As you are probably aware by now the transition to medical school can be brutal. For one you’ll be pretty much learning a new language with all the new terminology, be constantly on the move to deal with constant patient care simulations, memorize material with a 1000 pages each and taking notes to the utmost detail for every lecture. Every waking hour not studying could be a hit to your performance during med school.
Not only that…
You’ll also use laptop to take notes, research hundreds of medical journals and even take exams on it. The last thing you want is spend all of your money on a laptop that will drag you down.
If you go through this article that won’t happen. In fact you’ll end up with a suitable laptop that will actually become quite useful and hopefully help you get through med school.
What can you expect from this article?
A list for you to pick the best laptop for med school along with a guide to pick the best laptop for medical students based on your classes, software, exams, etc. Yes, we’ll go through the typical medical program in detail to make sure you find your laptop useful and time saving for every instance in med school.
- The Top 5 Best Laptops for Medical Students
- How to Buy the Best Laptop for Medical School
The Top 5 Best Laptops for Medical Students
The Best Laptop For Medical Students Overall
Even after all these years, the Air is still one of the most sought devices for those who value both high performance and superb portability. Medical students in particular would find it’s epic battery life and portability extremely useful when trying to research and write term papers at any place and at any time without wasting time looking for an outlet or a place to study. That itself makes it the best laptop for medical students even today.
Being able to quickly boot up thanks to the latest SSD technology for storage that apple uses for their devices will also come in handy to save you even more time when trying to get back to work, every bit counts! This is probably the machine that will do so with fastest possible speed.
It’s display resolution (1440 x 900 ) isn’t the greatest but it’s more than necessary to deal with histology pictures that may appear in your coursework or exam questions. The screen size being 13” is far more beneficial than a tablet or smaller size laptop for any exams or just for retrieving medical records much more efficiently (no scrolling).
Like most ultraportable laptops it lacks a CD ROM Drive for you to run TextBook CD Activities and Reviews, however an external CD reader (especially built for the Air) can be bought along with it. Should the software you run in School be uncompatible with MacOSX, you can always dual boot windows with the Air and as you know it will do so in no time.
For performance you can choose the air from a i5, 4GB and 128GB SSD for storage up to an i7, 8GB, 512GB for storage. I advice you to stick with the i5 version and 8GB configuration, the performance from an i7 processor can be unnecessary and a toll on your budget.
Whatever version you choose, all of its versions are extremely thin and lightweight for you to carry along heavy textbooks without increasing the load on your back. It will be quite resistant to physical damage from all the bumping you’ll be dealing with as you walk all over campus back and forth.
Best Tablet Laptop For Medical Students
This is actually one of the most wanted and useful devices for Medical Students. As you have probably found out by now tablets are extremely popular among med students. The main reasons are their portability and the ability to take notes with ease.
But the Surface Pro is not just a tablet, it’s actually a “convertible laptop” and has been labeled by microsoft as the “tablet that can replace a laptop”. So you get the best of both worlds: a tablet and a laptop rolled into one single device.
Performance? Just don’t be fooled by its design and looks, it can actually run just about any application that even a very powerful computer can. You can also attach a real keyboard to it or even a docking station to make a desktop, making it pretty much a high performance computer too.
But that’s not the reason behind it’s popularity. It’s actually the seamless combination of OneNote along with its digital pen. Together they’re capable of replacing your entire library of textbooks along with all of your school supplies even your pencils and erasers. Yes, it’s specially designed to make note taking, drawin diagrams and designs and even equations on it as if it were a regular pen and paper.
There’s a whole range of functionality you could do with it to be listed here. Among them : taking notes digitally on top of power point slides during class, submitting digitally handwritten homework assignments online and organizing all of your study materials (notes, slides, recorded audio from lectures) into neatly and organized digital books within it and more.
It remains highly configurable ranging from a m3 core processor with only 4GB RAM and 128GB SSD for storage all the way up to an i7 core processor with 16GB and 1TB SSD for storage for every type of budget or personal needs. As usual it’s recommended to stay with an i5 , 8GB and 256GB as the limit, going beyond that can be unnecessary for med students.
Lastly the display improves with every version , the latest version has a 2,736×1924 resolution with near perfect color accuracy while simply weigihting 1.8 pounds and no more than 2.4 pounds with its type cover. Needless to say you won’t have any trouble distinguishing histology images during exams or reviews or when you graduate either. It’s easily sanitazible as well as portable at the same time, a huge bonus if you ever have to bring yours to clinicals.
If you consider the Pro to be a laptop, then it is one of the best laptops for medical students and a tablet as well.
Best Dell Laptop for Medical Students
If you don’t dig the Air because it’s a Mac or the Surface Pro because it’s not a full blown laptop, then consider the DELL XPS 13. Currently known as the best Windows Ultrabook around the market. You won’t find a laptop with a higher performance while being extremely portable at the same time.
It’s most salient feature is its “Infinity Edge Display” which simply means it can fit in bigger screen size on a 13” laptop. How? it has extremely thin bezels which can make “re-watching” your professor’s lectures. videos of procedures much more entertaining than the first time especially days before the exam.
Another salient feature is the fact that is its thunderbolt 3 connectivity to connect 2 external displays simultaneously to it which most med students find useful for studying back home: having a textbook, wikipedia articles on one side and your notes/professor’s power point slides on the other.
Unlike the Surface Pro and MacBook Air, this one can be configured both in its performance and displaying features.
For performance you can choose from the i3 processor 4GB RAM 128GB SSD configuration all the way to an i7 core 1TB SSD. For display, you can choose between the QHD (3200 x1800)touchScreen display or the 1080p resolution with matte finish diplay.
Both versions weigth the same (2.7 pounds) but have different battery lives 6 vs 9 hours, respectively. I’d advise you to go for the 1080p, the battery life is far more important than any other feature for you. A 1080p resolution display is more than enough for you to deal with images, videos and exams that need a lot of image detail.
The 1080p model has the added bonus of being a matte display to protect your eyes from high reflective areas and illuminated environments (the library) , quite handy as I’m sure there will be times you’ll have to read countless of hours for your exams and sometimes even outside of your main building.
Although it’s an ultraportable machine with enough battery life for you to go to school on a single charge, it doesn’t have a CD-ROM driver like most portable laptops do today and the WebCam is oddly placed. While the latter issue can easily be solved by transferring all your Textbooks’ interactive CDs to a USB Drive or simply buying an external CD Reader , the former might present an issue for video conferencing
Remember to stick with the 8G RAM and i5 core configuration, anything else above that can be unnecessary and drain your battery life much faster.
Best Budget Laptop For Medical Students
So far you’ve been presented with powerful and portable laptops that can get quite expensive. If you are a bit short on cash to afford the Surface Pro or the Air, you can still get a high quality laptop from the ZenBook series.
This particular model resembles the Air in a lot of ways. It remains just as portable as the macBook Air (3lbs) and with about the same performance: i5 processor, 256GB and 8GB which is more than enough to run and do just about any assingment and software without issues while allowing you to do some heavy multitasking on it as well. It’s battery life is a bit lower than the Air’s (13 vs 9 hours) but has a higher resolution laptop (1080p) along with a matte finish.
As an added bonus, it has a backlit keyboard whenever you have to deal with night long sessions of writing, its keyboard quality will never match the Air’s or any MacBook really.
The other downside like all ultrabooks here: it lacks a CD ROM Drive. Aside from that for its price and all the features it offers, it is without doubt the best laptop for medical students on a budget even in 2017.
Best MacBook For Medical Students
Lastly, the 13 ” MacBook Pro. It’s also quite a popular choice among med students especially for those who would like their laptop to stay up to date in terms of performance during the entire program (~8 years for some) and being quite durable and resistant to physical damage for the entire stay in med school and beyond.
As you probably know, they come in a wide different range of configurations. There’s the 2015 Old Version and the new 2016 Version. The only issue with the latest version is the fact that it lacks regular USB ports and a lot of other connectivity, which will present problems when trying to save/retrieve data from your device but that can be solved by buying a special USB Drive or adapter.
Should you be interested in the MacBook Pro for its typing experience and top quality trackpad along with its retina display, choose the non-touchpad version shown here, which includes all the ports you may ever need (no CD ROM driver though).
Performance wise there’s the 13” version remains quite portable (3.5 lbs) while having more than sufficient performance for intensive multitasking ( several PDF books open, iTunes, YouTube, Word Documents, etc, all open at the same time) with an i5 processor, 256 SSD and 8GB for RAM.
The increased resolution from the retina Display might give you better quality videos and images in both procedures and video lectures while staying relative portable . The 15” version however is not worth the extra weight or the money unless you have far more heavy applications to run in mind.
How to Buy the Best Laptop for Medical School
The wealth of digital information in regards to human biology and the fact that they are easily accessible today with portable computers from any place at any time is the main reason why computer technology has become an essential asset to the medical industry and students in the medical field benefit from that as well.
Whether it’s a laptop or a tablet, you will invariably need a portable device for you to have quick access to medical related information for your studies. It is also a much more convenient choice for you to carry a portable device containing all of your textbooks and notes rather than carrying all of them with you all over campus.
I advice you to read through this guide if you are not exactly sure what to buy for med school or you are an inconming freshman.
It’s a little long as I’ve tried to compile as much info that’s needed to make sure everyone can choose the best laptop for med school. After all, it’ll be your most useful tool to succesfully graduate from med school. It’s worth your time.
The Medical Program
Before even contemplating on buying a laptop, it’s a good idea to check if possible what classes you will be dealing with will require a specific software, operating system or system requirements. Will there be video conferencing for classes due to perhaps weather conditions? Such questions can be answered by your department.
Finding out if their IT support is mostly Windows/Mac and what operating system they recommende for their program are the two most important questions to ask or check on their site.
A lot of schools offer computer deals to its students. They might go as far as giving students free laptops and these laptops are no joke. I know there was one school giving away free Macbook Airs, they can be high performance and expensive laptops indeed. More than likely you’ll be given a deal. UW-Madison for example gives its students a macbook air for about 500$ which is about half its price.
Others will simply to recommend a specific model of their choice: Dell Latitude Series and Macbooks being popular recommendations for their durability and the IT support they offer in school. Going against their choice means there will be a lack support to repair your system. Do take that into account when browsing laptops.
Check if they support the OS of your likening (OS,Win,Chrome,etc). If not, will they be okay if you stick to yours? As far as I am aware most medical schools recommend Windows. You should check if they are okay with tablet devices as well.
Software Requirements and Useful Software
However, there isn’t much software required for Medical Students other than basic student applications such as:
- Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint
- Adobe PDF
- A PDF converted for homework submission perhaps
- ExamSoft to take exams from your laptop or device
- Antivirus: if you catch one, your computer will lose access to the internet as it’ll be quarantined by some departments.
- Shockwave, VLC, Quicktime,Flash and Java for videos and animations
- Galen for Medical Referene and Organizing Tasks/Schedules/Notes/Lectures for students (Requires Web Browser only).
Which don’t require a special laptop of any kind.
Classes and Assignments
More than likely all notes provided by every class will be given on PDF Files uploaded online. It is highly unlikely they’ll be all printed out for you. Other reasons why you might need a computer device during class:
- Share notes within groups
- Access videos for lectures
- Digital Movies of procedures
- Virtual Microscopy (might need good resolution laptop as the ones we recommended above)
- Exams/Quizzes as mentioned before
Software and Classes
The software that’s used in classes varies from school to school but usually ExamSoft is used for you to take exams which is compatible with most devices (tablet or laptop) . However you might want to avoid a low resolution/small screen display for exams, there might be a few histology questions which might be better off with a better display.
Knowing what we know now. Lets go over each feature and how useful they are for med school.
As you can see above, we’ve only listed the lightest laptops on the market with a decent performance. Why?Weight should be your number one priority when browsing for laptops. You want something easy to carry around campus and clinicals as you’ll be carrying heavy textbooks along with it too. If you have to sacrifice other features for a light laptop, so be it. It is far more useful to have a laptop for quick access to information and finishing your homeworks anywhere and anytime than a powerful laptop that is not necessary for the software you will encounter in Med School.
You can’t really be wasting time on Med School, it’s a “race”. Good time management is the main reason for the success of many med students. and a portable and light laptop will save you a lot of time.
Don’t mind IPS Panels, Retina Displays, QHD Resolution, etc. If you can afford them by all means buy them and if they come with the laptop of your choice by all means get them but they’re not necessary. Don’t focus too much on them, you’re not a radiologist yet.
There are only two things to look out in terms of display:
As far as studying in goes, if you are going to heavily rely on your laptop for accessing study materials especially textbooks/medical papers and writing reports/notes for an exam or a term paper. Stick with a minimum resolution of 1080p and as low as 1,440 x 900 but no less than that. It’ll be useful in order to have multiple windows open at the same time and be able to clearly distinguish/read them when writing reports and when taking exams that need you to analyze a medical picture.
Screen size is not as important as resolution is but you shouldn’t really go below 12’’. A big screen is always a bonus for reading comfortably and watching flash animations, taking exams with histology figures in much more detail, etc.
The issue of course is the bigger the screen size the less portable it is, and portability should be your number one concern as mentioned before.
Most students even go as far as buying a tablet to have something portable which is a fine choice. Stick with a laptop with at least 12-13’’ if you go for one. It should be enough to make reading/writing comfortable without compromising portability.
If you go less than that, it’s gonna be a bit frustrating working on documents and worse of all during your exams which may include many images especially histology pics.
Another drawback with going to small and using ipad/tablets it’s the fact viewing and retrieving medical records using a tablet or small sized laptops might be time consuming and inconvenient (tons of scrolling to view data). Such applications/browsing applications were not designed to be used on small screen devices. This is something you can ask your department.
As far as performance goes, you can pretty much roll with any laptop or device that’s why most are ok with tablets provided you have a desktop at home for report writing, printing, etc. Don’t mind Processor speed, hard drive and Graphics Card unless your specific department requires you to do.
However if you don’t have a desktop at home or you’d like to use your laptop for your assignments then consider the following features:
Try to get a laptop with an i5 processor. If not an i3 or any modern processor is fine. Just don’t go for an i7 processor as it will drain your battery life and your pocket both which I’m sure it’s undesirable especially for a med student moving from clinicals and all over campus after the first years. Most schools who do require a laptop for their students advice you with an i5 processor at the very least.
If you are a heavy multitasker, which I’m sure most of you are, (playing iTunes, several internet browsing tabs, pdf documents, word documents, dissection videos,all open at the same time) then consider 8GB for your RAM otherwise it’ll choke when you try to pull off too many applications. No matter how little they are, all of these applications add up, you know?
Don’t go for 16GB , it’s too much for your purposes and you won’t notice a difference if you choose an 8GB instead. 4GB might be ok as well, but I would opt for 8GB to be safe.
Hard Drive & Graphics Card
You are not a radiologist to be thinking about a dedicated graphics card even if you were you would need a workstation device Do not even mind this feature, any graphics card will do just fine.
As for your storage device, go with any decent size but don’t go “underboard”. Don’t get a 2GB, 50GB Device unless you are on an extreme budget.
Remember that pdf files and digital textbooks don’t take too much space and the software used for med school isn’t that heavy either.
Recently there’s been a surplus of laptops with touchscreen features on the market. I honestly do not know how any student would find that useful other than maybe play around with it.
Touchscreen is only useful if you are using a tablet or if your laptop can turn into a tablet, that way you can easily reach the screen manipulate documents, highlight them, etc. In fact, they are the most popular devices for Medical Students and practicioners in general.
If not, your arms are going to get tired in 2 minutes trying to reach your laptop’s screen. Forget this feature on regular laptops.
Tablets or Laptop or Both?
As mentioned many times during this article and you probably know already. Tablets are a popular choice among medical students, the reason being is that most of their notes are given in PDF form in which case they can just takes notes on them as well using the digital highlighters within their tablets.
Smartphones can be used during lectures too, in which case you just attach a bluetooth keyboard to take notes faster.
A drawback from relying mostly on iPad,tablets or a smartphone is that you may have issues accessing resource materials from your school.
Alternatively, you can get a tablet and a laptop. A laptop can be for making your own notes, download materials,etc; and the tablet or ipad for reviewing the your notes, reading textbooks, etc.
Tablets and Ipads can be far more convenient for reading textbooks and general reading during long periods of time as well as flipping through flashcards, annotating on top of PDFs and sketching flow charts compared to a laptop.
A few other accessories recommended by your school might be:
Headset with built-in microphone and WebCam
Some schools do use video conferencing for online classes as well as substituting regular classes with them when the weather does not allow the school to be open. A headset is very useful for studying as well.
Again you don’t want to be stuck with no battery life and wasting time looking for an outlet should they all be occupied during finals for example.
VGA adapter for connecting to a projector
A printer in case your school printers stops working (it happens a lot of times), get one to avoid handing in a late assignment which can really take a toll on your grade or even risk failing the course.
Privacy filter screen for exams.
Although most students do use tablets since most notes and reading materials will always be available in PDF form, making t you’ll need a computer unless you love being stuck to the library or computer labs for any type of writing assignment. A tablet by itself just won’t cut it.
As far as laptops go as you can see from this article, there isn’t much to worry about other than portability and compatibility with the software being run on your school. More than likely the only software you have to worry about is the one they use to take exams such as ExamSoft, that one can run on any laptop and any OS but it’s worth checking which exam software your school uses. However for the years you’ll be involved in clinicals, the portability becomes extremely important. You don’t want to drag a 17’’ inch 7 pound laptop from patient to patient do you? In that case it would be very convenient to have a very portable laptop and/or a tablet with the latter being much more convenient.
If you are interested in laptops, try your best to get an ultraportable one. If you can’t, just get a decent laptop along with a table. Use the laptop for real work and the tablet to be used on the go.
If you got money to spare then get both an ultraportable laptop and a tablet. Or better yet a hybrid which is both a laptop AND a tablet with the Surface Pro is actually the best and most popular choice among med students today, for those who can afford it of course.