Best Laptops for Students?

Buying a laptop as (or for) a student is not always the most straightforward thing. There are often a number of things to consider. We hope this blog gives you some ideas and helps you to avoid making mistakes or simply to help you to make a better choice than you would otherwise.

Do you need it?

The first, although not always an obvious thing to think about, is whether you need a laptop for University at all? Most people get laptops for University, at least they did when I attended. To give an idea of that - I was at University from 2010 to 2013 for my undergraduate and 2017 to 2018 for my masters, so hopefully my experience isn’t too outdated already! When attending lectures and classes, most students do not use their laptop - some do, but most do not.
The main other place most students work while at University (or at least on Campus) is the library. While they vary from University to University, they typically have a lot of computers available for students to use, so it might not even be necessary to have a laptop for this reason. That said, many people in libraries will be sharing tables with their classmates and working on laptops - increasingly universities have made library workspace more laptop friendly.
An additional point to think about in the current times is about communal spaces, in particular using a communal computer. Many students may have a laptop, but just use it really to work from their accommodation and on a rare occasion bring to university. In the end, my thought would be that having a laptop at least gives students the choice to work wherever, be it at home, the library or in a coffee shop.


The next and unavoidable decision that needs to be made, is how much you are willing to spend on a laptop? I think it is better to frame this point as really choosing what kind of laptop you are going to get. The three broad choices over price you are faced with are the following: cheap, mid-range, or high-end.
What I am going to refer to as the ‘cheap’ category is a laptop which you can spend a few hundred pounds on (or as much as £500), but is likely to slow down your work-rate at times and crucially you really will have to hope that it does not stop working at that critical point when you’re submitting an assignment. One of my flatmates during my undergraduate bought a laptop that certainly fitted into this category and it often slowed him down. When you’re pressed against a deadline you really don’t want this to be the case.
Mid-range are laptops that typically cost from £500 to about £1000. These laptops will typically cope with normal usage, such as word processing, browsing and shouldn’t really give you any trouble for the usual laptop user. However, heavier usage will be noticeable and don’t be surprised if you need to replace a mid-range laptop within a few years. Personally, I bought a laptop that I would describe like this as I was heading to University for my undergraduate and it served me pretty well over the time I was there. They typically have okay battery life, but you’ll probably need to take your charger with you.
High-end laptops are those which would normally cost about £1000 or more, although there can be some that will come in below that mark from time to time. These will be able to cope with more than the normal word processing and browsing, they just work. However, we would normally suggest sticking to business machines. This is because they are generally built better and you’re likely to get more for your money at a particular price point. Battery wise, this will depend from laptop to laptop, but within this range you’ll find some that will have a long battery life.
A final point that has to be made is that price can give you a general idea of quality, but it can not be used as a rule of it. We always recommend you read reviews.


When it comes to brand there can be a lot of misconceptions about which ones have higher quality than another. Apart from two brands, most brands need to, broadly, be thought of as having variable quality. It is not unusual to find people who will swear by HP, but not want to use Dell, or vice versa and the reason for this is because often people will have used one brand’s business machines and the other brand’s consumer machines. Typically the build quality and support for business machines are far superior to consumer and that accounts for the variation in experience. This applies to the three main laptop brands (Dell, HP & Lenovo) and to others as well. The exceptions to this are Apple and Microsoft, who only really do the end of mid-range to high-end laptops. If you prefer the design of one brand over another, that’s fine, but take account of the fact that the build quality will vary greatly across their product lines.


This has already been covered to an extent, but the durability, or build quality of laptops, is an important factor if you want it to last the duration of your studies and perhaps beyond. The best way to ensure this is to buy a business laptop rather than a consumer one. If this isn’t possible, the only thing that can be suggested is to study reviews of the laptops you are interested in to see what the build quality is like.


As mentioned previously, often students don’t actually bring their laptops on campus - if you know you are likely to be like this then portability may be less important. However you may still want to travel with your laptop, or just move around your home, so portability is likely to still prove useful. When I was doing my A Levels, for reasons I’ve now forgotten, I got a 17 inch HP laptop. I enjoyed using it and it was okay - definitely towards the cheap category, but it was a massive pain to take to school. It was heavy and clunky, fine for around the house but not for taking it around the school. 17 inch laptops can be great if your use requires them, but for general word processing and browsing it was definitely too much, I wouldn’t recommend it for a student and went with a much thinner 14 inch laptop when going to begin my undergraduate studies. Since then I have had laptops ranging from 13” to 15.6” and would say anything in that range is fine for portability for a student, although keep an eye on the weight and thickness of the laptop. If you want a high performance laptop which is also highly portable, you’ll certainly pay a premium for it.

Final choice: New or Refurbished

At CruiseTech we’re refurbishers, so this is a shameless plug, but one I’m going to make anyway. Many people (including myself as a student going into undergraduate) never consider getting a refurbished product - they go straight for new. However, for a few reasons you should consider refurbished.
First and foremost, you simply get more for less. For £300 which would only get you a ‘cheap’ laptop you can get a refurbished laptop which will be a few years old, but which could have originally retailed for as much as three times that. Despite being an older laptop, the spec will almost certainly be much better than that of the new cheap laptop available for a similar price. If you’re willing to spend in the region £500-£1000 you’ll be able to get the even more portable, higher spec laptops. At CruiseTech, the vast majority of the refurbished laptops we sell are business machines and therefore benefit from better build quality. With regards to warranty, refurbished laptops do not carry the same warranty as their new equivalents, so this should be taken into account with the price difference - although many of the new cheap laptops will only carry one year warranty, so may not differ much in warranty to that of a refurbished laptop (at Cruisetech warranty varies by laptop, we advise you to always check this).
The second reason, which is a particularly topical one at the moment, is that it is better for the environment. The longer a laptop can continue to be used, the less need there is to use more resources, the better it is for the environment. I’m not denigrating the choice to buy new, but it is important to know the refurbished option is there, so you can get more for less.

Final point: Design & Engineering Students

If you’re going to be doing a course which requires demanding software, such as CAD software then you’re going to need a powerful machine with good graphics. Again, your university will likely have computers which have these softwares but if you want to be able to do this on the move you’ll need a laptop with powerful dedicated graphics which can do that. These undoubtedly come at price, again, buying refurbished can help reduce your costs.