The best student laptops 2020

The best student laptops 2020

Despite the tight budget, the best student laptops aren’t only limited to the cheap laptops you can find. While some laptops under $500 might fit the bill, there’s more to laptops for students than a mere cheap price tag.

Luckily, we’ve reviewed a lot of laptops ourselves and have some great choices for you to consider. While also factoring in the price, we also looked at a few other considerations. After all, what students need, besides the cheap price, is a laptop that can provide enough power and tick a few other boxes.

With college students particularly, battery life, portability, and power will be the priorities. Even if that means spending a little extra on a better machine, you’ll have something that’s a better value in the long run.

The best student laptops must be able to handle a student’s workload, as well as some post-coursework streaming and light gaming. It should also boast a battery life that will last a whole school day on a single charge so students won’t have to lug around a charger on top of everything else. Speaking of which, being thin, light and portable also goes a long way.

From the best Chromebooks and student Chromebooks to heartier devices with a more powerful operating system like Windows 10 or macOS, here are our picks for the best student laptops in 2020. We’ve got something for every type of student, so whatever it is you or your kid needs, you’ll find something on this list.

We’re also rounding up all the latest cheap Chromebook deals, as well as the best kids desks buying guide for the whole package.

  • Find the best graphing calculator for students

Best student laptops on Black Friday and Cyber Monday

Some of the best student laptops are expected to receive deep discounts on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. So, you might be able to find a student laptop on this list for much less, saving you more money to use for something else.

Whether you’re buying one of the best student laptops for yourself or gifting it to the student in the family for Christmas, it would be wise to wait until the major deal events of the year. Luckily, with Black Friday rolling around at the end of November and Cyber Monday landing on November 30, you won’t have to wait for long.

MacBook Air (M1, 2020)

(Image credit: Apple)

1. MacBook Air (M1, 2020)

Best laptop for students with a flexible budget

CPU: Apple M1 chip with 8‑core CPU | Graphics: Integrated 7-core – 8-core GPU | RAM: 8GB – 16GB unified memory | Screen: 13.3-inch 2560 x 1600 Retina display | Storage: 256GB – 2TB SSD

macOS Big Sur is fast and responsive
Battery life is great
Silent in use
Fanless design could impact performance

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 for those who have a slightly bigger budget, this is the best student laptop to get.

Google Pixelbook Go

The Google Pixelbook Go has earned our coveted “Editor’s Choice” award in the Chromebook category. (Image credit: Google)

2. Google Pixelbook Go

Google’s best Chromebook for budget consumers

CPU: Intel Core m3 – i7 | Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics 615 (300MHz) | RAM: 8GB – 16GB | Screen: Full HD Display – 4K Ultra HD Molecular Display | Storage: 64GB – 256GB

Incredible battery life
Amazing ‘Hush’ keyboard
No biometric login

Have you been waiting for the day you can finally afford the premium price of Google Pixelbook? Well, with Google releasing Pixelbook Go, your wait is finally over. Granted, it isn’t quite the actual luxury device you’ve been dreaming of. However, rest assured, you will love this Chromebook, just as we have during our time with it. We love it so much, in fact, that it earned our coveted “Editor’s Choice” award in the Chromebook category. It boasts incredible battery life, an even more impressive keyboard and a 1080p webcam, which you don’t see often in the more budget-friendly laptops even in 2020. And, that’s just to start.

HP Chromebook 14

(Image credit: HP)

3. HP Chromebook 14

A well-balanced Chromebook

CPU: AMD A4 – A6, Intel Celeron N3350 – N3450 | Graphics: AMD Radeon R4 – R5, Intel HD Graphics 500 | RAM: 4GB – 8GB | Screen: 14-inch diagonal HD (1366×768) SVA anti-glare – FHD (1920×1080) IPS BrightView | Storage: 16GB – 64GB eMMC

Excellent keyboard and trackpad
Chrome OS is responsive
Crisp, vivid screen
Average battery life

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 top 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 and a decent trackpad. That’s without mentioning how vivid the display and how low its price tag is.

Microsoft Surface Go 2

(Image credit: Microsoft)

4. Microsoft Surface Go 2

Premium design, more affordable price

CPU: 8th Gen Intel Core m3 – Intel Pentium Gold Processor 4425Y | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 615 | RAM: 4GB – 8GB | Screen: 10.5” 1920 x 1280 (220 PPI) PixelSense Display | Storage: 64GB eMMC – 128GB SSD | Connectivity: IEEE 802.11a/b/g/n/ac/ax, Bluetooth 5.0, Qualcomm Snapdragon X16 LTE Modem

Premium design
Affordable
Can run full Windows 10
No Touch Cover or stylus included
Base model’s specs are weak

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, this one’s certainly a great contender.

Dell XPS 15

(Image credit: Dell)

5. Dell XPS 15 (2020)

All-powerful laptop for creative students

CPU: 10th Gen Intel Core i5 – i7 | Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics – NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650 Ti | RAM: 8GB – 64GB | Screen: 15.6″ FHD+ (1920 x 1200) InfinityEdge Non-Touch Anti-Glare 500-Nit – 15.6″ UHD+ (3840 x 2400) InfinityEdge Touch Anti-Reflective 500-Nit Display | Storage : 256GB – 2TB M.2 PCIe NVMe

Amazing speakers
Beautiful display
Comfy keyboard
GTX 1650 Ti is a little weak

The Dell XPS 15 might be a bit pricey for regular students, but it’s easily one of the best laptops for students in the creative field. Combining staggering power in a stylish thin and light chassis, this laptop doesn’t hold back when it comes to internals and features that improve your computing experience overall, whether you’re a film student or a graphic design one. Among those amazing features are a gorgeous bright display with 500 nits of brightness, an extremely comfortable keyboard, impressive speakers, and a terrific trackpad. We’re not saying that this laptop is perfect, but our coveted 5 out of 5 rating should speak for itself.

Acer Spin 5 (2020)

(Image credit: Acer)

6. Acer Spin 5 (2020)

A fantastic 2-in-1 laptop

CPU: 10th-generation Intel Core i5 – i7 | Graphics: Intel Iris Plus Graphics | RAM: 8GB – 16GB | Screen: 13.5″ (2256 x 1504) 3:2 touchscreen display | Storage: 256GB – 512GB SSD

Fantastic battery life
3:2 display perfect for note-taking
Feature rich stylus included
3:2 display not ideal for 16:9 video
Bloatware includes desktop pop-up ads

A great feature set definitely adds a lot of value, and if you’re looking for the best laptops for students, that’s one thing to keep an eye out for. It’s that combined with its affordability that makes the Acer Spin 5 (2020) a terrific candidate. This 2-in-1 laptop isn’t just versatile due to its form factors and fantastic battery life. It also comes with a 3:2 display and a feature-rich stylus that together give it that extra advantage for students over its rivals: an easy and seamless note-taking experience. If you’re one of those folks who have a contempt for typing up notes in class, this old-school approach might just seal the deal.

Asus Chromebook Flip C436F

(Image credit: Asus)

7. Asus Chromebook Flip C436

A whole lotta hits

CPU: 10th Gen Intel Core i3 – i5 | Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics | RAM: 8GB – 16GB | Screen: 14-inch LED-backlit Full HD (1920 x 1080) 16:9 display | Storage: 512GB / 256GB / 128GB SSD

Superb performance
Premium build and features
Impressive keyboard
Subpar speakers
Erratic touchpad

Offering more robust processing and graphical prowess than its cheaper siblings, as well as higher quality construction, the Asus Chromebook Flip C436 gives the premium Chromebook market a slightly more affordable option. And, for that price, you’re also getting that impressively lightweight chassis, a stunning 1080p touchscreen, and a keyboard that could practically rival those on the Dell XPS and MacBooks, as well as a couple of extra features like a fingerprint sensor and Wi-Fi 6 support. This is definitely one of the best laptops for students looking into getting a Chromebook.

  • Check out the latest MacBook Air sale prices and deals

Acer Swift 3 2020

(Image credit: Acer)

8. Acer Swift 3 (2020)

Punches above its ultralight-weight

CPU: AMD Ryzen 5 3500 – 10th Gen Intel Core i5-1035G4 | GPU: AMD Radeon shared memory – Intel Iris Plus Graphics | RAM: 8GB | Storage: 128GB – 512GB SSD | Display: 14″ Full HD (1920 x 1080) 16:9 – 13.5″ (2256 x 1504) 3:2, IPS

Highly portable
Excellent multitasker
Very affordable for an Ultrabook
Speakers are “meh”
Not great for gaming

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.

Dell Inspiron 13 7000 2-in-1

(Image credit: Dell )

9. Dell Inspiron 13 7000 2-in-1

A step up for Inspiron

CPU: 10th Generation Intel Core i5 – i7 | Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics | RAM: 8GB – 16GB | Screen: 13.3-inch FHD (1920 x 1080) – 15.6-inch UHD (3840 x 2160) Truelife Touch Narrow Border WVA Display with Active Pen support | Storage: Intel Optane Memory H10 32 GB with 512 GB Solid-State Storage – 1TB M.2 PCIe NVMe SSD

Competent performance
Highly versatile
Premium design
Quirky display
4K battery drain
Bunk speakers

The Dell Inspiron 13 7000 2-in-1 is a versatile 2-in-1 with a lot going for it under the hood.  This premium laptop is more than just about its premium design; it also has high-end internals to compete with the likes of the more powerful Dell XPS 13.  Rounding that out is a 4K display, and a clever stylus slot that makes us wonder whether they actually beat Microsoft to the idea. Granted, the display is a bit of a battery drain, and the speakers impressive, but this is still among the best laptops for students out there.

MacBook Pro 13-inch (M1, 2020)

(Image credit: Apple)

10. MacBook Pro 13-inch (M1, 2020)

Apple’s little MacBook Pro gets a big refresh

CPU: Apple M1 chip with 8‑core CPU | Graphics: Integrated 8-core GPU | RAM: 8GB – 16GB unified memory | Screen: 13.3-inch 2560 x 1600 LED-backlit Retina display | Storage: 256GB – 2TB SSD | Dimensions (H x W x D): 30.41 x 21.24 x 1.56 cm

Huge battery life
Great performance
Can run iOS apps
Still lacks ports

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 the best student laptop money can buy.

Bill Thomas and Gabe Carey have also contributed to this article.

  • Want more choices? Check out our list of the best laptops 2020
  • Shop the best cheap laptop deals around
  • Check out the latest cheap MacBook deals and sales
  • Got kids? Take a look at our guide to the best free parental control software

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.