Best Laptops for University Students 2021
A laptop is an essential piece of kit for every student. As we start the new academic year it is important that you have the right laptop for your needs.
The humble laptop is used for note taking during lectures, for writing essays, researching work on the internet, and in this day and age of remote study and a mixture of in-person and lessons taught over Zoom and other video-platforms, your laptop holds the key more than ever as to how effective you are with your studies.
Looking for the best laptops for university students in 2021 can be hard work and quite daunting; there are a lot of laptops on the market of course.
We’ve done our bit to help you out, you’ll see the different things you need to consider when searching for a laptop for you to use during the next year of university, as well as a list of the best student laptops this year.
How To Find The Best Laptops For University Students
The first step to finding the perfect laptop for university is to work out the best type of laptop for your needs.
There are some basic steps you can take to make sure you are fully prepared when it comes time to choose the laptop you are going to buy.
Research Your University Course
The best approach is to start with your university of choice and the course that you are studying.
Check if there are any specific computer requirements that you need to follow, any software that will be needed for different tasks and projects throughout the upcoming year and beyond.
In some cases, universities might require students to have access to particular operating systems too, for instance they might use Windows within the teaching staff and want the students to use the same programmes.
For other universities it doesn’t matter whether you are using a Windows laptop, a Mac, or a Chromebook, as long as you have a laptop that functions well, is robust and performs all the tasks you need to get the work done well, and more importantly, on time.
Think About The Weight
The weight of your laptop matters more than you might initially think.
It helps if you can work out the distances you’ll have to travel from your student accommodation to lectures, to the library and other places you might end up working from around town.
It might feel great to have a bigger screen size when you’re in your bedroom watching films at night, but not so good when you’ve got to find a big enough laptop bag to carry your hefty laptop around campus every day.
Size does matter, and you’ll find that most students prefer a smaller, lightweight laptop with a 13 or 14inch screen maximum, leaving plenty of room for other items in your bag without weighing you down too much.
Power And Battery Requirements
Depending on your budget, there are many different processors to choose from when looking at different laptop specifications.
Battery life is also very important, as if you are out at university all day, in lectures or studying at the library and can’t guarantee a power socket, you need to guarantee that the battery will last.
The last thing you need is for your laptop to run out of power when you are halfway through an essay, or you still have three quarters of your lecture left and you’ve got the notes half complete.
What Storage Do You Need?
Your storage needs can mostly be met these days with cloud storage and the use of more flexible web apps that don’t need as much local storage space as you would have needed a few years ago.
If you don’t need to install a lot of programmes and are happy saving and accessing files in the cloud, a laptop relying on SSDs is definitely the way to go.
This frees up space on your laptop that can help you maintain fast speeds. SSDs are more likely to recover well from a dropped laptop, they are faster to start up and they are faster to use.
What Are The Best Laptops For University Students In 2021?
Now you know what type of laptop you should be looking for based on your personal requirements, type of study and the travelling you’ll be doing to and from campus each day, let’s look at a few laptops that are available this year.
Acer Swift 3
The Acer Swift 3 provides students with the best value for money when searching for the best laptops for university students this year. The key features are:
- A 14-inch screen
- Fingerprint scanner for secure access
- 1TB SSD
- 8GB RAM
- Price around £500
For all the fantastic features you get with the Acer Swift 3, it’s valued at an affordable price. Remember that you can also get a 15% student discount when buying direct from the Acer website.
There is a keyboard that is easy to use and flows well when taking notes in a lecture hall or sitting in the library or at your desk writing an essay.
The processor can handle some heavy software too if required.
It is lightweight, meaning that it is easy to take in a bag without weighing you down on campus and has a long, 11-and-a-half-hour battery life should you forget your charger.
A large 1TB storage is a welcome addition, allowing you to store important data, such as films and music, alongside the lecture notes and uni work stored in the cloud.
Apple MacBook Air M1
A laptop that has the longest battery life out of everything we’ve looked at, is a powerful tool and gives you everything that you need and more to be a great student. The key features are:
- 18-hour battery life
- The new M1 chip provides ultimate power
- 256GB SSD
- 8GB RAM
One of the best things about Apple is that considering it always has a higher price point than the rest of the competition, there is a hefty 20% discount available for students.
On top of that there are some decent payment plans that allow you to benefit right now from the Apple brand without the pressure of paying the big price in one go.
The MacBook air benefits from the new M1 chip which has changed the game for the power and speed that Apple provides you.
The laptop is incredibly thin and very light, making it a good option for those travelling around campus all day, every day, whilst the 18-hour battery life leaves you in no danger of ever losing power at a crucial moment.
One of the biggest improvements between this new model and previous generations is the Magic Keyboard. Instead of the problems with the previous Butterfly Keyboard, you should have no problems at all when typing away for hours on end.
HP Chromebook 14
Probably the best budget laptop on the market for students today, the HP Chromebook 14 has a range of benefits:
- Two USB and USB-C ports
- An impressive 10-and-a-half-hour battery life
- 32GB eMMC
- 4GB RAM
- Price around £180
You don’t have to pay loads of money for a laptop this university year. In fact, with your student loan needing to stretch a fair length of time, if you can find a budget student laptop that meets your needs, you should definitely take it.
The HP Chromebook 14 runs on Chrome OS, meaning you can do everything that you need on a browser.
You can log into your emails, research stuff online, use Google Docs for spreadsheets and uni work and even use it to listen to your music and stream the latest TV series.
There are different Chromebooks on the market, but HP has the expertise and reputation that gives you a high-quality laptop at a really good price.
The only things to consider are the low 32GB (although that doesn’t matter too much with a Chromebook) and the fact that some programs won’t run on Chrome OS that would run on macOS or Windows.
Microsoft Surface Go
A great lightweight laptop for students, the Microsoft Surface Go hits the spot with great speed and ease of use. Its key features are:
- A very light 1.1kg for easy transportation
- A full-width keyboard
- 128GB SSD
- 8GB RAM
- Average price of £470
The Microsoft Surface Go has a 12.5-inch screen, which makes it a great fit in terms of screen size and giving you everything you need for both work and pleasure.
Weighing in at just over a kilogram though and with a really slim design, it makes it an incredibly portable laptop that is easy to carry around with you to uni and back.
Despite being lightweight and simple to travel with, it still has a full-size keyboard that makes a massive difference to your ability to type for long periods of time (we all get used to the dimensions of ‘our’ keyboard and it can be horrible to switch between different sizes). It also has a large trackpad.
The Intel Core i5 provides a great level of performance and it has a 13-hour battery life, so you’ll never have to worry about leaving your charger at your student accommodation, as it is unlikely you’ll run out of power.
Google Pixelbook Go
- Full HD display
- 8GB RAM
- 256GB SSD
- Great battery life
- Average price of £699
At first glance you might wonder why this Chromebook is more expensive than others you’ve seen on the market for student laptops, but with the Pixelbook Go you get some of the fantastic quality and aesthetic that you would get with an all-singing-and-dancing PC or Mac but without the big budget attached.
The touchscreen is a brilliant tool, the camera is of high quality and the battery life of between 8 and 10 hours provides you with everything you need whether you are taking your laptop to university for the day or leaving behind your student accommodation for a night of study in the library.
The processor isn’t as powerful as you experience with the new MacBook Air and the M1 chip, but it doesn’t need the same power as the Chrome operating system does everything that you need from it as one of the best laptops for university students this year.
The Best Laptops For University Students
There are some excellent laptops on the market this year for students to take advantage of. Some of them might be heftier in price than others but will definitely last you a few years if you make the investment.
Some of the budget laptops we have listed here are often lightweight, easy to carry around but have everything you need to perform the tasks expected of you at university.
For most university courses you’ll need a laptop for taking notes in lectures, for online research and writing essays. In these cases, a budget laptop like the HP Chromebook will suffice.
For some courses though you might need specific software and programs that are larger and require a greater processor speed. This is where you could benefit from paying a bit more for a MacBook Air.
Always do your research in full, ask around to see what your friends and other people on your course have got, or what your university suggests and think about the size and weight of the laptop too. It all matters when thinking about the best laptop for your university needs, it will be a big part of your daily student life after all.