Using a laptop when attending college isn’t just a trend anymore, it has become a necessity, especially for engineering students. Sure, engineering colleges do have well-setup workstations in the computer labs, but using one for all your academic needs isn’t usually a feasible option. Your productivity can go down the drain if you have to come to college at unusual hours to use the lab computer when preparing for tests and finals or when projects are due.
From taking notes and preparing reports to using engineering software such as MATLAB, Fusion 360, and SolidWorks, having your own laptop means you can study and prepare at your convenience. But we aren’t talking just about any laptop here; choosing the right laptop is just as important as making the decision to buy one in the first place. Whether you have a limited budget or are planning to put more money into buying a high-end model, we’ve got you covered with our hand-picked list of some of the best laptops for engineering students. But before you proceed to checking out the list, we recommend going through this minimum requirement specs sheet to help you narrow down your options.
CPU – Intel core i5 processors are a practical option for running engineering software; they can crush regular tasks such as web browsing, creating spreadsheets, and preparing PowerPoint presentations.
RAM – 8 GB of RAM is the minimum requirement for engineering students. 16 GB RAM or above is highly recommended if your engineering specialization requires you to regularly use PTC Mathcad, MATLAB, OpenSees, SolidWorks or other engineering software.
GPU – Dedicated graphics with 2 GB DDR4 memory is what you want to look for if you are pursuing computer and mechanical engineering. It will help you get through programming, machine learning, and 3D rendering in CAD software.
Portability – The combination of lightweight body design and compact display size will help you get the most out of portability. The maximum display size we recommend going for is 15 inches.
Storage space – If you are just beginning college, you’ll need a lot of storage space on your laptop. 500 GB of SSD storage is the minimum recommendation. 1 TB of HDD storage will help you have all your academic essentials at your disposal.
Battery life – A good battery life is what will help power your laptop throughout multiple classes and lecture sessions. 3 hours of continuous battery backup is highly recommended.
Review of top laptops for engineering students
1) Microsoft Surface Book 2 – your perfect college companion
Engineering college-goers know that there isn’t just one type of task that is to be completed with each passing semester. As an engineering student (regardless of your specialization), you are required to work on various tasks such as preparing reports and presentations, and completing projects and surveys. Also, in-class laptop-based activities such as taking notes, reviewing published articles, going through different case studies, and other web-based research will be your everyday tasks. Therefore, having a laptop that’s as versatile as your multifaceted in-class tasks will help you streamline your college routine.
Microsoft Surface Book 2 is one of our tops picks in the versatility category. It’s innovative 2-in1 (laptop and tablet) design undoubtedly makes it one of the best laptops for engineering students. Many engineering students will agree that note-taking is one of the most tedious tasks that they have to deal with on a regular basis; and it’s something that you cannot skip during classes. However, the tablet mode of the Microsoft Surface Book 2 can save you from this hassle. When combined with the Surface Pen and the OneNote note-taking app, the tablet mode helps you prepare amazing notes in a jiffy.
This laptop is a total win for you specs-wise as well. Under its 2-in-1 chassis, the Microsoft Surface Book 2 houses a marriage of the powerful 7th generation Intel core i5 CPU, Intel HD Graphics 620 GPU, 8 GB RAM. Its 13.5 inches display footprint makes it one of the most portable laptops around. Contributing more to its portability is the laptop’s lightweight body which weighs at 3.38 pounds. The 256 GB SSD storage suffices for your storage needs.
- Powerful performance
- Laptop and tablet mode
- Not the best storage
- Compatible accessories (Surface Pen and Surface Dial) come separately
2) Acer Spin 3 – versatility in a budget
Acer Spin 3 convertible laptop picks up where Microsoft Surface Book 2 left off. And while doing so, the laptop brings more features to the table, and that too in an affordable price range. If you are a visual learner who likes to get proper grasps of even the most complex concepts, Acer Spin 3 is the right laptop for you. Why? The tablet mode of the laptop helps you make note-taking a creative and immersive experience. There are plenty of good note-taking apps/software available that can augment the versatility of Acer Spin 3’s tablet mode.
Unlike the Surface Book 2, Acer Spin 3 includes a snappy stylus which you can use for taking notes and creating reports and spreadsheets. The best part? The charging dock of the stylus is the laptop itself. It’s not just the convertible design that puts Acer Spin 3 under the category of some of the best engineering laptops. The laptop doesn’t lag behind in any area when it comes to performing as a powerful laptop. Its 8th generation Intel core i7 CPU and Intel UHD Graphics 620 GPU, with the support of 16 GB DDR4 RAM, give you access to unfailing computing power.
The laptop’s 512 GB SSD storage lets you have quick access to all the files you’ve stored, making it easier for you to load important ones during classes. Entertainment and security aren’t compromised. The laptop’s 14 inch full HD display houses front-facing speakers while the trackpad includes a highly-responsive fingerprint reader.
- Innovative convertible design
- Well-optimized performance
- Limitations in connectivity options
3) MSI Creator 15 M – the all-rounder powerhouse
MSI doesn’t play around when it comes to offering desktop-class performance in their laptops, and the MSI Creator 15 M is a clear example of this. Due to its best-in-class hardware configuration, MSI Creator 15 M positions itself among some of the top laptops for engineering students who have 3D CAD, high-level programming, and machine learning as their specialization.
Providing the MSI Creator 15 M with an undisputed level of computing power is its 9th generation Intel core i7 processor. The CPU can clock up to 4.5 GHz to ensure performance isn’t compromised even when running processing-intensive software. The laptop’s strength lies in its GPU department as well; the NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2060 GPU can handle all your graphics-intensive requirements such as rendering 3D CAD models and arranging. Multitasking isn’t a problem at all with this laptop, thanks to its 16 GB DDR4 RAM. Also, MSI Creator 15 M excels in the storage department with its 1 TB SSD storage capacity.
This laptop comes as one of the best choices in terms of battery life as well. The 6 to 7 hours of battery backup of this laptop helps you have uninterrupted access to a powerful performance. In many laptops, powerful hardware configuration affects the portability factor. But this isn’t the case with MSI Creator 15 M. Despite its workhorse internals, the laptop’s thinness measures at 0.86 inches and weight averages at 4.10 pounds.
- Powerful CPU and GPU
- Thin body design
- Fan gets loud at times
4) Lenovo ThinkPad P53s – sheer power and durability
Lenovo ThinkPad P53s is the last laptop with the 15 inches footprint in our list before we move on to 13 inches models. ThinkPads are often considered highly suitable for business people and working professionals. But this particular model breaks the barriers as one of the best Lenovo laptops for engineering students by offering powerful performance, great storage, and good battery life in a portable form factor.
It’s a sure bet that the hardware configuration of Lenovo ThinkPad P53s will not fail to impress even the most tech savvy engineering students. Specification rundown of this laptop starts with its 8th generation Intel core i7 CPU that can crank up to 4.60 GHz of processing power. In line with the top-of-the-line CPU is the laptop’s NVIDIA Quadro P520 GPU that offers all the graphics processing power needed for using high-level CAD software, machine learning, and HD rendering. Lenovo ThinkPad P53s also outperforms many with its whooping 24 GB DDR4 RAM.
If your engineering specialization requires you to regularly work on CAD software, you’ll need to store a lot of CAD files. And for that you’ll need plenty of storage space. With the Lenovo ThinkPad P53s’ 1 TB SSD storage, saving all your college essentials won’t be a problem. Battery life of the laptop averages at 6 to 7 hours which is enough for you to get through the day at college. Apart from being thinner than other ThinkPads, this model’s 15.6 inches full HD display offers good viewing angles which contributes to its overall portability.
- Desktop-class performance
- Durable build
- Fan gets a bit loud at times
5) Razer Blade Stealth 13 – power meets portability
13 inch laptops offer the best portability which is why they are the go-to choice for college-goers. The Razer Blade Stealth 13 is one of the few laptops that offers desktop-class performance in the portable 13 inch footprint. One of the biggest highlights that make Razer Blade Stealth 13 stand out in the 13 inch footprint territory is its powerful NVIDIA GeForce MX150 GPU. In fact, this model is one of the few 13 inch laptops to sport a dedicated graphics card. The laptop’s high graphics processing power can help you get your CAD, rendering, and machine learning work done without breaking a sweat.
Razer Blade Stealth 13’s core computing power lies in its 8th generation Intel i7 quad core processor. This laptop is perfect for multitasking, one of the biggest requirements that engineering and college students have. If you prefer browsing the web with multiple tabs opened while working on spreadsheets and listening to music at the same time, the 16 GB DDR4 RAM of this laptop will not let you down. The laptop’s 13 hours of battery backup is one of the most important elements that contribute to its portability. The long battery backup ensures that you do not miss out on any work that’s needed to be done in college.
Many laptop companies find it challenging to balance powerful performance with weight. However, that doesn’t seem to be a problem with Razer as the Blade Stealth 13 only weighs at 3 pounds despite its beefy hardware configuration. Razer Blade Stealth 13 catches attention with its stunning visuals as well. Its 13.3 inches full HD display offers good viewing angles with high color accuracy. We suggest getting this laptop only if you have computing-intensive requirements otherwise its price can be an overkill for you.
Powerful performance in a compact footprint
Great battery backup
Matte finish catches fingerprints and smudges
6) 2020 MacBook Air (512 GB version) – mobility without bounds
Apple happens to be one of the best laptop brands for engineering students and other college-goers. We couldn’t agree more as the brand has an ever-increasing cult following. However, MacBooks are more than just a trend in college campuses; they set themselves apart from others with a powerful performance that’s consistent through and through. As you’d know, Apple offers two series in its MacBook lineup, MacBook Air and MacBook Pro. The former will be the right choice for you if you don’t have intensive CPU and GPU processing requirements. Why? MacBook Airs, especially the 13 inch models, have a reputation of being one of the most lightweight, powerful, and portable laptops.
The 2020 MacBook Air carries all the features that made its predecessors popular. In addition, it also brings improved performance to the table. A larger part of MacBooks’ core strength lies in their operating system macOS as well. This is true with the 2020 MacBook Air which runs macOS Catalina. The OS runs smoothly even without shut-down operations for a long time. When you don’t have the time to save important files and shut down in-between classes, you can just put the MacBook Air to sleep and the ongoing programs will run just fine when you resume.
Coming to the bare bones of the new MacBook Air’s internals, the laptop employs a 10th generation Intel core i5 CPU that works with Intel Iris Plus Graphics GPU and 8 GB DDR4 RAM to deliver smooth performance. The laptop’s mid-level 512 GB SSD storage capacity suffices for storing important semester learnings. Like other MacBooks, the 2020 MacBook Air has a wide trackpad with the innovative force touch feature.
- Life-like visuals from the display
- Best-in-class portability
- Not the best webcam
7) HP ENVY 13.3 inch – style and performance edge over others
Many students tend to sacrifice portability over powerful performance when choosing a laptop. But you don’t have to walk that path as laptops like the HP ENVY 13 let you enjoy the best of both worlds. HP is one of the few companies that have been a trendsetter in laptop design over the years. The company’s love for sophisticated aesthetics can be seen in this HP ENVY 13.3 inches laptop. The laptop looks ultramodern with its thin bezels display and chamfered body design. Despite its all-metal build, this laptop fascinatingly weighs at just 2.6 pounds.
HP ENVY 13.3 inch leaves a mark with its powerful performance as well. Its CPU is an 8th generation Intel i7 quad core processor that can clock up to 4.5 GHz of computing power with turbo boost. Together with the NVIDIA GeForce MX250 GPU and 16 GB of DDR4 RAM, the CPU backs you up to complete all your college-related tasks on the fly. Also, HP ENVY 13.3 inch sets the bar of immersive and interactive viewing high with its 4K touchscreen display. With the laptop’s 512GB SSD storage capacity, you will not face any problem storing and have quick access to all your important files.
If you have to use your laptop for a long period of time as part of your in-class activities, the laptop’s 10 to 12 hours of battery backup will not let you down. Speaking of usage, the comfortable keyboard and wide trackpad of this laptop take ease of use to a new level. Also, security features of this laptop, including fingerprint reader and webcam kill switch ensure that your privacy is not compromised.
- Chic body design
- High-quality build
- Great combo of performance and portability
- Can run hot during intensive usage
8) Dell XPS 13.3 inch – the portable powerhouse
Dell leaves no path uncharted when it comes to staying strong in the ever-competitive laptop market. The company has set a strong foothold in the 13 inch footprint territory with several high-end models, one of the most valuable being the XPS 13.3 inch. Just like the high-end 13 inch laptops that we have listed above, the Dell XPS 13.3 inch packs a powerful performance in a sleek and portable chassis.
The well-calibrated combination of its core computing units, including an 8th generation Intel i7 quad core CPU, Intel UHD graphics 620 GPU, and 16 GB DDR4 RAM makes Dell XPS 13.3 inch one of the best laptops for budding engineers who have computing-intensive requirements. Inside its thin body, the laptop also packs a 52WHr battery that’s capable of delivering up to 8 hours of idle standby. It’s 512GB of SSD storage is just the right amount of storage capacity you need to quickly access all the files that you saved in the computer.
When it comes to the viewing quality of the 13.3 inches display, ultra high definition support does the talking. Just view and HD image or video and you will be drawn right in with stunning visuals that the thin bezels display offers. Also, the laptops patterned carbon fiber armrest offers good grip when typing.
- Powerful performance with portability
- Good battery life
- Weight is a bit on the heavier side
9) 2020 Dell Inspiron 14 inch – best of affordability and performance
Many engineering students prefer to have an affordable laptop as a less-powerful mobile computer alternative to their powerful desktop setup. If you fall into this category, you can’t go wrong in choosing the new Dell Inspiron 14 inch laptop. This laptop is perfect for you if you want an affordable option for regularly doing simple college-related tasks such as note-taking, creating presentations and spreadsheets, and doing web searches. This way, you can leave the more powerful computing duties to the college’s workstations or your beefed-up desktop rig at home.
Many people, from college-goers to working professionals, agree that the 14 inch footprint strikes a fine balance between the 13 inch and 15 inch models. This isn’t less true with 2020 Dell Inspiron as its 14 inch footprint does a good job of holding the middle ground. Its 10th generation Intel i5 quad core CPU, with the capability to clock up to 3.7 GHz of processing power, is a total win considering the price tag that this laptop comes with. An Intel ultra HD graphics GPU and 8 GB DDR4 RAM completes the core computing configuration of the 2020 Dell Inspiron 14 inch laptop.
Along with notably high processing power, you also get 256 GB of SSD storage capacity. The display isn’t the best, but it sure does help you get all of your college-related work done without any difficulties. In terms of body weight, this laptop is a tad heavier than compact 13 inch laptops as it weighs at just 4.41 pounds.
- Best of affordability
- Uncompromised performance
- No high resolution display
10) ASUS ZenBook 14 – innovative design for uncompromised practicality
ASUS has a reputation for innovating their products in order to offer the best value to consumers. ZenBook 14 carries the innovative spirit that ASUS bestows on its products. What’s most innovative about this laptop is its hinge that has a lifting mechanism. The hinge lifts the keyboard and creates an optimal typing position as you tilt the display backwards. The enhanced cooling system is another innovative feature in this laptop.
ASUS ZenBook 14 is not just about bells and whistles as it is strong in its performance roots as well. Whether you want to create in-depth reports or render high resolution 3D CAD models, a 4.9 GHz of overclocking computing power of the 10th generation Intel core i7 processor will not let you down. The NVIDIA GeForce MX250 GPU of the laptop works wonders in augmenting the processing power of the CPU. Intensive multitasking is handled well by an 8GB DDR3 RAM.
In the storage department, this laptop offers a 512GB of SSD storage capacity. Although a 14 inch model in size, the ASUS ZenBook 14 joins the league of 13 inch laptops in terms of portability with its 3.2 pounds of light weight body design. This laptop excels in battery backup as well; 7 to 8 hours of idle standby that the battery offers is enough for you to get through your day at the college.
- High computing power
- Good cooling system
- Not the best RAM
FAQs about laptops for engineering students
We have gone the extra mile to address all your concerns with these FAQs.
1) Does every engineering student need to have a powerful laptop?
Not necessarily. From a general point of view, the laptops and desktop computers that are recommended for engineering students are ones that have a reliable performance which does not lower over time. But of course, hardware configuration in laptops isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. If you have programming, product design, and algorithm training as your specialization, a laptop with powerful internals is a must-have for you. However, if you want to use a laptop for working on non-computing intensive academic tasks, a mid-range laptop will work fine for you.
2) Which is the right laptop for engineering students who need to work on CAD software like SolidWorks?
Laptops with Intel core i7 CPU and Nvidia or AMD GPU are a good choice for engineering students who are required to work on CAD software such as SolidWorks and CATIA. If you want detailed information on this, you can check our post on the 10 best laptops for SolidWorks .
3) Can engineering students totally rely on the college’s workstations and not buy a laptop?
This is one of the common concerns among engineering students who have just been accepted to college or are yet to take admissions. It’s a good option to use the college’s workstations as they have powerful hardware configuration and include licensed engineering software. However, relying on them for doing all your academic work is not a feasible option productivity-wise. For example, if you need a computer to complete your last-minute test/exam preparations, traipsing down the computer lab is something you’d want to avoid.
Balancing hardware specifications with your requirement and budget is the key phrase we are using to come to conclusion with this list. We recommend evaluating your requirements first, planning a specific budget, and then sifting through our list to choose the model that’s best for you. Best of Luck!