10 Best Laptops For Engineering Students 2024

When engineering students start their electrical , mechanical , computer , civil , software , chemical , aeronautical or aerospace engineering program their first assumption is…

“Im going to need a very powerful laptop with the latest processor and graphics”

That’s not true.

Most engineering students will onl need a laptop with a decent CPU and 8GB RAM.

Now…

I’m sure you’re thinking: “wait what about the 3D modeling or CAD software or whatever?”

Listen…

As long as you buy ANY laptop ANY “dedicated graphics”, you’ll be able to run ANY 3D CAD project that you encounter in engineering school. In fact, you may not even need dediated graphics!

CAD software will be the most hardware demanding app for engineering students and even the integrated GPU in this Lenovo Ideapad  has no issues using viewport. It has dedicated graphics but I disabled it to prove that even without it it works just fine.

In this post…

I will PROVE everything I just said with benchmarks (footage) and by going through the typical engineering curriculum. 

In engineering school, there will be only few ocassions you’ll have to run CAD software (fo which you can use the computer lab)…there’s other software that’s more frequently used such as:

Electrical & Computer Engineers: programming languages like C++ and circuit simulators like SPICE.

These type of engineering students may or may not run 3D CAD models and when they do models are very small and do not need a dedicated graphics card (which makes a laptop expensive)
 

Mechanical & Civil :  lots of programming too .

For these stdents, 3D CAD design gets more complex especially for Mechanical, aeronautical  and robotic engineers who may use  SolidWorks & ANSYS (3rd-4th year). Here a 4GB vRAM GPU helps tremendously

Civil engineering students may use  Revit , 3DS Max and the like however limited to small models. A laptop with an entry graphics card (2GB vRAM) will be OKAY

Recommended Hardware for Engineering Students & Engineers

Since the CAD software you’ll use will be during your 3rd or 4th year and be limited to a few classes/projects. My advice is to not to focus on power but rather PORTABILITY. 

You’ll spend the first two years in misery trying to get through the introductory engineering and physics classes and some programming (for which a 400 dollar laptop will do).

The third year you will start seeing CAD software but that will be the LEAST of your concerns as you’ll start to see advanced physics & math classes.

How does a portable laptop help?

It will make sure you ALWAYS ALWAYS have it at your disposal so you can keep watching and reading and programming whenever you see the oportunity so you don’t waste time texting and watching TikTok.

Check out the front page of the site and you’ll find useful software and app  to boost productivity and blocks time-wasting sites and apps

Q: OK, good point, Any portable laptop will be fine? 

Of course not. You don’t want a buy a cheap 200 dollar laptop from wallmart. You also want to avoid lag especially when you have a dozen programs open with 20 chrome tabs.

Basically, I want you to pick a laptop with the recommended hardware you see on the infographic. 

Before we go over the best laptop for engineering in 2024 (i will include laptops with the ‘recommended’ hardware & ‘best’ hardware in the table).

I want to elaborate a bit more on the hardware for those that are a little more computer savy, you’re welcome to skip to the best laptops section.

2D engineers: electrical, computer, software, chemical and industrial engineers.
3D engineers:
mechanical, civil and aeronautical

CPU (Processor)

2D engineer: Any recent CPU released within the past 5 years. Feel free to go higher if you can afford (without compromising portability & weight)

Core i3 1115G4, Core i3 1215U, Core i3 1315U, Ryzen 3 4300U, 3 5300U 

3D engineer: At least a Core i5 or Ryzen 5 CPU released within the past 3 years.

Core i5 1135G7, Core i5 1240P, Core i5  1235U, Core i5 1345U, Ryzen 5 4500U, 5500U*, Ryzen 5 7530U** .
 

The more recent the CPU the better. Why? Because they have higher clock speeds and better ‘integrated graphics’ both should make up for the lack of ‘dedicated graphics’ if you decide to buy a laptop without one.
However,  the 7th generation Ryzen 3 & 5 CPUs should be avoided (they have weak dedicated graphics – Radeon 610M). 

GPU

Integrated GPUs can run  small 3D projects with zero issues. Viewport will lag with ‘integrated’ graphics as you step into 200-400 part models. 

2D engineer: Doesn’t really need dedicated graphics. Integrated graphics (which come ‘integrated to the CPU’ so to speak) is good enough even for 3D work. 

3D engineer:  You either go for the latest ‘integrated graphics’ which should work (though with some lag) with SMALL 3D projects in AutoCAD, SolidWorks and ANSYS*.

Or choose a laptop with ‘dedicated’ graphics to get smooth performance (if you refuse to use computer labs or another computer besides your laptop):

For smooth performance with 3D work you only need a 2-4GB vRAM  such as the following:

*MX250, MX350, MX450, MX550, 1050GTX, 1650GTX, 2050RTX, 3050Ti, 4050 RTX

Those in red have the same performance as the latest integrated graphics. Green ones are IDEAL and the blue is overkill but may become useful after school. 

What about ‘workstation’ GPUs? Like Quadro? FirePro?

They’re useful for actual working engineers. Even so there’s only a small chance an actual engineer will find it useful unless he/she works in the 3D modeling department. If so check out my 3D modeling posts on :AutoCAD & Solidworks.

RAM & Storage

8GB: If you follow my advice on CPU & GPU, you’ll automatically get 8GB or 16GB. Either is plenty to multitask with 3D modes, IDE for programming, Office,  and all the internet tabs you’ll need.
256GB: Bare bone minimum and found on most laptops. If you’re specializing in 3D modeling & Cad design, you may want to do the upgrade to 512GB. 

Top 10 Best Laptops For Engineering Students & Engineers

I KNOW this is a long list but I tried to cover all types of laptops for engineering.

I recommend you read at LEAST the first 3 reviews. Those are the THREE most important laptops of the list.

Also  keep in mind the following icons before reading a review:

  Ideal.

   Overkill but useful.

  MAY lack power for large 3D CAD projects. Read description for more details.


1. MSI GF63 THIN 12UCX-898US

Cheap Laptop For  Engineering Students

  Intel Core i5 12450H

  8GB RAM DDR4

   2050RTX 4GB vRAM 30W

  1TBGB PCIe NVMe SSD

  15” 1080p IPS 144Hz

  4.1 lbs

  3 hours

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

This is a laptop bullet proof for pretty much EVERY engineer and ANY project you encounter during engineering school because it has both a very recent CPU & a 4GB vRAM dedicated GPU.

If you’re an electrical engineering or a 2D engineer, then I’d say it’s good too but it’s OVERKILL and you’ll be compromising weight for extra power (GPU power) you might NEVER put to good use unless you like gaming (you should quit gaming at least for the first three years anyways).

Now…

As for 3D engineers, you don’t need to specifically buy this laptop. I featured it here because it’s the cheapest one that’s lightweight and has a dedicated graphics.  If you can find something cheaper with a 4GB vRAM dGPU by all means grab it (1650GTX or 3050RTX).

As for actual working engineers working specifically with 3D CAD software, this may get you started but it’s not ideal for very large 3D modeling projects like automobiles or large machinery (refrigerators) in Solidworks. You want to check out laptops with 6GB vRAM dGPUs.

 Performance: 3050Ti 4GB vRAM + Ryzen 5 5600H

What kind of performance can you get with a 4GB vRAM dGPU?

For AutoCAD you can expect super smooth performance regardless of how big your models are and I’m talking about autocad in 3D. As for ANSYS & Solidworks (used by 3D engineers), as long as parts remain below 500 parts, you can make do and viewport will be smooth too. This also includes super fast rendering with GPU renderers (and CPU renderers) again because both the CPU and GPU are recent. The GPU has a lot of CUDA cores (for GPU rendering) and the CPU lots of cores (for CPU rendering) than previous generations. 

If you’re a 3D engineering student who wants to work with 3D CAD design software in the future, you may want to also opt for 6GB vRAM however. 

What about cheaper laptops with dedicated GPUs ?

We are not going to go over laptops with CHEAPER and WEAKER dedicated graphics than this model so let me give you a few tips (if you can’t afford a 4GB vRAM GPU like this model ~600 bucks but still want dedicated graphics):

MX150, MX250, MX350/450 940M ,1050/1050TiandRadon Pro 5XX GPUs, 1650GTX

Except for those in red,  all the above will get you almost the same performance for 3D modeling & CAD projects in engineering classes (all of them are overkill for 2D engineers). 

Those in RED are dedicated GPUs!  You have to watch out for those because even though they have 2GB ‘vRAM’. The performance is close to what ‘recent integrated graphics’ can get you. Which are usually labeled as RX Vega or Intel Xe graphics and can be found on laptops that are cheaper (400-500). 

The rest including the almost expensive 1650GTX are all good for engineering school and will handle 3D cad modeling on heavy software like ANSYS & Solidworks with parts up to 200. Note that most engineering projects given in engineering school usually stay below 100 parts.

Elective 3D CAD courses

However if you plan on specializing in 3D modeling (very hard to know if you’re on your first year but basically you want to design cars, tools, refrigerators or any complex devices that has moving parts) you want to try and grab a laptop with a 4GB vRAM dGPU at the very least. 

Once you start designing work (again in heavy software like Solidworks) in the 500-1000 range, you want to buy a laptop that’s got a better CPU & GPU. Very unlikely however you’ll come across such projects in engineering school UNLESS you decide to make it your senior project. 

MSI GF63 Thin
PROS CONS
  • Handles all software including CAD software
  • Handles large 3D CAD models
  • 12th gen Core i5
  • Relatively thin & lightweight
  • High Storage 
  • Cheap laptop with 4GB vRAM GPU
  • Too much power for 2D engineering
  • Low battery
  • only FHD

2. Surface Laptop Studio 2

Best 2 in 1 Laptop For Engineering

  Intel® Core™ i7 13th gen

  16GB LPDRR5 RAM

  NVIDIA RTX 4050

  512 GB NVMe PCIe 4.0 SSD

  14.4”  2400 x 1600 2 in 1 Tablet-Laptop w/ Stylus

  4.37lbs

  5 hours

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

The MSI GF63 laptop is a basic laptop with dedicated graphics that doesn’t focus on portability. Now we’ll go over very portable yet powerful laptops for all types of engineering. We’ll start with the most powerful laptop (with dedicated graphics).

Surface Series: 

If you’ve been browsing around the web for a while you’ve probably come across these devices: Surface Pro, Surface Book, Surface Laptop Studio. Basically those that can be converted into a tablet. If you are a freshman I bet you didn’t know this: they are the MOST POPULAR LAPTOPS CHOSEN BY ENGINEERING STUDENTS.

is that surprising? It should’t be!

ALL of these are super portable! They also have AMAZING displays, LONG BATTERY LIVES (with the exception of the Surface studio we’ll explain soon) and the most important thing:

  • All of these devices can be turned into a 2 in 1 tablet that you can take notes and even write math equations or do your physics homework. 

Obviously all of these devices can handle programming, circuit design (may with an adapter if they lack an USB/RJ-45 port) and CAD software

The best part for engineering students is that there are MANY versions of these devices EACH with different hardware configurations. What does that mean? That means you can tailor the hardware (thus reduce the price) according to your field of specialization. In other words, if you are a CAD engineering or WANT to focus on CAD engineering, you can choose one with more GPU & CPU power (thus inceasing the price). If you’re a 2D engineer, you can ignore the CPU & GPU and buy the cheapest configuration & model you find.

  Surface Laptop Studio 2: Performance

The laptop featured here is the Surface Studio 2, the most powerful of all Surface Devices.

Now if you’re a 2D engineer, you’re better off checking the next laptop: Surface Pro 9.

If you’re a 3D engineer….

You have three options depending on the GPU: 4050RTX, 4060RTX or the RTX 2000 Ada version. (You can also choose  the Surface Pro 9 if you desire ! )

Which one to choose depends whether or not you want to run CAD software on this device or specialize in CAD software. 

If you are an engineering student using this for engineering school projects only, the 4050RTX is OVERKILL. More than enough.

Be it the 4050RTX which has 6GB vRAM or a 3050RTX 4GB vRAM, these GPUs will NEVER lag no matter what kind of project you run in 3D school (with the possible exception of a very complex & high in parts senior project).

So you don’t have to buy the latest Surface Laptop Studio 2 if you cannot afford it, you can also buy the previous version (which has a weaker but good gpu for 3d engineering) or the Surface Book (which is also cheaper).  The 4050RTX is good but it’s just overkill , 6GB vRAM is just too much GPU power! But if you have the budget, you can use it for after school engineering projects in a company!

If you’re an actual working engineer or specializing in 3D CAD software EXCLUSIVELY with heavy software like SOLIDWORKS (AutoCAD 3D isn’t that GPU demanding), then you can choose between the 4060RTX or the RTX 2000 Ada version. The latter is a workstation graphics which is (at least in theory) better for stability purposes in Solidworks/ANSYS.

 Display & Design

The Surface Laptop Studio 2 is the heaviest of all surface devices (along with the Surface Book) but that’s also due to the fact that it has an almost regular sized display  (~15”). The cool part about not just the Surface Studio but all Surface Devices (well most ) is the resolution is very close to QHD. High Resolution is one of the most HANDY features of ANY laptop because it increases the amount of space you have on the screen to work with. That means more space to fit it windows next to each other which will increase your workflow! Imagine having a tutorial on some subject with your notes next to each other. Or data from a website with an excel sheet (much less need to scroll down because there’s a lot of space), etc.

Surface Laptop Studio 2
PROS CONS
  • Runs all engineering software
  • Can be used for working engineers
  • Has the latest Core i7
  • GPU is configurable (three choices)
  • Older versions are just as fast
  • Can draw and sketch with touchPen
  • Cannot be RAM or Storage Upgraded after purchase
  • Flimsy keyboard on non-hard surfaces
  • Overkill for 2D engineers
  • Battery is average

3. Lenovo Ideapad 5i

 Budget  Laptop For Engineering

  Intel Core i5-11300H

  8GB DDR4

   GeForce MX 450 2GB vRAM

  512GB PCIe 4.0  SSD

  16″ QHD 2.5K

  4.2 lbs

  4  hours

  Electrical , Computer , Chemical , Software

  Civil, Mechanical , Aerospace & Aeronautical Engineers

 This is one of my top favorite BUDGET laptops for two reasons:

  • The power is just right. This is a 2GB vRAM dedicated GPU. The bare bone minimum to run CAD & 3D models with Solidworks/Ansys in engineering school
    • Of course this is still overkill for a 2D engineer and I’d advice 2D engineers to avoid this laptop because it’s heavy.
  • The display!

 Performance: Core i5 11300H + MX450 

Now I’ve said multiple times all engineers will mostly be dealing with coding assignements and circuit design. It’s just the 3D engineers who will have to run 3D CAD models that MIGHT require graphics card.

Since this laptop has a 2GB vRAM graphics it should be able to run Solidworks projects up to 200 parts before lagging. Now in order for a 2GB vRAM GPU to pull this off, it’s important you buy a RECENT 2GB vRAM dGPU.

There are many older GPUs like the 940MX or MX250 you may find as refurbished at a much cheaper price but be aware that although they’all also run 3D models in the same part range, they’ll struggle a lot more the moment you go higher.

 Display

The TOP one reason why I’m posting this laptop is the resolution and screen size. It’s got a 16” QHD display, this is going to give you (so far) the greatest amount of screen space available. That means more windows on the same screen: a tutorial + your IDE (programming software), a youtube video + Office (note taking). More important than that though is the fact that you’ll have more space to see code at once. 

Writing a script for a project or assignment can get pretty large (though) and it is important to have a good view of the entire structure (sometimes) to be able to fix any bugs/errors. 

If you are a 2D engineer, you want to look for this laptop’s version without the dedicated graphics. There’s one made by HP and another one made by Lenovo!

Lenovo Idea Pro 5i
PROS CONS
  • Perfect for 2D & 3D engineers
  • Runs all CAD software
  • High resolution display
  • Decent battery life
  • CPU & GPU is slightly old
  • Relatively expensive
  • Cannot upgrade RAM
  • Not useful for 3D working engineers

4. Surface Pro 9

Best Portable Laptop for Engineering

  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

 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 projects will need the SurfaceBook 3 though these two is rarely used in engineering 

This is in my opinion an even better choice than the Surface Laptop Studio if you want a 2 in 1 tablet despite the lack of GPU power. That doesn’t mean software-wise it’s going to be useless.

In fact, the Surface Pro it’s even more popular than the Surface Laptop Studio or the Surface Book which have dedicated graphics. The reasons are pretty simple:

  • It’s much lighter
  • Has the same 2 in 1/TouchScreen design for note-taking , equation-writing, etc.
  • Has MORE battery (due to the lack of GPU power)
  • It’s much CHEAPER

In fact, it gets INSANELY cheaper if you go for the much older models which are not that old (they still have the CPU & RAM we discussed in the recommended specs section).

Now the main question is, what kind of performance can you expect with the Surface Pro which doesn’t have a dedicated graphics card?

 Performance

None of the versions of the Surface Pro have a 4GB or 2GB vRAM dedicated GPU. However…

They always have the LATEST CPU on them. So if you buy the most recent version (Surface Pro 10 by the time you read this probabl). They’ll have the latest CPU which as we discussed in the intro means you also get the latest thus powerful integrated graphics.

Recent integrated graphics are only as good as 2GB vRAM dedicated GPUs and you can expect the Surface Pro 10 to have the same power as the Intel XE/RX Vega. However, for engineering 3D Cad projects, this should be plenty even for Solidworks since models start in the <100 parts range. Now there will be some lag for sure especially when you use viewport but it isn’t going to be to the point of making it impossible to work with.

SInce you have to deal with 3D CAD design projects a couple of times. I’d say it’s a good compromise. If you bear with it (or use the computer lab or another computer) you get all the insane benefits of the Surface Pro we listed above. 

RAM: 8GB vs 16GB vRAM

It’s very important to make sure you get at least 8GB RAM with your Surface Pro. This isn’t an issue with the most recent models which have 8GB by default as the bare minimum. But it’s kind of an issue with the much older models because some have a Core i3 or a “M/Y” chip (which is much weaker) and 4GB RAM.

If you can afford it, get a model with 16GB RAM. That will MASSIVELY improve viewport performance with 3D CAD models. How? It’s simple: if you have 16GB RAM there’s going to be plenty of RAM left even if you run a dozen programs thus there’s always going to be “dedicated RAM memory” for your integrated graphics to work with thus making it much closer to dedicated graphics performane wise. Very good trick I realized way after I graduated unfortunately.

I’m talking about 3D engineers of course. For 2D engineers (electrical, computer, chemical, civil, etc) they don’t need to do any upgrades or even consider the most recent models with recent CPUs. They can for older versions with 8GB RAM and have all their software run PLENTY fast to get things done

 Display & Design

It’s got the same awesome display as the Surface Laptop Studio. It’s got 2880 x 1920 (higher than QHD – 2560×1440  ) paired with a 13” display. The lack of display size maens it’s way way more portable but it also means there’s going to be less screen space compared to 15” laptops. However, since it’s still got very high resolution, this should easily make up for it and let you multitask with multiple windows simultaneously.

Especially for programming, since coding and be able to follow code logic benefits IMMENSELY from large resolution displays (no need to keep scrolling down to find out what’s wrong with your coding assingment). Compared to the Surface Laptop Studio 2, the Surface Pro is about less than 1/2 thick: .86in vs .33in.  This means it’s much more compact and much easier to fit in between books. Don’t forget that both of these are 2 in 1 devices with very accurate note-taking features, which means you can replace your entire arsenal of textbooks and notebooks. This may be a bit harder for engineers because there’s lots of equations to write (I actually recommend using a physical notebook for equations for learning purposes especially when you have to practice/work math/physics problems) but for the rest of your classes it can entirely replace every notebook.

Surface Pro 9
PROS CONS
  • Perfect for all engineering students
  • Can run small 3D models in CAD software too
  • Very Long battery life
  • Hardware is Customizable (to your budget)
  • Stylus extremely accurate for note-taking
  • Very lightweight
  • High resolution display
  • Cannot be RAM or Storage Upgraded
  • Flimsy keyboard 
  • Latest models can be expensive
  • Small display
  • Not useful for 3D CAD working engineers
  • Lacks dedicated graphics

5. Lenovo ThinkPad X1 

Best Lenovo Laptop For Engineering

  Intel Core i7 13th gen or Core i9

 16GB-64GB DDR4 RAM 

   AMD Radeon Vega 7

  512-2TB PCIe NVMe SSD

  14-16” QHD or UHD resolution

  2.24-4.14lbs

  10+ hours

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

Lenovo Thinkpads ar the most popular “TRADITIONAL LAPTOP” among engineers. The ThinkPads are ALWAYS ALWAYS the first choice for engineering work.

So it will be something that will be useful AFTER engineering school (lets hope they graduate) due to:

  • myriad of extra ports: The thinkpads (T & X1 Carbon Series) regardless of release date. Always always have LOTS of ports which cannot be said for modern ultrabooks which try to make their laptops more portable by reducing the amount of ports with every new version.
  • rock solid design : The thinkpads are built like tanks. They can withstand serious and dangerous working conditions and the everyday of stress of commuting and traveling. They can take a few drops since their built with aluminum as opposed to plastic. On average, from what I’ve seen, they can last about 8 years if you can avoid any serious accidents.
  • top of the line keyboard:  This is probably the number one reason why they’re so popular. While the above 3 laptops are not good choices for someone who has to program and type reports all day, this one is the BEST for that. The keyboard is EXTREMELY well designed and that’s super important when it comes to picking up laptops for actual jobs. They have long travel distance (how far you can push them) and are very responsive, they kind of feel like a typewriter that doesn’t need much force for keys to register. 
  • Trackpad: its trademark feature is the trackpad with the design shown in the picture. You have three clicks on a very large spacious trackpad with the small red dot which acts sort of like a ball mouse. Super useful when you want to work on the move!
  • Linux compatibility: Not so important unless you’re an engineer who’s going to specialize in data science or any field that requires daily use of packages for programming. Basically, if you are top of the line programmer, you want to install Linux natively (instead of Windows) and the thinkpads, unlike most laptops, are very compatible with Linux Distros. In other words, every piece of hardware inside the laptop will work with Linux. This may not be the case for other laptops which usually have one or two hardware features disabled due to lack of drivers/compatibility with Linux.

 Performance

Of course, I’m talking about engineers (whether they’re 3D or 2D engineers) that do not have to specialize in 3D CAD modeling which are usually going to be 2D  engineers like electrical, computer, chemical, etc, which usually either spend their time programming , designing 2D/small 3D models , testing devices, etc, trough a computer.

Unfortunately, there is no lenovo thinkpad with dedicated graphics. So this isn’t ideal for an actual working 3D CAD engineer. However, if you’re a 3D engineering insterested in using a thinkpad for engineering school, it’s still a good choice. As long as you grab the models with the recent CPUs, you should be able to run small 3D cad models you encounter in engineering school. (Don’t forget getting it with 16GB RAM or upgrade it if you are a 3D engineer)

Lenovo ThinkPad X1
PROS CONS
  • HIgh quality track & keyboard
  • High compatibility with Linux Distros
  • Hardware is very configurable
  • Long battery life
  • Lots of resolution choices for display
  • Lots of ports
  • Very high quality & sturdy built
  • Perfect for all engineering students
  • Very expensive
  • Does not have dedicated graphics
  • Can be used for working engineers

6. Acer Aspire 5

Cheap Laptop For Engineering

  Core i5-1335U

  8GB LPDDR5

  Intel Xe Graphics

  512GB SSD NVMe PCIe 4.0

  15.6” FHD 

  3.7 lbs

  8 hours

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

This is going to be the CHEAPEST laptop on the list. However, it’s still portable, has 8GB RAM, large storage, FHD (1080p) and a very recent CPU (thus integrated graphics). All under 500 dollars

 Performance: Core i5 13th gen (or older generations)

Core i3/Ryzen 3:

If you’re shopping for very cheap laptops because you’re on a very low budget  (and leave the 3D projects to the lab computers when they arise), you don’t have to buy this model you can go for the slower and much cheaper laptops that have a Core i3 and Ryzen 3.

Now I said they’re slower but that’s just relative. Those laptops, as long as you buy them with recent CPUs (5th or 7th gen Ryzen 3 or 10-13th gen Core i3) are still multicore and have decent clock speeds to make multitasking a BREEZE. They’re a really great choice for 2D engineers since there’s no need for powerful integrated graphics (they have weaker graphics). Another advantage of those guys are the batteries which are longer and their weight which is lighter.

Core i5 / Ryzen 5:

I chose this model as the cheapest laptop for engineering on the list because the Core i5 / Ryzen 5 makes sure it becomes useful for all types of engineering and projects during engineering school. That’s right, even 3D engineers can use this laptop to run 3D models in Solidworks, Catia & ANSYS. As long as the # of parts, complexity of the projects remain small which is expected in an introductory course on 3D modeling, this should handle them (though with some lag on viewport) no problem.

 8GB vs 16 RAM:

Remember, for the integrated to work best. You have to make sure you have extra RAM. These budget laptops regardless of their CPU usually come with 8GB or even 4GB !! You have to do the upgrade to at least 8GB (for programming and all non-3D modeling CAD design ) and ideally to 16GB (for 3D Cad modeling software in ANSYS/Catia/Solidworks). 

Doing the upgrade is pretty. The only annoying are the screws on a laptop which are MANY MANY. If you are too chicken to do the upgrade, take your laptop to the IT department in your school and they’ll do it in 10min (hopefully they’re not chickens either).

Acer Aspire 5
PROS CONS
  • Cheap
  • Runs all engineering software
  • Supports small 3d CAD models
  • Long battery life
  • Relatively lightweight
  • Not ideal for 3D CAD engineering
  • Just FHD resolution
  • Lacks dedicated graphics

7. MacBook M3 Pro Chip

Best MacBook For Engineering

  M3 12 Core CPU

  18GB Unified Memory

  18 Core GPU

  512GB SSD

  16.2” Liquid Retina  2234×3456

  4.7lb

  13 hours

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

You’re probably thinking Im crazy to even suggest a macBook but you’ll be surprised to see how many students, including enegineering students, use a MacBooks. So are they a NO-NO or a YES-YES?

It depends.

They’re a YES YES if you are willing to compromise a few things. It is a NO-NO for any engineering (student or pro) focusing solely on 3D CAD work.

What’s the catch?

The main problem with MacBooks is the operating system. Though MatLab & AutoCAD & LabView can all run on a Mac as well as pretty much ANY software for coding/programming (this is a programmer’s top choice – a non-engineering programmer that is)…they cannot run many of the most popular 3D CAD design software like Solidworks, Catia or ANSYS.

Ports? That isn’t an issue because MacBooks have ports. Yes they’re not USB or RJ-45/Ethernet ports but they have the thunderbolt ports for which you can just use as an adapter.

The problem is that the software for DAQ -Boards and circuit design  only have a windows versions.  Thus it is very very hard to work with Circuit Design (DAQ Boards) on MacBooks due to most of the software being written for Windows mostly (see featured image of this post).  Sure you can find a couple compatible with MacBooks but who’s to say they’ll use that software on your class?

Hold up there’s a solution!

Install Windows on a MacBook too! Two ways to do this:

  1. Install Parallels: Parallels is a software that lets you run windows on top of OSX. You can run parallels whenever you need to run Windows only software.
  2. Buy a pre 2020- MacBook: MacBooks made before 2020 have Intel Chips and BootCamp, both let you install Windows NATIVELY, so you can switch between OSX and Windows with a restart.

Why go so far for a MacBook you ask?

While most engineering students just want to be hip and look cool with their Macs, you can be the one to buy it for good reasons:

  • Extremely portable & thin
  • The longest batteries found on laptops
  • The best keyboards ever designed (super useful for programming)
  • Super large & responsive trackpads you may not even need to use a Mouse
  • Superb high resolution displays (more stuff you can see at once)
  • Extremely solid build quality.
  • No need to pay for antivirus or worry about viruses

And most importantly:

It’s built for coding and programming, this makes it the top most ideal choice for computer engineering!

And all engineers too since most of the software used in all programs are programming and light software for 2D & 3D models!

How is it built for programming? The terminal is the most widely used programming tool for programmers after their favorite IDE. Also most of the most widely used programming languages are natively installed on MacBooks. Programming packages are also easily accesible through the terminal. This makes a HUGE difference in your workflow. Windows has recently implemented the terminal feature but it’s nowhere near developed as the OSX’s terminal.

 Performance

Now what about performance for engineering software like AutoCAD?

3D Engineer: As long as you buy a “MacBook Pro” model released within the 8 years or so (withi 8GB RAM), you should be able to run AutoCAD, MatLab, IDEs with no lag whatsoever.

There are a few MacBook Pro models that have dedicated graphics usually Radeon GPUs. Now..even though they are from a different brand (AMD) they still work well with 3D modeling software (compatible with OSX) because they hav vRAM. As for th newer M chip models (M1, M2 & M3) they also work well with 3D modeling software (as long as projects remian school level).

2D engineer: Now if you are a 2D engineer,  you don’t have to limit yourself to MacBook Pros. You can even buy the MacBook Air (whether or old or new). 

Now although I am posting the latest M2 Max MacBook Pro, you don’t need to buy this version. You can go for any of the other versions shown in the table

But of course if you are rich and don’t mind lugging a 16” MacBook Pro , feel free to buy the M2 Max MacBook Pro.

SoC CPU Cores GPU Cores RAM
M1 4 Effiency cores & 4 Performance Cores 7 16-32GB
M2 4 Effiency cores & 4 Performance Cores 10 16-32GB
M1 Pro 2 Efficiency cores & 6 Performance cores 14 16-32 GB
M1 Pro 2 Efficiency cores & 8 Performance cores 14 16-32 GB
M1 Pro 2 Efficiency cores & 8 Performance cores 16 16-32 GB
M1 Max 2 Efficiency cores & 8 Performance cores 24 32-64 GB
M1 Max 2 Efficiency cores & 8 Performance cores 32 32-64 GB
M2 Pro 2 Efficiency cores & 8 Performance cores 19 16-32GB
M2 Max 2 Efficiency cores & 10 Performance cores 38 32-96GB
M3 4 Efficiency cores & 4 Performance cores 10 6-16GB
M3 Max 4 Efficiency cores & 12 Performance Cores 40 48-128GB

OSX: Unix System – Computer & Electrical Engineers!!!

I said this is especially good for programmers in computer & electrical engineering and that’s true especially if you’re interested in machine learning, AI or any data science related topic. If you never used a MacBook, the learning curve will be quick however the learning curve to use the terminal to rely for pretty much everything is going to take some time and it’s going to be one of the most useful skills if you want to become a top programmer in the industry.

  Cost

Most people want a MacBook and are willing to compromise software compatibility but the price can be a problem because they are ridiculously expensive.

But there’s a hack to get it cheaper: buying the older models.  Performance wise, at least for engineering school, there should be no difference between the newer macbooks and the older macbooks. Just keep the following in mind:

2D Engineer: You can grab ANY MODEL, literally ANY. Even the 4GB MacBook Air. It would be better to grab the MacBooks with USB ports though (2015-2019).

3D Engineer: You can also grab ANY Model too as long as you’re willing to use the computer labs for 3D CAD work. Also I recommend you grab a MacBook with a USB port if you’re going for older models. 

MacBook Pro M3
PROS CONS
  • Portable
  • Runs 3D models with ease
  • Best for programming
  • Perfect for computer engineering
  • High configurable hardware
  • Very solid & sturdy design
  • Extremely long battery
  • Lacks software compatibility
  • Must run VM/Bootcamp for some software
  • Very expensive

8. ASUS ZenBook 14 14X

Best Windows UltraBook for Engineering Students

  Intel Core i5-13500H

  8GB RAM DDR5

  Intel Iris Xe Graphics

  512GB

  14.5” 2.8k resolution OLED 

  3.44lbs

  10 hours

 

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

I keep posting the ASUS ZenBook every year and this year is no exception. They’re a great great alternative to the MacBooks and they’re much cheaper. You still get ALL the superb qualities:

  • Super high resolution display
  • Super fast CPU
  • Very good portability
  • Super thin
  • Long Battery

At a much cheaper price! 

  Performance: 2D & 3D CAD engineering

Now…

This is a laptop that’s ideal for 2D engineers. It’s got the right CPU & RAM with all the cool features mentioned and doesn’t waste power on a dedicated graphics (which would make the laptop just as expensive on a MacBook).

However…

3D engineers will ALSO have to deal with the lag when using viewport for those few 3D CAD design projects with Solidworks/ANSYS/Catia.  

Nonetheless, if I was a 3D engineer, I wouldn’t think twice about it. If I know 3D CAD modeling isn’t something I’m going to focus on (but rather research) OR i’m just going to rely on AutoCAD (which isn’t as GPU demanding) for my senior project, then I’ll get eithe this laptop or a cheaper portable laptop even if it has less CPU power.

Note however that unlike other budget machines that are portable, this laptop has a very very long battery and has a numpad on the trackpad. Since 13” or even 15” laptops (the portable ones) cannot fit in a numpad because they don’t have space, it is a very very good feature especially for number crunching on reports/sheets/tables which are read (for example by Python) to make graphs.

If this is still too expensive, go for the older models. The only REAL difference between the older and newer models is the CPU, they have almost the same thinnness, weight and battery
 

ASUS ZenBook 14 14X
PROS CONS
  • High resolution (QHD)
  • Beautiful OLED screen
  • Latest Core i5 PU 
  • Lightweight
  • Portable laptop with numpad
  • Perfect for all engineering students
  • Ideal for programming
  • Cannot handle 3D CAD software with large models
  • Somewhat expensive
  • Lacks dedicated graphics

Laptops for Working Engineers  9-10

The following laptops have too much power for engineering students. They’re reserved for engineers that either are about to join the 3D CAD modeling department of a company or plan to do so REAL SOON. If you are a student, you MAY find the following laptop USEFUL but by no means should you consider laptops #1o. Don’t even look at it, it’s got too much power. It’s just listed there for the few 3D CAD engineers reading this and even then for informational purposes because it might even be too much for them. You can read about it for information purposes however.


9. Acer Nitro 17

Best Laptop For 3D CAD engineering

  AMD Ryzen 7 7840HS

  16GB RAM DDR5

  NVIDIA GeForce RTX 4060 Laptop GPU

  1TB GB PCIe NVMe SSD (Free Slot for upgrade)

  17.3″ QHD 165Hz IPS

  6.61 lbs

 2  hours

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

This is a sort of powerful gaming laptop with a very powerful & recent 8GB vRAM dedicated GPU. Of course we are choosing this laptop not because it can play all games at Epid settings with high framerates but because the vRAM & CUDA cores within the GPU are super useful for GPU-renderers and viewport in 3D CAD modeling software.

  Performance: 4060RTX

Since the use of GPU-renderers is not that common, the most useful thing about this laptop is the 8GB vRAM. Having 6-8GB vRAM is a great start point for high performance in the viewport of very large models. The following are the 6GB vRAM GPUs released within the past 5 years or so:

Name Cores vRAM Speed
1060 1280 6GB 1670
1660 Ti 1536 6GB 1590
2060 1,920 6GB 1680
3060 3584 6GB 1780
4050 2560 6GB 2370
4060  3072 8GB  2370 

Now…

There are many other more powerful GPUs like the 4080 and 4090 which have vRAMs up to 16GB and those are good but it’s very rare someone in engineering will have to work with a model that needs that much vRAM. Even the 8GB vRAM 4060RTX may be a bit too much for most but since the prices of 4060RTX laptops aren’t that high even when you compare them to the 6GB vRAM 3060RTX & 4050RTX, it’s just better to go for it (to be future proof so to speak).

  Design

Now why did I choose this laptop over all other 4060RTX and why should you?

Mainly the size and resolution. This is a 17 inch display with QHD resolution and as we talked about before, this is going to add an extremely large amount of screen space for you to visualize a large part of your code/3D model. It also helps in giving you the opportunity to fit in more and more quick actions from AutoCAD/Solidworks on the screen.

Large laptops also have the advantage of having more space thus they’re able to withstand heat and high temperatures because there’s just more space for hot air to dissipate. Also RAM & Storage is maxed out it will be very rare for you to need to upgrade it to 32GB RAM unless you work with very very complex and large rendering (rendering takes less time with more RAM).

If you are a student reading this, this is a good laptop too but beware that it’s way way too heavy to be lugged around. You should only buy this laptop if it’s mostly going to stay at one place (you can buy a small 11 inch laptop to take to school for programming/homework and use this laptop back home for software that requires this much power).

Acer Nitro 17
PROS CONS
  • High core count CPU
  • Great multicore performance
  • Handles 3D CAD large models
  • Perfect for working 3D CAD engineers
  • Superb large & high resolution display
  • 8GB vRAM GPU
  • Expensive
  • Very Low battery
  • Very Heavy

10. Lenovo ThinkPad P16 Gen 2 – RTX 5000 Ada

Best Workstation For Engineering

  Core i9-13950HX

  128GB RAM

  NVIDIA RTX 5000 Ada 16GB vRAM

  4TB SSD NVMe

  16″  UHD (3840 x 2400) TouchScreen  

  8 lbs

  1 hours

This laptop has the famous ‘workstation graphics card’ you’ve heard so much about. To buy a workstation GPU you have to be very very very well informed because they’re expensive and they might be overkill even if you work in the 3D CAD design department.

 Hardware

First…

You need to watch out for workstation GPUs that are too weak to justify their high price tags. It is very very common to find overpriced workstation GPUs and some of them even have much lower performance than budget gaming laptops with the good ol’ 4GB vRAM GPUs.

It’s very common to find a workstation GPU like  P1000  on laptop being more expensive than a 1650GTX laptop despite the latter having more GPU power for 3D models.

Below a very very useful table you can use to compare the hardware (GPU) on workstation laptops to see where they stand in terms of price/performance. This can be done by writing the ‘consumer’ GPU equivalent. Ex: RTX 3000 laptops sell for about 2000-2500 dollars yet you can find  a 6GB vRAM GPU like the 2070RTX or the 4050RTX selling for 1000.

Workstation GPU Consumer Equivalent Cores/Shaders Clock Speed vRAM
RTX 3000 2070RTX+ 1280 1380 6GB
RTX 4000 2070/2080 2560 1560 8GB
RTX 5000 2080RTX+++ 3072 1350 16GB
RTX A2000 ~3050Ti 2560 1200 4GB
RTX A3000 ~3060RTX 4096 1560 6GB
RTX A4000 ~3070RTX 5120  1560  8GB
RTX A5000 ~3080RTX 6144 1695   16GB
RTX A5500 ~3080Ti 7424  ??? 16GB
RTX Ada 3500 ~4070RTX     8GB
RTX Ada 4000 ~4080RTX     12GB
RTX Ada 5000 ~4090 RTX 9728 16820 16GB

Does this mean all workstation GPUs are useless because their ‘gaming’ GPU equivalents are cheaper? Not necessarily… to understand the real difference let’s check out the performance:

  Performance
While it’s true that they’re tailored for 3D modeling work most engineers especially 3D CAD engineers may not find it useful. It’s a very long topic that I may have to do a special post about but basically, they’re only useful when you work with very very complex. & large 3D models.
To give you an example consider the picture below:
The model above can easily be handle by the Acer Nitro 5’s 6GB vRAM with some lag and artifacts as you viewport. The difference is that the RTX 5000 Ada GPU will be more stable as you draw and viewport this 3D model , there will be much much less lag compared to gaming GPUs and no artifacts. You don’t have to buy a laptop with the RTX 5000 Ada GPU which is way too expensive a workstation with 6GB vRAM as shown in the table will get you the same performance. 
The RTX 5000 Ada comes in handy when you deal with models 5 times the complexity and size of the above. Now that’s rare isn’t it? 
In summary here are the instances where you should buy a laptop like this one:
  • Working on a company with a consumer GPU with 16GB vRAM and still having lag when using viewport.
  • .To mitigate lag as much as possible when working with very large models (1000-5000 parts).
  • To get rid of errors/artifacts for a much smoother/accurate design workflow.
  • To be able to use plugins and features that can only be unlocked with workstation GPUs. For a list check your software official website
Lenovo ThinkPad P16 Gen 2
PROS CONS
  • Most powerful CPU & GPU for 3D CAD software
  • Supports 3D models regardless of size
  • Perfect for 3D CAD engineers
  • Large 4k resolution display
  • Extremely expensive
  • Very Low battery life
  • Very very heavy

How To Buy The Best Laptop For Engineering

In this section we’re going to go over a typical engineering curriculum, take example projects, revisit the software used for said project and talk about the hardware required for it. 

Before we get to that though..

The Engineering Department

Check your engineering department’s website and head over to the IT section for the following:

Computer Labs

Chances are, no in fact, I am 100% sure there is at least TWO labs which have dozens of computers with powerful hardware and all the engineering software you’ll need already installed in your school.

I would 100% recommend you use the labs for those ‘hardware demanding’ projects which as you’ll see in this section is limited to perhaps ONE per year. Then buy and use ANY laptop of your liking for homework, programming, designing. Since those tasks do not require anything more than a cheap laptop you can focus on laptop’s form factor and weight.

Note that im not saying you use the labs only and not use a laptop while in school.  You will obviously need a laptop to write papers, program, design, research, do homework. Just don’t focus on power so much.

Remote Access

Did you know, you may not even have to go to the lab when those ‘hardware core engineering projects’ show up? A lot of departments now have the remote access feature which as the name implies will let you access these computers remotely.

All you need is a laptop that has an internet connection. Yes, you can even run and design 3D models through remote access.

As for the internet connection,  a good basic internet connection should give you NO LAG when hovering over the tools or dragging polygon lines to draw. If your project requires a LOT of precision when drawing, then if your internet connection isn’t good enough you may just have to head over to the lab.

The Engineering Curriculum

With that said let us see how the typical curriculum looks and dig in deeper into each of the classes that require an engineering software. 

We won’t be able to do this for every engineering field so we’ll just pick one.

I’ve decided to pick the MECHANICAL curriculum because it is the MOST versatile in terms of software.

In other words, mechanical engineers have to run circuits, program , design with different types of 3D CAD software and so on. 

If you are interested in knowing what your curriculum looks like, check the following links.

Aerospace & Aeronautical
Chemical
Civil
Electrical
Computer
Software
Mechanical

MECHANICAL ENGINEERING
Freshman Year
Fall Semester

 

Chemistry I

Calculus I

Social Science Core Class

English Core Class

Linear Algebra

Spring Semester

 

Physics I

Calculus II

Introduction to Programming

Engineering Graphics

English Core Class 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

Those classes highlighted will require a software. Electives may or may not require a software. 
Software For Engineering Students

The following are the most commonly used software for EACH of these classes. How do I know? I’ve taken these classes but if you still don’t believe me you can download the curriculum of each of these classes by heading over to your professor’s website for the course. 

I know this is the mechanical engineering curricula but as you’ll find out sooner or later. Electrical , Aeronautical , computer engineers will use a combination or variation of the following too.

It’s only civil engineers and chemical engineers that ones not usingLabView & Mobile Studio/DAQ Board software because those are for circuit design and testing but will definitely use all the rest (especially CAD Software).

Course Software
Introduction to Computing MatLab
Engineering Graphics CAD Software (Ex: AutoCAD)
Calculus III MatLab
Creative Decisions and Design Optional 3D design software
Circuits and Electronics LabView
Computing Techniques MatLab
Instrument & Electronics Lab Mobile Studio / DAQ Board software
Experimental Methods Lab: C++, Matlab, Excel

Additional engineering software for each field

If you go a step further like I recommended, these are basically a summary of very niche software for each engineering field.

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

Hardware Requirements For Engineering Student Software

Finally, here are the hardware requirements. If you are a beginner in computer terminology check my posts on beginner guide to laptop/computer specs.

Software CPU  RAM GPU Comments
MatLab & Mathcad Any Intel or AMD 8GB RAM Integrated.
Dedicated is optional
A dedicated GPU will speed up extremely intensive simulations. However only graduate students or researchers run those projects.
Mobile Studio / LabView Any CPU even celeron & pentium 1GB RAM —- You will need to buy a USB to serial port adapter so you can plug in a data acquisition system.
Programming languages (C++) Any CPU 8GB RAM High-end CPUs are only useful for very intensive data science calculations and such.
Excel Any CPU 8GB RAM You only need to add more RAM if you have to process a lot of data, again only grad students and researchers MIGHT come across this issue. 
ASPEN, ChemCAD, Electrical CAD

 

Any CPU 8GB RAM No need for dedicated (discrete) GPU. Even 3D models run fine with integrated graphics.
3D CAD (Revit, Civil 3D, SolidWorks, Inventor, CATIA) Quad Core CPU 8GB RAM 4GB vRAM
GPU
4GB vRAM GPUs would be the maximum for engineering students.
CAE ( ANSYS ) i5 or i7 processor
8GB RAM
1GB vRAM
  Workstation GPU Although the site says workstation GPU that’s only required for working engineers. Students can use a simple discrete GPU and may not even run into ANSYS while in school.

 

Now let’s talk about each computer spec and how it relates to 3D modeling & engineering software. Please keep in mind that the following needs a bit of computer knowledge. Be sure to read my guide on computer specs for beginner.

1. CPU (Processor)

You’ve seen above most engineering software have no special requirements for a CPU.

That’s because most of the software are basically about 2D graphcs which are just simple low-data images that even your phone can display  images. Programming  is just basically typing text (code) for calculations which your phone can do as well.

3D Modeling CPUs

The issue starts when you deal with 3D models and graphics. Those are going to be significantly more hardware demanding because rendering objects with all physical laws means there’s a LOT of data to be calculated. 

That doesn’t mean you have to get a CPU from NASA because your phone can ALSO render 3D objects, that just means you need to a slightly faster than average CPU. 

Windows 11 & 12

Also take into consideration that Windows 10 or Windows 11 and Windows 12,  takes a lot of resources too. In fact, that is an equally important consideration when picking up a CPU. NOT ALL CPUs can run Windows fast enough to have a decent workflow!

All of the following listed CPUs work equally fast for the full version of Windows. The difference between these is their performance for engineering software:

Intel CPUs

CPU Base (P) Turbo (P) Cores (P/E)
i3 8130U 2.2 3.4 2
i3 8145U 2.1 3.9 2
i3 10050G1 1.2 3.4 2
i3 10100U 2.1 4.1 2
i3-1115G4 3 4.1 2
i3 1315U    
i5 8265U 1.6 4.9 4
i5 8250U 1.6 3.4 4
i5 1115G4 2.4 4.2 4
i5 8300H 2.3 4 4
i7 8550U 1.8 4 4
i5 1235U 3.3 4.4 10
i7 1165G7 2.8 4.7 4
i5 1240P 3.3 4.4 12
i5- 9300H 2.4 4.1 4
i5- 10300H 2.5 4.5 4
i5-11300H 2.6 4.4 4
i5 11260H 2.6 4.4 6
i7 8750H 2.2 4.1 6
i5 12450H
3.3 4.4 8
i5 12500H 3.3 4.5 8
i5 13420H 1.5 4.6 8
i5 13500H 1.9 4.7  12 
i7 9750H 2.6 4.5 6
i7 10750H 2.6 5 8
i7-11375H 3.3 5 4
i7 1260P 3.4 4.7 12
i7-11370H 3.3 4.8 4
i7-11800H 3.3 5.0 6
i9 8950K 2.9 4.8 6
i9 9900K 3.6 5.1 8
i9-11900H 2.5 4.9 8
i9 10890K 2.4 5.3 8
i9-11980HK 3.3 5 8
i7-12800H
3.7
4.8
6+8
i7-12700H
3.5
4.7
6+8
i7 13620HX
2.4
4.9 
6+8
i7 13650HX
1.9
4.9 
6+8 
i9 12900H
1.8
5
6+8
i9 13900H
1.9
5.4 
6+8 
i9 14900HX
2.2
5.8 
8+16 

*P=performance Core E=efficient Core

AMD CPUs

CPU Max Speed Cores(Threads)
Ryzen 9 7940HS 5.2 8 – 16
Ryzen 9 6980HX  5 8 – 16
Ryzen 9 6900HS
4.9
8 – 16
Ryzen 7 7840HS 5.1  8 – 16
Ryzen 7 7745HX  5.1 8 – 16 
Ryzen 7 6800HS 4.7 8 – 16 
Ryzen 7 6800H 4.7 8 – 16
Ryzen 9 5900HX 4.6 8 – 16
Ryzen 9 4800HS 4.4 8 – 16
Ryzen 7 5800H 4.4 8.- 16
Ryzen 7 4800H 4.2 8 – 16
Ryzen 5 7535HS  4.55 6-12
Ryzen 5 6600H  4.5 6-12
Ryzen 5 5600H  4.2 6 – 12
Ryzen 5 4600H 4.0 6 – 12
Ryzen 5 3550H 3.7 4 – 8
Ryzen 5 7530U 4.5 6-12
Ryzen 5 3500U  3.7 4 – 8
Ryzen 5 7320U 
 4.1 4 – 8
Ryzen 3 5300U 3.8 4 – 8
Ryzen 3 4300U 3.7 4 – 8
Ryzen 3 3300U 3.5 4 – 8

Pink & Orange: Overkill for engineering students unless you want to play games at very high settings. Useful for graduate school projects and working engineers though.

Green: Fine choices for all degrees. If you want to run 3D modeling software, then make sure you pick a Ryzen 5 or Core i5 from this group (Avoid 7th generation Ryzen CPUs due to lower graphics performance).

Blue: These are usually found on laptops that have more ‘GPU power’ (discrete graphics) hence I’d only recommend these to engineering students who want to focus on 3D modeling projects (electives and such).  We’ll talk more about this in the next  GPU section.

2. GPU (Graphics Card)

The most important hardware of this entire post and the reason why most of you are even reading this section.  

Q: Who needs discrete GPUs? Should I spend money on them?

Short Answer: Mechanical, Civil and Aeronautical engineering students MIGHT need a dedicated GPU. The rest only need to focus on CPU.

Long Answer: As you probably know there are two types of graphics cards: integrated and dedicated GPUs, the integrated comes by default on every laptop and the dedicated is an additional piece of hardware that usually adds hundreds of dollars to the overall cost.

Both can run 3D modeling software. However, the 3D models that “3D Engineers” like Mechanical and Civil work with are a bit more complex AND bigger thus there MAY be a need for dedicated graphics if they want a quicker workflow with such projects (integrated graphics can run them too but viewport will be slow).

Keep in mind, though, that there’s only a few times during your five years in engineering school you’ll come across these projects and you have the option to use the LAB!

Thus whatever your engineering field is  investing money on a dGPU for engineering school is ALWAYS optional.

Q:  What about workstation GPUs? Are they better?

Below you can see a regular “consumer” or “gaming” graphics card running one of the most hardware demanding 3D CAD Software: Solidworks.

In fact,

Integrated graphics from recent and powerful CPUs can run Solidworks just fine too as shown below:

The model below above is quite big and yet there seems to be no issues. You will see models below that level of complexity, much less complex probably, in engineering school. This is why Im telling you over and over workstation GPUs or even spending too much money on computer power is just a waste of time and only OPTIONAL.

Recommended Graphics Cards

Now if you do want to run 3D modeling simulations on your laptop with ZERO LAG during your stay in college (which is understandable if you are a mechanical or civil engineer), then discrete graphics do become somewhat useful. You should avoid those in red because their performance is too low despite being dedicated GPUs:

NVIDIA Cores vRAM Speed
MX150 384 2GB-4GB 1532
MX250 384 2GB-4GB 1582
MX 230 256 2-4GB 1519
MX 350 640 2-4GB 1354
MX 450 896 2-4GB 1580
1050 640 2GB-4GB 1493
1050 Ti 768 4GB 1620
1650 1024 4GB 1560
3050Ti 2560 4GB 1485
2050 2048 4GB 1477 

There are far more GPUs useful from other brands like AMD and older versions of the ones presented here but they’re all rare to find. The ones on the table are the most popular ones.

Who needs a Workstation laptop then?

Probably nobody reading this.

If you are going to graduate school or eventually work in the field , the chances that you’ll need a workstation laptop or GPU are very very low.

Most engineers dealing with 3D work (civil, mechanical) will still be fine with a 4GB vRAM dedicated GPU.

You will only need a workstation GPU or laptop IF your job is focused on 3D modeling products , objects , carc, etc, for simulation and testing purposes. In fact, even then you will probably do just fine with a 6GB vRAM dGPU such as the ones shown below:

Name Cores vRAM Speed
1060 1280 6GB 1670
1660 Ti 1536 6GB 1590
2060 1920 6GB 1680
3060 3584 6GB 1780
4050 2560 6GB 2370 

Only a small subset of actual engineers will need the workstation GPUs such as the NVIDIA Quadro and AMD FirePros mostly because they need to unlock special features only available on workstation graphics or because they need to work with MUCH MUCH bigger objects (think about a simulation that has 1000-10 000 parts all interacting with each other) and not just any workstation GPU but rather a workstation laptop with lots of vRAM.

More vRAM = Easier time viewporting (rotating) much larger & complex 3D objects bigger models

3. RAM (Random Access Memory)

FAR more important than graphics card (since  most modern processors are way too fast & graphics cards are not a concern for engineering projects since is school).

RAM is where SOFTWARE, the operating system and everything else running in your computer will be temporarily stored. Since speed is rarely an issue, it is RAM the most common bottleneck especially for 3D CAD software.

If you don’t have enough everything will be slow. A slow computer means a slow workflow and you don’t want that during finals week or just before finals where it’s more likely to lack RAM due to the amount of chrome tabs + software you’ll have open all at the same time .

4GB:   This is not enough for the simple reason that Windows 10 and Windows 11 take at least 3.5GB  that means you will only have 500MB left for the the engineering software running in the background in a typical day (an IDE for programming + LabView) and let’s not forget you’ll probably be using youtube and browsing around the web too.

8GB: This is the bare bone minimum for a fast workflow, there’s almost zero chance you’ll need more. Even 3D modeling, the most hardware demanding software, will run just fine with 8GB RAM again because engineering students  only work with small sized models .

16GB: I like 16GB RAM because the amount of programs I run simultaneously can get pretty insane. Good news is that you don’t need to get 16GB on a laptop, you can just get 8GB (which most modern laptops have) then upgrade it to 16GB later. I have a tutorial here on how to upgrade RAM here, it’s quick, cheap and easy.

4. Storage (SSD vs HDD)

Im sure you’ve heard of the term SSD and HDD. The former stands for Hard Disk Drive and the latter for Solid State Drive. I’m pretty sure you also know that Solid State Drives are the fastest storage devices now. What you probably didn’t know is that….

1. SSDs are available virtually on EVERY single modern laptop made within the past 3 years
2. SSDs are x5 aster than HDDs
3. There are different SSD types but they’re all equally fast for engineering student purposes.

It is pretty redundant to talk about ALL the advantages that come with a fast storage drive because you will get one anyways.

Now if you followed my advice at the start of this post and want to use your current old laptop for engineering you can do that too! If it’s too slow for you now if you can upgrade its RAM & Storage (have 16GB RAM and an SSD) it will probably be fast enough for everything even small models in 3D CAD software.

How much storage do you need?

I’d say ~256GB which is what most laptops have. If you want to install games on your laptop then you will run out of space pretty quickly but that doesn’t mean you’ll have to pick another laptop. Again you can just upgrade yours, check my tutorial on how to upgrade storage  to see how easy it is.

6. Weight & Display

Weight is EXTREMELY important and you MUST find a laptop that’s lightweight if you have a high budget (they’re usually expensive).

Buying something that’s heavy only means not bringing to school and collect dusk back at your house or dorm.

Although not always the case , weight is pretty much related to how big your display is.

Size Weight
13” 2.5lb-3lb
15” 3.5lb-4.5lb
17” 5lb-7lb
16” 5lb

Exceptions to the above rule are ultrabooks like the LG Gram, MacBook Pro & Surface Series. But if you want low weight on a budget machine, start looking for 13” laptops first then 15” laptops. 

Display Size vs Workflow For Engineering

13”: If you are a mechanical, electrical, chemical or any type of engineering student. I would strongly advice you to invest your money on a 13” laptop. It’s going to make ALL the difference for your productivity. Laptops with the CPU & RAM size I’ve recommended that are still 13” can be very expensive though.

15”’: These laptops are way cheaper and still have the CPU & RAM size recommended. Most laptops with dedicated GPUs are this big, you are not going to find a 13” laptop with a dedicated GPU because there’s no space to fit in a dedicated GPU.

17”: Strongly advice to buy a laptop this big if you’re an actual engineer since chances are you’re not going to move around a lot and the extra screen space will massively improve your workflow as you’ll have more toolbars available and you’ll be able to see larger chunks of code at a time to follow code logic and spot bugs.

FHD vs QHD vs UHD: Resolution

Resolution will also give you extra screen space. Since high resoluton means more pixels, size of objects can be scaled down in size thus giving  freeing up more screen space.

FHD: is the bare minimum for CAD work and this is virtually present on any laptop above 450 dollars or any laptop with the specifications we have talked about. It’ll be very rare for you not to get a FHD. Be sure to double check because it isn’t that uncommon to find HD or HD+ laptops which are cannot handle multiple windows as well.

QHD or UHD:They are 2k and 4k resolutions respectively. (QHD = 2x FHD ). Both will massively expand the screen space available but unfortunately they are QUITE expensive and they are RARELY found on laptops under 800. There is one model I have listed that has a QHD display around 600-700 dollars called the Lenovo Ideapad Pro 5i above.

7. Connectivity & Ports

You don’t really have to worry about what ports your laptop has because today there are adapters for just about every connection you need. You’ll need the following ports during your engineering school:

Serial port: No laptop made within the past 10 years will have this port but they are useful to connect DAQ systems (Data Acquisition Systems) which are used for circuit design & labwork. If you come across a DAQ system that only uses a serial port, you’ll just have to get this adapter.

HDMI port:  These are useful to connect to external display. If you are giving a presentation you’ll need an HDMI port, most projects , if not all, only work with HDMI or ‘mini’ display ports. Again you don’t have to worry about it, just buy an adapter too.

Bluetooth: this is very very useful for engineering purposes. You can connect to many engineering devices via bluetooth and you can also share files between co-workers or colleagues with the bluetooh function. All laptops have bluetooth now.

5. Operating System

Windows vs Mac

If you are an engineering student, it doesn’t matter because although engineering software has been written for Windows the most basic ones that are used in engineering school (like AutoCAD) have a Mac Version and all programming languages work even better on a Mac.

It’s only going to be a problem for circuit design and lab software  for which you may have to use Parallel’s or BootCamp. Bootcamp can be used only on older models (Pre-2020).

Comments?

If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, etc, please leave a comment below. I will reply as soon as I can. I apologize for being absent for so long but I promise I will reply ASAP now.

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.

12 thoughts on “10 Best Laptops For Engineering Students 2024

  • July 6, 2017 at 9:26 am
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    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

    Reply
  • August 11, 2017 at 8:20 pm
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    Would you recommend the Acer E15 as a suitable alternative to the E5?

    Reply
    • August 12, 2017 at 11:26 am
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      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.

      Reply
  • August 19, 2017 at 1:15 pm
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    what if I want to prepare for my professional career afterwards, should I go all out for laptop? Or desktop would be more preferable?

    Reply
    • August 19, 2017 at 5:14 pm
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      Not every engineer out there uses heavy programs like AutoCad SolidWorks Catia, etc. And if your
      job requires you to do so, the company will provide you with computers far more powerful or even go as far as giving you money to buy your own set up. I know this from experience.

      But if you do want to become an expert with any of these programs and start practicing with CAD/CAE programs right now a desktop would be more preferable. A laptop is useful for the small projects you’ll have to do during engineering school.

      Reply
  • April 10, 2018 at 6:42 am
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    What If I was going into mechanical engineering and was going to buy the new Razer blade stealth 8th gen i7 with 16gig ram and integrated hd 620 graphics, but I also bought the eGPU with a GTX 1070 that I can have in my dorm room that I can plug into the laptop and have a dedicated gpu? Would this work for heavier solid works projects or is it over kill?

    Reply
    • July 26, 2018 at 10:49 pm
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      That’s not a bad idea at all ! if your choosing the razer blade for portability you are better off with the Surface Book 2 (unless you plan on gaming with the razer).

      GTX 1070 is overkill pretty much for anything….I dare to say even gaming.

      I doubt you’ll see “heavy solidwork projects” as an undergrad and even if you do, you’ll be better off heading to the lab. You don’t want to work on a huge project with thousands of parts on a 12” screen.

      Reply
  • August 8, 2018 at 6:23 pm
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    This is a good advice, but i’m quite doubtful on my program. I am studying electrical engineering. In my autocad we were taught to make a 3d model. Btw, electronics is separate in my program. I was planning on getting laptops with gtx series because of the possibility of using autocad in my majors and the 3d model. But after reading your advice, i’m now thinking of getting ultrabooks with the mx150 and i5 8****u or i7 8****u other than the i5 8300h with gtx1050. The mx150 ones are quite light than the i5 8300h which has gaming in their name. Thinking of getting the dell g7 before but now thinking of inspiron 15 or asus s15.

    Reply
    • September 26, 2018 at 5:21 am
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      AutoCAD is the weakest 3D modeling software out there, you could even get away with an integrated card. The MX150 is more than sufficient for undergrad courses and you can even use it after you graduate.

      As for me, I’m steering away from engineering and starting my phD in Physics this spring and I’m all for the surface Pro 4. You can use AutoCAD in it no problems plus you get to take notes (this is super useful for me) and share your notes/solutions on discord/whatsapp/web etc in a flash.

      If you have the cash get the surface pro, this is enough for an EE student (you get portability + power). If you can’t afford the Pro, definitely get the MX150 laptop if you are dealing with autocad in 3D.

      Reply
      • September 27, 2018 at 12:49 am
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        Thanks for the reply. I took your advice. I aimed for something light. Surface devices are scarce in my market. I bought the hp envy 13, i5 8250u with mx150, 8gb ram. Just going to have a dongle with me when i’m in need of hdmi or vga port. I’d say the cad is not much important at the moment or will not. Currently dealing with matlab.

        Reply
  • July 25, 2023 at 5:43 pm
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    Hi, I want to say a big thank you for this article. It is both elaborate and thoughtful in content, which is helpful for me as a first-generation college student planning on doing CE. Navigating everything on my own is quite challenging already, but your advice and extensive knowledge have made it a bit easier for me.

    Reply

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