The 8 Best Laptops for Engineering Students in 2018

Computational software is no match for these powerful machines

Every college student needs a laptop, but the exact demands of an engineering student can often make searching for one a little daunting. In order to pick a computer that can keep up with your course-load — and memory-intensive applications like AutoCAD, C++ and Revit — you'll have to consider a bunch of crucial features like CPU processor speeds, RAM, dedicated video cards, connectivity, screen resolution, operating systems and battery life. But don’t let these considerations scare you — having already made a decision on your major means one of the hardest choices you’ll ever have to make is behind you. The rest is easy with this list of the best laptops available for engineering students at every budget.

Best Overall: Acer Aspire VX15

Equipped with a quad-core Kaby Lake 2.8GHz Core i7 processor and a 15.6-inch HD widescreen IPS display that’s well-sized for running multiple applications (like AutoCAD, C++ and Revit), the Acer Aspire VX15 laptop checks off all the right boxes for engineering students.

Supported by 16GB of DDR4 memory and a 256GB SSD, the VX15 boosts its value with a NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050 Ti graphics card that includes 4GB of dedicated RAM for better optimization of drawing programs. Weighing 5.5 pounds, the VX15 offers six hours of battery for day-to-day use. Apart from the basics, the VX15 also includes an HDD upgrade kit for adding more hard drive space which is a bonus that’s uncommon — even when it comes to the most expensive laptops on the market. 

Runner-Up, Best Overall: Acer Predator Helios 300

With the right mix of specifications and graphics card support, the Acer Predator Helios 300 is a mobile workstation that’s ideal for engineering students. The inclusion of a 3.8GHz 7th generation Core i7 processor adds plenty of speed for CAD work, computation software and 3D modeling, while 16GB of DDR4 RAM and a 256GB SSD also help make the Helios 300 a standout choice for engineering tasks. The laptop's hardware is rounded out by a GeForce GTX 1060-6GB graphics card that’s VR-ready.

Weighing 5.95 pounds and measuring one inch at its thickest point, the Helios 300 offers seven hours of battery life that’s ready for multitasking, modeling software and occasional gaming throughout the school day.

Best 2-in-1: Microsoft Surface Book

A highly functional, lightweight design makes the Microsoft Surface Book the best choice for a 2-in-1 machine. At just 3.6 pounds, the laptop is small enough to carry from class to class while still offering a NVIDIA GeForce GTX 965M graphics card with 2GB of dedicated memory and a 2.6GHz Core i7 processor with 16GB of RAM for premium software output. The machine works with a 512GB hard drive provides ample storage space for thousands of AutoCAD files and 16 hours of battery life ensures that if you ever skip a day of charging, you can make it through another without worry.

If you’re looking to mock up 3D designs, take notes or quickly navigate Web pages, the included Surface Pen works beautifully on the tablet-ready detachable PixelSense display. Add a pinpoint-accurate 3000 x 2000-pixel, 13.5-inch touchscreen display to the mix, and the Surface Book has everything an engineering student needs.

Best Desktop Replacement: Lenovo ThinkPad P51

When you need a laptop that mirrors desktop-class performance for 3D modeling or machine learning programs, the Lenovo ThinkPad P51 is the answer. Weighing 5.9 pounds and measuring nearly an inch thick at its thinnest point, this beefy laptop provides plenty of muscle for an engineer’s workload.

The P51 has an Intel quad-core i7 processor, 32GB of RAM and a 1TB SSD, all of which combine to offer capabilities that closely mirror desktop-level application loading times. A fingerprint reader helps keep data safe from prying eyes, the keyboard provides one of the best typing experiences across all laptops and a 15.6-inch HD display offers clear colors and enough window space to run multiple applications side by side.

At the end of the day, one the most impressive things about the Lenovo ThinkPad P51 is that it has passed 11 different MIL-STD tests, meaning it can withstand outside environmental stress — like that which comes with lugging it around in a backpack every day.

Best Budget: ASUS T8TJG

Inexpensively priced without sacrificing raw performance, the ASUS T8TJG has all the functions an engineering student needs — plus, it isn’t bogged down with any unwanted extras. Driven by an Intel Core i7 processor clocking in at 2.7GHz, the ASUS provides ample file storage with a 128GB SSD and a 1TB hard drive which offers even more space for the money. Paired with the Intel processor is a NVIDIA GeForce 940MX video card with 2GB of RAM that allows for more memory-intensive engineering apps that require discrete graphics to run effectively.

The internal hardware combines nicely with a Full HD 15.6-inch display that folds back 180 degrees for a true touchscreen experience. When it comes to completing quick mockups, engineering students will find the opportunity to write directly on the screen with a stylus a good alternative to pen and paper.

Best Portable: Razer Blade Stealth 13.3

If you’re searching for a high-performance laptop that doesn’t sacrifice portability, the Razer Blade Stealth is a great option. Well regarded for its gaming strengths, the 13.3-inch Razer responds to the demands of computational software just as well thanks to a 1.8GHz Intel Core i7 processor that can Turbo Boost up to 4.0GHz. With a QHD+ display that has viewing angles up to 178 degrees, the 3200 x 1800-pixel touchscreen resolution makes things crystal clear, and a world-class keyboard makes typing comfortable for hours on end.

Weighing 2.98 pounds and measuring just half an inch at its smallest point, students will find the Razer’s 512GB of SSD storage plentiful and 16GB of RAM ensures that running multiple applications won’t bog things down. With up to 10 hours of battery life and a backpack-friendly size, the Razer is the ideal solution for staying portable.

Best Value: Dell Inspiron i5577

Understated style and an attractive price make the Dell Inspiron i5577 a perfect option for engineering students. Best of all, the laptop is jam-packed with specs that one wouldn't expect given the affordable price tag. 

The Inspiron i5577 starts with a quad-core Intel i7 processor and base clock speed of 2.8GHz that Turbo Boosts up to 3.8GHz. The extra CPU boost will come in handy for memory-eating computational software as six megabytes of cache ensures even the most intense software runs smoothly.

With 16GB of RAM, the laptop is great for hardcore users and well-equipped when it comes to handling large data sets, playing games during downtime or tabbing between Photoshop and CAD.  A 15.6-inch FHD display adds anti-glare for easy viewing in sunlight and a NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050 dedicated graphics card with 4GB of RAM provides additional assurance that the Inspiron i5577 can handle CAD software without skipping a beat.

Best Splurge: Dell XPS 15

If price is no object, the Dell XPS 15 — a blend between a powerful workstation and a multimedia laptop — is an easy choice and one of the most functional, engineering-ready options around.

Weighing 4.5 pounds, the XPS 15 is a portable machine, and with 32GB of memory and a 1TB SSD software applications are quick to load. The quad-core Core i7 processor and NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050 graphics card with 4GB of dedicated RAM also work to keep computational software, CAD programming and C++ working smoothly along with machine learning programs that are optimized to run with discrete graphics cards.

Apart from offering only six hours of battery life, online reviews speak highly of the laptop’s keyboard and trackpad calling them some of the best on a Windows 10 laptop. Dell’s 4K 3840 x 2160-pixel InfinityEdge display will also make your notes pop.

Disclosure

At Lifewire, our Expert writers are committed to researching and writing thoughtful and editorially independent reviews of the best products for your life and your family. If you like what we do, you can support us through our chosen links, which earn us a commission. Learn more about our review process.