Best Laptop for Students 2021: Top Notebooks For Study

What is the best laptop for students you can buy?

If you’re looking for a laptop for sixth form, university or any other form of education, it can be tough to know which device to go for. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution that will work for every student; what someone needs from a laptop is highly dependent on what they’re studying and how they plan to spend their free time. 

With that in mind, we’ve aimed to include a range of options in this chart to suit different types of students. There should be something here for everyone, but don’t be concerned if your favourite device is lower on the list – we can recommend all these devices for students.

Most are on the more affordable end of the market, but if some are out of your price range it’s worth checking out our best budget laptop chart. Conversely, if money is no object, you might want to consider our pick of the very best laptops on the market. 

As you might imagine, there are plenty of things to consider when buying a student laptop. It’s worth reading our buying advice at the bottom of the page before you pull the trigger. 

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Best laptop for students 2021

1

Honor MagicBook 14 – Best Overall

Honor MagicBook 14 (late 2020)

  • Pros
    • Great performance
    • Premium design
    • Solid battery life
  • Cons
    • Poor webcam
    • No touchscreen
    • More expensive than previous models

The Honor MagicBook 14 is a great all-rounder, making it our top pick for students.

An impressive combination of powerful internals, premium design and solid battery life make it the student laptop to beat, especially when you consider its relatively affordable starting price.

The MagicBook 14 now comes with a Ryzen 5 4500U chipset, up from Ryzen 5 3500U on its predecessor. Combined with 8GB RAM and a large 512GB SSD, it delivers excellent performance across the board. You also get a full version of Windows 10, with Honor laptops unaffected by ex-parent company Huawei’s US trade ban.

Ports, keyboard and a fingerprint scanner are all boxes that get ticks. Really, apart from the webcam placement, audio is about the only thing that’s not so good. 

Read our full Honor MagicBook 14 (late 2020) review

2

Apple MacBook Air (M1) – Best Mac

Apple MacBook Air (2020) M1

  • Pros
    • Stellar performance
    • Incredible battery life
    • Free software included
  • Cons
    • Dated design
    • Poor webcam
    • Not the cheapest

The move to Apple’s own M1 chip represents arguably the biggest change for the MacBook Air since it first launched, and it certainly doesn’t disappoint. 

The new Air offers truly incredible performance within a thin and light body, with the M1 chip also significantly boosting battery life compared to the Intel version.

A largely unchanged design means a lot about the new MacBook Air will be familiar if you’ve tried a recent model, although the recently-introduced Magic Keyboard is a big upgrade over the earlier butterfly keys. 

It’s also easy to forget how much value Apple adds by including a pretty comprehensive suite of applications – this may avoid the need to spend any more money on software. 

The only reason it’s not higher in this list is the price, with £999 potentially hard to justify if you’re a student. 

If you’d prefer, Apple also released an Intel-based MacBook Air in 2020. 

Read our full Apple MacBook Air (2020) M1 review

3

Lenovo Yoga Slim 7 – Most Versatile

Lenovo Yoga Slim 7

  • Pros
    • Premium design
    • Solid battery life
    • Impressive audio
  • Cons
    • No fingerprint sensor or ethernet
    • Wobbly when typing

The Slim 7 might not have the convertible functionality of other Yoga devices, but it still ticks plenty of boxes. 

Performance is a real highlight, with a choice of Intel or AMD processors and the option for a dedicated Nvidia GPU. It helps power an attractive 14in LCD display, which can be configured up to 4K without breaking the bank. You also get solid battery life and decent speakers, all within a slim and light design.

If you don’t mind the missing fingerprint scanner or ethernet port, this is a great option. It’s also often discounted.

Read our full Lenovo Yoga Slim 7 review

4

LG Gram 16 – Best Big Screen

LG Gram 16 (2021)

  • Pros
    • Stunning design
    • Superb performance
    • Excellent display
  • Cons

If you’re looking for some extra screen real estate but don’t want to compromise on a thin and light design, the latest LG Gram is a great option. 

The highlight here is a stunning 16in 2560×1600 display, with tiny bezels making for an immersive viewing experience. Everyday performance is also excellent, thanks to Intel’s latest Tiger Lake processors and 8 or 16GB of RAM. There’s a healthy port selection, too, alongside an 80Wh battery and fingerprint sensor built into the power button. 

The current pricing – from £1,249/US$1,199 – is the only reason it’s not higher in this list. If you’re a student with cash to splash, it’s a stunning bit of kit, although you might want to also consider the five-star LG Gram 17.

Read our full LG Gram 16 (2021) review

5

Asus E410 – Best Budget

Asus E410

  • Pros
    • Great battery life
    • Lightweight and portable
    • Fast and responsive
  • Cons
    • Cheap build
    • Dim display
    • Annoying NumberPad

If you’re looking for a budget laptop that will still get the job done, Asus’ E410 is a great option. 

The Intel Celeron N4020 doesn’t sound great on paper, but it delivers solid all-round performance that’s capable of handling the basics. There’s also excellent battery life, with Asus’ 12-hour claims holding up well in real-world usage – a full working day is well within reach. At just 1.3kg, it’s also extremely portable. 

You also get solid 14in Full HD+ display, although it doesn’t get particularly bright. The numberpad built into the touchpad is more annoying than useful, while the unusual rear design isn’t to everyone’s tastes. 

Still, these compromises are more than acceptable when you consider its affordable price.

Read our full Asus E410 review

6

iPad Pro 12.9in (2021) – Best Premium Hybrid

iPad Pro 12.9in (2021, M1)

  • Pros
    • Great display
    • Impressive battery life
    • Excellent cameras
  • Cons
    • Superb M1 chip limited by iPadOS
    • Expensive

Ok, so it’s technically a tablet but Apple has done such a good job with the iPad Pro over the last few years that it’s actually a great choice as a hybrid.

The iPad Pro has long represented the finest best tablet money can buy, and the M1 chip takes already-excellent performance to the next level. A stunning 12.9in, 120Hz display makes for a delightful viewing experience, while the large battery can make it through a full work day.

Pairing it with Magic Keyboard really does turn the iPad Pro into a laptop-style device – with trackpad and all – plus you might also benefit from the advanced features available with the Apple Pencil.

However, these are both expensive accessories, meaning you can easily pay well over £1,000/US$1,000 overall. That could be a sticking point, especially when iPadOS still lacks Mac-level apps.

Nonetheless, it’s an amazing all-in-one setup if you can afford it.

Read our full iPad Pro 12.9in (2021, M1) review

7

Acer Swift 5 (2020) – Most Portable

Acer Swift 5 (SF514-55T)

  • Pros
    • Extremely lightweight
    • Decent performance
    • Long-lasting battery
  • Cons
    • Can get noisy
    • Average speakers
    • No ethernet

Despite being incredibly lightweight at just 1.05kg, the Acer Swift 5 still packs a punch.

You can choose between Core i5 or i7 variants of Intel’s latest 11th-gen chips, alongside the option for a discrete Nvidia GPU. Acer has still managed to include a Full HD LCD display, as well as a 720p webcam and generous port selection (albeit without ethernet). 

Elsewhere, solid battery life comfortably provides a full day’s usage, while there’s also Thunderbolt 4 support for fast data transfer. The Swift 5 can get noisy, and the speakers aren’t great, but it performs well in pretty much every other area.

Read our full Acer Swift 5 (SF514-55T) review

8

Microsoft Surface Laptop Go – Best Keyboard

Microsoft Surface Laptop Go

  • Pros
    • Great keyboard
    • Thin and light
    • Solid performance on top-spec model
  • Cons
    • No backlit keys
    • So-so battery life
    • Can get expensive

The Surface Laptop Go is pitched directly to students, and it’s a solid option at every stage of education.

Microsoft’s classic Surface Laptop design is retained at this more affordable price point, with slim bezels giving the impression of a much more high-end device. That extends to performance on the top-spec Core i5 model, but might not be the case on cheaper variants. 

The Laptop Go’s keyboard is one of the best you’ll find anywhere, while the thin and light design makes it very portable. It’s missing backlit keys and battery life is underwhelming, but it’s definitely worth considering. You’ll probably end up paying much more than the starting price, though.

Read our full Microsoft Surface Laptop Go review

9

Honor MagicBook Pro – Best Budget Big Screen

Honor MagicBook Pro (16in, Intel)

  • Pros
    • Dedicated graphics card
    • Large, attractive screen
    • Impressive keyboard
  • Cons
    • Outdated processor
    • Awkward webcam
    • No touchscreen

If you’re looking for a larger screen but don’t want to pay for one of LG’s premium machines, the Honor MagicBook Pro offers everything most people are looking for.

This Intel version ships with a Core i5-10210U processor and discrete Nvidia GeForce MX350 GPU, something you won’t find on many laptops at this price point. There’s also an AMD version, but that ships with integrated graphics instead.

That 16in display is an attractive 1920×1080 LCD panel with a traditional 16:9 aspect ratio, even if there’s no touch support. There’s also a decent range of ports, fingerprint scanner built into the power button and full version of Windows 10.

Battery life is slightly patchy, although the 65W adapter included in the box helps recover charge relatively quickly. You’ll also have to contend with a webcam built into the row of function keys, although these are compromises worth making for many people.

Read our full Honor MagicBook Pro (16in, Intel) review

10

Microsoft Surface Pro 7 – Best Value For Money

Microsoft Surface Pro 7

  • Pros
    • Solid performance
    • Versatile design
    • Premium build
  • Cons
    • Tired design
    • Dated internals

The Surface Pro 7 is over two years old and has been replaced by the Pro 8 as Microsoft’s flagship 2-in-1, but it remains an excellent 2-in-1.

10th-gen Intel processors deliver solid performance across the board, while the versatile design makes it a great device for work and entertainment. There’s also a high-quality 12.3in touchscreen display and impressive audio for a device of this size. 

Battery life isn’t great and you’re missing out on the new modern design, but the real appeal of buying the Pro 7 now is its affordability. Many retailers are selling the device for significantly less than when it first launched, leaving you plenty of extra money for the necessary Type Cover and other accessories. 

Read our full Microsoft Surface Pro 7 review

Your buying guide for the best student laptops in 2021

Do you need a £1,000 laptop? Will it get broken or worse, stolen? While more expensive laptops will give you better gaming performance, should you really be playing demanding games for hours with those deadlines?

We jest really, students studying courses that require complex software – we’re thinking things like animation or video editing – will need a laptop with some high-end hardware. You don’t want to be waiting around forever for things to render when you have a deadline.

However, those who simply just need to write word documents and browse the internet can spend a lot less and still have a laptop that’s perfectly good.

Since there’s a wide range of needs out there depending on your circumstances, we’ve included a real mix of devices to choose from here including Chromebooks.

They might not technically be laptops but we’ve also included a couple of tablets since, with the help of a keyboard case and/or stylus, they could be a much better solution for some students.

Display

Most laptops are 13in and really this has been the sweet spot between size and portability for a long time. However, you can get smaller or larger displays depending on what you need to do.

Bear in mind that cheaper laptops will come with a lower-grade display which is likely to be on the dim side and not very crisp either. It’s just one of the compromises, so if you need to do something like photo editing then splashing a bit more cash will be well worth your while.

Dell XPS 13 (late 2020)

Components

You get what you pay for when it comes to laptops, so a model closer to £1,000 is going to have a more powerful processor (likely Intel Core i7 or Ryzen 7), more…

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