Best student laptops 2020: the 10 best laptops for college students

The best laptops for college students aren’t always the cheapest or the most lightweight ones. Don’t get us wrong; budget laptops tend to be great candidates because price is always a huge consideration when someone’s off to college, and students generally don’t need high-powered laptops. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re always going to be the best laptops for college students.

The best student laptops need to fit a few criteria. They need to be affordable, first and foremost, especially when you’re working with a college student’s budget. They also need to deliver performance-wise, so they can handle a student’s particular workload as well as streaming and perhaps light gaming post-coursework. Finally, they must have enough juice to last them the whole school day at full charge.

We picked out the best laptops for students 2020 has to offer, and we’ve got something for every need. Whether you want the best Chromebook that offers a great price without sacrificing performance, or a heartier device equipped with a powerful operating system like Windows 10 or macOS, there’s something here for you. Skip all that tedious researching and get right to learning.  

Huawei Matebook 13

The Huawei Matebook 13 strike a balance between price and performance. (Image credit: Huawei)

1. 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

 Extremely affordable


 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 2019 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 

Dell XPS 13

The Dell XPS 13 is affordable enough for college students once again.  (Image credit: Dell)

2. Dell XPS 13

Dell’s flagship just graduated

CPU: 8th-generation Intel Core i3 – i7 | Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics 620 | Screen: 13.3-inch FHD (1,920 x 1,080; non-touch) – UHD (3,840 x 2,160; touchscreen) | Storage: 128GB – 2TB SSD

 Webcam in a reasonable location 


 Small upgrade 

Dell’s flagship laptop has always been rated as one of the best laptops for students, not to mention among the most ideal devices for professionals and casual, everyday users. This time around, the Dell XPS 13 2019 welcomes back the entry-level model, making it affordable enough for college students once again. Dell has also addressed our biggest frustration with the XPS lineup – the webcam. It has finally been moved back above the display where it belongs. This means that your family and friends won’t have to stare up into your nostrils when you’re video chatting ever again.

Read the full review: Dell XPS 13 

Google Pixelbook Go

The Google Pixelbook Go has earned our coveted “Editor’s Choice” award in the Chromebook category. (Image credit: Google)

3. 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 2019. And, that’s just to start.

Read the full review: Google Pixelbook Go

Surface Laptop 2

The Surface Laptop 2 has considerably improved on its predecessor.  (Image credit: Microsoft)

4. Surface Laptop 2

CPU: 8th-gen Intel Core i5-i7 | Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics 620 | RAM: 8GB – 16GB | Screen: 13.5-inch, 2256 x 1504 PixelSense touch display | Storage: 128GB – 1TB SSD

Huge performance boost

No Windows 10 S

Still no Thunderbolt 3

While the Surface Laptop was arguably one of the 10 best laptops for students, it was still held back by its below average performance, a lack of ports and Windows 10 in S Mode. Luckily, the Surface Laptop 2 has considerably improved on its predecessor – with the exception of the ports. It’s now packed with 8th-generation Intel Kaby Lake Refresh processors, full-fat Windows 10 Home and a black color option. We only wish it included even a single USB-C port. Still, you will get all your tasks done in style with this laptop with little to no effort, making it deserving of a high spot on this list.

Read the full review: Surface Laptop 2

Microsoft Surface Go

The Microsoft Surface Go is one of the most beautiful devices on the market. (Image credit: Microsoft)

5. Microsoft Surface Go

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 

Pentium CPU 

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 

Acer Swift 3 (2019)

The Dell Inspiron Chromebook 11 2-in-1 is the best laptop for students on a very limited budget.  (Image credit: Acer)

6. Acer Swift 3 (2019)

Ultrabook experience for under $1000

CPU: 8th-generation Intel Core i3 – i7 | GPU: Intel UHD Graphics 620 | RAM: 8GB | Storage: 128GB – 512GB | Display: 13.3″ Full HD (1920 x 1080) 16:9 IPS

Good price for an ultrabook

Very light

Good thermal performance

Cramped keyboard

Sound is not very good

Battery life is underwhelming

Budget consumers looking for an Ultrabook that delivers great performance at a great, affordable price, you can’t go wrong with the Acer Swift 3 (2019). This 13-inch laptop from Acer is powerful enough for productivity tasks, which makes it a great tool for traveling and working at the same time. However, it can also handle a bit of casual gaming as well as some photo editing, perfect for some post-work computing. It’s far from perfect – that battery could use a boost, the keyboard could be better, and don’t even get us started on the speakers. But, for how much it’s worth, you’re definitely getting a great deal.

Read the full review: Acer Swift 3 (2019)

HP Envy x360 13 (2019)

The HP Envy x360 13 (2019) has premium build, delivers up to 9 hours of video playback.  (Image credit: HP)

7. HP Envy x360 13 (2019)

HP gives its slimline laptop an AMD upgrade

CPU: AMD Ryzen 3 3300U – AMD Ryzen 7 3700U | Graphics: AMD Radeon Vega 6 – Radeon Vega 10 | RAM: 8GB – 16GB | Screen: 13.3″ diagonal FHD IPS (1,920 x 1,080) | Storage: 256 GB – 1TB SSD

Slim and sleek for a 2-in-1

High quality chassis

Improved battery life

CPU performance merely adequate

Graphics performance disappointing

There are so many compelling reasons why the HP Envy x360 (2019) belongs to our best laptops for students like, and its slim, sleek design is the least of them. This 13-inch 2-in-1 has premium build, delivers up to 9 hours of video playback and a performance that will get you through most of your schoolwork and project, all without burning a hole in your pocket.

Read the full review: HP Envy x360 (2019)

Microsoft Surface Pro 6

The Microsoft Surface Pro 6 boasts a beautiful display, excellent performance and an impressive battery life.  (I
mage credit: Microsoft)

8. Microsoft Surface Pro 6

CPU: 8th generation Intel Core i5 – i7 | Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics 620 | RAM: 8GB – 16GB | Screen: 12.3-inch, 2,736 x 1,824 PixelSense display | Storage: 128GB – 1TB SSD

Quad-core processors

Long battery life

Still no USB-C

The Microsoft Surface lineup has made a name for itself for being among the best Windows devices on the market, with beautiful touch displays, excellent performance and a battery life that lasts a long time. The Surface Pro 6 continues that tradition, even if it doesn’t improve much on its predecessor. You’re getting a fast Windows tablet that can effortlessly turn into a laptop with the addition of the Surface Type Cover. What does that mean for you? Simply that you can get your work done then effortlessly transition into Netflix time, making it one of the best laptops for students.

Read the full review: Surface Pro 6

Apple MacBook Air (2019)

The Apple MacBook Air has been refreshed for 2019. (Image credit: Apple)

9. Apple MacBook Air (2019)

A solid entry with an excellent new screen

CPU: 1.6GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 | Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics 617 | RAM: 8GB – 16GB | Screen: 13.3” (2,560 x 1,600) Retina display | Storage: 128GB – 1TB SSD

 Lovely design

Screen is great

Fantastic battery life 


Lack of storage space

Apple takes the MacBook Air (2018) and gives it a bit of refresh, adding True Tone technology to its display and an even more reliable keyboard. Unfortunately, it hasn’t upgraded the specs, but seeing as the 2018 version has already made our list of the best laptops for students, this improved version is just as deserving because of the improved hardware. But the best part is yet to come: this refresh is even cheaper, so you’re definitely getting more value for less.

Read the full review: MacBook Air (2019)

MacBook Pro (15-inch, 2019)

The MacBook Pro (15-inch, 2019) is juiced-up.  (Image credit: Apple)

10. MacBook Pro (15-inch, 2019)

Apple’s productivity machine gets the latest Intel tech

CPU: 9th-generation Intel Core i7 – i9 | Graphics: Radeon Pro 555X – Radeon Pro Vega 20 | RAM: up to 32GB | Screen: 15.4-inch (diagonal) LED-backlit display with IPS technology | Storage: 256GB – 4TB SSD


Decent configuration options

Screen remains gorgeous


Lack of ports

Keyboard concerns remain

Apple’s most powerful MacBook in existence has just juiced-up, which means that the 15-inch Cupertino powerhouse is faster than ever. Whether you’re doing school projects, photo editing or light gaming, this will blow you away as one of the best laptops for students. What’s behind this refresh? To start, an improved keyboard, as well as some of the latest and most powerful processors from Intel. Now, you not only have the option to take one home with an 8-core Intel Core i9, but also configure one to rock a Radeon Pro Vega 16 or Pro Vega 20 GPU to give you a boost in graphics.

Read the full review: MacBook Pro (15-inch, 2019)

Bill Thomas, Michelle Rae Uy and Gabe Carey have also contributed to this article.

Images Credit: TechRadar

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