Best Laptop For Engineering Students & Engineers 2017

Finding the best laptop for Engineering Students

Whether you are into electrical , mechanical , computer , civil , software , chemical , aeronautical or even an aerospace engineering , you’ve probably become aware with the fact that you’ll be dealing a lot of different software that mainstream laptops may not be able to run. When I started my engineering studies I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to keep up with any of them unless I had the right specs on mine.

Depending on your particular field these applications can range from programming languages such as C++ , circuit simulators (SPICE) , CAD&CAE software and depending on your professor or curriculum there might be even more.

That’s not all…

You’ll also have to deal with a bunch of classes that will keep you staring at the screen for hours trying to understand how they arrived to that solution.

Ideally, you would also like a laptop that’s quite useful for every class and help you becoming an engineer right?

But…

If you browser around the web, it is very easy to fall into the trap that you need a very powerful, expensive and heavy laptop to succeed making the process of buying one very complicated.

The truth of the matter is….

It doesn’t have to be. As you’ll by the end of this article, it is quite simple and your laptop doesn’t have to be that powerful or extremely expensive. With a few exceptions, mostly professionals, the choice is ultimately yours.

What’s in this article?

A review of the best laptops for engineering students and engineers along with a guide on how to look for one yourself. By the end of it, you’ll be much more informed to buy a laptop that’s far more useful for all of your studies than the ones suggested all over the web. I advise you to go through the guide first by using the table of contents especially if you are an incoming student or don’t know much about your specific degree.

10 Best Laptops For Engineering Students & Engineers

For those who already know what to look and what their engineering program is all about, I’ll go through the best laptops for every type of engineering student.

 

 Best for your degree
  Must use another computer for 3D projects.

Dell XPS 13

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The Dell XPS 13 is probably the best  laptop for engineering students as of 2017.  Not only does it have a superb performance but it remains very lightweight (only 2.8lb) and has a long battery life (9 hours). These two features are extremely important  to increase your productivity and will make sure you won’t be wasting any second for your next exam as you’ll be able to have it with you anywhere and anytime so you can get back to study as soon as you can.

It can be configured depending on your budget and how much power you want starting with an i3 processor 4GB RAM  and 128GB SSD up to i7 core 1TB SSD 16GB RAM laptop but I assure you that the configuration presented here (i5 core, 8GB RAM and 256GB)  is more than sufficient to run all of your basic engineering applications without any lag or issues.

There are two versions when it comes to resolution: a touchscreen 4k resolution display and a fullHD (1080p) resolution display. For engineering applications & assignments you’ll find it more useful to stick with the configuration recommended here(full HD non-touch) to make sure you get as much battery life as you can.

None of its configurations has comes with a dedicated Graphics Card, as a result its performance with 3D designs and projects will be limited depending on your engineering field. If you are dealing with 3D design, then you might want to invest on the DELL XPS 15.

 Electrical , Computer , Chemical , Software Engineers
  Civil, Mechanical , Aerospace & Aeronautical Engineers*

* Solidworks will run just fine on the Dell XPS 13 as long as your projects remain very basic (undergraduate level) and do not deal with large amount of components despite not having a dedicated GPU. 

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MacBook Pro with Retina Display

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Despite what you read and hear online, the MacBook Pro isn’t a bad choice for engineering students. Sure you’ll have compatibility issues with most software encountered during your curriculum but that doesn’t stop many engineering students from buying it. You have probably already noticed many engineering students sporting one around campus.

It’s not just because they look good but MacBooks are quite durable and have a very sturdy design making it much more resistant to all the physical stress students put on their laptops during the day. Plus they have epic battery lifetimes  (~10 hours), great displaying features for those attracted to it and virtually all of them have high quality keyboards and touchPads. 

Performance wise they also don’t fall behind powerful laptops. They try to use the latest technology for their storage devices, PCIe- based SSD, making dual booting into Windows extremely fast which will eliminate any compatibility issues with other software you will encounter as an engineering student. And they still remain very portable (3.5 lbs).

You can also configure them depending on how much RAM you may need or how much CPU speed you think would best suite you.  The model presented here should be enough for most of your basic engineering applications: 512GB SSD, i5 core processor, 8GB RAM.  However depending on your degree and study habits, you may need to opt for the 15” version because the 13” lacks a dedicated GPU.


 Electrical & Chemical & Software and Computer Engineers
  Mechanical, Civil, AeroSpace, Aeronautical

Electrical, Computer, Chemical and Software Engineering:

For any other software that’s not compatible you will just have to dual Boot into Windows or use Parallels. This may be a hassle for some engineering students but if you are a Mac User or you love the MacBook Pro you’ll easily put up with it, I know I did. Plus if you focus your degree more on programming the Macs have a lot of advantages over Windows laptops.

You won’t need to go for the 15” Version which is more expensive and a bit heavier, the model presented here will be fine for all of you.

Mechanical, Civil, Aerospace, Aeronautical Engineering:

SolidWorks,CATIA,ANSYS,Revit, Civil 3D are not available on a Mac, so you will have to dual boot to use them. You will need the 15” version which has AMD Radeon R9 as GPU and much more RAM though. You should have no issues with all other software with the 13” version presented here as long as you dual boot into Windows

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Surface Pro 4


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The Surface Pro is currently one of the most popular devices among engineering students today, you’ll also see many of them using them and recommend them to freshman students all over social media and forums. One of the reasons is its extreme portability(1.7lb) so you can take it with you anywhere without any hesitation.

Don’t be fooled by it’s looks. It can pretty much run any engineering software just like a regular windows laptopThat’s not all, it will replace all of your school supplies including notebooks, textbooks, pens, erasers, highlighters, etc should you happen to give it a go. The reason being of course is the realistic note taking feel and seamless combination with OneNote which will keep all of your school notes and assignments neatly organized and easily accessible.

Although it’s highly configurable  ranging from a m3 core processor with only 4GB RAM and 128GB SSD for storage up to an i7 processor with 16GB and 1TB SSD, I advise you to stick with a midrange configuration to preserve battery lifetime while still getting the full benefits of the pro for an entire busy school day. 

For those who value portability and are interested in dropping the old fashioned pen and paper for note taking, the Surface should be your top choice over all other similar devicesYou should be aware that the Surface Pro does not come with a dedicated graphics card which might be  an issue depending on your particular degree or curriculum especially if you don’t like using the computer Labs for 3D software.

Try to get the model with an i5 core processor but most importantly the ones with 8GB RAM regardless of what degree you’re going for, you would have no issues with any software except for those for designing in 3D.

 Electrical , Computer , Chemical , Software
  Civil, Mechanical , Aerospace & Aeronautical Engineers*

*ANSYS/SolidWorks/Civil 3D/Revit projects and assignments can run on the Surface Pro provided that they’re undergraduate level .
*CREO, CATIA may need the SurfaceBook.

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Asus Zenbook

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While the Surface Pro and MacBook Pro are quite strong in performance and offer great portability, they’re not quite affordable. Should you be interested in an ultraportable laptop with enough performance for most engineering software you’ll encounter this is a good choice. This model meets all the specifications we listed which are needed to run all of your Engineering Applications smoothly with the exception of 3D software due to its lack GPU options.

Among its most salient features are its wide range of connectivity  (3 USB Ports, HDMI, mini VGA, SD Card Reader), it’s extremely lightweight design (2.6 pounds) and long battery lifetime (9 hours ) and it’s beautiful IPS display with a matte finish should you want to protect your eyes from those long sessions of coding and research in bright environments such as the library.
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 Electrical , Computer , Chemical , Software
  Civil, Mechanical , Aerospace & Aeronautical Engineers*

Lenovo T460

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Lastly out of all the portable choices mentioned we can’t leave Lenovo out of the picture especially for engineering .

This particular model has the right performance with a reasonable price should you not be able to afford any of the options above. Lenovos are well received among engineering students and programmers for their great durability, top quality keyboard , rock solid design and long battery life which includes the usage of an external cell battery to bump it up to 16 hours, that’s enough for 2 days of work . It lacks a dedicated GPU so you won’t be able to run 3D software efficiently on it. 

However it has a full wide range of connectivity (including an Ethernet Port) which makes it great for connecting external devices for engineering projects. It also has a great wifi reception and a full HD IPS Display while still being relatively portable at 3.8lbs. While that may be a little heavy to some of you, it is to be expected from a full blown laptop with a 14’’ inch display.

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 Electrical , Computer , Chemical , Software
  Civil, Mechanical , Aerospace & Aeronautical Engineers*

Laptops that Include a Dedicated Graphics Card

These laptops will run your 3D assignments with much better performance and be able to handle projects at the undergraduate level smoothly . The  main reason being, of course,  their dedicated graphics card.

These are not recommended for Electrical, Computer,Chemical and Software Engineering students, they can have too much power and not worth the extra weight and reduced battery life they offer. 

If you are an aerospace , aeronautical , mechanical or civil who doesn’t want to use the computer labs or doesn’t have a desktop for 3D work these are your best friends.

Acer Aspire E15

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This particular model is a good choice for those on a budget who want to perform all their 3D assignments on their laptop. While the GTX 940 MX graphics card does not perform as well as the GTX 960 which is highly recommended for 3D work, it is still a far better option than running SolidWorks, Revit, Civil 3D and any other 3D software with an integrated graphics card (I have a 940M Graphics Card myself).

It will handle your undergraduate level assignments just fine whether you are an mechanical, civil or any other engineer student dealing with 3D work.

It comes with an 8GB DD4 for RAM but this is easily upgradeable to make it as high as 32GB should you need it for more intensive multitasking these applications.

It also has a SSD with a free slot to insert yet another hard drive should you need the extra storage. But you can either buy an external hard drive or add a 1TB hard drive to your laptop, both options are very cheap.

As far as connectivity goes, it has all the ports you may ever need : USB 3.0, USB 2.0, USB Type C, HDMI, VGA, Ethernet, SD card reader and DVD drive (always a bonus), with no heating issues and a great battery lifetime clocking at 8 hours . That’s pretty good for a high performance laptop while still remaining very affordable.

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  Civil, Mechanical , Aerospace & Aeronautical Engineers

Asus K501UW
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Should you not be satisfied with the Aspire’s Graphics card, the ASUS K501UW provides you with a step above and a more safe proof graphics card for any type of undergraduate project with 3D software : NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960M while remaining relatively portable with only 4.4 lbs which is about the same as the MacBook Pro 15”.

Among other salient features are its FHD Display (1080p) , backlit keyboard along with a matte display. The matte finish will make long sessions of 3D drafting and design more easier on your eyes. It comes with a greater storage size than the Acer’s at 512 GB SSD . It only has 8GB RAM but this is easily upgradeable as well. The battery life, however is much less and around 5-6 hours which is common for high performance laptops.

If you are an engineer interested in 3D drafting and Design this is your best option if you have a little more budget in your hands.

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  Civil, Mechanical , Aerospace & Aeronautical Engineers


Mobile Workstations

For those interested in 3D work beyond the undergraduate level or professionals looking for portability when designing, personal research or a job/internship. I recommend these two workstations, they are aren’t overly expensive however they have the necessary features to handle far more complex projects than your school can offer due to their ideal graphics card (FirePro and Quadro), their RAM(16-64GB) capacities and their multicore processors (i7 Quad Core).

Workstations are highly configurable, should you decide to buy one you can choose to upgrade it before or after your purchase. 

Lenovo ThinkPad P50 

 

  • Processor: Intel Core i7-6700HQ Quad Core
  • RAM: 32GB DDR4 2133MHz
  • Hard Drive: 500GB SSD + 2TB 5400rpm HDD
  • Graphics: NVIDIA Quadro M1000M 2GB
  • Display: 15.6″ Full HD IPS Display (1920 x 1080)check-Price

Dell Precision 3000

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  • Processor: Intel Quad Core i7-6820HQ 
  • RAM: 16GB DDR4L Memory installed
  • Hard Drive:512GB PCIe M.2 NVMe SSD
  • Graphics: AMD FirePro W5130 2GB Graphics
  • Display: 15.6″  FHD //(1920 x 1080)

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MSI WS60 6QI-237US

 

  • Processor: Intel Core i7-6700HQ 2.6 GHz
  • RAM: 16 GB Memory installed
  • Hard Drive: 128GB SSD + 1TB HDD
  • Graphics: NVidia Quadro M1000M
  • Display: 15.6″  FHD //(1920 x 1080)

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How to Buy The Best Laptop for Engineering Students & Engineers

The article is a bit long but remember if you are a student, you’re gonna be stuck with this laptop for four years, give it some time before mindlessly shopping for one. You should find it useful regardless of what field you are working in.

The Engineering Department

If you are a freshman , the first and most important thing you can do before buying any laptop from any website is to check with your department for the following:

Computer Labs

Virtually all engineering programs and universities offer computer labs which are available almost 24/7 for all their engineering students to work on their assignments and projects. It doesn’t matter what your project or assignment is , their computer labs will be able to handle them without any issues whatsoever.

Kind of makes you think whether you need a laptop at all doesn’t it? But you definitely will need one unless you don’t mind living in the lab to write simple reports or to quickly look up formulas and definitions.

Remote Access

Your department may also offer “remote access”. As the name suggests, you’ll be able to access their powerful computers from any cheap old laptop with an internet connection.

In other words, all of the heavy software you ever have to deal with can be run on the cheapest laptop you can get your hands on. However, there may be issues with lag depending on the connection used. This is not noticeable for most engineering applications but it might present a problem for software that requires precision when designing.

The Engineering Curriculum

Now what we’ll do is going over a typical engineering curriculum. I picked the mechanical curriculum because it is has the widest variety of software.  . Alternatively, you can check what your curriculum may look like from these links:

Aerospace & Aeronautical
Chemical
Civil
Electrical
Computer
Software
Mechanical

Note: I highlighted the classes that will require a software in orange.

Freshman Year      
Fall Semester

Chemistry

Calculus I

Social Science

English Composition

Linear Algebra

  Spring Semester

Physics I

Calculus II

Introduction to Computing

Engineering Graphics

English Composition II

 
Sophomore Year      
Fall Semester

Physics II

Calculus III

Creative Decisions and Design

Engineering Materials

Statics

  Spring Semester

Circuits and Electronics

Differential Equations

Computing Techniques

Dynamics of Rigid Bodies

Social Science Elective

 
Junior Year      
Fall Semester

Instrument & Electronics Lab

Mechanics of Deformable Bodies

Thermodynamics

Fluid Mechanics

Economics

Humanities Elective

  Spring Semester

System Dynamics

Heat Transfer

Experimental Methods Lab

Engineering Economics

Statistics and Applications

Social Science Elective

 
Senior Year      
Fall Semester

Machine Design

Design, Materials and Manufacture

ME Systems Lab

Elective

Elective

  Spring Semester

Senior Design Project

ME Elective

Humanities

Free Elective

Free Elective

Free Elective

 

Software & Requirements

And these are the software used in each of these classes.

Course Software
Introduction to Computing MatLab
Engineering Graphics CAD Software
Calculus III MatLab
Creative Decisions and Design Optional
Circuits and Electronics LabView
Computing Techniques MatLab
Instrument & Electronics Lab Mobile Studio/DAQ Board
Experimental Methods Lab: C++, Matlab, Excel

If you do a check online these software do not require any special laptop, in fact any modern laptop would do just fine. Most of them will be done during lab hours. You can do the same check by going over your course description and your curriculum. In a nutshell these are the most important software for you career and your undergraduate studies:

Major Software
Electrical & Computer CADElectrical, SPICE, LabView
Chemical MatLab, Excel, MathCad, ChemCad 
Aeronautical & Aerospace Catia,  SolidWorks, ANSYS, MatLab
Civil Civil 3D, Revit
Mechanical SolidWorks,Inventor, ANSYS, MatLab

Software Requirements

These are the computer requirements for the each software:

Software Requirements  Comments
MatLab/Mathcad 4GB Ram There may be a requirement for a GPU if you are doing more intensive simulations which is very unlikely for undergrads.
Mobile Studio/LabView 1GB RAM You’ll need a converter if the laptop doesn’t have a serial port. This is only important for connecting with data acquisition systems. You’ll be using this software mostly labs, no need to worry about it.
C++ and other programming languages Any Laptop  A laptop from 10 years ago will do fine.
Excel 2GB RAM More RAM is needed if you are going to run large amounts of data such as those statistical simulations. Engineers dealing with excel (especially chemical engineers) should aim for 8GB.
ASPEN, ChemCad, ElectricalCad

 

i5 or i7 Processor

8GB RAM

 

As long as you are dealing with 2D. There’s no need for a GPU. This is true for computer/electrical/chemical/software engineers.
 3DCAD (Revit, Civil 3D, SolidWorks, Inventor, CATIA) i5 or i7 Processor

8GB RAM

2vRAM GPU

If you only have to deal with undergraduate assignments and projects, these specs will be sufficient. 
CAE ( ANSYS ) i5 or i7 processor
8GB RAM
Computational software doesn’t require a GPU. A CPU with a lot of physical cores is more important as well as much RAM you can get for more intensive calculations.

I wouldn’t run computational software such as ANSYS on a laptop though, at least not too much, it’ll reduce its lifespan. Your computer lab or any desktop is  better equipped for that.

Keep in mind, the requirement I have listed above is what you will need to do just fine with the work that you will encounter in your classes. Professional level projects rarely use a laptop but they do use powerful and very expensive desktops for  industry level designs and other software.

If you check online, these are also the recommended specs that most universities list on their websites for their engineering students as you can see here.

Recommended Specs

Weight

This is the most important feature for any student regardless of what software you wish to run on it, try your best to go as light as possible. Ideally stick with less than 4lb or even better around 3lb.

If you go above 4lb that it will start to take a toll on your body and will be very difficult to carry it all over campus for an entire day which isn’t helpful at all when you want to quickly use google to check out a definition, a physical formula or the property of a material or simply to do your reports and some programming on the go. I personally found out that even 1b can make a huge difference. That is why weight should be your number one priority.

However, if you are interested in running heavy software on your laptop,  you will require a high end laptop. You should then try to find the right balance between performance and weight.  This is true for those engineers designing and drafting in 3D. However you don’t need to go overboard with the heaviest and most powerful laptops because undergraduate assignments are simple and introductory compared to industry level projects.

If you do wish to run far more complex projects, then you would need a workstation such as the Lenovo P50, which I don’t recommend at all for an engineering student, it’s definitely too much for now. If you a professional or about to graduate, it’s definitely one of the best options.

Display

Setting all the fancy features displays today have there are only two things to consider for all engineering :

Resolution: Get a laptop with a 1920×1080 resolution regardless of what type of software you wish to run o. If you go far from that you will find programming , designing and overall any kind of work on your laptop unpleasant.  

Why? A higher screen resolution allows more area for multiple windows to be opened at the same time and be next to each other. 

It will also offer more space available for you to follow the logic of your assignments (programming, writing reports, etc) as you’ll be able to see more of your code, paragraphs without having to scroll up and down a lot.

Size:  The lower the display size the more portable your laptop will become, which is good! Unfortunately it will also limit the area on the screen you have to program, design or even just to write a simple report. Engineering software and programs have toolbars and icons which already take a lot of screen space  so you’ll end up with little space left for your work if you go for small screen size.

For 3D drafting and modeling software it’s recommended to go as far as 15” screen but it’s not required. For all other software, a 13” inch display is ok.

Connectivity

CD/DVD reader: As far as connectivity goes I don’t think there’s a need for a CD/DVD reader. You can use it to install software or watch movies but these days most software have install clients which only require an internet connection and i really doubt you’d want to get solely to watch movies. It’s always a nice bonus though but not necessary.

Bluetooth: Bluetooth function can be useful to save you time when you want to share your work with your fellow students for a group project, it’ll work much quicker than regular flash drives. Most laptops today come with this feature anyways so it isn’t something to look for.

Serial port: A modern laptop these days does not have one but this is only important for connecting with DAQ systems (Data Acquisition Systems) for circuit design, should you have a project that involves circuitry/robotics/programming a design, just buy an adapter and you’ll be fine.

Projector port: This is useful when you have to give presentations to your class or group. Most systems today use an HDMI connection to connect to a projector or an external display. However most ultraportable laptops lack an HDMI port in which case you should consider buying an adapter. Don’t worry they’re cheap.

Keyboard

Backlit feature: I always found it a nice feature especially when studying in very low light conditions with my display set to low brightness levels. As an engineering student I found myself studying in places with low light conditions as the library, labs and the building was packed days before final exams. It’s a nice extra feature to have but not really something you should look out for.

Full Size Keyboard: This is definitely something you should take into account. Some of us do a lot of data collection and analysis especially in excel (civil, mechanical and chemical engineers will make the most out of it) for which the numerical keypad becomes extremely useful and time saving to enter numerical data much faster.

Unfortunately most laptops today do not come with a full size keyboard unless they’re big and heavy. But you can easily solve this problem by getting an external numerical keypad or an external keyboard, I’m using one right now.

Processor

3D software

An i5 core processor is the minimum for 3D work, i7 core processors are recommended but not required.

*Note that an i7 processor can give you the best performance for 3D software but it will drain your battery much quicker.

2D Software and all other software

For those of you who decide to use the computer labs or a desktop for the heavy stuff ( ANSYS, SolidWorks,Civil 3D, CATIA, any software in 3D, etc) or you simply don’t encounter such software as the table above shows, any laptop with a modern processor will do fine.

As mentioned before, most of your software you’ll be dealing with do not require a high end processor. Modern laptops come with an i3 or i5 core processor today. An i5 core processor is always nice to have , it’ll speed up your workflow while not draining your battery life too much.

RAM

You don’t really have to go for 8GB or more for all the undergraduate assignments  but as always the more RAM the better for just about anything.

Luckily, RAM is always cheap and it doesn’t affect the battery life, weight of your laptop so feel free to upgrade it to the MAX (16GB should be more than enough for undergraduate 3D  work). But you should be OK with 8GB RAM regardless of what software you wish run.

If a high performance laptop doesn’t come with 16GB or 32GB RAM, don’t worry most of them are upgradeable so you can just buy an external RAM an upgrade it yourself or have someone else do it. It can be as easy as plugging in a flash drive into your laptop. In fact, your IT department might do it for you in if you’re just like me and too chicken to open up your laptop.

MultiTasking and Light Engineering Software

For these purposes you may wanna go over 4GB for your laptop anyways especially if you like to do heavy multitasking: running several dozens of internet tabs, pdf files open, itunes, skype, word processor, etc.  If so you don’t have to go over 8GB because you won’t really notice a difference beyond that as far as multitasking and the remaining engineering software.

Hard Drive

Storage Size

Storage capacity is only an issue if you plan to do a lot of design projects in 3D on your laptop. Not only because of the space required to install such software but also because the output files of your projects can get really big. If you plan to leave such assignments to your computer labs or a desktop back home, then it isn’t something to worry about.

Get an SSD anyways

However all of you should try your best to get a laptop with an SSD, regardless of what software you plan to run on it. It’ll speed up your workflow substantially by booting up your laptop in seconds and also starting your applications in no time without affecting the battery lifetime of your laptop(in fact it does the oppossite).  You’ll also get quicker results when trying to look for a particular piece of code, text or numerical data from your projects.

There are far more advantages of an SSD over conventional Hard Drives to be listed here, if your budget allows get one you won’t regret it.

External Hard Drive

Lastly, make sure you have a backup method.  Losing data can not only ruin your day but your entire semester if you happen to lose a very important term paper or project that’s going to be due soon. Most departments recommend getting one for that very reason. No need to give it much thought, you should be buying one without hesitation. I highly recommend the Lacie Rugged External Hard Drive, which is the model most universities recommend as well.

Graphics Card (GPU)

GPU is only relevant for those wanting to run 3D software, you can safely ignore it if you don’t need to.

Who needs a dedicated GPU?

Those dealing with software in 2D only (mostly electrical, computer,chemical and software engineers) do not need to worry about this, any graphics card will do fine.

ANSYS and other computational software do not need require you a dedicated graphics card but benefit from it by offloading some of the computations to the GPU Cores. Not much beneficial for undergraduate work so you can safely ignore it and focus on RAM/CPU.

What is recommended for undergraduate engineers?

Any dedicated Graphics Card  with 2GB  should be more than enough  for all your undergrad assignments. NVIDIA graphics cards with 2GB vRAM are common these days and recommended for students by most universities.

What about the “approved” Graphics Cards for 3D software?

However if you happen to be looking for graphics card capable of handling just about any type of project or simulation outside of what’s encountered in a typical undergraduate program, then the graphic cards you want are the FirePro and Quadro Series.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that the latest gaming graphics card will be perform just as good or even better than these!

I don’t recommend getting them at all for undergraduate studies though.They are definitely overkill for the projects you’ll be dealing with. It’ll come useful after you graduate and start working on a firm, there’s no need to worry about it for now unless you want to get a head start for all of that. The only reason I mentioned here is that you have to know what they are for your profession.

Touchscreen

If you decide to go for a touch screen, make sure it is convertible laptop like the Surface Pro or the Surface Book so you can take notes on it too in which case it becomes a total deal breaker and extremely useful for engineers.

Other than that I don’t see the benefits of going for a regular touchscreen laptop. It might be a nice additional feature for personal amusement but not required for any type of work.

Operating System

Windows

There’s not much to discuss here. As far as engineering software goes, windows is really the best operating system for you. Virtually every engineering application will be compatible with a Windows machine. If you major deals a lot with programming such as software engineering and some electrical concentrations then it might be useful to get to learn some Linux . 

Mac

Very few engineering software is supported on a Mac, even if you decide not to run such software on your laptop you will still face compatibility issues with other light software such as LabView, SPICE and other unknown software that your professor or company may throw at you.

However regular Autocad and MathLab are fully supported on a Mac, which are the most important ones for engineering students. Java and many programming software have no issues with a Mac and are actually natively installed on it.

If you are a computer or electrical student dealing with a lot of programming (by choice), then a Mac becomes an advantage over Windows laptops because you will also have easy access to Linux applications and software without the need to install Linux on your Mac.

Other than that , engineers don’t need to worry about the operating system offered by Apple.

If you decide to get a Mac, which isn’t a bad choice at all, you will just need to dual boot windows with it and that will solve any compatibility issues you may have. This is a quite popular choice by engineers who would like all the other advantages that Macs offer.

Summary


Here’s a summary of the specs you will encounter when browsing for the best laptops for engineering students and what they can do.

Specs Pros Cons Best For
i3 processor
4-8gb RAM
Integrated GPU
Lightweight,cheap, can run MatLaB, DAQ Boards software, programming software and all other engineering software with no issues. Can’t run 3D software and CAE software efficiently. Electrical
Computer
Chemical
Software Engineering
i5 processor
8GB RAM
Integrated CPU
lightweight, Can run all engineering software including and CAE software lightly. more expensive can’t run 3D software Electrical
Computer
Chemical
Software Enginering 
i5 processor
8GB RAM
256 GB SSD, 2GBvRAM dGPU
might be lightweight, run ALL Software including 3D , enough for all CAE work as an undergrad expensive, can’t run 3D projects at a professional level. Mechanical
Civil
Aeronautical Aerospace 
 i7 quad core
256gb SSD
2GB GPU
16GB RAM
Same as above with increased performance Pricey,heavy,low battery life, still not powerful enough for 3D work outside undergrad curriculum. Mechanical
Civil
Aerospace Aeronautical 
i7 processor
FirePro/Quadro-GPU
SSD Drive
Run all software including all 3D Software and rendering with very complex projects outside of a typical undergraduate curriculum Extremely Pricey,extremely heavy, not necessary for undergraduate work.  Professional Engineers


Electrical, computer, chemical and software engineers
do not need to worry about high performance laptops as you can see.

Mechanical, Civil, AeroSpace, Aeronatuical  who need to run 3D software on your laptop for school projects without any issues (which aren’t relatively complicated and do not require an extremely powerful workstation) you need at least: i5 processor, 8GB memory, dedicated graphics card with 2GB RAM. A laptop with an i7 processor and 16gb is recommended but not required for undergraduate work.

Comments?

If you have any questions, please let us know. It will help everyone to be better informed when shopping for laptops.

  • rajesh

    good detailed information for laptop shopping. Thanks for your information
    Here i have a blog i started after purchasing a laptop after reading your guide Technology-tutor

  • Gerald Hairston

    Would you recommend the Acer E15 as a suitable alternative to the E5?

    • Laptop Study

      That was a typo, I fixed it thanks. Yes, the Acer 15 is fine. Make sure it has a dedicated graphics card from 940MX onwards. I have that GPU myself on one of my laptops.