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.
One of the major considerations, for both student and parent alike, is to find a laptop that doesn’t cost the planet, but simply finding the cheapest available machine isn’t likely to be a worthwhile investment either way.
Thankfully, here at TechRadar, we get to review a vast majority of the laptops that hit shelves, and in doing so we get a great idea of the products that are worth their asking price – particularly when it comes to paying for features and specs that actually matter.
With that said, below are our recommendations on the best value laptops for students, no matter your budget and needs, we’ll have a laptop to meet the demands of your study (and wallet).
Best student laptops in 2021 at a glance
- Apple MacBook Air (M1, 2020)
- Microsoft Surface Go 2
- Lenovo IdeaPad Duet Chromebook
- Microsoft Surface Laptop Go
- HP Chromebook 14
- MacBook Pro 13-inch (M1, 2020)
- Lenovo ThinkPad C13 Yoga Chromebook
- HP Envy x360 15 (2021)
- Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga Gen 6
- Acer Swift 3 (2020)
Best student laptops in 2021
Apple topped 2020 off with a bang, rolling out their much-talked-about M1 silicon chip that’s so far been a real game-changer. And, the first laptop to receive it is the company’s thinnest and lightest, putting it on the list of the most exciting Apple laptops of recent years. With this new chip, the MacBook Air is better than ever, touting excellent performance alongside its brilliant battery life – without raising the price to keep it (fairly) affordable still. It’s not going to be the cheapest option for students, but it is by far the best value and worth the extra investment on a unit that will stay relevant for years to come.
Read the full review: MacBook Air (M1, 2020)
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 and the above two options are way out of your price bracket, then this is one of the best affordable options.
Read the full review: Microsoft Surface Go 2
While the hardware is not quite as suave as Microsoft’s competing affordable products, Lenovo’s IdeaPad Duet Chromebook is even more affordable and includes a whole lot of value in its tiny cost. Chief among them is Chrome OS, which we find to be a richer experience when using a lightweight 2-in-1 (particularly compared with Windows 10S), especially if you’re already in on G Suite apps like Gmail and co.
The Duet’s 10.1-inch display has a 1920×1200 resolution and looks decently vibrant and bright, while the keypad isn’t quite as nice as the likes of the Surface Go 2, it’s fine to type on and is particularly decent for the price. Internally, it’s certainly not the most powerful unit on the market, but with a battery that lasts almost 8 hours in straight 1080p movie playback, this is a perfect portable machine for those that aren’t looking to put the unit through its paces and are happy with mostly browsing and the like.
Read the full review: Lenovo IdeaPad Duet Chromebook
In launching the Surface Laptop Go, Microsoft is making sure every gap in its market of laptops is full, and we’re truly glad that this particular hole is plugged. It hits that sweet spot between affordability, svelte and premium design, and performance.
Its 12.4-inch touchscreen display is gorgeous, the unit itself is super compact at 1.11kg, and while all models ship with the streamlined Windows 10S operating system, they’re all capable of handling the full Windows 10 Home if you’d like to upgrade. If you’re not sold on the 2-in-1 design of the Surface Go 2 above that leans a little heavier towards the realm of tablets, the Laptop Go is the best Microsoft solution on a budget.
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 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, a decent trackpad, a vivid display, and of course a very low price.
Read the full review: HP Chromebook 14
The MacBook Pro 13-inch (M1, 2020) may not have gotten a massive design overhaul, but what it lacks in that department, it makes up for big-time in performance and battery life. Thanks to Apple’s groundbreaking M1 chip, the new MacBook Pro 13-inch delivers excellent performance and exceptional battery life. Its performance is so impressive, in fact, that it can easily handle 4K – and even 8K – videos, which is great news for film students. If you’re looking for a powerful laptop that keeps things small and lightweight, this is one of the best student laptops money can buy, but it’s a fair bit of money.
Read the full review: MacBook Pro 14-inch (M1, 2020)
The Lenovo ThinkPad C13 Yoga Chromebook lands straight in our best student laptops list due to the fact that it is one of the most powerful Chromebooks money can buy in 2021. While you’re going to pay extra for this kind of horsepower, especially if you want some of the best features that come with the high-end models, it’s well worth it if you’re looking for a future proof Chromebook that’s going to last you for years to come – four years of college at the very least. As a 2-in-1 device, it’s got the flexibility that many other Chromebooks lack, and the screen on this thing is stunning. Best of all, it comes packing the new AMD 3000C-series processors – starting with an Athlon 3150C and scaling up to a Ryzen 7 3700C – and this means you’ll get more processing power out of this Chromebook than many of it’s competitors.
Read the full review: Lenovo ThinkPad C13 Yoga Chromebook
The HP Envy x360 15 (2021) is nearly in a class in its own right, a 2-in-1 laptop that combines impressive CPU and GPU power with an elegant yet robust design, a stunning display, and outstanding battery life – all for an incredible price. In fact, if you don’t want to spend a fortune, you’ll be hard pressed to find a better value for a 2-in-1, making it among the best student laptops right now. Its huge collection of ports make it an even better value, especially if you have a few peripherals in your arsenal. It’s not the most comfortable to use as a tablet, but even the most premium contenders aren’ perfect, so it’s easy to forgive this laptop for that.
Read the full review: HP Envy x360 15 (2021)
The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga Gen 6 provides a lot of benefits to any student willing to invest in its hefty price. Not only does it come with a fantastic 16:10 screen and a garaged stylus that you can use in its various form factors – it is a 2-in-1 hybrid notebook – but it comes with a number of security features to keep your work safe. It’s also a powerful laptop thanks to the latest generation Intel processors, Intel Xe graphics, and Evo certification. It also has the kind of battery life that will keep you going throughout the day without needing to charge. It might not be the most exciting-looking laptop out there and that price tag might scare off some students, but the X1 is an otherwise stellar machine that will keep up with just about anyone.
Thinking of insuring your laptop?
While your laptop’s portable nature increases its convenience and flexibility, it also means it’s at greater risk of becoming lost, damaged or stolen. In Australia, you can often protect against those scenarios (even outside the home) by adding ‘personal effects’ insurance to your contents insurance. To find out more, check out our sister site Mozo and compare contents insurance offers.