The 5 Best Laptops For Accounting (November 2023)

“With fast accounting comes more money”

And fast accounting means you have to find the best laptop for accounting right?

Maybe but more money is all about job hoping until you find that sweet 100k a year salary. 

Now…

A laptop is your only tool of work so definitely it’s important to get this part right if you want to make it far and plan on passing the CAPP examinations (fast accounting will give you more time to study).

Ok enough of intros…

The best laptop for accounting should speed up productivity and make you more efficient, this means it MUST have: 

  • Numpad = fast number crunching
  • FN Keys = set up macros
  • High resolution display = lots of windows open next to each other (i.e write reports + link/work on data between word & excel simultaneously).
  • Solid State Drive = boot up software & windows in split seconds.
  • (Bonus) Lightweight = take it anywhere with you so you can keep crunching numbers
The LG Z90R has all the features the best laptop for accounting should have.

What about CPU & Power Vroom Vroom ?

Truth is you don’t need much if any CPU power for accounting.

While it’s true a fast CPU runs functions on QuickBooks or Excel quicker, the performance gains between modern CPUs are INSIGNIFICANT. 

In other words, there will be zero difference between the latest CPU and last year’s CPU even if you add all the extra ‘nanoseconds’ saved here and there from the faster CPU over the course of a week.

Best Laptop Specs For Accounting

I would love to get right into the best laptops for accounting but some people reading this article don’t have access to the following laptops (these are US based laptops) so let me talk about the hardware a bit more so everyone can find their best pick.

CPU

As long as the CPU is no older than 3 years and says either Ryzen or Intel Core, it’s good.

Ryzen 3/Core i3:  Good enough if on a budget. Recommended to get the most recent ones here.
Ryzen 5/Core i5:  More expensive but faster, you can grab older versions.

*** Try to avoid Ryzen 7 CPUs and 13th generation CPUs  (they’re unncessarily FAST) UNLESS that laptop has all the other features we went over at a good price ***

RAM
This is WAY more crucial than any other piece of hardware.
8GB:   minimum. Plenty for most multitaskers.
16GB: This is useful for crazy multitaskers (imagine 50 web tabs open) OR those running very large data sheets (a companys entire logo database for ex) this is rare.

Storage: SSD
SSD means Solid State Drive.  This is the second most important piece of hardware. You can open 100 MB or 1GB spreadsheets containing hundreds of macros in split seconds. Why I mentioned it last? Because all modern laptops have it. 


Egonomics

In fact, most laptops have all the above hardware by default (if they’re not old) so ergonomics is actually what you have to look out for.

Display: FHD
FHD: This resolution is the BARE MINIMUM.  You need high resolution for multitasking also to get a bigger picture  of data and logs. Hard to find under 400 bucks!

QHD: This is almost 2x FHD resolution and will boost productivy massively if you multitask a lot (more space for bigger windows). You will rarely find it under 700 bucks though.

Keyboard: Full Size
A Full Sized keyboard has numerical numpad + dedicated FN keys. Only found on 15” laptops which may not be ideal if you’re still a student because they’re heavy (4lbs). If you’re a student, a better alternative is to buy a 13”  laptop with all the specs we went over and buy the  external numerical keypad.

Top 5 Best Laptops For Accounting

The following list has laptops for both students and accountants. If any of the laptops is 15-17” , this is a laptop for you.  If not, then it’s for students. They all really have almost the same CPU performance for accounting software, the only difference is ergonomics (weight, display size & resolotion, keyboard, etc). 

The best laptop for accountants is #1.

The best laptop for accounting students is #2. 


1. LG Gram Z90R

The Best Laptop For Accounting

  Intel Evo 13th Gen Core i7

  16GB LPDDR5

  Intel Iris Graphics

  1TB NVMe SSD PCIe 4.0

  17.3” QHD IPS 16:10 ratio

  3lbs

  5 hours

    WiFi 6


The LG Gram has been the best laptop for accounting in this post for a few years now.

The latest model isn’t that different from the older versions in terms of ergonomics. The only real difference with the older models is the CPU. But like we discussed before, CPU should be the least of your concerns for accounting purposes.

What does this mean?

This means you can grab the older LG model if you can’t afford the new one and still get most of the benefits. Now I’m posting the newest model here for keeping the article up to date purposes but what I will discuss next applies to the older models too.

This LG GRAM or the older ones, because they’re both around 3lb, are also the ultimate IDEAL laptop for students too.

 Design

Display: 17 inch QHD resolution (2560 x 1600) 16:10

This is the most important feature the LG Gram has to offer if we are talking about accounting. It gets you a 17 inch display (which is the largest display on laptops) while only weighing 3lbs. The problem with most 17 inch laptops is the weight ! And that’s the only reason why this post is not full of 17 inch laptops. If your laptop is going to sit at an office the whole time though, you have plenty of other CHEAPER options with a 17 inch display.

Now, it’s not just about the display size though, resolution also plays a BIG role in making your screen space (the amount of workspace area for software & sheets) bigger.

While most laptops have FHD, the LG Gram is one of the few laptops (with a 17 inch display) that have the QHD resolution which adds SIGNIFICANTLY extra screen space. I would go as far as saying that it will feel like working on a desktop monitor.

You can throw in a spreadsheet and a couple of graphs to visualize data and still have plenty of space to add more stuff . This will also the reduce the amount of scrolling up and down a sheet because more colums and rows will show up at once.

Now there’s definitely higher resolutions called 4K resolution for 17 inch laptops but those get REALLY heavy (they’re called workstation laptops) and expensive for which you might as well buy a desktop (cheaper and just as heavy!).

Keyboard: NumPad + FN Keys + Backlit

Getting a 15 inch or 17 inch laptop AUTOMATICALLY gets you a full SIZED keyboard. The LG Gram goes a step further and also adds a backlit keyboard and a very high quality keyboard which is very responsive to minimal touch (perfect for fast number crucnhing).

As you can see in the newest model’s picture, it still has all FN keyboards (which you can use for macros) and the full sized numerical keypad.

Now…because this is a 17 inch laptop this means there’s MORE space to add LARGER KEYs which makes it EASIER to type which in turn means you will be FASTER typer. It also means it’s going to be more comfortable because there’s plenty of space left (next to the trackpads) for your  palms and forearms to rest as you type, this is IMPORTANT to avoid carpal tunnel syndrome as the extra space will eliminate the need for your wrists to be bent when typing. 

In the case of 15 or even 13 inch laptops that try to fit in a keyboard, the keys will be reduced in size and it will use most of the space of the bottom part of your laptop to fit in a keyboard, making it less ergonomical.

Weight: ~3lbs

As far as I’m concered, at the time of this writing, November 2023, there ISN’T another 17 inch laptop that weighs 3lb. Not even the 16” MacBook weighs this much (which is smaller). If you add the QHD resolution to it, it will make it even more RARE. The next best candidate to the 17 inch LG Gram would be Dell XPS 17 which is x2 the price (due to the extra powerful hardware which is unncessary for accounting).

3lbs is the perfect weight to take a laptop with you everywhere. Now because this laptop is BIG , you will need to buy a backpack made for a 17 inch laptop!

Hardware: Core i7 1360P + 16GB DDR5 RAM + 1TB SSD

As long as you grab a 11th 12th or 13th gen CPU, you’ll get the same performance out of a laptop for accounting purposes. CPU doesn’t really matter much in this business. 

In particular, the 13th gen CPU here is WAY WAY TOO FAST for the typical work of the average accountant working with software like Excel, Sage 50 and QuickBooks. Even for those accountants doing some programming for banking software, it’s still way too fast.  Unfortunately, you cannot choosea model that’s cheaper with a different CPU, and if you want the perks of the extra resolution + lightweight design, you can either buy this or the slightly older model shown before. 

You don’t have to buy the latest LG GRAM even if the database files you work with are in the Gigabyte range, you’ll get the same performance from older generation CPUs. 

RAM:   What’s going to make a HUGE difference when it comes to being productive is the RAM. Having the latest CPU (12th or 13th gen for Intel) means you automatically get DDR5 RAM which reads and feeds data faster to the CPU which makes SEVERE MULTITASKING less taxing on a system. 16GB is the sweet spot for that kind of multitasking but 8GB will do for most people too.


2. ASUS ZenBook 14X

Best Laptop For Accounting Students

  Intel Core i5 13500H

  8GB LPDDR5

  Intel Iris Xe Graphics

  1TB SSD 

  14” 2.8K (2880 x 1800) OLED 90Hz

  3.06lbs

  10 hours

When it comes to ergonomics and build quality, the ASUS ZenBook series are like a windows version of MacBooks.

They’re just as thin and the latest models are made of full aluminum and they also come with incredible screens and long batteries.

 Hardware

What about the hardware though?

Well, if we are talking about accounting the hardware isn’t really a concern. But just FYI , the latest model also has a 13th generation Core i5 CPU which although it’s not as fast as the LG Gram’s CPU, it will still run just as fast. This also means you’ve got the latest RAM . We’ll get to that soon. 

  Display & Design

The main thing to discuss is the size and thinness because this is a laptop that SHOULD be your SECOND option if you are a student. If you are an accountant, please skip this model, it’s not going to make your work any efficient due to the way the keyboard’s designed.

Keyboard: Full Sized + Virtual NumPad

Just like the high quality keyboards of the MacBooks, it’s clichet-type keyboard that’s very responsive despite the small travel distance. However…

Just like the 2022 version, the 2023 ZenBook has no ‘PHYSICAL’ Numpad as you can see in the picture. There is however a ‘virtual NUMPAD’ which sits on top of the trackpad. This can work just as good if you attach a mouse to one of the USB ports , which you should anyway because productivity is always faster when you use a mouse regardless of the type of job you do.

The good thing about the oodly placed numpad is that there’s more space available for the keyboard which means bigger keys and more space between each key, it also means there’s a bit more space for your palms to rest as you type making it more comfortable and less cramped as opposed to 13” laptops. 

Weigh and Size: ZenBook 2023 vs Older ZenBooks

The 2023 version has a 14.5” display so it’s almost basically a 15” laptop this means it’s going to be a bit heavier than older models (which are 13” from 2021 and before) but only approximately half a pound heavier (2.9 vs 3.4lb) .

I think this is a good compromise, if you are a student it’s still light enough for you to carry it around all day.  It’s definitely slim although a bit thicker than the MacBook Air (0.66” vs 0.45”) but still thinner than the average 14” or 15” laptop (.75-.80” think). 

Display: QHD Resolution + 120Hz + OLED

The display is WAY different than the average 14” or 15” laptop. The 120Hz refresh rate isn’t really any helpful for accounting other than making it easier on the eyes to watch animaiton and movies. The OLED screen however will come in handy if you want to use the screen at various angles.

What’s really goign to make a difference is the resolution, it is QHD just like the LG Gram and pair this with the 14.5” display , you also get a very huge extra screen space (though obviously not as much as what the LG Gram can give you).  It’s still a lot of extra space to get a bigger view of spreadsheets and graphs. This is good news because like I said, you’ll have a better view of spreadsheets & graphs. This is still WAY better than the average 15” laptop which only has FHD resolution.

You can in fact have THREE windows next to each other for ultimate multitasking, EXTREMELY useful if you’re a student.

  Hardware

Core i5 13500H + 8GB DDR5 + 1TB SSD

This laptop also has a 13th generation Intel Chip, in fact, it’s a gamer / high performance CPU which is usually used for gaming laptops or content creators (video editing stuff)…that’s not a good thing for accounting because it’s unnncessary power which raises the price significantly. If you are a gamer though, you will definitely find it somewhat useful but it will be overkill for ANYTHING you encounter in school.

Lastly, beware that like last year’s model, the hardware is SOLDERED to the motherboard, that means YOU CANNOT take this laptop apart and add additiona storage or RAM. You will be STUCK with whatever you get at the time of purchase. If you buy this model however you WON’T need to do any upgrades to the RAM or SSD. 1TB is WAY too much for pretty much anything these days.

The RAM may be a little low for those INSANE multitaskers and gamers and if you fall into that category you can buy a model with 16GB RAM too. 

Price: $700-1300$

This 2023 ZenBook costs anything between 700 to 1300 dollars depending on what CPU and GPU you choose and how much RAM you want. You should choose the LOWEST configuration possible for CPU & GPU and if you are a student, even 8GB RAM will work wonders so I’d say you’d be spending around 750 dollars for the latest version.

If that’s too much for your budget, then consider the older ASUS ZenBooks which sell anywhere from 550 dollars to 700 dollars. Do note that only the latest (2020, 2021,2022) ZenBooks have the  numerical keypad on the trackpad.

For all other ZenBooks you will have to buy an external numerical keypad.

 


3. Apple 2023 M2 MacBook Air

Best Mac Laptop for Accounting 

  8-core Apple M2 Chip

  8GB-24GB RAM Unified Memory

   10-core Apple M2 Chip GPU

  256GB-2TB SSD

  13.6-15” Retina Display 2560 x 1664

  3.3 lbs

  14-18 hours 

The MacBook Air can be just as expensive as the LG Gram. But it’s well justified if we are talking about ergonomics (keyboard display portability) and durability (it’s the most well built laptop in this list). The drawbacks are the same as with every MacBook for the past 10 years (speaking of accounting):

  • The Price: the latest one is no less than 900 dollars and can go up as 1300 dollars if you choose the 15” version. Don’t worry there’s a way to work around this!
  • OS: It only supports OSX (Mac’s operating system) and unlike older models you cannot install windows. 
  • No numpad: None of the MacBooks have a full sized keyboard with a numerical keypad, this is probably the biggest deal breaker.

If you are an account, it’s probably not a good idea to go for the MacBooks either, however, if you are an accounting students and you use Apple in all of your devices, then the MacBook is a pretty good choice. You can work around all the drawbacks and I will explain how soon!

  Display & Design

Display: 

Just like the ASUS ZenBook & LG Gram, it also has a 2k display and if you add the fact that this model is 15” (almost 16”) then you’ll also get an insane amount of extra space (more so than the ASUS ZenBook and slightly less than the LG GRAM). Unlike the previous two models we went over, the Air’s display has 500 nits of brightness. This means you can take your laptop out in the park around campus sit on one of those benches and still work with the sun, the display will still be visible.

Battery: 18 hours

The MOST salient feature and the REASON why you should consider the MacBook air over all the others is really the battery. You won’t get more battery from any other Windows laptops. Although 18 hours is a bit of an exageration (marketing purposes) it should hit at least 13 hours of battery provided you don’t play any games and all you do is work and work.

This is CRUCIAL if you are a college student because your productivity will go up if you use up all the battery throughout the school day instead of wasting time looking for a seat that as a charger and so on. Add to this the fact that it only weighs 3.3lbs (15” model) , it will basically be like carrying a phone that never runs out of battery.

Keyboard:

When it comes to typing, writing or programming, there’s no single windows laptop that can beat the comfort and typing quality of the MacBooks. Even the older versions of the MacBook Air have way better keyboards than most premium windows laptops.

There’s going to be more essay typing than typing numerical data on spreadsheets during the first years so you can compromise the lack of numerical keypad for the time being. When the time comes, you can just buy an external numerical keypad if you’re not comfortable using the MacBook’s built-in key numbers on the top part of the keyboard.

Windows  & Excel

Excel and MS Office in general on OSX is different than the Windows Version and if you are a student this becomes a bigger problem as your teachers will expect you to have a windows version of excel installed.

But don’t worry, you can work around this by installing Windows on a OSX. You can do this through PARALLEL, basically a virtual machine that can run Windows as if it were a software on top of OSX.

If you buy the older models, you can install windows natively, that is, no need for virtual machines, windows can entirely take over your MacBook and turn it into a windows machine, you can revert back to a MacBook with a rest though. 

Price: $400-1000 

Going for the older models will reduce the price to 400 dollars and sometimes even less! That’s almost 4 times cheaper than the model shown here and they also let you install Windows natively. I think, if you are a student, they can work just as good as the newest model shown here with the only real difference being the display (you don’t need much computing power, only RAM for multitasking and even then 4GB RAM works wonders on OSX too).


4. Surface Pro

Best Portable Laptop For Accounting

  12th gen Intel® Evo Core™ i5 or Core™ i7

  8GB-16GB RAM DDR5

  Intel Xe Graphics

  128GB-1TB PCIe NVMe SSD

  13” IPS ‎2880 x 1920

  1.96lbs 

  +10 hours

This is another choice for students. Not a good choice for an account wanting to make good money and take the CCAP examinations simultaneously.

Now I would’ve loved to put the latest version of the Surface Pro which would be the Surface Pro 10 but it still hasn’t been released yet.

The expected release date was september-october 2023 but there are rumors now that it will be released alongside the new version of Windows which is planned to be released on February 2024. So expect the newest Surface Pro to be released around that day.

Design: 2 in 1 Convertible Laptop

Regardless…

All versions of the surface pro have pretty much the same design so the display, the keyboard and the touchscreen feature is pretty much the same.

They all can turn into a tablet and they will all let you write on the screen with the same sensitivity. Although there are options to the Surface Pro like the HP Spectre, they have nowhere near the same sensitivity and funcitonality, the only thing that comes close to the Surface Pro touchscreen feature is the iPad but we all know the iPad does not support a full blown operating system.

Now the stylus + writing feature is not useful for accounting work however since you are a student you’ll be working out math equations and writing notes than doing actual accountant work in school so it works perfectly. 

Keyboard: No Numpad + Sold separately

If you want to type and crunch numbers you can just buy the external keyboard, attach it and turn into a laptop. Despite being an attachable keyboard, the magnetic flap holds the keyboard quite well and as long as you do the work on a hard surface, it’s going to feel like a real laptop. 

Unfortuantely, it still lacks a numerical keypad, you can however buy an external one and attach it too, if you run out of ports, you can do so wirelessly too. If that’s too much of a hassle to you, then just use the key numbers on the top section of the keyboard. It isn’t like you have to work with numbers during your four years of college anyways, it’s probably ONLY going to get heavy for some accounting classes during the 3rd or 4th year only.

Hardware: Intel Core CPU 

Now, there are hundreds of tablets that can have a keyboard attached too right? But that’s not what makes the SP special, even the iPad can do that! The thing is all of those tablets will only give you access to apps and not actual software. The Surface Pro supports the full version of Windows so its pretty much a full blown laptop. 

In fact,

The hardware installed on the surface pro isn’t so different from the hardware installed on very high-end premium machines like the LG Gram. The newest Surface Pro has almost the same hardware performance as the LG Gram and the new version which should be released next year, it’s even going to be faster than the LG Gram and probably just as fast as a MacBook Pro.

Now for accounting purposes, you don’t need any of that extra power, especially if you’re just a student. So you can save a lot of money by choosing either the lowest hardware configuration of the Surface Pro or buying the older models which are cheaper and cheaper the further you go back in time.

Lastly, all surface pros are unupgradeable! That means you are stuck with whatever RAM & SSD size you choose. Again as long as you grab 8GB RAM, you should be fine. SSD space isn’t a concern at all, accounting files and school files like textbooks and software don’t take much space. 

Desktop Mode:

You also have the option to turn this tablet-laptop into a desktop by buying the dockin station which is basically a little box with tons of sports to attach both the surface pro and external computer accessories like a monitor, speaker, a full sized external keyboard, etc. Basically you’d be turning your laptop into a desktop. Extremely useful if you are a student. Once you head back to the dorm, you can be even more productive by using the desktop mode.


5. Acer Aspire A515-56-347N 

Best Cheap Laptop For Accounting

  AMD Ryzen 3 7320U

  8GB LPDDR5

  AMD Radeon Graphics

  128GB SSD

  15” full HD IPS

  3.9lbs

  7 hours

    Wifi 6 

If you are looking for something extremely cheap yet plenty fast for accounting but NOT HORRIBLY HEAVY, then just type Acer Aspire 5 on the google search bar or amazon store search bar.

You’ll find Acer Aspire 5 models from all sorts of prices. The prices don’t make sense , however, just because you find a model that’s 2x as expensive doesn’t mean it’s going to be faster or better so be careful the price really comes down to the seller.

For this year, I’m choosing a model with the latest Ryzen CPU generation, which bumps up the price slightly to 350 (from 300 dollars).

But you don’t have to buy an acer aspire with the latest CPU, feel free to choose cheaper models!

Just be ware of…

2023 Acer Aspire 5: 8GB RAM + FHD Display

Choosing a model with 8GB RAM and if that’s not possible, plan for future RAM upgrades to 8GB! On the other hand, be sure you’re buying a model with FHD resolution, display cannot be upgraded and FHD is the bare minimum for you to work at a fast pace (HD+ and HD resolutions really limit the data you can see at once through any accounting software which means more scrolling up and down which is equal to time being wasted).

Windows 11 S mode:

Although the description may say Windows 11 S mode, you can switch to the full version of Windows free of cost Just go to  settings–>system—>Activation as shown here.

It’s a long installation process but it’s all free, lots of TOCs to click agree but once done you can install the full version of Office (free if you’re a student I believe but not free otherwise). 

Extras

The SSD is of the latest generation (PCIe NVMe 4.0) just like any SSD from the previous laptops, it’s an NVMe SSD which means there’s a free slot for upgrades in case you want to up the storage to 1TB and up. Also the Ryzen 3 CPU here is THE LATEST generation as of Nov 2023, it’s faster (for accounting purposes) than any Core i3 of the latest generation due to better multi-core performance. As for as multitasking goes, the Ryzen 3 also seems to outperform the Core i3 of the same generation again due to better multi-core performance.

Weight: despite being only 350 bucks and having the FHD, latest R3 CPU, 8GB RAM,  SSD…it weighs less than 4lb! Almost MacBook Pro weight. Also because it’s a 15 inch windows laptop, you get a numerical keypad!

Best choice for accountants on a budget

Students can buy this too if they don’t mind the extra weight. But do know this, you won’t find a lighter laptop under 400 bucks than the Acer Aspire 5 series.


How To Buy The Best Laptop For Accounting (or Computer Desktop)

This short guide can be used by both professionals and students since both are basically using the same software anyways.

*Note that I  wrote this guide  when I got out of business school which was several years ago. I tried to make it more relevant for today by adding more information from redditors in the accounting subreddits. 

Below is all the software you’ll come across as an accounting student. An accountant will only useful the last two mostly:

Accounting Programs

The software used in accounting doesn’t require any special hardware. Although they can run on pretty much any computer, it will only run plenty fast on relatively modern computer (Up to 5 years old or so).

To summarize it, when it comes to laptops, most modern laptops above 350 bucks will have enough CPU power & RAM to run accounting software fast  enough so as not to slow down your productivitiy.

So what makes the best laptop for accounting expensive?

Whether or not its portable, has a great display and a full sized keyboard.

Only very few laptops have all those features (LG Gram, ASUS VivoBook) and they cost anywhere from 800-1000. Most will ditch the full sized keyboard (but this is easily fixed by adding an external numerical keypad) for portability purposes however. As far as I know, only the LG Gram & ASUS ZenBook managed to fit in a numerical keypad.

Before buying a laptop from this article…

You should probably check with your department (if you’re in school) to see if there are  any partnerships computer companies like Dell or HP because you’ll get huge discounts on some cool portable devices. 

Just be sure you don’t buy something heavy or something with a low resolution & small display because they will take a toll on your productivity.

Lastly, if you’re reading this because you’re about to join an internship, chances are you’ll be given a laptop during your internship so there’s probably no need to buy a laptop.

Operating System: Windows only

There is a 99% chance you’ll be stuck with Windows (that means no Chromebooks, Macs or Linux). Because:

  • Teachers use the Windows version of Excel and PowerPoint: you want to do the same to keep up with classes & homework tips.
  • Computer labs run on Windows only due to Excel being more ‘robust’ (we’ll talk about this soon).
  • Schools which use software to take exams will usually use software that are more ‘compatible’ and less prone to crashing with Windows. 

accountant-1794122_640Excel: The most important reason

Although Windows makes sure you can run all accounting software, including obsecure simulation software like Risk Palisade , with no compatibility issues. 

The main reason why windows will always be prefered is due to the windows version of excel being more ‘complete’ .

Now you could use OSX or any other OS (Linux?) too but that depends on how proficient you are with excel and how much your work depends on ‘advanced tool’s and plugins.

If what yu do relies on basic excel functions (basically what 90% of people , not accountants, use), then you can use the OSX (Mac) version of excel or even an excel alternative found on Linux systems.

If you are an accountant that isn’t likely to be the case though. And it’s not just about excel really, it’s about the whole MS Office ecosystem being more popular on Windows devices because the Windows version of Excel, Powerpoint & Word just seems to be better.

Why is the Windows version of MS Office better?

Microsoft Office is Microsoft’s most popular software so there’s obviously going to be a bias towards the version that runs on ‘Microsoft’ Windows. Whether its intentional or not (to encourage people to buy Windows laptops) doesn’t matter, the end result is the same:

Excel will always be better on Windows, more robust and more complete.

This is the main reason why most computer labs and networks in every accountaing department runs Windows systems and why Windows is the industry standard for accountants. 

If you have access to a windows and mac device, you can check the differences yourself by looking at:

  • Ribbon composition
  • Toolbars
  • Keyboard ShortCuts
  • Add ons and Plugins : Data Analysis ToolPak and Solver for Excel work on every Windows version of excel but only on the latest version of OSX 

TL;DR: The whole point of this section is that you will need to run Windows on a laptop and Windows Home or Professional and they do not run well on most laptops below or around 350 dollars. If your budget is much higher, then this is not going to be an issue, if your budget is around that number you have to watch out for what CPU (processor) and how much RAM you’re getting otherwise things will be slow and your may not be as productive

Best Laptop Specs for Accounting

What CPU do you need for Windows, thus accounting software, to run fast? How much RAM is too much? If budget is not an issue, exactly, what display and keyboards should I look for? 

Everything will be answered here starting with the CPU.

1. CPU(Processor)

Now the truth is most CPUs will run Windows 10 or 11 Home (or Professional) and accounting software without issues. There’s only a handful that will give you troubles and all of them are either CPUs that too old or CPUs that were designed for tablets (but for whatever reason are being used in laptops).

Instead of listing all the CPUs you should go for, I will tell you which ones to avoid.

Any CPU NOT in this list is GOOD and equally as good as ANY other CPU for accounting purposes.

AVOID:

Pentium, Celeron, MediaTek, Atom
These are weak CPUs usually made for tablets.

Any CPU with the number 6 or below (after taking out the last three digits) . Ex: Intel Core i5 6100U —> take out 100 —> Core i5 6 …this means this is the 6th generation (released 10 years ago)

Any CPU from AMD that doesn’t have the word Ryzen. Ex: AMD A8-5545M.

And OPT for CPUs like the following:

Intel

CPU Base Turbo Cores
i3 10050G1 1.2 3.4 2
i3 10100U 2.1 4.1 2
i3-1115G4 3 4.1 2
i3-1215U 3.3 4.4 2/4
i3 1315U
3.3 4.5 2/4
i5 1115G4 2.4 4.2 4
i5 1240P 3.3 4.4 12
 i5 1335U  3.4  4.6  8/2

AMD

CPU Base Turbo Cores
Ryzen 5 7530U  2.0 4.5 
Ryzen 5 7520U  2.8 4.3 
Ryzen 5 5500U 2.1 4.4 6
Ryzen 5 4500U  2.3 4.0   6
Ryzen 3 7320U
2.4 4.1 4
Ryzen 3 5300U 2.6 3.8 4
Ryzen 3 4300U  2.7 3.7 

This is a small list but you can extrapolate it if you change the first number within their model number. Ex: Ryzen 5 3500U –> AMD Ryzen 4500U , both are basically the same thing and equally good (the latter is more recent).

A few more tips:

  • Core i5 and Ryzen 5, if found on ultrabooks (thin 3lb laptops), are the sweetspot in terms of performance and battery
    • If found on thick heavy laptops, usually means battery wont be as good (7 vs 10 hours).
  • Ryzen 7 and Core i7 are unnecessarily powerful and expensive and not only that but they also consume more energy which means less battery.
    • This doesn’t mean you can discard Core i7 or Ryzen 7 laptops altogether, some have really good batteries, displays and keyboards which makes them equally good (or better as in the case of the LG gram) than core i5 or ryzen 5 ultrabooks.  

2. RAM(Memory)

Since most laptops have the above CPUs (unless your looking for laptops under 300 dollars), RAM becomes the most important spec.

4GB RAM: Some laptops, despite all the bells and whistles, will only have this much and this may have been okay for Windows XP but certainly not for Windows 8, 10 and much less 11. All easily taking 3.5-4GB RAM leaving you with almost nothing for your software. Usually laptops with this much RAM will run Windows in S mode (a weaker version) and it will be fast with this version of Windows but it won’t let you install a lot of software you will  need.

8GB RAM: Minimum for any type of accounting. The full versions of Windows 10 or Windows 11 will take 50% of it which leaves you with 4GB for all the multitasking you have in mind. You can even run all accounting software listed above simultaneously and still be fine: Sage 50, peachtree, Excel, quatoPro, viscicalc, lotus ,etc.

16GB RAM: Only useful if you are an accountant working with many software simultaneously and pretty large database files say for a big big company.

If for some reason you end up running scripts  that perform functions on very large chunks of data as a student (for a project or an internship) then you may need 16GB RAM too.

Note: Any laptop that doesn’t weight less than 3lbs (ultrabooks) is upgradeable. You can upgrade RAM if you feel like you need to. 

RAM Generation: DDR4 vs DDR5

You may come across descriptions saying DDR3, LPDRR4, DDR5, etc. You should just pay attention to the last number (3, 4 or 5), the higher the number the faster the data feeding speed which increases software performance. However, for most accountants, unless they’re working on huge databases, the performance gains from recent generations of RAM are minuscule. It is much better to focus on HOW MUCH RAM you’re getting as opposed to what type of RAM, again 16GB is deal.

3. Storage

Capacity

Laptops and desktops today have a minimum of 128GB with 256GB being the standard and 512GB-1TB being found only on very expensive rigs.

You don’t need high storage if you’re only using this computer for accounting purposes. It’s only an issue if you play games.

What about having several hundreds of large spreadsheets?

Even the largest data file you’ll come across within your lifetime will only take 100MB (10% of 1GB) and since most laptops have 128GB, that means (after taking out 60GB for Windows & Accounting software) you can have 60/.1= 600 of those in 128GB.

Remember most laptops have 256GB so you’ll be able to store 600*3 approx 2000 of the largest data files ( spreadsheets, database files) in existence.

If you use QuickBooks, then the largest data file I’ve heard of weighed about 1.5GB and you only come across 2 or 3 of these during all the time you spent on a company (2-3 years), you can have sixty of those on a 128GB storage device.

Type: SSD vs HDD

So if its not storage size, what’s the thing to look out for?

It’s storage type.

There are two types: HDD and SSD.

SSD (Solid State Drive) is many many many times faster (depending on how many lanes your SSD uses – 4 being the highest- it can be x17 faster than HDDs). As long as you grab an SSD (regardless of lanes or sub-type : PCie NVMe vs SATA III), you’ll still get the same speed and benefits:

  • Load up all your apps and software in a flash (in less than a second). 
  • Find particular pieces of code or data embedded across huge databases (or within the entire computer) almost instantly. 
  • Boot up your system and get it ready to work in less than 10 seconds (HDDs will do so within several minutes).

Solid State Drives are now universal on all laptops above 350 dollars thus ‘not having an SSD’ is only an issue if you are on a very low budget and you have to buy much cheaper and older laptops. 

SSD Generation:  among PCIe NVMe SSDs , there’s also generations. Usually, the latest the generation, the higher the number of ‘lanes’, then the faster the number of data that can be fed to the CPU. However, this isn’t much of a concern for laptops because as of late 2023, most have PCIe NVMe 4.0 as SSD types. It’s useful knowledge for desktops however. For accounting purposes, the performance gains are very very minuscule too even if you work with large databases.

4. GPU (Graphics Card)

What graphics card you get on your laptop or desktop does not matter at all.  Every excel chart or quickbooks chart, even if its in 3D, it will run lagless on ANY graphics card even those made 20 years ago. You get by default an integrated graphics card with every processor (CPU). The ‘integrated’ default graphics card is also useful for video editing (for marketing purposes) and graphic design (if you ever have to do some marketing work). 

5. Ergonomics

Since most laptops above 350 bucks have all the hardware boxes CHECKED, the rest of your money (or if you have a high budget) should be invested on ergonomics: making your workspace area as comfortable as possible.

Keyboard

Numerical KeyPad

Accountants use the numerical keypad way more than they use the keys with letters. Unfortunately, most laptops don’t have a full sized-keyboard with the numerical keypad unless they’re anywhere from 14 to 17”. 

Some 14” laptops won’t have a numerical keypard but virtually every 15-17” laptop will have the numerical keypad. 

 

If you’re an accountant, you can deal with the weight since you’ll be mostly at the office.

If you’re an student however,  it’s not so wise to pick heavy 15 or 17” laptops for the sole purpose of having a numerical keypad (unless they weigh 3lbs or so) and since you’ll be most likely spending time writing reports and essays, it’s okay to just discard a built-in numerical keypad and opt for an external numerical keypad.

External Numerical KeyPad

You don’t want to look like a loser trying to crunch in lots of numbers in class by using the top row numbers. 

You don’t have to sacrifice portability for the numerical keypad either. Just get an external numer bad pad shown below:

You don’t even to plug it in either if you choose a wireless (bluetooth) numerical keypad. 

I encourage you to get a lightweight device (cheap is fine) then buy an external a numerical keypad.

It is much better than having to lug around a 14”-15” heavy brick to school everyday.

Dedicated F keys – F1 F2….

FN keys (F1, F2) are super useful for accountants as you can use them for macros (kind of like macros for games) which basically call all steps (of a custom function) with just one key.

All laptops have FN keys even the smallest ones.

However…

A lot of these laptops will only let you access the FN keys after you press Shift or command and although that may be fine too you want to prioritize laptops with dedicated FN keys which let you directly access FN keys (no need to press shift or command).

Display

The only thing you want to maximize when it comes to display is resolution as this will let you work with a bigger wokrspace area and thus you’ll get a more complete coverage of graphs, tables & rows. 

Resolution

Now you could do this with a gigantic display but you don’t want to maximize portability either (unless you’re building a desktop), the only left way to do this is by maximizing resolution.

More resolution means more pixels to display icons , numbers, interfaces, and so on without compromising image quality. Thus higher resolution can fit in more ‘stuff’ by reducing the size of letters and objects. Higher resolution also means smaller icons that are easier on the eyes.

This also means more space to multitask: have a couple of windows open next to each other (one for a spreadsheet next to another one to type a report).  

How much resolution?

FHD: 1920×1080 also known as 1080p or FHD is the bare minimum for multitasking (two windows next to each other.
QHD: This 2.5k resolution and as of 2023, it’s getting more and more common. If you can afford it or if you find it on a laptop that’s on a deal, all power to you, this will increase space massively to the point of having x2 the amount of rows visible in a spreadsheet.
4k:  You will only find this much on laptops above 1000 dollars. Of course, it is desireable but you’ll have to compromise weight & money for it.

Weight

Display size is correlated to weight, if you’re an accounting student on a budget you will have to make some compromises, it will usually be weight by here are some tips that may help you make the right choice:

3lb:  This is the ideal weight if you are a student, however, laptops with this lightweight usually cost 700+ dollars. Going for refurbished models will only lower down the price by 100 dollars at best. All of these laptops are called ‘ultrabooks’:  ASUS ZenBook, Dell XPS, HV Envy, LG Gram, etc.

3.5lbs:  You can get laptops with this much weight for about 400 dollars but they’re going to be somewhat rare and you will usually have to compromise hardware, that is, it won’t be bad hardware but it will be slightly older. You’ll find this laptop by typing the keywords “thin laptop” “slim laptop” as shown in this link. Good news even slightly older hardware will run windows 11 Professional just fine and supports multitasking with several accounting software, it will make almost no difference in how productive you are.

4lbs:  This is much more common although not the rule for laptops under 500 dollars and as much weight as you should aim for. Anything more is just going to exhausting.

You can buy an old macbook Pro (2015 onwards) which sells under 400 dollars and install Windows on it (it will run it okay as long as you have 8GB) as a last resort, it’ll be portable and fast with no downsides other than being refurbished (this isn’t an issue though refurbished Macs last a long time

Battery Life

If you need a long battery, keep the following in mind:

  • All Ultrabooks (super thin powerful laptops like the ASUS ZenBook) will have at least 8 hours and 10 on average.
  • All MacBooks (even the older models) have at least 10 hours. The latest M1 MacBooks – 15 hours. Refurbished models may get you 8 hours tops.
  • Budget laptops with Core i3 or Core i5 CPUs will have, at the most, 7 hours of battery.
  • Laptops with Ryzen 7 and Core i7 CPUs will have less than 10 hours on average with some exceptions (due to being able to fit in bigger batterries).
  • Any laptop with dedicated graphics (which you don’t need anyway) will only get you 4 hours (2 on average) TOPS.

Tips to increase battery life:

  • Turn off bluetooth
  • Turn off wifi if you are not using it.
  • Use headphones
  • Reduce display brightness
  • Reduce resolution
  • Turn off the backlit feature.

Operating System: Macs are good too?

OSX itself (Mac OSX operating system) is useless for accounting unless you do not need the advanced functions of excel and only use excel and MS Office. However, the hardware on MacBooks , even those on older models, is powerful enough to run any software for accounting plenty fast. If you could install Windows on a Mac, then that would be perfect as that would eliminate all compatibility issues and will also ensure you get the best version of Excel.

Can you install Windows on a Mac? If so, how?

Well yes and no. You can install Windows on the older models (pre-2020) but not on the newer models (M2 & M1 models).

Mac: BootCamp & Parallels

Best way to install Windows on a Mac is by using Bootcamp, a built-in software in all pre-2020 MacBooks that will ask you for a Windows CD or a Windows image file to start the windows installation process.

Once the installation is complete you will choose which operating system to use right after you turn on your computer: Mac OSX or Windows? 

Comments?

If you have any suggestions, questions  or recommendations. Please leave a comment below.

Author Profile

Miguel Salas
Miguel Salas
I am physicist and electrical engineer. My knowledge in computer software and hardware stems for my years spent doing research in optics and photonics devices and running simulations through various programming languages. My goal was to work for the quantum computing research team at IBM but Im now working with Astrophysical Simulations through Python. Most of the science related posts are written by me, the rest have different authors but I edited the final versions to fit the site's format.

Miguel Salas

I am physicist and electrical engineer. My knowledge in computer software and hardware stems for my years spent doing research in optics and photonics devices and running simulations through various programming languages. My goal was to work for the quantum computing research team at IBM but Im now working with Astrophysical Simulations through Python. Most of the science related posts are written by me, the rest have different authors but I edited the final versions to fit the site's format.

Show Buttons
Hide Buttons