The Best Laptops for Engineering Students: 2020 Engineers' Choices
Selecting the Best Laptop for Engineering Students
These days, many laptops are released every other week and their specifications also seem to overlap with each other. In this ever-evolving times, it's very easy to make mistakes on this expensive investment. Computers and gadgets are expensive; and for engineering students, they're even more expensive. In this article, you'll get:
- My top picks for the best laptops for engineering students
- The most important requirements you should be considering when purchasing your laptop
- A full description of my top choices and longer list of other recommendations.
If I had purchased my laptop based strictly on price and not focused on any other features, I would have made a huge mistake in purchasing a gadget that was going to be with me for at least four years. Below, the article should help you avoid that kind of fate.
Laptops for engineering students and graduates should be fast, efficient, and versatile!
So what does "fast", "efficient" and "versatile" mean? There are these minimum technical requirements which should be met if you are considering a laptop for engineering school. I have broken down these specifications down below.
As if going into an engineering school is already not difficult enough, you have to hold up with the burning load of technological and creative requirements every day. I only had a desktop when I first joined the college to study mechanical engineering. I thought it would be enough — but, boy oh boy, it was not. I had to stay up late in college to finish the reports, do the drawings, then submit them the same day.
I had to pick a computer that was portable, that met all my engineering degree requirements and also gave me options on the entertainment and sometimes gaming side. With my friends to guide me and a little help from Google, I managed to pick some good ones.
An Engineering Laptop Needs...
1. 8GB of RAM
2. At least 1024GB i.e. 1TB of hard drive (SSD is better)
3. Screen resolution of no less than 1920 x 1080 pixels
4. Intel i5 CPU or better
5. Powerful and Dedicated Graphics card
Look for laptops with above specs, or see my personal choices. If you decide to purchase a computer, the above specs will be enough to make an informed decision.
What is your brand preference?
Laptop Requirements for Engineering
Below, learn about all the crucial details to consider when purchasing your laptop. There are some requirements specific to those in the engineering field that other students or laptop users may not need as much.
This section will cover:
1. CPU/Processor Speed
2. Hard Disk Drive Memory
5. Screen Size
6. Dedicated Graphics Cards
7. Operating System
1. CPU / Processor Speed Requirements for Engineering Laptops
The CPU is crucial if you're in the market for an engineering laptop. Whenever we run AutoCAD or similar software, it has to pile up its huge database and present us with a virtual work space for our work. So, if your CPU speed is not adequate, you will have to wait for a long time for the software to just boot. Talk about the extra time for crafting your work alone. Sounds familiar? Don't let that happen in your new laptop and make sure that you have a fast enough CPU. HP Envy 17t (described below) comes with the latest 8th Generation Intel i7 Quad core processor.
Some programs that are CPU exhaustive:
- Simulation software including ANSYS and Excel
- Games that are highly dependent on faster frame rates
2. Adequate Hard Disk Drive Memory
You'll need adequate memory and storage for everything—including drafting programs like AutoCAD, Catia, ANSYS, Solidworks. Further, your designs drawn on it also need space. You also need a place for saving your favorite songs, pictures, all your games, and everything else. You need storage for it all. Also, before you ask, yes we are talking Olympic-sized! Try to go to 1TB or more for the best value since most of the laptops these days come with at least 1TB of storage.
HDD or SSD?
Laptops these days come with SSD drives which are faster, more efficient and more reliable than the traditional mechanical hard disk drives. However, SSD drives come at an increased cost. There are also laptops with storage hybrids (SSD+HDD) which can be used in such a way that the operating system (Windows or others) can be installed in SSD and additional files like photos or songs can be stored in HDD making the laptop more affordable and faster at the same time. (Few such laptops have been discussed below)
3. RAM Requirements for an Engineering Laptop
Just how much RAM is required? You'll need enough to make sure that your laptop can actually store and run what the fast processor is trying to run. A large RAM is to go in sync with the fast processor speed. The most-recommended capacity is 8 GB, although 12 GB and 16 GB are also preferred. However, it is better to have a good graphics adapter than a huge amount of RAM unless you are serious on gaming or are using more heavy software.
You'll need Wi-Fi at the very least (there is no world without the Internet), and it would be best if there is a Bluetooth function as well. This will make sharing your design works easier and also save time and money for flash drives.
On the Ethernet, my rig has a Gigabit LAN, and I must add that my experience has been exhilarating but this is not necessary, just a nice perk. Just about any Ethernet port should work fine. A wireless LAN 802.11 a/b/g/n and Bluetooth v4.0 yields a decent connectivity, and you should find it with ease with almost any recently launched workstation.
Optical drives are a good addition, but these days they just tend to act more or less as a fashion accessory to flaunt rather than any real use. So, if you see a decent purchase meeting all your needs but notice that it lacks an optical drive, then you should definitely consider it. Losing the drive also makes your laptop lighter and more portable.
5. Screen Size
The display size is actually not a major requirement when it comes to laptops for engineering students. A 14 or 15-inch laptop is perfectly adequate — these sizes are good to go for designs and drawing-related works. However, that doesn't mean that a larger screen size is a bad thing. Just keep in mind your portability needs. A 17.3-inch screen is also not as portable as a 15-inch, but it might have more options and a bigger area for displaying your works.
While display sizes are not as crucial, the screen resolution is important. A higher screen resolution will allow more area for multiple windows. 1920x1080 pixels is the most recommended because it is the 1080p true HD quality. Laptops, videos, and movies these days are coming in 3k, 4k quality. So, 2k is the bare minimum.
6. Dedicated Video Cards
Work environments like CAD, MATLAB, and Solid Works are used for 3D environment applications and video-rendering. These applications and other similar ones require a dedicated video card, because the in-built adapters are unable to meet the video processing needs. Going with a 2GB DDR3 Graphics card will be enough for almost all environments. However, if you consider high-end gaming a priority, then I would look into a DDR5 graphics card like the NVidia GTX series.
7. Operating System
Finally the operating system, or OS. Now, it comes down to whether you have a Mac or a Windows laptop. Of course, Mac devices are stunningly well-crafted, and their build quality is superb along with their displays. However, when it comes to the workstation for your actual work, all the environments are mostly only native to Windows.
You can still use a Mac, but using parallels can be taxing and sometimes downright bothersome. You'll need to put the extra effort in finding your way around one, for starters. Even high-end games run better in the Windows. So, these are all things to keep in mind if you're looking for a laptop for mainstream engineering purposes. I would suggest going for a Windows laptop for all its advantages, alongside the lower price tag.
This also does not mean that a Macbook is not a good choice for an engineering student. They are a great choice even for engineering students if their requirements are met.
The Best Laptops for Engineering Students: My Top Choices
Thanks to my college experience, I have had my fair share of laptops and I would recommend these if you are hard pressed on deciding.
1. Acer Predator Helios 300 Gaming Laptop
- Introduction: The 2020 Acer Predator Helios 300 (click for current price) is not only a powerhouse laptop and a perfect engineering applications oriented laptop, but also capable of meeting hardcore gaming needs. Let me tell you why.
- RAM capacities: With a 16GB DDR4 RAM, you can rest assured that any game or program you are running won't lag. Furthermore, NVIDIA's GTX 1660 Ti graphics processor (dedicated 6GB graphics) is there to complement the RAM.
Acer Predator Helios 300:
- is the most budget-friendly full HD screen laptop in its class.
- Has the most advanced battery life (7 hours playtime), motherboard, and graphics specifications in this price range
- Comes with NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1660 Ti graphics card
- Runs Windows 10 Full version
- Has Backlit Keyboard
- Comes with NexiGo Wireless Mouse included
As you can see, the 2020 Acer Helios 300 has a sufficient memory of 256GB full SSD with 1 TB extra HDD so that you don't run out of space to store your Matlab, CAD or SolidWorks projects. Battery life of 7 hours will keep it running all day long whether it be to write down notes or for gaming needs.
2. Dell G5 VR Ready Gaming Laptop for Engineering
Introduction: Dell G5 is a high-performance gaming and multimedia laptop. It is the latest in terms of display quality and display guarantee offering 5k screen.
- Windows 10 x64 (64-bit Architecture)
- Screen Resolution of 7680 x 4320
- 32GB DDR4 RAM with a dedicated 6GB graphics card
- 9th Generation Intel i7 CPU with speed up to 4.50 GHz
- 1 TB Hard Drive + 512GB SSD Drive
- Backlit keyboard and USB Type-C support with HDMI 2.0
3. Asus TUF505 with Nvidia GTX 1660
- Introduction: The Asus TUF505 is a powerful yet lightweight gaming laptop that has become so popular worldwide that Asus has released different versions even in Asia and India. Otherwise, the manufacturers normally don’t provide the same US and Asian model name for a similar configuration. This is one of the reasons why one of my colleagues was able to bag one for a very good deal.
- Includes: The dedicated 6GB graphics card powered by NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1660 Ti and a hybrid 256GB SSD drive form a powerful combination for a gaming laptop for engineering students. As such, the laptop is reasonably priced for a gaming laptop.
Dubbed as the best inexpensive gaming laptop - Overall Best Value
- 15.6" full HD IPS Screen (1920 x 1080)
- Quad-core AMD Ryzen 7 3750H Processor
- New Gen Backlit Keyboard
- 1TB Hard Drive + 256GB SSD Drive
- 16GB RAM with dedicated 6GB Nvidia GTX 1660 Graphics
4. HP Envy 17t with 1TB SSD
Perfect for when you need to replace your desktop
- Introduction: This model of the HP Envy 17 (click to check today's price) is especially targeted for high-end consumer requirements like graphics-intensive engineering drawing courses. It comes with a responsive touchscreen monitor and is coupled with a full HD display. Its 8th-Gen Intel i7 processor is coupled with 16 GB of RAM — which is a super sweet deal.
- Configuration: 17.3"/1TB SSD/16GB RAM/4GB NVIDIA (also reconfigurable)
- Graphics and display: The graphics card this laptop comes with is the NVIDIA 940MX, which is equipped with 4GB Maxwell graphics that provides smooth graphics, rendering truly HD quality. Also, bonus: the 4k display quality complements the subwoofer speakers that it has, making it a perfect dorm room companion for watching movies and playing other games during your free time.
- Operating System: Windows 10 64-bit
Which Engineering division is your laptop search for?
What Engineering Field Do You Belong To?
New: Frequently Asked Questions
Because I keep getting a lot of similar questions in the comments, I thought of adding this new FAQ section that will probably answer any question you may have after reading this laptop recommendation guide
FAQ: Engineering Laptop
Q 1. I am studying Civil/Mechanical/Software/(insert any engineering branch here) Engineering. Please advise a suitable laptop for me.
A: No laptops come branded as a tool for a certain branch of engineering. All the laptops recommended above are good examples of an engineering laptop, no matter your engineering degree. The main requirements are:
- An operating system you are comfortable with (Windows or Mac - whatever suits you)
- At least 6-8 GB of RAM
- A discrete graphics card
- Hard Drive size that suits your needs (typically 500 GB is enough)
Q 2. Is Lenovo Y50 good? Don't Lenovo laptops have heating problems?
A: Yes, Lenovo models up from Y50 - Y700 had heating problems earlier. This was due to an incompatible graphics driver for Windows 8.1 and Windows 10. When users turned off the NVIDIA graphics card and used the in-house Intel HD Graphics, the problem would go away.
However, the software have already been updated and this problem has already been taken care of. It is also important to note that the laptop won't overheat all the time. It is only when you are playing graphics-intensive games and software for a long time that ANY laptop will heat (not just Lenovo). That's why, a cooling pad, is recommended all the time when gaming or using software that require a lot of CPU resources.
Q 3. How much does (insert a laptop brand) laptop heat?
A: All laptops do fairly heat up whenever they are worked on extensively. For a laptop for engineers that uses processor and graphics card extensively, expect a fair warmth. Laptop cooling pads are always recommended while gaming or using applications that drain a lot of memory. If you have a new question, please go ahead and post it in the comments section.
I hope you liked the article. If you did, please share it with your friends on Facebook, Twiiter and Pinterest who are planning to buy a laptop for their engineering college.
© 2012 Roberto Eldrum