With hundreds of laptops to choose from, with very variable capacities and prices, we found the 10 best laptops for students in 2020.
Access to the computer occupies an increasingly important place in high school and even in primary school, and few students do not have a laptop.
But what could have been a “good thing to do” is now a necessity, as the COVID-19 pandemic makes online homework and Zoom video conferencing the new classroom space for students of all ages.
The mobility that laptops provide makes them ideal for children, who may need scoot on home to find a quiet place to work. And when things get back to normal, that same laptop can come back to school with them and continue to help them learn.
There are hundreds of laptops to choose from, with very variable capabilities and price tags. We reduced the field to 10 of the best laptops for students in 2020. Regardless of which laptop you choose, be sure to check to see if there is a built-in webcam (for distance learning support) and check with your school board or college program if they have any special physical requirements.
Also, don’t forget to check if you qualify for a student discount. Apple (for example) offers both educational prices and a free AirPods back-to-school offer with the purchase of a new MacBook. Demand is high, and models often sell. If the one you want is out of stock, check the manufacturer’s online stores frequently and scan retailers.
ASUS ChromeBook Flip C214
Many school boards have adopted Chromebooks as their preferred laptop choice for students. They are affordable, secure and designed to integrate seamlessly with Google G-Suite. Chromebooks can also run Android apps from Google Play, including Microsoft 365.
The ASUS ChromeBook Flip C214 is an ideal laptop for young students. With an 11.6-inch HD+ touch screen, it is compact and easy to carry. The 360 degree hinge makes it usable as an Android tablet, or for drawing (the stylus is not included on the basic model). It has both USB-C and USB port type A, so it can connect to new accessories as well as USB drives. There is a built-in webcam, as well as a “global” camera for taking photos or videos.
ASUS builds this one to resist the kind of punishment that only children can distribute. The edges and corners are protected by rubber bumpers. The keyboard resists spills. Hinge is designed to withstand opening and closing cycles
Google Pixelbook Go
Chromebooks began as uber-cheap alternatives to Windows laptops, but with their growing popularity, they also expanded to offer much more attractive options. A student who has been using Chromebooks and prefers the platform but wants something a little more enjoyable and powerful will enjoy Google Pixelbook Go.
Ultra slim, lightweight (only two pounds), and offering 12 hours of battery life, the Pixelbook Go is about as portable as laptops. The basic model is equipped with a bright and colorful Full HD 13.3 inch touch screen and a large keyboard. It has an excellent 1080p webcam. The Pixelbook Go starts at a modest $649, but the best option for most students is the $849 version which gets an 8th generation Intel Core i5 CPU, 8GB of RAM, and 128GB of storage.
I used the $849 model (provided by Google) as part of a long-term evaluation, and the Pixelbook Go is an impressive Chromebook—one that I was able to use without compromise for work, including the Zoom video meetings.
The Pixelbook Go is a look, with its premium magnesium case and its unique and gripped case back (available in Just Black or Not Pink). It is also available in a high-performance model with an Intel Core i7 processor, 16GB of RAM, 256GB of storage and a 4K UDH molecular display for $1399.
Acer Swift 3
The Acer Swift 3 proves that you can get a functional and student-friendly Windows laptop without spending a lot of money.
Acer makes multiple variations of the Swift 3, but the most interesting is the SF314-42-R9YN model. It features a 14-inch IPS Full HD display, 8GB of RAM, 512GB of SSD storage and the new AMD Ryzen 7 8-core processor.
The Swift 3 also includes USB-C and USB Type-A ports, as well as an HDMI output for connecting to an external monitor or TV. The battery life can reach 11 hours. It also features a lightweight aluminum body, backlit keyboard, Wi-Fi 6 support, 720p webcam and integrated fingerprint reader.
Impressive enough for $649.99.
ASUS VivoBook 15
If you’re watching a laptop screen for hours and you don’t have an external monitor to connect to, a larger screen is preferable. That’s where a laptop shines.
ASUS has an option for students in the VivoBook 15 (S533FA). Despite the large screen, the NanoEdge design, with minimal eyewear, keeps the VivoBook 15 slim and lightweight, at less than 4 pounds. With a starting price of $699.99 this laptop will not break the bank, either.
The ASUS VivoBook 15 features a 15.6-inch Full HD panel. It is equipped with all the latest technologies including Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.0, PCIe SSD storage and Intel Core processors from.
HP Envy X360
Convertible, 2-in-1 laptops are a popular option for students. These laptops offer the full Windows 10 laptop experience, but have the ability to transform into other fitness factors. Switching to “tent” mode is a great option for presentations, group information sharing or streaming video. They can also be used as tablets or slates.
The HP 2-in-1 ENVY series of laptops is always a good bet. The new 13-inch version (ENVY 13-ay0021nr, $999.99) is a particularly good choice for students. It is very portable and offers up to 12 hours of battery life.
The 13.3-inch BrightView Full HD touch screen is a beauty and the aluminum body gives the laptop a premium look.
The real value of this 2-in-1 is the price performance. HP uses the new AMD Ryzen 7 (4700U) processor with 8 cores and integrated AMD Radeon graphics. It is coupled with 16GB of DDR4 RAM and 512GB of high-speed PCIe NVMe storage. It is equipped with Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.0, and USB-C and USB Type-A ports. The stereo speakers are set by Bang and Olufsen, They have dual-network microphones and the WideVision HD camera has a built-in shutter to ensure privacy—slide the cover and the camera will not see anything.
Dell XPS 13
For those who want the best in premium Windows laptop design and a top performer, the Dell XPS 13 is the one to beat. He made the list last year, and 2018 as well. Each year, Dell has continued to upgrade the XPS 13 and this year’s version is the best yet. He won the Best In Show award for laptops at CES 2020.
Dell says it has shrunk the new XPS 13 (9300) by another 2%, but increased the InfinityEdge screen to a 13.4-inch version that offers 6.8% more screen space. Its 4-element webcam is designed to enhance video in low light conditions. In addition, the webcam has been moved to the traditional position in the upper bezel – making it a much better video conferencing experience than last year’s model.
As always, the XPS 13 is an elegant corner of premium materials, including a machined CNC aluminum body, carbon fiber, and Gorilla Glass 6 that tilts the scale to just 2.8 pounds. Dell offers a wide range of models starting at $1,149.99, but they all feature a 13.4-inch InfinityEdge display, 10th generation Intel Core processors, DDR4 RAM, M.2 PCIe NVMe SSD storage, Killer Wi-Fi 6, two USB-C ports (Thunderbolt 3), a microphone SD card slot, stereo speakers, dual-network microphone, fingerprint reader, on-board backlit keyboard, and up to 18 hours of battery life on a charge.
Apple MacBook Air
Apple MacBook Air is another laptop that makes repeated appearances on any list of the best laptops for students.
The MacBook Air has popularized—if not invented—the ultra-light form factor of aluminum corner laptop. Every year, Apple refines the design. Several years ago, it didn’t go very well when the company decided to equip the MacBook Air with the famous defective butterfly keyboard. However, the 2020 version returned to the tried-and-tested scissor switch backlit keyboard and added 10th generation Intel processors.
The 2020 MacBook Air is a great option for students who prefer Apple. It is made from 100% recycled aluminum (in a choice of three colors), and starts at $999. The entry-level laptop configuration includes a 13.3-inch Retina True Tone display, a dual-core Intel Core i3 processor, 8GB of RAM, 256GB of SSD storage, two USB-C ports, 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Touch ID support, Stereo speakers and a 720p HD FaceTime camera.
The MacBook Air weighs 2.8 pounds and measures 0.63 inches at its thickest point.
MacBook Pro 13 inches
For students in areas (graphic design, for example) that require more processing power, the Apple 13-inch MacBook Pro remains the go-to choice, combining power and portability. This laptop features 10th-generation Intel Core processors, a 13-inch Retina display with True Tone, a touch bar with Touch ID, a FaceTime HD 720p camera, stereo speakers with Dolby Atmos support and 10-hour battery life. The all-aluminum laptop weighs 3.1 pounds.
Like the MacBook Air, the 2020 version of the 13-inch MacBook Pro drops the hated butterfly keyboard.
Avoid the cheapest options for this laptop because they only have two USB-C ports and use Intel Iris Plus Graphics 645. Versions starting at $1,699 (we assume you’ll get the student discount) have four USB-C ports, more powerful Intel Core i5 processors, more storage, and they’re equipped with Intel Iris Plus graphics.
If you need a standalone GPU for advanced graphics processing and want to stay with an Apple laptop, then you’ll need to upgrade to the most expensive, 16-inch MacBook Pro.
Microsoft Surface Go 2 (with Surface Go coverage)
Students looking for an ultra-portable and ultra-versatile device might consider Microsoft’s Surface Go 2.
This is a 10.5 inch tablet that runs on Windows 10. It’s not as big as the more expensive Surface Pro, making it easier to hold and carry. With a starting price of $399.99, it is also considerably more affordable than Microsoft’s prosumer tablet. But the Surface Go 2 shares many design features, including a magnesium case, PixelSense touch screen, built-in crutch, stylus holder, and an optional type cover.
Power is provided by 8th generation Intel processors, there is a choice of 4G or 8GB of RAM, and up to 128GB of solid state storage. Other features include a Skype HD 1080p camera with two microphones, Wi-Fi 6, stereo speakers with Dolby Audio, a USB-C port and a Micro SD card reader.
The battery life is estimated at 10 hours, and the Surface Go 2 alone weighs only 1.2 pounds. However, to make it a real laptop, you will need to add the optional Type Cover, which adds $129.99 to the price and an extra 8.6 ounces of weight.
ASUS ROG Zephyrus G14
Many students are players, so it would make sense to combine two purchases into one: a game PC that is also usable for the school.
Unfortunately, it’s easier said than done. Gaming laptops can become very expensive. In addition, their high-power components make them larger and much more energy-intensive than other laptops. It is not uncommon for a gaming laptop to have only three or four hours of battery life.
The new ASUS ROG Zephyrus G14 truly offers the best of both worlds. It’s a powerful gaming laptop. It is equipped with new AMD Ryzen 7 or Ryzen 9 processors, Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 graphics and the choice of Full HD or WQHD graphics on a 14-inch screen with a refresh rate up to 120Hz. It is loaded with ports, Wi-Fi 6 wireless and four speakers with Dolby Atmos audio support. The keyboard is backlit RGB, with the N rollover key. It will chew through AAA games and even supports real-time ray tracking for more realistic renditions.
Despite the firepower under the hood, the ROG Zephyrus G14 weighs just 3.5 pounds and offers battery life of up to 11 hours — frankly, that’s amazing for a gaming laptop. With pricing starting at $1,449.99, the premium for such performance is modest.
The one thing this laptop lacks is a webcam. If you intend to use it join online classes that require two-way video chat, you’ll need to spring for an external webcam.