It’s not easy finding the best student laptops, but that’s what we’re here for. We’ve tested our fair share of laptops, and we’ve come across a few that make for excellent candidates.
By the best student laptops, we don’t just mean cheap portables and laptops under $500. While those can make for decent candidates, bear in mind that it takes more than a cheap price tag for a laptop to be ideal for matriculating. After all, students require a device that delivers decent power and ticks a few other boxes beyond affordability.
As long as you’re keeping it within budget, it’s important to think beyond just getting a bargain. Especially for college students, power, portability and battery life take precedence over anything else. And, paying a few extra bucks for those, as well as a couple of extra useful features, is a much better value.
First and foremost, the best student laptops must be able to handle a student’s workload, some post-coursework streaming and light gaming. It should also boast a battery life that will last a whole school day on a single charge so students won’t have to lug around a charger on top of everything else. Speaking of which, being thin, light and portable also goes a long way.
From the best Chromebooks and student Chromebooks to heartier devices with a more powerful operating system like Windows 10 or macOS, here are our picks for the best student laptops in 2020. We’ve got something for every type of student, so whatever it is you or your kid needs, you’ll find something on this list.
Best student laptops on Amazon Prime day and Black Friday
Some of the best student laptops are expected to receive deep discounts on Amazon Prime Day and Black Friday. So, you might be able to find a student laptop on this list for much less, saving you more money to use for something else.
Whether you’re buying one of the best student laptops for yourself or gifting it to the student in the family for Christmas, it would be wise to wait until these major deal events of the year. Luckily, Amazon Prime Day is on October 13 and Black Friday rolls around at the end of November, so you won’t have to wait for long.
Have you been waiting for the day you can finally afford the premium price of Google Pixelbook? Well, with Google releasing Pixelbook Go, your wait is finally over. Granted, it isn’t quite the actual luxury device you’ve been dreaming of. However, rest assured, you will love this Chromebook, just as we have during our time with it. We love it so much, in fact, that it earned our coveted “Editor’s Choice” award in the Chromebook category. It boasts incredible battery life, an even more impressive keyboard and a 1080p webcam, which you don’t see often in the more budget-friendly laptops even in 2020. And, that’s just to start.
Read the full review: Google Pixelbook Go
The HP Chromebook 14 may not be as powerful as other Chromebooks, but this tiny laptop has a few aces up its sleeves, helping it secure a well-deserved top spot on our best laptops for students list. Those aces include striking a good balance between ample screen space and portability, as well as a surprisingly excellent keyboard and a decent trackpad. That’s without mentioning how vivid the display and how low its price tag is.
Read the full review: HP Chromebook 14
Microsoft’s devices are known for their higher price tags, which is why the Surface Go line proves popular with the more budget-conscious crowd. It’s Microsoft’s best affordable premium tablet, and the follow up, Surface Go 2, continues that tradition with its reasonable price and premium design. It even runs the full Windows 10 operating system, so it’s even more capable than other tablets out there as far as what applications it can run. Unfortunately, as with the original, it suffers from the same curse of being underpowered, especially at the base configuration. However, it does offer a slight bump in performance over its predecessor. If you’re looking for the best student laptops, this one’s certainly a great contender.
Read the full review: Microsoft Surface Go 2
The Dell XPS 15 might be a bit pricey for regular students, but it’s easily one of the best laptops for students in the creative field. Combining staggering power in a stylish thin and light chassis, this laptop doesn’t hold back when it comes to internals and features that improve your computing experience overall, whether you’re a film student or a graphic design one. Among those amazing features are a gorgeous bright display with 500 nits of brightness, an extremely comfortable keyboard, impressive speakers, and a terrific trackpad. We’re not saying that this laptop is perfect, but our coveted 5 out of 5 rating should speak for itself.
Read the full review: Dell XPS 15
A great feature set definitely adds a lot of value, and if you’re looking for the best laptops for students, that’s one thing to keep an eye out for. It’s that combined with its affordability that makes the Acer Spin 5 (2020) a terrific candidate. This 2-in-1 laptop isn’t just versatile due to its form factors and fantastic battery life. It also comes with a 3:2 display and a feature-rich stylus that together give it that extra advantage for students over its rivals: an easy and seamless note-taking experience. If you’re one of those folks who have a contempt for typing up notes in class, this old-school approach might just seal the deal.
Read the full review: Acer Spin 5 (2020)
Offering more robust processing and graphical prowess than its cheaper siblings, as well as higher quality construction, the Asus Chromebook Flip C436 gives the premium Chromebook market a slightly more affordable option. And, for that price, you’re also getting that impressively lightweight chassis, a stunning 1080p touchscreen, and a keyboard that could practically rival those on the Dell XPS and MacBooks, as well as a couple of extra features like a fingerprint sensor and Wi-Fi 6 support. This is definitely one of the best laptops for students looking into getting a Chromebook.
Read the full review: Asus Chromebook Flip C436
Apple’s thinnest and lightest MacBook is back in 2020 with a vengeance. Not only has it fixed a lot of the complaints with its predecessors – namely, that problematic keyboard is now gone, replaced by a drastically improved keyboard. But it also comes with new and more powerful internal components, even more storage space options, and a lower price of entry. There are a couple of things we’d do better, like the muted screen and the average battery life, but this model of the MacBook Air is better than anything we’ve seen from the line so far. And, it’s definitely among the best student laptops of 2020.
Read the full review: MacBook Air (2020)
The most popular Ultrabooks out there can cost a fortune – you have to pay for that thin and light form factor, after all. Not with the Acer Swift 3 (2020). This is the Ultrabook for the masses, thanks to its low asking price for that lightweight design, decent battery life and brand new specs that deliver when it comes to multitasking. It’s definitely got all the makings of the best student laptop – including that smart design one could mistake for a MacBook Pro.
Read the full review: Acer Swift 3 (2020)
The Dell Inspiron 13 7000 2-in-1 is a versatile 2-in-1 with a lot going for it under the hood. This premium laptop is more than just about its premium design; it also has high-end internals to compete with the likes of the more powerful Dell XPS 13. Rounding that out is a 4K display, and a clever stylus slot that makes us wonder whether they actually beat Microsoft to the idea. Granted, the display is a bit of a battery drain, and the speakers impressive, but this is still among the best laptops for students out there.
Read the full review: Dell Inspiron 13 7000 2-in-1
The MacBook Pro (13-inch, 2020)’s entry-level model may miss out on some of the line’s new toys. However, going for the higher-end configurations will get you new (and powerful) Intel processors and improved RAM speeds for better performance, all packed in the 13-inch incredibly svelte body. Apple rounds it all out with that incredible Magic Keyboard from the new 16-inch, finally getting rid of that problematic keyboard. Even if you don’t go for the 10th-generation Intel Core configurations, you might still appreciate the fact that all models come with more storage capacity for the same price as their predecessors.
Read the full review: MacBook Pro (13-inch, 2020)
Bill Thomas and Gabe Carey have also contributed to this article.