As a student in New Zealand, you need a laptop that can handle your schoolwork, keep up with your social life, and entertain you in your downtime. There are a lot of great laptops on the market, but some are better suited to others depending on what they study.
With affordable Chromebooks for simple web browsing and writing (and cloud gaming), capable Windows laptops with a wide range of powerful specs, and popular MacBooks for portable power, there’s a laptop for all kinds of students.
Whether you’re writing papers or working on demanding video projects, here’s a list of the best laptops for students in NZ.
Best Student Laptop NZ
1. MacBook Air (M1)
Best overall laptop for students
Price: From $1,749
CPU: Apple M1
GPU: Apple M1
RAM: 8GB / 16GB
Storage: 256GB / 512GB / 1TB / 2TB
Display: 13.3in, 2560 x 1600
The MacBook Air M1 remains the best laptop for most students, despite coming out in 2020. Its ARM-based M1 chip still kicks ass today, and it’s now at an even more affordable price.
The 13.3-inch LED-backlit display is wonderful to work, edit and stream on, the Magic Keyboard lets you type like the wind and its incredible 15-hour battery life can get you through most of the day without plugging it in. Not bad for a laptop that’s under $2,000 (even under $1,500 with a deal)
The M1 MacBook Air doesn’t fall far behind the processing power seen in laptops today. In fact, it can still match some of them. That’s thanks to macOS updates bringing new features into the fold. Couple that along with its price tag (a good bit cheaper than the M2 model), and M1 MacBook still shines for a majority of customers.
It’s unfortunate about the 720p webcam (with Apple’s Continuity Camera, you can use your iPhone’s camera instead), but its outstanding performance and incredible lightweight design more than make up for that. The M1 MacBook Air is still all the rage, and makes for one of the best laptops to get for most.
See our M1 MacBook Air review.
2. Lenovo IdeaPad 3i Chromebook
Best Chromebook for students
Price: From $389
CPU: Intel Celeron N4020
GPU: Intel UHD Graphics
RAM: 4GB DDR4
Display: 14in, FHD (1920×1080) resolution
Laptops for students don’t need to come with all the bells and whistles to let your browse the web, work on online documents, or stream you favourite shows. Case in point: the Lenovo IdeaPad 3i Chromebook.
A fantastic choice for students jumping online, people who need a reliable notebook jot down notes while researching on the web, or anyone who just needs a screen and a keyboard without draining their bank account.
What makes the Lenovo IdeaPad 3i a valuable purchase isn’t just its affordable price tag (seriously, $389 is a steal), it’s also because its a Chromebook. Google’s own line of laptops mainly rely on the internet to be put to good use – not internal specs. For example, 64Gb of storage is tiny, but it doesn’t matter when you’re saving all your documents or photos on Google Drive.
The 14-inch, 1080p offers a good size to watch YouTube videos or Netflix shows, but don’t expect a grand visual experience; 220 nits of brightness isn’t exactly vibrant. Regardless, a 10-hour battery life and decent keyboard make up for this.
The Lenovo IdeaPad 3i Chromebook may not be powerful, but its still the best budget laptop you can grab.
3. Microsoft Surface Laptop 5
Best Windows laptop for students
Price: From $1,900
CPU: Intel Core i5-1235U / i7-1255U
GPU: Intel Iris Xe
RAM: 8GB / 16GB
Storage: 512GB / 1TB
Display: 13.5in, 2256 x 1504 resolution / 15in, 2496 x 1664 resolution
Microsoft has had a hard time keeping up with other laptops in the market, but there’s no denying the Microsoft Surface Laptop 5 is an excellent option for students. Affordable, portable, and featuring fine-tuned specs (despite keeping a 12th Gen Intel chip instead of a 13th Gen), the Surface Laptop 5 can keep up with demanding schoolwork while delivering great entertainment.
It can last up to 18 hours on a single charge, offers a fantastic 13.5-inch or larger 15-inch touchscreen display with a 3:2 aspect ratio, and has a comfortable keyboard perfect for typing long papers. It also comes with a lightweight and stylish design that’s easy to slip into your bag and walk around with.
Despite having a last-gen chip, its i7 processor and up to 16GB of RAM can handle video editing and graphics design. You can also expect student discounts and a Microsoft 365 for Education bundle, which is perfect for students.
4. MacBook Air (M2)
Best MacBook for students
Price: From $2,149
CPU: Apple M2
GPU: Apple M2
RAM: 8GB / 16GB / 24GB
Storage: 256GB / 512GB / 1TB / 2TB
Display: 13.6in, 2560 x 1664 resolution
After the launch of the industry-breaking M1 MacBook Air, the M2 MacBook Air had a lot to live up to – and it’s safe to say it exceeded expectations.
Apple’s second iteration of its ultraportable laptop brought everything we adored about the ever-popular M1 MacBook Air – including its stylishly thin chassis, comfortable keyboard and ridiculously long battery life (18 hours) – and bumped things up a notch.
The 13.6-inch Liquid Retina display with minimal bezels is captivating to work and watch things on, the 1080p webcam delivers clear visuals for video calls and its incredibly light 1.24kg design makes it easy to carry around.
Oh, and that M2 chip is powerful and efficient. It handles 4K video editing comfortably, the battery lasts an impressive 18 hours and, amazingly, it performs just as well as the 13-inch M2 MacBook Pro – all without a fan.
Sure, it’s more expensive than its older M1 sibling, and its improvements aren’t worth the upgrade for those who own an M1 MacBook Air. For any student that desires a sleek, fully capable ultraportable, and is already in the Apple ecosystem, M2 MacBook Air is the best laptop to get.
5. Dell Inspiron 14 2-in-1
Best 2-in-1 laptop for students
Price: From $1,288
CPU: AMD Ryzen 5 7530U / Ryzen 7 7730U
GPU: AMD Radeon Graphics
RAM: 8GB / 16GB
Storage: 512GB / 1TB
Display: 14in, 1920 x 1200 resolution
While many 2-in-1 laptops boast powerful specs, there are none quite like the Dell Inspiron 14 2-in-1 that offers both affordability and solid performance.
With up to AMD Ryzen 7 (or Intel Core i7 if you opt for the bigger Inspiron 16), excellent battery life lasting beyond 8 hours, and a portable design, the Inspiron 14 2-in-1 is a great option for those who like the option to transform their laptop into a tablet. It’s disappointing it doesn’t come with a stylus included, but an add-on is available for around $70.
It has great multitasking capabilities and can even offer some light gaming, but don’t expect over-the-top performance. Still, with a low-cost price and well-rounded specs, the Dell Inspiron 14 2-in-1 is a great student companion.
6. Dell G15 (2023)
Best gaming laptop for students
Price: From $1,999
CPU: AMD Ryzen 7 7840HS
GPU: Nvidia GeForce RTX 4060
RAM: 16GB DDR5
Display: 15.6in, FHD (1920 x 1080), 165Hz
Finding a good gaming laptop with current-gen specs at a fair price is challenging, but the Dell G15 (2023) sees the right balance. With an RTX 4060, 16GB of DDR5 RAM, and a solid 15.6-inch bright display with a 165Hz refresh rate, this laptop ticks all the right boxes for students who like to game.
While its bulky and sharp-edged design isn’t ideal for carrying around between classes or lectures, it still offers a solid build with top-tier specs. Speaking of, these specs aren’t just great for gaming; working on this laptop is a breeze with multi-tasking power, a large display so you’re not squinting at words, and a fine keyboard (although the trackpad is too small).
You may not max out graphics settings in AAA games, but you can play all the most popular titles, including competitive games such as Apex Legends, Valorant, and Overwatch 2.
For just under $2,000, the Dell G15 has many tricks up its sleeve for a budget gaming laptop.
Best Student Laptop: Buyer’s Guide
Here’s everything you should consider when buying a student laptop that suits your needs, from budget to specs.
Windows, MacBook, or Chromebook?
The three most popular types of laptops are excellent picks for student life. Some are better for simpler tasks, while others can handle more demanding projects.
Chromebooks are an excellent option for students looking for a budget-friendly, portable, and secure laptop. They run on Chrome OS, a lightweight operating system based on the Chrome web browser. Chromebooks are perfect for students who use their laptops for basic tasks such as browsing the web, checking email, and writing papers.
Windows laptops are a good option for students who need a more powerful laptop for running demanding applications such as video editing software and high-end gaming. Windows laptops are also more versatile than Chromebooks, as they can run a broader range of software and come with a different range of prices.
MacBooks are a great option for students looking for a premium laptop with a great user experience. MacBooks are known for their sleek design, powerful performance, and long battery life. However, they can also be the priciest of the bunch.
Know your budget
There are plenty of powerful laptops for creatives, programming students, and PC gamers without needing to overspend. As a student, money can be tight, so consider a laptop that covers your essential requirements.
Laptop prices range from below $500 to well over $10,000. Some thrive as budget machines that offer more bang for your buck, while others are pricey powerhouses packed with the latest CPUs and GPUs that will last for years to come.
If all you need is a decent display to binge-watch shows, a comfortable keyboard to type on, and a strong internet connection to scroll endlessly online, then a low-price Windows laptop or first-rate Chromebook will do the trick. These aren’t made for video editing or gaming but are perfect for online activities. You can grab these for under $1,000.
Then there’s the more established category of laptops, which includes premium ultraportable notebooks like a Dell XPS or MacBook Air and mid-range gaming laptops. These systems pack plenty of heat under the hood and are great for multitasking, general photo and video editing, churning out spreadsheets, and more. These will range anywhere from below $1,500 to over $3,000.
Finally, the heavy hitters. These laptops, such as the M3 MacBook Pro or Lenovo Legion Pro 7i with RTX 4090 power, are made for students who want it all. You can expect impressive specs like 64GB of RAM, 2TB of SSD storage and impressive displays boasting QHD+ (3200 × 1800) resolution with 240Hz refresh rates. But these can go up to over $10,000, which will put a dent in anyone’s wallet.
All in all, know what you need in a laptop and set the right budget for it.
Know your CPU
Intel or AMD? An Intel Core i5 or i7? M1 or M3 Max? CPUs and their names can be a bottomless pit of confusion, but they can also be easily summed up.
First off, 13th Gen Intel and AMD Ryzen 7000 series CPUs are the latest generation of mobile processors, so watch out for these if you’re after more recently released laptops. That’s not to say that 12th Gen Intel and Ryzen 6000 chips are obsolete, as they can still dish out impressive processing power.
For basic tasks, an Intel i3, Celeron, Pentium or AMD Ryzen 5 CPU will do the job but lack enough power for heavy multitasking. Intel i5 and Ryzen 7 are your mid-range chips, while Intel i7 or i9 and Ryzen 9 are more for power users.
As for Apple’s custom ARM-based M-series chips, you can expect more than enough processing power no matter which chip you choose. The M1 is still seen as a versatile CPU that can handle a majority of tasks, but the M2 and M3 range bumps up this performance. With the M3 Pro and M3 Max, multimedia students can expect to glide through power-hungry tasks. However, the M1, M2, or M3 chip should be more than enough for casual and intermediate users.
Know your GPU
If you’re a gamer or multimedia professional, you’ll likely already know what you’re looking for. Nvidia GeForce RTX 40 Series mobile GPUs and AMD Radeon RX 7000 series GPUs are the latest and greatest, but RTX 30 Series and Radeon RX 6000 series are still extremely powerful graphics cards.
As for everyone else, there is a wave of GPUs available that laptop manufacturers can put in. If you’re not using your notebook for gaming or graphics work, graphics cards like Intel iris Xe or Intel UHD graphics are fine.
Know your displays
Over the years, laptops have seen different screen sizes soar in popularity. Because of this, however, we now have several display size options to pick from, along with the various resolutions and refresh rates they boast.
If you’re looking for a portable machine to carry around effortlessly, a 13-inch or 14-inch display will suit you perfectly. Moreover, modern laptops are seeing very thin bezels, making the most of the display’s real estate. You may find 4K (3840 x 2160) resolution displays in these sizes, but a 13 or 14-inch size is still too small to see any real difference in quality compared to a bright and vivid 1920 x 1080 resolution display. Furthermore, 1080p screens generally offer higher refresh rates, going up to 360Hz – and that’s great for competitive multiplayer games.
A 15-inch display is just the ticket for something between mobility and stationary. Not too big to stuff into a bag, but not too small to fully enjoy a wider, better-defined binge-watch session. 15-inch laptops are getting thinner and lighter, but they are more suited for sitting on desks the majority of the time rather than taking them out in a café or on transport. Laptops with a 16-inch display are also a good shout, as some will come with a 15-inch chassis.
With 17-inch and 18-inch laptops, you’re getting into desktop replacement territory. Hardly ever seen without a desk to sit on, these sizeable laptops are all about giving people more screen space to fully engage in editing, gaming or split-screening. Display resolution can play a bigger role here, with UHD (2560 x 1440) and 4K offering gorgeous visuals. We’re now seeing higher resolutions boasting high refresh rates, too, with 4K offering 144Hz and QHD bringing 240Hz to the table. Although, expect to pay a pretty penny.
One final point. A 16:9 aspect ratio is perfectly fine for laptops, but those with a 16:10 ratio offer a little more wiggle room for a more comfortable visual experience.
Know your RAM
A laptop’s RAM (Random Access Memory) is its lifeblood. The more you do – from simply browsing the web to creating 3D graphic designs while editing a video – the more RAM a system needs.
Generally, 8GB of RAM is the standard to perform casual tasks such as browsing the internet, writing documents, watching videos, and even some light gaming. If you do anything more at the same time, your laptop may struggle to keep up, resulting in slower performance.
With 16GB of RAM, you can expect to do moderate multitasking. It’s usually more than enough for many, as it lets them watch videos in the background with a bunch of tabs open, play many of the latest games, work away on documents and spreadsheets, and more. You can also expect to do some editing, albeit not as efficiently as laptops with higher RAM.
32GB of RAM and beyond are for those who perform high-demanding tasks. For intensive gaming, editing, graphic designing and multitasking, this amount of RAM will handle it with ease. Of course, the more RAM a laptop has, the more expensive it will be, so keep in mind what you’ll need your laptop for.
As a side note, you should keep an eye out for DDR5 RAM, as this is one of the most capable types of memory.
Know your storage
Well, how much do you plan to store? Unless you’re a gamer or photography student, 256GB of SSD (Solid State Drive) storage will be more than enough to save your files.
Adding more storage, going up to 512GB, 1TB, or even up to a whopping 8TB, is available to those who need the space to access a selection of large files quickly. Games, videos and multimedia projects can sometimes be over 100GBs, so if you don’t want to reach the storage ceiling anytime soon, you’ll need as much as you can get. Plus, full internal storage makes for a slower laptop.
Looking for more space? The good news is you can easily grab an external SSD to expand your laptop’s storage.
Know your battery life
Several factors can affect a laptop’s battery life: power-hungry CPUs and GPUs, large displays or simply older specs. Laptops were made for portability, especially for students, so their battery is a key feature. However, if you plan to plant your laptop on a desk and have it plugged in more often than not, you may not need as much juice.
Still, you don’t want a system that will die when not tethered to an outlet. A good laptop should have at least 8 hours of battery life, which should get you through an average working day. The best will go beyond 12 hours, and these are generally the ultraportables with high-performing specs. For example, Apple’s MacBooks claim to last up to 22 hours.
For gamers, finding a machine you can play for 5 hours or more when not plugged in is trickier – especially if you’re playing the latest titles. Gaming zaps a laptop’s battery, so it’s understood that gaming laptops are plugged in more often than not. That said, thanks to next-gen processors, gaming rigs are becoming more efficient, meaning they can go beyond 5 hours (depending on the game you play). It’s best to leave it plugged in while gaming for optimal performance.