With the new term fast approaching, students are running out of time to find the best college/university laptop for their studies. Adjusting to college life during a pandemic is likely stressful enough already, so we’ve decided to help out by rounding up the best picks.
Whether you just need a portable device to jot down notes, or a system powerful enough to blaze through a graphic design course, we’ve found the best laptop for the job. We’ve also included machines for a range of budgets, as not everyone can afford a £1000+ laptop.
Check out our top five college laptops below, with each featuring a unique selling point:
- Best value college laptop: Honor MagicBook 14
- Best for taking notes: Apple iPad 7
- Best all-round college laptop: Surface Laptop 3
- Best creative college laptop: Apple MacBook Pro
- Best gaming college laptop: ROG Zephyrus G14
For more in-depth detail for each laptop, keep scrolling down below or check out our full reviews.
1. Honor MagicBook 14 (2020)
The best value college laptop
- Student-friendly premium style
- Superb value
- Pleasant typing experience
- More than capable productivity performance
- Webcam position on keyboard
- Below average display
Most college and university students just need a laptop with a competent keyboard to steam through essays, and enough performance power to prevent stressful slowdown. The Honor MagicBook 14 fits that bill whilst also being available at a very reasonable £529.99 price point.
What’s more, if you buy directly from Honor, you can choose between several accessories to bundle into the package at no extra charge, with a Bluetooth mouse, backpack, watch, earbuds and router all up for grabs.
There are a couple of drawbacks here, such as the odd location of the below-the-screen webcam and an underwhelming display quality, but the MagicBook remains an incredibly good-value laptop for college and university students alike.
2. Apple iPad 7 (with Smart Keyboard)
Best college ‘laptop’ for scribbling down notes
- iPadOS is great
- Support for Pencil and Keyboard
- Bigger 10.2in display
- The display isn’t laminated
- 32GB starting storage feels low
The Apple iPad 7 is one of the cheapest options on this list, available for just £508 with the smart keyboard bundled in. Sure, this is more ‘tablet’ than ‘laptop’, but if you just need a device for jotting down notes, conducting research and engaging in video calls, then there isn’t really any need to go for a full-fat laptop.
The tablet’s dainty size and weight also make it easy to port around once you do need to return to lecture halls. It’s worth bearing in mind that you’re locked to iPadOS, which may not play nice with obscure documents, but is accomplished at basic browsing and typing up essays via Google Docs and Microsoft Word.
If you’re looking for an alternative that’s running Windows 10 in S Mode instead, then the Surface Go 2 is a decent alternative. And if you want the budget price but also crave a proper keyboard, it’s worth checking out our Best Chromebook list.
3. Surface Laptop 3
Best all-round college laptop if you’re willing to spend more
- Classy, ultra-portable design
- Excellent performance
- Stunning 3:2 display
- Fantastic keyboard
- Middling battery life
- Lack of Thunderbolt 3
The Surface Laptop 3 is the best college laptop for the majority of students, so long as you’re willing to spend a couple hundred quid more than the Honor MagicBook. With a more powerful processor, larger storage capacity and a high resolution display to make the most out of Netflix, Microsoft’s ultrabook is well worth the extra cash, especially since students get a decent discount via the official Microsoft Surface online store, dropping the price down to £899.
What’s more, the Surface Laptop 3 is available in a multitude of colour options, including Cobalt Blue, Sandstone (basically pink) and Platinum, allowing you to add a little personality in an age where laptops are usually restricted to silver and black. You can also choose between 13-inch and 15-inch screen options, although the latter will cost you extra.
While the Surface Laptop is one of the best premium ultrabooks you can currently buy, the so-so battery life and lack of Thunderbolt 3 make it tempting to spend more on the likes of the Dell XPS 13 or Huawei MateBook X Pro. That said, the we reckon Microsoft’s laptop hits the sweet spot for performance and portability, with the admirable integrated graphics also allowing for entry-level gaming and creation.
4. Apple MacBook Pro 16-inch
Best college laptop for students on a creative course
- Incredibly powerful
- Bigger display still looks stunning
- Scissor keyboard a huge improvement
- More stylish with smaller bezel
- Very expensive
- Stingy port offering
- Lack of Wi-Fi 6
If you’re a student on a creative course and need to get your hands dirty with graphic designs and video editing, then a standard ultrabook simply isn’t going to cut the mustard. The Apple MacBook Pro 16-inch is our top recommendation for such a scenario, with blistering power and a gorgeous display that will accurately present your creations.
You really have to make sure you make the most out of that monstrous GPU power though, as the MacBook Pro is a seriously expensive laptop, and isn’t exactly light for when you need to lug it between lectures.
If you need a high-powered laptop for content creation, but don’t fancy joining the Apple ecosystem, the Razer Blade 15 Studio Edition is a superb Windows 10 alternative, although it does not come cheap.
5. Asus ROG Zephyrus G14
Best college laptop for gamers
- Incredible CPU performance
- Great for Full HD gaming
- Ultra-portable design
- Impressive battery life
- Lack of RGB lighting
- No integrated webcam
- Underwhelming SSD speeds
Let’s be honest, you probably want a laptop that can not only plough through your coursework, but also provide some entertainment during your downtime. The Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 is our top rated gaming laptop, while also flaunting all the features needed to fill in as college laptop with a reasonable weight, lengthy battery life and comfortable keyboard.
Despite its gaming pedigree, the Zephyrus G14 is available for as little as £999.99. That admittedly only gets you a GTX 1650 graphics card, but if you just want to dabble with the likes of Fortnite, Minecraft and The Sims 4, then this laptop is easily powerful enough. You’ll also be able to play more demanding AAA titles, as long as you’re willing to turn down the graphics settings.
There is one big caveat with the Zephyrus G14 though, as it lacks a webcam which is very frustrating in 2020 with virtual lectures becoming the norm. Fortunately you can pick up a decent webcam on Amazon for just £20, so don’t let that put you off an otherwise excellent gaming laptop.