Best Laptops for Computer Science

Computers are pretty much a prerequisite to every Computer Science undergrad for them to succeed in this course. Because laptops are more portable and can be carried to class they are much preferred over a desktop.

studying with a laptop

While it is expected of a computer science undergrad to know his stuff, that being about computers, there are tons of laptops in the market to cover. The sheer volume of portable workstations currently available is enough to overwhelm even professionals in the computer and information industry.

For this reason, we have come up with a list of the best laptops for computer science students so they can allocate their precious time studying rather than hunting that one perfect laptop.

Top 8 Laptops for Computer Science of 2019

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Product

Specs

Availability

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Acer Predator Helios 300

 

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2.2GHz Hexa-core Intel Core i7-8750H
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Asus Vivobook Pro 15

 

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2.8GHz Intel Core i7-7700H
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Apple MacBook Pro 15

 

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2.9 GHz Hexa-Core Intel Core i9-8950HK
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Dell Inspiron 15

 

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2.5-GHz Quad-core Intel Core i5-7300U
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Google Pixelbook

 

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1.2 GHz Dual-core Intel Core i5-7Y57
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Lenovo ThinkPad E470

 

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2.5 GHz Intel Dual-core Intel Core i5-7200U
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Microsoft Surface Pro

 

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2.5 GHz Dual-Core Intel Core i7-7660U
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Toshiba Portege Z30-C-138

 

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2.6 GHz Dual-core Intel Core i7-6600U
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1. Acer Predator Helios 300

A lot of computer science students are also serious PC gamers. If you are looking for a laptop that can do both gaming and programming, then look no further than the Predator Helios 300.

This entry-level gaming laptop from Ace has a solid performing processor and a dedicated Nvidia graphics card that makes it flexible to do more than just encoding and schoolwork tasks. There are also several configurations that won’t set you too far in your $1,000 budget. All of the components are also top notch and geared to increase your coding productivity.

Powering this budget gaming rig is a 2.2GHz Hexa-core Intel Core i7-8750H processor which can reach up to 4.1 GHz when overclocked. This thing also has a Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 that provides stable frame per seconds (FPS) rates to most of the recent gaming titles.

Furthermore, it has a more than ample 16 GB RAM and 256 GB SSD storage that drastically improves its booting speed. To top it all, the system also has a vivid 15.6- inch Full HD screen with a 1920 x 1080 resolution. This component meets all of the requirements for you to enjoy today’s most popular games during your break from coding.

Aside from an impressive array of components that can fully support your programming endeavors, this laptop also has quite the looks. The aluminum and plastic exterior have a black metallic lid that is accentuated by two red stripes on the sides and a Predator logo on the middle. The backlit keyboard is also comfortable and very responsive with 1.6 mm of travel and 79 grams of actuation force. Because the keys are light and clicky, you can speed up your typing and coding which in turn saves you precious time. The 4.1 x 3-inch touchpad is accurate and responds to gestures quickly.

Gaming wise the dedicated card proves quite useful. According to independent testers, you can play Rise of the Tomb Raider in very high settings and end up with 67 FPS. Acer’s true harmony speakers are also loud but the sound quality is a bit lacking. This laptop also has plenty of ports such as headphone jack, SD card reader, RJ-45 Ethernet, HDMI, USB 2.0, USB 3.0 and a USB 3.1 Type-C. It also comes with a 720 HD webcam and 2 microphones.

However, this gaming system also has a few compromises that you should also consider. Much like other budget laptops, it gets too hot after a few hours of gaming, especially on its bottom. During this period, the cooling fans can also get loud. Lastly, the display has limited viewing angles and gets dim on the sides.

Overall, the Predator Helios is a great system for computer science students who want a workstation and a gaming rig in one system.

Display: 15.6-inch FHD ComfyView IPS; 1920 x 1080 resolution
Processor: 2.2GHz Hexa-core Intel Core i7-8750H
Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 with 6 GB memory
RAM: 16 GB DDR4
Storage: 256 GB SSD
Battery Life: 6 hours
Weight: 5.95 pounds

Pros:

  • Easy to upgrade
  • Can play games at high settings
  • Long battery life
  • Great value because of the GTX 1060

Cons:

  • Gets hot when gaming
  • Poor sound quality

2. Asus Vivobook Pro 15

Two of the most compelling traits college students look for in a laptop are durability and performance. The Vivobook Pro is both sturdy and has a powerful CPU that makes it as the perfect programming machine wherever you go. Additionally, you can treat it as gaming system thanks to its dedicated Nvidia GTX 1050 card. Hence, if you are needed to relax and take a break from coding you can always treat yourself with a game or two of your favorite titles.

On board, this laptop is powered by a 2.8GHz Intel Core i7-7700HQ processor which you can overclock up to 3.8 GHz. It also comes with a 16 GB and 512 GB SSD that satisfies both fast gaming and coding requirements. The laptop’s 15.6-inch full HD screen has a wide view 1920 x 1080 resolution, which has a bit of large footprint but still provides an enjoyable gaming experience.

As you would expect of a laptop with such specs, the Vivobook Pro can easily pass many of the benchmark tests that you can throw at it. Based on independent testers review, you can play Middle Eart: Shadow of War in low settings at a respectable 62 FPS. Meanwhile, its average graphics score is recorded at 87 FPS.

The Vivobook Pro also has a head-turning design highlighted by its light gold finish over its metal and plastic housing. While it’s a bit heavy at 5.05 pounds, it makes up for the number of ports it has such as an SD card reader, USB 2.0 and 3.1, HDMI, RJ45 Ethernet, headphone/ mic jack and a USB 3.1 Type-C. Meanwhile, the island-type keyboard has responsive chiclet keys that allow fast typing and perfect for long coding sessions.

However, despite being a well-rounded system this laptop also has a couple of design flaws. The fingerprint scanner was placed inside the already finicky trackpad, which can get in your way of scrolling or clicking. Hence, you will have to buy a mouse for your convenience. The TN display also isn’t impressive and covers only 60-percent of the sRGB color gamut. Likewise, the 3 hour battery life is quite a let down.

Overall, the ASUS Vivobook is a pretty competitive programming laptop that has a reasonable price. It has a good quality build with an equally impressive performance.

Display: 15.6-inch Full HD Wide-View; 1920 x 1080 resolution
Processor: 2.8GHz Intel Core i7-7700HQ
Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 with 4GB memory
RAM: 16 GB DDR4
Storage: 512 GB SSD
Battery Life: 3 hours
Weight: 5.05 pounds

Pros:

  • Comes with a Nvidia GTX 1050 card
  • Solid CPU performance
  • Great punchy keyboard
  • Reasonable price

Cons:

  • Not very portable
  • Poor TN display

3. Apple MacBook Pro 15

The best laptop list of any kind is not complete without a representative from Apple. Despite its exorbitant price, the MacBook Pro is just hard to pass as a computer science student’s laptop especially if you have the money to spend on it. The laptop can easily capture any buyer’s heart with its pleasing looks, long battery life, and great performance.

This versatile laptop runs on a 2.9 GHz Hexa-Core Intel Core i9-8950HK processor which can be turbo boosted to a whopping 4.8 GHz. On board are an AMD Radeon Pro 560X with 4 GB memory and plenty of 32 GB worth of RAM with 2 TB SSD storage. That’s more than enough to handle any type of programming and even gaming.

This portable laptop also has a gorgeous 15-inch Retina display with a 2880 x 1800 resolution which easily beats the Full HD screens in this list. Apple has also added a True Tone feature which automatically adjusts the brightness and color tone of the screen based on the environment you are working in. It also has a Touch Bar, a tiny display between the touchscreen and keyboard that offers additional shortcut touch controls.

The butterfly-switch keyboard isn’t too shabby and has a decent travel of 0.7 mm while requiring 63 grams of actuation force. The quieter keys also have a membrane rests underneath which prevents debris from going inside the small gaps of the keyboard. The 6.3 x 3.9 inch is huge and responsive but doesn’t get in the way of the keyboard. The audio quality is also pleasant and something that even audiophiles will deeply appreciate. Much like every Apple product you have the usual USB-C, headphone and Thunderbolt 3. Needless to say, buy a dongle!

This laptop is almost perfect except for a few things other than its expensive price tag. While it does keep its cool even when it’s switched on for a long time, the underside gets warm quicker than the rest of its body. Also, the lack of USB Type-A ports is quite a hassle too.

Overall, the MacBook Pro is an excellent choice for computer science students whose parents are generous enough to spend almost twice or thrice the amount of a regular laptop.

Display: 15-inch Retina; 2880 x 1800 resolution
Processor: 2.9 GHz Hexa-Core Intel Core i9-8950HK
Graphics: AMD Radeon Pro 560X with 4 GB memory
RAM: 32 GB
Storage: 2 TB SSD
Battery Life: 10 hours
Weight: 4 pounds

Pros:

  • Excellent battery life
  • Stylish and very portable
  • Top-notch display
  • Can run games at high settings

Cons:

  • Requires a dongle
  • Expensive

4. Dell Inspiron 15

Gaming laptops are quite popular among computer science students because when they need a break from coding or their studies, they can easily play a quick diversion. While gaming systems are notorious for their towering price tag, that’s not always the case as seen in the Inspiron 15. This laptop has a powerful dedicated GPU which allows it to be VR-ready. The battery has also been improved along with other components while still being reasonably priced.

At the center of this machine lies a 2.5-GHz Quad-core Intel Core i5-7300U processor which you can turbo boost up to 3.5 GHz. Dell also equipped it with a Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 Max-Q GPU that allows some serious gaming at high settings. Furthermore, this machine also comes with an 8 GB RAM and a 256 GB SSD storage. If you want to test out graphic-heavy programs you have created, you can somehow also test it out on this laptop.

The 15.6-inch Full HD IPS screen has a 1920 x 1080 resolution which produces a sharp image. However, it’s not very vivid as the display only has 70 percent sRGB color gamut which is a far cry from the mainstream average for gaming laptops. Nonetheless, the screen is quite bright at 233 nights and has a decent refresh rate. Based on independent tests, you can play Middle-earth: Shadow of War at its native resolution’s very high settings and get a comfortable 45 FPS.

The Inspiron’s island-style keyboard, however, feels a bit uncomfortable to type on. Each key has a 1.2 mm travel and requires 79 grams of actuation, which in turn means you, might occasionally bottom out. The keyboard is also placed far back to give room to the 4.1 x 3.1-inch touchpad. The audio quality is OK, but average at best. On the other hand, this thing has plenty of ports including HDMI, Ethernet, USB 3.0, headphone/mic, SD card reader and a Thunderbolt 3.0.

Meanwhile, the laptop needs to have better heat management especially along the keyboard and the underside, which reached uncomfortable temperatures when gaming. The 720p webcam is also a bit disappointing because it takes grainy photos with dull color. It’s also a bit bulky at 6.99 pounds and is the heaviest in our list.

Overall, the Dell Inspiron 15 is a pretty solid system both for gaming and programming that is if you can live with some compromises.

Display: 15.6-inch IPS screen; 1920 x 1080
Processor: 2.5-GHz Quad-core Intel Core i5-7300U
Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 Max-Q with 6 GB memory
RAM: 8 GB
Storage: 256 GB SSD
Battery Life: 7 hours
Weight: 5.99 pounds

Pros:

  • Powerful GTX 1060 Max-Q
  • Excellent CPU performance
  • Affordable gaming portal
  • Plenty of ports

Cons:

  • Inferior display quality
  • Uncomfortable keyboard

5. Google Pixelbook

If you think that Chromebooks low-end laptops that primary and secondary schools require their students to have, think again. Google’s Pixelbook is considered as the most powerful Chromebook today and can go toe-to-toe with some of its more expensive counterparts. This laptop is also a great alternative for computer science students who want a portable workstation that won’t have them burning their own wallet or that of their parents. There is a catch though, this laptop is just as expensive as premium $1000 plus notebooks.

Running things around for the Pixelbook is a 1.2 GHz Dual-core Intel Core i5-7Y57 processor which can be overclocked up to 3.3 GHz. It is partnered with an Intel HD Graphics 615 and an 8 GB of RAM, which is both sufficient when coding. Meanwhile, the 256 GB SSD is a welcome feature which you will hardly see on other Chromebooks. These components are all decent to do simple programs and can accomplish other schoolwork that the course demands.

One of the main issues with many Chromebooks is their display. However, the Pixelbook broke away from the mold and offered a larger and pixel-dense 12.3-inch LCD touchscreen with a 2400 x1600 resolution. In fact, this laptop even got its name because of its high pixel density of 235 PPI. The Pixelbook can also run Android apps, which is what primarily separates it from other laptops that use Windows OS. Furthermore, the onboard Chrome OS gives its users a low-maintenance browsing capability that provides the fastest browsing experience.

This laptop also has a few ports such as a headphone/ mic jack and two USB-C 3.1. It also has a 720 webcam which you can use for Skype calls. The backlit keyboard is also fun to type in as they are well-spaced and have a nifty 0.8 mm travel with plenty of feedback. The large trackpad is also quite accurate and both sides have silicon wrist rests. Finally, since this is a Chromebook you get a stellar battery life of more than 10 hours.

On the other hand, this laptop also has a few disadvantages. First off, the Chrome OS is not that powerful compared to Windows and macOS. The audio quality is also not that stellar plus you have to buy the pen stylus separately. Moreover, it doesn’t have a biometric login that even cheaper Chromebooks have.

Overall, the Pixelbook is an excellent Chromebook workstation especially if you have previous experience with it. However, its premium price will make you think twice about buying it.

Display: 12.3-inch QHD LCD touchscreen; 2400 x 1600 resolution
Processor: 1.2 GHz Dual-core Intel Core i5-7Y57
Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 615
RAM: 8 GB DDR3
Storage: 256 GB SSD
Battery Life: 10 hours
Weight: 2.4 pounds

Pros:

  • Minimalist design
  • Excellent keyboard
  • Full Android app support
  • Pixel dense display

Cons:

  • Expensive for a Chromebook
  • The stylus pen is sold separately

6. Lenovo ThinkPad E470

Coming from a long history of business laptops from Lenovo, the ThinkPad E470 is suited to do almost every office related tasks. While that may be its primary function, this workstation can also be used for a number of other purposes including casual programming and even a bit of gaming. While it may look like a notebook that companies give to their employees, its performance and dedicated video card will make you throw away that prejudice.

The mid configuration of this laptop has a 2.5 GHz Intel Dual-core Intel Core i5-7200U which you can turbo boost up to 3.1 GHz. It also has a Nvidia GeForce 940MX paired with 8 GB DDR4 RAM which lets you play most gaming titles comfortably at normal or even very high settings. Moreover, it is also equipped with 256 GB SSD where you can store lots of files and applications. The clear 14-inch FHD IPS screen has a 1920 x 1080 resolution also as a large viewing angle.

Much like its predecessors, this laptop also has a sturdy case which is covered in matte, black plastic. The workmanship is also pretty decent as it looks clean and has well-rounded corners. As expected of a ThinkPad model, the keyboard is comfortable to type on thanks to its crisp but responsive keys. The 4 x 2.2-inch touchpad has been refined and now has better responsiveness and accuracy than previous units. Likewise, the device’s TrackPoint allows faster navigation.

You can also do a bit of gaming on this laptop. Based on independent tests, you can play BioShock Infinite on high settings at a comfy 43 FPS. Typical of a business laptop, this Thinkpad also has a substantial number of ports including two USB 3.0, a USB 2.0, DisplayPort, HDMI, SD card reader, and a headset jack. Sadly though, it doesn’t have the modern USB-C ports which could have made it future-proof. Meanwhile, its battery life comes at a respectable 5 hours.

The E470, however, also has a few drawbacks. For years, the ThinkPad has been known for its thickness and added weight compared to other more portable laptops. The laptop also has limited upgrade options based on its motherboard. The meager connectivity can also be quite troublesome given that it does not have a USB-C port.

Overall, the Thinkpad E470 is a good laptop that combines business and pleasure (as in gaming) at a very reasonable price point.

Display: 14-inch Full HD IPS; 1920 x 1080 resolution
Processor: 2.5 GHz Intel Dual-core Intel Core i5-7200U
Graphics: Nvidia GeForce 940MX
RAM: 8 GB DDR4
Storage: 256 GB SSD
Battery Life: 5 hours
Weight: 4.12 pounds

Pros:

  • Great display with large viewing angles
  • Durable build
  • Excellent keyboard and touchpad
  • Solid CPU and GPU

Cons:

  • Bulky and heavy
  • Poor upgradability

7. Microsoft Surface Pro

Arguably the best 2-in-1 notebook today, the Surface Pro is definitely a must-have for any student regardless of their course. It’s a revolutionary piece of technology that started the convertible laptop category five years ago. Its portable performs fast, has a quality display and has everything you need in a study station to survive college. Microsoft has also been improving it year after year so you can expect it to offer the latest features on top of its elegant design.

At its heart is a 2.5 GHz Dual-Core Intel Core i7-7660U processor which can be turbo boosted up to 4.0 GHz. While it’s not ideal for gaming, the Intel Iris Plus Graphics 640 is more than up to the task, especially in terms of mobile gaming and coding. The system also has a 16 GB worth of RAM and 512 GB SSD storage.

The laptop’s 12.3-inch PixelSense IPS display with 2736 x 1824 resolution is simply a sight to behold. The screen produces sharp and colorful images that are almost life-like. It’s no coincidence, though, as the Surface Pro scores 140 percent in the sRGB gamut and has a brightness of 396 nits. Consequently, the audio quality is also quite pleasant although the volume is just above-average because of its size.

Microsoft also tweaked the signature type cover to better the typing experience. The keys now have 1.33 mm of travel and require 70 grams of actuation. The touchpad, though, is on the small side which means you might want to take advantage of the Surface Pen. As you would expect of a convertible laptop, its ports are limited to a USB 3.0, Mini Display, headset, and Surface Connect.

One of the most compelling issues that still persist is the device’s lack of a USB-C port. The type cover and the Surface pen are also sold separately. Lastly, while it has a battery life of more than 7 hours, it’s still below the category average.

Overall, the Surface Pro is pretty compelling to have for a computer science undergrad because it has everything you need and more. Great things do come in small packages!

Display: 12.3-inch PixelSense; 2736 x 1824
Processor: 2.5 GHz Dual-Core Intel Core i7-7660U
Graphics: Intel Iris Plus Graphics 640
RAM: 16 GB DDR3
Storage: 512 GB SSD
Battery Life: 7 hours
Weight: 1.73 pounds

Pros:

  • Very portable
  • Improved Surface Pen and type cover
  • Amazing display
  • Mobile gaming friendly

Cons:

  • Surface Pen wasn’t included
  • Lacks USB-C port

8. Toshiba Portege Z30-C-138

If you are more of the serious programmer type, you can never go wrong with the Portege Z30-C-138.  This business laptop has all the ports you need without the extra weight making it a mobile complete workstation. The components are pretty solid, especially the CPU, and its lack of a dedicated video card won’t tempt you to be distracted by other activities like games.

The Portege is run 2.6 GHz Dual-core Intel Core i7-6600U 7th generation processor which you can turbo boost for up to 3.4 GHz. It has a built-in Intel HD Graphics 520, has an 8 GB of RAM and a 256 GB storage which can get you through all your coding needs. The 13.3-inch screen only has a resolution of 1366 x 768 which produces a muted dull display.

Nevertheless, it’s the connectivity and a sheer number of ports that will really make you consider buying this thing. The Portege has everything including memory card reader, RGB port, HDMI, Ethernet, headphone/ mic jack, docking connector and three USB 3.0 ports (with one having a charge and USB sleep). It also has a full HD webcam that comes with dual microphones. For connectivity, you have Dual Band WiFi and Bluetooth.

Oddly enough, the chiclet-style keyboard is quite satisfying to type on since they provide excellent travel and enough springy feedback. However, the trackpad doesn’t feel as comfortable because of its poor multi-touch responsiveness and inaccurate trackpad gesture responses. The battery life also sits at just 5 hours, which is kinda OK for a business laptop of its size.

This laptop doesn’t present much value as far as gaming goes, but it can at least play some titles at its lowest settings. According to independent testers, you can play Heroes of the Storm at low settings and get a 55 FPS rating.

Overall, the Toshiba Portege is good for buyers who want a laptop that has all the ports and has enough juice on its trunk to power up some serious coding sessions.

Display: 13.3-inch HD TFT LED Backlit; 1366 x 768 resolution
Processor: 2.6 GHz Dual-core Intel Core i7-6600U
Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 520
RAM: 8 GB DDR3
Storage: 256 GB SSD
Battery Life: 5 hours
Weight: 2.65 pounds

Pros:

  • Offers tons of port and connectivity
  • Above average battery life
  • Strong CPU performance
  • Durable build

Cons:

  • Poor 1366 x 768 display
  • Annoying touchpad

Laptop for Computer Science Buying Guide

In preparing this list we have reviewed some of the most compelling laptops out there and placed some important factors to filter out the best from the OK. Below are some of the characteristics that we have considered:

1. Latest Processors

A powerful processor allows your laptop to do virtually everything. In a computer science undergrad’s case that would be coding, programming, doing reports and other schoolwork. Of course, a little gaming to past time isn’t a bad idea either. Hence, if you want a high-performance laptop look for a processor that has high clock speed and plenty of threads.

2. Plenty of RAM

You can think of RAM as the place where your current computing task is being stored. When you’re doing several tasks at the same time the RAM can be overloaded quickly and your computer begins to slow down. To prevent this, you need a laptop with at least 8 GB of RAM for faster speeds and better multitasking.

3. Best Storage System

Right now, the fastest type of hard drive is solid state drives (SSDs). They not only have the fastest transfer and copy rate but SSDs also significantly cuts down the booting time to mere seconds. Thus, SSDs save you a lot of time compared to SATA and hard disks.

4. Runs Eclipse, Linux

Other than the components, one of the most compelling attributes that a laptop was looking should have is its ability to run different programming tools and editors especially Eclipse and Linux.

5. Good Display and Keyboard

Coding is part of the computer science curriculum and you may spend long hours doing this task. Hence, you need a laptop that has a good display so your eyes won’t tire easily. A good keyboard is also necessary if you want to bring your coding up to speed.

6. Dedicated GPU

While this is not important as the previous factors, it’s a good addition hence it allows you to play some of the latest PC games.

Computer science is one of the most in-demand courses in college today. The curriculum and amount of programming workload can be unbearable if you don’t have a reliable laptop with you. We hope that this list and guide was of some of use to you to help you decide which laptop to choose.