oomph to students working in visual design and photo editing programmes. Integrated Iris Xe graphics rather than a dedicate GPU means this isn't a great option for video editors and 3D modellers, but photography students will appreciate the microSD slot and 100% sRGB coverage.

Read our full MSI Prestige 14 Evo review to learn more. 

Best laptop/tablet hybrid for students

Photograph of the Microsoft Surface Go 3 in tablet mode

(Image credit: Future)
The best affordable student laptop-tablet hybrid


CPU: Intel Pentium Gold Processor 6500Y - 10th Gen Intel Core i3
Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics 615
RAM: 4GB – 8GB
Screen: 10.5in 1920 x 1280 (220 PPI) PixelSense Display
Storage: 64GB eMMC – 128GB SSD

Reasons to buy

Affordable for a hybrid
Runs full Windows 11

Reasons to avoid

No Touch Cover or stylus included
Base model's specs are weak

The Surface Go 3 is the most affordable 2-in-1 tablet in the Microsoft family, and while it's nowhere near as powerful as the Surface Pro, it has a similar design and is more capable of running low-demand software and web-based applications, making this an ideal choice for younger students at school.

It comes equipped with Windows 11 and can still run some basic design applications reasonably well. In our test,  we had no issues using Clip Studio Paint to create a few digital illustrations for example, but this isn't a device you'll want to edit images or video footage on.

It's important to note that you'll have to purchase the keyboard separately (and stylus too if you want that), so the device is sold in its tablet-only form, but when paired with its various accessories the Surface Go 3 is more lightweight and compact than most traditional laptops on the market. And these are the biggest advantages for students, since the compact size makes this comfortable to carry around or use in class (or even on the bus to school).

You can read more details in our full Microsoft Surface Go 3 review.

The best workstation laptop for students

Photograph of the Dell XPS 17 9710 student laptop open on desk in office

(Image credit: Michelle Rae Uy)
The best large laptop for students


CPU: Up to 11th Generation Intel Core i9-11980HK
Graphics: Up to NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3060 6GB GDDR6
RAM: Up to 64GB DDR4-3200MHz
Screen: 17in FHD+ (1920 x 1200) InfinityEdge Non-Touch Anti-Glare 500-Nit – 17in UHD+ (3840 x 2400) InfinityEdge Touch Anti-Reflective 500-Nit
Storage: Up to 4TB M.2 PCIe NVMe

Reasons to buy

Great performance with powerful configurations available
Slim design for a 17in laptop
Gorgeous display with slim bezels

Reasons to avoid

Unimpressive battery life

The Dell XPS 17 is the largest and one of the most powerful devices on our pick of the best student laptops. It will be overkill for many, but students' needs will vary depending on age, course and educational level, and we think this is a superb choice for those whose studies demand more computer and graphics processing power, who can also benefit from a larger screen.

You can pack this with some seriously powerful hardware, with the top-spec model coming equipped with an 11th generation Intel i9 processor, 64GB of memory and an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060 graphics card. That's enough to handle just about any task you throw at it, making it a great MacBook Pro alternative for students that really need that kind of power.

We found that our 32GB RAM review unit could easily handle  having 20+ tabs open on Google Chrome, with some streaming 4K videos, and she was able to play titles like Sable and Valheim at high settings with an impeccably smooth experience. She was also able to render a 10-minute and 32-second 4K video in HEVC (H.265) on Premiere Pro in just 4 minutes and 30 seconds, and she found the device kept cools under pressure, although it can get fairly loud.

We think the huge 17-inch 4K Ultra HD+ resolution screen's 16:10 aspect ratio will be useful for those studying a range of creative courses, from graphic design to video and 3D. The display also supports 100% Adobe RGB and 94% DCI-P3 colour gamuts, again covering the needs of students of creative disciplines. We found the display to have impeccable picture quality, delivering sharp details and vibrant colors. The HDR (which you can toggle on and off) and Dolby Vision features are effective as well.

The amount of vertical space also makes skimming through spreadsheets and text documents more comfortable, so the size isn't only an advantage for creative work, and we found that this can also double as a light gaming machine for a student that truly wants a machine that can handle everything they need, from work to play. The only downside is that we only got just under six hours of battery life when running a PCMark 10 Battery Test, but considering the power involved, that's not as bad as we expected. 

The 720p 30fps camera will do a good job for online classes, providing crisp and clear video, even if it isn't 1080p. The two 2.5W stereo speakers have plenty of volume too, although the sound quality lacks any real low end.

See our full Dell XPS 17 (9710) review for more details.

Best cheap laptop for students

Photograph of the Acer Aspire 5 laptop on a desk

(Image credit: Future)
A cheap Windows laptop for students


CPU: 11th generation Intel Core i5 / Intel Core i7 OR AMD Ryzen 5
Graphics: Intel UHD integrated graphics
Screen: 14in, 1080p, IPS LCD
Storage: 256GB

Reasons to buy

A very affordable Windows 11 laptop
Good selection of ports
Decent 1080p screen

Reasons to avoid

Not powerful enough for demanding media work

We think the Acer Aspire 5 is one of the best options for students on a tight budget and one of the cheapest recommendable laptops running Windows 11. In fact, we're talking almost Chromebook prices, but without the limitations that come with using ChromeOS.

There are a few caveats. This won't hold up to running graphically demanding applications, but for younger school-aged children, and indeed anyone who needs a laptop for basic word processing and some light media, it will do the job just fine. AS we expected, there are a few setbacks that come with a laptop at this price, such as the inclusion of a brand-specific charger over the more common USB-C, and it's not the most stylish device on the market.

We found it could handle basic image editing in Adobe Photoshop, but anyone who needs something for video editing or 3D design will need to look at more expensive hardware. But if you're looking for a Windows student laptop at a very cheap price, this is our top recommendation.

Read our in-depth Acer Aspire 5 review to find out more.

Best student laptop for creatives

The Asus Vivobook Pro 15 on a desk running creative software

(Image credit: Beth Nicholls / Creative Bloq)
The best Windows laptop for students on creative courses


CPU: Up to AMD Ryzen 9 - 7940HS 4.0GHz (8-core/16-thread) with Radeon 780M
Graphics: Up to NVIDIA Geforce RTX 4060
RAM: 8GB or 16GB
Screen: 15.6in FHD (1920 x 1080), 2.8K, 120 Hz
Storage: Up to 1TB

Reasons to buy

Very reasonably priced for the specs
Good colour gamut for creatives
Portable and lightweight

Reasons to avoid

Not a 4K display

We think the Asus Vivobook Pro 15 is a very well-balanced option for students on creative courses. It can be configured with 16GB of RAM, enough to run most software students of visual arts and design will need, although it doesn't performance is not seamless when it comes to 4K video editing. Students in any area of visual creativity will also appreciate the gorgeous Pantone-certified OLED display, which is also Vesa certified with a DisplayHDR high dynamic range, excellent for viewing, and showcasing, visual art and design.

In our Asus Vivobook Pro 15 review, we specifically recommended the laptop for students. Despite some hefty hardware, it's ultra-lightweight, making it comfortable to carry around, and the slimline 180° hinge design means you can share on-screen work with colleagues in class.

There are plenty of ports for a range of peripherals like graphics drawing tablets, ideal for students of digital art and illustration (three USB-A ports as well as a Thunderbolt USB-C). For students of graphic design, we would suggest this as a better alternative to many 2-in-1 devices since it provides more power and support for a dedicated drawing tablet, which will be a vast improvement over directly using a hybrid tablet device's screen as a pen display.

Best powerful laptop for students

A Space Black Apple MacBook Pro 16-inch M3 sitting on a grey/blue table

(Image credit: Future)
The best student laptop for graphically demanding work


CPU: Apple M1 Pro / M1 Max
Graphics: Integrated 14-core or 16-core GPU with M1 Pro / M1 Max chip
RAM: 8GB - 64GB
Screen: 13.3in, 2,560 x 1,600
Storage: 512GB - 8TB

Reasons to buy

Top-of-the-line Apple hardware
Great battery life 
Can run iOS apps

Reasons to avoid

No USB-A port
Exceedingly expensive for many student budgets

The MacBook Pro 16 isn't just one of the best laptops for students right but one of the best laptops period. As such, it comes with a pretty hefty price tag, and it's a lot more than almost any student needs. That said, power uses on courses in 3D animation, video editing and other graphically demanding disciplines will without doubt appreciate the power and efficiency on offer here.

In fact, running benchmarks using Blender, we concluded that the Pro 16 is a viable replacement for a desktop machine in many scenarios. It feels smooth and fluid, interactive rendering runs with ease and high polygon and model count scenes showed no signs of slowdown and when video editing – even 8K or multicam timelines are responsive. Blackmagic Design DaVinci Resolve and Fusion projects feel super smooth.

And while many rival workstation laptops often sacrifice battery life in exchange for power, in our own tests we worked for 10 hours in Cinema 4D before the power indicator turned red, and the laptop never got uncomfortably hot. Sure, it's expensive but for those on demanding creative courses, we would say this is the best laptop for students who can afford it. The 14in version is more portable and slightly cheaper, but those on creative courses are likely to appreciate the larger screen of the 16in model as long as they're not regularly on the move with their laptop.

See our full MacBook Pro 16 M3 review for more details.

Best gaming laptop for students

A black ASUS TUF Gaming A15 laptop, one of the best student laptops, on a wooden table

(Image credit: Beth Crane)
The best gaming laptop for students


CPU: Up to AMD Ryzen 9 4900H
Graphics: Up to NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2060 6GB
RAM: 8GB – 32GB
Screen: 15.6-inch FHD (1920 x 1080) 16:9
Storage: 256GB SSD – 1TB SSD

Reasons to buy

Relatively affordable for a gaming laptop
Decent battery life
Good all-round screen

Reasons to avoid

mediocre display

The ASUS TUF Gaming A15 is a gaming laptop, but that makes it pretty well equipped to deal with most students' everyday needs, from playing video games during breaks or after homework is completed, to using that raw power to run demanding applications or software in the classroom.

It's far from being the most powerful gaming laptop on the market, but it's relatively inexpensive and comes with dedicated Nvidia graphics, which makes it at option for students dabbling with Maya or Blender, or indeed, many applications used within the industry to create games and 3D content. It faired well when we ran benchmark tests for performance. And we were also impressed with the battery life, giving almost ten hours on PCMark 10’s battery test and around two hours of intensive gaming. 

It's not as capable as a full desktop setup, but for something that offers portability as well as power, we think the A15 is a fantastic, relatively affordable choice for students looking for portabilty in a device they can also use for gaming. See our full ASUS TUF Gaming A15 review for more details.

How to choose the best student laptop

Naturally, different students have very different requirements of a laptop depending on what they're studying. Many will not need massive amounts of power, while those studying subjects such as video production and 3D design will have great needs in this area. Students of these subjects are likely to need at least 16GB of RAM and possibly a laptop with a dedicated GPU. Students in creative fields will also have greater demands of the display of their laptop, requiring a good colour gamut for visual work. Other students will be more able to prioritise value and portability.

We've considered those different needs when choosing the options to include in our guide above. However, there are also certain factors that most students can benefit from in a laptop, and which we have sought out in all options. In our experience, there are three major factors to consider:

Portability: If you're ferrying your laptop to lectures, seminars and the library for all-night cram sessions, you don't want it to be giving you back problems. A laptop that doesn't weigh too much and can easily fit into a standard backpack or shoulder bag should definitely be a priority for a student.

Battery life: The last thing you want is your laptop running out of power at a critical moment, and if your laptop can't get you through the day, it's probably not going to be hugely useful to you as a student. 

Affordability: Of course, everyone is looking for value with any purchase they make, particularly tech, but for many students, affordability is a more important factor than it is for working professionals while still needing a solid laptop. Thus, getting as much computing power on the dollar as possible is paramount.

How we tested the best student laptops

We reviewed all of the laptops in this guide via both standardised benchmark tests and hands on through real-life use performing the kinds of tasks that students will often need a laptop for, from general word processing and note taking to organisational tasks, video conferences and use of creative software such as Illustrator and Photoshop. 

For benchmarking, we put all of the laptops through the same tests, including the PCMark 10 battery life test, the Geekbench 5 to measure the system's multi-core and single-core throughput and Maxon's Cinebench R20 to determine the setup's hyperthreading capabilities. We also look at build and design features, which include screen brightness, the clarity of the screen, ports and switches, weight, size and handling. 

Based on these results we selected the laptops for this guide by combining the scores with an evaluation of portability, price and battery life, as these are major concerns for most students.


How much computing power do I need for a student laptop?

Different laptops offer varying levels of computing power, and different students will have different needs in this area. If your area of study doesn't require the use of demanding creative software for things like video editing or 3D rendering and you'll be using your laptop mainly for online research, writing essays or programming, you don't need a lot of power. In this case, one of the Chromebooks or 2-in-1s on our list with RAM in the 4GB to 8GB range should serve you just find, still providing enough memory to handle entertainment needs outside of study time (also see our guide to the best laptops for writers).

However, you may be studying a course that requires more intensive processing power, in which case a student laptop won't necessarily be a budget option. If you're editing video, for instance, or working with 3D software, you'll need 16GB of RAM or more. A laptop with a good dedicated graphics card can also be a useful investment for those working in visual arts or design (or just if you plan to do a fair amount of gaming on your downtime). The products featured in our most powerful laptops guide may be worth checking out if this is the case.

Why is a laptop important for students?

The vast majority of students are likely to benefit enormously from a laptop – even if it's a relatively basic lightweight Chromebook. Not only does a laptop allow you to work on assignments and courseworks wherever you are, it can also be used to take notes during lectures and seminars. They also serve for organisation, online research and more. Plus the vast majority of laptops also have integrated webcams, essential for those whose programmes include online classes.

Which laptop brand is best for students?

When buying a student laptop, you want a device that is well built, affordable and reliable. For that last point, we generally recommend opting for brands that have a good reputation – you want your laptop to get you through at least your whole course of study, if not a lot longer. 

Good brands for reliability that have consistently done well in our own testing over the years include Dell, HP, Acer, Asus and Microsoft for Windows laptops, and, of course, Apple. For creatives, Asus's VivoBook range offers good prices on devices built with creative work in mind, and we recommend considering these if you're starting a course for video editing or digital illustration.

It's also always worth checking whether your college has a particular policy or recommendation. Some recommend using Windows-based laptops to reduce software incompatibility issues or facilitate technical support.

Can a student laptop be used for gaming?

A student's gaming laptop will require a bit more power than one that's just used for writing and web-browsing. A good gaming laptop needs both graphical and processing power to ensure that modern games run smoothly, with no lag or stuttering. We've recommended the Dell G15 since it's relatively affordable for a gaming laptop and doesn't scream 'gamer' with its design either, opting for a more understated look that won't look out of place in a lecture theatre.

Do Chromebooks make good student laptops?

Yes, they do. Not every student will need massive specs. We've included a Chomebook at number 3 in our guide to the best student laptops because for many students giving up a big storage capacity for super speed makes very good sense. The apps that Chromebooks run take up very little space, and with built-in support for Google Drive, it means your documents are all saved in the cloud as well.

Are hybrid 2-in-1s good student laptops?

Again, this is a resounding 'yes' in our opinion. Hybrids, also known as 2-in-1s combine the best of tablets and laptops into a highly portable package that's ideal for slinging in a bag to carry to school or university. Devices like the Microsoft Surface Go 3 at number 6 above are great for working in spaces where you might not have a desk – even on the train, while you can still keep the convenience of a keyboard for when you need it.

How can students save money on laptops?

With budget a primary concern for students, it's worth exploring you're options for how to save money. Of course, there are the standard sales and deals offered throughout the year, but there is also opportunity for special student discounts available all year round, like the Apple Student discount or the Dell student offers.

Another option is to look out for previous models of decent laptops. If you don't need the newest version (and you probably don't), there are excellent savings to be made by looking at older models.

Matt Hanson

Matt has been a technology journalist for over 15 years, writing for publications such as T3, MacFormat and Creative Bloq. He's a managing 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.