Reviews

The Best Laptop For GIS

GIS is a bit more demanding in terms of hardware compared to other studies and professions. So, unfortunately, you’ll have to get something that’s a bit powerful. 

Truth be told, that’s easier said than done. Many sellers can pass off a laptop as an overall good and powerful choice without mentioning anything about the downsides of each option. And that’s particularly true in retail. 

That’s why we decided to write this article for you which should hopefully make the buying process much easier. So, with that being said, let’s get right into it!

Things to Consider

Picking a laptop is all about knowing what you need and then weighing up the pros and cons of each and every choice. Some of the most important and common ones are below: 

  • OS: The operating system plays a vital role in what applications you’ll be able to run. One of the most common OS’ is Windows 10 and it should work just fine for GIS
  • CPU: As far as the processor is concerned, more cores and higher frequencies are generally better – at least when talking about the same generation. We wouldn’t recommend anything less than a quad-core i5 or Ryzen 5 for GIS
  • GPU: Your graphics card plays a vital role in 2D/3D rendering and in gaming as well. We’d recommend getting at least a GTX 10xx – but non-demanding users who are not interested in gaming may manage with integrated graphics as well (Kind of a gamble as far as GIS is concerned)
  • RAM: Running out of RAM will make a PC feel very slow. 8 gigabytes is the minimum we’d recommend for GIS – but more demanding users can use 16 or even more
  • Storage: Whatever you pick, make sure that it has an SSD on it. Those make a world of difference in terms of performance. Capacity, on the other hand, is a matter of personal preference
  • Display and portability: Smaller displays are better for portability. But, at the same time, they are not as pleasant to look at. Find a good balance between portability and size (15.6 inches is usually the sweet spot)
  • Battery life: Stop looking at the overall size of a battery and focus on the average battery life results instead. Laptops are not smartphones. Power requirements can greatly differ from machine to machine

Our 5 Best Laptops for GIS

Now that you know the basics, all that remains is to check out some laptops, see their pros and cons, then pick whatever personally fits you best. 

And while we’d love to say that there is a single laptop that fits everyone, the truth is that people have different needs and preferences. So, without any further ado, let’s get right into it!

1: Dell Inspiron i5577

Our Budget Pick

At just about $800 (Depending on the time of purchase), this isn’t exactly a cheap option. However, compared to other laptops that come in 4-digit units, this is as cheap as you can go without sacrificing too much. 

  • CPU: Intel Core i5-7300HQ
  • GPU: Nvidia GTX 1050 
  • RAM: 8GB
  • Storage: 256GB SSD
  • Display: 15.6 LCD IPS display at 1080P
  • Battery: 5 hours on average (Without gaming or 3D rendering)
  • Weight: 5.66 pounds

With an entry-level GPU, a decent quad-core processor, and the small SSD, this should be enough for running GIS-related programs. 

The only downside is that the screen bezels are somewhat thick and that gaming aesthetics are sure to be a bad thing for some people. But, as we mentioned above, there are pros and cons to everything. 

Speaking of gaming, if that’s one of the primary features that you’re after, we’d recommend looking at something with a slightly more powerful GPU. Because if you spend just a bit more, you get a much better value for gaming. 

Pros: 

  1. Relatively cheap
  2. Decent battery life for a laptop with dedicated graphics
  3. Feels sturdy

Cons: 

  1. Thick Bezels

2: MSI GL62M

Best for Budget Gaming

The MSI GL62M costs about a hundred dollars more on average compared to the Inspiron and it’s all-around very similar in terms of specs. The aggressive gaming aesthetics are pretty much the only extra feature that it offers, though. 

  • CPU: Intel Core i5-7300HQ
  • GPU: Nvidia GTX 1050 
  • RAM: 8GB
  • Storage: 256GB SSD
  • Display: 15.6 LCD IPS display at 1080P
  • Battery: About 4 hours or less on average 
  • Weight: 5.29 pounds

It’s slightly more lightweight with slightly worse battery life. But, other than that, it’s pretty much the same thing with a SteelSeries keyboard. 

Pros: 

  1. Feels sturdy
  2. Lots of IO by 2020 standards

Cons: 

  1. Mediocre battery life at best
  2. A bit expensive for what it offers

3: Acer Predator Helios

Best Overall

While we did indeed said that you won’t find a laptop which fits everyone, all things considered, this is the one that brings the most advantages without a lot of disadvantages. That’s why we consider it to be the best overall option. 

  • CPU: Intel Core i7-9750H
  • GPU: Nvidia GTX 1660Ti 
  • RAM: 16GB
  • Storage: 256GB NVMe SSD
  • Display: 15.6 LCD IPS display at 1080P 144Hz
  • Battery: About 4 hours or less on average 
  • Weight: 5.07 pounds

If there’s one downside, then that’s definitely going to be the relatively high price-tag. But, don’t forget that it offers superb value.

For about a $150 more (Compared to MSI’s offering), you get a very powerful processor, a decent graphics card, and 16 gigs of RAM out of the box! Sure, the battery life isn’t all that great. But, that’s to be expected from a laptop with powerful hardware. 

The high-refresh-rate display is also a huge plus in our book. Not only for gaming – but for general usage as well. Even scrolling and the overall responsiveness is much better at 144Hz!

Pros: 

  1. Very powerful hardware
  2. Insane value
  3. Plenty of RAM out of the box
  4. High-refresh-rate display
  5. Relatively thin bezels

Cons: 

  1. The battery life is mediocre at best (Don’t even think about gaming without being plugged in)

4: Microsoft Surface Pro 6

Best Portable Laptop

If you need something that’s as lightweight and portable as possible with great battery life, there is no doubt that this is your best bet from this list!

  • CPU: Intel Core i5 8th gen
  • GPU: Integrated graphics
  • RAM: 8GB
  • Storage: 256GB SSD
  • Display: 12.3-inch LCD IPS display at 2K
  • Battery: Up to 13 hours but more like 8-10 under realistic use 
  • Weight: 1.7 pounds

For those of you who don’t know, the Surface Pro 6 is both a tablet and a laptop in one package thanks to its removable keyboard. And we understand that it’s not a good fit for everybody. But, those who do love portability over everything else, it’s hard to go wrong with this one. 

Unfortunately, the only way to get such great battery life and such a slim build is by sacrificing raw power. While 8 gigs of RAM and the Core i5 processor should be enough for most people, the lack of dedicated graphics could be an issue for those who need to work with 2D or 3D apps (Especially 3D). 

Pros: 

  1. Decent specs for something so small
  2. 2-in-1 design
  3. Extremely lightweight
  4. Superb battery life

Cons: 

  1. The lack of dedicated graphics could be an issue for some
  2. A small display is better for portability – but definitely worse to look at

5: Lenovo Legion Y520 (2018)

Our High-end Pick

By flirting with a $1,000 price tag, the Lenovo Legion Y520 places itself on the premium/high-end market. And as far as high-end laptops are concerned for GIS, this is one of your best picks!

  • CPU: Intel Core i7-7700HQ
  • GPU: Nvidia GTX 1060 3GB
  • RAM: 16GB
  • Storage: 512GB SSD
  • Display: 15.6-inch LCD IPS display at 1080P
  • Battery: About 4 hours on average 
  • Weight: 5.29 pounds

With 16 gigs of RAM, plenty of SSD storage, and a powerful processor, there’s not much more that we can ask for. The GTX 1060 is a bit outdated – but don’t forget that it’s still about as powerful as a 1650.

Overall, this may not be the best option for gamers (The Predator Helios has a better GPU), but it’s without a doubt one of the best for GIS!

Pros: 

  1. Powerful processor
  2. Plenty of RAM and SSD storage out of the box
  3. Decent for gaming as well

Cons: 

  1. Thick bezels
  2. Battery life is mediocre at best

Wrapping Up

If that’s a bit too much to take in at once, here is everything you need to know as fast as possible!

  1. Dell Inspiron i5577: One of the cheapest options which has all the basic specs we need – the only downside is that it’s not the best value (You can get something twice as good for only $300 more)
  2. MSI GL62M: Good for a budget gaming solution – but it’s still a bit expensive for the specs that it offers
  3. Acer Predator Helios: All-around the most powerful laptop in this list – but it’s also the most expensive
  4. Microsoft Surface Pro 6: Nothing can beat this in terms of portability and battery life – but the small display may be a deal-breaker for some and the same goes for the lack of dedicated graphics
  5. Lenovo Legion Y520 (2018): One of the most powerful options here. It has a slightly less powerful GPU than the Helios but more SSD storage – battery life is pretty bad, though

That’s all for now. We hope that this article helped you out. If there are any questions, feel free to let us know about them in the comments section down below!

About the author

Charlie Noon

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