Wednesday, July 24, 2024

Best laptops for students 2022: Go back to school in style with these sleek student laptops

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(Image credit: fizkes via Shutterstock)

Get ready to go back to school with the best laptops for students. Whether you’re heading off to college for the first time, or you’re a parent who wants to make sure their kids have the best equipment for their studies, our guide has you covered. We’ll walk you through everything you need to look out for when buying a student laptop.

The best laptops for students need to be versatile machines, because they’ll be used for a wide variety of tasks. Sure, it’s mainly for studying, but you also want something that can be used in your downtime to stream movies, maybe play some games, and have Zoom calls to keep in touch with your family back home. 

So, you’re going to want a powerful laptop that can handle multiple tasks and programs at once, so you can have your office suite, music apps, web browsers, and any specialist programs you need running at the same time. You’ll also be lugging your laptop all around campus, so you need something lightweight and with a decent battery life too. And if you’re wanting to use it for video calls, you’ll need something with a built-in webcam too.

There are other things to think about too – ergonomic concerns and personal preferences. Do you like how the keyboard feels to type on, is the trackpad good for you etc. These are all things you’ll need to figure out for yourself as a spec sheet can only tell you so much.

Finally, you need to consider your budget. We’ve put a good range of laptops for students in this guide, with premium, mid-range, and budget options so there should be something that’s right for you. As we’re in the summer holidays at the moment, there will be plenty of back to school deals cropping up that can help you get a little more bang for your buck.

We’ve also put together a list of the best laptops for coding & programming, which will be more suitable for students studying computer sciences. Now, let’s dive into our list…

Best laptops for students

(Image credit: Apple)1. Apple MacBook Pro 13

Best laptop for students

SpecificationsCPU: Apple M1 chip 8-core

GPU: Integrated 8-core GPU

RAM: 8 GB, 16 GB

Storage: 256 GB, 512 GB, 1 TB, 2 TB

Screen size: 13.3 in, Retina 2560 x 1600 display

Weight: 3 lbs (1.4 kg)

Dimensions: 11.97 x 8.36 x 0.61 in (304 x 212 x 15.6mm) (WxDxH)

Reasons to buy+Sturdy, light, and stylish exterior

+Fantastic screen and speakers

+Plenty of power and good keyboard

Reasons to avoid-Expensive

The Apple MacBook Pro 13 has long been a campus favorite, and there’s no sign of that changing with the latest iteration of this impressive notebook.

The 13.3 in display has vivid colors and a high resolution, so movies and TV shows look fantastic. The display sits above some of the best speakers you’ll find on any small laptop, and the MacBook’s fifteen-hour battery life means you’ll have the longevity for a full day.

Apple’s keyboards remain brilliant, and this smaller MacBook has a superb trackpad and a customizable Touch Bar. It’s got a decent 720 p webcam, and it can run iOS apps and games alongside Mac OS software. The only real issue is a lack of physical connectivity – the MacBook has two Thunderbolt ports, but no full-size USB connectors.

On the inside, Apple’s M1 processor tackles anything shy of the toughest creative workloads. Everything’s contained in a robust aluminum chassis that only weighs 3 lbs (1.4 kg), so it won’t bog you down.

The MacBook Pro 13 is sturdy, fast, and stylish, with the ability to succeed in almost every area. It’s not as expensive as newer MacBook Pro machines either, with prices that start at £1,299 / $1,299, although we’d recommend upgrading to 16 GB memory for better multi-tasking performance.

(Image credit: HP)2. HP Envy 13

Best Windows laptop for students

SpecificationsCPU: Intel Core i5-1135G7 / Core i7-1165G7

GPU: Nvidia GeForce MX450

RAM: 8 GB, 16 GB

Storage: 512 GB, 1 TB

Screen size: 13.3 in, 1920 x 1080 IPS touch

Weight: 2.8 lbs (1.3 kg)

Dimensions: 12 x 7.6 x 0.6 in (306 x 194 x 17 mm) (WxDxH)

Reasons to buy+Solid Intel-powered internals

+Slim and light design

+Great 1080 p touchscreen

Reasons to avoid-Affordable, but with mediocre build quality

With its clean aluminum design the HP Envy 13’s looks decent, and its 1.3 kg weight and 17 mm body mean it’s easy to slip inside a bag and take to lectures.

The comfortable and quiet keyboard is ideal for the library or lecture theatre, and the 1080 p touchscreen is versatile, bright, and bold.

HP’s notebook has full-size USB ports, which is rare on such a slim machine, and it has reasonably punchy speakers. The Envy has a webcam, but no Thunderbolt or HDMI.

On the inside, it’s available in two configurations: an Intel Core i5 model with 8 GB of memory and a Core i7 spec with 16 GB of DDR4 RAM. The former is fine for everyday work, and the latter is well-suited to trickier tasks. On the battery front, expect between 12 and 14 hours of longevity – a healthy result.

These configurations aren’t too expensive: the Core i5 rig costs $939 / £899, while the Core i7 machine arrives at $1,049 / £1,049. It’s also worth remembering that HP offers 14 in, 15.6 in, and 17.3 in versions of this machine if you’d like something larger.

The lower price does mean that the HP has some minor issues: build quality could be better, and Apple and AMD processors are faster. They’re not dealbreakers though, and the HP Envy 13 stays one of the best laptops for students on a budget.

(Image credit: Apple)Best value laptop for students

SpecificationsCPU: Apple M1 chip 8-core

GPU: Integrated 8-core GPU

RAM: 8 GB, 16 GB

Storage: 256 GB, 512 GB, 1 TB, 2 TB

Screen size: 13.3in, Retina 2560 x 1600 display

Weight: 2.8 lbs (1.29 kg)

Dimensions: 11.97 x 8.36 x 0.63 in (304 x 212 x 16 mm) (WxDxH)

Reasons to buy+Great-looking, slim, and light design

+Excellent Apple M1 processor

+Superb high-resolution display

Reasons to avoid-Limited connectivity and battery life

The MacBook Air weighs just 1.29 kg and it’s only 16 mm thick – and, despite that, it’s got a rock-solid aluminum body with a great-looking design in three colors. If you want a machine that’ll turn heads and survive busy campus life, this is a top contender for one of the best laptops for students.

The 13.3 in display has a 2560 x 1600 resolution alongside bold colors, which means your browser windows, work apps, and media all look fantastic. The speakers are decent, too – easily good enough for movies and music, even if they lack a little punch. Battery life peaks at 14 hours, and the MacBook has a couple of Thunderbolt ports and a webcam, but that’s it for connectivity. The keyboard is responsive and suitable for a day of working.

On the inside the Apple M1 processor will handle almost any student task – you’ll only need more power if you want to run high-end design or creative software. We’d recommend the 16 GB Air to get the most out of multi-tasking, and the price of $1,199 / £1,199 is good.

If you want to stick with Mac OS, you’ll get more speed, battery life, and storage on the MacBook Pro. However, if you want the slimmest, lightest Apple laptop around, then the MacBook Air is excellent.

(Image credit: Dell)4. Dell XPS 13

Best premium laptop for students

SpecificationsCPU: Intel Core i5-1135G7 / Core i7-1195G7

GPU: Intel Iris Xe graphics

RAM: 8 GB, 16 GB, 32 GB

Storage: 256 GB, 512 GB, 1 TB, 2 TB

Screen size: 13.3 in, 1920 x 1200 IPS, 3840 x 2400 IPS, 3456 x 2160 OLED

Weight: 2.6 lbs (1.2 kg)

Dimensions: 11.6 x 7.8 x 0.59 in (296 x 199 x 15 mm) (WxDxH)

Reasons to buy+Great-looking design

+Impressive display and keyboard quality

+Good battery life and features

Reasons to avoid-Can become expensive

The Dell XPS 13 is another reliably excellent laptop from Dell. Its milled aluminum and carbon fiber body mean it’ll looks just as good as anything else in the lecture hall, and it’s strong and light.

The Dell has a satisfying keyboard, a large touchpad, and a battery that lasts between 12 and 18 hours. It’s packed with features, too: it has a Windows Hello webcam, Thunderbolt 4 ports, and a microSD card slot alongside reasonable speakers. You don’t get full-size USB ports, though.

The Dell XPS 13 is available with three displays. The 16:10 aspect ratio means more vertical space, and all have tiny bezels and superb quality – so your box sets and creative work will look great. The 1920 x 1200 screen is an ideal everyday display, while the higher-resolution panels are better for more demanding users with thicker wallets. The OLED display is particularly dazzling.

Intel’s low-power Core i5 and Core i7 chips are good, with the latter providing enough power for most work tasks, and the XPS is available with 32 GB of memory.

The Dell XPS 13 is not the most affordable student laptop. Its cheapest rigs cost $1,319 / £1,099, and you’ll have to spend more for Core i7 CPUs and high-resolution displays. However, if you’ve got the cash, the Dell XPS 13 is the best high-end Windows laptop for students.

(Image credit: Google)5. Google Pixelbook Go

Best cheap laptop for students

SpecificationsCPU: Intel Core m3-8100Y / Core i5-8200Y / Core i7-8500Y

GPU: Intel UHD 615

RAM: 8 GB, 16 GB

Storage: 64 GB, 128 GB, 256 GB

Screen size: 13.3 in, 1920 x 1080 touch IPS

Weight: 2.3 lbs (1.06 kg)

Dimensions: 12.2 x 8.1 x 0.52 in (311 x 206 x 13.4 mm) (WxDxH)

Reasons to buy+An excellent Chrome OS experience

+Good-quality screen and keyboard

+Sleek, lightweight chassis

Reasons to avoid-Underpowered compared to Windows and Apple machines

Loads of schools use Chrome OS now, so it makes sense that students want to continue embracing Chrome OS at university – and the Google Pixelbook Go is your best Chrome OS option.

Chrome OS is now a mature operating system that’ll tackle virtually any student task, and this matte aluminum body is sturdy and stylish. Combine that with the impressive 1080 p display and quiet, comfortable keyboard and you’ve got a tempting all-rounder that lightweight and easy to carry around.

On the inside, the Chromebook is available with older Intel Core m3, i5, and i7 processors. The m3 chip is suitable for basic tasks, the Core i5 CPU is a good everyday chip, and the Core i7 CPU is ideal for mainstream creative work. We’d also recommend the 16 GB option if you want to enjoy flawless multi-tasking. Battery life sits at a reasonable 12 hours, and pricing is decent: the Pixelbook Go starts at $649 / £629 and ranges up to $1,399 / £1,329.

Elsewhere, the Pixelbook Go has a webcam and two USB-C ports, but sadly no full-size USB ports. It’s only got mediocre speakers, too.

The Pixelbook won’t suit everyone, so those with more demanding needs will find extra power and features elsewhere. But, if you want to use Chrome OS then the Pixelbook Go is the best choice.

(Image credit: HP)Best hybrid laptop for students

SpecificationsCPU: AMD Ryzen 5 5600U / Ryzen 7 5800U / Intel Core i5-1135G7 / i7-1165G7

GPU: AMD Radeon integrated/Intel Iris Xe integrated

RAM: 8 GB / 16 GB

Storage: 256 GB / 512 GB

Screen size: 13.3 in, 1920 x 1080 IPS touch

Weight: 2.9 lbs (1.32 kg)

Dimensions: 12.1 x 7.6 x 0.64 in (306 x 194 x 16.4 mm) (WxDxH)

Reasons to buy+Slick, versatile convertible design

+Good choice of processors

+Decent features and ergonomics

Reasons to avoid-Mediocre battery life

The HP Envy x360 13’s prices almost always duck below $1,000 / £1,000, which is a great starting point for a student laptop, and it’s the only convertible in this group – so you can flip it around and use it as a tablet or prop it up to watch movies or TV shows. When student laptops need to exhibit versatility, that’s a boon.

The lightweight HP Envy x360 has good build quality, and its 1080 p display has solid contrast and reasonably accurate colors – you’ll only be disappointed if you want to use this machine for color-sensitive creative tasks. The speakers are fine for casual media, but they’re not brilliant and lack bass.

This rig has full-size USB ports, a comfortable keyboard, and a webcam with a privacy shutter and a microSD card reader. On the inside, it’s available with AMD Ryzen 5 and Ryzen 7 chips and their Intel equivalents. The AMD chips are better, with the former fine for everyday multi-tasking and the latter more powerful. Expect up to 11 hours of battery life.

It’s cheaper, so you do get what you pay for and you can get better tech elsewhere if you’re willing to pay more, but the HP Envy x360 13 remains a good choice for students who want a versatile and affordable convertible.

Mike is a freelance technology journalist and consultant who is fascinated with gaming, futuristic technology and motorsport. Previously, Mike has worked as a writer for PC Pro magazine writing and published articles on technology for many other media outlets, including TechRadar, Wired, PC Advisor, Stuff, The Inquirer and Red Bull Gaming. 

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