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The Best Notebooks for School-Aged Kids and College Students

October 2021 Update. When looking for a laptop for school the requirements can be numerous. The following list contains our Notebookcheck laptop recommendations for K12 and college students, whether you’re looking for a laptop that won’t break the bank, a high-performance all-rounder, or a high-end premium luxury device.
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The Best Notebooks for School-Aged Kids and College Students
The Best Notebooks for School-Aged Kids and College Students
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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

Position
Weighted Rating
Total Rating
Date
Image
Model
Height
Weight
Size
Resolution
191.6 %91.1 %
12/2020
Apple MacBook Air 2020 M1 EntryApple MacBook Air 2020 M1 Entry
Apple M1
Apple M1 7-Core GPU
8 GB Memory, 256 GB SSD
16.1 mm1.3 kg13.30"2560x1600
288.2 %86.7 %
07/2021
Lenovo ThinkPad E14 G3-20Y7003SGELenovo ThinkPad E14 G3-20Y7003SGE
AMD Ryzen 5 5500U
AMD Radeon RX Vega 7
16 GB Memory, 512 GB SSD
17.9 mm1.6 kg14.00"1920x1080
388.1 %85.5 %
08/2021
Lenovo ThinkPad E15 G3-20YG003UGELenovo ThinkPad E15 G3-20YG003UGE
AMD Ryzen 7 5700U
AMD Radeon RX Vega 8 (Ryzen 5000)
16 GB Memory, 1024 GB SSD
18.9 mm1.8 kg15.60"1920x1080
487.7 %88.5 %
05/2021
Asus ZenBook 13 UX325EAAsus ZenBook 13 UX325EA
Intel Core i7-1165G7
Intel Iris Xe Graphics G7 96EUs
32 GB Memory, 1024 GB SSD
13.9 mm1.2 kg13.30"1920x1080
587 %84.5 %
11/2020
Honor MagicBook Pro (AMD)Honor MagicBook Pro (AMD)
AMD Ryzen 5 4600H
AMD Radeon RX Vega 6 (Ryzen 4000/5000)
16 GB Memory, 512 GB SSD
16.9 mm1.7 kg16.10"1920x1080
686.9 %86.1 %
09/2021
Lenovo IdeaPad 5 Pro 16ACHLenovo IdeaPad 5 Pro 16ACH
AMD Ryzen 7 5800H
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650 Mobile
16 GB Memory, 512 GB SSD
17.5 mm2 kg16.00"2560x1600
786.8 %86 %
01/2021
Lenovo ThinkBook 13s-ITL-20V90003GELenovo ThinkBook 13s-ITL-20V90003GE
Intel Core i5-1135G7
Intel Iris Xe Graphics G7 80EUs
8 GB Memory, 256 GB SSD
14.9 mm1.3 kg13.30"1920x1080
886.5 %84.9 %
05/2021
Honor Magicbook 14 i7-1165G7Honor Magicbook 14 i7-1165G7
Intel Core i7-1165G7
Intel Iris Xe Graphics G7 96EUs
16 GB Memory, 512 GB SSD
15.9 mm1.4 kg14.00"1920x1080
986.5 %86.4 %
10/2021
new!
Acer Swift 3 SF316-51Acer Swift 3 SF316-51
Intel Core i7-11370H
Intel Iris Xe Graphics G7 96EUs
16 GB Memory, 512 GB SSD
15.9 mm1.7 kg16.10"1920x1080
1086.3 %83.5 %
08/2021
Lenovo IdeaPad 5 15ALC05Lenovo IdeaPad 5 15ALC05
AMD Ryzen 5 5500U
AMD Radeon RX Vega 7
16 GB Memory
19.1 mm1.7 kg15.60"1920x1080

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.
Link: all devices in this class reviewed

1st – Apple MacBook Air 2020 M1

Apple MacBook Air 2020 M1
Apple MacBook Air 2020 M1

To nobody’s surprise the Apple MacBook Air 2020 is selling like hot cakes. After all, the M1 turned out to be a great success. It is Apple’s first self-developed ARM-based microprocessor, and it is not only capable of keeping up with current Intel and AMD processors but even outperforms them in some situations. And it does all that without active cooling. And to add insult to injury it is just the beginning, and the entry-level version of Apple’s CPU.

True, there are some teething issues with emulating older macOS software but in return you get access to a large catalog of iOS applications. We are expecting these issues to subside over the next few months as developers adapt to the new platform and architecture.

Otherwise, the device is practically identical to the well-known Intel-based Apple MacBook Air 2020, which means it still lacks a touchscreen. Storage space is somewhat limited, and prices for optional upgrades are as steep as ever. We would have also wished for a better webcam and Wi-Fi modem. Nevertheless, the MacBook Air 2020 with Apple’s own processor is incredibly impressive.

Pricecompare

2nd – Lenovo ThinkPad E14 G3

Lenovo Thinkpad E14 G3
Lenovo Thinkpad E14 G3

Like its predecessors, Lenovo’s third generation ThinkPad E14 remains an office laptop with a great price-performance ratio. It may not feature high-end components or top-of-the-line materials but what it does is offer a solid performance where it matters. It also comes with a superb keyboard that is no longer available on many more expensive ThinkPads.

In addition to extra performance AMD’s Ryzen 5000 chip also brings improved efficiency. Paired with the slightly bigger battery you can expect very long battery life. The device continues to house a 16:9 display but its IPS panel is now brighter than before. Should color accuracy matter the E14 is optionally available with a panel with 100 % sRGB color space coverage.

If you’re looking for an affordable office laptop with decent IPS display, long battery life, and most importantly an excellent keyboard the ThinkPad E14 G3 is a great choice.

Unsurprisingly, Lenovo had to cut a few corners to meet the E14’s price point, for example by limiting warranty to a single year or including almost ancient protocols such as the USB 2.0 port that we would not have expected on a laptop released in 2021.

With prices starting at less than $600 the ThinkPad E14 is among the more affordable office laptops available. It can be freely configured on Lenovo’s own website.

Pricecompare

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3rd – Lenovo ThinkPad E15 G3

Lenovo Thinkpad E15 G3
Lenovo Thinkpad E15 G3

In addition to faster processors Lenovo’s 3rd generation ThinkPad E15 also features brighter displays. The default panel achieves more than 300 nits already, which eliminates one of the major points of criticism we’ve had over the last years. Should color accuracy matter the E15 is optionally available with a panel with 100 % sRGB color space coverage for the first time, although the default panel should suffice for normal office tasks.

Plenty of performance, bright display, excellent keyboard, and long battery life. Lenovo’s ThinkPad E15 G3 with AMD Ryzen processor is a good office notebook at a low price.

The ThinkPad L15 G2, which we had in review not too long ago, is slightly more expensive but features more modern ports and faster Zen 3 processors in return, and it is even available with Ryzen Pro chips with support for additional security features. The ThinkPad E15 G3 starts at around $900, and it can be freely configured on Lenovo’s own website.

Pricecompare

4th – Asus ZenBook 13

Asus ZenBook 13
Asus ZenBook 13

Are you in the market for a subnotebook with an OLED display? Then look no further, because the Asus ZenBook 13 has you covered. Its excellent display is incredibly color accurate, its AMD processor is powerful, and it features Wi-Fi 6 and a backlit keyboard to boot.

Its low weight, its robust yet compact case (a mere 14 mm / 0.55 inches thick), and its low weight of just 1.2 kg (2.65 lbs) make this a notebook that is easy to carry around all day every day.

However, your 3D performance expectations have to kept in check, and RAM is not expandable. Good thing our review unit already came with 16 GB. We also did not like its weak hinge mechanism as well as its overall power consumption despite of which it managed a good result of over 9 hours in our Wi-Fi battery test.

If you are looking for a powerful notebook with great display the ZenBook 13 with OLED display can be a great choice.

An Intel SKU is also available. It comes with Thunderbolt and extra GPU power. In return, its CPU performance is worse.

Prices for both the Intel and AMD model start at around $800, for example on Amazon and Newegg.

Pricecompare

5th – Honor MagicBook Pro

Honor MagicBook Pro
Honor MagicBook Pro

The Honor MagicBook Pro is a decent multimedia notebook based on Intel’s Core i5 or AMD’s Ryzen 5 CPU. It comes with a somewhat gaming-capable dedicated GPU. In direct comparison the Intel SKU performed slightly worse than the AMD SKU.

Both variants feature the same base model and therefore pretty much all pros and cons. Our review unit came equipped with 16 GB of RAM and a 512 GB SSD and would thus be well-suited for the average user.

Downsides include its mediocre speakers as well as the annoying soundscape produced by the fan. In addition, the webcam position was a poor choice. If you don’t mind these downsides, you get a good-looking and thin multimedia notebook in the Honor MagicBook Pro.

The device is not officially sold in North America and has to be imported from China, e.g. through sellers on eBay.

Pricecompare

6th – Lenovo IdeaPad 5 Pro 16ACH

Lenovo IdeaPad 5 Pro 16ACH
Lenovo IdeaPad 5 Pro 16ACH

Lenovo’s IdeaPad 5 Pro 16ACH is living proof that 16:10 displays are no longer relegated to high-end laptops only. Its 16-inch WQXGA display offers decent quality and fast response times and turns watching movies or playing games on this multimedia laptop into pure bliss. Gaming, in turn, requires powerful hardware, and thanks to AMD Ryzen processor and Nvidia GeForce GPU the IdeaPad can deliver. The AMD SKU is also significantly faster than Lenovo’s Intel SKU dubbed IdeaPad 5 Pro 16 IHU. The price for this extra performance: noise. The Intel SKU had fairly loud fans already, and they have gotten even worse on the AMD SKU. In return, the AMD SKU remains cooler and runs longer to boot.

Lenovo’s IdeaPad 5 Pro 16ACH offers a symbiotic combination of Ryzen 5000, 16:10 display, and a low price.

The RedmiBook Pro 15 with its 3:2 LCD can be a great alternative. However, unlike the IdeaPad it is not available outside of China and has to be ordered via Chinese retailers. Another fairly similar competitor is the Honor Magicbook Pro with its 16:9 16-inch LCD, which fares for movies but worse for office applications and browsing the web.

The IdeaPad 5 Pro is not available in North America.

Pricecompare

7th – Lenovo ThinkBook 13s-ITL

Lenovo ThinkBook 13s-ITL
Lenovo ThinkBook 13s-ITL

All things considered the ThinkBook 13s is a good-looking consumer subnotebook with a good display, usable input devices, and Thunderbolt 4 connectivity. It is certainly no business device as its IdeaPad-derived input devices and onboard components, such as Wi-Fi and RAM, are not particularly great. And while the 2019 ThinkBook came with replaceable RAM and Wi-Fi modem the new model has both soldered onto the motherboard permanently. In return, you get a single USB-C port with Thunderbolt 4 and Power Delivery. Whether or not this trade is a good deal remains to be seen.

Lenovo’s ThinkBook 13s-ITL G2 surpasses its in-house IdeaPad competitors but does not get anywhere near a true ThinkPad.

Regarding performance the ThinkBook 13s has quite a lot to offer, thanks to scalable performance with optional extra boost via “maximum performance” mode. Its Iris Xe G7 80EUs GPU performs very well thanks to dual-channel RAM (although just 8 GB are available) and only had issues with some games. Lenovo’s ThinkBook 13s-ITL is a good choice for those looking for a thin and lightweight subnotebook with good display, long battery life, and support for a Thunderbolt docking station.

The device is available through Lenovo’s own webstore with prices starting at $1,339.

Pricecompare

8th – Honor Magicbook 14

Honor Magicbook 14
Honor Magicbook 14

Other than a new Tiger Lake CPU the MagicBook 14 remained largely unchanged. Its CPU performance is practically on a par with last year’s AMD Ryzen 5 4500U-equipped SKU, and both visually and in terms of connectivity it remained completely unchanged. Improvements can be achieved thanks to now 16 GB of onboard RAM and Intel’s Iris Xe Graphics G7 GPU, which helped boost both gaming and system performance slightly.

The Honor MagicBook 14 offers a slightly higher system performance than the AMD SKU but in return a shorter battery life.

The display offers decent color space coverage and higher brightness but lower contrast and higher black level in return. In addition, battery life has been reduced significantly. Potential buyers are thus stuck between a rock and a hard place when choosing between last year’s and this year’s model. Both are decent notebooks but differ significantly in various aspects.

Pricecompare

9th - Acer Swift 3 SF316-51

Acer Swift 3 SF316-51
Acer Swift 3 SF316-51

The Acer Swift 3 SF316-51 offers a large 16.1-inch FHD display with high contrast and a matte surface coating for improved ergonomics. Its input devices are acceptable and well suited for this office-multimedia hybrid. Its Intel CPU offers decent performance, although we would have preferred a dedicated GPU for better gaming performance. As it is the device is not really usable for games.

A large display paired with good input devices and excellent system performance are the Swift 3’s highlights.

Even though we had the high-end i7-based SKU in review the more affordable i5 SKU will offer more than enough performance for office users. Another way to save some money is by opting for a smaller SSD.

The only currently available Acer Swift 3 SKU in North America is listed on Amazon for slightly over $1,000.

Pricecompare

9th – Lenovo IdeaPad 5 15ALC

Lenovo IdeaPad 5 15ALC
Lenovo IdeaPad 5 15ALC

The Lenovo IdeaPad 5 15ALC05 offers a high efficiency and long battery life. CPU and GPU performed as expected and on a par with its slightly smaller 14-inch Lenovo IdeaPad 5 14ALC05 sibling. Nevertheless, the 15-inch model was unable to keep up with its 14-inch sibling in many regards, which surprised us and left a bit of a sour aftertaste when looking at the 15-inch IdeaPad 5 15ALC05.

Decent input devices, a bright and matte display, and long battery life: Lenovo’s IdeaPad 5 15ALC05 is a decent all-rounder.

All things considered we found no major flaws during our extensive test, and the notebook turned out to be a solid choice for office, streaming, browsing the web, and more. Even gaming is possible as long as you lower your expectations.

Prices start at $720, and the device can be purchased among others through Lenovo’s own webstore.

Pricecompare

Size Comparison

369 mm / 14.5 inch 234 mm / 9.21 inch 16.9 mm / 0.665 inch 1.7 kg3.75 lbs365 mm / 14.4 inch 240 mm / 9.45 inch 18.9 mm / 0.744 inch 1.8 kg3.99 lbs356.67 mm / 14 inch 233.13 mm / 9.18 inch 19.1 mm / 0.752 inch 1.7 kg3.76 lbs356 mm / 14 inch 251 mm / 9.88 inch 17.5 mm / 0.689 inch 2 kg4.36 lbs325 mm / 12.8 inch 232 mm / 9.13 inch 17.9 mm / 0.705 inch 1.6 kg3.51 lbs322.5 mm / 12.7 inch 214.8 mm / 8.46 inch 15.9 mm / 0.626 inch 1.4 kg3.03 lbs304.1 mm / 12 inch 212.4 mm / 8.36 inch 16.1 mm / 0.634 inch 1.3 kg2.8 lbs304.2 mm / 12 inch 203 mm / 7.99 inch 13.9 mm / 0.547 inch 1.2 kg2.56 lbs299 mm / 11.8 inch 210 mm / 8.27 inch 14.9 mm / 0.587 inch 1.3 kg2.78 lbs296.8 mm / 11.7 inch 210 mm / 8.27 inch 15.9 mm / 0.626 inch 1.3 kg2.89 lbs
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> Notebook / Laptop Reviews and News > Reviews > Archive of our own reviews > The Best Notebooks for School-Aged Kids and College Students
Florian Schmitt, 2021-10-22 (Update: 2021-10-22)