Best laptops for students to buy in 2023 for quality at an affordable price (2023)


h, the life of the student!

Wake up at the crack of noon, eat supermarket brand corn-based flakes direct from the box, go to a lecture or two, head to the student union, stumble home, stopping to pay by cheque for a kebab on the way, and repeat. Or at least that’s how it was back in my day… and how I imagine it really isn’t these day at all.

No, with sky high university fees, the cost of living being extortionate to the point that it’s borderline impossible to do any actual ‘living’, and vast previous problems during the pandemic meaning mass chunks of education was missed out on, times are tough for those active in academia.

Sadly, we can’t help with any of the above issues, but we can assist your continued studies in our own small way by recommending the best laptops for learning across the budget spectrum.

And not just laptops for uni-types either, but also for those in college and secondary school, after all a top bit of portable tech assists with access to education more easily and also helps all the underpaid teachers and lecturers out there get facts solidly stuck in student heads.

So, if you happen to be looking for the perfect laptop for the scholarly sponge in your life, have a good gander at this little lot. And pay attention, there may be a test at the end.

ASUS Chromebook Flip CX5

Best for: Bend over backwards student productivity

A lot of stuff with laptops is far from black and white; the seemingly same model can have optional upgrades on its processor, graphics and storage capacity, so you need to keep an eye on spec. The ASUS Chromebook Flip CX5, however, is reassuringly black and white… if only in colour scheme, thanks to a crisp all-white chassis and contrasting all-black interior, which makes for a decidedly sleek looking laptop.

Featuring a sizable and highly responsive 15.6-inch LED-backlit FHD (1920 x 1080) touchscreen display and a full-size keyboard complete with numpad and big trackpad. Said display is, as you’d imagine, vivid, bright, razor sharp and stylus compatible.

When you factor in the latter and the Flip CX5’s ability to literally bend over backwards to operate in tent mode or do a full 360°, you can imagine just how useful that can be for talking notes in class and/or indulging in art.

Being a Chromebook, The ASUS Flip CX5 runs the ChromeOS operating system with cloud storage and what’s generally referred to as the ‘best of Google’ built in, which means it can do almost anything a ‘normal’ laptop can, but requires a lower spec and, therefore, costs considerably less. But – and it can be a big but – working offline will require much more forward planning.

The ASUS is an excellent example of the Chromebook, with a choice of an Intel Core i3 or i5 processor, Intel graphic cards, storage of 128- or 256GB, and 8GB of memory. It also features a 720p camera for those essential video calls, a built-in array microphone, stereo speakers with some truly excellent audio by harman/kardon, all the ports you could reasonably require, and WiFi 6 and Bluetooth 5.0 to keep connected.

Oh, and when the studies are done for the day, the CX5 also supports cloud gaming via both Google Stadia and NVIDIA GeForce NOW, because it can’t be work, work, work all the time.

Fully flexible both physically and in performance, the ASUS Chromebook Flip CX5 is an impressively fast-paced and adept option aimed squarely at those in higher education.

Tech Spec

Operating system: ChromeOS

Screen: 15.6-inch Full HD LED-backlit touchscreen

Processor: Intel Core i3 or i5

Storage: 128- or 256GB

Graphics: Intel UHD or Intel Iris Xe

Memory: 8GB

Dimensions: ‎22.08 x 32.75 x 1.85cm

Weight: 1.95kg

Samsung Galaxy Book3 Pro

Best for: Breaking out the big guns/bucks

Sometimes students just need some unrelenting laptop grunt in their corner in order to ensure every corner of whatever course they’re on can be amply catered for. This is where Samsung step up to the plate. Renowned for its portable computing prowess, the Galaxy Book3 Pro is one of the latest products of this, a laptop lacking in nothing.

Available in 14- or 16-inch display flavours, the review model was a 16-inch whopper complete with 3K Dynamic AMOLED capability for images sharper than a laser-edged longsword, more colourful than a ramped-up rainbow and, with a 120Hz fresh rate in the offing too, the finest experience next gen gaming is also on the cards once work is done.

Solidly built despite its light weight and slender proportions, flip open the lid and you’ll find a full-size keyboard with numpad and a trackpad the size of a small country, all smartly and spaciously laid out, saving hands from cramp no matter how long they loiter on it.

Then we get to the engine room, packing an Intel Core i7 processor, an Intel Iris Xe graphics card, 16GB of memory and 256GB of storage, the 16-incher has spec to spare (lower spec options available on the 14-inch equivalent) and the performance is a flawlessly fast as all that tech suggests, effortlessly flipping between apps and demands in the blasé blink of an eye.

With ports for all comers available too, no fewer than four speakers tuned with AKG and Dolby Atmos, a 1080p resolution camera complete with auto-framing and background effects, plus studio-quality dual mics with AI noise cancelling, Wi-FI 6E, Bluetooth 5.1, and biometric security, the Samsung Galaxy Book3 Pro is fit to burst with the latest laptop innovation.

The perfect tech tool for the university student facing the most demanding of tasks, the Samsung may be pricey, but when it comes to advancing education it’s worth every penny.

Tech Spec

Operating system: Windows 11 Home

Screen: 3K 16-inch Dynamic AMOLED

Processor: Intel Core i7

Storage: 512GB

Graphics: Intel Iris Xe

Memory: 16GB

Dimensions: ‎35.5 x 25.0 x 1.2cm

Weight: 1.56kg

Apple MacBook Air 13 (2017)

Best for: More artistic academics

You may be a little confused by this, it’s perfectly understandable. Yes, this is an Apple MacBook Air 13 from pre-pandemic days and, yes, it does cost just £342, How is this possible? Through the power of refurb. Yep, Back Market is a team of electronics experts who refurbish tech back up to a like-new standard, diligently fixing and testing kit until its 100 per cent ready to roll out into a new life. And that is how you get the MacBook Air – 13 – one of Apple’s most popular models – for less than £350.

Seem too good to be true? Well, it’s wise to be wary in an increasingly uncertain UK but having had just such a Back Market refurbed Air in front of me for a few weeks now, I can testify that aside from a couple of barely noticeable nicks on the lid, this Air 13 looks and performs like it’s fresh out of the Apple Store.

Spec-wise, it also still manages to compete with many of the latest laptops, thanks to an Intel Core i5 processor, Intel HD graphics, 128GB of storage, 8GB of memory, and that glorious vibrant LED-backlit HD display and costing a lot less money.

Blessed with Apple’s famously solid build quality and undeniably still better looking than many more recently designed models, the Air 13 is light and small enough to tote about with ease and, akin to all Macs, it simply urges the creative juices to ooze, which is why it was always such a favourite with graphic designers, web- and app-developers, video- and audio-editors and, well, the creative world in general.

Available from Back Market in ‘Fair’, ‘Good’ and ‘Excellent’ condition (Excellent costing the £342), you can up your storage options up to 1024GB (with corresponding price increase) and, simply put, if it’s an Apple you’re after, you see the sense of refurb and you want a ‘good as new’ guarantee, this is a deal that can’t be beaten.

Tech Spec

Operating system: macOS

Screen: 13.3-inches

Processor: Intel Core i5

Storage: 128GB

Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 6000

Memory: 8GB

Dimensions: ‎32.5 x 22.7 x 1.7cm (WxDxH)

Weight: 1.35kg

HP Pavilion 14-dv0007na

Best for: Small format, full-fat features

Not quite the smallest option I’ve looked at here. But if you’re not a fan/au fait with the MacOS operating system and you want something powerful, ultra-portable and working with Windows, then this may well be your perfect laptop partner.

Firstly, it’s an HP, so you know it’s a thoroughbred from a family with a reputation for high-quality kit. Secondly, for those seeking a petite powerhouse, the Pavilion 14 features a perfectly formed 14-inch Full HD touchscreen display for vividly colourful images, an Intel Core i5 processor to keep things moving plenty apace, 256GB of storage, 8GB of memory, and Intel Iris Xe graphics.

Seeing to comfort, the HP forgoes a numpad to allow for a more spacious full-sized keyboard, making knocking up notes and writing essays a far less crampy experience, while a 720p camera and dual array mics see to the video call/conferencing side of things nicely.

Dual speakers tuned by B&O allow for audio excellence, there are ports for all the usual PC suspects, and seeing to security even a fingerprint scanner.

Light and good-looking in its anodised aluminium finish, the HP Pavilion 14 is both eminently portable and impressively powerful in equal measure, making it a top of the class of option for academia.

Tech Spec

Operating system: Windows 11 Home

Screen: 14-inch FHD touchscreen

Processor: Intel Core i5

Storage: 256GB

Graphics: Intel Iris Xe

Memory: 8GB

Dimensions: ‎32.5 x 21.66 x 1.7cm

Weight: 1.41kg

Lenovo IdeaPad 3

Best for: Affordable excellence

What do we know about Lenovo? It makes a massive amount of laptops each year covering countless price points and requirements. It has a very solid reputation for reliability. Each of its models offer incredible value for money. Yep, all that is firmly filed in the fact file. But on a personal note, I have been maxing out the ability of a Lenovo laptop, around 12-hours a day, seven days a week, to for all my working requirements for over seven years and, despite this daily battering it’s taken over all that time, it has only recently started to show its age and deep desire for retirement. That’s longevity in the face of over-use on a whole new level.

So, getting hands-on with the Lenovo IdeaPad 3 was an easy yet expectation increasing transition from my poor old IdeaPad 300 – familiar, yet so, so very much better!

Lovely and light at 1.65kg and supermodel slim, the IdeaPad 3 in this review model iteration comes with a beautifully bright Full HD 15.6-inch display backed by some particularly smart features that address the issue of eye-strain, letting you study, surf, read, write and inwardly digest for longer, while also being an absolute beast when it comes to watching streamed stuff or, indeed, enjoying some downtime game dabbling.

With an 11th Gen Intel Core i5 chip at its heart, an Intel Iris Xe GPU, 256GB of storage and 8GB of memory, cracking through academic assignments of any kind will be made much easier, while a 720p camera, paired with stereo speakers and a dual microphone array means you’ll always be seen, heard and be able to hear when it comes to online lectures or video calls. Plus, when you don’t want to be seen and heard, a privacy shutter cuts off the outside world in an instance.

With cooling tech to keep things getting hot and noisy, and something called Q-Control which lets you alter the fan speed to optimise performance, Wi-Fi 6 for online strength and stability, and plenty of ports for all your peripherals, the Lenovo IdeaPad 3 (15ITL6 – review model), packs an almighty amount of portable punch for a very affordable price. It looks as though the successor to my own long suffering Lenovo laptop has been found.

Tech Spec

Operating system: Windows 11 Home

Screen: 15.6-inch Full HD

Processor: Intel Core i5

Storage: 256GB

Graphics: Intel Iris Xe

Memory: 8GB

Dimensions: ‎35.9 x 1.9 x 23.6cm (WxHxD)

Weight: 1.65kg

MSI Summit E16FlipEVO A13MT

Best for: Work, rest and play

Perhaps best known for its gaming and esports equipment, MSI also does a distinctly impressive range of ‘Business and Productivity’ laptops, of which the Summit series is, well, the summit.

A well-weighted, slickly designed 360° flat-folding option that comes with a stunning 16-inch Full HF touchscreen complete with stylus, the MSI Summit E16FlipEvo is here to chew bubblegum and kick ass… and it’s all out of bubblegum.

Running on Windows Home 11 but upgradeable to Windows 11 Pro for those whose needs are a bit more complex, the MSI has the very latest 13th Gen Intel Core i7 processor running the show, with some 256GB of storage, 16GB of memory, an Intel Iris Xe graphics card and a 165GHz screen refresh rate, which will keep the post-productivity gamers more than happy.

Enabling seamless web conferencing, the E16 is loaded with an FHD camera (30fps@1080p) boasting noise reduction, noise cancellation and quadruple mic and ambient light sensor for perfect sound and vision, Wi-Fi 6E to ensure an always-stable connection, plus a special cooling system that keeps potentially disruptive background noise right down to near nothing.

With ports to cater for all connections, Tile tech to help you track it in case it goes astray, and Enterprise Grade Security to keep your stuff safe, the MSI Summit E16 Flip EVO A12MT works hard, plays hard and pushed productivity to the absolute nth degree.

Tech Spec

Operating system: Windows 11 Home

Screen: 16-inch FHD+ (1920x1200) touchscreen

Processor: Intel Core i7

Storage: 256GB

Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce 4060

Memory: 16GB

Dimensions: ‎ 54.29 x 36 x 9.1cm

Weight: 2.1kg

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