Best Laptops for Computer Science Students – 2021 Complete Buying Guide

Last Updated on February 12, 2021

We will start off by just saying that getting a laptop is opinionated to your certain case, maybe throughout your career as a computer science students, you’ll also be playing video games alongside your general work so you would need a laptop that is well ventilated to bear loads of the latest AAA games with a high-end GPU  or maybe you won’t be playing video games and are just into iOS development, therefore, would need a Mac for those purposes. Thus, the purpose of this detailed article is to make sure that all the knowledge we have gained throughout our years as a student of computer science is available to you. 

DISCLAIMER: In no way is this list exhaustive or absolute but is there to guide you in narrowing down your choices by laying out what you should be looking for in a laptop for your computer science degree.

Also, you might be wondering why shouldn’t you just get a custom-built PC (which is more economical by the way) instead of a laptop? Well, to answer that question is you’d later regret that decision, believe me when I say that since as a CS student, you’ll be part of many projects and so would need to have your machine in your possessions all the time to get the tasks done and PC wouldn’t be able to do that, for obvious reasons (it’s not portable in case you’re still wondering). With that out of the way let’s get right to it.

So, the things that you should look out for in a laptop are its CPU, Display, RAM, Graphics Card (GPU), and lastly the storage option.

CPU: The go to chip for CS students should be an intel i5 or if you’re tilted towards AMD try to go for its Ryzen Chips. Why not an i7? Well, it’s an overkill unless you have some extra money to spend or want to run high-end programs, which you generally won’t as a CS major, but just incase to future proof your rig you can get an i7 and run a few latest games which demand such high CPU power. 

Display: It might not make sense to you right now that why is display highlighted under a special heading of its own. Well, to your surprise it’s one of the most important components as you’ll be spending a lot of time staring into your screen and that’ll put a lot of on your eyes for sure when you’re trying to figure what went wrong with the code that you spent hours compiling.

So, my friend, try to go for at least a Full HD display, and while you are at it go for a matte display. Matte displays are anti-reflective so reduce the strain on your eyes, however at the cost of decreased contrast and color intensity under low light conditions but that shouldn’t bother you much since you’re working with code rather than graphics.

If you work with graphics, you could always opt for a 4K display if you have some extra cash to spare. Last thing to be noted is that go for at least a 15’’ inch display because you’ll have various windows at the same time so would make multitasking easier.

RAM: 8GB is the bare minimum, I think they don’t make 4GB anymore so yeah. You’ll be working on various software at the same time as a CS student and for that more the RAM, the merrier. You’ll need more, 16GB to be exact if you plan on working with large data sets.

You could always start with 8GB and upgrade later on as when you feel its needed because most laptops today support memory upgrade and it’s not that heavy on the pocket too. One thing that needs to be highlighted is if you get a Mac, get as much RAM you can because it won’t be upgradeable later. Also, 32GB is overkill.

Graphics Card (GPU): It is recommended that you get a discrete graphics card for your new system because it has a significant edge over the integrated chips which are built in to the system’s CPU.  Integrated chips are fine if you’re purely going to be using your system for “academic purposes”, however, I would recommend to go for a dedicated GPU because it will future proof your rig and allow you to run AAA game titles, if you are into that sort of things.

Further, if you think you will be doing graphic modeling, parallel computing or studying machine learning a dedicated GPU chip will always come in handy. Also, the majority of GPUs are either Nvidia or AMD in window’s laptops but if you get a Mac, they only support AMD GPU’s in addition to the intel integrated chips.

Storage Options: In my opinion, as a CS student you have only one option when it comes to storage options, a combination of a hard disk drive (HDD) and an SSD. Choosing between the two is going to make your system extremely slow or cost you a lot, in that respective order.

HDDs are going to save you a lot because they are cheap and offer a lot of storage and SSD’s are expensive but very fast and offer less storage. Therefore, you could go for 500GB or 1TB HDD and at least a 256GB SSD together because that would be the best bang for your buck, and going for either the two is going to cost you. SSD’s are very fast and you will enjoy a lot when you’ll see applications opening very quickly.

With that sorted out, we will list down a bunch of laptops for you that cover all the aspects of the requirements of a CS student from many price points.

List of Best Laptops for Computer Science Students

1. MacBook Pro 13”: the best weapon in a CS major’s inventory

First of all, the 2018 version packs a serious punch and has a great edge over its predecessor from 2016. This latest piece of machinery is best equipped to multitask and would do it without making a sound, figuratively speaking. And it continues the tradition of apple products, longevity, and reliability.

It has an excellent 2560×1600 pixels display which makes you see things in the topmost quality with true tone function that reduces the stress on your eyes.

It comes packed with a top of the line intel 2.6Ghz hexacore i7 combined with intel UHD and Radeon 560X graphic cards equipped to handle any computing task thrown at it and the super-fast 256GB SSD lets you open applications at the blink of an eye.

It has a lightweight aluminum body that makes it extremely portable with a very nice and quiet keyboard. You might be saddened to hear that it doesn’t come with any USB ports, but you could always get a dock for it later on, but it does have the apple’s famous thunderbolt 3 ports hat lets you transfer data at speeds beyond imagination and far out of the reach of the traditional USB ports.

Lastly, it has a very long battery life that averages about 6 hours.

To sum it up:

Pros:

  • Very lightweight
  • Fast CPU
  • Good SSD
  • long battery life
  • and a good display

Cons:

  • Does not have a discrete GPU
  • no USB ports

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2. HP pavilion for the gaming enthusiasts

This rig comes packed with a very fast 8th gen 4Ghz intel i5 chip, with an 8GB DDR4 RAM, 16GB intel optane memory instead of an SSD, and a 1TB HDD. It also has an Nvidia 1050ti GPU which is able to handle most AAA titles and computing tasks with a mediocre 15.6’’ FHD display.

The machine is very good at meager 800$, with all these features and forgot to mention earlier that its battery lasts up to 8 hours and comes with a backlit keyboard.

However, there are certain tradeoffs, the body is full plastic so if things get heated you will need assisted cooling tools to prevent your laptop from going on fire and it’s not the lightest of the laptops, weighing a bit over 2.5 kg, so keep that in mind.

So, to conclude:

Pros:

  • Economical
  • Suitable for both gaming and academic tasks
  • Long battery life

Cons:

  • On the bulkier side
  • Plastic body and lack of SSD

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3. Acer Predator Helios 300, an absolute beast of a machine

The thing comes with the extremely powerful 9th gen intel i7 CPU and the latest Nvidia 1660TI graphics card that has 6GB of GDDR6 VRAM that can run all the latest AAA games without an issue and any other computing task. Has a 256 GB SSD and 144 Hz display which means has a very fast refresh rate.

However, it’s quite bulky, does not have an HDD and not a very long-lasting battery life. And this will set you back a whopping 1200 bucks.

To sum it all up:

Pros

  • Very fast CPU and GPU
  • An SSD
  • Excellent Display and a good cooling system

Cons

  • No HDD
  • Short battery timing
  • Bulky and expensive

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4. Asus Zenbook 13

This is the best value for money laptop, it comes with an 8th i5-8265U processor which means it’s very efficient. Has an 8 GB DD R3 RAM, which is a bit on the slower side because DDR4 is the norm these days.

On the plus side, has big 512 GB super-fast SSD which compensates for the lack of HDD and for extra security purposes it has a fingerprint scanner and it’s pretty lightweight at just under 2.5 lbs but the drawback to that is a small display of 13.3 inches which makes it unsuitable for opening multiple windows thus hindering multitasking.

So, to conclude:

Pros:

  • Lightweight
  • Large SSD
  • Sery efficient CPU 

Cons:

  • No dedicated GPU
  • Small display and old RAM technology

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5. ASUS FX504, a very budget-friendly all-around Gaming Laptop

This system can handle almost all the AAA games and most computing tasks required of computer students. This thing comes with the very new hexacore 8th gen intel i7 and a dedicated Nvidia GTX1050Ti graphics card with 8 GB DD R4 RAM which is more than enough. However, one drawback is that it doesn’t have an HDD and quite little SSD storage at just 256 GB.

However, that can be overcome with external storage options. Its ram can be also upgraded to 16 GB to handle more demanding apps. It also happens to have a very reliable keyboard which many manufacturers overlook at this price to save money and it’s quite slim at 0.98’’ but done be fooled by that because it weighs a whopping 5.07’’ lbs because of all the gear it’s carrying.

To sum it up, ASUS FX504 TUF is pretty all round

Pros:

  • Fast GPU
  • SSD
  • Good keyboard

Cons:

  • Not an up to date GPU
  • no HDD

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6. Dell Inspiron, a general all-purpose laptop

This machine comes with and i7-7550Uwhich makes it very efficient but not as powerful as its HQ counterparts. Has a generous 16 GB DD R4 RAM, with an amazing 1 TB SSD with AMD Radeon R 7 4GB graphics Card. As a cherry on top, it comes with a touch screen display and Waves Maxx Audio which makes sure that it has an excellent audio quality.

Pros:

  • Ample RAM
  • More than enough SSD storage that you do not need an HDD and a 4GB graphics card
  • Touch display and good audio

Cons:

  • Not a very powerful CPU
  • Bulky

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7. Acer Aspire E 5 (A515-43-R19L) Notebook

Acer Aspire A5 is a descendent of the infamous E15, and both of these offer their own versions of simplicity and flexibility to students that wish to major in Computer Science.

Aspire E 5 is based on an AMD Ryzen 3 processor further accompanied by a 4GB DDR4 RAM and 128 GB worth of SSD which is bound to create an experience that is uniquely wonderful. This too is powered by Windows 10, which again is the latest and makes the money well spent.

The screen size is 15.6 inches which makes watching movies fun and make work easier. Moreover, the screen is Full HD and has a LED Backlit IPS display which is not common for a laptop in this range. Furthermore, the graphics are easy on the eyes and are powered by AMD Radeon Vega 3

The laptop weighs 3.9 lbs. making it comfortable and easy to carry and not heavy given the size of the screen. Furthermore, the battery runs for about 8 hours which again covers most of the time that a laptop is used during work or college.

This laptop offers much for the range than many others do, supporting all standard ports, including three USB ports (one is a 3.1 Gen 1 port while the other two are 2.0 ports) and one HDMI port that supports HDCP. Furthermore, the body is made entirely with plastic that is effectively heat resistant so that the machine does not heat up during times of high use. The keypad is backlit making the look of the laptop seem much more expensive than what it actually costs.

Pros:

  • The display is beautiful
  • The battery life is remarkable
  • The performance is substantial
  • The amount of ports is decent

Cons:

  • It weighs quite a lot
  • the screen is dull and the quality of its webcam is not the best

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8. Asus VivoBook S

Asus VivoBook S is a newly launched laptop that is the finest selection for students and common tourists who are searching for a decent laptop set for Computer Science. It is finished in a slate gray color which adds a premium appearance to it, and it is also an airy device.

The laptop runs on the 8th-generation Intel Core i7 processor attached with 8GB RAM and 256GB of a solid-state drive. The laptop also comes with a devoted Nvidia GeForce MX150 graphics processor. Well, on paper, this machine seems to be powerful enough to handle all day-to-day usage and is such a device that can be easily used on a daily basis. 

Asus vivobook S has a 14-inch full HD 4-way NanoEdge display with a spectacular 77% screen-to-body ratio.

The Asus VivoBook S’s battery life is good, but not great. The laptop lasted 8 hours and 23 minutes on the Laptop Mag Battery Test, which includes nonstop web surfing over Wi-Fi at 150 nits of display brightness. However, can somehow, cover a full day work with little intervals. Moving on to the weight, ASUS VivoBook S is thinner and lighter than ever: It weighs just 3.2 pounds and has a remarkably thin profile amounting to 12.8 inches wide and 0.7 inches thin. It’s a daily laptop with the heaviness and compactness of an ultrabook.

Asus vivobook Ss ergonomic backlit Chiclet keyboard with fingerprint sensor is activated via ‘Windows hello’. Its exclusive Ergo lift design is there for an improved typing position. The VivoBook S offers strong performance in a sleek framework along with solid speakers and a comparatively at ease keyboard. The laptop has the normal USB port connections, a USB 3.1 Type C, USP 3.0, USB 2.0, HDMI, and a port used for both mic and headphones.

Pros:

  • Both SSD and HDD are present
  • The cooling solution prevents the laptop from getting worked up and thus heating up.

Cons:

  • Smaller battery capacity in comparison to its counterparts
  • 4GB of memory.

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9. Acer Aspire 5

If you have gone through the previous laptops and are annoyed by their prices, DO NOT WORRY AT ALL!! This laptop will never be a strain on your pocket and believe me, with a cut of few specifications, this beast manages to provide a performance that can be compared to many higher-end laptops!

The performance stands well within the list of its counterparts. It comes with a dual-core i3 and a quad-core i5 processor, obviously, the latter one being preferable for AutoCAD. By spending another $100, you can obtain this device with a new 10th-gen Core i5, entry-level Nvidia MX250 discrete graphics, and a 512GB PCIe NVMe SSD.  Obviously, the processor isn’t similar to those in the previously mentioned laptops, but it should suffice (do not forget this is a budget laptop).

The display specifications for Acer Aspire 5 outline a 15.6-inch (16:9) 1920 x 1080-pixel display again proves to be great for the user. There has been made no compromise on the screen size so even though you are paying less, you would get the exact same size required for AutoCAD. 

The device weighs 1.739 Kgs so it is even a tad handier than the Lenovo Thinkpad P53s. The battery may last up to 9 hours, depending upon the usage. Again, regardless of the price, the Laptop will provide sufficient ease to all the engineers and architects out there.

This might not be the best-designed laptop. The material seems a bit rigid and opening the lid with one hand isn’t a very easy task. Although the plastic frame may have provided a cut in weight but the physical appearance has been compromised here. Regardless, this laptop is still a value for price device.

Pros:

  • The price is the biggest one
  • The display is mesmerizing
  • Fingerprint reader
  • The battery life is exceptional
  • the power is enough to deal with everyday tasks

Cons:

  • The built quality could be improved,
  • The touchpad does not offer the precision that it could
  • A touchscreen option could make this laptop one of a kind

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