A thin and light laptop could be the perfect student companion – find out why, and see some of the most recent models from our tests.
Back to school or university is almost upon us. And if you’re just starting out or fancy an upgrade for this term, it’s time to consider your options.
In this article, we take you through the top five reasons why it might be time to consider a thin, light and powerful laptop – often known as an Ultrabook – for your studies. Then, we’ll show you five recently tested models so you can see how far your money can go.
Browse all the Best Buy laptops from our tests to see which models truly perform.
Five advantages of Ultrabooks for students
Thin and light laptops: perfect for campus
If your course involves a lot of contact time in lectures, seminars and workshops, you don’t want to be lugging around a behemoth of a machine with you all day, every day. Even a laptop weighing 2kg will start to weigh you down after a few hours.
We weigh each and every laptop we test down to the last gram, and the average Ultrabook tested over the past 12 months has weighed in at a bag-friendly 1.28kg.
Enough power for multi-tasking
Student budgets can be tight, but sometimes buying the very cheapest laptop you can find can come back to bite down the line. If you thought your course would mostly involve typing up notes on your laptop, but you later found that having loads of browser tabs with academic journals and websites open was how you’d end up spending your time, you may rue your budget choice.
An Ultrabook with a recent Intel Core or AMD Ryzen processor, along with a solid-state drive (SSD) and 4GB or 8GB of Ram, can really help out in these situations thanks to their speed and ability to handle multiple tasks at once. It’s worth checking refurbished models, too, as these can offer last year’s technology at very competitive prices.
Battery life: for those marathon study sessions
There’s nothing worse than finding yourself on a deadline with no access to a power socket. Whether it’s a last-minute group presentation or writing an essay on the train, there are plenty of times you’ll want your laptop to just keep on motoring without giving up the ghost.
Ultrabooks tend to perform well in our battery benchmarking tests, with most devices managing at least six hours of web browsing, and that’s without any battery-saving modes switched on.
They’re not as expensive as you might think
As you’ll see from our list of recently tested models below, Ultrabooks aren’t as expensive as you might think. Grabbing at model with an Intel Core i5 processor nowadays might only set you back £450, and a Core i3 model can be found for less than £400 if you know where to look.
Get more from your money with a student deal
And don’t forget that there are all manner of student deals available from most of the major brands, including Apple, Microsoft and more. These can range from free gifts to proper discounts of up to 15%.
If a model is just out of your budget range, do check for these often very handy deals. Just keep in mind you may need to have access to your university ‘.ac.uk’ email address in order to claim student discounts.
See our guide to the best laptops for students for more on student deals.
Five just-tested Ultrabooks
These five recently tested laptops exemplify the advantages of thin and light computing outlined above.
Asus Vivobook 14 X420UA, £430
You get a lot for your money, including a recent Intel Core i3 processor that should ease its way through any work you throw at it. Weighing just 1.35kg and with a 14-inch screen, this laptop is compact and light enough to carry around all day. And with a 256GB SSD, there’s plenty of space for your files and documents. It’s cheap, but is it cheerful? Our full Asus Vivobook 14 X420UA review goes into detail.
MSI PS42, £999
This sleek-looking silver laptop has a 14-inch screen and the power to get practically any task done quickly. There’s a quad-core Core i5 processor from Intel’s 2017 range, alongside 8GB of Ram and a 256GB solid-state drive (SSD). This laptop also has a dedicated graphics card from Nvidia, which should help improve gaming performance and will also help with video-editing tasks. Weighing just 1.2kg, this is one of the lightest 14-inch laptops we’ve tested recently. But it is far more expensive than the other ultrabooks on offer here, so read the MSI PS42 review for our expert verdict.
Dell Inspiron 13 5000, £699
This mid-range Ultrabook has a 13-inch screen and weighs in at an ultra-lightweight 1.19kg. It’s powered by a quad-core Core i5 processor from Intel’s 2018 range, along with 8GB of Ram and a 256GB solid-state drive. Dell has a track record of producing good thin and light laptops, so read the full Dell Inspiron 13 5000 review for our verdict.
Dell Inspiron 14 5000, £610
Slightly cheaper than its smaller sibling, Dell’s latest mid-range 14-inch Ultrabook has a larger screen that should make multi-tasking with windows side-by-side even easier. It has one of Intel’s latest Core i5 processors on board, so strenuous tasks should be no problem at all. It weighs 1.48kg, which is heavier than some ultrabooks, but still very portable. Read our full Dell Inspiron 14 5000 review.
Huawei Matebook D, £599
This laptop is Huawei’s very cheapest, but it dosen’t scrimp when it comes to the basics. There’s a quad-core AMD Ryzen 5 processor and 8GB of Ram, along with a 256GB SSD and a Full HD screen. Plus it weighs 1.43kg, so is easily portable. Many of Huawei’s more expensive laptops do well in our tests, but can Huawei keep the quality up with this cheaper model? Read the full Huawei Matebook D review to find out.
Find more laptops that tick those bargain boxes in our guide to the best cheap laptops.