We set out to find the best laptops for engineering students, and it was tough. Engineering students have a workload that is more demanding on computers than most other fields of study.
3D modeling in CAD software can challenge even some of the most modern processors and graphics cards. Large spreadsheets will eat a computer’s RAM for breakfast. With these factors, along with value and portability, taken into consideration, we compiled this list of laptops to help you pick the best one for your needs.
Best Engineering Laptops for 2020
|Razer Blade Pro||7.8 pounds||i7-6700HQ|
2.6GHz Base Clock
3.5GHz Boost Clock
1TB with room for a second drive
|Acer Predator Helios||5.5 pounds||i7-8750H|
2.2GHz Base Clock
4.1GHz Boost Clock
256GB with room for a second drive
|LG Gram||2.4 pounds||i7-8550U|
1.8GHz Base Clock
4.0GHz Boost Clock
|Dell Inspiron 15||2.65 pounds||i5-8250U|
1.6GHz Base Clock
3.4GHz Boost Clock
|Integrated Intel 620 Graphics|
|Microsoft Surface Pro 6||As little as 1.7 pounds||i5 (unknown model)||Up to 16GB memory|
Up to 1TB
Table of Contents:
Razer Blade Pro – The no Compromises Laptop
Razer is a brand known for producing top of the line, and at times even over the top, hardware. The Razer Blade Pro is no exception to this rule.
Practically any feature you could think of wanting in a laptop, the Razer Blade Pro has. On the inside, the laptop boasts an i7 6700HQ which has four physical cores that run at a base clock of 2.6GHz and boost up to 3.5GHz.
This CPU offers and fast and responsive experience, which is heightened even further with the addition of a top of the line GPU. This laptop uses the top of the line GTX 1080 with 8GB of dedicated video RAM that allows it to absolutely crush any 3d modeling, rendering, or CAD program.
The 8GB of dedicated video RAM on the GPU is in addition to the incredible 32GB of system RAM that this system has.
To take full advantage of this top of the line equipment, the Razer Blade Pro has a vivid 17.3-inch 4k display. Not only does this monitor boast incredible color accuracy and resolution for deigning oriented tasks, but it is also a touchscreen.
There are several options for storage, with the highest being 1TB. There is room inside the case for further expansion allowing you to get up to 2TB of storage.
This laptop is lightning fast and is more than capable of handling the most daunting tasks that even some desktops couldn’t tackle, but it does come at a price.
While this laptop is thin and portable, coming in at less than 0.9-inches in thickness, it weighs a hefty 7.8 pounds. It is also the most expensive laptop on our list by a significant margin.
- Most powerful laptop on our list with a GTX 1080, i7 CPU, and 32GB of RAM
- Tons of storage with up to 1TB preinstalled and enough room inside to add another 1TB drive
- Incredibly vivid 4k touchscreen makes seeing detail in CAD or other programs very easy
- This much performance comes at a price, as this is the most expensive laptop on our list
Our Rating: 9/10
- Full-fledged GTX 1080 GPU
- 4k touchscreen
- i7 with 32GB of memory
- 1TB of storage with the option to upgrade up to 2TB
- Weighs nearly 8 pounds making it the heaviest laptop on our list
- Most expensive laptop on our list
- Unusual keyboard and touchpad layout takes some getting used to
Acer Predator Helios – Overclocked Laptop for Demanding Tasks
Although it is branded as a “gaming” laptop, the Acer Predator Helios has the horsepower to be a real engineering workstation.
This laptop comes with an Intel i7 8750H processor. This CPU has six cores that can clock up to a turbo frequency of 4.1GHz. Thanks to Intel’s hyperthreading technology, the six physical cores on this chip will be able to handle workloads as though it were a 12-core chip.
On top of the impressive 8th generation CPU, this laptop comes with a GTX 1060 graphics processor. This GPU run it’s 1280 CUDA cores at 1708MHz and can be easily overclocked even higher. Plus the GTX 1060 in the Helios comes with 6GB of GDDR5 memory.
The memory on the 1060 is in addition to the 16GB of RAM already on the system for the CPU to use. The laptop’s dual all-metal aro-blade fans will keep both the CPU and GPU running nice and cool at their full boost clock speeds under most loads.
This laptop also comes with a 256GB solid-state drive, and an extra bay for another 2.5″ drive when you’re ready to expand its storage.
The Helios’ 15.6-inch screen runs at 1080p and an incredible 144 frames per second. This high refresh rate makes the fast movement look super smooth and is great for playing fast-paced games or watching sports while not in class.
Finally, the I/O on the Helios is decent. It features two USB 2.0 ports and one USB 3.0 port along with a USB 3.1 Type-C port, an HDMI output for playing videos on a big screen, an Ethernet port, audio jacks, and an SD card reader.
- Incredibly powerful CPU with up to date GPU makes for a great workhorse
- High refresh rate screen makes even very fast movement look super smooth
- You might need to upgrade the storage at some point as the onboard 256GB SSD will fill up quickly
- GTX 1060 GPU can tear through any game and most rendering workloads
- 8th Gen i7 CPU has 6 cores with a 4.1GHz boost clock offering ample processing power
- Powerful cooling solution will keep the hardware running at top speed
- Only has 1 USB 3.0 port
- Only comes with 256GB of storage
- Weighs over 5 pounds
Our Rating: 8/10
LG Gram – Best Thin and Light Laptop
If you’re looking for an ultra-portable laptop that you can toss in your backpack and take with you anywhere, then the LG Gram is exactly what you need.
The “thin and light” category of laptops has been growing in popularity for a long time now. Thanks to the increasing power of processors and batteries, making a laptop more portable while still being powerful enough to handle real workloads has become a more reasonable prospect in recent years.
The LG Gram comes in at less than three-quarters of an inch thick and weighs a mere 2.4 pounds. It features a 15.6-inch touchscreen display with a thin bezel making it the perfect size for carrying around in a backpack.
Despite its diminutive size and weight, it boasts an all-day battery life of over 16 hours. This large battery powers it’s 8th generation i7 processor and 8GB of dual-channel DDR4 memory.
While there is no discrete graphics processor, this i7 CPU is powerful enough to handle most workloads. In normal workloads, we didn’t notice a major slow down due to the lack of a dedicated GPU.
This laptop also features an impressive number of ports for a thin and light. On the left, there is a USB 3.0, the charging port, an HDMI output, and a USB 3.1 Type-C. On the right side of the laptop, there are two additional USB 3.0 ports, as well as a headphone jack and an SD card reader.
The laptop not only comes with a reasonably nice screen but also boasts some of the best speakers we’ve seen on a thin and light.
Finally, the laptop comes with a 256GB solid-state drive for storage.
- The thinnest and lightest laptop on this list
- Lack of a dedicated GPU means great battery life and portability, but it might lack the power for more complex CAD type tasks
- Limited storage and RAM make this laptop best suited for taking notes in class
- Incredibly thin at less than three-quarters of an inch
- Just under 2.5 pounds
- 16.5-hour battery life
- Lots of USB ports for a thin and light laptop
- No dedicated graphics processing
- Only 256Gb of storage
- Only 8GB of RAM
Our Rating: 7/10
Dell Inspiron 15 – Balanced Affordability and Performance
If you’re looking for an affordable laptop with the power to push through engineering work, then the Dell Inspiron 15 might be what you’re looking for.
This laptop comes in a range of configurations but the one we recommend for those looking to tackle engineering work on a budget is the Inspiron 15 5000. This Particular model comes with an Intel i5 8250U. This 8th generation processor boasts four physical cores that use hyperthreading to simulate the efficiency of eight.
The i5 8250U has a max turbo clock speed of 3.4GHz and a base clock of 1.6GHz. Rather than having a dedicated graphics card, this laptop utilizes the onboard graphics of it’s 8250U CPU.
This chip comes with Intel’s integrated 620 graphics co-processor, which is able to add an additional 300MHz of processing power that is oriented towards rendering. While this is not quite powerful enough to blow away games and rendering tasks, it is sufficient to run practically any of the software required by engineering courses.
The Inspiron 15 comes with 8GB of DDR4 RAM, which is enough to handle most workloads with the exception of extremely large spreadsheets. The computer also comes with a 1TB hard drive which offers a good amount of storage that should take at least a couple years to fill up.
These onboard graphics power the laptop’s 15.6″ touchscreen. The screen runs at 1080p resolution and is LED backlit for good visibility in most lighting conditions.
- Most affordable laptop on this list, with good specs for the price
- Not the most powerful laptop, but will run smoothly and get work done
- 1TB hard drive should last a good while and will provide tons of space to store your work for years to come
- Great price
- 1TB of storage
- Decent processor
- No dedicated graphics card
- only 8GB of RAM
- Not ready for huge spreadsheets or intensive 3d modeling and rendering
Our Rating: 7/10
Microsoft Surface Pro 6 – Full Powered 2-in-1
With the increasing power of small processors, and the increasing capacity of small batteries, a new category of a laptop has emerged onto the scene in recent years, the 2-in-1. 2-in-1s are designed to be laptops that can convert into tablets to optimize portability and offer a unique user experience.
The most powerful 2-in-1 that we’ve ever tried has been the Microsoft Surface Pro and remains the best 2-in-1 in our opinion.
The Surface Pro without the keyboard weighs a minuscule 1.7 pounds and has a decent on-screen keyboard for use this way. The tablet portion of the device features a 10-inch screen that features Microsoft’s unique PixelSense technology.
PixelSense allows the screen to not only detect multiple touches at once but also allows it to interface with some unique hardware such as the surface dial. These additional tools are sold separately but can offer a lot of functionality to someone who does a lot of design-oriented tasks.
Although it is a “tablet” in form factor, the Surface Pro features full-fledged laptop performance. Inside the device, there is an 8th gen Intel processor along with up to 16GB of RAM. The tablet can also accommodate up to a full terabyte of storage, which along with the significant memory capacity allows this little machine to handle some impressive spreadsheets and other simple tasks.
The surface type cover not only protects the screen of the tablet from scratches but also offers a surprisingly excellent typing experience. It is one of the best keyboards we’ve seen on any laptop, let alone a 2-in-1.
The Surface Pro offers a great option for those who don’t plan on needing much processing power and simply want a light, portable device that is easy to use and can handle basic college workloads.
- Ideal for those who don’t plan to run CAD or rendering software on their laptop
- Incredibly light and portable in both tablet and laptop modes
- Lacks the power for more intense workloads but excels at spreadsheet and word processing tasks, especially thanks to the surprisingly great keyboard
- Lightest device on our roundup
- Excellent keyboard on the keyboard cover
- Can convert from tablet to laptop and back with ease
- Underwhelming processing power compared to true laptops
- Almost no I/O with only a single USB port and a mini-display port
- Less than adequate cooling due to the lack of a heatsink and fans
Our Rating: 6/10
Things to Look For
When we set out to find the best laptops for engineering students we knew there were a few criteria we’d have to be looking at. The CPU, GPU, memory, and storage capacity would all play a major part in our picks.
To help give you more insight into our picks we’re going to look at why each of these factors is important, and then discuss which laptop is best for certain workloads and purposes.
The first factor to consider when looking at computers is the central processing unit or CPU. The CPU handles all of the general processing and workload of the computer.
The better the CPU is the more work your computer will be able to handle and the more responsively it will perform. Usually, if a computer takes a long time to open a certain program it is due to a slow CPU.
CPU power is important for general calculation programs such as Matlab or even spreadsheets. Complex equations can slow down less powerful CPUs and make the computer feel sluggish.
CPU performance is measured using clock speed and core count. Clock speed is recorded in GHz which represents how many millions of processes each core of a processor can handle each second. Core count, on the other hand, represents how many individual processing nodes a CPU has, which allows it to handle more processes and calculations simultaneously.
The graphics processing unit, or GPU, does more or less exactly what the name would imply. The GPU is in charge of handling all the graphics-oriented processes of the computer.
The general application processing power of the CPU can also handle this task, which is why some laptops don’t have a GPU. However, a computer with a GPU will have significantly higher frame rates and lower rendering times than ones that lack this component.
Some engineering tasks can require a decent amount of GPU power. For example, computer-aided design software is often accelerated by GPUs and perform much better when they have access to some graphical processing power.
3d modeling and rendering work is also enhanced by the presence of a dedicated GPU. Finally, if you plan to use your new laptop for gaming in your off time, a GPU is an absolute must.
The next thing to look at is the memory. While often overlooked, random access memory, or RAM, plays a huge part in the feel and performance of a computer.
RAM is like the short-term memory of a computer and allows quick access to tasks that you’re currently working on. The lowest you’ll find in most systems these days is 8Gb of RAM. This is enough to handle simple tasks like word processing and facebook browsing, but can quickly be gobbled up by more intricate workloads.
One thing known to eat up a lot of RAM is spreadsheets. Larger spreadsheets can easily go through 8GB of RAM or more, especially when other windows are open at the same time. In fact, Google Chrome tabs can occupy a lot of memory alone.
16GB is the sweet spot for most people. This offers enough RAM for almost any workload without going unnecessarily overboard. If you know for a fact that you will often have massive spreadsheets open, or even multiple spreadsheets, then it might be a good idea to look into getting 32GB of RAM.
Luckily, RAM is also one of the easiest components to upgrade on any computer.
The last major factor to look at is storage capacity. Surprisingly, the trend in recent years is for laptops to have less storage rather than more. This is likely due to a push by manufacturers and Microsoft to encourage people to use cloud storage.
The other reason for this decrease in storage capacity is that more manufacturers are using solid state drives rather than real hard drives in laptops. Solid state drives have some major advantages over traditional hard drives.
For one thing, they are much faster at both reading and writing data. This means saving and opening large files happens quickly rather than taking several minutes to load.
Additionally, solid state drives have no moving parts. This means they have a longer lifespan, and won’t be damaged from a fall or drop like a hard drive.
The drawback is that they typically don’t have nearly the storage space of traditional hard drives. Depending on how you plan to use your laptop keep an eye on how much storage it offers.
For those who need maximum performance, the Razer Blade Pro is second to none. It is outfitted with absolute top of the line equipment that won’t be lacking in any task or letting you down any time soon.
For portability, the Microsoft Surface Pro takes the cake. It can be easily converted between a tablet and a more traditional laptop configuration and as a tablet weighs a minuscule 1.7 pounds.
If you’re looking for good value then the Dell Inspiron 15 is your best choice. Finally, for a good balance of performance, portability, and value, the LG Gram is an amazing all arounder.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is Boost Clock?
Some CPUs are designed to turn up the clock speed under intense workloads. They are not, however, designed to remain at these higher clock speeds for long.
Do I need a laptop with a GPU?
It depends on your workload and needs. A laptop without a dedicated GPU will be lighter and offer better battery life. However, it will not be able to render things as fast or handle intense 3D design software. Also, if you plan to play games in your free time a dedicated GPU is essential.
We hope this guide has been insightful and given you the knowledge you need to make an informed choice of laptop. Engineering workloads can be hard on computers, and students, but when equipped with one of the laptops on our list you’ll set up for success.
As always, we love hearing from you, so if you have any questions or if you’ve used one of these laptops in the past make sure to leave a comment down below and let us know.