Best student laptops 2022/2023: top laptops for school, college and university

The top 10 student laptops for going back to school, heading to college or university, with options to suit all budgets

You can’t go to college or uni without having a decent laptop to support your studies. But decent doesn’t necessarily mean ‘most expensive’. There’s a whole host of best laptop options for students, whether Chromebook, Windows or Apple. 

That said, student laptops typically need to deliver on a budget, so we’ve rounded up some of the best options on that market that aren’t going to annihilate your bank balance (or loan, or overdraft), considering features and price against value for money. 

If you’re a budding engineer, though, and need something that can support you more precisely, then read our guide to the best laptops for engineering students.

We’ve selected the best three laptop options, followed by the best of the rest, to simplify your student purchase options:

The best student laptop for most people is the HP Pavilion 14. This has everything you need to get your work done day to day, whether that be writing and researching an essay, or completing an online exam. This Windows laptop has a reasonable price tag that is affordable for most students.

The best student laptop for portability is the Google PixelBook Go. This Chrome OS device is like a tablet with a stand, but you can add accessories to make it into a laptop replacement. Great battery life, great price, and general ease of use make it ideal for word processing and organising tasks using Google’s suite of apps (it’s not Windows, though, if you want full-fat installs). 

The best student laptop for those with more budget is the Apple MacBook Air (2020, M1). The MacOS option is different to the other two, and the most powerful, delivering a premium look and feel that will act as your workhorse day to day, while offering ample power to do that bit more. If you’ve got the cash then it’s worth considering. 

The top 3 student laptops you can buy today

We check over 250 million products every day for the best prices

Quick note here for students looking to make a student laptop purchase imminently. It may be worth holding fire for a little while longer. This is because the Amazon Prime Day deals super sale is now very, very close, and many laptops that are perfect for students are often discounted. Acer, Asus, Dell, HP and Google systems have seen big price cuts on previous Prime Days, so we think it is probably smart to wait a little while longer and see what this year’s super sale has to offer.

The best student laptops you can buy today in 2022

1. HP Pavilion 14

The best student laptop for most people

Specifications

CPU: 8th generation Intel Core i5-8250U

Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics 620

RAM: 8GB

Screen: 14-inch (1,920 x 1,080)

Storage: 256GB SSD

Reasons to buy

Strong all-round specs+

Solid build quality that will last+

Big internal storage space

Reasons to avoid

Not great for heavy Photoshop work

Yes, the HP Pavilion 14 is a mid-range laptop, with a price to reflect that. But we think the vast majority of students will find this Windows machine more than ample for their day to day needs. 

It features strong all-round specs, a simple yet stylish design, a sharp screen, 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 machine comes pre-installed with a fresh copy of Windows 10 Home.

To see how this laptop stacks up against a model right at the premium end of the spectrum be sure to check out our HP Pavilion 14 vs Dell XPS 13 (2020) comparison feature.

2. Google Pixelbook Go

The best student laptop with Chrome OS

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: 64-256GB

Reasons to buy

Amazing battery life+

Fantastic “hush” keyboard+

Premium looks, not a premium price

Reasons to avoid

Do you want Chrome OS?-

Not a powerhouse system

Today’s Best Deals

Although it’s a little pricier than other Chromebooks, Google’s Pixelbook Go brings premium looks and build quality for a fraction of what you’d pay for a similarly impressive PC or Mac. The touchscreen is superb, the webcam makes you look great, and the battery life is stellar. We described it in our review as “the best Chromebook ever… it is, quite simply, superb”.

If you’ve previously looked at Chromebooks but felt they weren’t powerful enough then we think the Pixelbook Go may change your mind: although the processor is relatively low-powered compared to, say, Apple’s M1, the Chrome OS operating system has been designed to be as lightweight as possible and doesn’t need the same amount of horsepower as rival operating systems do.

3. Apple MacBook Air (M1, 2020)

The best student option for those with more budget

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

Very responsive +

Great battery life+

Silent running 

Reasons to avoid

Fanless design may impact performance 

Today’s Best Deals

If you’re an Apple devotee, then the latest Apple MacBook Air is a great choice of laptop, especially for creatives such as graphic designers or movie makers. That’s because there’s more power on board, thanks to Apple’s M1 processor. This laptop is one of Apple’s slimmest and lightest, making it super easy to carry around in your bag. 

As we said, this laptop uses Apple’s M1 Silicon chip, which boosts performance compared to what you’d normally get for this price. As a result, however, it’s not the cheapest option for students, but it is still one of the most affordable MacBook options, so if you do have some flexibility in your budget then (as we said in our review) this one’s worth the investment.

Best laptops for students {2022}: The best of the rest

4. Lenovo Yoga Slim 7i Carbon

The best lightweight student laptop

Specifications

CPU: 11th Generation Intel Core processors

Graphics: Intel Iris Xe

RAM: 8GB / 16GB

Screen: 13.3inch QHD (2560 x 1600)

Storage: 256GB / 512GB SSD

Reasons to buy

13.3inch QHD screen +

Facial recognition+

Decent performance

Reasons to avoid

Average battery life-

No fingerprint sensor 

Today’s Best Deals

If you need a laptop that you’ll easily be able to slip in your bag to carry between home and your classes then you should definitely consider the Lenovo Yoga Slim 7i Carbon.  It’s no bigger than a notepad and weighs less than a kilo, so it’s super portable. 

Being so small doesn’t mean that you won’t get decent specs though, as it packs in an 11th Gen Intel Core processor, which makes it a great choice for getting productive, although we wouldn’t rely on it for lots of photo and video editing. Its solid performance is paired with a crisp, detailed screen as well as a sleek, stylish design and a keyboard that feels satisfying and reliable to type on. 

Unlike some of the other options on this list, the Lenovo Yoga Slim 7i Carbon won’t give you a big display and premium features like a touchscreen or fingerprint sensor, but it will be ideal for anyone who wants style and portability from their laptop without spending a huge amount of money.

5. Dell XPS 13 (9310)

The best premium Windows laptop for students

Specifications

CPU: Intel Core i7-1185G7

Graphics: Intel Iris Xe

RAM: Up to 16GB

Screen: 13.4-inch Full HD+ LCD (1920 x 1200)

Storage: 512GB

OS: Windows 10 Home 64-bit

Dimensions: 198.70 x 295.70 x 14.80 mm

Weight: 1.2 kg

Reasons to buy

Powerhouse performance+

Sleek design and great screen+

Will last way beyond university

Reasons to avoid

Average audio-

Limited ports

Today’s Best Deals

The Dell XPS 13 series has consistently wowed us here at T3, and the latest version 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 Windows student laptop around during back to school season.

With the latest 11th-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 2021 a capable and competent laptop.

The Dell’s 13.4-inch display has really tiny bezels and a can, if desired, be ramped up to a 4K resolution, although we think for most people Full HD is just fine. The colour reproduction and detailing are superb anyway. Plus it’s already expensive enough, so adding such spec extras is only going to ramp that cost up further…

6. 14-inch and 16-inch Apple MacBook Pro (M1, 2021)

The best student laptop for creatives

Specifications

CPU: Apple M1 Pro or Apple M1 Max

Graphics: Apple M1 Pro or Apple M1 Max

RAM: Up to 64GB

Screen: 14.2-inch (3024 x 1964 pixels) or 16-inch (3456 x 2234 pixels)

Storage: Up to 8GB

Connectivity: SDXC card slot, HDMI port, 3.5 mm headphone jack, three Thunderbolt 4 (USB-C) ports

Camera: 1080p FaceTime camera

Reasons to buy

Top-tier performance+

Quality design+

Excellent display

Reasons to avoid

We’re not sure about the display notch

It’s true that you need a substantial chunk of money to get one of the 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro laptops from Apple, but if they are within your budget, you can’t really do any better – these laptops will cope with everything that you can throw at them and then some, and they’re guaranteed to offer many years of top-quality service. Ideal if you’re studying a creative subject or need additional processing power for, say, modelling systems. 

The M1 Pro and M1 Max processors that Apple has fitted in these devices offer a leap forward in terms of performance, while at the same time improving efficiency as well. In other words, you can expect stellar battery life from these models, so you don’t have to worry about carrying a charger around with you all day (a key benefit for students of any description).

The keyboard and trackpad will give you a comfortable and reliable computing experience, while the upgraded 1080p webcam is perfect for all those video calls and conferences. Factor in the every-improving macOS software and it really is a winning combination, assuming you can save up enough. But if you need one for your subject then it’s an ideal match.

7. Samsung Galaxy Book 2 Pro 360

The best student laptop with a big screen

Specifications

CPU: 12th Gen Intel Core processors

Graphics: Intel Iris Xe Graphics

RAM: 8GB / 16GB

Screen : 15.6-inch

Storage: 256GB / 512GB

OS: Windows 11

Reasons to buy

S Pen included in the box+

Incredibly slim and lightweight+

Works seamlessly with other Galaxy devices

Reasons to avoid

16:9 aspect ratio won’t suit everyone-

No facial recognition

Today’s Best Deals

If you need a laptop that can be used to get creative during the day, and then to stream TV and movies in the evenings, then the Samsung Galaxy Book2 Pro 360 will be a great premium option. The 15.6-inch screen is great for all that, and it can be pushed back by 360-degrees to transform it into a tablet. That opens it up for so many different types of work, be that typing out essays, editing photos or even drawing. 

One problem with large-screened portable computers is usually how bulky they are, as it makes them difficult to put in your bag to take to class or to the library. That’s not an issue here though as this laptop is seriously thin and lightweight considering. It only weighs 1.4kg! 

8. Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 2

The compact laptop for students

Specifications

CPU: 11th Gen Intel Core i5-1135G7

Graphics: Intel Iris Xe Graphics

RAM: 4GB / 8GB

Screen: 12.4” PixelSense 1536 x 1024p

Storage: 128GB / 256GB

Reasons to buy

Compact and portable+

12.4-inch touchscreen+

Effective 720p webcam

Reasons to avoid

Not the most powerful laptop-

Weak battery life 

Today’s Best Deals

If you want to make sure that your new laptop will fit easily in your backpack along with everything else you need for the day, then you might be better off going for something like the Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 2. It’s a compact laptop with a 12.4-inch display, when we tested it out, we were impressed by the design in general because it’s small, stylish and very convenient. 

Ideal for writing up essays, browsing the web and streaming video, this makes a fantastic day-to-day computer. Not everyone will get on well with it though, for example, it won’t have enough power for lots of photo or video editing. We weren’t blown away by the battery life either but luckily, it does recharge very quickly. 

Has this personal PC sparked your interest? Read more about it in the Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 2 review. 

9. HP Envy x360 13

The best 2-in-1 student laptop

Specifications

CPU: AMD Ryzen 5 2500U quad-core 2-3.6GHz

Graphics: AMD Radeon RX Vega 8

RAM: 8GB DDR4

Screen: 13.3-inch FHD IPS LCD

Storage: 128GB SSD

Reasons to buy

Very versatile form factor+

Stylish design+

Competitive price

Reasons to avoid

No stylus in box-

Average audio

If you like the HP brand but want to spend a little bit more than the Pavillion costs (see up top), the HP Envy x360 13 is a great option. 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.

This is a laptop that’s going to handle most of the tasks you throw at it, thanks to decent powered innards, but it’s not going to handle intensive gaming and video editing. Still, 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. 

Especially as this is a 2-in-1, so 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.

10. Acer Swift 3

A great all-round and compact student laptop

Specifications

CPU: Up to 10th-gen quad-core Intel Core i7-1065G7

Graphics: Up to Nvidia GeForce MX350

RAM: Up to 16GB

Screen: 14-inch, 1,920 x 1,080 pixels

Storage: Up to 512GB

Reasons to buy

+

Power through work+

Sharp, bright screen+

Lightweight and compact

Reasons to avoid

Limited integrated graphics-

Ordinary battery life-

A little on the expensive side

Today’s Best Deals

We’ve always been fans of the Acer Swift series, and the latest edition of the Swift 3 has done nothing to change our minds. You get a 14-inch Full HD 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 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. All without costing a fortune. It’s a safe Windows option. 


What’s important to consider with student laptops

Laptops for students are not just for writing essays now but for taking part in those critical online sessions, so you need one that can handle video calls as well as documents. And with so many online classes, video meetings and virtual collaborations, students are spending more time on their laptops than ever before and to work optimally you don’t want to scrimp on an underpowered model.

We’re now in the pre-new academic year summer months, and that is good news for student laptop shoppers as plenty of retailers are currently discounting some great systems that are perfect for school and college.

If you’re wondering what separates the best college laptops from the best laptops overall or specialist systems like gaming laptops and 2-in-1 laptops, it’s that they have to satisfy two very different criteria: they need to be excellent all-rounders, and they need to be excellent value, too. That means they can’t cut any crucial corners but they need to be keenly priced.

The arrival of the best Chromebooks has given the market quite a kick. Google’s mobile-focused laptops have encouraged PC firms to up their game, as have Apple’s iPads – and in fact we think you should check out T3’s best tablets guide too, because many of today’s tablets are perfectly capable laptops too. All you need is a keyboard. If you prefer Dells to Apples and laptops to tablets, though, check out our guide to the best Dell laptops.

And if you’re in the market for some external storage, particularly for Apple laptops, check out our best external hard drives for Mac guide as well as this one.

So how do you choose the best student laptop? Price is important, of course, but it shouldn’t be your sole criteria. That’s why our guide covers so many options, manufacturers and operating systems: every student is different and that means their requirements will differ.

We don’t quite know what this academic year holds – after the last 24 months we’ve stopped trying to predict the future – but we do know that whether your learning is fully remote, in-person or a mix of the two these laptops will be the perfect companions for studying, for staying in touch with friends and family and for creativity, too.

Laptops are also great for serious processing and rendering nowadays, so if you’re a budding engineer and need some recommendations, then be sure to check out T3’s best laptops for engineering students guide. This guide is filled with systems that won’t let you down when using resource-heavy software like AutoCAD, MATLAB and Solid Works.

Oh, and lastly, if you’re looking to build a better home or dormitory office for study, we think it’s well worth checking out our best office chairs guide, as it will mean you can work for long hours in comfort. Plus, our best webcams guide is worth considering if you want to look good in video meetings.

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.

How we test student laptops

Laptops are very versatile and powerful tools, which means that there is a lot to consider when buying one. As such, we approach testing student laptops with this in mind, parsing down the process according to what a buyer would consider in store.

Firstly, we evaluate the build quality and design of the system. Here we’re looking for signs of robustness and quality, as well as overall fit and finish. It is at this stage that we also evaluate the student laptop’s screen, judging its colour balance, fidelity and features, such as anti-glare coatings or tiny bezels.

Next up we evaluate the student laptop purely from a hardware point of view, both on paper and in practice. So we check out its core specifications, such as processor, RAM, storage capacity and graphics chip, before benchmarking the overall package with a brace of benchmarking tools.

We then move onto the more experiential side of the reviewing process, which encompasses what the laptop’s operating system and software are like to use, as well as how it performs in the real world – such as, how is the student laptop to carry round, or how well does it perform in a coffee shop.

Lastly, we take a look at any of the system’s noteworthy features, such as RGB lighting systems, mechanical keyboards, built-in webcams, touchscreens, rotating screens, stylus support, biometric sign-in options and more. We also provide a rough, real-world take on the system’s battery life at this point, too.

Only after these stages are complete do we officially score the student laptop, with a 5-star system (1 being the worst, and 5 being the best) used. If the student laptop scores highly, it is then considered for T3’s best student laptop buying guide, which is designed to showcase the very best systems on the market.