If you are a college student pursuing a Computer Science major or degree, a good laptop is essential. Although most CS and IT students’ primary criteria would be coding, learning programming languages, and concepts, submitting assignments on time, doing projects, etc., you might also want to take some extracurricular breathers such as occasional gaming. Finding the best Laptops for computer science students seems easy at first.
There is no shortage of options in the computer market, which is exactly what makes it a little,e difficult. Find the one in your price range and tailored to your needs among the hundreds of options. The difficult task is not finding a good laptop but finding an appropriate one (which is neither overpowered nor underpowered.)
In this guide, we’ve considered different factors to help you decide on a laptop that will suit your needs and requirements.
You might want to put together a checklist of your preferences before picking the best laptop for yourself. As an IT student, you don’t need a beast-like, overpowered laptop suited for machine learning and data science, although it may seem like you do.
In most cases, a Computer Science student’s curriculum would require essential software for coding and debug in Python, Java, C, C++, using PyCharm, Visual Studio Code, MATLAB, Octave, R Studio, Netbeans, etc. The software would differ depending on the specialization, but this list is good enough to help us understand the recommended system requirements.
What to Consider When Selecting a Best Laptop for a Computer Science Student?
- CPU: Intel Core i7 and i5 would be the best bets if one is an Intel person. For those to prefer AMD processors, the same choices would follow suit i.e. Ryzen 7 and 5. Computer Science students require processors that have adequate processing power to compile code and handle demanding projects. Ideally, you should try and get the fastest processor you can afford.
- Display: This is probably the most important feature for a programming student, sometimes even more so than processing power and storage. You’ll be staring at the screen a lot. Especially after the first year because you’ll end up sitting in front of the screen for hours trying to figure out what’s wrong with your code. So you may want to take care of your eyes and prevent straining them. So in such a case, full HD resolution or higher is recommended (1440 × 900 and above). Also, if possible, opt for matte displays. Matte displays help reduce eye strains and fatigue. And because you will be looking at the display a lot, why not get something easier on the eyes?
- RAM: 8GB is the bare minimum that you’ll require, given the fact that you will be keeping a lot of applications open and simultaneously running a lot of code. So you need enough RAM to be able to multitask. If you can afford more RAM, go for it by all means, but 8GB should be plenty in most cases.
- Graphics Card: A Computer Science student who uses the laptop strictly for school won’t need the fastest graphics card. Since most modern Intel and AMD hardware comes with integrated graphics that are more than good enough for anything you could possibly need for computer programming. However, if you like to game in your free time then we suggest a laptop with a dedicated graphics card. A dedicated graphics card could also come in handy if you decide to get into machine learning. But aside from that, an integrated graphics card does the job.
- Storage: If you can afford to get an SSD instead of an HDD, then do it, SSDs in laptops speed up your workflow extensively. How? Searching through a bunch of files to reuse a piece of code will be several times swifter with an SSD compared to an HDD.
At a Glance:
- What to Consider When Selecting a Best Laptop for a Computer Science Student?
- Our Recommendations For Best Laptops for Computer Science Students
- Best Value for Money: HP Pavilion 15
- HP Pavilion 15 CPU and GPU
- HP Pavilion 15 Design
- HP Pavilion 15 RAM and Storage
- Best Budget Laptop For CS Major: Lenovo IdeaPad 3
- Lenovo IdeaPad 3 CPU
- Lenovo IdeaPad 3 GPU
- Lenovo IdeaPad 3 RAM and Storage
- Lenovo IdeaPad 3 Display
- Lenovo IdeaPad 3 Design and Peripherals
- Lenovo IdeaPad 3 Ports
- Best 17-inch Display: Dell Inspiron 17
- Dell Inspiron 17 CPU
- Dell Inspiron 17 GPU
- Dell Inspiron 17 RAM
- Dell Inspiron 17 Storage
- Dell Inspiron 17 Display
- Dell Inspiron 17 Ports
- Dell Inspiron 17 Design
- Best For College Students: Acer Aspire 7
- Acer Aspire 7 CPU
- Acer Aspire 7 GPU
- Acer Aspire 7 RAM and Storage
- Acer Aspire 7 Display
- Acer Aspire 7 Design
- Best 2-in-1 Laptop: HP Spectre x360 15T
- HP Spectre x360 15T Design
- HP Spectre x360 15T Display
- HP Spectre x360 15T CPU, RAM, and Storage
- Budget School & Gaming Laptop: Asus TUF FX505DT
- Asus TUF FX505DT CPU
- Asus TUF FX505DT GPU
- Asus TUF FX505DT RAM and Storage
- Asus TUF FX505DT Display
- Asus TUF FX505DT Keyboard and Peripherals
- Asus TUF FX505DT Ports
- Frequently Asked Questions
Our Recommendations For Best Laptops for Computer Science Students
Best Value for Money: HP Pavilion 15Best Pick
HP’s Pavilion 15 series is known to all, and they have maintained an undeterred reputation for putting out power-packed machines over the years. The 2020 HP Pavilion is a serious performance-packed machine for under $1000. Without any doubt, the HP Pavilion is one of the best choices for programming students.
HP Pavilion 15 CPU and GPU
The specs are astounding since this laptop is built for heavy tasks like running computer science software and gaming. The Intel Core i7-1165G7 processor and Integrated Intel Iris graphics make this device a total beast.
HP Pavilion 15 Design
One thing to keep in mind about this laptop is that it’s an entirely plastic body with no metal casing anywhere. So if you’re a regular user of MATLAB or VB Studio, which are known to heat, most systems that do not use assisted cooling, this could be a point to vet over incessantly.
Although the HP Pavilion is not exactly portable because of its weight (3.86 pounds) and size (15.6-inches). This shortcoming can be traded off for all the other amazing specs.
HP Pavilion 15 RAM and Storage
With a massive 512GB SSD storage and 8GB DDR4 RAM, this computer science laptop easily performs day-to-day tasks. The battery life on this machine is incredible too, and HP claims to offer roughly 8 hours of battery life even when used substantially.
All in all, this is an affordable and powerful laptop that gets the job done smoothly for CS majors for sure.
- Great for multitasking
- Good battery life
- Edgy looks
- Lack of portability
- Plastic body
- The lack of SSD could make complex coding trickier
Best Budget Laptop For CS Major: Lenovo IdeaPad 3
If you are a computer science student on a budget, the Lenovo IdeaPad 3 is easily the best laptop in the retail space to purchase. Although you do need to make a few display-specific compromises, the processing unit is quite efficient with IDE applications, such as Visual Studio Code, Code:: Blocks, and other resource-intensive coding are concerned.
Lenovo IdeaPad 3 CPU
To start with, you get access to the power-efficient Intel Core i5-1035G1 processor, featuring four cores and programmer-friendly Virtualization support. Furthermore, this chipset is easily the best budget-friendly resource for MATLAB users, courtesy of the single-core clock speed of up to 3.9GHz.
Lenovo IdeaPad 3 GPU
As MATLAB, a handful of compilation tools, coding platforms, Octave, Netbeans, and other applications are inclined towards single-threaded performance, and the existing i5 SoC seems like a pretty good selection. Considering this to be a cheap entry-level laptop, the integrated UHD graphics seem like an expected inclusion.
Lenovo IdeaPad 3 RAM and Storage
The entire processing unit gets requisite levels of assistance from 12GB of onboard RAM, capable of processing data and files at 2600MHz. Our experts were pretty surprised to see 12GB of system memory on this sub-$600 budget notebook.
Then again, storage-specific arrangements are pretty bleak, with the IdeaPad housing a basic 256GB SSD unit. Despite its limited capacity, the boot drive can load several applications and the Windows 10 S Mode OS in a heartbeat. While Windows 10 S Mode is very restrictive, the good news is that you can switch out to Windows 10 Home for free. It’s important to note that there is no going back to S Mode once you do that.
Lenovo IdeaPad 3 Display
The 15.6-inch HD display isn’t the brightest kid on the block but is bolstered by the TruBrite technology. While the display resolution is pretty underwhelming at 1366 x 768 pixels, Lenovo makes up this bottleneck with a touchscreen panel. Besides, the LED-backlit technology renders the IdeaPad 3 a power-efficient laptop.
Lenovo IdeaPad 3 Design and Peripherals
Productivity significantly boosts with a full-sized keyboard, followed by the responsive trackpad, 720p webcam, and dual speakers with Dolby audio enhancement. Then again, the 180-degree hinge allows you to use the laptop as an extended tablet.
Lenovo IdeaPad 3 Ports
When it comes to structural relevance, the computer weighs close to the 5-pound mark but doesn’t compromise on the port arrangement, with USB 3.0, USB 2.0, and HDMI being the standard inclusions. In terms of wireless connectivity, you get access to Wi-Fi 5 and Bluetooth support, precisely for establishing faster connections.
The battery life of up to 7 hours furthers the portability quotient, whereas the numeric keypad ensures holistic functionality for aspiring programmers. Overall, the Lenovo IdeaPad 3 is a well-balanced notebook for college students, provided aesthetics and display quality aren’t your priorities.
- 10th gen processor
- A sizable chunk of RAM
- Touch screen display
- Integrated numeric keypad
- Long-lasting battery module
- Restricted storage space
- The display isn’t bright enough
Best 17-inch Display: Dell Inspiron 17Staff Pick
Better identified as a processing behemoth, the Dell Inspiron 17 is one of the more powerful and relevant notebooks in the market for computer science students and professionals.
Dell Inspiron 17 CPU
While some might consider the Inspiron 17 as overkill of a laptop for computer science, programming, and even running hours’ worth of complex codes, the futuristic spec sheet easily covers you to even the most complicated and resource-intensive requirements. At the core, you have the Intel Core i7-1065G7 processor, capable of reaching maximum clock speeds of up to 3.9GHz.
Dell Inspiron 17 GPU
The efficient, graphics-optimized chipset is perfectly complemented by the entry-level MX230 graphics card. This GPU is housed to ensure proper coverage, in case your programming tasks comprise graphics-intensive apps and processes.
Dell Inspiron 17 RAM
Dell incorporates 16GB RAM, allowing you to handle multiple tasks, codes, and applications without slowing down the system. Plus, we tried using relevant applications like Octave, Netbeans, and MATLAB on this laptop and experienced top-notch performances.
Dell Inspiron 17 Storage
We were equally impressed by the storage support with Dell offering a 2TB hard drive storage unit for the more static files followed by the 256GB SSD unit for the Windows 10 and the more demanding computer programming applications.
Dell Inspiron 17 Display
The 17.3-inch screen is big enough for most students who seek the perfect balance between power and portability. Plus, the 1080p panel assumes anti-glare support, making it one of the best resources for continued usage.
Dell Inspiron 17 Ports
Productivity-wise, the Dell Inspiron 17 makes room for a standard, backlit keyboard, potent speakers, HD webcam, and a decent set of ports, comprising Type-C, USB 3.1 Gen 1, HDMI, and other resources.
Dell Inspiron 17 Design
Despite being a heavy notebook at 6 pounds, the Dell Inspiron 17 is still an effective computing resource, courtesy of Wi-Fi AC and BT 4.1 wireless standards. Plus, there is a standard battery module in play, allowing you to churn out close to 7 hours, on a single charge.
Therefore, if you are interested in purchasing a future-proof notebook that can help with academic and even professional assignments, the Dell Inspiron 17 is the perfect resource to consider.
- Massive storage capacity
- 10th gen, future-proof processor
- Anti-glare display
- Durable keyboard
- Obsolete connectivity standards
- Heavier than usual
Best For College Students: Acer Aspire 7Budget Pick
The Acer Aspire 7 comes forth as one of the more complete laptops on the list, best suited for students, professionals, and even mid-range gaming enthusiasts. This laptop allows you to manage most academic and professional processes from home, courtesy of the inventive specs sheet. This mid-range machine brings a great balance between price and power.
Acer Aspire 7 CPU
At the core, Acer houses the Intel Core i5-9300H processor. The existing mobile chipset features quad-core architecture and allows you to manage single and multi-core processes with ease. Plus, this mobile SoC can also reach computing speeds of up to 4.1GHz, depending on the tasks at hand.
Acer Aspire 7 GPU
In addition to a 9th gen processor, Acer also incorporates a mid-range, GTX 1650 graphics card. The existing GPU allows you to run most AAA titles whereas the 4GB VRAM ensures that most graphics-intensive tasks are managed without bottlenecks.
Acer Aspire 7 RAM and Storage
You also get access to 8GB RAM for seamless multitasking followed by a 512GB solid-state drive. The existing SSD module loads multiple files in almost no time whilst booting up the Windows 10 Home OS at lightning speeds.
Acer Aspire 7 Display
As far as the display is concerned, the Acer Aspire 7 makes room for a 15.6-inch screen, fortified with a cumulative resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels. Other resourceful attributes include a standard backlit keyboard, dual-band wireless support, Gig Ethernet port, interactive webcam, and a durable chassis with a 180-degree rotatable hinge to work with.
Acer Aspire 7 Design
Coming to the heft, the Aspire 7 weighs 4.74 pounds, which is good enough for extensive WFH usage. Plus, the wide range of connectivity schemes followed by an 8-hour battery backup further the credibility of this efficient and functional laptop.
As a computer engineering student interested in academics and leisure, all the same time, the Acer Aspire 7 comes forth as one of the more all-inclusive computers to purchase.
- H-series processor that guarantees power
- GTX 16-series GPU for better graphics
- Sizable storage support
- Dual-lane SSD for faster file retrievals
- Stellar display
- Aesthetic design
- Lacks Wi-Fi 6 support
- Middling RAM support
Best 2-in-1 Laptop: HP Spectre x360 15T
We tested the HP Spectre x360 15T which comes with a 4K high-resolution touch screen, an Intel Core i7-10510U processor, 16GB RAM, and 1TB SSD accompanied by a 2GB GeForce NVIDIA MX250 Graphics Card.
HP Spectre x360 15T Design
The Envy line of HP laptops is known for its sophisticated and elegant looks and the new edition does justice to the existing lineup. The Envy can put almost any high-end laptop down when it comes to aesthetics.
Weighing just about 4.83 pounds and having a thickness of just about 0.6inch, this laptop can compete with almost any portable laptop out there in terms of size and weight. And this portability especially comes in handy for students who like to travel light.
HP Spectre x360 15T Display
The 4K high-resolution gives out a very startling vibe. We especially were impressed with the sharp and bright colors. The 4K touch-screen is responsive and the feel of touch is vivid and it makes the whole experience of using stock drawing apps like Snip and Sketch a whole lot more exciting.
This experience can come in handy if you’re using wireframing tools to plan the UI/UX of your application and don’t want to go through the hassle of using a pen tablet before you proceed to write code.
HP Spectre x360 15T CPU, RAM, and Storage
The mixture of an i7-10750H processor, 16GB SDRAM, and a 1TB SSD can make your heavy-performance usage a cakewalk. You could be running a bunch of Chrome tabs while debugging and compiling code and watching your favorite movie in 4K all at the same time. All this maxed out with decent battery life, quality speakers, and essential security features makes it a perfect choice for Computer Science students.
- Elegant looks
- Good battery life
- Quality speakers
- 4K touch kills battery at an enormous speed
Budget School & Gaming Laptop: Asus TUF FX505DT
The Asus TUF FX505DT is an affordable, AMD-powered notebook that brings in quite a few innovative and required attributes for aspiring computer science majors.
Asus TUF FX505DT CPU
There is no shortage of processing power with the Asus laptop making room for the Ryzen 5 3550H chipset. Despite being slightly prone to heating, this mobile SoC is good enough for most applications and simulating resources like Android Studio, provided you take up one process at a time.
Asus TUF FX505DT GPU
The existing processor assumes a burst clock speed of up to 3.7GHz, which is more than adequate for coding and software development. However, Asus still incorporates a GTX 1650 GPU, loaded with 4GB VRAM.
The featured processing consortium, therefore, allows you to manage every app, task, and even mid-range games like Fortnite, WOW, etc, without breaking a sweat.
Asus TUF FX505DT RAM and Storage
For the RAM fanatics, Asus introduces 8GB of system memory. However, our only gripe has to be the inclusion of a basic 256GB solid-state drive, which is slightly middling considering the diverse requirements of a computer science student. Still, the SSD is pretty fast and boots up the Windows 10 OS in virtually no time.
Asus TUF FX505DT Display
Next in line is the 15.6-inch 1080p screen. While the display doesn’t come with additional bells and whistles, it manages to offer a pleasing visual experience to the codes and programmers.
Asus TUF FX505DT Keyboard and Peripherals
Other reliable peripheral-specific resources include a backlit keyboard; surround sound speakers, a wide-angle webcam, and a rugged chassis. Despite the durability, the TUF FX505DT weighs slightly less than the 5-pound mark.
Asus TUF FX505DT Ports
Not just that, you also get a pretty diverse connectivity suite, with Type-A ports, Wi-Fi AC, and BT 5.0 being the usual inclusions.
The battery life isn’t top-shelf and Asus only manages to offer 5 hours’ worth of autonomy, making it a dependable budget machine for a computer science engineering student.
- Reliable processor
- Mid-range graphics card for better performance
- Light yet durable
- Sharp viewing angles
- Chunkier than usual
- Middling battery backup
- Subpar storage support
Frequently Asked Questions
Should I get a gaming laptop if I’m not much of a gamer?
You could opt for a gaming laptop even if you’re not a gamer solely for performance reasons since most gaming laptops are heavily equipped with solid specs. These machines can easily handle anything from your curriculum, but if you’re keen on design and looking for a lighter laptop, then an outright gaming laptop might not suit you.
What kind of laptop do I need as a Computer Science student?
No one size fits all when it comes to laptops. It would help zero in on a laptop after understanding your interests and usage needs. Go through the recommended specifications listed above to understand the purpose of different components of the machine.
What’s an SoC, aka System On a Chip?
SoC is short for System-on-a-Chip. It’s usually used in mobile computing such as tablets, smartphones, smartwatches, and netbooks, and it’s the brain of a computer, phone, or smartwatch. SoC combines multiple components, such as CPU, GPU, NPU (Neural Processing Unit), modem, etc., into a single chip.
Do I need to get an external laptop cooling pad if I run heavy programs for extended hours?
Vet this list thoroughly, and you’ll find laptops with efficient cooling as a benchmark feature, so if you know that you’re going to be running heavy programs or gaming for extended hours.
Should I go for an SSD or HDD?
Suppose you’re going to be compiling a lot of code and plan to use the laptop for machine learning applications. Like MATLAB in the future, it’s best to go for SSD; in some cases, a spec-rich laptop could lack an SSD, so make sure you diligently pay attention to this aspect. Are you still confused? Please read our detailed comparison of SSD vs. HDD.
I like the performance and feature-rich laptop, but it’s bulky. Is it a worthy tradeoff?
Many performance and feature-rich laptops are a tad too heavy for some to carry. Including some laptops in this list; that’s one of the tradeoffs of getting a spec-rich laptop. At an economical price point, if you cannot afford a spec-rich laptop packed in a small chassis and can muster enough strength to move around with a bulky laptop, then do it for the specs. As a computer science student, you don’t know what interest you might develop tomorrow and where your coding journey will take you.