Unlike a few years ago, laptops are now an essential tool for students at college or uni. But younger kids also need web access for research, too, so we’ve gathered together our favourite Mac and PC options for schoolwork as well as those at college or university.
For college and uni students, we’ve selected some more expensive choices as it’s likely more power is needed.
However, we haven’t gone to town on these in terms of out-and-out performance and, so check out our best laptops guide if you’re doing something like a design degree or music tech where you might need extra oomph, particularly in terms of graphics.
For our uni and college selections we’ve prioritised portability, looks and all-round performance, whereas for our school selection we’ve prioritised affordability and robustness. If you want a Chrome OS-based device instead, check out our guide to the best Chromebooks around.
The best laptop for school
HP Stream 11
The 11.6-inch Stream 11 is a little basic for adults due to its Celeron processor, but for children it’s ideal. Storage is a little lacking at 32GB – it’s designed for people storing documents rather than a complete library of photos – but at this price point you can’t really complain.
Lenovo’s IdeaPads are ideal for school use and have a decent feature set – this 4GB RAM, 128GB SSD model is similar to the VivoBook above. It’s a 14-inch model, too and is suitable for most basic home use so not just school work. Other versions are available, too.
The best laptops for university or college
Apple MacBook Air
Fully updated in 2018, the MacBook Air was then given a True Tone display and a lower entry-level starting price last year before a further enhancement in March 2020. It’s still the same great laptop at heart. The only real downside with this laptop from a student point of view is its price – and the fact you may need USB-C converters for some accessories.
Huawei MateBook 13
Huawei’s recent woes in the mobile market have been due to trade wars, but a Huawei laptop is different because it runs full Windows 10 for which updates will continue to be issued. Design-wise, the MateBook series doesn’t stand out from the crowd, but it does have a decent price point and current deals mean it’s hard to resist.
Asus ZenBook UX410UA
These days there are loads of Zenbooks around, but this is our student pick – it’s inexpensive yet is a real jack-of-all-trades, which often you need if you’re going to hold onto the same laptop for three years. We’d recommend a Core i5 version, but the Core i3 version is fine for many tasks and, naturally, costs less.
Microsoft Surface Laptop 3
A beautiful laptop that’s been much improved by Microsoft with each version it’s launched, this is far from the cheapest option for a studen, but is certainly one of the most striking and elegant.
It’s a Windows machine par excellence, with a great hinge and brilliant display, and brings the welcome addition of USB-C connectivity.
Lenovo Yoga C930
This premium laptop has it all – aside from being lightweight. But as a workhorse you really can’t complain. It’s super for typing and looks great. Added to which there’s a sold 12 hour battery life.
Dell XPS 13
One of our favourite laptops, the XPS 13 is now available in an even more improved model which we are yet to review. Available in various options, Dell often sells off examples via its Refurbished Store, which is also worth knowing about.