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Updated: 20 May 2022

Best laptops for students

We round up the best laptops for students, based on our expert lab tests, to help you find the very best student laptop for school, college or university 
Michael Passingham
Best laptops for students

 ding to uni or college brings new challenges, both academic and social. Our laptop guide can't give your social life a boost (sorry), but we can get you started in picking the right kit to help you with your studies.

In our guide to the best laptops for students, we take you through some of the key laptop-buying decisions you'll have to make, and give recommendations for the best student laptops depending on your course and what you need the laptop to do. 

We've also got expert advice on how to make the most of remote learning, including how to boost your wi-fi. Plus we reveal which laptops you should avoid.


See also: Best cheap laptops under £500 | Best MacBooks to choose | Best laptops in our tests


5 things students need to know before buying a laptop 

To start, here are five of the top things to think about when buying a laptop to use as a student:

  1. Battery life If you’re going to be out at lectures and seminars all day, and you can’t guarantee you’ll have access to a plug socket, you’ll want a laptop that can manage at least eight hours of battery life in our realistic tests.
  2. Weight If you need to commute with your laptop, you’ll want one that weighs less than 1.5kg so it doesn’t start dragging you down late in the day.
  3. Screen size If you don’t plan on taking your laptop out of halls, go for a bigger screen size, from 15.6 to 17.3 inches.
  4. Fast wi-fi Some laptops have better wi-fi connections than others, so check our laptop reviews to see which models have particularly slow wireless connectivity that could affect your work.
  5. Performance Don’t overspend on a laptop that’s far too powerful for your needs. If you’re only going to be working on basic essays, you don’t need to spend £1,000 on an ultra-premium high-performance laptop. Similarly, you don’t want to underspend on a laptop that doesn't have the power you need if you’re going to be editing videos. Our guide on the best laptops explains more.

We'll help you to buy the perfect student laptop for your budget - see our expert laptop reviews.

How much should you spend on a student laptop?

Generally speaking, these are the prices you can expect to see when buying a new laptop. This should help you to avoid overpaying or, indeed, underpaying for a device that won't meet your needs.

  • Basic note-taking and occasional documents £200-250 should be enough. Look out for Intel Celeron-powered Windows 10 laptops and Chromebooks.
  • Heavy web browsing, documents £300-500 will net you either an Intel Pentium Gold laptop with plenty of Ram, or even an Intel Core i3/AMD Ryzen 3 laptop. 
  • Editing photos, videos Beyond £500 you can start looking at laptops with Intel Core i5 and i7 processors that are capable of editing photos and videos without much lag. 
  • Gaming A good gaming laptop will set you back at least £600. The more you spend, the better the graphics settings will be.

Best student laptops for essay writing and research

If your work will predominantly be making notes and writing essays, you won’t need a powerful laptop. In fact, you can get away with spending less if you simply need a machine for writing words. 

Below, we’ve recommended a few options at different prices, depending on your budget.  

What to look for 

Chromebooks are usually excellent little writing devices with very basic operating systems and web-browser-based software. That said, very basic laptops struggle if they're pushed hard, so make sure your course isn’t going to become more technologically demanding later on. 

It pays to buy the best laptop you can, especially if you know you're going to need extra power later. See our guide the best cheap laptops for more. 

Want to kit out your desk even further? See our guide to the best computer monitors.

  • 80%
    • best buy
    £699.00

    If you’re looking for a device that can cover the duties of both a standard laptop and a tablet, then this powerful, portable laptop is one to consider.

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  • 71%
    £449.00

    This mid-range laptop delivers fast performance in a very compact and lightweight shell. That should make it ideal for anyone who needs a laptop for taking out and about.

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  • 71%
    £399.00

    This laptop comes in at well under £500 but has some really useful features not often found on laptops this cheap. It includes a fingerprint reader, a Full HD screen and a half decent processor, along with excellent battery life.

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  • 65%
    £299.99

    This laptop is a highly portable device that manages to offer a lot of versatility for your money. It's well worth a look.

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  • 62%
    £169.99

    As with most budget laptops there are compromises aplenty, including cheap build quality and a dim screen. It's also only fast enough for basic tasks, but if you're on a budget and that's all you need, it's a fine choice.

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Best laptops for film buffs and media students

These laptops have excellent screens for eking out every last detail of your films. They also excel in other important areas, including speed and build quality, so are great all-rounders for any student. 

What to look for 

High-resolution screens and Intel Core or AMD Ryzen processors are the must-haves here. Lesser processors might not play high-resolution films so smoothly (although there are exceptions), and there’s nothing worse than watching an atmospheric film on a screen that lacks contrast and brightness. 

We've also picked out laptops that have good speakers, which is where most devices fall down. 

  • 88%
    • best buy
    £949.00

    This laptop ticks every single box for a price that isn't as eye-watering as you might expect. It's fast, has a great battery, excellent screen and speakers and is build to last.

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  • 86%
    • best buy
    £1238.00

    This is one of the very best large laptops we've tested. It isn't cheap, but it justifies its price with excellent build quality, fast performance, a great screen and excellent speakers. Even the battery life is good, which is rare on a large laptop.

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  • 85%
    • best buy
    £869.00

    This absolute cracker of a Windows laptop sets the standard for devices running on Microsoft's software. Its excellent screen, lovely speakers and fast performance mean it ticks practically every box you can imagine, and starts from under a grand.

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Best laptops for production and design students, and gamers

If your course involves editing multimedia or 3D work – such as media production, audio production, architecture, design or fashion design – you’ll benefit from picking a pricier laptop. 

These have higher-end specs that step up to the plate whenever you need them to. The other benefit of these laptops is that you can use them for gaming – perfect for a bit of downtime.

What to look for

Intel Core i5 or AMD Ryzen 5 processors are the bare minimum if you want a smooth experience editing multimedia projects, whatever they may be. 

An added bonus would be a laptop with so-called ‘dedicated’ graphics from a brand such as AMD or Nvidia. Read our pick of the best gaming laptops for everything you need to know if you want to enjoy the latest titles on your laptop. Our reviews will mention if a laptop has dedicated graphics to help you with whatever 3D task you're doing. 

  • 92%
    • best buy
    £1129.97

    If you can face the price, this is a brilliant laptop for intensive tasks such as photo- and video-editing. You don't have to compromise on portability or battery life either; this laptop is light and the battery lasts for over 16 hours when watching videos.

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  • 81%
    • best buy
    £1599.00

    This is one of the most desirable Windows laptops around thanks to its premium build quality, powerful processor and great screen. It rivals the likes of the MacBook Pro for performance, too. If you’re after a laptop for work and games, this could be a great choice if you pick a model with the upgraded graphics card. Read our full review to find out whether this is the right laptop for you.

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  • 81%
    • best buy
    £899.00

    If you’re after a deskbound laptop rather than a portable laptop, this model is a very easy recommendation and a clear Best Buy. It’s powerful, its screen is gorgeous and even the speakers are good.

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  • 70%
    £899.00

    This gaming laptop has everything you need for a good experience when playing the latest titles. There are various more powerful specifications available but we've tested the cheapest we could find.

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How to effectively manage remote learning

Learning online is something students are getting more used to – either because of Covid-19 or simply because parts of your course are no longer taking place in person. If this is the case, there's some tech that's worth investing in to make online learning easier.

  • A decent webcam This is essential for interactive online seminars. We don’t currently rate laptop webcams, but we do check each laptop we test to make sure the webcam works. We typically find that while laptop webcams rarely produce movie-worthy video, they're perfectly adequate for most people. 
  • Use headphones with a built-in microphone The audio quality of many laptops' built-in microphones and speakers often isn't particularly good. Headphones with a built-in microphone should make your voice clearer, and also reduce the risk of echoey chats. Find out more about options available in our headphone reviews.
  • A good broadband service If your wi-fi is slow wherever you’re planning on taking your classes, it might be time to check your internet connection. Ensure you’re on a proper ADSL broadband package with at least 10Mbps speeds (check our broadband provider reviews if you’re looking to switch). 
  • A strong wi-fi signal If your broadband is decent but you still struggle to connect, the wi-fi signal in your house might be weak. This is particularly likely in a large, shared student house with only one wi-fi router, particularly if it's far from your computer. A wi-fi extender, or even a mesh wi-fi network (a series of interlinking mini hubs) can help to boost the signal. Read our guide on the best wi-fi router or extenders.

Laptops to avoid

Not all laptops are created equal. Here are some models that don't score well in our tests and aren’t worth your money.

  • 45%
    • don't buy
    £199.00

    This brand is apparently popular on Amazon, but our tests reveal this budget laptop is a complete false economy. It’s slow, poorly made and the battery life is awful. Other than that, it’s great.

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  • 44%
    • don't buy
    £199.00

    This sub-standard laptop isn't terribly slow, but it lacks skills in any other area, with poor battery life, fiddly keyboard and touchpad, dull screen and terrible speakers.

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Student tech deals

Read our tips below to get the best deal on your new laptop, or check our pick of the best laptop deals from major retailers.

If you’re looking for a higher-end laptop — perhaps you’re doing a course that requires video or photo editing, for example — you could opt for a deal from either Apple or Microsoft, both of which offer discounts to students.

Microsoft student laptop discounts

The Microsoft Store website offers a discount of up to 10% to students (and parents) buying devices from its Microsoft Surface laptop range, including the Surface Laptop, Surface Pro or Surface Book. Bear in mind that the price reduction might not apply if there’s already another offer on the product you’re buying.

  • You’ll need to verify that you’re a school or university student, but beyond that you won’t have to jump through any hoops to get the discount – it’s applied at checkout.
  • Students at eligible institutions can also get Office 365 free.

Already know you want to go with Microsoft? Go straight to Microsoft student deals.

Apple student laptop discounts

Apple also offers discounts on Mac products to university students and parents buying for them, as well as teachers and other staff. 

  • If you’re a verified university student, you can get up to 10% off all new Apple products and iPad models.
  • A free Apple Music Student Plan now comes with Apple TV+.

If you know you want Apple products, go to the Apple educational site.

Other laptop brand deals

All these laptop brands offer discounts if you buy direct from their online stores.

While you can get some great discounts directly from most laptop brands, other online retailers might have better prices on products, and might be doing their own limited-time student (or non-student) deals.

Student software deals and free alternatives

If your course requires (or recommends) that you use certain software, check whether any discounts or free offers are available.

For example, if your university subscribes to Microsoft Office 365, you should be eligible for free Office software downloads, including Word, Excel and PowerPoint. You can find more information on the Microsoft website.

You can also subscribe to the entire Adobe Creative Cloud for just over £16 a month, which includes 20+ apps such as Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, After Effects and Premiere. Each Creative Cloud app is also available to buy on its own, with prices from £4.98.

The 3D design software firm Autodesk also offers a one-year free licence to some of its software packages if you’re a student.

If you don’t want to pay for anything, there are free, open-source alternatives to popular software packages. These include GIMP or Pixlr for image editing, LibreOffice for productivity, Google Drive or Office 365 Free for web-based word processing and spreadsheets, and Blender for 3D modelling.

We test laptops more thoroughly than anyone else

Our tests go further than those carried out by other organisations, and because Which? is independent and doesn't accept advertising or freebies (we buy all the products we test, unlike other sites), you can trust our reviews to give you the full, honest and impartial truth about a product.

When testing laptops in the Which? test lab, we monitor, measure and test against more than 260 different criteria to ensure we have every base covered. This includes everything from battery life and screen brightness to button dimensions and USB data transfer rate.

Whether you're a student who has to submit essays, video-editing projects or graphic design assignments, there's a laptop for you. See our expert laptop reviews.