Notebookcheck

The Best Notebooks for Teenagers and University Students

Florian Schmitt, Sabine Kückemanns (translated by Andreas Osthoff), 07/13/2017

May 2020 Update. Whether you are looking for a notebook that will not break the bank, a high-performance all-rounder, or a luxury laptop, here you will find relevant notebook recommendations from Notebookcheck for school-aged kids and university 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.

General guidelines for the size, features, etc. are available in this article: How to choose a laptop for college. In addition, the following top lists could help in the search for the most suitable laptop:

Category 1 (less than 500 USD/Euros)

In terms of hardware, these devices are generally equipped with Intel Pentium/Celeron or AMD processors and therefore fall more into the netbook category. As a result of Microsoft's subsidization, there is a hole in the 300 to 400-USD/Euro price range. We will devote a separate article to this new class in this aggressive price range.

Category 2 (500-800 USD/Euros) 

Lists all-rounders and high-quality entry-level business notebooks between 500 and 800 USD/Euros. Some of these notebooks also have CPUs and GPUs with more processing power, which means that the computers can handle more-demanding applications - such as PC games.

Category 3 (800-1500 USD/Euros) 

Is comprised of more expensive devices that set themselves apart from the masses with features such as particularly high-quality materials and very good displays.

Category 4 (less than 1000 USD/Euros, <13-inch)

Lists alternatives under 13-inches. We also include less powerful platforms such as Intel's Celeron.

Note: The cheapest street price at the time of the last revision of this article applies to the following list. The sales prices shown in the following table and in the price comparison with the individual articles are automatically updated daily and can therefore differ!

Best notebooks for students under 500 USD/Euros

Pos.
Date
Rating
Keyboard, Display and Battery (avg.)
Image
Model
Height
Weight
Size
Resolution
Best Price
1
09/2019
83 %84 %Acer Swift 3 SF314-54-P2RKAcer Swift 3 SF314-54-P2RK
Intel Pentium Gold 4417U
Intel HD Graphics 610
4 GB Memory, 128 GB SSD
17.95 mm1.6 kg14"1920x1080
2
10/2018
81 %83 %Lenovo Ideapad D330-10IGMLenovo Ideapad D330-10IGM
Intel Pentium Silver N5000
Intel UHD Graphics 605
4 GB Memory, 128 GB eMMC
18 mm1.1 kg10.1"1920x1200
3
10/2018
83 %81 %Microsoft Surface Go MHN-00003Microsoft Surface Go MHN-00003
Intel Pentium Gold 4415Y
Intel UHD Graphics 615
4 GB Memory, 64 GB eMMC
8.3 mm523 g10"1800x1200
4
08/2019
80 %81 %Medion Akoya E4253-30025387Medion Akoya E4253-30025387
Intel Pentium Silver N5000
Intel UHD Graphics 605
4 GB Memory, 64 GB eMMC
15 mm1.4 kg14"1920x1080
5
11/2019
78 %78 %Acer Aspire 5 A515-43-R6WWAcer Aspire 5 A515-43-R6WW
AMD Ryzen 5 3500U
AMD Radeon RX Vega 8
8 GB Memory, 1024 GB SSD
18 mm1.8 kg15.6"1920x1080

Top 5 notebooks of the last 10 months at the time of writing, order based on NBC subratings "keyboard, display and battery life", current reviews first

Link: All reviewed notebooks under 500 Euros, order based on overall rating

1st – Acer Swift 3

Acer Swift 3
Acer Swift 3

The Swift 3 SF314 is a 14-inch notebook in a good-looking slim case featuring a matte display, decent battery life, a backlit keyboard, quiet operation, and low temperature emissions. Its main drawbacks include the dim display and the low amount of RAM. It comes preloaded with Windows 10 Home and is ex facto limited to running applications from the Windows Store only. Fortunately, this limitation can be lifted for free by installing an update.

Price, Performance, and connectivity are well balanced, and the Swift 3 fully deserves its top spot in our top 10.

2nd - Lenovo IdeaPad D330

Lenovo IdeaPad D330
Lenovo IdeaPad D330

Lenovo offers a tough competitor for the Microsoft Surface Go: The IdeaPad D330 follows the same concept as Microsoft's smallest tablet, very long battery runtimes, an LTE modem, a bright screen, and a good keyboard dock. You also get 128 GB storage, but the IdeaPad with the keyboard dock is also much heavier and the quality is not as high compared to the rival from the Windows developer.

The Lenovo IdeaPad D330 is a 2-in-1 with a good price-performance ratio.

Pricecompare

3rd - Microsoft Surface Go

Microsoft Surface Go
Microsoft Surface Go

So affordable and already a high-quality convertible! The Microsoft Surface Go already starts for less than 500 Euros, but this version is shipped without physical keyboard. You can either use a Bluetooth keyboard or the optional Type Cover, which will increase the price noticeably. The storage is also limited on the base model at just 64 GB, and Microsoft charges a hefty premium for the 128 GB option. You can at least use the microSD reader to store more data.

The quality of the magnesium case is excellent, the Surface lasts long on battery, and you get a bright as well as high-contrast screen. The performance is not that bad, either. You notice that the Surface Go is no real notebook when you look at the ports, because one USB-C port will have to suffice.

Pricecompare

4th – Medion Akoya E4253

Medion Akoya E4253
Medion Akoya E4253

If you are looking for a simple 14-inch notebook for less than 300 Euros, the Medion Akoya E4253 may be the rigt device for you. It offers decent battery life, a matte IPS display, and a fairly effective passive cooler. Clearly, you should not expect top-notch performance in this class but at least storage is upgradeable, and some SKUs feature more RAM, should this be required.

The display turned out to be fairly dim, and the keyboard was okay at best, but its connectivity including a USB-C port carrying a DisplayPort signal and its low price make this a very attractive offer for light workloads.

Pricecompare

5th – Acer Aspire 5

Acer Aspire 5
Acer Aspire 5

The AMD Ryzen 5-powered Acer Aspire 5  starts at less than 500 Euros. While this sounds fairly promising given the Ryzen’s multimedia reputation the CPU is incapable living up to its fame in the Aspire 5. Due to a undersized cooling solution the CPU is forced to thermal throttle quite dramatically. Nevertheless, for a notebook as affordable as this performance is more than adequate, and the robust case with its high-quality input devices and its straightforward and relatively simple maintainability basically seal the deal.

Connectivity could have been better, and the device lacks a card reader. If you are looking for a notebook with a large display for school and university the Aspire 5 might be worth a closer look.

Pricecompare

Best notebooks for students from 500 to 800 USD/Euros

Pos.
Date
Rating
Keyboard, Display and Battery (avg.)
Image
Model
Height
Weight
Size
Resolution
Best Price
1
03/2020
87 %87 %Huawei MateBook D 14-53010TVSHuawei MateBook D 14-53010TVS
AMD Ryzen 5 3500U
AMD Radeon RX Vega 8
8 GB Memory, 512 GB SSD
16 mm1.4 kg14"1920x1080
2
05/2019
86 %86 %Lenovo ThinkPad E490-20N8000RGELenovo ThinkPad E490-20N8000RGE
Intel Core i5-8265U
Intel UHD Graphics 620
8 GB Memory,  SSD
19.9 mm1.8 kg14"1920x1080
3
10/2019
83 %85 %Dell Latitude 3400Dell Latitude 3400
Intel Core i3-8145U
Intel UHD Graphics 620
8 GB Memory, 256 GB SSD
18.65 mm1.7 kg14"1920x1080
4
10/2019
83 %81 %Lenovo Ideapad C340-15IWL-81N5004QGELenovo Ideapad C340-15IWL-81N5004QGE
Intel Core i5-8265U
NVIDIA GeForce MX230
8 GB Memory, 128 GB SSD
20.5 mm2 kg15.6"1920x1080
5
11/2019
83 %81 %Acer Swift 3 SF314-41-R8HZAcer Swift 3 SF314-41-R8HZ
AMD Ryzen 5 3500U
AMD Radeon RX Vega 8
8 GB Memory, 512 GB SSD
18 mm1.5 kg14"1920x1080

Top 5 notebooks of the last 10 months at the time of writing, order based on NBC subratings "keyboard, display and battery life"

Link: All reviewed notebooks between 500 and 800 Euros, order based on overall rating

1st – Huawei MateBook D 14

Huawei MateBook D 14
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.

Pricecompare

2nd – Lenovo ThinkPad E490

Lenovo ThinkPad E490
Lenovo ThinkPad E490

The E490’s predecessor, the ThinkPad E480, sat atop this particular list for the longest time, and the ThinkPad E490 follows in its footsteps. Lenovo’s entry-level ThinkPad is not as constricted as its low price might suggest. Battery life and input devices are excellent, the case is robust and sturdy, and apart from its poor color representation we really liked the matte display. To top things off the laptop is fairly quiet and comes with fast SSD storage.

Drawbacks include a card reader limited to just microSD, and a default warranty of just 12 months. Otherwise, the affordable ThinkPad deserves our full endorsement.

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3rd – Dell Latitude 3400

Dell Latitude 3400
Dell Latitude 3400

If you are looking for plentiful connectivity and high performance at affordable prices the Dell Latitude 3400 might be worth a closer look. It performs very well thanks to SSD and Core i3 CPU, and it offers a matte IPS display albeit one that was slightly too dim for our taste.

Its decent backlit keyboard and good battery life are the icing on the Latitude 3400 cake. Fans of extravagant or elegant design might be disappointed by its rather dull and down-to-earth exterior.

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4th – Lenovo IdeaPad C340

Lenovo IdeaPad C340
Lenovo IdeaPad C340

If you want the flexibility of a convertible the IdeaPad C340 is the right device for you. It supports stylus input, comes with a backlit keyboard, offers low sound and temperature emissions, and a decent battery life to boot.

Drawbacks include the dim display and comparatively slow Wi-Fi transfer speeds. In return, the Core i5 processor is very fast and the large hard disk in addition to its SSD results in storage space aplenty. The IdeaPad C340 is an interesting alternative to traditional notebooks for teenagers and students.

Pricecompare

5th – Acer Swift 3

Acer Swift 3
Acer Swift 3

A good-looking metal case, a Ryzen 5 CPU, and low temperature and low emissions – what’s not to like? Not much, really, especially considering the fact that the Acer Swift 3 also offers a backlit keyboard, good battery life, and a matte IPS panel.

Downsides include the dim display and the fact that the USB-C port does not carry a DisplayPort signal and cannot be used to charge other devices. Without these kinks the Swift 3 would have been an excellent laptop but even considering its quirks it still remains a device worth recommending.

Pricecompare

Best notebooks for students over 800 USD/Euros

Pos.
Date
Rating
Keyboard, Display and Battery (avg.)
Image
Model
Height
Weight
Size
Resolution
Best Price
1
05/2020
neu!
90 %91 %Apple MacBook Air 2020 i3Apple MacBook Air 2020 i3
Intel Core i3-1000NG4
Intel Iris Plus Graphics G4 (Ice Lake 48 EU)
8 GB Memory, 256 GB SSD
16.1 mm1.3 kg13.3"2560x1600
2
06/2019
88 %90 %Lenovo ThinkPad T490-20N2004EGELenovo ThinkPad T490-20N2004EGE
Intel Core i5-8265U
Intel UHD Graphics 620
8 GB Memory, 256 GB NVMe
18.9 mm1.4 kg14"1920x1080
3
04/2020
neu!
90 %90 %HP Elite Dragonfly-8MK79EAHP Elite Dragonfly-8MK79EA
Intel Core i5-8265U
Intel UHD Graphics 620
16 GB Memory, 512 GB SSD
16.1 mm1.1 kg13.3"1920x1080
4
04/2020
neu!
86 %88 %Schenker VIA 14Schenker VIA 14
Intel Core i5-10210U
Intel UHD Graphics 620
16 GB Memory, 1024 GB SSD
16.5 mm1.1 kg14"1920x1080
5
10/2019
89 %88 %Lenovo ThinkPad X395Lenovo ThinkPad X395
AMD Ryzen 3 PRO 3300U
AMD Radeon RX Vega 6 (Ryzen 2000)
8 GB Memory, 256 GB NVMe
16.9 mm1.3 kg13.3"1920x1080

Top 5 notebooks of the last 10 months at the time of writing, order based on NBC subratings "keyboard, display and battery life".

Link: All reviewed notebooks over 800 Euros, order based on overall rating

1st – Apple MacBook Air 20202

Apple MacBook Air 2020
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.

Pricecompare

2nd – Lenovo ThinkPad T490

Lenovo ThinkPad T490
Lenovo ThinkPad T490

Quite frankly, a ThinkPad T490 without dedicated graphics is even better than one with. It offers longer battery life and lower temperatures. If you don’t really need the graphics performance offered by a dedicated GPU, you should probably opt for this more affordable option instead. Regardless of SKU all devices carry the typical ThinkPad genes: a robust and sturdy case, a bright colorful display, and great input devices.

A typical high-quality ThinkPad.

This particular model is limited to a microSD card reader, the case is hard to open, and the display’s response times were comparatively poor. In addition, its Thunderbolt 3 port is not as fast as it should be on paper due to Lenovo throttling its internal connection to the bus. If you want to play games the SKU with dedicated graphics would be better, otherwise we recommend the model with iGPU only.

Pricecompare

3rd – HP Elite Dragonfly

HP Elite Dragonfly
HP Elite Dragonfly

The HP Elite Dragonfly is a lightweight business convertible based on an Intel Core i5-8265U, 16 GB of RAM, and a 512 GB large SSD. Its 13.3-inch touch display supports stylus input, and it offers a good contrast ratio and respectable color space coverage. Other strong points include long battery life, Wi-Fi 6, LTE, and various security features.

The HP Elite Dragonfly turned out to be a very good business convertible with only minor shortcomings that are easy to ignore.

Nevertheless, its compact design has its set of drawbacks. For example, Intel’s Core i5-8265U is incapable of utilizing its full performance potential, and maintenance options are fairly poor as well.

Pricecompare

4th – Schenker Via 14

Schenker Via 14
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.

Pricecompare

5th – Lenovo ThinkPad X395

Lenovo ThinkPad X395
Lenovo ThinkPad X395

A model number ending in 5 is a clear indication: this is an AMD-based Thinkpad with plenty of CPU and GPU performance trumping that of many Intel-equipped devices. The ThinkPad X395 might not be a full-fledged gaming notebook, but it is certainly more than capable of running less demanding games smoothly.

However, this is not the right list to discuss gaming performance. After all, we want to find out how well the X395 might do in a classroom environment. And it doesn’t look too bleak to be honest – long battery life, excellent input devices, a bright high-contrast display, and quiet and cool operation are its main selling points.

It also comes with various security features as well as three years of warranty (depending on country). The fact that the CPU is thermal throttling and its lack of Thunderbolt 3 port are obviously annoying, however those won’t keep us from giving our full endorsement.

Pricecompare

Best subnotebooks for students under 13-inch and 1,000 USD/Euros

Pos.
Date
Rating
Keyboard, Display and Battery (avg.)
Image
Model
Height
Weight
Size
Resolution
Best Price
1
04/2020
neu!
90 %86 %Apple iPad Pro 11 2020Apple iPad Pro 11 2020
Apple A12Z Bionic
Apple A12Z Bionic GPU
6 GB Memory, 128 GB NVMe
5.9 mm471 g11"2388x1668
2
09/2019
83 %83 %HP ProBook x360 11 G4HP ProBook x360 11 G4
Intel Core m3-8100Y
Intel UHD Graphics 615
8 GB Memory, 256 GB SSD
19.9 mm1.4 kg11.6"1366x768
3
10/2018
83 %81 %Microsoft Surface Go MHN-00003Microsoft Surface Go MHN-00003
Intel Pentium Gold 4415Y
Intel UHD Graphics 615
4 GB Memory, 64 GB eMMC
8.3 mm523 g10"1800x1200
4
06/2019
84 %80 %Huawei Matebook 13-53010FYWHuawei Matebook 13-53010FYW
Intel Core i7-8565U
Intel UHD Graphics 620
8 GB Memory, 512 GB SSD
15 mm1.3 kg13"2160x1440
5

neu!
77 %76 %Acer TravelMate Spin B1 B118-G2-RN-P7EDAcer TravelMate Spin B1 B118-G2-RN-P7ED
Intel Pentium Silver N5000
Intel UHD Graphics 605
4 GB Memory, 128 GB SSD
23.3 mm1.5 kg11.6"1920x1080

1st – Apple iPad Pro 11 2020

Apple iPad Pro 11 2020
Apple iPad Pro 11 2020

Apple’s iPad Pro 11 2020 requires a keyboard cover or Bluetooth input devices to become a full-fledged laptop alternative, all of which can be purchase either directly from Apple or at lower prices from third-party OEMs. Thanks to the latest iPad OS updates mouse support is now fully integrated into the system, and the iPad Pro 2020 is even slightly cheaper than its predecessor.

That said it did also remain largely identical to the latter. Minor improvements include updated cameras and slight improvements to the great 120 Hz display that looks and feels a lot smoother than typical notebook displays.

If neither the OS nor the software selection are an issue the iPad Pro 11 2020 can be a great laptop alternative.

Color accuracy is fairly high, performance is more than adequate, Wi-Fi transfer rates are high, and the speakers sound great. Keep in mind though that not all applications you might be familiar with from Windows are also available for iPad OS. Nevertheless, if you are looking for a compact notebook alternative and don’t mind the limited selection of ports the iPad Pro 11 can be a great device.

Pricecompare

2nd – HP ProBook x360 11 G4

HP ProBook x360 11 G4
HP ProBook x360 11 G4

The HP ProBook x360 11 G4 is a device targeted specifically at the education market. It is fast and supports stylus input. We particularly liked its great input devices, its robust and sturdy case, and its very low noise emissions. In return, it lacks a keyboard backlight and the display was too dim overall. Considering its small display, the low resolution is not as bad as it might seem at first glance.

Since its introduction HP’s MSRP has dropped quite dramatically, and the device can be a great option if you are in the market for a small and portable convertible for school or college.

Pricecompare

3rd - Microsoft Surface Go

Microsoft Surface Go
Microsoft Surface Go

So affordable and already a high-quality convertible! The Microsoft Surface Go already starts for less than 500 Euros, but this version is shipped without physical keyboard. You can either use a Bluetooth keyboard or the optional Type Cover, which will increase the price noticeably. The storage is also limited on the base model at just 64 GB, and Microsoft charges a hefty premium for the 128 GB option. You can at least use the microSD reader to store more data.

The quality of the magnesium case is excellent, the Surface lasts long on battery, and you get a bright as well as high-contrast screen. The performance is not that bad, either. You notice that the Surface Go is no real notebook when you look at the ports, because one USB-C port will have to suffice.

Pricecompare

4th – Huawei MateBook 13

Huawei MateBook 13
Huawei MateBook 13

Huawei’s MateBook 13 is a subnotebook with a limited port selection. In return, it comes with a docking station that even offers a VGA port by default as well as a sleek high-quality case. At the time of writing Europe was limited to the iGPU SKU without dedicated graphics. Battery life is acceptable, and the device managed to last 7 hours in our real-world Wi-Fi battery test. That said other notebooks lasted a lot longer.

Other benefits include its large touchpad and the large keyboard that takes up almost the entire width of the case. The 3:2 display offers a rather uncommon display ratio but additional vertical screen real estate in return. All things considered, the MateBook 13 is a good device in  a good-looking case.

Pricecompare

5th – Acer TravelMate Spin B1

Acer TravelMate Spin B1
Acer TravelMate Spin B1

The Acer TravelMate Spin B1 is a device targeted specifically at the education market. The small and sturdy convertible supports stylus input, and it offers a colorful FHD display as well as fanless and thus completely silent operation.

With 8:40 hours in our Wi-Fi test battery life is decent, unfortunately system performance and its somewhat weird clickpad curbed our initial enthusiasm and prevented our full endorsement. Keep in mind that the display is also very reflective.

A small convertible with a sturdy case and decent battery life, but a somewhat poor performance in return.

At less than 700 Euros the device might be worth it. However, if you need more performance you should go and look elsewhere.

Pricecompare

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> Notebook / Laptop Reviews and News > Reviews > Archive of our own reviews > The Best Notebooks for Teenagers and University Students
Florian Schmitt, 2017-07-13 (Update: 2020-05-21)