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Best laptops for engineering students

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Best laptops for engineering students
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The best laptops for engineering students are powerful enough to handle the computationally intensive coursework that such studies require, while still being light and efficient enough to carry through a day of classes without running out of juice on you mid-lecture.

This used to be a tricky combination to find, especially at a price that fits into a student's budget. However, recent advances in mobile CPU and GPU technology have brought a bumper crop of laptops to market that are light, long-lasting, and beefy enough to tackle most engineering projects. 

Today's best gaming laptops are often particularly well-suited to tackling engineering coursework because they're built with discrete graphics cards, powerful CPUs, and lots of memory and storage. It's all in the name of running the latest games and making them look as flashy as possible, of course, but many modern engineering applications have similar demands. 

So read on for our curated list of the best laptops for engineering students, which should help make your buying decision a little easier. Of course, you should always contact your school's engineering department first to see what they recommend for your specific coursework and areas of study.

What are the best laptops for engineering students?

Right now we recommend the Dell XPS 15 as the best all-around laptop for engineering students because it's relatively slim and light, yet can be configured with beefy components that should be able to handle even your most demanding engineering projects. It also offers a respectable 8-hour battery life, and its attractive InfinityEdge design makes the screen look gorgeous — especially if you spring for the 4K display.

If you don't mind carrying a gaming laptop to school, we also highly recommend the Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 because it's powerful, long-lived, and relatively cheap — for a gaming laptop. It's still roughly the same price range as the XPS 15, but the Zephyrus G14 offers better battery life (up to 11 hours in our tests) and can be configured with a better discrete GPU than the XPS 15, meaning it can more effectively handle graphically demanding games and apps.

If you're looking to spend a bit less than the $1,000 - $2,000 these two laptops cost, consider the Dell G5 15 SE. This 15-inch gaming laptop may look unassuming, but its got it where it counts, packing a Ryzen CPU and a discrete Radeon GPU that should deliver enough power to tackle your engineering coursework. The best part? This laptop tops out at just over $1,000 for its priciest configuration, and you can often find it on sale for less.

Mac fans should pay attention to the new MacBook Pro 16-inch model that Apple just announced, as it lets you choose between the beefy M1 Pro and M1 Max chipsets. We haven't had a chance to review this machine yet, so it's not included in our picks for best laptop for engineering studdents.

The best laptops for engineering students

Best laptops for engineering students: Dell XPS 15

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1. Dell XPS 15 (2020)

The best overall laptop for engineering students

Display: 15.6 inches; 1080p or 4K
CPU: 10th Gen Intel Core i5 / i7
GPU: Intel UHD / Nvidia GTX 1650 Ti
RAM: 8GB / 16GB / 32GB / 64GB
Storage: 256GB / 512GB / 1TB / 2TB SSD
Weight: 4-4.5 pounds
Reasons to buy
+Gorgeous, immersive display+Great overall performance+Comfortable keyboard and touchpad
Reasons to avoid
-So-so battery life-Gets loud under pressure

Don’t let its slim and stylish design fool you — the Dell XPS 15 2020 is an absolute workhorse. Its 10th Gen Intel Core processors can juggle multiple tasks with ease, and the optional Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 Ti GPU gives it some serious muscle for CAD work and gaming. The sheer power you can pack into this svelte, elegant ultraportable make the XPS 15 is one of the best laptops for engineering students, and that's before you consider the great speakers and gorgeous, immersive InfinityEdge display.

However, the 4K model we tested lasted just eight hours in our battery test. That's enough to get you through a day at school, but if you don't need the 4K resolution for your work, we recommend the XPS 15 with a discrete Nvidia GPU and a FHD (1,920 x 1,200) display — it should last a bit longer on a single charge with the lower-resolution screen.

Read our full Dell XPS 15 (2020) review.

Best laptops for engineering students: Asus ROG Zephyrus G14

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2. Asus ROG Zephyrus G14

Great power and endurance

Display: 14-inches, 1920 x 1080
CPU: AMD Ryzen 9-4900HS
GPU: Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060
Storage: 1TB SSD
Weight: 3.5 pounds
Reasons to buy
+Great performance+Excellent display and audio+Super-portable design paired with 11-hour battery life
Reasons to avoid
-No webcam-Keyboard has backlighting issues

With an AMD Ryzen 9-4900HS processor and an Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 Max-Q GPU, the Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 is a powerful 14-inch laptop built for gaming on the go — but engineering students can turn all that power to more productive uses. 

What sets the Zephyrus G14 above other gaming laptops in our eyes is the incredible 11 hours of battery life it delivers when you’re not gaming, ensuring you can carry this through a day of classes without need to scramble for a charger. And at a price that ranges from $1,049 up to $1,999, the ROG Zephyrus G14 is pretty affordable for a gaming laptop — and that's key for students trying to keep costs down. You don’t get a webcam and the keyboard backlighting has some issues, but other than that this is a great pick for students who need a beefy laptop for school. 

Read our full Asus ROG Zephryus G14 review.

Best laptops for engineering students: MacBook Pro 16-Inch

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3. 16-inch MacBook Pro

Best Mac laptop for engineering students at the moment

Display: 16 inches, 3072 x 1920 pixels
CPU: Intel Core i7 or i9
GPU: AMD Radeon 5300M or 5500M
RAM: 8GB - 32GB
Storage: 512GB - 2TB SSD
Weight: 4.3 pounds
Reasons to buy
+Magic Keyboard feels great+Best sound ever in a laptop+Battery life of nearly 11 hours
Reasons to avoid
-Display not 4K-Heavier than 15-inch MacBook Pro

The 16-inch MacBook Pro is getting an injection of Apple silicon, but we haven't had a chance to review the supercharged MacBook Pro 16-inch 2021 model with either the M1 Pro or M1 Max chipset. That's why we still include this version, which has served engineering students well thanks to its beefy specs, discrete AMD GPU, and 11-hour battery life. 

Not only has this been the best MacBook for engineering students because of its power and longevity, but its 16-inch panel is perfect for reviewing your projects, with its 429-nit screen delivering a bright and colorful picture. Plus, the speakers are so good we awarded it best-sounding laptop in our Tom's Guide Awards 2021.

However, the new M1 chips promise performance improvements. We plan to test that out and update our recommendations shortly.

Read our full MacBook Pro (16-inch) review.

Best laptops for engineering students: Dell XPS 17 (2020)

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4. Dell XPS 17

Best 17-inch laptop for engineering students

Display: 17-inch, 1920 x 1200, 3840 x 2400
CPU: Intel Core i5-10300H, i7-10750H, i7-10875H
GPU: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 Ti, GeForce RTX 2060
RAM: 16GB-64GB
Storage: 512GB-2TB
Weight: 5.53 pounds
Reasons to buy
+Stunning, immersive display+Impressive CPU and graphics power+Attractive, slim design
Reasons to avoid
-Can get very expensive-Weak webcam

The big, beautiful Dell XPS 17 is great for engineering students because you can configure with a Core i7-10875H CPU and a GeForce RTX 2060 graphics card, ensuring it has plenty of power for your projects. And while it's a bit bigger, heftier, and harder to carry than its smaller sibling the XPS 15, the XPS 17's slim design helps minimize the hassle.

And since it has the same thin-bezeled design as the rest of the XPS family you should get maximum enjoyment from this laptop's gorgeous 17-inch display. However, configuring this beautiful machine for premium performance will cost you a fair bit of cash, with the top-spec XPS 17 going for $2,792. 

But for that money, you’re getting a machine for work and play and anything in between. Packing enough power to rival many gaming laptops into a svelte chassis, the XPS 17 is a great laptop for engineering students. 

Read all about it in our full Dell XPS 17 review.

Best laptops for engineering students: Alienware m15 R4 2021

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5. Alienware m15 R4 (2021)

A great laptop for engineering work — as long as you keep it plugged in

Display: 15 inches, 4K OLED
CPU: Intel Core i7-10870H CPU @ 2.20GHz, 2.21 GHz
GPU: Nvidia GeForce RTX 3070
Storage: 1TB SSD
Weight: 5.3 pounds
Reasons to buy
+Sleek design+Strong performance+Decent keyboard and touchpad+Highly customizable
Reasons to avoid
-Fan gets very loud-Short battery life

The Alienware m15 R4 is one of the best gaming laptops on the market because it's got a ton of power for running all of the games you could want, even in full UHD 4K. All that muscle should come in handy during big engineering projects, as should the gorgeous 4K display and excellent keyboard. 

However, there are some significant caveats that keep this from being our top recommendation for engineering students. Most notably, the m15 R4 has less than impressive battery life — it lasted just four hours on a single charge in our battery test, and even less during hands-on use. It also gets hot and loud under heavy loads, and of course it's going to cost you between $2-$3k, depending on how you spec it out.

Still, if you can afford it and don't mind carrying a charger when you're out and about, the m15 R4 is a powerful, well-built laptop that will serve you well in work and play.

Read our full Alienware m15 R4 review.

Best laptops for engineering students: MacBook Pro with M1

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6. MacBook Pro 13-inch (M1, late 2020)

The best M1 MacBook for engineering students

Display: 13 inches; 2560x1600
CPU: Apple M1 (8-core)
GPU: 8-core integrated
RAM: 8GB to 16GB
Storage: 256GB to 2TB SSD
Weight: 3 pounds
Reasons to buy
+Superb performance+Crazy long battery life+Bright and colorful display
Reasons to avoid
-Dated design-Just two Thunderbolt ports

The 13-inch MacBook Pro 2020 is a superb laptop thanks to the inclusion of Apple's M1 chip, which delivers remarkable boosts in performance and battery efficiency. This incredibly long-lived laptop can last more than 16 hours on a charge, and the M1 chip is beefy enough to handle a lot of the work you'll face as an engineering student.

Plus, the M1 MacBook Pro's Retina display is both bright and colorful, so any photos or video you edit will look excellent — as will the next Netflix show you binge. We just wish Apple would update its design or give you more Thunderbolt ports, as the 4 USB-C port config is currently limited to Intel-based MacBook Pros. Still, it's amazing to see how Apple's own processors have obliterated the performance seen in its old Intel-based MacBooks, making this 13-inch MacBook Pro one of the best laptops on the market.

Read our full MacBook Pro with M1 review.

Best laptops for engineering students: Dell G5 15 SE (2020)

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7. Dell G5 15 SE

Best laptop for engineering students on a budget

Display: 15.6 inches, 1920 x 1080, 60Hz/144Hz
CPU: AMD Ryzen 5 4600H/Ryzen 5 4800H
GPU: AMD Radeon RX 5600M
RAM: 8-16GB
Storage: 256GB/512GB/1TB SSD
Weight: 5.5 pounds
Reasons to buy
+Great overall performance+Impressive battery life+Colorful display
Reasons to avoid
-So-so speakers-Keyboard can get cramped

The Dell G5 15 SE 2020 is a great choice for engineering students because it's affordable and packs enough power to handle demanding apps and games. Its distinctly un-flashy name belies the power of this unassuming laptop, which can often be had for less than $1,000. 

Dell has opted to go with an all-AMD configuration, with a Ryzen 5 4600H or 4800H CPU taking care of processor duties and a discrete Radeon RX 5600M GPU handling the graphics. With up to 16GB of RAM and 1TB of SSD space, the Dell G5 15 SE 2020 should be plenty capable enough to handle most big engineering projects. You'll have to pay $1,049 for the best specs, but that price also gets you a speedy 144Hz refresh-rate display. A plastic build might not scream ‘premium’ to your classmates, but it still looks sharp and professional on a desk.

Read our full Dell G5 15 SE (2020) review.

Best laptops for engineering students: Razer blade 14

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8. Razer Blade 14

Another great 14-inch choice for engineering work

Display: 14-inch, up to QHD, 165 Hz
CPU: AMD Ryzen 9 5900HX
GPU: Up to Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080
RAM: 16 GB
Storage: 1 TB SSD
Dimensions: 12.6 x 8.7 x 0.7 inches
Reasons to buy
+Excellent performance+Powerful components+Compact design+Gorgeous screen
Reasons to avoid
-Cramped keyboard-Software oddities

The first 14-inch Razer laptop in years, the Razer Blade 14 offers powerful components and excellent performance in a compact and lightweight package. It could use a few more ports, and the keyboard feels a bit cramped, but these are common problems for thin 14-inch laptops. 

If you're looking for a compact, powerful laptop to both get your schoolwork done and play demanding PC games, the Razer Blade 14 will serve you well — just make sure to carry the power adapter with you, as you'll be lucky to get 6 hours of normal use or 90 minutes of heavy-duty gaming on a single charge.

Read our full Razer Blade 14 (2021) review.

Best laptops for engineering students: Asus ZenBook Duo 14

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9. Asus ZenBook Duo 14

The most eye-catching laptop for engineering students

Display: 13.4‑inch, 1920 x 1080 pixels
CPU: 11th Gen Intel Core i5, i7
Memory: 8GB to 32GB
Storage: 512GB to 1TB
Dimensions: 12.8 x 8.7 x 0.7 inches
Weight: 3.5 pounds
Reasons to buy
+Useful ScreenPad Plus display+Snappy overall performance +Solid battery life+Accurate main display
Reasons to avoid
-Ergonomically difficult-Display could be brighter

The Asus ZenBook Duo 14 is an eye-catching dual-screen laptop that, when configured correctly, offers a useful amount of power. The 12-inch touch screen embedded above the keyboard gives this laptop a futuristic look, and its a surprisingly useful place to keep secondary apps like Spotify and Discord.. It can also be used by creative apps from the likes of Adobe, who put touch controls there for easy access.

On top of that, its performance is speedy; you can order a ZenBook Duo 14 with a discrete Nvidia MX450 graphics and up to 32 GB of RAM, which should be enough power to handle most engineering projects. Plus, its battery life is long — especially when you realize it's got two screens to light up. The big downside, though, is that without a wrist-rest, the ZenBook Duo 14 can feel ergonomically unfriendly to type on. But if you've got an external wrist rest, you should be good.

Read our full Asus ZenBook Duo 14 review.

Best laptops for engineering students: Razer Blade 15 Advanced

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10. Razer Blade 15 Advanced

An excellent — and expensive — laptop for engineering students

Display: 15.6-inch QHD, 240Hz as reviewed
CPU: 10th-Gen Intel Core i7-10875H 2.3GHz
GPU: Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080
RAM: 32 GB
Storage: 1 TB SSD
Dimensions: 14.0 x 9.3 x 0.7 inches
Weight: 4.4 lbs
Reasons to buy
+Sleek, lightweight design+Great gaming performance+Lots of ports
Reasons to avoid
-Lackluster touchpad and keyboard-Convoluted screen options

The Razer Blade 15 Advanced does exactly what you’d expect a Razer laptop to do: it looks great, offers plenty of ports and runs games and other graphically-demanding apps beautifully. It’s also as expensive as you’d expect a Razer laptop to be — you could easily spend $3,000 on a higher-end model.

Obviously that's a bit steep for many students, but it's about on par with comparable laptops. The Alienware m15 R4 is similarly priced, for example, and both offer great performance in a slim package. However, the Razer Blade 15 Advanced is just a bit lighter and a bit smaller than the m15 R4, and it lasts an hour or so longer during normal (i.e. non-gaming) use.

However, the Blade 15 Advanced's keyboard and touchpad are lackluster at best. They'll work well enough for classroom use, but if you expect to be doing a lot of typing on this laptop you'd be well-served by investing in one of the best keyboards.

Read our full Razer Blade 15 Advanced review.

How to choose the best engineering laptop for you

Performance: If you're going to be spending years studying engineering, you're going to need a computer with enough power to handle anything your teachers throw at you. We recommend at least a new mid-range CPU (Intel Core i5 or AMD Ryzen 5) and at least 8 GB of RAM, though if you can afford to spend more on on a laptop with better specs it will pay off in the long run.

Graphics and gaming: Most gaming laptops come with discrete graphics cards so they can run the latest games well, but the same card can be equally vital to engineering students who will be using CAD (computer-assisted design) and 3D analysis programs. These kinds of applications really benefit from the power of a good GPU, so if you're expecting to do any graphics or 3D work it's a good idea to invest in a laptop with a discrete Nvidia or AMD graphics card.

Operating system: Laptops typically come in three flavors: Windows (most mainstream PCs), macOS (MacBooks) and Chrome OS (Chromebooks). Chrome OS isn't good for much besides web surfing, file management, and light computing, so a Chromebook isn't a great choice for serious schoolwork. However, a crafty student could install Linux on a high-powered Chromebook to turn it into a decent laptop for engineering work.

Many engineering students spend a lot of time working with specialized or self-developed software, so Windows is often preferable over macOS because it throws up fewer roadblocks when using such tools. However, even Windows can sometimes get in the way of serious engineering work, which is why many engineering students get Windows laptops and install Linux on them so they can dual-boot into either operating system.

As mentioned above, when making your buying decision be sure to consult your teachers and/or the engineering department at your school for more specific advice on what you'll need for your studies. Whichever system you decide on, it's a good idea to pair it with the best mouse for your particular work situation.

How we test the best laptops for engineering students

To find the best laptops we run every machine through a rigorous suite of benchmarks and real-world tests to gauge how it will perform during everyday use. 

We measure the average brightness and color quality of each laptop's display using our in-house light meter and colorimeter. For general performance, we run our machines through tests that include Geekbench 5 (CPU performance), as well as various 3DMark tests to measure graphics capabilities. We also run a file transfer test to measure how fast a machine's hard drive is, and a custom battery test that has the machine browse the internet over Wi-Fi until it runs out of juice.

Plus, we run the graphics benchmark test in Sid Meier's Civilization VI: Gathering Storm to get a sense of how well a laptop can handle basic games. When testing dedicated gaming laptops, we run benchmarks for a number of games such as Shadow of the Tomb Raider and Far Cry: New Dawn.

Alex Wawro

Alex Wawro is a lifelong tech and games enthusiast with more than a decade of experience covering both for outlets like Game Developer, Black Hat, and PC World magazine. He currently serves as a senior editor at Tom's Guide covering all things computing, from laptops and desktops to keyboards and mice.