Network and information security have come a long way from being a small niche to a vast-scoped segment in the digital technologies realm. Given the unprecedented growth of digital users and significant improvements in digital technologies, the dependency on cybersecurity has grown by leaps and bounds. Security-focused operating systems and specialized software have a major role to play in augmenting network and information security technologies.
For years, Kali Linux, a distribution software (distro) from Linux, has been the go-to choice for network and information security professionals. The software, with the inclusion of a wide variety of tools, also presents itself as a great learning environment for students who have network security, information security, ethical hacking, and cybersecurity as their specialization(s). The balance of open-source nature as well as band limitations is what makes Kali Linux a versatile as well as secure distro for information security professionals and students to experiment with.
Compared to several other security-focused OSes and specialization software, Kali Linux is fairly lightweight. Meaning, you do not necessarily require top-of-the-line hardware configuration. But that being said, it’s advisable not to lower your options to low-end specifications as you may not know what awaits you in your ethical hacking journey. Before your start exploring our list of 10 best laptops for Kali Linux, we’d recommend checking our minimum hardware requirement sheet. Balancing hardware specifications with your ethical hacking requirements will help you avoid laptops that are an underkill or overkill (computing and budget-wise) for what you plan to do.
Minimum Kali Linux Laptop Compatibility Check
CPU – i5 processor with at least 4 cores will help you apply the wide range of tools available in Kali Linux.
RAM – Running plenty of virtual machines while working on different tools requires more memory. A minimum of 16 GB of RAM is recommended for these types of tasks.
GPU – Kali Linux isn’t graphics-intensive. However, you can use a dedicated graphics card to your seamless computing advantage when working on GPU-assisted password breaking and brute force tools with CUDA support.
Storage – A minimum of 256 GB of SSD storage is what you want to look out for. Having a 1 TB of HDD storage will help you keep a general purpose OS (e.g. Windows) as well as Kali Linux.
Ports – Since it’s recommended to use external wireless adapters for deploying wireless attacks, choosing a laptop with good porting options (USB 2s and USB 3s) will help you customize your mobile workstation as per your unique requirements.
Review of Best Laptops for Kali Linux
Lenovo ThinkPad P53s – power of a desktop with mobility
Desktops are the general recommendation when it comes to getting the most out of computing, multitasking, and thermal management performance. However, the immobile design of desktops is what makes them lag behind when compared to laptops. And when companies like Lenovo strive to offer desktop-class performance in laptops, you don’t have to compromise on the tradeoff between mobility and performance.
Lenovo ThinkPad P53s packs right hardware configuration that can suffice for most of your Kali Linux-based ethical hacking requirements. Although primarily designed for professionals, this laptop can become a long-term powerful computer for students having security-related specializations. The thought-out combination of an 8th generation Intel i7 4 core CPU and NVIDIA Quadro P520 GPU with 2GB of DDR5 memory is highly suitable for resource allocation that’s needed when running multiple virtual machines in one go. And if you want to work on other tasks while running virtual machines, such as coding, managing data sheets, and doing web-based research, 16GB DDR4 RAM of the laptop is there to back you up. Overall, the marriage of a powerful CPU, GPU, and RAM gives this model the performance of the likes of some of the best laptops for Kali Linux.
In the storage department, Lenovo ThinkPad P53s includes 512GB of SSD storage. The fast read and write capabilities of the SSD storage helps you access all your important files on the fly. The laptop includes great porting options as well; it includes one Thunderbolt 3 port, one Type C USB port, two USB 3 ports, one HDMI port, and one microSD card reader. Also, this particular model comes with a portable USB 3 data hub which helps you further expand your connectivity options.
- Desktop-like performance
- Good keyboard ease text-heavy tasks associated with Kali Linux.
- Not the best aesthetics
Acer Predator Triton 500 – hardware sweet spot for Kali Linux requirement
For anyone who is seeking to get their hands on a powerful hardware configuration, laptops in the gaming territory hold the perfect solution. Acer Predator Triton 500 has a well-balanced hardware configuration that isn’t an overkill for your Kali Linux-based ethical hacking requirements. Unlike other high-end gaming laptops, this model isn’t priced overly high, but it still delivers uncompromised performance that’s usually reserved for the premium range.
Although primarily a gaming laptop, Acer Predator Triton 500 deserves a good spot among several best laptops for ethical hacking as well. Why? The reason is its top of the line NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2060 GPU. The more number of CUDA cores in the GPU helps you seamlessly run several brute force tracking tools that have CUDA support. Working together with the GPU is a 9th generation Intel i7 6 core CPU that delivers gaming-grade performance which can easily take on Kali Linux-based requirements. A 16 GB DDR4 RAM joins the performance league of the powerful GPU and CPU.
The 3 fan cooling system of this laptop works wonders in maintaining consistency in performance. If you plan to directly install Kali Linux on your laptop instead of configuring it via a bootable USB flash drive, you can use the laptop’s 512GB of SSD storage capacity for fast, uninterrupted access. The 144 Hz refresh rate of the laptop’s 15.6 inch full HD display delivers lag-free visuals.
- Gaming-grade performance suffices for running Kali Linux tools
- Good thermal management
- Weight is a bit on the heavier side
HP Envy 17t – outcompetes some of the best laptops for pentesting
HP is one of the few brands that do not hold back when it comes to configuring powerful hardware in their higher-range laptops. A perfect example of this is the brand’s Envy 17t model; HP has effortlessly balanced powerful hardware configuration with modern aesthetics of the likes of premium laptops in this model.
HP Envy 17t can be categorized as one of the best laptops for pentesting (penetration testing) as it sports a whopping 32 GB DDR4 RAM. When running multiple virtual machines under one single console, you require a good amount of RAM. With this laptop, memory doesn’t become a bottleneck in any way. And regardless of the memory allocation Linux and Windows targets require, the vast memory pool of the laptop’s 32 GB RAM will back you up through and through. Further augmenting the unfaltering spirit of the RAM is an 8th generation Intel i7 4 core processor which can efficiently handle Kali Linux-based pentesting tools such as Nikto, John the Ripper, and BeEF. The NVIDIA GeForce MX series GPU also helps HP Envy 17 T outperform many in the GPU-assisted password breaking game.
The combination of 512GB of SSD storage and 1TB of HDD storage capacity makes this laptop an unmistakable repository for all your Kali Linux and ethical hacking-related essentials. Also, the 17.3 inch footprint of the laptops full HD display helps you avoid visual clutters when working on multiple virtual machines and opening several other software and files.
- Best-in-class RAM
- Uncompromised performance
- Weight is heavy
Asus ZenBook 14 – power meets portability
Putting powerful performance, ultra-modern aesthetics, portable body design, and durability in the mix is a challenging feat. But Asus has shown the world how it’s done in many of its high-end laptops, one of the best ones being the ZenBook 14. Whether you are a network and information security professional or a student, if you want to factor in portability alongside powerful performance, you can’t go wrong with Asus ZenBook 14.
Headlining the core computing configuration of this laptop is a 10th generation Intel i7 6 core CPU and NVIDIA GeForce MX250 GPU. Together with a 16 GB DDR4 RAM, the CPU and GPU make this model fly at multitasking. Unlike many laptops, accessibility is placed in high priority in Asus ZenBook 14. Its innovative touch-enabled trackpad helps you seamlessly switch from one app to another, making your ethical hacking experience a smooth-sailing one.
In terms of porting options, the laptops sports one USB 2 and one USB 3 port. The limitation in the standard USB ports is compensated by one USB Type C port. Also, you get one HDMI port, one ethernet port, one SD card reader, and one audio input jack. Apart from the 14 inch display footprint of this laptop, its 2.78 pounds of lightweight body design augments its portability factor. It’s worth mentioning that the typing experience on Asus ZenBook 14 is unlike any other. The laptop’s hinge tilts the keyboard and creates an optimum typing position which is beneficial when working on Kali Linux-based text editor.
- Fast performance
- Lightweight and modern body design
- No Thunderbolt 3 port
2020 HP Pavilion 15.6 inch – defying the mid-range offering convention
Looking for a well-suited performance for Kali Linux-based ethical hacking in a laptop doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to shell out a high budget. Students who are studying ethical hacking don’t necessarily have to go for premium-range laptops as mid-range models are sufficing. One such model is the 2020 HP Pavilion 15.6 inch. Despite its mid-range positioning, this laptop covers all the important aspects of delivering a powerful and consistent performance.
A powerful multi-threaded CPU is one of the biggest requisites for a good Kali Linux-laptop compatibility. And 2020 HP Pavilion 15.6 inch checks this box with its 10th generation Intel i7 4 core processor that is capable of delivering a peak power of up to 3.9 GHz. An Intel Iris Plus GPU is paired with the CPU to handle mid-level graphics requirements. Using different Kali Linux-based tools while running multiple virtual machines in the background requires high-bandwidth memory allocation. Thanks to the 16 GB DDR4 RAM that this laptop can handle intensive multitasking requirements.
And out of what you least expect from a mid-tier laptop, this 2020 HP Pavilion 15.6 inch breaks the mid-range offering convention with its 1TB SSD storage. With the high storage capacity, you get the freedom to install plenty of Kali Linux add-ons in order to improve your ethical hacking skills or make your tasks easier. Porting options are standard in this laptop; it includes two USB 3 ports, one USB Type C port, 1 HDMI port, 1 ethernet port, 1 media card reader, and 1 headphone/audio input jack.
- Best-in-class mid-range offering
- Backlit keyboard
- No Thunderbolt 3 port
MSI GS63VR Stealth Pro-230 – unadulterated performance with consistency
Learning Kali Linux-based ethical hacking tools is one thing, applying them for simulations and solving real-world problems is quite another. Ethical hacking experts and Kali Linux users know that deploying ethical hacking tools on high-bandwidths require substantial processing power and RAM, and a good graphics processing power for GPU-assisted deployments. MSI GS63VR Stealth Pro-230 offers the right computing platform for cybersecurity professionals as well as students with its well-calibrated hardware configuration.
The combination of the laptop’s 7th generation Intel i7 4 core processor and 16 GB DDR4 RAM can efficiently handle virtual machines even when you max out their settings. MSI GS63VR Stealth Pro-230 benefits from a high graphics processing power with its NVIDIA GTX 1060 GPU that has 6GB of DDR5 memory. It is a fact that gaming laptops have some of the best thermal management systems, this is true with MSI GS63VR Stealth Pro-230 as well. You can use the laptop’s innovative 3 fan cooling system to your performance consistency advantage.
Also, with this laptop, you are ensured that you aren’t short of storage options with 256 GB of SSD storage and 1TB of HDD storage capacity. You also get to enjoy good viewing angles that the laptop’s 15.6 inch full HD display offers. MSI has prioritized good connectivity options in this model. With the laptop, you get three USB 3 ports, one USB 2 port, one Thunderbolt 3 port, one mini display port, one HDMI port, one ethernet port, one headphone port, and one mic port.
- High-performance hardware configuration
- Premium look and feel
- Weight is a bit heavy
Razer Blade Stealth 13 – heavyweight performance in an ultra-light chassis
There are very few laptops in the 13 inch footprint territory that deliver performance of the likes of larger-sized laptops, and the Razer Blade Stealth 13 is one. Compared to high-performance 13 inch laptops like the MacBook Pro 13 inch, this model is in a league of its own, thanks to the ultra-powerful hardware configuration that it employs. Although this laptop is positioned in the gaming territory, it does not have obvious gaming aesthetics common to many high-end gaming laptops. As such, it can highly suit your cybersecurity profile.
Razer Blade Stealth 13 joins the league of some of the best laptops for hacking for cybersecurity with its Intel i7 4 core CPU and 16 GB DDR4 RAM. The high processing power on the CPU helps you get the advantage of trying more number of network security keys per second when working on Wi-Fi hacking. On the other hand, the laptop’s RAM makes your multitasking experience a breeze. Razer Blade Stealth 13 performs equally well in the graphics processing department with its NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650 Max-Q GPU.
Adding more speed to the overall performance of this laptop is the fast read and write capabilities of 512GB of SSD storage. Despite the compact footprint of the display, its thin bezels design opens up screen size. Razer has put the compact design of the Blade Stealth 13 to portability advantage by keeping its body weight in check at just 3.13 pounds.
- High performance
- Sleek and lightweight chassis
- Can run hot during heavy loads
Gigabyte Aero 17 – delivers all the computing power you’ll ever need
Gigabyte Aero 17 is one of the few laptops that come close to offering desktop-like performance with top of the line hardware configuration. From the display to the typing experience, every feature of the laptop has been designed to ensure that you aren’t short of accessing desktop-grade computing experience.
One of the biggest highlights of Gigabyte Aero 17 is its 9th generation Intel i9 8 core CPU. The higher core numbers of the CPU makes cracking passwords and running multiple virtual machines a smooth-sailing experience. Coming on par with the high-end CPU is the laptop’s NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1660 Ti GPU that has 6 GB of DDR6 memory. Also, resource management (in terms of computing) is off the charts. The laptop uses Microsoft Azure AI to determine and automatically adjust the best CPU and GPU wattage based on the types of tasks users are engaged with. This helps improve consistency in performance.
Gigabyte Aero 17 comes with 512GB of SSD storage; the extra SSD slots included in the laptop makes it easy for you to expand the storage capacity. Also, this laptop has one of the biggest screen real estate, thanks to its 17.3 inches display that has thin bezels design. Overall, the premium build quality of this laptop totally justifies the price point that it is available at. In terms of connectivity options, this laptop includes two USB 3 ports, one USB gen 2 port, one Thunderbolt 3 port, one USB display port, one HDMI port, one Ethernet port, and one headphone/mic input.
- Fast processing power
- Premium build quality
- Weight is a bit heavy
Dell Vostro 15 5590 – power packed in a sleek profile
When it comes to offering immense value to customers with thoughtfully-priced laptops, Dell knows best. From low-end models to premium range offerings, Dell makes sure that value users deserve isn’t compromised in any way. This is certainly true with the Dell Vostro 15 5590. This laptop covers all the important aspects, including performance, design, high-quality build, portability, and scalability.
The laptop’s trio of a 10th generation Intel i7 4 core CPU, NVIDIA GeForce MX 250 GPU, and 16 GB DDR4 RAM brings it into the Kali Linux-recommended hardware configuration territory. With the CPU’s capability of delivering a peak computing power of up to 4.9 GHz, you don’t have to worry about performance insufficiencies regardless of the type of ethical hacking tasks you need to work on. Also, the 512GB SSD storage capacity of Dell Vostro 15 5590 helps you have quick access to all the important files that you plan on storing in the computer.
The 15.6 inch full HD display of this laptop improves your viewing experience with the combination of anti glare screen and thin bezels design. Two USB 3 ports, one USB 2 port, one USB Type C port, one ethernet port, one HDMI port, one micro SD card reader, and one headphone/mic jack come included with Dell Vostro 15 5590.
- Well-suited performance for ethical hacking
- Premium build quality
- Weight is a bit heavy
Dell XPS 15 – the quintessential premium laptop
Dell XPS 15 sets a fine example of what it takes to be a premium-range laptop. It comes in a bold price tag, but you get more than what you’ve paid for in this model. A high-quality design is the first criteria of any high-end laptop. And as you’d expect, this laptop scores a high point in the body design category. Its sleek profile not just makes it look modern but also contributes to its portability.
For ethical hacking professionals and students, one of the biggest hardware features that’s in store for them in Dell XPS 15 is a 9th generation Intel i7 6 core processor. The CPU can crank up to 4.5 GHz of computing power. Equally powerful is the laptop’s NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650 GPU with 4GB DDR5 memory. A 16GB DDR4 RAM completes the core computing ensemble of this laptop. Another important hardware feature of Dell XPS 15 is a 1TB of SSD storage capacity which helps you store all your Kali Linux and ethical hacking essentials.
Also, the Killer wireless chipset integrated in this laptop helps you augment the power of several Kali Linux-based penetration testing tools, making your ethical hacking tasks easier and hassle-free. A plenty of connectivity options, including two USB 3 ports, one Thunderbolt 3 port, one HDMI port, one ethernet port, one headphone/mic input, and one SD card reader make Dell XPS 15 a formidable workhorse.
- Well-calibrated CPU and GPU performance
- High-quality build
- Not the best trackpad
1) What are the best laptops for Kali Linux?
There are no laptops that are specifically designed to run Kali Linux. However, there are models (listed above) that meet the hardware requirements for the Linux distribution software. Although Kali Linux is lightweight, having an i5 multithreaded CPU, 16 GB RAM (or more), and a dedicated graphics card will help you use all the tools available in the software to their full potential.
2) What laptops do hackers use?
Laptops ranging from mid-tier to high-end hardware configuration are the preferred choice of professional ethical hackers. OS and/or specialization software preferences depend from one hacker to another.
3) How much RAM does Kali Linux need?
16 GB of RAM will help you run multiple virtual machines and use several Kali Linux-based tools at the same time. 8 GB RAM will work for you if you are just starting out in learning to use the hacking tools available in Kali Linux.
There’s no one-size-fits-all hardware configuration-based solution to ethical hacking requirements as not all cybersecurity requirements are the same. In your case, we’d recommend evaluating your Kali Linux-based ethical hacking requirement first and then look for a laptop with a hardware configuration that’s the closest match. In order to make the laptop (you’ve chosen) meet all your requirements, we’d recommend taking the customization approach. For example, if you are into penetration testing or want to learn the skill using packet injection, you’ll need a compatible wireless chip. In that case, it’s advisable to use an external USB wireless adapter that has good packet injection compatibility and a good range.
Also, if you have a lightweight requirement, a limited budget, and want to go for a low to mid-tier laptop, there’s no wrong in that. If your ethical hacking requirement changes down the road, you can go for the cloud computing option to temporarily access the hardware configuration you need. For example, you can rent a virtual private server that has an 8 (or more) cores CPU, 16 GB RAM, high-performing GPU, and 512 GB SSD (or more) storage.