(Pocket-lint) - Unlike a few years ago, laptops are now an essential tool for students at college or uni - even if you're currently doing much of that work from home!

Younger kids also need web access for research, too, so we've gathered together our favourite Mac and PC options for schoolwork as well as those at college or university. For college and uni students, we've selected some more expensive choices as it's likely more power is needed.

However, we haven't gone to town on these in terms of out-and-out performance and, so check out our best laptops guide if you're doing something like a design degree or music tech where you might need extra oomph, particularly in terms of graphics.

For our uni and college selections, we've prioritised portability, looks and all-round performance, whereas for our school selection we've concentrated on affordability and robustness. If you want a Chrome OS-based device instead, check out our guide to the best Chromebooks around.

The best laptop for school or college


HP Stream 11

The 11.6-inch Stream 11 is a little basic for adults due to its Celeron processor, but for children it's ideal. Storage is a little lacking at 32GB - it's designed for people storing documents rather than a complete library of photos - but at this price point you can't really complain. 


Acer Swift 3


Available in both Intel Core i5 and i7 versions, our pick is the Core i5 model with roomy 512GB SSD, Full HD display and 8GB of memory. There's also great all-day battery life. 

It's not the most stylish Windows 10 machine around, but it is only 16mm thick. You also get a lot for your money - power you can rely on. 


Apple MacBook Air


The MacBook Air has been given an annual enhancement during the last few years and has now been upgraded to Apple's speedy M1 processors. It's still the same great macOS laptop at heart.

The only real downside with this laptop from a student point of view is its price point - and the fact you may need USB-C converters for some accessories.


Huawei MateBook 13


Huawei's recent woes in the mobile market have been due to trade wars, but a Huawei laptop is different because it runs full Windows 10 for which updates will continue to be issued.

Design-wise, the MateBook series doesn't stand out from the crowd, but it does have a decent price point and current deals mean it's hard to resist. 


Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 3


Lenovo's selection of budget laptops is second-to-none and this great value Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 3 is one of the best options around if you want a Chromebook. 

It's also a 2-in-1 so will convert - ideal for watching YouTube content, for example.

With Intel Celeron, 64GB of storage and 4GB of memory it's not the most powerful option but it offers a lot for the meagre asking price. 


Asus ZenBook UX410UA


These days there are loads of ZenBook Windows 10 laptops around, but this is our student pick - it's inexpensive yet is a real jack-of-all-trades, which often you need if you're going to hold onto the same laptop for three years.

We'd recommend a Core i5 version, but the Core i3 version is fine for many tasks and, naturally, costs less. 


Dell XPS 13


One of our favourite laptops, the Windows 10-powered XPS 13 is now available in an even more improved model using the very latest hardware. 

Available in various options, it's one of the very best ultraportable laptops around and will set you in good stead for many years.


Microsoft Surface Laptop 3


A beautiful laptop that's been much improved by Microsoft with each version it's launched, this is far from the cheapest option for a studen, but is certainly one of the most striking and elegant. 

It's a Windows 10 machine par excellence, with a great hinge and brilliant display, and brings the welcome addition of USB-C connectivity. 

Writing by Dan Grabham.