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 tech 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.
Best laptops for engineering students going back to school
Summer is here, which means it’s time to be thinking about beaches, barbeques and back to school sales. The best laptops are always in high demand as school starts up again, so it pays to start shopping as early as possible. Whether you’re heading off to college or going back to school, you’ll want a great laptop suitable for both work and play, and gaming laptops are excellent for demanding coursework in engineering classes.
Many of our favorite picks are currently on sale making now the ideal time to buy some of the best laptops for engineering students. Be sure to follow our back to school guide for all of your shopping needs this season.
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 3.5K OLED display upgrade.
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 are best off with a MacBook Pro 2021, configured with the best components you can afford. Upgrading to an M1 Ultra chip is well worth it, but even the M1 Max chip you get in an entry-level model delivers remarkable performance.
The best laptops for engineering students
Don’t let its slim and stylish design fool you — the Dell XPS 15 is an absolute workhorse. Its Intel Core CPU 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 only eight hours in our battery test, and the newer model with a (gorgeous) 3.5K OLED display lasted just seven hours. That’s enough to get you through a day at school, but if you don’t need the higher 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 OLED review.
Not interested in OLED? Don’t miss our Dell XPS 15 (2020) review.
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.
The 16-inch MacBook is a beast thanks to the M1 Max chip, which pushes graphics performance on the Mac to a whole new level. On top of that, its amazing redesign helps improve its display (everyone will get over the notch, trust us), with thinner bezels than ever, catching up to the Dell XPS InfinityEdge display. That screen, too, is better than ever, with mini-LED technology and improved picture quality thanks to fantastic contrast and a 120Hz refresh rate for excellent smoothness.
And that’s just the start of the story. The 2021 MacBook Pros see a realignment on ports for MacBooks, moving back from the “USB-C or bust” situation of the past 5 years. Now, you’ve got HDMI-out for connecting to displays and an SD memory reader for pros with real cameras. Apple’s basically put the “pro” back in MacBook Pro. Oh, and that Touch Bar? The little OLED strip of a touch screen? It’s been ripped out, likely because it never got to the point where the simple physical function keys (F1-F12) would be better.
Check out our full MacBook Pro 2021 (16-inch) review.
The Surface Laptop Studio is Microsoft’s flagship device for Windows 11, and like Windows 11, the Surface Laptop Studio is advertised as a one-stop shop for productivity, entertainment and creative work.
And for the most part, it is all that: its 11th Gen Intel CPU and 16+ GB of RAM gives you enough power to tackle most schoolwork, and if you splurge for a model with the discrete Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 Ti GPU the Surface Laptop Studio also doubles as a decent machine for heavy-duty engineering work (not to mention gaming back in the dorm).
However, it’s a bit pricey when you kit it out, and despite its great components the Surface Laptop Studio delivers subpar performance compared to similarly-priced machines. But few other laptops can match its intriguing sliding hinged display, which can be tented over the keys like an easel or slid all the way flat to turn the Studio into a heavy tablet.
If your engineering department asks you to buy a laptop with both a discrete GPU and an active stylus, the Surface Laptop Studio is the only laptop on this list which offers both — though you’ll need to shell out an additional $129 for Microsoft’s Surface Slim Pen 2 stylus.
Read our full Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio review.
The big, beautiful Dell XPS 17 is great for engineering students because you can configure with a Core i7 CPU and a GeForce RTX 3050 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-bezelled 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.