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Heading to university is an expensive time. There are furnishings, textbooks – and the occasional beverage – that require heavy investment. And don’t forget your top study buddy when doing your pre-uni shopping: a good laptop will take you far.
You can get yourself a decent laptop for as little as £200, but check our five top tips below to find out how much you should expect to spend and how you can minimise your outgoings.
Alternatively, head over to our guide on the best laptops for students to find out which laptops are – and aren’t – worth your money.
Take a look at all the best laptops from our tests to suit all budgets and types of use
1) Work out how much to spend
If you just need a laptop for typing up notes and perhaps checking a few emails, you can spend as little as £200. But if you know your course will require a lot of online research, such as opening lots of PDF journals and academic websites, it’s better to stretch your budget for something a little more powerful.
Here’s what you’ll typically get at different price points, plus examples of popular laptops that hit each spec – click through to read our full reviews and find out how they did in our tests.
Less than £200 Intel Celeron or Atom processors, 2GB of Ram and 32GB of storage. These laptops won’t be particularly fast, but should be fine for taking notes and browsing the internet.
Example The Asus E406 can be found for around £200 and should be able to handle the basics.
Less than £400 Intel Pentium, Core i3, AMD Ryzen 3 and 4GB Ram; fast enough for web browsing, multitasking and research work. Aim for a Full HD screen and a solid-state drive (SSD) for storage, if you can.
Example The Acer Aspire 5 A514-32 in its Core i3 specification comes in at less than £400.
Less than £600 Intel Core i5, i7, AMD Ryzen 5, 7 and 8GB of Ram. Laptops with these specs should be ideal for photo editing and some light video work. Look for a thin and light design, a Full HD screen and an SSD to get the most for your money.
Example The Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 14ARE05 packs in a six-core processor and a thin, light and versatile design for £599.
Less than £800 As above, but in increasingly high-end designs. Look for great battery life on premium ultrabooks and gaming performance on bigger devices.
Example The Lenovo Yoga C740 is a compact Ultrabook with a flexible screen that has everything you’ll need for study.
More than £800 Some stunning designs, great screens and good speakers. High-end laptops will suit more intensive tasks, such as video editing or playing games.
Example Blow the budget with a MacBook Pro for around £1,299.
2) Check the big laptop brands for student discounts
Apple might have the best-known student discounts, but several other big computing brands offer some modest discounts to students with an .ac.uk email address, in partnership with companies such as Student Beans and Unidays.
- Asus up to 15% off Asus products
- HP up to 35% off HP products
- Dell up to 15% off Dell and Alienware laptops
- Lenovo 20% of Lenovo laptops and accessories
- Samsung up to 10% off tablets and laptops.
3) Save money in the sales
Before you click through to buy directly from a laptop brand, check that you can’t get a better deal on your chosen laptop from a high street retailer such as John Lewis, Argos or Currys PC World.
That said, the soaring demand for home computers prompted by the coronavirus pandemic has meant that the prices of laptops have, for the most part, stayed high – so truly sensational offers may be in short supply.
We update our laptop deals page monthly though, so it’s worth a look before you buy.
4) Laptop trade-in schemes
If you have an old but working laptop, you may find you can get a big discount by trading it in.
Currys PC World offers a trade-in discount throughout most of the year, for example. The trade-in value you’ll get for a fully working laptop may not be much as you’d get if you just sold your device on eBay, but you may think it’s less hassle.
Whether you sell or trade-in your old laptop, don’t forget to wipe all your data off it first – see our guide on how to prepare your computer for recycling – and ensure the device meets any retailer terms and conditions on trade-ins.
5) Consider a refurbished or second-hand laptop
If you’re confident you know what you want (and have looked through our wide selection of reviews), you could save hundreds of pounds by buying a second-hand or refurbished laptop.
By way of an example, you can typically save at least £200 on a MacBook Pro that’s been refurbished (or is simply an unused, open-box returned product), and usually even more if it’s a higher-spec model.
Even cheaper laptops that began life as £200 products yield a saving of at least £20 if you don’t mind a refurbished device.
There are, inevitably, advantages and disadvantages to this approach.
Pros of buying a used laptop
- Saves you money
- Better for the environment
- You still have basic consumer rights if the laptop is faulty or not as described, although these may be more limited if you buy directly from a private seller
Cons of buying a used laptop
- Warranties aren’t as long on refurbished computers
- You probably won’t get any warranty at all if buying a second-hand computer from the previous owner
- The battery life may have taken a beating over time
Read our guide on how to buy a second-hand or refurbished laptop to help decide whether this is the right option for you.