The Best Notebooks for School-Aged Kids and College Students
From our point of view, notebooks designed for educational purposes need to meet very specific requirements. These include things such as a certain degree of mobility, an ergonomic design and solid input devices. It is unusual for these qualities to be adequately addressed by a pamphlet at a store or a manufacturer's website. To assist you in the decision-making process, we have looked back over our huge data collection compiled from the many notebooks we have reviewed, and we will make recommendations split into three different price ranges. The display should have an ergonomic, matte surface, and the notebook's performance should be on par with at least that of an Intel Core i3 platform - otherwise it may not have enough stamina to remain useful over the coming years.
The following table contains notebooks and convertibles priced between 500 and 1,500 Euros ranked by weighted scores in the display, keyboard, and battery life categories. Many OEMs offer educational discounts for students and require proof of school or college enrollment. These prices are often noticeably lower than street prices and will thus allow you to save quite a bit of money. Keep in mind that our automatically updated price comparison cannot take educational discounts into account.
The Best Laptops for School-Aged Kids and College Students
The table above contains an overview over the best notebooks between 500 and 1,500 Euros reviewed by Notebookcheck over the course of the past 12 months as well as still relevant and available older products. In cases of identical score the more recent device is listed first. All prices in above table and price comparisons are updated daily and can thus differ.
1st – Apple MacBook Pro 13 2020 i5
Starting at $1,300 Apple’s base model MacBook Pro 13 comes with a 1.4 GHz Core i5, 8 GB of RAM, and 256 GB of storage. This price can quickly skyrocket should you opt for Apple’s optional upgrades, such as an additional 256 GB of storage (+ $200). One of the great things about this laptop is that even the base model comes in a high-end and beautiful aluminum case, features an excellent high-resolution display, and very good input devices. A battery life of more than 10 hours in our real-life Wi-Fi test is yet another reason why the MacBook Pro managed to secure first place on this list.
Downsides include limited connectivity (4x USB Type-C Thunderbolt 3) and a meagre 256 GB of storage on the base model. Keep in mind that our review was conducted with a slightly different SKU featuring a 2.9 GHz i5 CPU and a 512 GB SSD. The base model can differ slightly from our review unit in regard to performance, emissions, and battery life. These should, however, have no significant impact on everyday use, except for of course the limited storage capacity.
2nd – Lenovo ThinkPad T14s AMD
The Lenovo Thinkpad T14s is basically the more “portable” version of Lenovo’s universal ThinkPad T14 workhorse. Universally adopted by numerous corporations world-wide this laptop meets all the criteria to qualify for everyday school reality. The T14s can be equipped with both Intel and AMD hardware, and the latter is slightly cheaper and thus better suited for cash-strapped students.
In our review, we found a robust and sturdy case, excellent input devices, a very good FHD display, a decent battery life of up to 10 hours in our real-life test, low emissions particularly under low load (office tasks), and fast Wi-Fi 6. Depending on country of purchase the T14s can also come with up to three years of manufacturer warranty by default. Prices for the AMD-equipped SKU hover around $1,400, which already includes potential edu discounts.
3rd – Apple MacBook Air 2020
Apple has once again updated its MacBook Air, which now features current gen Intel processors, excellent input devices, and battery life suitable for everyday use. Thanks to its slim good-looking and light-weight case Apple’s thin MacBook Air is perfectly suited for schools, colleges, and universities.
Keep in mind though that the laptop was not built with demanding tasks in mind, and thus features a comparatively poor cooling system. The fan can get annoyingly loud, and the poor webcam and lack of Wi-Fi 6 are disturbing, to say the least. It also comes with just two USB-C ports, one of which is required for charging. In other words: welcome to the dongle life.
Nevertheless, the MacBook Air 2020 remains a high-quality work horse with a great display and a fast SSD.
4th – Lenovo ThinkPad T14
The ThinkPad T14 carries Lenovo’s new name for what is arguably its best-selling ThinkPad series. It is the successor to last year’s ThinkPad T490 and scored a decent 88 %, just like its predecessor. Changes are far and few between compared to last year’s model as the design remained unchanged. The major update is the inclusion of Intel’s Comet Lake CPUs that are not necessarily more powerful but generate a lot more heat than previous generations.
Its high score is mostly due to the excellent keyboard, great display, and good battery life inside a robust case with great connectivity. We suspect that the AMD SKU might be the better choice this year.
5th – Schenker Via 14
A lightweight notebook with a large battery? Schenker’s Via 14 is the closest thing to squaring the circle you will get. It offers long battery life while weighing in at just 1.1 kg (2.4 lbs). Thanks to its high-quality keyboard the 14-inch notebook is highly recommendable for school and college.
A lightweight notebook with long battery life and a number of great features but not entirely free of drawbacks.
Other benefits include the cool case, good performance, fast Wi-Fi, a good display, plenty of ports, and good upgradeability. Nevertheless, it is not entirely free of shortcomings. Why is there no Thunderbolt 3 port? Why are the speakers so poor?
Schenker’s Via 14 clearly deserves our endorsement, and with just a few tweaks here and there it could improve dramatically and take it up with the best of the best.
6th – Dell XPS 13 9300 i5 FHD
The Dell XPS 13 9300 is an ultra-portable laptop in the mid-range to upper price range, and it is positioned in the undefined space between consumer and business laptops on purpose. The XPS-series combines requirements from both worlds, such as for example a particularly well-designed and good-looking case filled with up-to-date technology paired with extensive warranty and service options. The XPS 13 is priced at between $1,000 and over $2,000, and while the latter are usually equipped with expensive CPUs and spacious NVMe SSDs the former can still offer attractive components bundled at a low price. Prices for an XPS 13 9300 equipped with a 10th generation Intel Core i5 oder i7 CPU, 16 GB of RAM, 512 GB SSD, and an FHD display start at slightly over $1,100 already, and this device is a great basis for a portable workhorse.
In our review of the i5 SKU the XPS 13’s benefits included its high-quality case, a good and matte display, fast Wi-Fi 6, good input devices, long battery life (more than 10 hours in our real-world Wi-Fi test), and low emissions in low load scenarios. Keep in mind that the base model comes with just one year of warranty by default, which can however be extended optionally at a premium. The webcam has been finally repositioned back to its traditional location above the display. Its quality, however, could use some further refinement.
7th – Lenovo ThinkPad X13 AMD
For the longest time, the business notebook space between traditional widely used 14-inch laptops and ultra-portable 12-inch devices remained uninhibited. At the same time, the 13-inch consumer space was taking off with devices such as the popular MacBook Air or Dell XPS 13 gaining traction. Fortunately, this gap in the business-realm of notebooks has been closed, and various OEMs now offer a variety of business notebooks in that space. For example, the Thinkpad X13 – a particularly small portable device for road warriors with a 13-inch display, a bright and matte display, 9 hours of battery life, and all that at a weight of just 1.2 kg.
The ThinkPad X13 is available in a huge variety of models with prices starting at around $1,000 for AMD SKUs (including edu discount) and going up all the way to $2,000 or more. The AMD models offer the better price-performance ratio regardless of price. Keep mind though that we were able to squeeze a little bit more battery life from the Intel SKU.
8th – Acer TravelMate P6 P614
The TravelMate P6 P614 is without a doubt an interesting device. Equipped with a matte 14-inch touch FHD display, an Intel i7 CPU, 16 GB of RAM, and a 512 GB large SSD it clocks in at around $1,200. Considering that it has been designed solely with business users in mind you get a robust and unobtrusive magnesium case as well as three years of manufacturer warranty.
We were particularly impressed by its good input devices, its fast NVMe SSD, its low emissions, and its good battery life of more than 11 hours. Connectivity and weight (less than 1.2 kg) are benefits also worth noting.
9th – Huawei MateBook D 14
AMD hardware in a slim case: meet the MateBook D 14. Thanks to its affordable AMD processors the laptop is affordable enough to be considered for this top 5, and it performed very well indeed. Long battery life, high-quality input devices, a good-looking robust case, and most importantly its great price-performance ratio are its main selling points.
In return, there are barely any shortcomings. Color space coverage is fairly low, and the webcam placement inside the keyboard resulting in frog’s eye view video are really the only two disadvantages worth noting. If you don’t mind its limited maintainability you get great performance at a very affordable price.
10th – Asus ZenBook 14 UX425EA
The Asus ZenBook UX425EA is one of the first notebooks equipped with Intel’s latest Tiger Lake CPUs, which benefits GPU performance in particular considering that Intel’s Irix Xe Graphics, the new iGPU for their U-series CPUs, manages to easily keep up with Nvidia’s GeForce MX250. Apart from its good overall system performance the ZenBook also offers a bright high-resolution (2560 x 1440) display with matte coating, a long battery life of up to 13 hours in our real-world Wi-Fi test, and low noise and temperature emissions when subjected to low load.
At the time of writing the ZenBook UX425EA was hard to purchase with only a few retailers listing it as in-stock. Prices start at around $1,400.