Shopping for a student laptop is a balancing act that involves finding something with good hardware, a nice screen, and a price tag that isn’t prohibitive, especially since you’re already likely spending a lot of money on tuition, books, and supplies. That’s why we’ve assembled this list of great student laptop deals which start at a couple of hundred bucks; that way, you can pick a laptop that fits your needs (and your budget) best. Furthermore, this list is filled with some of the best laptop brands out there, so you know what you are getting is quality, and if anything ever goes wrong, there’s a solid warranty to back it up.
Best student laptop deals
HP Chromebook 11a — $170, was $260
While some would say that the HP Chromebook 11a is a bargain bin computer, the truth is that it’s a surprisingly good all-arounder for the price point, even if it may not wow anybody.
In terms of specs, they’re about what you’d expect for a computer that you can pick up for just a couple hundred bucks. The CPU is an Intel Celeron N3350, a bit old-school but more than enough to run ChromeOS, especially compared to the older chip this used to come with: the Mediatek MT8381. Going with the newer CPU means you can get a lot more done, and while you aren’t going to be a productivity powerhouse on the Chromebook 11a, you will be able to handle most productivity software you can get on ChromeOS, which is really what this computer is designed for. More importantly, the 11.6-inch screen with a 1366 x 768 is big enough to feel bigger than your average tablet or Chromebook while not so big that it becomes weight and a distraction. Even better, the somewhat larger screen and borders mean that you get a larger keyboard, making it easier for you to type in the long term.
As for the other specs, you get 4GBs of RAM, so don’t open a dozen browser tabs, and 32GBs of internal RAM, which should be enough for most use cases, but you can always supplement it with one of our external hard drive deals. Interestingly enough, the Chromebook 11a does have Intel HD Graphics 500, which, while not the most powerful GPU out there, should be able to handle a few games from the Play store here and there.
Ultimately, the Chromebook 11a was created as a budget-friendly all-around device for those who really need a device to study (or even work) but can’t afford to drop several hundred dollars. On the bright side, it’s also pretty good for other general tasks, such as streaming, browsing, and even some light mobile gaming, so it’s a great deal overall.
Dell Inspiron 15 3000 — $245, was $305
While we need to make certain concessions and compromises when it comes to budget computers, one thing we generally don’t like compromising on is usability, and that’s where the 15-6 inch screen of the Inspiron 15 3000 comes in. With an HD resolution and reasonably good size, it provides for a large amount of screen real estate for your apps and productivity, and not only that, but the larger size also means you get a relatively big keyboard to type on, which is always appreciate with a budget computer. Even better, the trackpad is surprisingly nice to use as it tracks well and is pretty big, so you won’t have to do some weird hand gymnastics to control your mouse. We’ll also mention the 720p webcam at the front, which is excellent if you need to do Zoom meetings with classmates for projects and whatnot.
In terms of pure specs, you get an Intel Celeron N4020, which is powerful enough to run most productivity software comfortably. Similarly, you get yourself 4GBs of RAM and 128GBs of internal storage, much more than the Chromebook 11a, although still on the lower side if you consider the Windows also needs to fit on there. For graphics, you get an integrated Intel UHD Graphics 600, which might let you play some simple indie games or games that don’t require a ton of resources. Or, you could just grab one of our desktop monitor deals to help with some extra productivity and screen real estate. Either way, the Inspiron 15 3000 works well across a variety of needs, whether it’s study, entertainment, or general use.
Overall, the Inspiron 15 3000 is a great alternative to tablets and Chromebooks, especially if you want something with a bigger screen and keyboard but don’t want to go over a $300 budget.
HP Pavilion x360 2-in-1 — $580, was $700
2-in-1 laptops can be very handy, especially for studying and presenting work; unfortunately, they can be pretty expensive due to that convertibility, which is why it’s nice to see an affordable one that has some great specs.
Where the Pavilion X360 shines is in its screen with its 14-inch FHD resolution and IPS panel, providing some crisp and rich colors for when you’re drawing or writing. The hinges are also pretty sturdy, so there’s minimal wobble if you’re worried about that, although there is one downside: the peak brightness is 250nits, which isn’t necessarily bad, although 300 or 400 would have been nicer. Nonetheless, it’s not a deal-breaker, especially given the pen experience is pretty nice, with good palm rejection and could handle relatively fast movement, with the one caveat that the pressure pointing could be a bit better.
As for the specs, you get an 11th gen Intel i5-1135G7 which is a pretty powerful little CPU and should handle most productivity and general tasks that anybody but extreme power-users can throw at it. You also get 8GBs of RAM, which is just at that sweet spot for general computer use, and should give you ample space to have a few tabs and apps open simultaneously without a slow down of the computer. Interestingly enough, you get Intel’s XE Graphics, which is more powerful than the Intel UHD 600, so it could theoretically handle a bit more gaming, although don’t expect to be playing any AAA games at the highest setting, even ones from a few years ago.
While the Pavilion x360 starts getting up in price, it sits at a nice spot between budget computers and mid-tier computers, giving you just enough specs for an overall enjoyable experience without increasing the cost exorbitantly. So if you want something that works just as well for studying as it does for general use, this is likely the best bang for your buck.
Dell XPS 13 Touch – $708 with code SAVE15, was $1,050
The Dell XPS lineup of laptops are genuinely some of the best general laptops in the industry and often rank highly among the best laptops at Digital Trends, so it’s not surprising that the XPS 13 Touch is an excellent overall laptop, and if you’re able to splurge a little, this is the laptop to get.
Portability is one of the biggest highlights of the XPS 13 Touch, being incredibly thin and light for what you’re getting, making this a great day-to-day companion at school and uni without worrying about carrying around a heavy computer or something that takes up valuable space. Even though it’s a smaller laptop, a 13-inch screen with barely any bezel, it’s great to type on, with good action on the keys and a good layout that doesn’t make you feel constantly cramped as something smaller would. Equally important is the FHD screen, which has a 60hz refresh rate and has touch capabilities, which isn’t super-important in this case, but it’s nice to have.
Internal specs are pretty similar to the Pavillion X360, with an 11th gen Intel i5-1135G7 which should be able to handle most applications, and Intel XE Graphics, which, again, isn’t super powerful, but you might get a little bit of gaming out of it if you’re looking for that. Internal storage comes courtesy of a 256 GB SSD, and the 8GBs of ram should be more than enough for most use cases unless you’re an extreme power user. Also, battery life is pretty great, being able to get around 15 hours which is impressive, and it even comes with Wi-Fi 5 and Bluetooth 5.1, so you have future-proof connectivity, at least until Wi-Fi 7, which isn’t expected until 2024-2025.
While the XPS 13 touch is a little bit on the pricier side, it’s the premium option for students who want a compact ultrabook with great performance. Plus, it looks really gorgeous, and that’s always a nice thing to have.
Apple MacBook Air M1 – $949, was $999
The M1 Apple Macbook Air hardly requires any introduction, although this year’s entry into the interval releases and updates is a rather large one, and that’s due to the inclusion of the M1. In fact, this is the first version of the Macbook Air that drops Intel CPUs altogether in favor of Apple’s M1 chip, adding the sort of detail and integration that only a company with complete control over the design could.
One of the first things you’ll notice with the new Macbook Air is that it makes hardly any noise at all, which is impressive given the performance of the M1, which can sometimes equal or even beat Intel’s Tiger Lake architecture. Pair that with the 8GBs of RAM, and you get a laptop that is enjoyable to use and that can handle most productivity software handily, and the 256GB internal storage is also nice to have although slightly on the smaller side, so grabbing one of our external hard drive deals is probably warranted.
Another big change is the new Big Sur OS, which brings some interesting UI changes and overall flow to using the computer, which works well with the updated internals to provide overall excellent performance. As for the screen, it’s a 13.3-inch Retina Display and should be no surprise that it’s gorgeous, as is expected for displays that come from Apple, and even better, it can connect up to one external monitor for that extra screen space when you’re at a desk.
Overall, the Apple Macbook Air is an excellent little laptop for students already using Apple and want a great Apple computer without spending well over $1,000 for one of the premium options. Also, much like the XPS 13 touch, it’s gorgeous and thin, which is always a plus.
When are the Best Student Laptop Deals?
This can be a complex question to answer, depending on what sort of laptop you want to get and what brand you’re going for. The obvious answer is to wait for one of the big three sales periods, with the one that’s happening the soonest being Prime Day, predicted to be on July 18 and July 19. You’ll likely see a lot of great deals during then, although maybe not for Apple laptops since those sorts of deals tend to be few and far between, and they tend to happen around Apple’s release events. The next one of those will be in June, so you might see a few good Apple discounts then.
Beyond that, there’s Black Friday and Cyber Monday, which happen on the 25th and 28th of November respectively. You’ll also likely see some great laptop sales during those periods, especially Cyber Monday, although the caveat is that a lot of these are limited stock deals. That means that you really have to be on top of the sales for both days, and you can still miss out on a good discount if you wait too long to decide. It’s a big risk, but it might be worth checking what sort of stuff went for sale last year in your favorite shops and plan accordingly.
Of course, there are also a ton of sales throughout the year, which we like to keep on top of through our best laptop deals and best gaming laptop deals articles. Since we know that a lot of students are probably on tight budgets, we also like regularly update our best refurbished laptops deals for those who need to save money, and we even maintain some great Chromebook deals and tablet deals, both of which can sometimes be cheaper than a full-on laptop. Also, keep in mind that many retailers tend to have great sales around when school semesters start, so you might find some good back-to-school deals if you keep an eye out.
Ultimately, if the savings are minimal, it’s better to bite the bullet and get the product you want now. You never know when the discount might happen again or if it’s as steep as you expect it to be, so if it’s even $50 or $100 worth of savings, it might be a good idea to consider buying it outright. Even if the product you want does have a better deal down the road, you shouldn’t feel bad for something you couldn’t possibly know. So the guidance here is to buy what you like if you need it and can afford it and not worry too much about waiting for the potentially best deal possible.