10 Best Laptops For Engineering – Latest 2023 Software (+Hardware Guide)

When you are about to join an electrical , mechanical , computer , civil , software , chemical , aeronautical or even an aerospace engineering program and you start shopping for laptops, your first assumption is…


“I need the most powerful laptop for engineering in this store”

I had the exact same thinking.

But that’s just so far from the truth.

You don’t need to grab the laptop with the latest CPU and the latest NVIDIA GPU to run engineering software.

In fact…

If your current laptop you has ANY dedicated GPU, as you’ll see in this post soon it will run pretty much every project you come across.

That’s because…

While it’s true actual engineers DO need very expensive and powerful hardware (3000 USD), engineering students don’t need to invest anywhere near that much because the software and projects in engineering school are not that hardware demanding. 

CAD software will be the most hardware demanding app for engineering students and even the integrated GPU in this laptop has no issues using viewport.

For example…

Electrical & Computer Engineers: will mostly rely on programming languages like C++ and circuit simulators like SPICE and maybe run small 3D models AutoCAD. This needs nothing more than a laptop with ANY graphics card and even the graphics card is not required. 

Mechanical & Civil : will also rely on programming languages and 2D simulators and definitely more 3D simulations using AutoCAD, SolidWorks & ANSYS (3rd-4th year) but the # of parts in such projects are USUALLY small (~100-300 tops) they only need a 2GB vRAM Graphics card.

If you have trouble believing what I’m telling you so far, you are welcomed to check the last section where I go through the curriculum show you a project STRAIGHT out of a regular engineering curriculum and run it a commodity machine with no issues

Recommended Hardware for Engineering Students & Engineers

As someone who made out of engineering school alive my recommendation would be to focus NOT SO MUCH on POWER but RATHER PORTABILITY.

It’s not the 3D engineering projects that are going to stop you from graduating but rather all the math, engineering and physics classes during your first 3 years. 

A portable laptop will make sure you bring it everywhere with you so you don’t waste time on your phone. This obviously depends on how disciplined you are of course, otherwise, you’ll just be wasting time with your laptop instead of doing work.

Bookmark this page and check my software and app recommendations to block apps/sites & boost productivity later

Q: OK, good point, what about the hardware for engineering software, Can you be more specific? 

To cover pretty much every engineering degree, we’ll divide the hardware recommendations in two parts:

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

CPU (Processor)
2D engineer: Any CPU released within the past five years. I advice the following, they’re modern and cheap. Feel free to go higher if looking for portability.

Core i3 1050G1, Core i3 1115G4. Ryzen 3 3200U, 4300U, 5300U 
 

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

Core i5 10210U, Core i5 1135G7 Ryzen 5 3500U, 4500U, 5500U*.
Note it’s very important you get the most recent one you can afford for reasons we’ll explain next.

GPU

Notice how the integrated GPU can handle small 3D projects just fine. There only be lag when you step into 200-400 parts and that’s where a dedicated GPU comes in handy.

2D engineer: No need to worry about graphics card, the integrated one is enough for 2D and small 3D work.

3D engineer:  If you get a recent CPU that means you automatically get a RECENT integrated graphics, the more recent the more powerful. This should be enough for 3D projects in AutoCAD, SolidWorks and ANSYS*. If you want to be 100% bullet proof for all types of 3D modeling software just grab a dedicated GPU with at least 2GB vRAM:

MX250, MX350, MX450, 1050GTX, 1650GTX, 3050Ti

*This only works because engineering school projects are small (300 parts max). 

What about ‘workstation’ GPUs? Like Quadro? Those are for actual engineers and even then only a small subset will need that. Check laptops #7-10 for more info.

RAM & Storage

8GB: If you follow my advice above, you should automatically get 8GB RAM which is all you need for insane multitasking, large 3D models, programming,etc.
256GB: You automatically get at least this much again enough for pretty much anything.

Top 10 Best Laptops For Engineering Students & Engineers

Just to make it easier depending on your field of study. I will keep use labels (electrical,mechanical,etc) at the bottom of each review to specify which is this laptop perfect for.

Note:

  Best for this degree

I’ll start with a powerful laptop yet cheap for engineering. It will have enough power for ALL kinds of 3D projects across all engineering programs but it won’t exactly portable. The next ones will be more portable but consequently more expensive.


1. Lenovo Ideapad Gaming 3

Best Laptop For Engineering 

  AMD Ryzen 5 5600H

  8GB RAM DDR5

   RTX 3050Ti 4GB vRAM

  512GB PCIe SSD

  15” FHD 1080p IPS 120Hz

  5.3lbs

  5 hours

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

Though this laptop has all the GPU & CPU power you’ll need for virtually every engineering software (for every field), the problem is weight but this is something you have to settle with if you want that much power under 700 dollars.

It’s not as heavy nor as expensive as those workstation laptops however I bet it’s going to run all the projects & 3D models you will encounter even if you are an actual engineer working at a company so you bet it’s going to be more than enough if you are still a student.

Now, the fact that it has a dedicated GPU makes it a bit too overkill for 2D engineers. Nonetheless, you can definitely use the dedicated GPU for gaming purposes or perhaps if you’d like to try 3D CAD software even though it’s outside of your degree. 

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

 For about 650 bucks, you would usually get a 1650GTX dedicated GPU which is ALSO a good choice but the 3050Ti GPU here (although it has the same amount of vRAM) is significantly faster (for rendering purposes & gaming).

It doesn’t have to be more expensive, at least for now. Since for the past few months 3050Ti laptops have been selling for about the same price as 1650GTX laptops. This model, which I actually own myself, has been selling like pop corn for few months. If you are reading this near the holidays, prices can go down as low as 599$. 

What I like about this laptop, other than the GPU, is the CPU: AMD Ryzen 5 5600H. You will find models (I will list several alternatives below in a table) with a Core i5 maybe for the same price but the AMD Ryzen 5 5600H has 2 more cores which (if you read my guide at the end, makes a HUGE difference when rendering – it would cut down rendering times usually by 30% compared to the Core i5 CPUs which have 4 cores only)

What about the cheaper laptops with dedicated GPUs I’ve seen?

If you browse around for a while, you’ll come across laptops with the following GPUs under 700:

MX150, MX250, MX350/450 940M ,1050/1050Tiand Radon Pro 5XX GPUs and the mostcommon being the 1650GTX

That’s actually the hierarchy of power (with the 3050Ti being the fastest) and honestly they’re all good GPUs  (at least for engineering students). Those in blue will have 2GB vRAM which is still more than enough to fit in all types of 3D models you’ll see in engineering school (which usually consist of 100 parts at the most while these GPUs can handle 300 parts).

If you are an actual engineer or planning to use this laptop in the upcoming years for work, you want a 4Gb vRAM GPU just like the 3050Ti laptop we are featuring here those in orange basically, because if you do focus on 3D CAD Software design you’ll definitely come across 500-1000 part projects. I have more details about this in my SolidWorks post, I suggest you give it a read if you have already graduated and looking for a job now.

Alternatives: 2GB vRAM GPUs & 4GB vRAM GPUs

The following table contains all the good deals I’ve found with dedicated GPUs under 700. Note that some of these have a slightly older CPU and that’s totally fine there isn’t much difference in clock speed performance (which is all that matters for a fast workflow) between older and newer generations unless we are talking about the 12th generation CPUs which were recently and thus they are extremely expensive (and unncessary powerful honestly).

If you find this particular model out of stock check out these two. Some have weaker GPUs but like I said, they will be fine too.

Link GPU CPU Display Storage Price
Lenovo Ideapad 3050Ti R5 5600H FHD 512GB 702
Ideapad 3050Ti i5 11300H FHD 256GB 699
Ideapad  3050Ti R5 6600H FHD 256GB 599
Victus 3050Ti i5 12500H FHD 512GB 703
Ideapad 3050Ti R5 5600H FHD 512GB 754
Ideapad 3050Ti i5 11300H FHD 256GB 699

Note the highlighted is cheaper and even has a much faster (more recent) 6th generation CPU. Grab it instead of the one featured here. I did not feature it in the list in the fear that it’ll be out of stock

Remember you can grab a laptop with a 2GB vRAM GPU if you ara student, if you’re an engineer or about to work as one, you must pick 4GB vRAM. All of these models are quite heavy, I’ll go over much lighter alternatives soon.


2. Lenovo IdeaPad 5 Pro Business

Best Laptop For Engineering 

  AMD Ryzen 5 5600H

  8GB RAM DDR5

   RX Vega 7

  512GB PCIe SSD 

  16” QHD IPS (2.5k resolution)

  5.3lbs

  3 hours

  Electrical , Computer , Chemical , Software

This laptop and the Lenovo Ideapad 3 we just talked about are quite similar in hardware with one major difference that makes it EXTREMELY IDEAL for 2D engineers: electrical, chemical, software,etc. What is it? 

The display. We’ll talk about the performance first because I’m sure you’ve noticed the lack of dedicated GPU.

 Performance: AMD Ryzen 5 5600H + RX Vega 7 Graphics

2D engineers basically deal a lot more with programming rather than CAD design and the few courses on 3D CAD Design are usually much much simpler and they can easily run on Integrated Graphics and if you have a CPU like the Ryzen 5 5600H here, even viewport will be pretty smooth despite the lack of dedicated GPU. This assumes you have plenty of RAM which this laptop has, if you’d like to see the benchmarks proving this please check the last section of my post on SolidWorks.

Anyways, most CAD software you’ll come across will be basically for circuit design and plans, which again do not need a dedicated GPU and should run plenty fast with the graphics and CPU here.

Unlike other laptops without dGPUs you may come across under 700, this one will always top them out in performance because of the 6 core CPU.

 Display

Now power isn’t really a reason to pick this laptop over all the other low voltage CPU laptops you may have seen such as the “Ryzen 5 5500U” or “Core i5 10-100U” or “Core i5 11357G” ( the U/G stand for low voltage which makes these laptops cheaper) because even those CPUs will be overkill for all the software you’ll come across (you can head over the last section of this post to see the exact software each of these fields will come across and their hardware requirement taken from their official websites).

The reason why this should be your top choice (if you don’t mind the weight), is the display. Not only is it a 16” inch display (1 inch diagonally adds a LOT of screen space) but also a QHD display which is UNHEARD of on laptops under 1000. You only really find them over 1300 dollars and this laptop is only 600-700. The QHD resolution will add a MASSIVE amount of space, it will give you the exact amount of space as the most expensive MacBook Pros? Why is display important? It’s not crucial to have extra space but it’s definitely a huge plus because most electrical, software, computer engineers deal with programming more than anything else and having a better (bigger) view of your code structure will make it much easier to find errors and finish compiling it. It’s also a good plus for multitasking and for engineering design classes (you’ll have more space for your canvas).

A bigger display brings more advantages to several aspects of the curriculum but those are the ones off the top of my head.

The problem is obviously weight, it’s not a good laptop if you have to commute to college and bring it with you everywhere. It’s more of a better choice if you are living in dorms or if you have to bring to just one place (work).


3. Surface Laptop Studio

Best Portable Laptop For CAD Engineers

  11th Core i5 / Core i7

  16GB-32GB RAM DDR5

  NVIDIA GTX 3050Ti/ Intel Xe Graphics

  256GB-2TB NVMe PCIe SSD

  14.4”  2400 x 1600

  3.83lb – 4lbs

  8 hours

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

If it’s within your budget, I would recommend you buy ANY of the Surface series devices, virtually all of them are extremely portable and lightweight and most (except for the Surface Laptop) can be turned into a tablet which you can take advantage of and use it as a notebook to take notes on. 

I don’t recommend you take notes on the Surface Laptop Studio though, it’s more of a laptop for drawing and designing with stylus rather than taking notes because it’s a bit thick and heavy.

 Performance

The reason why I’m posting it here is because it has both the GPU & CPU you need to run 3D CAD software and actually enough power to run the kind of projects you usually see at work (again if you work as 3D CAD engineer), for school purposes both the CPU & GPU are kind overkill but it’s the only model with a dedicated GPU. 

As a student, you’ll NEVER run out of GPU power for any 3D model you come across, the 4GB vRAM GPU is overkill however since this is the latest model, it is expensive. If you can’t afford this model but still want a super portable laptop with a 4GB vRAM GPU, you could go for the Surface Book models which have been discontinued but they still have modern CPU & GPUs with about the same power as this mode.

In fact, some of the surface book models (the surface book 3) has a 6GB vRAM dedicated GPU which , like I said, the 4GB vRAM GPU is way more than you would need a student so the 6GB vRAM is more suitable for actual engineers.

 Display & Design

This is the model with the largest display (~15”) but it has the same resolution as any other Surfac Device which is close to QHD (a bit more) . You already know the advantages to your workflow when you have this much resolution but let me just remind that this is a 2-1 device too, that extra resolution is going to give you way more canvas than any tablet device even the iPad Pro has less screen size.

This is also the reason why it’s the heaviest of all surface devices. 

I’d recommend you buy this laptop if you are a ‘3D’ engineer who wants to work on 3D CAD projects on a laptop rather than using the labs or a desktop. If you are a 2D engineer, consider the Surface Pro we’ll talk about next.


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

The Surface Pro may seem like a ‘weak’ device because it doesn’t have a dedicated GPU and it’s actually MUCH MUCH ligihter than the Book or Studio and smaller too but that’s so far from the truth especially with the newest versions: Surface Pro 7 , Surface Pro 8 and the latest Surface Pro 9.

If you still doubt about whether it’s a good choice for engineering, why don’t you do some research on reddit and see what other engineering students are saying about the Surface Pro. If you find a single review  complaining about how useless is the surface pro for engineering, then let me know in the comments below and i’ll give you a $50 Amazin Gift card. 

Anyways, let’s clear up why it’s not such a weak device even for 3D CAD design software.

 Performance

I talked about it a bit more in the last section but basically once you have a recent Core i5 or Core i7 that automatically sets you up with a powerful integrated graphics such as the RX Vega 7 or the Intel Xe graphics.

These GPUs, because they’re designed to support high graphics for gaming, have the power of older 2GB vRAM GPUs and since most 3D CAD models seen in ‘2D engineering’ are quite small you bet they can handle them no problem.

Now if you are a 3D engineer like a mechanical engineer it is likely you will come across 3D models that may lag a bit when you use viewport but that’s about it. 

That’s assuming you buy any Surface Device with 8GB RAM. If you fail to get 8GB RAM, you will lag with pretty much any software.

Now if you can somehow squeeze more money to get a model with 16GB then it’s going to run those larger 3D models with much ease that’s because the extra RAM can act in sort of vRAM for the integrated GPU making it a bit more powerful and just with enough power for engineering projects that 3D engineers come across. If you don’t believe what I say, again you can check reddit and see how several 3D engineers are using the Surface Pro for school. 

This is in my opinion a better choice than the Book or the Surface Laptop studio for 3D engineers because it’s way more portable (to use it for note-taking) and cheaper.

 Display & Design

The Surface Pro 9 has the QHD resolution but it’s a 13” display, this doesn’t mean it’s too small for CAD design, the resolution still brings up a lot of space to the screen and 13” isn’t a bad size for programming or CAD if you had a FHD resolution anyways. It may be so if you are an engineer but not if you are still a student.

The fact it’s smaller makes it more ideal for note-taking than the Surface Laptop Studio and even the Surface Book. It’s compact and light enough to feel almost like a physical old fashioned notebook. If you add the fact that the stylus feels and weighs as much as a pen then you bet it will replace all of your school supplies in the same way the iPad Pro works for organizing notes, saving and reading books,etc. 

Unlike the iPad Pro, however, you don’t have to download or pay for a software to organize your notes and take notes. You can just use Microsoft One Note which in fact has been specifically designed to accomodate all the features of the Surface Pro (It’s a microsoft device after all

“But I don’t like taking notes on a tablet…I’m old fashioned.”

You don’t have to buy for the note-taking feature. Just the fact that it’s such a compact device with enough power to run all kinds of 2D engineering projects and  perhaps (if you get it with 16GB) 3D projects makes it an ideal computer. 

 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 


Best Windows UltraBook For Engineers

  Core i5-1240P

  8GB RAM DDR5

  ‎Intel Xe Graphics

  256GB SSD M.2

  13” full HD 1080p IPS

  2.7lb

  10 hours

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

Don’t want a 2-1 device but still want something portable & powerful? Then you look for ultrabooks. Note that ultrabooks do not have a dedicated GPU so they’re only good for those  that either do not need to run 3D CAD models or can just leave those 3D models to the computer labs. 

The most well known (also the most expensive) Windows ultrabook is the Dell XPS 13. Although it’s got an amazing battery life & is extremely portable (even thinner than most MacBooks), it’s expensive.

 Performance

You can find it cheaper if you set the performance to the power you’ll find useful. The model I’m showing you here is the latest which has a 12th gen Core i5 thus it has a much better integrated GPUs and you bet it should be able to handle pretty decent models in 3D so it should be useful for both 3D and 2D engineering students. Note that I say students, probably not a good choice if you are working as an engineer already.

Again, the latest model is very expensive but you can go for the slightly older 11th gen model and make sure to pick one with 8GB RAM (as opposed to 12GB) and 256GB, this should reduce the price significantly and it’s definitely going to have enough power for 2D engineers even those working in the field.

3D engineers can either settle for this 12th Core i5 model OR get the slightly older models with the Core i7. They’re both going to be ridiculously expensive though but they both have ‘integrated’ GPU which have the performance of entry-level dedicated GPUs thus they should be able to run 3D models in the 100-300 parts range with no issues (if you get either with 16GB RAM it should handle even bigger 3D models).

You could also go for the version with a dedicated GPU if you think you’re going to use this at work, that model is the Dell XPS 15 which is a bit heavier but it’s still thinner and lighter than the budget laptops with dedicated GPUs we went over before. 


6. ASUS ZenBook 13

Budget UltraBook for Engineering Students

  Intel Core i5-1240P

  8GB RAM DDR5

  Intel Iris Plus Graphics 

  256GB-512GB PCIe NVMe SSD

  13” 2.8k resolution OLED 

  2.45lb

  11 hours

 

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

This is the cheapest windows ‘ultrabook’ you’ll find. It’s going to have the same CPU & overall hardware than the base model of the Dell XPS 13 but it’s still good for virtually all 2D engineers. 3D engineers can buy it too as long as they work on small 3D projects or leave them to the computer labs as viewport will be slow.

Now the model I’m featuring here has a 12th gen Core i5 which has a much better integrated GPU which should in theory be able to run 3D projects (albeit of medium size) with no lag when using viewport.

 Performance

If you are a 2D engineer, you can go for the slighitly older 11th gen model to cut down prices too and it should be plenty fast and should be able to run small 3D projects as well. The Core i7 model (11th gen) is again only useful for 3D engineers because they’ll need the extra performance of the integrated GPUs that come with Core i7s. 

I don’t think it’d be wise to go for the Core i7 models though because their battery lives are reduced significantly. If you are a 2D engineer  by all means grab the 11th gen Asus ZenBook which has 10 hours of battery and if you are 3D engineer you can grab that one too provided you run small CAD models or leave them to the lab. Or if you want to run 3D CAD models (3D engineers) the just grab the 12th gen Core i5 which has as much battery.


7. MacBook Pro

Best MacBook For Engineering Students

  M2 / M1 Pro Chip 8-10 Cores

  8GB-64GB RAM DDR5

   Pro Chip 14-32 Cores

  512GB-2TB SSD

  14” / 16” 3456 by 2234 resolution  120Hz

  3-4.7lbs

  +10 hours

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

You’ve probably come across several posts on reddit claiming the MacBooks are not a good choice for engineering and that might be true if you are an actual engineer but not so true if you are still a student.

MacBooks, even the newest M1 & M2 MacBook models, can run software like MatLab, AutoCAD and so on without resorting to bootcamp, parallels or any other trick  because  these apps have a MacBook version.

The only compatibility issues you’ll have are with circuit design (DAQ boards) software (an issue for 2D engineers except Chemical engineers) and 3D CAD software that are not part of AutoDesk (Solidworks, Catia & Creo) which is an issue for 3D engineers.  That doesn’t stop engineering students from using a MacBook they still have their advantages for example all programming languages are natively installed on a Mac and easily accessed through the terminal this includes Java and Python and now LabView has an OSX version which means you can use a Mac to run DAQ Boards so if you check or ask your department what softwar they’re going to use for circuit design classes you might be okay with a Mac (I bet it’ll be LabView).

The other solution would be to buy MacBooks released before 2019, yes they’ll be refurbished but they will have an Intel-based chip which unlike the newest M1 & M2 MacBooks, can run Windows in parallel or through bootcamp, this means you can turn it into a windows laptop whenever you need (you’ll have both operating systems : OSX & Windows at your disposal) eliminating all compatibility issues with MacBooks.

 Performance

The model featured here is part of the newest M1 & M2 Series. I’m listing the M2 series instead othe M1 version for two reasons: it’s cheaper than the M1 Max MacBooks (slightly less powerful though) and  has enough power to run all kinds of models (at least in AutoCAD). If you are a 2D engineer, it is a no brainer. If you are a 3D engineer, you’re going to have to resort to computer labs to run software like SolidWorks but all your other software will run on the M2 MacBook.

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

Now don’t be fooled by the latest M2 chip featured here. It is not more powerful than the M1 Pro or M1 Max. It’s only faster than the M1 Chip and slightly slower than the M1 Pro. Either way all of these chips have enough power for all engineering students.

3D Engineers & AutoCAD: If you want to run super large models with AutoCAD on a MacBook, then you want to choose the M1 Max which have ‘more GPU cores’ which should help with viewport.Note that I’m only talking about AutoCAD, most CAD software is not compatible with the M1 or M2 chips. 

2D engineers: You could grab pretty much any chip, all of them are extremely fast for programming purposes and grabbing the latest and most powerful isn’t going to make things faster even rendering with 2D CAD software is going to be equally fast with all of these.


 Display & Design

With all the hassle and disadvantages the MacBooks have, why do engineering students buy these anyways?

The first reason is obvious, it’s an apple device and I’m not talking about the fact that it portrays high status but ALSO the fact that apple devices are known to be built like TANKS and they are EXTREMELY portable PLUS they have INSANE battery lives. Pretty much all the qualities ANY college student wants from a laptop. 

That’s not where it ends though like I said before: it’s a beast for programming purposes. The OS is designed for a quick workflow when programming, it’s mostly due to the terminal being so easy to use and readily availble for use and the fact that the OS itself is based on Linux which means you can run a lot of linux packages and programming environments on it (as an engineering student if you are doing research you’ll probably have to use Linux packages to run simulations and if you had a windows machine you would have to install Linux through a VM but you don’t have to do this with a Mac.

Lastly, the Mag Safe feature. It may sound dumb but if you are a student, it becomes extremely valuable because we all know college can get crowded and having a power cord on the floor sometimes it’s hard to avoid and if you have some dude walking around the hallway tripping over your power cord it will send your laptop flying and perhaps desotroyed, this is not going to happe nwith the Mac Safe.

  Cost

The only thing stopping most students from getting a MacBook is the price, they are ridiculously expensive but not so expensive if you go for the base configurations of the M1 or M2 and they’re much much cheaper if you go for the older versions of MacBooks which like I said before have the advantage of being compatible with pretty much ALL engineering software (through Bootcamp or parallels).

Do not be afraid of buying refurbished MacBooks, even the super old models will last you at least 4-5 years and you might even be able to re-sell it after you’re done school! That’s how well built they are.


8. Lenovo Ideapad i3

Best Cheap Laptop For Engineering Students

  Intel Core i3-1115G4

  8GB RAM DDR4

  ‎RX Vega 3

  256GB SSD NVMe PCIe

  15” FHD 

 4 lbs

  10 hours

 

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

The cheapest laptop on the list with the bare bone minimum hardwar for programming, circuit design and 2D CAD software. 

 Performance

It’s not a good laptop if you are a 3D engineer because the integrated graphics are weak and you will lag when using viewport for a 3D model but if you’re willing to leave those projects to the computer lab, it’s still a good choice.

You don’t have to buy this exact same model though. If you can find a cheaper model with a Ryzen 3 or Intel Core 3 CPU it should work just as good. You just cannot settle for Intel Celeron Pentium or anything that does not say ‘Core’ or ‘Ryzen’ if you want to a fast workflow.

4GB vs 8GB RAM:

Now, I chose this model because it already comes with 8GB RAM onboard and that’s what makes all the difference (after the CPU). Do note that most models around this price only have 4GB RAM which isn’t a bad thing as long as you do the upgrade but why not just get a laptop with 8GB RAM off the bat if it costs the same.

If you do not get 8GB RAM or fail to do the upgrade (either because you’re too lazy or because the laptop you bought has 4GB soldered into the motherboard) then that will make your laptop pretty much useless unless you stick with Windows 11 in S mode which is sort of like a tablet iOS, only useful for web browsing and youtube relaly.

Anyways, just remember to get 8GB RAM and a Core i3 or Ryzen 3 CPU and you should be able to run every engineering software (except for 3D CAD software) plenty fast. 

Budget laptops: No dedicated GPU

No matter how hard you look, you’re not going to find a dedicated GPU on a laptop below 400 dollars, they start at 550 dollars (MX series GPUs). Now, when you shop for budget laptops under 400 or 450 dollars be sure to demand a FHD display & the ability to upgrade storage & RAM. Although a lot of these models as shown in the table below only come with Windows 10 or Windows 11 in ‘S mode’ they can all be upgraded to Windows 10 or 11 Home with the click of a button free of charge.

Link CPU RAM Display Price
Acer Aspire i5 i3 1115G4 4GB FHD 324
2022 HP Notebook R3 3250U 8GB HD 379
HP Home R3 3200U 8GB HD 329
HP 15 R3 3250U 8GB HD 416
Ideapad Flex R3 4300U 4GB FHD 352
2022 HP 14” R3 3250U 8GB FHD 349
Acer Aspire 5 R3 3350U 4GB FHD 369
Lenovo Ideapad i3 1005G1 4GB FHD 275
HP 14” i3 1115G4 4GB FHD 299
HP 14” i3 1005G1 8GB FHD 329
HP 15 i3 1115G4 4GB FHD 283
Lenovo 2022 i3 1115G4 8GB HD 384
Lenovo Ideapad 3 14 i3 1005G1 8GB FHD 379
Lenovo Ideapad i3 i3 1115G4 8GB FHD 379

Buy Now


9. Lenovo ThinkPad E15

Best Lenovo Laptop For Engineering Students

  12th Gen Intel i7-1260P

  16-64 GB RAM DDR4

   Intel Xe Graphics

  256-2TB PCie NVMe SSD

  13.0″ 2K IPS 

  3.6lbs

  10 hours

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

If you’ve browsing around other websites (and reddit) before coming across this post, you’ve probably noticed a lot of users using and recommending Lenovo ThinkPads and that’s actually very good advice.

In case you didn’t know, the ThinkPads are very very popular laptops companies buy (by the dozens) to provide to their engineers for several reasons: 

  • Customer support. Lenovo’s probably got the best customer support & warranty after apple devices. 
  • The thinkpads (T series) are built like tanks and they can last as long as MacBooks (~8 years) despite everyday use and stress.
  • Wide variety of ports, ethernet ports (for faster internet connection) and several USBs ports are common on all thinkpads. The latter becomes useful to attach commonly used external devices like circuit boards or propietary devices within a company.
  • They have trackpads and keyboards just as good as MacBooks which boosts productivity of the whole team.
  • Seamless compatibility with Linux distros: this is also useful for engineering students who want to  This is useful for engineering students that want to really dig down into programming.

 Performance

The only thing the ThinkPads lack are dedicated GPUs and that should be a very good hint that a dedicated GPU is not a requirements for every engineer, it only helps those within the 3D CAD department .

However, the thinkpads still have the latest Intel or Ryzen CPUs usually the ones with most cores and they can only be customized (before purchase) to board as much RAM & Storage you need (Up to 128GB RAM & 2-4TB Storage). It would be cheaper to do the upgrade yourself though (some models have RAM soldered into the motherboard so make sure you find out whether the laptop you pick falls into this category). The model here does not have RAM soldered to the motherboard so you can replace it. 


10. MSI CreatorPro Z16P

Best Workstation Laptop for Engineering

  Core i9-12900H 4.9GHz

  64GB DDR5 RAM

   NVIDIA Quadro RTX A5500 16GB

  1TB NVMe SSD

  16” 164Hz FHD Touch 

  6.36lb

  1 hours

 
This is the kind of laptop most people have in mind when they think about engineering laptops because they’ve got the most powerful GPUs ‘workstation’ GPUs and a high-end CPU (usually a core i9 or ryzen 9 of the latest generation) and that’s fair but they’re only useful for a very small percentage of engineers and chances are you probably don’t fall into this category. If you would, your company would’ve provided a similar model to you.
 
Now if your company or YOU’ve been in charged of picking laptops for a 3D CAD design team, then I suggest you take the following into consideration to find out whether or not they’re worth the money:

What kind of instances would this laptop become useful?

  • Super lage models done with SolidWorks, CATIA, CREO and ANSYS are the ones that will benefit the most from workstation GPUs. Usually projects with parts in the range of 1000-5000 .
    • There are special drivers and plugins that are unlocked with workstation GPUs,
    • They are designed specifically for ‘floating point calculations’ which is basically the calculations behind the physics of 3D simulations hence there is a much less chance of crashing, lag when viewporting, glitches, incorrect shading, etc…
  • If your company or you’ve already had problems (lag!) with an 8GB vRAM gaming GPU, then the extra vRAM (from some workstation GPUs) may help.
    • Please beware I’m talking about lag when using viewport through a very large model in the thousand parts only. Any other instances of errors are probably caused because of outdated drivers (an update will solve the problem) or the fact that your 3D CAD software IS NOT using your dedicated GPU and using the integrated GPU instead. I will write a tutorial on how to force your software to use your GPU but you can google it for now.

I repeat some of my classmates have worked in the 3D design department of their companies and they’ve always settled with gaming GPUs, usually a 6GB vRAM GPU like the 2060RTX, 1660Ti or 3060RTX with no problems whatsoever so chances are you will probably be fine with those two if you haven’t had the issues I’ve mentioned above. 

 Hardware

Now if you’ve decided to buy a workstation GPU, let’s make a few things clear about the hardware on workstation laptops:

First and most important, you have to be very very careful when shopping for workstation GPUs. Having a workstation GPU like the P520, M1200 or P1000 isn’t going to solve any of your problems because they are weak and can only handle (in viewport) the kind of 3d models 650 dollar laptops can.

Only two (as of 2023) workstation GPUs are worth paying the extra cash: the RTX A4000 & RTX A5000. They either have the same amount of vRAM of the latest gaming GPUs or more.

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 A4000 & RTX A5000 Laptops:

Unfortunately, these are EXTREMELY expensive and there’s not a much variety of laptops to choose from. Over the years, I’ve noticed it’s usually an MSI (sometimes a Lenovo) laptop which has the best specs/money ratio with workstation GPUs. 

If you manage to find an RTX A5000 or RTX A4000 at a good acceptable price but they don’t seem to have the storage of RAM you want, there’s no reason to discard that laptop and look for another. You can always upgrade RAM & Storage but you cannot upgrade CPU or GPU. In fact, upgrading RAM, Storage and even WiFi is extremely easy on workstation GPUs because there’s a lot more space to fit them in without screwing up.


Recommended Computer Specs For Engineering Students

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

I would check your engineering department’s website and head over to the IT section.

Computer Labs

Chances are, no in fact, I am 100% sure there is at least TWO labs which have dozens of computers available for use with all the engineering software in the world installed.

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 and use ANY laptop of your liking for homework, programming, designing, etc, as those tasks do not require anything more than a cheap laptop.

Note that I am not saying to ditch a laptop altogether and rely on the labs! You will obviously need a laptop to write papers, program, design, research, do homework, etc but any laptop can do that just leave the hardware demanding projects to the computer labs. 

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 powerful computers.

All you need is a laptop that runs Windows and an internet connection.

Yes, all the heavy CAD software, will run no problems. As for the internet connection, it doesn’t have to be exceptional, 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 and design with 3D CAD software.

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 still don’t believe me you can download the curriculum of each of these classes by heading over to your professor’s site. You can possibly also get a free license trial for each of these.

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:

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 there’s probably a lot of you reading this that don’t know much about computer hardware. This section will clear up the confusion, go straight to the point and tell you what hardware to go after but we’ll also justify why you don’t need to focus so much on power based on the software requirements above.

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 and programming which is just basically typing text (code) for calculations. 

3D Modeling CPUs

Those are not going to be the issue, the issue is going to start when you deal with 3D models and graphics. Those are going to be significantly more hardware demanding because rendering objects with all physics that goes in the real world 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 10 & 11

You also need to take into account that Windows 10 or Windows 11, the operating system, takes a lot of resources too. In fact, that is an equally important consideration when picking up a CPU because not ALL CPUs can run Windows 10 or Windows 11 with no lag. 

Intel CPUs

CPU Base Turbo Cores
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
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
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
i9 12900H
1.8
5
6/8

AMD CPUs

CPU Max Speed Cores(Threads)
Ryzen 9 6980HX  5 8 – 16
Ryzen 9 6900HS
4.9
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 5600H 4.2 6 – 12
Ryzen 5 4600H 4.0 6 – 12
Ryzen 5 3550H 3.7 4 – 8
Ryzen 5 3500U 3.7 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.

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)

 

This is probably the most important section of this entire post and the reason why most of you are even readin this post.  You probably want  the answer to the following questions:

A) Who needs discrete GPUs? Should I spend money on them?
B) What are the differences between workstation and regular discrete GPUs? Are workstation GPUs better? Should I buy them?

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 former comes by default on every laptop and the latter 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 may be a bit 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, discrete graphics or 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 but I advice you NOT to buy graphics card out of the following list:

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

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

Only a small subset of actual engineers will need the workstation GPUs such as the NVIDIA Quadro and AMD FirePros 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 10 000 parts all interacting with each other) because workstation GPUs have more “vRAM”. 

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

3. RAM (Random Access Memory)

This is probably FAR more important than graphics card and even the processor (since again most modern processors are way too fast & graphics cards are not a concern for engineering projects since is school) because RAM is where SOFTWARE, the operating system and everything else running in your computer will be temporarily stored. That means if you don’t have enough things will slow down, a slow computer means wasting more time and you don’t want a slow computer before finals where you’ll probably have tons of programs opened in the background.

4GB:   This is not enough for the simple reason that Windows 10 and Windows 11 take at least 3.5GB now 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 would personally go with 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, you can just get 8GB (which most modern laptops have) then upgrade it to 16GB later if you feel you need more. 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.

Now if you followed my advice at the start of this post and want to use your current laptop for engineering, that’s a fine choice, I’m not here to convince you to spend 1000 dollars on a laptop however I would advice you to upgrade both the storage and RAM if your laptop is too old and doesn’t have an SSD or 8GB RAM.  Both upgrades will make sure CAD software, the most hardware demanding software for engineering students, will run with no issues. 

How my storage do you need?

Well you only need what most laptops offer which is ~256GB. 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 here to see how easy it is.

6. Weight & Display

If you are an engineering student, weight is probably the number 1 most important factor IF you want to get work done as much as possible. 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.

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 expensive though.

15”’: These laptops are way cheaper and still have the CPU & RAM size I have recommended. Most laptops with dedicated GPUs have this much weight, you are not going to find a 13” laptop with 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.

FHD vs QHD vs UHD: Resolution

Resolution will also give you extra screen space. Since you’ll have more pixels with higher resolution displays, size of objects can be scaled down in size thus freeing more 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, it can happen so you have double check.

QHD or UHD:They are 2k and 4k resolutions respectively. (FHD ~1k). 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 it under 600 and it’s probably going to run out of stock soon that’s how rare and expensive they are.

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 and you’ll need a few connections

 

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. 

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 such as LabView & SPICE for which you may have to use Parallel’s or BootCamp. Note that you cannot install Windows on the latest MacBooks only on models before 2020 (those without the M1 & M2 chips).

Comments?

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

10 thoughts on “10 Best Laptops For Engineering – Latest 2023 Software (+Hardware Guide)

  • July 6, 2017 at 9:26 am
    Permalink

    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
    Permalink

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

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

      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
    Permalink

    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
      Permalink

      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
    Permalink

    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
      Permalink

      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
    Permalink

    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
      Permalink

      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
        Permalink

        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

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