Engineering comes in many different flavors with many different applications and needs. For most engineers, having a mid-range laptop will suffice. That said, for some who want to use graphically intensive applications on the go, such as AutoCAD and similar software, having a beefier laptop can be nice. A common configuration for engineers is having a powerful desktop at home and a more lightweight system on the go. If you’re interested in a desktop PC, check out our best desktop PCs for students. However, in this list, we cater to both people who want a lightweight laptop on the go or a robust workstation.
In short, the laptops on this list cater to different needs and use cases. If you think you’ll only need the basics, a simple laptop with decent specs will do. As you move down our list, however, the specs become more powerful, but the weight also tends to increase. These are the trade-offs of having a powerful, more high-performing laptop. While some lists forego Apple computers, we have included one on this list, a Macbook Pro. While it is accurate that most engineering applications are for Windows only, dual booting your Mac OSX system is straightforward with Apple’s Boot Camp utility. While this does add some labor to the process, Macs are nice for their aesthetic and stability and will work for many aspects of engineering. Dual booting also means there is no sacrifice in performance.
All that out of the way, be sure to be on the lookout for the Editor’s Choice, the laptop that will offer the most value to the most users at the best price. Here’s the 10 best laptops for engineering students from highest to lowest price.
1. Acer Aspire 15.6″
Processor i3-6100U | Hard Drive 1TB HDD | RAM 4GB DDR3L | Graphics Card Integrated | Display 1366 x 768, 15.6″ | Weight 5.29lbs |
For those who will only need their laptop for basic uses like editing documents, light Photoshopping, and web browsing, this Acer Aspire computer is a great value. While the specs are nothing special, the price is extremely low. It offers some nice perks as well, including easy upgrading and a disc drive. While it’s nothing special spec-wise, if you simply need a portable PC, this is a great and affordable option for achieving the basics.
- Reliable and durable
- Great price/performance
- Cheap way to do simple things like browse the web or edit documents
- Easy to upgrade RAM and HDD
- Has a CD drive
- Not good for anything with graphics like editing photos, video, or gaming
- Resolution is poor
- Upgrading RAM necessary for it to run at peak performance
2. Lenovo ThinkPad Edge
Processor i5-6200U (2.3ghz) | Hard Drive 500GB (7200RPM) | RAM 8GB | Graphics Card Integrated | Display 15.6″,. 1366 x 768 | Weight 5.39lbs | Extras Built-in card reader |
This PC offers a solid set of features for an acceptable price. For one, Lenovo machines are stable and reliable. The RAM is decent, the hard drive is reasonably spacey, and the processor is snappy. The biggest con with this laptop is its relatively low resolution of 1366 x 768. Still, for most applications, this is fine, just don’t expect to do multiple things at once. The perks here are numerous including great durability, the legendary Lenovo mouse joystick, and a PC that will last. It will do for lightweight applications, but with integrated graphics only, it’s not exactly a powerhouse. Still, it is a very practical and nice to use PC that will fit the basic needs of engineers who need a portable PC, but not necessarily a workstation.
- Best mouse (joystick) for laptop
- High quality build and great construction
- Lenovos known for long life
- Great for simple applications in a reliable box
- Windows 10 is included but must be installed
- Specs are middling
- Not good for games or graphical applications
3. ASUS Zenbook
Processor i5-7200U (2.5ghz) | Hard Drive 256GB SSD | RAM 8GB | Graphics Card Integrated | Display 13.3″, 1080P | Weight 2.6lbs | Extras Built-in fingerprint reader |
This is starting to approach a robust workstation for the engineering student who wants to get real work done on the go. This PC has solid RAM and a snappy processor. It also has an SSD which makes editing photos and more intensive applications that much quicker. With 1080P resolution on the display, it’s also nice to look at, which always aids productivity. Probably the biggest perk here is this PC’s lightweight, at a mere 2.6lbs. This PC isn’t exactly a beast, but it does offer a solid amount of power and just as much portability. This is a great choice for people who don’t need a laptop that’s a dedicated workstation, but do need something light and decently powerful. On top of all of this, it’s an attractive laptop as well.
Price: $699 (8 percent off MSRP)
- Backlit keyboard
- Built-in SD card slot
- Attractive and cool computer
- Solid specs
- Audio quality is great for a laptop
- Build quality and construction are top notch
- No graphics card means it’ll struggle with games
- Smaller screen means better pixel density, but it’s still 1080P
- Really only powerful enough for basic tasks; no video editing or gaming here
4. Dell 15.6″ Gaming Laptop
Processor i5-6300HQ (2.3GHZ quad core) | Hard Drive 256GB SSD | RAM 8GB DDR3L | Graphics Card GTX 960M | Display 1080P, IPS 15.6″ | Macbook Pro 6lbs | Extras SD Card slot |
Offering a similar price to the above model, this Dell offers some interesting trade-offs. Weighing in at 6lbs, the portability factor is reduced, but what’s gained is significant: a GTX 960M. While it’d be ridiculous to call this a “CAD machine,” the 960M can run modern games at decent settings and allows for photo editing and video editing (at 1080p, with 4K editing it will chug). The SSD and 8GB of RAM also make it a breezy experience. It’s not the best, but it does offer a great price for solid performance. It is an acceptable workstation machine.
- Solid graphics card
- Fast hard drive
- Decent resolution screen
- Snappy RAM and solid processor
- SD card slot
- Hard drive is a bit on the small; somewhat easy to fill up
- Processor is fast but nothing special
- 1080p is decent, but not retina or particularly nice to look at
5. Acer Predator Helios (Editor’s Choice)
Processor i7-7700HQ (up to 3.8GHZ) | Hard Drive 256GB SSD | RAM 16GB DDR4 | Graphics Card GTX 1060 (6GB) | Display 15.6″ 1080p, IPS | Weight 5.95lbs |
Many gamers and other users who demand high-performance PCs are raving about this deal of a laptop. While it is as heavy as the above model, the specs are undeniably beefy. This laptop offers a ton of power. Boasting a GTX 1060 with 6GB of VRAM, it will run modern games at Ultra settings and offers a desktop-comparable experience for using engineering-specific applications. While 1080p can feel stuffy for having multiple applications open, the GTX 1060 will effortlessly power multiple displays so you can run your work on its display and say, an external 4K monitor. This laptop can, therefore, act as a portable PC and one that works at home.
It is suitable as a desktop and laptop with one caveat, it’s heavy. 6lbs isn’t exactly easy to carry around. Still, short of spending multiple thousands of dollars, this laptop simply can’t be matched in performance. It’s a knockout at an unbelievable price. The only negative here which is fairly easy to solve with an upgrade or an external drive is the small hard drive space of 256GB. Fortunately, this is easy to upgrade as the device has a vacant 2.5″ bay for adding storage.
It’s the editor’s choice because it offers a ton of bang for little buck.
Price: $1049.99 (5 percent off MSRP)
- For a roughly $1,000 laptop, this is about as good as it gets
- Backlit keyboard
- Can play modern games at high to ultra settings
- Price/performance is out of this world
- Runs cool
- Includes 2.5″ bay for expanding storage space
- If you’re using this PC, you’ll almost certainly fill up the small SSD; additional HD will need to be purchased
- Weight is on the high side, but not crazy
- 1080p is great for gaming and acceptable for editing video, can be nice to have more resolution for work
6. Eluktronics 15.6″ 4K
Processor i7-7700HQ (up to 3.8GHZ) | Hard Drive 256GB SSD + 1TB HDD | RAM 16GB DDR4 | Graphics Card GTX 1060 | Display 15.6″ 4K IPS | Weight 5.9lbs | Extras Backlit keyboard |
For those who insist on a fully ready-to-go and portable engineering workstation, this Eluktronics model offers it all with no compromises. While it does weigh a fair amount, it also boasts a 4K display, making multi-tasking easy. With specs like these, there truly are no compromises. It has a ton of RAM, a fast processor, and a GTX 1060. Plus, the backlit keyboard is always a nice touch for those late night work sessions. The biggest benefit with this PC is the amazing screen and the lack of a need for any upgrades of any sort. The price to performance ratio is great and there are few who won’t feel this PC fully covers their needs.
Price: $1499.95 (29 percent off MSRP)
- Solid value and quality
- 4K is best for productivity and movies
- Graphics card can play any modern game at 1080p on high to ultra settings
- Blazing fast RAM
- Plenty of storage in SSD and one terabyte HDD
- Overkill for many users
- Can run hot meaning one will have to turn down the processor and/or graphics card
7. MSI Apache Pro
Processor i7-7700HQ (up to 3.8GHZ) | Hard Drive 512GB SSD + 1TB HDD | RAM 32GB | Graphics Card GTX 1060 (6GB) | Display 1080P, 120hz, 17.3″ | Weight 8.4lbs |
This 17″ PC is massive at weighs 8.4lbs, but instead of offering a 4K screen like the above model, it boasts a 120hz screen. If you’re into gaming, this is an often sought-out feature. 120hz monitors play first person and other action-packed games in a way that is undeniably smoother and more enjoyable. The drawback is that this benefit isn’t too valuable for document-editing and other more practical applications. Still, this PC offers just as many robust features as the above Eluktronics and the Helios, plus it adds a larger SSD and even more RAM. There’s truly nothing this PC will struggle to do and a 4K screen may be more conducive to productivity for some.
- Unreal display for gaming and editing high-speed footage; 120hz is as smooth as it gets
- Tons of RAM for using many applications at once
- On the lightweight side for 17″ laptops
- Can run modern games at highest settings
- Tons of data storage
- Can run a bit hot
- Windows 10 can have driver issues
- Overkill for most users
8. XPS 9560
Processor i7-7700HQ (up to 3.8GHZ) | Hard Drive 512GB SSD | RAM 16GB DDR4 | Graphics Card GTX 1050 | Display 4K, 15.6″ | Weight ~4lbs |
Dell calls it the “world’ smallest 15.6 inch powerhouse.” Indeed, this PC offers a good amount of power, but the real advantage here is how much lighter and smaller it is than the Eluktronics model while still boasting a 4K screen. This will be very desirable for some people who don’t want to lug a monstrous PC around. Of course, the tradeoff here is that the GTX 1050 while nice is a significant downgrade from the 1060, see some benchmarks here, but the difference is about 77% less from the 1050. It’s not a bad card, however, and it will more than suffice for most applications, but if having a powerful workstation is your utmost need, you may want to opt for the extra weight. Still, this is a lot of power to carry around in a form factor that may hurt the bank, but it won’t break your back.
- Has one of the smallest bezels of any laptop on the market
- 4K screens are great for productivity
- Powerful enough to play modern games at high settings
- Great for editing photos and video (even 4K)
- Drivers need to be updated on some machines
- Webcam placement is too low
- Case is on the smudgy side
- Screen is very bright (even on its lowest setting)
9. Razer Blade
Processor i7-7700HQ (up to 3.8GHZ) | Hard Drive 512GB SSD | RAM 16GB | Graphics Card GTX 1060 (6GB) | Display 1080P IPS, 14″ | Weight 4.16lbs | Extras Backlit, multi-colored keyboard |
Razer Blades are essentially the Apples of PC laptops. While this computer is powerful, ultimately the package, exterior, and attractive look are the sources of price premium. The specs here aren’t significantly better than much cheaper models, the unique perk being (like the Dell) how lightweight it is. This PC is fast and offers great construction with an attractive aesthetic, but it’s harder to justify for most engineers who are likely more practicality minded. Still, for a certain someone, this PC might feel right. It has solid specs given its price and boasts a very cool look.
- Stunning and attractive PC
- Thunder Bolt 3 ports can connect to external device for enhanced graphics
- Price/performance is better than Macbook Pro
- Powerful enough to play modern games
- Anti-ghosting keyboard for gaming
- 1080p is low resolution
- Expensive for a PC with its specs
- Relatively new product line
10. Macbook Pro
Processor i7 at 2.9ghz | Hard Drive 512GB SSD storage | RAM 16GB | Graphics Card Radeon Pro 560 | Display 15.4″, 2880 x 1800 | Weight 6.4lbs | Extras Backlit keyboard |
There’s good reason to omit Macs off this list altogether, but there is one perk that no PC can match Apple and that’s reliability. Macs last forever and they very rarely crash. While specialized applications here may demand using Boot Camp to install Windows (and incur purchasing Windows, adding to the cost), there’s a reason Mac hardware has gained so much popularity. It just works. If you’re someone who wants a stable and reliable computer with decent specs, the Mac delivers. It’s not a great value, but it is a rock-solid computer. The graphics card will do well (once Windows is set up), but won’t outdo a GTX 1060 (it has about 10% less power in gaming applications). Having a dual boot system isn’t for everyone, but if you like Mac OSX and recognize its value, this may very well be a better option.
- Most reliable computer
- Mac OSX is more stable than Windows
- Can boot Windows using Boot Camp (Copy of Windows is $110 on Amazon http://amzn.to/2iiwRlY)
- Stunning appearance
- Great battery life
- Price per performance is poor
- Screen isn’t 4K
- Setting up Windows can be an additional hassle