Back to school: The best laptops for students combine style and power

Dean Evans Technology Writer Twitter

Life would be so much easier if the answer to the question ‘what’s the best laptop for students?’ was a single, glowing recommendation. But not everyone has the same computing needs. Some might demand a machine with the best battery life, others a portable PC that’s powerful enough to handle the latest games.

In this article, we look at a cluster of different laptops that fulfill five different needs, starting with…

The cheapest option

If price is the driving factor, you can easily pick up a capable laptop for less than £200. The £150 HP Stream 11-r001na, for example, is a thin and light 11.6-inch notebook running Windows 10 and powered by an Intel Celeron processor. Its other specs include 32GB of eMMC storage, a built-in webcam, handy HDMI port and up to 9.5 hours of battery life.

HP Stream 11
The HP Stream 11 is a cheap, bright laptop with an Intel Celeron processor.

The Lenovo 100S-14IBR has a similar price tag and specification — an Intel Celeron processor, 32GB of eMMC storage and Windows 10. You take a hit on the battery life (it’s rated at 7 hours on a full charge), but the trade-off is a roomier 14-inch display.

The speediest option

At the other end of the scale are super-fast gaming laptops that come packing the Intel Core i7 processor. The Alienware 13, for example, tops out with an i7-6500U CPU, NVIDIA GeForce GTX 965M and a 13-inch QHD+ touchscreen display. This potent desktop replacement system can still muster over ten hours of battery life, but all this power and performance comes with a hefty £1,500 price tag.

Alienware 13 gaming laptop
For work by day and gaming by night, you’ll need something like an Alienware 13 laptop.

At £1,200, the Asus ROG GL752VW is slightly cheaper. And bigger. It boasts a 17.3-inch display, quad-core Intel Core i7 processor, 8GB of RAM and it comes with both a 128GB SSD and 1TB of HDD storage. An NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960M rounds off the monster spec, which can handle everything from gaming to HD video editing with ease.

The longest-lasting option

If battery life is the most important factor in a new laptop, Laptop Magazine recently put together a list of the longest-lasting portables. It’s a list topped by the Lenovo ThinkPad X260, which can combine its internal battery with an external, hot-swappable cell to boost the overall battery life to over 17 hours.

Lenovo ThinkPad X260
The Lenovo ThinkPad X260 has two battery cells, giving it a battery life in excess of 17 hours.

Yes, the X260 is primarily aimed at the enterprise, but that doesn’t mean that students can’t make the most of its longevity. As for alternatives, second on the list is the Lenovo ThinkPad T460 (17:04 hours), followed by the Acer Aspire One Cloudbook (14:43 hours) and the 13-inch, 2015-edition MacBook Air (14:00 hours).

The lightest option

If you crave a thin and light laptop that’s easy to carry around, then look no further than a modern Ultrabook. The 1.2Kg Dell XPS 13 is still a looker, thanks to its slim design, 13.3-inch display and nippy SSD. You can also keep it affordable by opting for a sixth-gen Core i5 (£899) rather than a Core i7 (£1,229).

Asus ZenBook UX305 ultrabook
The Asus ZenBook UX305 combines performance with a generous dose of Ultrabook style.

The 13.3-inch Asus ZenBook UX305 is another great choice. It might not pack as much raw power as the XPS 13, but the Intel Core M processor inside is ideal for most computing tasks. Crucially, it’s also far cheaper than its rival and arguably more stylish, boasting an elegant diamond-cut design fashioned from a single block of aluminium.

The smartest option

All of which brings us to hybrid laptops, also known as 2 in 1s. These multi-functional devices offer a smarter computing experience — a laptop with a keyboard when you need the convenience of one, a lightweight tablet mode when you don’t.

At the cheaper end of the scale is the HP Pavilion x2. Powered by an Intel Atom, it’s not the fastest laptop around. But £229 buys you a surprisingly capable 2 in 1 with a detachable 10.1-inch display, up to 64GB of storage and Windows 10.

HP Pavilion x2 2 in 1 hybrid
The HP Pavilion x2 is one of the cheapest 2 in 1 portables you will find.

The Asus Transformer Book T300 Chi is a good step up and won’t break the bank either. An investment of £600 buys you an attractively slim 2 in 1 with an Intel Core M inside, integrated graphics, a 128GB SSD and a detachable 12.5-inch touchscreen.

Nine different laptops. Nine different price points, configurations, pros and cons. What are the best laptops for students? That’s your call.

For more on choosing a laptop, visit here   

Main image copyright: Shutterstock/

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