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20 Best Laptops for Engineering Students (2020)

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Liz Miller Learn Robotics

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Confused about what laptop to buy as an engineering student? With literally thousands of options out there, it can be confusing which laptop model and specification to buy as an engineer.

But digging through the hundreds of laptops on the market is a waste of time. Some computers are great for making videos, while others are lightweight and designed for on-the-go use. And then some laptops cost more, but are less functional…go figure, right?!

To make your laptop hunt easier, I’ve compiled a MEGA list of awesome engineering laptops. No matter what kind of engineering laptop you’re thinking about getting, or what field of engineering you’re planning to study, one of these choices should fit the bill.

Let’s dive in!

Engineering Laptop Specifications

While every university and office is different, here’s a general list of hardware specifications for your engineering laptop. I highly recommend getting as many options in the “Recommended Spec” section that you can afford. This will make your machine faster and better suited for handling engineering programs.

Minimum SpecRecommended Spec
Operating SystemWindows 10 Home, 64 bit
macOS High Sierra
Windows 10 Pro, 64 bit
macOS Mojave
Processor3.3 GHz or higher
Intel 8th Gen i5 or i7
Intel 9th Gen i7 or i9
Memory (RAM)16 GB32 GB
Storage (SSD)500 GB1 TB
GraphicsNVIDIA Quadro P1000/2000
AMD Radeon Pro WX 4100
NVIDIA Quadro P4000
AMD Radeon Pro WX 5100
PeripheralsUSB 3.0USB 3.0
Ethernet Port
SD Card Reader

If you choose to get a MacBook Pro, I recommend getting the absolute best specifications you can afford because the newer Macs are less upgradeable than the previous iterations. That means it’s harder to upgrade the storage (SSD) and RAM in 2016 and newer Macs.

Also, you’ll need to have access to Windows 10 on your mac, so consider buying a larger internal SSD or dedicated external hard drive so that you can boot to Windows as well.

Chromebooks aren’t great for engineering

I wouldn’t recommend using a Chromebook for engineering because you won’t be able to install a lot of engineering software such as Matlab, Solidworks, or MS Office.

While there is a browser version available for some of these programs, the low cost doesn’t outweigh the slow speeds due to a lack of processing power and operating system incompatibility.

I’d only recommend getting a Chromebook If you want a portable computer to just take notes on and are willing to buy a secondary computer, use a library computer, or visit a computer lab. In that case, a Chromebook could be a viable option.

Best Laptops for Engineers in 2020

With so many options for computers these days, I would pick the Dell Precision 5530 or MacBook Pro. Here’s a list of my top five picks for engineering laptops in 2020.

#Best Laptop for EngineeringReasons to Buy
1 (Tied)Dell Precision 5530Thin and light with enhanced graphics, stunning design, best-in-class display, and Windows 10 Pro. / Buy on Amazon
1 (Tied)MacBook ProLightweight, all-day battery life, and compatible with Apple products. / Buy on Amazon
3Lenovo Thinkpad P52sWorkstation muscle meets Ultrabook mobility running Windows 10 Home. / Buy on Amazon
4ASUS ZenBook 14Tremendous power, improved typing position, optimized cooling system, and enhanced audio for busy students. / Buy on Amazon
5Microsoft Surface Pro 6Perfectly Light, Incredibly Powerful Travel Laptop running Windows 10 Home. / Buy on Amazon

The top five computers on this list are considered “mid-range” computers. They’re popular laptops on the market and have a price point of between $1,000 and $1,700. When it comes to buying a new computer, I highly recommend sticking within the mid-range class of computers.

You can always spend more; however, spending less is more of a gamble. Anytime I’ve purchased “cheap” or “budget” computers, they’ve always failed within a year or two.

Buying a computer is an investment. If you purchase a mid-range computer, there’s a better chance it will last you the next four years of college.

Black Friday Mac Deals 2019

If you don’t plan on using your computer every day, then you can get away with a less expensive computer. However, for engineers or engineering students, you’ll be typing away at your computer a good portion of your day, so you’ll want something reliable and will last.

Now, let’s jump into the top five engineering laptops, and what makes them so good.

Dell Precision 5530

Dell is a recognizable name when it comes to both business and personal computers, so it’s no surprise that their Precision 5530 is at the top of the list. The Precision 5530 is a sleek but powerful computer, which is why it finds itself at the top of the list.

Dell Precision 5530
ProcessorHexa-core 2.6 GHz Intel i7-8850H
Screen Size15.6″
Weight3.92 lbs
Check price on Amazon / Buy from Dell

This computer boasts a lot of power for such a small profile. If you’re looking to get into automation and controls engineering or enjoy developing software using Windows or Linux, this would be a great model to pick up. I had one of these computers at my old engineering job, and it was a powerhouse.

MacBook Pro

On the other hand, if you’d rather have a Mac, I’d immediately jump to the MacBook Pro. It’s portable and has the power to keep up with intense workloads. Plus, you don’t have to worry about Windows 10 ads and the next crazy virus.

The MacBook Pro lasts a LONG time, so I recommend spending the most you’re willing to on it because you might end up having it for the next 4+ years.

I’m typing away on a MacBook Pro, that I bought brand-new back in 2012. It’s seen some major upgrades, but overall it’s been one of the best investments I’ve made.

If you want a computer that will last forever (and still be fast and upgradeable), you can’t go wrong getting a MacBook Pro.

MacBook Pro 15″
RAM16 GB or 32 GB
Processor2.6GHz 6-core Intel Core i7
Screen Size15.4″
SSD256 GB or 512 GB
Weight4.02 lbs
Check price on Apple / Amazon

Lenovo Thinkpad P52s

Another great option is the Lenovo Thinkpad P52s. This laptop combines the power of an engineering workstation with the portability of a laptop. If you a laptop that screams “hardcore engineer”, this would be my pick.

Lenovo Thinkpad P52s
RAM16 GB or 32 GB
Processor4-core Intel Core i7-8550U
Screen Size15.6″
SSD512 GB or 1 TB
Weight4.30 lbs
Check price on Amazon

This computer could easily take the most strenuous Matlab scripts, 3D graphics and CAD modeling, and controls. It is a little bit heavier than some other options, but a solid choice overall.

ASUS ZenBook 14

If you’re looking for a sleek and light Windows computer, then look no further! The ASUS ZenBook has incredible design and portability. It’s not just pretty looking too.

The ASUS ZenBook has passed ultra-demanding MIL-STD-810G testing, which means it can withstand harsh environments including extreme altitudes, temperatures, and humidity.

ASUS ZenBook 14
RAM16 GB or 32 GB
Processor4-core Intel Core i7-8550U
Screen Size14″
Weight3.09 lbs
Check price on Amazon

Microsoft Surface Pro 6

Furthermore, another portable option is the Microsoft Surface Pro 6. The majority of the people I’ve seen with a Surface have a secondary laptop they use for longer periods. Their Surface laptop is what they use for traveling or to jot down notes.

If you want to use the Surface Pro 6 as your daily driver, I’d recommend buying the model with an Intel Core i7, 16 GB RAM, 512 GB SSD or more. It will be more expensive, but it will allow you to be more productive without investing in a second computer.

Microsoft Surface Pro 6
RAM8 GB or 16 GB
ProcessorIntel Core 8th Gen i5 or i7
Screen Size12.3″
SSD128GB, 256GB, 512GB, or 1TB
Weight1.00 lbs
Check price on Amazon

If you pick the Surface Pro 6, I highly recommend investing in an external monitor, keyboard, and mouse. This is especially important if you plan on working on the computer for long periods of the day. Tiny screens are great for portability, but not so great for seeing multiple windows simultaneously.

Mac or Windows for Engineering?

Mac vs Windows has been a hot topic since those early 2000’s commercials with Justin Long.

And, well those most recent commercials with the guy named Mac Book.

Regardless of what side you’re on, you can choose a Mac or Windows computer for engineering. You’ll have more options when it comes to Windows computers. However, you can also grab a copy of Windows 10 and dual boot your Mac.

I recommend picking the computer that will help you be more productive with the things you’re trying to do. If you enjoy working on macOS, then get a MacBook Pro. If all the software you use is primarily Windows-only, then dual-boot your MacBook or pick up the Dell Precision 5530 or the Lenovo Thinkpad P52s.

Engineering Laptops on a $500 Budget

In this section, we’re going to explore a few decent options if you’re looking for an engineering laptop around a $500 budget.

You get what you pay for when it comes to computers, so I only recommend going cheap on a computer if you have no other option.

Acer Aspire 5 Slim Review

The Acer Aspire 5 is a good budget laptop running Windows 10 Home. It includes an Intel Core i5, which is the bare minimum I would get for an engineering laptop.

There’s speculation that this laptop can run for over 9-hours on a single charge, which is awesome for a budget pick.

Acer Aspire 5 Slim
Processor8th Gen Intel Core i5-8265U
Screen Size15.6″
Weight3.92 lbs
Check price on Amazon

You can also opt for an Intel Core i7 for an extra $200. However, if you plan on spending $700 or more, there are better options out there for engineering computers.

Lenovo Ideapad S340 Review

The Lenovo Ideapad S340 is another budget option for engineering students. This model has an Intel i3 processor and a fusion of both solid-state drives and mechanical hard disk drives. At just under $500, this is a good option for people looking for a mix of style, portability, and usability.

Lenovo Ideapad S340
ProcessorDual-Core Intel i3-8145U
Screen Size15.6″
Weight3.96 lbs
Check price on Amazon

Dell Inspiron 15 5000 Review

Lastly, I recommend checking out the Dell Inspiron 15 5000 if you’re willing to sacrifice your budget for portability.

This laptop is much heavier than the other picks out there, but it does have an Intel i5, 8 GB RAM and a 1 TB mechanical HDD. It won’t boot up as fast as its SSD counterpart, but for $525, it isn’t a bad option.

Dell Inspiron 15 5000
ProcessorQuad-Core 8th Gen Intel i5-8265U
Screen Size15.6″
Weight4.8 lbs
Check price on Amazon

Laptops under $500 are not ideal for years of use and abuse. You can expect to replace these laptops after a few years of engineering school. Be sure you back up your documents either on the cloud (Google Drive, DropBox, etc.) or with an external hard drive.

Gaming Laptops worth noting

Lastly, if you happen to be looking for an engineering laptop that you can also play video games on, then these are some of my picks.

If you’re big into gaming, you’ll know that gaming on a laptop isn’t as great as gaming on a desktop computer with enhanced and accelerated graphics, memory, and processing power. I wanted to provide these as an option in case you’re looking to achieve both with your new investment.

Razer Blade RTX 2070 Review

If that doesn’t scream sleek and sophisticated, I don’t know what will. The Razer Blade is the counterpart to the MacBook Pro for gaming on the go.

If you need a Windows computer for any or all of the reasons below, then I highly recommend checking out the Razer Blade RTX 2070.

Razer Blade RTX 2070
Processor6 Core Intel i7-8750H
Screen Size15.6″
Weight4.63 lbs
Check price on Amazon

Are you…

  1. …using Engineering software;
  2. …a Windows ride-or-die kind of person;
  3. …an avid gamer…;
  4. …someone who needs portability and style;

Then, this computer is for you.

I know a lot of Mac-to-Windows people who found this computer to be a great pick if you want the feel of a Mac while working in Windows.

Acer Predator Helios 300 Gaming Laptop PC Review

Like the Razer Blade, the Acer Predator Helios 300 is a popular choice when it comes to gaming laptops without the $2300 price tag.

When I think of gaming laptops, I think of the Predator series. It’s a classic choice.

Acer Predator Helios 300 Gaming Laptop PC, 15.6"...
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1660 Ti Graphics with 6GB of dedicated GDDR6 VRAM
Acer Predator Helios 300
Processor6 Core Intel i7-9750H
Screen Size15.6″
Weight5.07 lbs
Check price on Amazon

I recommend upgrading to the 512 GB model so that you don’t run out of space within a year of picking this computer up. You can also opt for an external hard drive.

Lenovo y700 15 Review

Update February 2020: Amazon does not have the Lenovo y700 for sale anymore. You can buy it used or check out the Lenovo IdeaPad y700.

Lenovo ideaPad Y700 17.3" Full HD Gaming Notebook...
Intel Core i7-6700HQ processor, 2.6GHz; 17.3" LED-Lit, FHD, anti-glare, IPS display, 1920x1080 resolution
Lenovo Y700 - 15.6 FHD Gaming Laptop (Intel Quad...
15.6" Full HD Display With 1920x1080p Resolution; Storage 1TB HDD + 256GB SSD, 16 GB DDR4 RAM

Lastly, I wanted to mention the Lenovo y700 15 laptop because it’s both a gaming laptop, but it’s an affordable choice.

It has an Intel i7, 8 GB RAM, and fusion 256 GB HDD and a 1 TB SSD. Not too bad for an $1100 price point.

Lenovo y700 15
ProcessorQuad-Core Intel i7
Screen Size15.6″
Weight5.72 lbs
Check price on Amazon

There are plenty of other gaming options out there, and as I mentioned before, if you’re an avid gamer, you’ll probably want to build your custom PC rather than settling for a laptop. But for those of you who want to play Fortnite between classes, these are some great picks.

P.S. If you’re looking for Laptop Stickers, you can design your own or pick up the Learn Robotics Sticker Pack!

Download the Remaining List of Top Engineering Laptops

Ready to buy your next engineering laptop? I’ve put together a printable list you can use to make your shopping experience easier. Get the full list of the best engineering laptops! Just enter your email below and receive a free copy!

Here’s your download!

Here’s your free download!

Top 20 Engineering Laptops Spreadsheet

Which laptop are you most interested in having? Did I miss an awesome pick?
Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

Liz Miller Learn Robotics

Attention: Engineer Wanting a Career in Robotics

Liz here 👋, Engineer,  Robotics Expert & founder of this website.

If I offered to help you advance your 6-Figure+ Robotics, Automation, or AI Career with a $10,000 sign-on bonus in the next 90 days or less…

…without wasting time on unnecessary certifications…
…without studying another coding language or tactic…
…without needing to get another degree and wasting years…

…would you take me up on that offer?

LIMITED SPACE: I have 2 more client spots open this week!

Want a spot? Click the button to access my 12-min training below and then apply if it makes sense.

3 Responses

  1. Very hard written article, Thanks for sharing with us, keep writing this type of the article.

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