The cheapest laptops aren’t always the best student laptops. While laptops under $500 can be great candidates for students who are trying to be economical, there are still a few metrics to consider when looking for the ideal portable for the students in your family. In fact, paying a few extra bucks for a couple of extra useful features could be more advantageous.
The best laptops for students do need to tick a few boxes beyond affordability. Most importantly, they need to be able handle a student’s workload as well as post-coursework streaming and even light gaming needs. They must also have a battery life that will last at least a whole school day on a single charge. Lastly, they need to be thin and light – after all, a student’s backpack is heavy enough without a massive laptop weighing it down even more.
We picked out the best laptops for students 2020 has to offer, from the best Chromebooks, which are affordable multitaskers, to heartier devices with a more powerful operating system like Windows 10 or macOS. In fact, we’ve got something for every type of student. For even more savings, we’ve also included our price comparison tool.
1. 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 student laptops 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.
Read the full review: HP Chromebook 14
2. Huawei Matebook 13
The best laptop for most college students
CPU: 8th-generation Intel Core i5 – i7 | Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics 620, Nvidia GeForce MX150 (optional) | RAM: 8GB | Screen: 13.3-inch 2K (2,560 x 1,440) with touch panel | Storage: 256GB – 512GB SSD
Limited to 8GB of RAM
We’re massive fans of laptops that can skillfully strike a balance between price and performance with hardly any compromises, and the Huawei MateBook 13 comes closer to than anything else in 2020 so far. It’s light and compact, perfect for carrying in your backpack while you hurry from class to class; but it’s fast and affordable as well. This stunning 13-inch Ultrabook will make sure you’ll get all your work done in style, without burning a hole in your pocket. Sure, you might need to keep that charger on hand if you want it to last you the whole day, as the battery life is underwhelming. However, there’s still no doubt that the Huawei Matebook 13 deserves its lofty spot on the best laptops for students list.
Read the full review: Huawei MateBook 13
3. MacBook Air 2020
New and improved for 2020
CPU: Intel Core i3 – i7 | Graphics: Intel Iris Plus Graphics | RAM: 8GB – 16GB | Storage: 256GB – 2TB PCIe-based SSD | Dimensions: 30.41 x 21.24 x 1.61 cm
Lower price of entry
New 10th generation processors
Screen colors a little muted
Battery life only OK
Webcam still just 720p
Apple’s thinnest and lightest MacBook is back in 2020 with a vengeance. Not only has it fixed a lot of the complaints with its predecessors – namely, that problematic keyboard is now gone, replaced by a drastically improved keyboard. But it also comes with new and more powerful internal components, even more storage space options, and a lower price of entry. There are a couple of things we’d do better, like the muted screen and the average battery life, but this model of the MacBook Air is better than anything we’ve seen from the line so far. And, it’s definitely among the best student laptops of 2020.
Read the full review: MacBook Air (2020)
4. 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.
Read the full review: Google Pixelbook Go
5. Microsoft Surface Go
A Surface for everyone
CPU: Intel Pentium Gold 4415Y | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 615 | RAM: 4GB – 8GB | Screen: 10-inch, 1,800 x 1,200 (217 ppi; 3:2 aspect ratio) PixelSense touch display | Storage: 64GB eMMC – 128GB SSD
Fantastic build quality
Even if you’re only in the market for a laptop for school that strikes a balance between cost and performance, it can’t hurt to factor in a splash of style. The Microsoft Surface Go isn’t just one of the best Windows tablets, but it’s also one of the most beautiful devices on the market. Better yet, it also gets our vote as among the best laptops for students, especially from a value perspective. Don’t be duped by the low-power components: Microsoft engineered this tablet to take on all your general schoolwork and more without breaking a sweat.
Read the full review: Microsoft Surface Go
6. 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
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.
Read the full review: Acer Swift 3 (2020)
7. Asus Chromebook Flip
Premium Chromebook specs, economic Chromebook pricing
CPU: Intel Pentium 4405Y – Intel Core m3-6Y30 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 515 | RAM: 4GB | Screen: 12.5-inch, FHD (1,920 x 1,080) LED backlit anti-glare | Storage: 32GB – 64GB eMMC
Elegant tablet mode
No out-of-box Android app support
The best student laptops aren’t premium all-singing, all-dancing devices with huge price tags, as the excellent Asus Chromebook Flip C302 demonstrates. The Asus Chromebook Flip C302 brings a lot of what we love about Asus laptops to an affordable Chromebook that’s ideal for day-to-day tasks and for students working on their homework. That means it’s got excellent build quality, a fantastic design and packs some great hardware that makes it one of the best Chromebooks on sale in 2020, with an Intel Core processor, full 1080p display, touchscreen, backlit keyboard and USB-C port.
Read the full review: Asus Chromebook Flip
8. Microsoft Surface Laptop 3
The best laptop by Microsoft
CPU: Intel Core i5 – i7 / AMD Ryzen 5 / AMD Ryzen 7 | Graphics: Intel Iris Plus Graphics / AMD Radeon Vega 9 / AMD Radeon RX Vega 11 | RAM: 8GB – 16GB | Screen: 13.5-inch PixelSense (2,256 x 1,504) / 15-inch PixelSense (2,496 x 1,664) | Storage: 128GB, 256GB, 512GB or 1TB SSD
Excellent battery life
Choice of Intel or AMD CPU
No Thunderbolt 3 option
Too few ports for its size
With the third version of the Surface Laptop 3, Microsoft has made its best laptop yet. While it’s not a huge leap over its predecessor, the Surface Laptop 3 does improve on almost every aspect. Best of all, with the 15-inch version you now get a choice of either Intel or AMD hardware. Previously, only Intel tech was included. Elsewhere, the Surface Laptop 3 continues the Surface Laptop’s reputation for being a stunningly designed laptop.
These are some of the most desirable laptops in the world that don’t have a logo of an apple on them, with a new aluminum body that gives it a premium feel, while protecting it from knocks and drops. There are still a few niggles, like the continued lack of ports, but in general this is one of the best student laptops in the world right now.
Read the full review: Microsoft Surface Laptop 3
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
4K battery drain
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 student laptops out there.
Read the full review: Dell Inspiron 13 7000 2-in-1
10. MacBook Pro (13-inch, 2020)
Worth the upgrade at the highest configuration
CPU: 8th-generation Intel Core i5 – 10th-generation Intel Core i7 | Graphics: Intel Iris Plus Graphics 645 | RAM: up to 32GB | Screen: 13-inch Retina display with True Tone | Storage: 256GB – 4TB SSD
Improved specs (on some models)
Larger capacity SSD for starting model
New keyboard is great
Entry-level model still has 8th gen Intel CPU
You still only get Thunderbolt 3 ports
The MacBook Pro (13-inch, 2020)’s entry-level model may miss out on some of the line’s new toys. However, going for the higher-end configurations will get you new (and powerful) Intel processors and improved RAM speeds for better performance, all packed in the 13-inch incredibly svelte body. Apple rounds it all out with that incredible Magic Keyboard from the new 16-inch, finally getting rid of that problematic keyboard. Even if you don’t go for the 10th-generation Intel Core configurations, you might still appreciate the fact that all models come with more storage capacity for the same price as their predecessors.
Read the full review: MacBook Pro (13-inch, 2020)
Bill Thomas, Michelle Rae Uy and Gabe Carey have also contributed to this article.