Tech

8 best laptops for students studying for success

independent– A powerful laptop is an essential item for university students. Whether you’re studying design, English literature or accounting, you’ll want to have a reliable laptop in your arsenal.

But picking from the seemingly endless choices of laptops can be daunting, not least because university students are famously skint. It’s for that reason, though, that you’ll want to choose wisely by considering more than price alone.

You need a fast and trustworthy laptop which is known to have longevity (you don’t want to find yourself forking out for a new model halfway through your second year).

Portability is especially important since you’ll likely be lugging your laptop between lecture halls, cafes and home. However, as long as online teaching is here to stay, webcam quality is vital.

Read more: 10 best keyboards: Wireless and wired models for quick and easy typing

All of the main operating systems – Windows, MacOS and Google Chrome – are up to scratch for the modern student, but each comes with its own unique capabilities so what you go for will depend on preference or need.

Depending on the course you’re studying, it might be important to think about processing power beyond webcam capabilities, particularly if you’re studying something like graphic design or part of your course involves editing videos.

When testing these laptops, we invested a number of hours using each model and considered specifications, design, portability, practicality and, of course, value for money.

You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps to fund journalism across The Independent.

Avita Liber V 14 Pro R5

Operating System: Windows 10 Home

Storage:  256 GB

Processor: AMD Ryzen 5

Display: 14 in

Battery life: 7.5 hours

Touchscreen: No

The design of this notebook is absolutely glorious and its ultra-wide screen with extremely narrow bezels gives it a modern and practical feel. With a fingerprint ID sensor to log on and an extra-large trackpad, usability is not a problem. Unlike the very similar Huawei MateBook, the Liber V finds room for a webcam above the display but, with the AMD Ryzen 5 processor, this notebook doesn’t reach the same power levels as the MateBook.

Portability should be no problem here – with a weight of just 1.31kg you’ll have no trouble with travel. The battery life isn’t brilliant, but the charger cable is long enough. If you’re worried about aesthetics, it might be worth investing in a case, as the matte black casing is prone to fingerprints.

Huawei MateBook 14 2020 AMD

Operating System: Windows 10

Storage: 256 GB

Processor: AMD Ryzen 7

Display: 14 in

Battery Life: 10 hours

Touchscreen: Yes

The Huawei MateBook 14 2020 AMD is perfect for students who will benefit from high processing power – like graphic design students – thanks to its AMD Ryzen processor. This laptop is easily portable with a width of 12 inches, a height of just over half an inch and a 10-hour battery life. It is sturdy and strong – albeit a little heavy compared to its very sleek design. Despite its size, the MateBook 14 2020 AMD boasts a 14-inch display with a 3:2 aspect ratio. While this might make watching films on Netflix a little frustrating it is great for productivity.

The comfortable and tactile keyboard reaches almost from edge to edge and the fingerprint ID feature of the “on” button makes logging on both secure and effortless. Due to the narrow bezels, the webcam is located on the keyboard, under a hidden function key. While we can blame the lack of space, this is slightly behind the times compared to laptops which have reduced the size of webcams and makes for tricky viewing – not so great when the majority of studying is now digital.

Lenovo IdeaPad duet Chromebook

Operating System: Chrome OS

Storage:  64 GB

Processor: MediaTek P60T

Display: 10.1 in

Battery Life: Up to 10 hours

Touchscreen: Yes

At 9.64 inches wide and 0.71 inches thick at the very most (that’s with the magnetic keyboard and kickstand cover attached), this 2-in-1 laptop and tablet is convenient, versatile and budget-friendly. The Chrome OS operating system offers more apps at your fingertips than seems possible on such a small device, and the extremely long battery life makes this laptop perfect for days spent studying away from home.

However, the trackpad isn’t the most responsive, and getting used to typing on such a small keyboard might prove difficult if you´re downsizing – though this makes the touchscreen feature all the more useful. Also, the magnetic stand and keyboard can feel a little flimsy, but it’s a small price to pay for the money saved. If you’re looking for something with a lot of horsepower, this might not be for you. But if you’re looking only to take notes, browse the web and take pictures (the rear camera is a neat feature), this laptop is great value for money and one of the best Chromebooks about.

Price comparison

  • Amazon£279Buy now
  • John Lewis & Partners£279Buy now
  • AO.com£279Buy now
  • Argos£289.99Buy now

Dell Inspiron 15 5593

Operating System: Windows 10 Home Plus

Storage:  512 GB

Processor: 10th Generation Intel Core i5-1035G1

Display: 15.6 in

Battery Life: 6 hours

Touchscreen: No

The Dell Inspiron 15 5593 is the biggest laptop we’ve included in this list. With a huge display and full-sized numeric keyboard, this laptop is comfortable and easy to use. Despite its heftiness, it is sleek and attractive, and still quite slender at 0.9 inches thick. With portability in mind, battery life might be a downside, but its durability cancels out any fear of damage when transporting it to and from campus in your backpack – which is unexpected given how light it is. With the cheapest option, you get a free trial of Windows Office, which is very handy for studying. For a mid-range laptop, this has everything you need.

Price comparison

  • Currys£699Buy now
  • eBay£699Buy now

Avita Pura 14 R3

Operating system: Windows 10 Home

Storage:  256 GB

Processor: AMD Ryzen 3

Display: 14 in

Battery life: 8 hours

Touchscreen: No

This is a lightweight, budget-friendly laptop perfect for studying. Weighing just 1.3kg, the Pura is portable and stylish, albeit a little fragile compared to some of the other laptops on this list. The screen is high quality and a good size at 14 inches, and the bezels – while they could be smaller – are far from too wide.

Typing is a breeze and the trackpad is responsive, and the AMD Ryzen 3 processor allows for a decent amount of horsepower. This is a simple yet practical device that covers all necessary bases, including a free mouse.

Apple MacBook air

Operating system: macOS Big Sur

Storage: 256/512GB

Processor: Apple M1

Display: 13.3 in

Battery life: Up to 18 hours

Touchscreen: No

Slim, lightweight and beautifully designed, the MacBook Air takes portability and usability to the next level. The new Apple M1 processor is extremely powerful, making this laptop speedy and efficient. With an 18-hour battery life, there’ll be no need to find a desk with a socket when studying away from home, and the keyboard and large trackpad are pleasant to use.

The MacOS software can be a lot to get used to in the first few days if you’re transitioning from a PC, but it’s simple, bright and seems to have been made with convenience in mind. The display is smaller than others, at 13.3 inches, but the bezels are narrow and the webcam is strong.

Price comparison

  • eBay£949Buy now
  • Amazon£989.55Buy now
  • John Lewis & Partners£989.63Buy now
  • Argos£999Buy now

Honor MagicBook 15

Operating System: Windows 10

Storage: 256 GB

Processor: AMD Ryzen 5

Display: 15.6 in

Battery life: Up to 10 hours

Touchscreen: No

Large and sturdy yet lightweight with a 15.6 inch display, this is another great mid-range option for students. With fairly narrow bezels, a sleek design and a comfortable keyboard, it is attractive yet practical – for the most part. Fingerprint ID, once again, makes logging on dreamy, but the webcam placement is definitely lacklustre.

A sister brand of Huawei, Honor laptops also host their webcam under a secret key on the keyboard. Though you can be sure you won’t be seen if you don’t want to be, it isn’t the most useful placement for a webcam. It has high processing power and a great operating system and the trackpad is very responsive. If the aforementioned MateBook and MacBook are out of your budget, this might be the one for you.

Price comparison

  • eBay£549.97Buy now
  • Amazon£599.97Buy now

Dynabook Satellite pro C40-H-103

Operating System: Windows 10

Storage: 256 GB

Processor: 10th generation Intel Core i3-1005G1

Display: 14 in

Battery life: Up to 8 hours 55 minutes

Touchscreen: No

Weighing under 1.55kg, this laptop is perfect for carting around in a backpack. Its 14 inch display is high quality and the keyboard is comfortable and spacious. The trackpad is large and responsive. Another streamlined notebook with a matte finish, this laptop is attractive, but with less of a modern feel than some of the other laptops mentioned here.

The webcam is HD but not extremely high quality. The long battery life, size and weight make for perfect portability. This laptop is simple yet effective, though it feels a little budget for the price. Still, Dynabook (previously Toshiba) has a reputation for reliability and longevity, so this could be a great pick to last through your entire course.

The Verdict: Laptops for students

At under £600, the Avita Liber V R5 came out on top as our best buy. The combination of design, practicality and portability – along with a powerful processor – makes this laptop worth the midrange price point. It is almost the perfect dupe for the Huawei MateBook 15, which is silky and powerful but suffers due to the unfortunate webcam placement. On a budget? We recommend the Avita Pura 14 R3 over the Lenovo IdeaPad duet, as it’s much more sturdy and versatile.

IndyBest product reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and buy the products, but we never allow this to bias our coverage. The reviews are compiled through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testing.

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