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Best laptop for students UK 2024: Our tried and tested favourites this Prime Day

Looking to buy a laptop for note-taking research and working on your coursework? We’ve tested hundreds and these are our favourites

What’s the best laptop for students? It may be trite, but the answer is the same as for any laptop buyer on a budget – it’s the laptop that best serves the needs of the student at a price that doesn’t break the bank.

We’ve tested hundreds of laptops over the years and here we’ve used that experience to pick out a list of laptops we think are best suited to student life. If your budget isn’t so limited, you can also read our best laptops roundup for the best of the best.

However, don’t make the mistake that any laptop will suit; your course, what you’re studying and your budget are all key factors in determining which laptop is right for you. We’ve also included a buying guide detailing all the key things to consider when buying a laptop for school, college or university.

Amazon Prime Day deal

Apple’s MacBook Air is king of the student laptops and the 256GB model has hit its lowest-ever price on Amazon for Prime Day. It’s currently going for £849, down from an average of £1,099 and £50 cheaper than it was before the event got underway. You don’t have long to nab one at that price, however, as Prime Day ends at midnight on 17 July.

View deal at Amazon

Amazon Prime Day deal

Chromebooks may not be glamorous but they’re a cost-effective pick and the Asus Chromebook Plus CX34 is even more affordable than usual thanks to this Prime Day price drop. Until midnight on 17 July, you can pick it up for just £230, which is the cheapest it’s ever been and £48 cheaper than its average price.

View deal at Amazon

Best laptop for students: At a glance

Best student laptop overallM2 MacBook Air (from ~£900)Check price at Amazon
Best budget laptopHP Pavilion 14 SE (14-ep0524sa) (~£449)Check price at Currys
Best for creative tasksAsus Vivobook S15 OLED (~£998)Check price at Amazon
Best ChromebookAsus Chromebook Plus CX34 (~£300)Check price at Amazon

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How we test laptops for students

At Expert Reviews, we have decades of experience reviewing laptops so we can intuitively tell a good laptop from a bad one. However, we still need to be sure we’re being as unbiased as possible in our assessments, and to do that we run every single laptop we’re sent through a series of benchmark tests.

We test performance with a combination of in-house benchmarking software, third-party benchmarking tools and games tests. We also measure a laptop’s screen using a colorimeter and the DisplayCAL software. And we test storage speed, too, recording sequential transfer speeds.

Using a colorimeter and DisplayCAL software to test an Apple MacBook Air

Of course, no suite of laptop benchmarks would be complete without some kind of battery life assessment, and we test this by playing a video on loop and seeing how long it takes to run the battery flat from 100%.

We also ensure we actually use every laptop to write on, watch videos, browse the web, carry out video calls and more. To find out more about how we test, read our in-depth how-we-test article.

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The best student laptops you can buy in 2024

1. M2 MacBook Air: Best student laptop overall

Price when reviewed: From £900 | Check price at Amazon

  • Great for… portability, great battery life and all round performance
  • Not so great for… anyone on a low budget

battery life chart for the Apple MacBook Air 13.6in (M2)

With the introduction of the M3 MacBook Air models, our long-standing favourite, the M1 MacBook Air has been discontinued and in its place we have the M2 MacBook Air. The price on the base configuration has been reduced to around £900 and we reckon you’ll struggle to find a better all-round laptop for that money.

Windows laptops do tend to come with more storage space and memory. Some might have OLED displays or better performance. But the M2 MacBook Air will compete with most of them on those fronts, and you get stunning battery life (it lasted an incredible 17 hours in our tests), sleek good looks to boot and excellent build quality to boot.

If you’re the sort who likes to tinker, you might want to skip this machine as you can’t upgrade it yourself easily, and it’s hard to repair as well, but for everyone else, it’s brilliant. If you’re lucky enough to have £900 to spend on the laptop that will carry you through your A-Levels and university, there is no choice than this.

Read our full Apple MacBook Air 13.6in (M2, 2022) review

Key specs – Processor: Octa-core Apple M1; RAM: 8GB; Storage: 256GB SSD; Screen size: 13.6in; Screen resolution: 2,560 x 1,600; Weight: 1.29kg

2. HP Pavilion SE 14 (14-ep0524sa): Best budget laptop for students

Price when reviewed: £449 | Check price at Currys

HP Pavilion SE 14 open, on a table facing to the left

  • Great for… low price, relatively modern components
  • Not so great for… long battery life

best laptops for students hp image showing battery life

If your course merely requires you to have access to a half-decent laptop and you don’t want to pay more than £500, then HP’s 14in Pavilion SE is certainly worth looking at. For your money, you get a very decent compact machine with modern underpinnings, no serious flaws and rather stylish looks.

The keyboard is excellent, the display is competent – although our tests revealed it to be a little dull – and, given the low cost, the configuration is surprisingly modern, with an Intel Core i5-1335U CPU, 8GB of RAM and a capacious 512GB of SSD storage. We were also surprised at how good the 1080p webcam and the speakers are.

Its main weakness is its battery life, which in our testing only reached 6hrs 30mins before dying. It’s also slightly disappointing that the keyboard doesn’t have a backlight. Still, given the low price, it’s very hard to complain. This is a great all-rounder at a very tempting price.

Read our full HP Pavilion SE 14 review 

Key specs – Processor: Intel Core i5-1335U; GPU: Intel Iris Xe; RAM: 8GB; Display size: 14in; Display resolution: 1,920 x 1,080; Display type: IPS 60Hz; Storage: 512GB; Dimensions: 324 x 215 x 18mm (WDH); Weight: 1.4kg

Check price at Currys

3. Asus Vivobook S15 OLED: Best laptop for student creatives

Price when reviewed: £998 | Check price at Amazon

Asus Vivobook S15 OLED on a table against a white background

  • Great for… performance, screen size/quality and great battery life
  • Not so great for… budget-conscious students

best laptops for students asus vivobook image showing battery life

If you thought OLED laptops were expensive and out of your reach as a student, then prepare to have the Asus Vivobook S15 prove you wrong. This machine is packed to the gunnels with high-powered hardware, has a vibrant display that’s perfect for working on creative projects, and yet it’s not that much more expensive than an M2 MacBook Air.

It comes with a 15.6in Full HD (1,920 x 1,080) OLED display that, in our tests, reached superb levels of brightness. The display also covers 100% of the DCI-P3 colour space, making it the perfect companion not only for those creative projects, but also for bingeing on Netflix shows when you get back to your student accommodation in the evening.

Add long battery life (it lasted 10hrs 39mins in our video playback test), a decent keyboard and a very good 1080p webcam and you have a superb all rounder. For less than £1,000, it’s a very tough package to beat.

Read our full Asus Vivobook S15 OLED review

Key specs – Processor: Intel Core i7-13700H; GPU: Intel Arc 350M; RAM: 16GB; Display size: 15.6in; Display resolution: 1,920 x 1,080; Display type: OLED 60Hz; Storage: 1TB SSD; Dimensions: 356 x 229 x 18mm (WDH); Weight: 1.7kg

4. Acer Aspire 7 (A715-76G): Best student laptop with discrete GPU

Price when reviewed: £749 | Check price at Amazon

Acer Aspire 7 pictured at a slight angle, facing to the right

  • Great for… good graphics performance on the cheap and DIY upgrades
  • Not so great for… watching HDR YouTube videos – the display is somewhat drab

best student laptop acer aspire 7 image showing battery life

Not every student has the budget to splash on a £1,000 MacBook or OLED powerhouse, but if you still need something with enough power to dispatch all sorts of tasks, from video editing to programming, coding and mathematical modelling, this Acer Aspire has a lot to recommend it.

It comes with a 144Hz display and an Nvidia GeForce 2050 RTX GPU, so it can handle hardcore graphics tasks. And it couples that with a 12th Gen Intel H-series Core i5 CPU that’s plenty powerful enough for the most demanding of jobs.

The Acer has some other important strengths that should appeal to the away-from-home student. To start with, we found it easy to get into, making it simple to add more RAM or a second SSD. The keyboard is good, as is the battery life, which we tested at a solid 8hrs 28mins. It’s a well-made device, too, with an aluminium lid and a solid plastic body. The killer feature, though, is the price: for £749 you’re getting a lot of laptop for your money, and we’ve seen it on sale for £200 less.

Read our full Acer Aspire 7 review 

Key specs – Processor: Intel Core i5-12450H; GPU: Nvidia RTX 2050; RAM: 8GB; Display size: 15.6in; Display resolution: 1,920 x 1,080; Display type: IPS 144Hz; Storage: 512GB; Dimensions: 363 x 236 x 20mm (WDH); Weight: 2.1kg

5. Apple MacBook Air 15in (M2, 2023): Best big-screen laptop for students

Price when reviewed: £1,399 | Check price at John Lewis | Amazon

Apple MacBook Air 15in (M2) on a table, at an angle, in an office setting

  • Great for… performance, battery life, screen size and quality
  • Not so great for… DIY upgrades and fixes, price

best student laptop Apple macbook air image showing battery use

The newer M2-based MacBook Air has replaced the M1 in our affections now that the latter has been discontinued by Apple, and this 15in model is our choice as the best all-round machine for those seeking more screen real estate.

Battery life is astonishing – it lasted 15hrs 42mins in our tests – meaning it’s ideally suited to life on campus, where you’ll be traipsing from tutorial to library to lecture hall, and may not have the opportunity to plug it in and top up the power.

We love this laptop for other reasons, too. The speaker system and microphones are hard to beat – perfect for creative projects, podcasting and video voiceovers, not to mention video calls back home – and the large 15.3in IPS display gives you plenty of space to multitask.

Sure, it’s pricey, but think of it as an investment. This is a laptop that will last you for years, is a pleasure to use and keeps going for an age away from the mains. It’s absolutely worth saving up the extra cash for.

Read our full Apple MacBook Air 15in (M2, 2023) review 

Key specs – Processor: Apple M2; GPU: Apple M2 8-core; RAM: 8GB; Display size: 13.6in; Display resolution: 2,560 x 1,664; Display type: IPS 60Hz; Storage: 256GB; Dimensions: 304 x 215 x 11.3mm (WDH); Weight: 1.24kg

6. Asus Chromebook Plus CX34: Best Chromebook for students

Price: £400 | Check price at Amazon | Currys

Asus Chromebook Plus CX34 - front slight angle, open

  • Great for… basic computing tasks on a budget
  • Not so great for… people who need to run Windows or macOS apps

best laptop for students Asus chromebook plus image showing battery life

Chromebooks are a lot more capable than they used to be and, thanks to Google’s latest minimum spec “Chromebook Plus” category of machines, they’re easier to buy, too. This Asus is an example of the new breed. It’s a fairly basic 14in laptop but it’s got it where it counts. It has a Full HD 1080p IPS display and an Intel Core i3 CPU, as per Google’s requirements. There’s a healthy 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage, too.

Our reviewer said the keyboard was a “rather fine piece of work” and it even comes with a backlight, which is not a given, even on much more expensive laptops. There’s a sharp 1080p webcam for video calls, and in combination with Google’s “Temporal Noise Reduction” system this works well in most conditions, even low light. Even battery life is good: it lasted a solid 9hrs 11mins in our testing.

With a robust design that meets US MIL-STD 810H durability standards, this practical machine was well priced at its launch price of £429 but we’ve seen it regularly dip below that to £300 and even as low as £250, at which price it’s an outright bargain. If your needs are fairly basic when it comes to doing your school or university work and you don’t want to push the boat out to a more expensive Mac or Windows machine, the Asus Chromebook CX34 is well worth a look.

Read our full Asus Chromebook Plus CX34 review 

Key specs – Processor: Intel Core i3-1215U; RAM: 8GB; Storage: 128GB UFS; GPU: Intel Iris Xe; Screen size: 14in; Screen resolution: 1,920 x 1,080; Dimensions: 326 x 214 x 19mm (WDH); Weight: 1.29kg

How to choose the best laptop for school, college or university

How much should I spend on a student laptop?

Depending on what your studies involve and whether you plan on using your laptop for play as well as work, you can spend anywhere between a couple of hundred and a couple of thousand pounds on a student laptop.

However, if you want your laptop to last you longer than a couple of years, we recommend you avoid the very cheapest machines at £300 or less. Above this price, laptops tend to be much more capable and pleasant to use, and the more you spend, the better they become.

Indeed, we recommend spending between £500 and £1,000. In this price bracket, you’ll find laptops that offer impressive performance coupled with attractive build quality.

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Do I need a fast processor and loads of RAM?

Processors and RAM aren’t too important if you just want a laptop for writing essays on – even a cheap Chromebook is good enough for Google Docs and searching the internet.

However, if your studies require the use of more demanding software for photo or video editing, 3D design or crunching databases, it’s worth putting money towards a more powerful CPU. Intel’s 11th-, 12th- and 13th-gen Core i5 and i7 processors are what you want here, or the more recent Core Ultra 5 and 7.

Meanwhile, AMD’s Ryzen 5 and Ryzen 7 range of processors often rival Intel’s in terms of performance (look for laptops with at least a 5000-series CPU), but come with a smaller price tag, while Apple’s M2 and M3 processors can give some Core i7 CPUs a run for their money.

More RAM is always welcome, as it means you can leave more applications and browser tabs open before your laptop grinds to a halt. You should look for a laptop with at least 8GB of RAM, and 16GB is even better if your budget allows it, but our advice is to avoid anything with 4GB or lower if you can possibly help it.

How much storage do I need?

This will be determined by how you plan on using your student laptop. If you’re going to be saving lots of documents locally and plan on downloading numerous apps and working on video or audio files, you’ll find storage gets eaten up pretty quickly.

A laptop with 256GB of storage will suffice for most students, but 512GB is a safer bet if you don’t want to have to uninstall and delete things a year or two after buying your new device, and 1TB is even better but a rarity at lower price points.

It’s important to look at the type of storage a laptop has in addition to how much of it you’re getting. A student laptop with a proper SSD (solid-state drive) is preferable to one with a cheaper eMMC flash drive.

What else do I need to look out for?

If you can try out a laptop before buying, then do so. Everyone has a different idea about what constitutes a comfy, usable keyboard or touchpad, and while we pay close attention to those aspects in our reviews, it’s well worth trying it out for yourself. Equally, what some people might consider a heavy, bulky laptop might be entirely manageable by other people’s standards.

Similarly, it’s worth keeping an eye out for the number of USB-C or USB 3 ports. The faster USB 3.2 Gen 2 versions are worth paying extra for if you need additional storage or backup through a fast external drive, and you’ll also have more options for connecting monitors and other devices.

It’s well worth leaving some room in your budget for a good external USB hard drive or SSD, or just making sure you use a cloud storage service such as OneDrive or Google Drive to keep your documents backed up. Even the best laptop for students can be damaged, lost or stolen, so it pays to make sure your coursework doesn’t disappear along with it.

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