Laptops

The Best Laptops For Computer Science Students

Ironically enough, computer science is one of the least demanding professions in terms of hardware requirements. But, finding the best laptop for computer science students can still prove to be a challenge.

There are a lot of things to keep in mind. Lots of pros and cons to consider. That’s why we decided to make the research for you and list some of the best options at the time of writing this article. So, without any further ado, let’s get right into it!

Things To Consider Before Buying

Before you choose a laptop, there are a few things to consider. Pros and cons can make a world of difference – depending on the person and his/her personal preferences. 

  • OS: Most people should be fine with any OS in computer science. Just do keep in mind that only Macbooks can run macOS while Linux and Windows are systems that can be installed on pretty much every modern laptop
  • CPU: Tasks such as coding don’t require a lot of processing power. But, we wouldn’t recommend anything less than a quad-core i5/Ryzen 5
  • GPU: Chances are that you’ll be fine with integrated graphics. But, if you’re interested in gaming, then a dedicated graphics card is absolutely necessary – preferably at least a 1660 Ti, 2060, or something at that level
  • RAM: 8GB should be enough but consider getting 16GB – just to be safe
  • Storage: Anything with an SSD is good enough. Choose the capacity depending on how much you personally need (SSD + HDD hybrids and/or combinations are good for saving money but are more power-hungry)
  • Display and portability: Big screens make reading much easier – but they also reduce portability. So, always keep an eye out for that and choose whatever fits you best
  • Battery life: Typing doesn’t require a lot of power. This gives you the option of getting the most out of a laptop battery – just pick one that can last for a while, if, of course, you deem it necessary

Our 5 Best Laptops For Computer Science Students On A Budget

Understanding the importance of individual hardware components will help ensure that you make the right decision at the end of the day. With that in mind, let’s dive into what we’ve chosen as the best laptops for computer science students currently available.

1: Best Laptop for Computer Science Students on a Budget: Dell Inspiron 15 5000

If you need something for as cheap as possible without it being a piece of garbage, then we’ve got to say that the Inspiron 15 5000 is a very solid choice!

  • CPU: Intel Core i5-8265U
  • GPU: Integrated graphics (UHD 620)
  • RAM: 12GB
  • Storage: 256GB SSD + 1TB HDD
  • Display: 15.6 LCD IPS display at 1920×1080 touch screen
  • Battery: About 3.5 hours of casual usage
  • Weight: 4.3 pounds

The Core i5 in combination with the 12 gigs of RAM is just about enough to satisfy most computer science students without any issues. Not to mention that after buying it, there is the option of swapping out the 4GB RAM module for another 8GB one. This will give you the benefits of dual-channel memory and a total of 16 gigs of RAM!

The 15.6 display is a nice balance between portability and usability with the touch screen being a welcome addition (Definitely not a necessity, though). 

Just do keep in mind that this laptop only comes with integrated graphics and that makes it a terrible choice for gamers. Unless you’re into older titles or non-demanding games like Don’t Starve Together. 

Pros: 

  1. Very cheap
  2. Lightweight
  3. Touch screen
  4. Plenty of RAM for casual usage

Cons: 

  1. No dedicated graphics
  2. Thick bezels
  3. Mediocre battery

2: Best Budget Alternative: Asus Vivobook S15 S512

The Vivobook is a great budget option with a very beautiful and sleek design, decent specs, and a beautiful display. Not to mention how lightweight it is. 

  • CPU: Intel Core i5-8265U
  • GPU: Integrated graphics (UHD 620)
  • RAM: 8GB
  • Storage: 256GB SSD 
  • Display: 15.6 LCD IPS display at 1920 x 1080
  • Battery: About 5-7 hours of casual usage
  • Weight: 4 pounds

Compared to the Inspiron 15 5000, this one sacrifices a bit of RAM and storage in exchange for better build quality, thinner bezels, and a bigger battery! 

Of course, the touch screen is not present here. But, as we mentioned above, that has never been a necessity anyway. 

Overall, it may be slightly more expensive while offering slightly less hardware. But, with a small RAM upgrade, you can easily turn this into the most complete budget option by far. 

Pros: 

  1. Lightweight
  2. Thin bezels
  3. Looks and feels sturdy

Cons: 

  1. Storage and RAM barely meet the minimum requirements

3: Best Portable Choice: Microsoft Surface Pro 6

As far as portability is concerned, nothing can beat a Surface Pro! The unique tablet + laptop design in 1 allows you to easily carry it around even in one hand while it’s just as powerful as any other mid-range laptop (If you make an exception for gaming). 

  • CPU: Intel Core i5 8th gen
  • GPU: Integrated graphics 
  • RAM: 8GB
  • Storage: 256GB SSD 
  • Display: 12.3 LCD IPS display at 2736×1824 with touch support
  • Battery: Up to 13.5 hours of casual usage
  • Weight: 3.15 pounds

As you’ve probably already noticed, this is a unique option. When the keyboard is attached to it, you can use it as a normal laptop. And when it’s detached, the touch screen allows us to use it as a Windows 10 tablet!

And it’s thanks to this design that this hybrid of a machine is so lightweight while also delivering great battery life. 

Frankly speaking, it’s a bit overpriced for the specs that it offers. But, that’s the price to pay when getting a unique design like this one. 

Pros: 

  1. Great battery life
  2. Very lightweight and portable
  3. Thin bezels and the high-resolution touch display are welcome additions
  4. Can be used as both a laptop and a tablet

Cons: 

  1. A bit overpriced for the hardware that it offers
  2. Barely meets the minimum requirements
  3. The display may feel small for some

4: Best Pick for Mac/Apple Lovers: MacBook Air 13

There are tons of reasons to get a MacBook Air over a Windows laptop. Macs offer better integration with Apple’s ecosystem while their OS is extremely optimized and they also have an excellent track record of delivering quality products!

  • CPU: Intel Core i5 8th gen
  • GPU: Integrated graphics (UHD 617)
  • RAM: 8GB (Up to 16)
  • Storage: 256GB SSD 
  • Display: 13.3-inch LCD IPS display at 2560×1600
  • Battery: Up to 12 hours of casual usage 
  • Weight: 2.75 pounds

Some people may find it to be a bit overpriced – and rightfully so. After all, for almost twice the price of our cheapest pick, you actually end up getting worse specs. 

However, don’t forget that macOS is generally much more optimized than Windows which makes Apple’s computers feel incredibly fast/snappy. Not to mention that the battery life is superb – especially if you take into account that this is a full-fledged laptop and not a tablet hybrid. 

Last, but not least, this is also the most lightweight pick on our list. And, yes – even the Surface Pro is slightly heavier. 

If there’s one downside, apart from pricing, then that’s definitely going to be the lack of normal-sized USB ports and the need for an adapter which annoys a ton of users. 

Also, it goes without saying that this is not a good pick for gaming. You can use an external GPU with Thunderbolt, but that doesn’t change the fact that there are a ton of games that are not available for macOS.

Pros: 

  1. Extremely lightweight
  2. Feels very snappy
  3. Great in terms of portability
  4. Sleek design
  5. Superb battery life
  6. Works well with Apple’s ecosystem

Cons: 

  1. Very expensive for the specs that it offers
  2. Barely meets the minimum requirements (Though its OS should require less RAM thanks to proprietary optimization)

5: Best Laptop for Computer Science Students and Gamers: Acer Predator Helios 300

The Predator Helios 300 is by far the most powerful laptop in this list. And although all this extra power isn’t going to make a big difference for the vast majority of your computer science projects, it will allow you to play pretty much every game at 1080P!

  • CPU: Intel Core i7 9750H
  • GPU: Nvidia GTX 1660 Ti 6GB
  • RAM: 16GB
  • Storage: 256GB Nvme SSD 
  • Display: 15.6-inch LED IPS display at 1920×1080 144Hz
  • Battery: 3 to 5 hours with casual use (Will die very fast if you game unplugged)
  • Weight: 5 pounds

For about the same price that you’d give for a Mac, you’re getting something that’s much more powerful. High refresh rate display, a Core i7 with a dedicated 1660 Ti, and 16 gigs of RAM!

However, at the same time, it’s nowhere near as sleek or lightweight and even under optical conditions, the battery life isn’t even half as good. As we mentioned in the beginning, it’s all about weighing pros and cons. 

So, if you don’t care about gaming, then there’s no reason to get this since you’ll be carrying something heavier with worse battery life for no reason. But, truth be told, the extra RAM can prove to be useful under certain circumstances. 

Now, for those who do want to game, the Predator is suitable for mid-range gaming – meaning that it should be able to run most games on 1080P at the medium settings with at least 60FPS. Of course, some very demanding titles, such as Control, may still drop below that. 

Pros: 

  1. Very powerful
  2. Comes with 16GB of RAM out of the box
  3. High refresh rate display
  4. Suitable for gaming
  5. Good balance between raw power and portability

Cons: 

  1. Relatively heavy
  2. Feels a bit bulky
  3. Relatively expensive
  4. The single, 256GB SSD is nowhere near enough to store demanding games (But there are a couple of spare slots for inserting something bigger)

Best Laptop for Computer Science Students – Wrapping Up

That’s all we’ve got for now. If you feel like all of that is too much information to take in at once, here is the TL;DR: 

  1. Dell Inspiron 15 5000: Cheapest option in this list that gets the job done – the only downside is the thick bezels
  2. Asus Vivobook S15 S512: Cheapest alternative. Offers less RAM and storage – but it also has a sleeker design with thinner bezels as well
  3. Microsoft Surface Pro 6: By far the most portable choice – but it comes with a small display and the specs are barely acceptable at that price point
  4. MacBook Air 13: Best option for those who love macOS and the Apple ecosystem – but it’s also a bit expensive for what it offers
  5. Acer Predator Helios 300: The best pick for gaming. Offers powerful components and a high refresh rate display – but the battery life suffers due to that

So, again, it all comes down to the pros and cons. The best laptop for computer science students is the one that meets the different criteria for each individual. Gaming, portability, looks, battery life, etc. 

Unfortunately, we just can’t have it all. 

About the author

Charlie Noon

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