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The best laptops for students

A laptop is more essential than ever for today’s students. Whether it’s accessing course materials, writing essays, attending online classes or collaborating with other students, everything begins and ends with the laptop.

So, how do you go about choosing the best student laptop for your needs? First, you need to establish some basic criteria, then survey the market to see what options are available. It’s also a good idea to check out whether any student discounts are available to cut the price of your chosen laptop.

Once you’ve made a choice, don’t forget to protect your investment from theft or accidental damage with gadget insurance.

What should you consider in choosing a good student laptop?

There are lots of different factors that determine what makes a good laptop for your own student life. Firstly, there’s price. If you have a tight budget (and let’s face it, most students do!) then your choice will be restricted – but don’t worry, there are still plenty of options out there if you’re cash-strapped.

Your requirements might depend on the course that you are studying. For example, if you are going to study engineering you might need a device with good graphics power. If you will need to run professional software such as Adobe, AutoCAD, or a Microsoft programme, you should be clear what this means for the spec of your chosen laptop.

Student revising on laptop

If your course does not use specialist software, you might be able to get away with a cheaper, less powerful machine that will still service your needs perfectly well.

Then there’s weight. Generally speaking, the larger the screen a laptop has, the heavier it is. If you’re going to be carrying the laptop all over campus regularly then weight could be a decisive factor.

On the other hand, if you are going to be studying in your room most of the time then weight doesn’t really matter. If you have the resources, you could always opt for a tablet or large smartphone for note taking, keeping your bigger computer at home most of the time.

Familiarity is also a consideration. If the future student is confident in using computers and handling any software glitches that arise, they might have their own preference around areas such as whether they have a Windows, iOS, Linux or Android system.

If the student would rather opt for something that is the same as your family computer because they are used to it, this is fine, too.

Second-hand laptops can help to bring cost down a lot while still delivering a good quality device. However, these tend to be beyond their warranty period and if they fail, you could struggle to resolve the problem.

A new laptop often comes with the option of an extended service period that will see the student through the whole university career. This can be a life saver if a problem develops around exam time.

When buying a laptop it is also a good idea to invest in some cloud storage so all those notes, essays and documents are backed up in a single place.

Where a piece of work is crucial, for example an end-of-year dissertation, you might want to keep multiple backups using cloud storage as well as thumb drives and an external hard drive. It’s better to be safe than sorry!

Finally, if you want to use the laptop for gaming, playing music or regular video calls, this is also something to consider in terms of graphics cards, memory and camera/speaker quality.

What are the best laptops for students?

Let’s look at some of the laptops that are popular with students right now, and what key features they have.

1. HP Pavilion 14

This laptop is a safe bet for most students who have limited cash and don’t need anything particularly flash. With 8th Generation Intel Core i5-8250U CPU, an Intel UHD Graphics  620 GPU, 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD, this Windows 10 machine is a bargain, with prices starting from around £400. It is well built to last and boasts plenty of storage.

2. Acer Chromebook 315

This laptop is at the lower end of the price range, coming in at around £300. It is a lower spec model as well, but what can you expect for that money? It still does all that most students will need, using Chrome OS and the Google suite of applications. The speaker is a bit weak, but the 15.6-inch screen is good quality.

3. MacBook Air

This laptop is not the cheapest on the market at around £1,000, but you do get good quality for your money. It has an Apple M1 chip with 8-core CPU, integrated 7-core graphics, 8GB of RAM and 16GB memory. On top of that, it’s super lightweight and thin, so you will hardly notice it in your bag as you mooch around campus. The battery life is very good and it’s a pleasure to use.

4. Google Pixelbook Go

A bit pricier than the Acer Chromebook 315 at around £630, the Google Pixelbook Go is well worth the extra. It has high quality design and components, brilliant battery life, great screen quality and a top-notch webcam to boot. On top of that, many students will appreciate the super-comfortable, quiet ‘Hush’ keyboard that will make writing up essays a quieter and more pleasurable experience, especially when you’re in the library.

5. Dell G3 15

Many students will want to take their gaming hobby off to university with them. Why not? It’s a great way to let off steam and even bond with new mates. The Dell G3 15 has 9th Generation Intel Core i5-i7, NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050 graphics, 8GB to 16GB of RAM and a gorgeous 15.6-inch screen. Priced around £800, the spec will let you play most games in the gaps between all that hard study.

6. MacBook Pro 13-inch

While the MacBook Air might be light and slim, this Apple product costs around the same at £1,100 but is a much more powerful machine. Fitted with the innovative M1 chip, Integrated 8-core GPU and with 8GB to 16GB memory, it’s a machine that really delivers bang for your buck. The spec allows you to do specialist tasks like 3D rendering and video edits, which could be crucial for some university courses.

Male student

7. Microsoft Surface Go 2

2-in-1 devices can be perfect for students – they can be used to type up essays and notes then the keyboard detaches to leave a tablet-style device that is great for web browsing, video calls and streaming. The Microsoft Surface Go 2 is possibly the best on the market for students, priced at a very reasonable £400. It has 8th Generation Intel Core m3, Intel UHD Graphic 615 and 4GB to 8GB of RAM and 64GB to 128GB of memory. The battery lasts up to five hours and it does most of the basic computing tasks a student will need to do.

8. Microsoft Surface Pro 7

This Microsoft 2-in-1 runs on Windows 10. Invest in a Type Cover and you can use the tablet device as a laptop for writing notes, typing up essays, attending virtual seminars and so on. It has a quad-core Intel processor and up to 16GB of RAM, a 12.3-inch screen, a quality 8MP rear-facing, auto-focus camera and a 5MP front-facing 1080p HD camera. It’s lightweight and compact, making it easier to carry around campus.

9. Huawei Matebook X Pro

This powerful little unit comes in at an affordable £700. For that money, you get a powerful 8th Generation Intel Core i5-i7, Intel UHD Graphics 620, NVIDIA GeForce MX150 2GB GDDR5, 8GB to 16GB of RAM and a whopping 512GB SSD storage. The 13.9-inch screen is clear and sleek, the battery lasts for ages and it’s a general all round quality laptop.

10. HP Envy X360

This 2-in-1 laptop costs just under £1,000, but for that you get a lot. The AMD Ryzen 2500U quad-core 2-3.6GHz CPU, AMD Radeon RX Vega 8 graphics, 8GB of RAM, 128GB SSD storage and classy 13.3-inch screen will let you study, play the most demanding video games and edit videos, too. Once you’ve finished all that study, you can turn the keyboard over to prop up the tablet screen and watch a film with your friends.

11. LG Gram 17

This is a costlier option at £1,400. You’re paying for the huge 17-inch screen, matched by a slim and light form. It has 11th Generation Intel Core i7, Intel Iris Xe Graphics, 16GB LPDDR4X RAM and up to 2TB storage. The battery life is extremely good and it’s light – the only downside is the hefty price tag.

12. Dell XPS 15

This is another laptop at the higher end of the student device market, but again, you get good quality for your money. With a perfect 4K, 15.6-inch display (Ultra HD, Infinity Edge touch), 2.6GHz Intel Core i7 6700HQ, 16GB Dual CHannel DDR4 RAM and NVIDIA GeForce GTZ 960M, this is a premium laptop that is perfect for most student purposes, plus even the most power-hungry games.

13. Acer Swift 3

Tried-and-tested brand Acer offers some great options for students. This reliable, compact laptop has a 14-inch screen, NVIDIA GeForce MX350, up to 10th Generation quad-core Intel Core i7-1065G7, up to 16GB RAM and storage of up to 512GB. Priced around £650, this is a great little laptop for a student without complex computing needs.

Protecting your laptop

University campuses are rich targets for thieves. Students can be careless about leaving their windows open or doors unlocked, or they might leave devices on a library desk while they step away for a moment. Criminals often hang around campuses or areas with lots of student housing, looking for opportunities to swipe a device or two that can be swiftly sold on for a profit.

A few simple steps should help to protect you from losing your laptop. Firstly, a laptop should never be left unattended. This might sound obvious, but it’s easy to be distracted when you spot a friend across the room, or want to pop to get a book from a shelf. The same goes for leaving the windows or door to your room unlocked – you never know for sure how long you will be away for, so it’s best to lock things up. If you leave your laptop unattended, you might even invalidate the terms of your insurance for gadgets.

When it comes to carrying your laptop around, using a case that does not look like a laptop case is a smart way to evade thieves. Classic laptop bags scream ‘here’s a laptop’ and could attract unwelcome attention. You could opt to protect your laptop with a simple neoprene case that can slip into another bag, making it much less noticeable.

Personalizing your laptop is also a good idea. Stickers or laptop skins make your device look more distinctive, as well as being fun to look at and expressing your personality. This makes it harder for a thief to sell on and makes it a riskier object to steal, because it can be more easily linked to you. Many criminals will pass over a distinctive laptop for this reason. Noting down your laptop serial number will also help if you ever need to report the theft of your laptop to the police.

If your laptop is stolen, it’s not just the device that you stand to lose. If your account has a weak password, thieves could easily hack into your accounts and steal your personal information for ID theft purposes, or order items using your accounts. Always protect your device with a strong password, or use a fingerprint reader for extra security.

Gadget insurance is recommended to ensure that you don’t stand to lose out financially if you are unlucky enough to have your laptop stolen, broken or damaged. With cover in place you can replace your laptop with the minimum of fuss.

Get a quote for gadget insurance to protect your student laptop today.

Policy benefits, features and discounts offered may very between insurance schemes or cover selected and are subject to underwriting criteria. Information contained within this article is accurate at the time of publishing but may be subject to change.

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