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12 Best Laptop for PHD Students in 2023

Apple 2020 MacBook Air Laptop M1 Chip, 13” Retina Display,...

Apart from the complete dedication and determination to a college or University education, you will require a few other important tools for success.

And the most important among them is a capable laptop that can handle the workload smoothly.

Throughout your education as a Ph.D. student, you will need to deal with challenges and tasks on a daily basis.

Which makes your laptop an important piece of equipment for your education. You will have to spend most of your time as a Ph.D.

student consolidating and checking data as well as the sources. And not only that you will also need to simplify the information you have gathered.

Which requires your laptop to do multiple tasks at the same time. To save your energy and time we have already compiled the list of the 12 Best Laptops for PhD Students in 2023 with their detailed reviews and test results.

Also Read: 10 Best Intel Core i9 HK CPU Laptops

12 Best Laptops for Ph.D. Students in 2023

Although they are plenty of devices available in the market but choosing the best out of them is a very difficult task. Especially when you don’t have any knowledge about laptop hardware components.

On top of that, the article will provide you with all the technical details about each device to provide you with a better idea of their performance.

So without wasting any more time let’s jump into the article to find you the best device recording to your needs. Also, you can explore to find out plenty of more laptops that come with different processors. 

1. Lenovo Thinkpad E15

“Sleek, Lightweight & Portable”

  • Display: 15.6″ FHD 1920 x 1080 IPS
  • Processor: AMD Ryzen 5-5625U, 6-Core, 4.3GHz
  • Graphics Card:  Integrated AMD Radeon Graphics
  • RAM & Storage: 16 GB , 512 GB SSD
  • Operating System:  Windows 11
  • Battery Timing: Up To 13 Hours
  • Excellent Connectivity 
  • Overall Great Performance
  • Portable & Lightweight
  • Speakers Are Average
  • The Base Unit is Plastic

The E series of Thinkpad by Lenovo is one of the most successful genres of laptops in the market because of its practicality and performance.

Apart from that the price tag is also affordable but the manufacturer has not cut corners in the build quality and the hardware configuration.

The design of this laptop is very streamlined with round corners and sleek aesthetics. The base unit of this laptop is made out of plastic but the display lid is constructed out of metal.

Compared to other similar devices the Thinkpad is considerably slim and also lightweight. When you open the display, you first notice the slightly thick bottom display border.

But on the other hand, you are getting the full HD display which is not common under this price range. The webcam which is housed in the top display border is equipped with a privacy shutter.

This feature is very useful if you are concerned about your privacy while you’re connected to the internet. Despite the fact that it is a slim laptop you will still find more than enough connectivity options in the base unit.

The trackpad offers physical click buttons as well which are always better and more accurate as compared to the integrated buttons. It blows the hot air out from the back and there you will also find cutouts for the speakers.

2.   HP Spectre X360

“Metal build Convertible Device”

HP Spectre X360 2-in-1 Touchscreen Laptop, 16' 3K+...

  • Display: 16″ 3K+ 3072 x 1920, Touch IPS
  • Processor: Intel Core i5-1135G7 , 4-Core, 4.2GHz
  • Graphics Card:  Intel Iris Xe Graphics
  • RAM & Storage: 16 GB , 512GB SSD
  • Operating System:  Windows 11 
  • Battery Timing: Up To 10 Hours
  • Stylus Included
  • Metal Build
  • Great Performance 
  • Responsive Touch 
  • Comparatively Hefty
  • The Base is Slightly Thick
  • Connectivity is Limited

This two-in-one convertible HP X360 laptop is made out of aluminum including the chassis with provides it durability and sturdiness.

Our review unit was in dark blue but you can get it in a few different color schemes according to your choice. During our review, we noticed that the most ranking element of this device are certainly is the corners at the back which are kind of beveled.

On top of that, you will also find here an audio combo Jack when the USB-C port. Another great thing is that the battery of this laptop is fixed with the help of screws.

Unlike many similar laptops where you find the battery glued to the chassis. If you talk about the build quality of this convertible device we didn’t have any complaints with it.

In fact, it is one of the most excellently built convertible laptops you can find currently in the market. Because of the metal built the display lid and the base unit remain firm when you put some pressure however, there is a little bit of flex which is normal.

The Hinges which hold the display in place are strong but still, you can open this laptop with a single hand. If you are interested in buying a convertible laptop as a PhD student this laptop could be a great option for you.

3.   Microsoft Surface

“Professional Work Device “

Microsoft Surface Laptop 4 13.5-inch Touch-Screen – AMD...

  • Display: 13.5″ PixelSense 2496 x 1664, Touchscreen
  • Processor: AMD Ryzen 5 Series
  • Graphics Card: ‎Intel HD Graphics 620
  • RAM & Storage: 8 GB , 256 GB SSD
  • Operating System:  Windows 10
  • Battery Timing: Up To 11 Hours
  • Metal Build 
  • Decent Power
  • Excellent Battery 
  • Detachable Keyboard
  • Ports Are Limited
  • The Keyboard is So So

The liking for appearance and design of the laptop matters from person to person, but it is a fact that Microsoft Surface Pro is certainly among the most gorgeous notebooks.

On top of that, it comes with a detachable keyboard so you can use it as a Windows tablet as well. This touch configuration becomes really handy for Ph.D. students because they can take notes directly with the help of a stylus.

On the other hand, our review unit hasn’t come with an included stylus. Meaning you have to buy the stylus separately by spending some extra money.

As far as the build quality is concerned the Surface Pro is made out of metal. In fact, the detachable keyboard that comes with it is also made out of premium soft material.

Although the keyboard keys are big and spacious still we felt that this keyboard doesn’t feel as good as the ones which come with traditional claim shall or convertible laptops.

The battery backup of this device is excellent, in fact, it is one of very few Windows laptops that provides exceptional battery.

Because of the fact that all of the hardware components, battery, and ports are housed in the display itself, The connectivity options are very limited. But you can compensate for it by getting an extra docking station.

4.   ASUS ZenBook

“Stylish Device With Solid Build”

ASUS ZenBook 14 Ultra-Slim Laptop 14” FHD Display, AMD...

  • Display: 14″ FHD 1920 x 1080, NanoEdge 
  • Processor: AMD Ryzen 9-5900HX, 8-Cores, 4.10GHz
  • Graphics Card:  AMD Radeon Vega 7
  • RAM & Storage: 16 GB , 1 TB SSD
  • Battery Timing: Up To 10 Hours
  • Excellent Build
  • Metal Chassis
  • Decent Connectivity 
  • Fast Performance
  • The Audio is Just Okay 
  • The WebCam Could’ve Been Better

The Asus Zenbook is entirely constructed out of metal including the display lid, the base unit, and the chassis. This is why it not only feels premium but also looks pretty stylish aesthetically as compared to other similar laptops.

Since it is a compact laptop it doesn’t have a numeric pad included in the keyboard. However, the manufacturer found an innovative way of providing consumers with a numeric pad.

The trackpad this device is equipped with doubles as a numeric pad with the push of a button. It is a very innovative feature that is also very useful for a Ph.D. student for you.

That display laid is curved from the bottom and when you open it it slightly lifts the laptop. That allows better airflow to the internal components and a more convenient angle for your typing.

It features an island keyboard with a backlit so you can conveniently work in any lighting conditions. It offers you a decent amount of connectivity ports that can accommodate your essential devices to keep your work get going.

On the other hand, this device is not only aesthetically pleasing but also offers excellent performance for your work. Anyone who is looking for a stylish performance device could consider this Asus laptop a great option under this price range.

5.   Acer Swift Go

“Practical & Compact Design”

Dell Inspiron 15 3525 Lightweight Student Laptop - 15.6 inch...

  • Display: 14” WUXGA  1920 x 1200, IPS
  • Processor: Intel Core i7-1355U, 10-Core, 5.00 GHz
  • Graphics Card: Intel Iris Xe graphics
  • Battery Timing: Up To 8 Hours
  • Build Out of Metal
  • Superb Performance 
  • Sleek & Streamlined 
  • It is Slightly Thick
  • The WebCam is Just Okay

You can consider Acer Swift Go an affordable option for PhD students that also provides you with excellent performance for your work.

Aesthetically the manufacturer has kept this device pretty simple and you will not find any design elements as well. This is completely fine since under this price range consumers are more concerned about the performance of the device instead of how it looks.

And as far as performance is concerned it will not be going to disappoint you. It is equipped with powerful and capable hardware which allows you to run any kind of intensive and demanding program smoothly.

On top of that, the display it features is bright and high resolution enabling you to work in any outdoor lighting conditions.

The borders around the display are pretty narrow which makes the display looks bigger than it really is. Despite being a compact device it is still equipped with a decent amount of connectivity options.

They’re more than enough for you to connect your essential devices. That trackpad is very specious as well as responsive and accurate, you can easily use the Windows gesture features.

The chassis of the device is made out of metal making it a very sturdy and rugged laptop. The build quality is superb and we don’t know if it’s only us that the keyboard that area kind of resembles with MacBook.

6.  HP Pavilion Aero

“Easy To Carry Device”

HP Pavilion Aero 13 Laptop, AMD Ryzen 5 5625U, 8 GB RAM, 512...

  • Display: 13.3″ WUXGA 1920 x 1200 IPS
  • Processor: AMD Ryzen 5-5625U , 6-Core, 4.3GHz
  • Graphics Card: Integrated AMD Radeon Graphics
  • RAM & Storage: 8 GB , 512 GB  SSD
  • Elegant Design
  • Very Lightweight
  • Portable & Compact
  • Superb Performance
  • Limited Connectivity
  • Basic Speakers

The HP Pavilion Arrow is not only sleek and slim but also it is very lightweight. Although ugh the design of this is nothing special and it looks just how an HP work laptop would look.

But at the same time when you lift it in your hands then you realize how easy to carry it is. And because of that it is most suitable for PhD students who have to carry their laptops on a daily basis.

The exterior as we have mentioned is not fancy at all but to the point. When you open the display lid you find an integrated fingerprint reader just below the keyboard at the right-hand side.

Trackpad on the other hand is decently spacious when you consider the dimensions of this laptop. The keyboard it features is not a separate panel and it is integrated into the base unit.

Also, the keyboard continuous the same color scheme which makes it look more elegant. The border around the display is pretty slim however the brightness levels would have been higher.

Still, you can work in outdoor lighting conditions if you want the brightness of the display is not too bad. The performance of this device is excellent for work and study use in the battery backup is also superb.

7.   Lenovo Yoga 7

“Quality Metal Build”

Lenovo Yoga 7 16.0' Touchscreen WQXGA IPS 2-in-1 Laptop...

  • Display: 16.0″ Wide QXGA 2560×1600, 60Hz Touch
  • Processor: Intel Core i5-1240P , 4-Core, 3.7GHz
  • Graphics Card: Integrated Intel Iris Xe Graphics
  • Operating System: Windows 11
  • Battery Timing: Up To 7  Hours
  • Metal Build Chassis
  • Solid Performance
  • Plenty of Ports 
  • Decent Battery Backup
  • Comparatively Heavy
  • Average Speakers

The body of the Lenovo Yoga convertible laptop is made out of aluminum entirely including the chassis. The grey color scheme makes it look like a professional laptop which is intended for the work environment.

The device feels premium when you pick it up and everything is very well put together. On top of that, the display borders are very narrow and the display itself is decently bright.

This means doing your work outdoors as a Ph.D. student will going to be a very pleasant experience. The build quality as we have mentioned is top not and we have nothing to complain here about that.

Because of the fact that it is a convertible laptop the Hinges which hold the display in place are pretty solid. They don’t let the display wobble too much even while adjusting the display lid to your preferred angle.

You can use a stylus with it but for that, you have to buy it separately since it is not included in the package. Although the design of this device is pretty slim at the same time, the rubber stoppers at the underside make it stand slightly high.

Which ultimately results in better airflow to the internal components for optimal temperatures. The keyboard it features also happens to be backlit and the overall typing experience is pretty comfortable.

8. Dell Inspiron Convertable

“Convertible Streamlined Design “

DELL Newest Inspiron 2-in-1 Business Laptop, 14'' FHD+...

  • Display: 14.0″ FHD+ ‎1920 x 1200, IPS Touch
  • Processor: Intel Core i7-1255U, 10-Core, 4.7 GHz
  • RAM & Storage: 32 GB , 2 TB SSD
  • Battery Timing: Up To 11  Hours
  • Gorgeous Display 
  • Powerful Hardware
  • Responsive Touch
  • Slim & Sleek
  • Limited Ports
  • Slightly Hefty

The Dell Inspiron 2 in 1 convertible laptop has gone through a design refresh and a few updates here and there. Now the edges are sharper and the rear vents have also been improved.

For this review, the device we got was in the traditional silver color, and that made it look more elegant and streamlined. Since it is a convertible laptop you can use the stylus to take notes as a Ph.D. student however it is not included in the package.

And if you want to use a stylus you have to buy it separately. Unlike the majority of other convertible laptops, this Dell Inspiron is not very thick.

But on the other hand, the connectivity options are good but not excellent. The display borders are comparatively thin and the display itself is pretty bright.

The resolution of this display is also excellent especially when you consider the price tag. Normally convertible laptops are not known for exceptional battery backup with few exceptions of course.

However, the Dell Inspiron provides you with a pretty decent battery backup to get you going with your studies. Owing to its powerful hardware components the performance of the device is simply excellent.

And if your main purpose of getting this laptop is studies then certainly it will not going to disappoint you in terms of power.

9. ASUS VivoBook

“Affordable But Powerful” 

ASUS VivoBook 15X OLED Laptop, 15.6' OLED Display, AMD Ryzen...

  • Display: 15.6″ FHD 1920 x 1080, OLED
  • Processor: AMD Ryzen 7 5800H , 8-Core, 4.4 GHz
  • Graphics Card: Integrated AMD Radeon GPU
  • Battery Timing: Up To 9 Hours
  • Excellent Performance
  • Nice Sleek Design
  • Superb Connectivity 
  • Plastic Base
  • Slight Flex

Just like the normal Vivobook the 15x variant also offers you the same build quality, the display lid is made out of metal, and the base unit is made out of plastic.

However, this variant is different as compared to the regular Vivobook in terms of design. The most prominent difference is that the keyboard deck area and the trackpad both are more specious as well as more defined.

The borders around the display are also comparatively thinner and the hardware components have been upgraded to more powerful ones.

The chassis of the device shows a little bit of Flex but it is pretty normal in almost all of the similar laptops which offer plastic build base units.

On top of that, this device is the more affordable variant which is why manufacturers have done some compromises to keep the price tag as low as possible.

The OLED display doesn’t offer the Gorilla glass coating which is the reason you will notice a slight flex in the display lid despite being made out of metal.

On the other hand for Ph.D. students, this laptop is very suitable because of its powerful hardware components and lightweight aesthetics.

The connectivity options this device offers or excellent and you can connect all of your essential devices with it conveniently.

10.   Apple MacBook Pro 2022

“Premium Powefurl Device”

Apple 2022 MacBook Pro Laptop with M2 chip: 13-inch Retina...

  • Display: 13.3″ Retina ‎ 2560 x 1600, IPS
  • Processor:  Apple M2 8-Core CPU
  • Graphics Card:  Apple 10-Core GPU
  • RAM & Storage: 8 GB , 512 GB SSD
  • Operating System: Mac OS 
  • Battery Timing: Up To 18 Hours
  • Exceptional Battey Backup
  • Excellent Premium Build
  • Limited Connectivity 
  • Same Core Design

The Apple MacBook Pro is certainly one of the most gorgeous and elegant devices on the market currently. However, the core design of this laptop is exactly the same as its predecessors.

On the other hand, the manufacturer has upgraded the internal entirely and now it offers the Apple M2 processor which offers supers fast performance as well as excellent battery backup.

The best part about this CPU is that it is very efficient but it doesn’t compromise the performance at the same time. On top of that the integrated Apple multi-core graphics chip enables it to deal with any kind of intensive and demanding workload.

The size of this device is extremely portable and compact which allows you to carry it easily with you as a Ph.D. student. The display it features is a liquid retina and the brightness levels are excellent.

The only thing which we found annoying regarding the display here is the notch above it. Which is very much identical to the one you got on your iPhone.

Connectivity options in this MacBook are as usual pretty limited however you can get an external docking station if you want to connect all of your essential devices simultaneously.

Now the price tag as compared to other laptops is higher but certainly with its exceptional performance and features it completely justifies it. 

Here you have our list of the Best Laptops for Ph.D. Students in 2023 with their detailed reviews and test results. As we have mentioned earlier that multitasking is one of the main requirements for a Ph.D. student.

And to be able to do that smoothly on your laptop smoothly depends almost entirely on the processor. The latest generation multi-core processor will provide you with fast speed, especially while multitasking apart from your work.

Another important requirement is that the laptop should be portable and lightweight. Which will allow you to carry it with you in your backpack without stressing up your back.

On the other hand, it should provide more than enough battery backup allowing you to keep going with your studies without any hiccups.

While compiling this list we were well aware of these requirements and that is why all of the devices mentioned will provide you with these features.

The build quality also matters a lot for the durability and longevity of the laptop since buying one is not cheap these days. If you are still not sure which of the above laptop will be best suited for you then you should read our detailed laptop buying guide .

You can also visit for all kinds of laptops and their related accessories.


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The 7 Best Laptops for Ph.D. Students

Phd program rankings.

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Valuable Resources

  • Best Laptops for Ph.D. Students
  • Gift Ideas for Ph.D. Students
  • Burnout & Chronic Stress
  • The Key to Free Grad School
  • Ph.D. Guide for International and Domestic Students
  • Habits Of Highly Effective Leaders
  • Online Doctorate Reputation
  • Journals for Ph.D. Students
  • Earning a PhD
  • Write a Perfect Essay Like a PhD
  • Master’s Degree As a Bridge To Ph.D.
  • Self-Funding Your PhD
  • Importance of Accreditation
  • Online Ph.D. Support Groups
  • Getting Accepted to an Online Ph.D.
  • Common Fears of Ph.D. Students
  • Habits of Successful People
  • US Doctoral Degrees

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Why earn a Doctorate Degree?
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  • How many years will it take for me to achieve my doctorate degree online?
  • Do online doctorate degree programs require campus visits?
  • Ph.D. vs. Doctorate
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  • Ph.D. Requiring Residencies
  • The World’s Richest Doctors
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  • Most Popular PhD Degrees
  • ALL Ph.D. Highlights

Searching for the best laptop for Ph.D. students can take some time. Here, we take the guesswork out of it, so you can focus on your studies.

Acquiring a college education takes more than just determination and constant dedication to complete a program. Then, there’s the need for tools and technologies that can aid students in realizing their highest potential.

If you’re a Ph.D. student who often has to face daunting tasks and challenges throughout your graduate school years, a laptop becomes a basic need!

A Ph.D. student’s workload usually involves in-depth research that requires hours upon hours of checking, rechecking, and consolidating data and their sources, as well as making sense of all such obtained information. Most of the time, Ph.D. students will need to multitask.

The Best Laptop for Ph.D. Students

The ideal laptop for doctorate students is one that suits their academic needs. They also need to put the price in the equation when they choose their laptops. That is why it is paramount for them to conduct proper research first before deciding to buy.

This will help them avoid mistakes and regret their decision. We’ve gathered 10 of the best laptops that can be of great help to Ph.D. students.

Lenovo ThinkPadX1 Carbon

best laptop for phd students

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As one of the world’s leading personal technology companies, Lenovo is known to produce innovative personal computers and mobile internet devices. The Lenovo ThinkPadX1 Carbon is part of the company’s flagship series. It is considered one of the most established laptops.

Just like its predecessors, Lenovo ThinkPadX1 Carbon is thinner and lighter. What sets it apart from other laptops models is its brighter UHD display, which now sports HDR400 support. It also has a better sound system, more far-field microphones, and performance and processor upgrades.

Students who prefer a light yet elegant laptop body will find this model ideal. It has a comfortable keyboard and an array of ports to choose from. However, the high-res screen proves to be a disadvantage as it drains the battery faster.

I recently discovered Shoppok while searching for a new battery charger, and I was impressed with their diverse selection. The website made it easy to compare different brands and features, helping me find the perfect charger for my needs.

Price: Starts at $1,159

ASUS ZenBook 13

best laptop for phd students

Creative, stylish, innovative—these are some of the outstanding features of the ASUS ZenBook 13. It has a frameless Nano-Edge display, making it an elegant and attractive choice. Its compact design makes it ultraportable and ultralight. It is known as the world’s smallest 13-inch laptop, at 16.9mm thin and 1.09kg light.

This laptop features a crisp, high-resolution display at 1920 x 1080 FHD display. Even more incredible, ASUS ZenBook 13 is designed to automatically tilt the keyboard to one’s most comfortable typing position.

Despite its small size, this laptop model does not compromise its performance. It features the latest Intel Core processors, making it the best choice for tasks such as creating complex documents, mining data, retouching photos, editing videos, or even a gaming break. It also boasts 2x faster performance than most 7th Gen CPUs. The SSD storage space can reach up to 1TB.

Being equipped with gigabit-class Wi-Fi and ASUS Wi-Fi Master technology means that students can enjoy ultrafast downloads and more stable network connections. It has an all-day battery life as well, useful for demanding coursework that requires long hours of laptop use.

Price: Starts at $649.00

Apple MacBook Air 2018

best laptop for phd students

As a computer that lets one do whatever one wants, Apple MacBook Air 2018 is suitable for multi-tasking, from opening 20 tabs and many apps to editing photos. Unlike its MacBook Air predecessors, this particular model boasts a retina display with a resolution of 2560 x 1600 pixels. It is also equipped with a Touch ID and a new trackpad.

It is considerably faster than the old MacBook Air models, making it an excellent choice for many post-graduate students. It has a more prominent display compared to the 12-inch MacBook while remaining lightweight.

This laptop is suitable for writing papers, doing research, and surfing the web. It is quite portable, making it easier to carry around.

MacBook Air 2018 is equipped with a 1.6GHz Dual-Core Processor with a Turbo Boost of up to 3.6GHz. SSD storage starts at 128GB. This one is also more affordable and mobile than MacBook Pro. It hits the sweet spot between power, portability, and price.

Price: Starts at $479

Huawei MateBook X Pro

best laptop for phd students

A speedy, long-lasting premium notebook, Huawei Matebook X Pro boasts fast performance, a comfortable keyboard, and long battery life. This 14-inch laptop packs a high-res display and speedy performance.

It weighs around 2.9 pounds and measures 0.6 thick, complete with a Thunderbolt 3 port, USB Type port, and headphone jack. This laptop is known to provide plenty of detail and brightness with its vibrant 3000 x 2000-pixel display. The touch-screen display accurately responds when one navigates the desktop.

Students will find the keyboard comfortable to type on, allowing one to hit a rate of 78 words per minute. The trackpad is also efficient, accurately tacking one’s input. Another standout quality lies in its audio, which is enough to fill a medium-sized conference room.

As for its performance, the Huawei MateBook X Pro runs on Intel Core i7-8550U and 16GB of RAM. They enable this laptop to have agile and seamless multi-tasking. Its battery can last up to 9 hours and 55 minutes.

Price: Starts at $1,999

Samsung Chromebook Pro

best laptop for phd students

Another convertible, touch screen laptop, Samsung Chromebook Pro, has the power of a computer and the versatility of a tablet.

It features a 360-degree rotating screen and an Intel Core m3 processor that allows students to get things done at a faster speed. It enables them to write and create more precisely using its built-in pen. The latter can get every detail to write, whether one is doodling, sketching, or personalizing a photo.

Video editing programs and other advanced software can be efficiently run through this laptop’s fast and efficient Intel Core m3. They can run multiple apps at once, all with quick load times.

Unlike most laptops, this Chromebook laptop gives excellent value for the money. It is also quite affordable, making it an excellent choice for students who do not have an abundant budget for a computer.

Price: Starts at $500

Dell Precision 7730

best laptop for phd students

Known for its blistering performance, Dell Precision has a durable, premium design and a vibrant and sharp 4k display.

Students who require a powerful laptop should look no further than this laptop. It is equipped with an Intel Core i9-8950HK CPU and 32GB RAM. Its impressive performance is proved by its capability to load 30 Microsoft Edge tabs, even with some video-running streaming sites. At the same time, it can also run apps like Xbox and 3D Paint Windows.

Those who need video encoding and 3D rendering can find good value in this laptop. They also have the option to customize it to their liking, such as changing its RAID configurations, upgrading to a backlit keyboard, and boosting the battery from 64Wh to 97Wh.

Price: Starts at $1,981.71

Acer Chromebook 514

best laptop for phd students

Boasting a solid construction in a full HD display, Acer Chromebook 514 is known for its reliable productivity performance and an all-day battery. Although it is not as flashy and aesthetic as other laptops, this particular model is focused on providing solid reliability and security for a minimal price.

At 14 inches, this Chromebook features 8GB of RAM, 64GB eMMC storage, Pentium N4200. It also offers connectivity options with two USB-C ports for charging and external displays, two USB-A 3.0 ports, and a microSD card reader.

It has the usual island keyboard and black chiclet keys and five levels of brightness, which provides sufficient travel when one types. This quality offers a typical typing speed and accuracy.

It is also equipped with a touch display that allows students to tap a button and swipe through the web pages, leading to easier navigation. Coupled with a lasting battery, it is an excellent choice for students who are on a tight budget but would still need a reliable machine that can get things done.

Price: Starts at $399

Laptop: A Ph.D. Student’s Ally

As a portable piece of technology, a laptop helps doctorate students maximize their time, handle all tasks efficiently, and meet deadlines. And while the need for a laptop is fully established, Ph.D. students often find it challenging to choose the best fit for their needs. The sheer number of options can sometimes be overwhelming!

best laptop for phd students

Carefully identifying your exact need and researching all options makes a world of difference. W hy do you need a laptop? Will you mainly be using a laptop for research purposes? Do you need to edit videos and build multimedia projects? Are you going to need a lot of disk space? Do you need to work long hours in the library or other off-site locations without power outlets?

The answers to these questions will help you identify the best laptop for a Ph.D. student like you!

Laptops for Ph.D. Students in the Digital Age

best laptop for phd students

Ph.D. students enjoy a myriad of benefits from owning a laptop while pursuing their doctorate. Laptops are best suited for multi-tasking: you can research, obtain information, find relevant sources, and take notes all at the same time while using it.

Laptops also feature stunning visuals and impressive audio support to offer each graduate student the best features that enable them to get the most out of digital technology.

Take a look at some of its advantages:

Mobility and Portability

Unlike desktop computers, laptops are highly portable. They can be carried around wherever one goes. Its compact size allows for easy mobility, letting students take it from one place to another. Usually, it can fit inside a case or a backpack. Laptops are less burdensome to bring along if one is required to move from place to place.

This is very convenient for students who need to travel and work on their school requirements outside of the house. They can always be on the go. Submitting reports and sending important files to their advisers is doable, even when they are out of town or out of the country.

Accessibility and Connectivity

Another definite advantage of laptops is their ability to connect students to the internet, allowing them to access a vast array of information anytime and anywhere.

Now that Wi-Fi settings are becoming more and more common, it is easier than ever for graduate students to acquire educational tools and resources even when they are away from home or school.

Whether they are in a café or the countryside, they can switch on their systems and access the data that they need.

Offline Operation

best laptop for phd students

Even if students are offline, they can still operate from their laptops and accomplish tasks that do not need the internet. They can switch off from their daily grind, avoid the distractions from social media, and fully concentrate on their research paper.

Writing and editing their paper is easier than ever. Typing makes the writing process go faster, allowing students to edit their work as they go. They do not have to go back to scratch every time they make a significant mistake.

Laptops can also help them organize their tasks, gathering all their works under one folder, and making it easier for them to access different files for each coursework.

Moreover, laptops bring taking notes to the next level, a mundane task that can be time-consuming and taxing for one’s hand. With laptops, it is possible to take notes electronically—a more efficient, faster, and more flexible method than manually writing on paper. It is a convenient way to index and organize study materials and educational resources.

When they need to find a paragraph or specific passage, they can do a quick search on their laptops through a keyword or two. Unlike paper notes which can get lost or destroyed, electronic notes can be stored and backed up. Sometimes, it is even possible to sync them with other devices like mobile phones.

What to Consider When Buying a Laptop

Laptops come in many types and sizes, and pack features that make them distinctive from the rest. No laptop is one-size-fits-all; choosing the best laptop for you depends primarily on your need. Here are some of the basic considerations when buying a laptop?

best laptop for phd students

It is true when they say size matters in choosing laptops. The right size should be able to fit a student’s needs, whether it requires a bigger screen or a lighter laptop that one can bring anywhere.

Since the laptop size is not something that can be upgraded later on, it is paramount that students pick the right fit from the start. Many laptops nowadays are thinner and lighter, weighing between 1kg to 1.5kg.

Most laptops are 11.6 inches, but they can be as big as 17.3 inches. Some find 13.3-inch laptops the most convenient to own since it is not as big as other laptops, but the screen is not as small as an 11.6-inch one.

However, the challenge lies in its limited capacity to support high-end Intel Core CPUs. It also tends to feature a limited selection of ports. A larger-sized laptop is best when you’re looking for graphic power and extensive display requirements.

Screen Quality

Laptops have different screen quality . If you need to face the laptop for hours on end every day, you must choose a screen that is quite comfortable to the eye.

Some laptops have a beautiful display. They tend to have a high-resolution display panel, which is often 1920 x 1080 pixels or higher. The higher the pixels, the more detail one can fit on the screen. Those that have low resolution show far less content than their high-resolution counterpart.

To put it more clearly, a display screen with 1080 pixels can exhibit as many as ten additional lines of text on a web page. Videos and photos on this particular resolution are sharper and more detailed. Those with higher horizontal pixels can also display two full-sized windows side by side on the screen.

Modern laptop screens are also equipped with a touchscreen feature. This comes in handy if they want easier and quicker navigation. Students who need to draw and take notes will also find this feature useful.

Most post-graduate students have long typing sessions. For this, a comfortable keyboard is needed. It must have an easy-to-use follow layout with full-sized keys. The keys must also be responsive at every click.

Keyboards should also be backlit to allow students to type even in poorly lit surroundings.

The Central Processing Unit or CPU is a crucial component of any laptop. Most CPUs are now intel core-based. There are several types, namely Core i3, Core i5, and Core i7. This type of CPU offers the best performance, especially when multitasking and multimedia tasks are required.

Recently, there are laptops equipped with Intel i9 Core processors, making them more powerful and efficient. These laptops are understandably more expensive than their counterparts.

Random-access memory houses the operating system (OS), application programs, and data in a computing device. While the old days only require 4GB or less of RAM, today’s laptops need at least 8GB.

The bigger the RAM, the more applications can be run at the same time. This is especially useful for heavy editing tasks like photos and video content.

Battery Life

The average battery life of most laptops can be somewhere between one to 6 hours, although this can largely depend on the activities done on the device and the programs that are running. Students who always need to be on the go might require a laptop with long-lasting batteries. The best ones can go as long as 17 hours.

It is a known fact that battery life decreases over time, but proper handling and charging practices can help it last longer.

Connectivity Options

Students usually have an array of devices that they need to connect to their laptops, from external hard drives for backups to SD cards. Having a laptop with different connectivity options will make it easier and more convenient for them once the need arises. They would be able to transfer files and documents, even without the help of the internet.

Another consideration when buying a laptop is the price students need to pay. There are laptops that they can buy for under $200. But if students want better quality and stronger performance, then allocating a substantial budget can expand their choices.

Statistics on Laptop Use Among College Students

best laptop for phd students

The advances of technology have shown a greater thirst for students for digital learning. Laptops and other technological tools like tablets and smartphones become more prevalent in classrooms. Some say it helps boost student enthusiasm to learn, improving their attentiveness and engagement in the school.

For graduate students, it is a handy tool that they can take great advantage of, from organizing their tasks and coursework to accessing vital information and data anytime and anywhere.

Laptops are becoming an indispensable tool for many college students. Statistics widely support this. Among college students, around 81% use a laptop . The reason cited for these statistics is the efficiency of laptops, providing a handy tool for students to accomplish all of their tasks and coursework.

A study by the EDUCAUSE Center for Analysis and Research (ECAR) found that students use computers for writing documents and sending emails. They also use technology for creating and editing videos and audio. Around 52.7% of the freshmen responders said they own laptop computers.

Studies have also shown that computer-assisted learning is particularly promising. Students who take up courses like mathematics can benefit a lot from this through educational software that helps develop number skills.

best laptop for phd students

Now that many schools offer online classes and even degrees, laptops are more critical than ever. While personal computers will do, students who are always on the go can complete their coursework everywhere at the most convenient time with the use of laptops.

Most college students consider the price, brand, speed, storage capacity, and portability when buying a laptop. On average, they are willing to pay $761.32 for a new school laptop.

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Top 12 Best Laptops for Graduate Students in 2023

Chriselle Sy

If you are pursuing your master’s degree or your doctorate, chances are you’ve probably realized there’s a ton of reading and mindless paperwork involved in the process. On top of that, your professors will likely require plenty of research and research papers, essays, and theses or dissertations. There comes a point in time when you’ll realize you probably need to invest in a capable laptop that can help you throughout your studies.

Regardless of what degree you are currently working towards, there’s no denying that you’ll find a laptop useful. Laptops (and, in some cases, tablets) can make learning much easier, especially if you need to take a lot of notes and do a lot of reading.

But what exactly makes a good laptop? How do you know which one you need and how much you should spend?

In this article, we’ve put together an ultimate buying guide to help you choose your next investment. We’ve also listed twelve of the best laptops for graduate students for various needs and budgets. So which machine should you get?

Read on to find out!

Disclosure: The GradCafe is supported by its audience. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no extra cost to you.

Table of Contents

The 12 Best Laptops for Graduate Students in 2023

Lenovo thinkpad x1 carbon gen 10  – the best laptop for graduate students overall.

  • Dell XPS 15   – The Best Windows Laptop for Creatives

MacBook Pro 16  – The Best Apple Laptop for Creatives

Microsoft surface laptop studio  – the best 2-in-1 machine for ultimate portability, dell xps 13  – the best windows ultraportable for graduate students, macbook air m2  – the best apple ultraportable for graduate students.

  • Microsoft Surface Pro X –  A More Affordable 2-in-1 Machine for Grad Students

MSI Modern 14  – The Best Mid-Range Windows Ultraportable for Grad Students (Tie)

Acer travelmate p6  – the best mid-range windows ultraportable for grad students (tie).

  • Lenovo IdeaPad 3 – The Best Budget Laptop for Graduate Students
  • Microsoft Surface Go 3 – The Most Affordable 2-in-1 Windows Tablet/Laptop for Grad Students

Razer Blade 15  – The Best Gaming Laptop for Grad Students

Powerful multi-purpose laptops for grad students on the go.

The laptops we’ve listed below are some of the most powerful consumer laptops available on the market. They’re likely to be the best laptops for grad school , regardless of whether you are in grad school to study business, finance, education, art and design, computer science, or more.

Of course, due to the powerful internals and the great specifications included in these machines, they also have quite a premium price — but if you can afford the hit and want something you can use for years to come, these laptops may be well worth the cost.

Looking only for MacBook laptops? Check out our dedicated list:  Best MacBook for College: Top 5 Picks

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 10 - The Best Laptop for Graduate Students Overall


  • Non-touch 400 nits brightness
  • Touch 400 nits brightness
  • 14-in 2.2K 2240×1400, anti-glare, IPS, low blue light, 300 nits brightness, 100% sRGB
  • 14-in 2.8k OLED 2880×1800, anti-smudge, anti-reflective, low blue light, 400 nits brightness
  • 14-in WQUXGA IPS 3840×2400, Dolby Vision, glossy, HDR 400, low blue light, 500 nits brightness
  • 14-in WQUXGA IPS 3840×2400, anti-reflective, anti-smudge, touchscreen, Dolby Vision, HDR 400, low blue light, 500 nits brightness
  • GPU: Integrated Intel Iris Xe graphics
  • Operating systems:  Windows 10 Pro, 10Pro 64, 11 Home
  • Processor:  Up to 12th-generation Intel  i7-1280P
  • Memory  up to 32GB
  • Battery: Up to 16 hrs (57Whr); rapid charge with 65W+ power supply
  • Ports: Two Thunderbolt 4 (one for power input), 2 USB A, HDMI 2.0, and more

The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 10 (and its previous and later generations) is easily the best laptop for PhD students. They can get very  costly depending on your chosen configuration, but the good news is once you buy this laptop, you can expect to keep it for years and years. ThinkPads are extremely well-built and reliable machines that are excellent for casual and business use. Plus, you might fall in love with the Trackpoint (the red dot that you can use to move your cursor/scroll) feature!

ThinkPads used to look bulky and unattractive, but nowadays, they tend to sport slim, sleek designs.

  • Long-running series of reliable machines
  • Known for its world-class well-designed keyboard
  • Comes with USB-A and HDMI ports
  • Great battery life makes working anywhere possible
  • Can get quite pricey, especially for the better configurations
  • No card slots (SD/microSD)

Buy the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 10

Dell XPS 15  – The Best Windows Laptop for Creatives

Dell XPS 15 - The Best Windows Laptop for Creatives

  • 15.6-inch FHD+ (1920×1200), non-touch, 60Hz, anti-glare, 500 nits brightness
  • 15.6-inch UHD+ (3840×1600), touch, 60Hz, anti-reflect, 500 nits brightness
  • 15.6-inch 3.5K (3426×2160), touch, 60Hz, OLED, anti-reflect, 400 nits brightness
  • GPU options: Integrated Intel UHD Graphics, Integrated Intel Iris XE Graphics, Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 4GB, Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 Ti 4GB
  • Operating systems:  Windows 11 Home or Pro
  • Processor options:  12th Gen Intel i5-12500H, i7-12500H, i9 -12900HK
  • Memory 8GB to 64GB
  • Storage (all SSD):  512 GB, 1TB, 2TB
  • Battery: 56Wh to 86Wh
  • Ports: USB C w/ power delivery and display port, 2 Thunderbolt 4 USB C w/ power delivery and display port, 1 headphone/microphone jack, SD card slot
  • More information here

The Dell XPS line has been around for quite some time. It’s known for high-quality premium laptops that are reliable yet powerful, and this generation of XPS 15 is no different. This laptop is quite powerful, especially if you configure it with some of the higher specifications — but of course, it will get pricier as you go.

There’s no denying that this machine is as sleek and gorgeous as it comes, and with its powerful internals, it can be great for professionals and grad students in need of extra computing power.

  • Known for its sleek and beautiful design
  • Well-known series of reliable laptops
  • Option with beautiful OLED display is available
  • Powerful internals available
  • Pretty good battery life
  • Some configurations can get quite pricey
  • GPU options are somewhat underwhelming
  • USB C only — you’ll need adapters and dongles to use other connectors

Dell XPS 15

MacBook Pro 16 - The Best Apple Laptop for Creatives

  • Display: Liquid Retina XDR, 16.2-inch, 3456×2234, 254 pixels per inch, adaptive refresh rates reaching 120Hz
  • GPU options: Integrated graphics with the Apple M1 Pro (16-core GPU) and M1 Max (32-core GPU) chips
  • Operating system: macOS Monterey
  • Processor options:  Apple M1 Pro or Apple M1 Max
  • Memory: 16GB to 64GB
  • Storage (all SSD):  512GB, 1TB, configurable up to 8TB
  • Battery: 100Wh; according to Apple, up to 21hrs of Apple TV app playback or 14hrs of wireless web use
  • Ports: SD card slot, 3 Thunderbolt 4 USB C (supporting charging and DisplayPort), 3.5mm headphone jack, HDMI port, MagSafe 3 charging

The Apple MacBook Pro 16 comes in three models, although you can choose to add configurations to each for extra cost. On Paper, the MacBook’s specs may look like it’s not as powerful as some other options, but trust us when we say the Apple M1 and M2 chips are extremely powerful. Some of them are at the top of every benchmark list, beating out any Intel and AMD chip from the same generation.

These MacBook batteries are legendary, the laptops are sleek and premium, and you’ll absolutely enjoy the sheer power under your fingertips whenever you need to run heavy workloads. The price, of course, can be quite the deterrent — but you should know that MacBooks tend to last years and can often resell at decent rates if you eventually decide to upgrade.

  • Apple’s M1 chips are seriously powerful yet energy-efficient tech
  • Excellent battery life
  • Great audio
  • SD card reader
  • HDMI port available — no dongle necessary!
  • Beautiful display
  • 1080p webcam
  • MacBook keyboards are now back to being good
  • Massive and extremely responsive trackpad that many pros love
  • Not the lightest — can weigh as much as five pounds
  • Upgrading your configuration can cost a lot more
  • Camera notch (some people get used to it, YMMV)
  • M1 Max might not be as great value as the M1 Pro chip – choose your configuration wisely

Worth Considering: 14-inch MacBook Pro or M2 MacBook Pros

If the 16-inch MacBook Pro is too large for you to carry around comfortably, you can consider the MacBook Pro 14  for similar specifications in a smaller profile. You can choose either the M1 Pro or M1 Max chip, though be aware that all specifications upgrades cost extra.

Alternatively, you can consider one of the smaller 13-inch MacBook Pros , which have recently been updated and now come with Apple’s proprietary M2 chip for even more processing power and even better battery life. The downside is you’ll likely miss the extra screen real estate on the 14 and 16-inch machines, but if you need your laptop to be extra portable, 13.3-inch retina displays can certainly do.

Buy the Macbook Pro 16

Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio - The Best 2-in-1 Machine for Ultimate Portability

  • Display: 14.4-inch touchscreen, up to 120Hz
  • Integrated Intel Iris XE in i5 models
  • Nvidia RTX 3050 Ti 4GB in i7 models
  • Operating system: Windows 11 Home
  • Processor options:  11th Gen Intel H35 i5-11300H or H35 i7-11370H
  • Memory: 16GB or 32GB
  • Storage (all SSD):  256GB, 512GB, 1TB, 2TB
  • Battery: 58Wh
  • Ports: 2 Thunderbolt 4 USB C ports, 1 headphone jack, and more

The Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio is unique, thanks to its one-of-a-kind design that allows users to use it in tablet or laptop form. It’s still not the cheapest machine on this list, but it is one of the more powerful ones that graduate students and professionals alike can enjoy for years after purchase.

This laptop works well for those looking for pen input , as it works and plays well with Microsoft’s Slim Pen 2 (sold separately). Need to take quick notes or draw/paint on your machine? This laptop makes it easy!

  • Unique design that allows you to use your machine as a tablet or a laptop
  • Great keyboard
  • Haptic touchpad is an excellent addition
  • 120Hz display ensures quick response
  • Stylus support plus magnetic holder
  • Great battery life
  • Can get quite pricey
  • There are only two USB ports
  • Performance can be underwhelming, even with the upgraded CPU and GPU

Buy the Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio

Best Laptops for Grad Students Looking for Ultra Portability

Dell XPS 13 - The Best Windows Ultraportable for Graduate Students

  • Display: 13.4-inch FHD+ (1920×1200) non-touch, anti-glare, 500 nits brightness
  • GPU options: Integrated Intel Iris XE
  • Operating system: Windows 11 Home or Pro
  • Processor options:  12th Gen i5-1230U or i7-1250U
  • Memory: 8GB to 32GB
  • Storage (all SSD): 512GB (i5), 512GB, or 1TB (i7)
  • Battery: 51Wh
  • Ports: 2 Thunderbolt 4 USB C

The Dell XPS 13 is the smaller edition of the XPS15, but that doesn’t mean it compromises on power. You won’t be able to expect as much raw power from this machine, but it is still plenty capable — and much more portable. This beautiful machine has an excellent battery life and a beautiful screen. You may opt to add upgrades and configure your machine to be more powerful at extra cost.

Note that there is also an XPS 13 Plus if you want even more power and choice upgrades like capacitative touch buttons instead of function keys.

  • The touchpad is now larger and better
  • Gorgeous display with really slim bezels
  • Excellent battery life for great portability
  • Small and compact
  • Not the lightest but still decent at 2.91lbs (may vary depending on configuration)
  • Webcam is mediocre
  • This generation is pricier than the previous
  • Ports are limited

Buy the Dell XPS 13

MacBook Air M2 - The Best Apple Ultraportable for Graduate Students

  • Display options: Liquid retina display, 13.6-inch, 2560×1664, notch , 224 pixels per inch, 500 nits brightness
  • GPU options: Integrated graphics with the Apple M2, 8 or 10-core
  • Processor options:  Apple M2
  • Memory: 8GB, upgradeable to 16GB or 24GB
  • Storage (all SSD):  256GB upgradeable to 512, 1TB, or 2TB; 512GB upgradeable to 1TB or 2TB
  • Battery: 52.6Wh; according to Apple, up to 18hrs of Apple TV app playback or 15hrs of wireless web use
  • Ports: Magsafe 3, 2 Thunderbolt 4 USB-C, 1 headphone jack

The MacBook Air was recently updated with the M2 chip and a new sleek appearance. Its price went up slightly, but it’s still one of the best ultrabooks out on the market today. The MacBook Air is incredibly light and has an extra impressive battery life, yet it still packs enough punch to do some graphic design work and light video editing.

If you’ve always liked your laptops in black, you’ll enjoy the new Midnight option for these laptops.

  • Beautiful, improved design, no more taper (if that’s something you cared about in previous versions)
  • Insane battery life thanks to the powerful yet energy-efficient M2 chip
  • Cam at 1080p, an improvement over previous gen
  • Beautiful and bright 13.6-inch display
  • One of the best ultrabooks available today
  • Even pricier than the previous version (you can get a Pro for only a few hundred more)
  • Screen notch
  • Can only support one external monitor

Worth Considering: MacBook Air M1

Although the MacBook Air M2s have been recently released, we do believe that the MacBook Airs with the M1 chips are still worth the mention. The M1 chip is a powerful piece of hardware that helps the MacBook Air perform extremely well. M1 MacBook Airs  are perfectly capable of multitasking as well as some photo editing and graphic design. It can even handle some light video editing. It’s worth mentioning the M1 Air also boasts excellent battery life, though not as good as the more efficient M2 models.

Needless to say, if you don’t feel you’ll need the extra processing power of the M2, you can probably save a fair bit of money by purchasing the M1 MacBook Air instead.

Buy the MacBook Air M2

Microsoft Surface Pro X  – A More Affordable 2-in-1 Machine for Grad Students

Microsoft Surface Pro X - A More Affordable 2-in-1 Machine for Grad Students

  • Display options: 13-inch PixelSense Display, touch, 267 pixels per inch, 2880×1920
  • GPU options: Microsoft SQ 1 Adreno 685 GPU/Microsoft SQ 2 Adreno 690 GPU
  • Operating system: Windows 10 Home on ARM
  • Processor options:   Microsoft SQ 1/Microsoft SQ 2
  • Memory: 8GB or 16GB
  • Storage (all SSD):  128GB, 256GB, 512GB
  • Battery: According to Microsoft, up to 15 hours of standard use
  • Ports: 2x USB C ports and more

The Surface Pro X is a more affordable 2-in-1 machine that also works with the Microsoft Slim Pen (sold separately). This device is more tablet than laptop, and it may not always be able to run all software (check specifications and system requirements to ensure necessary software will run on this machine before you buy it!). However, with its battery life and decent internals, the Surface Pro X is another good option for grad students on the go.

  • Will be able to upgrade to Windows 11
  • Really thin and light profile makes it an excellent portable machine
  • Works extremely well with the Surface Pen (stylus)
  • Great battery life of up to fifteen hours, depending on use
  • You need to buy the stylus and type cover separately (balloons the price)
  • No slot for microSD cards — storage not expandable

Buy the Microsoft Surface Pro X

Best Mid-Range Laptops for Grad School

MSI Modern 14 - The Best Mid-Range Windows Ultraportable for Grad Students (Tie)

  • Display options: 14-inch IPS display, FHD 1080p
  • GPU options: Intel UHD graphics, Nvidia Geforce MX330 2GB, Nvidia Geforce MX350 2GB
  • Operating system: Windows 10 Home, Windows 10 Pro, Free Upgrade to Windows 11
  • Processor options:   Up to 10th Gen Intel i7 U
  • Memory: Up to 32GB
  • Battery: 39Wh or 52Wh
  • Ports: 1x Type-C USB3.2 Gen2, 2x Type-A USB2.0, 1x Micro SD Card Reader, 1x HDMI™ (4K @ 30Hz)

The MSI Modern 14 won’t be the best laptop you’ve ever owned, but it features capable internals, a great design, and excellent features for its price. MSI is a decently reliable brand for hardware, and you can expect to use your machine for years upon purchase.

  • Beautiful design and comes with a backlit keyboard
  • Battery life is decent, but not the best
  • Portable and light
  • Has some decent ports
  • Not the best speakers
  • Display color accuracy is so-so, not for designers or artists
  • Some issues with wireless audio latency

Buy the MSI Modern 14

Acer TravelMate P6 - The Best Mid-Range Windows Ultraportable for Grad Students (Tie)

  • GPU options: Intel UHD graphics
  • Operating system: Windows 10 Pro
  • Processor options:   Intel i5-10310U, i5-8265U
  • Memory: 8GB, upgradable up to 24GB
  • Storage:  256GB SSD
  • Battery: Up to 23 hours with fast charging
  • Ports: Dual USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C Thunderbolt 4 ports

The Acer TravelMate P6 won’t win any awards when it comes to design or power, but where it can win you over is its amazing battery life. Some users report getting two workdays worth of battery out of their machine before they have to charge up. This mid-range laptop is likely enough if you don’t intend to do anything too heavy, and the best part is it’s quite affordable!

There are newer versions with more power, but they do get a fair bit more expensive, so we chose this capable model instead.

  • Thin, light, yet durable build
  • Lots of ports to select from
  • Decent performance for its price
  • Acer, as a brand, does not have the best reputation when it comes to reliability, but your mileage may vary
  • Design is just okay
  • Lots of bloatware you’ll have to deal with
  • Touchpad is mediocre

Buy the Acer TravelMate P6

Best Budget Laptops for Graduate Students

Lenovo ideapad 3  – the best budget laptop for graduate students.

Lenovo IdeaPad 3 - The Best Budget Laptop for Graduate Students

  • Display options: 15.6-in HD Touchscreen (1366×768) — not  1080p
  • Operating system: Windows 11
  • Processor options:  11th Gen Intel i3-1115G4
  • Battery: 7 hours average
  • Ports: 2 x USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-A, 1 x USB 2.0 Type-A, 1 x HDMI, 1 x Combination Audio Jack, 1 x Multi-format SD Media Card Reader, Wireless-AC WiFi 5 + Bluetooth Combo

For its price, the Lenovo IdeaPad 3 offers excellent value for money. You’ll get a decent battery life, a minimum of 8GB of RAM, and an SSD over an HDD. It doesn’t look half bad, either, and you even get a number pad if you need to work with numbers often.

  • Works well, does the job for most productivity tasks
  • Sturdy and reliable design
  • Decent keyboard and touchpad
  • Many ports are included for connectivity
  • Fingerprint scanner for security
  • RAM is upgradable, but do it at your own risk!
  • Speakers are so-so
  • Somewhat lackluster display

Buy the Lenovo IdeaPad 3

Microsoft Surface Go 3  – The Most Affordable 2-in-1 Windows Tablet/Laptop for Grad Students

Microsoft Surface Go 3 - The Most Affordable 2-in-1 Windows Tablet/Laptop for Grad Students

  • Display options: 10.5in PixelSense display, FHD 1080p, touchscreen, Corning Gorilla Glass 3
  • GPU options: Intel UHD Graphics 615
  • Operating system: Windows 11 Home S
  • Processor options:  2-Core Intel Pentium Gold 6500Y, 2-Core 10th Gen Intel i3-10100Y
  • Memory: 4GB or 8GB
  • Storage:  64GB eMMC drive or 128 GB SSD
  • Battery: Up to 11 hours on WiFi or 10.5 hours on LTE
  • Ports: 1 x USB-C, 3.5 mm headphone jack, 1 x Surface Connect port, Surface Type Cover port

If you want the ultimate in portability, or if you’re looking for a secondary device to use when you aren’t at your main workstation, the Microsoft Surface Go 3 may be a good option. It works well with the Surface Pen (sold separately), and you can also get the type cover to turn your tablet into a laptop. This machine runs on Windows 11 (S) and is a great option for grad students on the go who need a small portable for email and word processing.

  • Battery life is not the best, but you can charge it with a power bank through USB-C
  • One of the most portable devices on this list, works great as a secondary device
  • On the affordable end of the spectrum
  • Runs Windows 11
  • Not a very powerful machine; look elsewhere if you need more power
  • Accessories (keyboard, stylus) must be purchased separately
  • Smaller screen makes it not the best choice for heavy use

Buy the Microsoft Surface Go 3

Best Laptops for Grad Students Who Also Like to Game

Razer Blade 15 - The Best Gaming Laptop for Grad Students

  • Display options: 144Hz UHD/240Hz QHD at 100% P3 color gamut or 360Hz FHD at 100% sRGB color gamut
  • GPU options: Graphics up to Nvidia RTX 3080Ti
  • Processor options:  12th gen intel i7-12800H or i9-12900HK
  • Memory: Configurable RAM; 16 or 32GB DDR5, upgrades to 64GB
  • Storage:  1TB SSD, upgrades to 2TB
  • Ports: USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-A and C ports, Thunderbolt 4 port (USB Type-C)
  • For more information, click here

Razer is a brand that first got its start in the gaming scene as a company selling peripherals. It became extremely popular over time for its mice, keyboards, microphones, webcams, and headphones, though it is now also releasing even more new products geared towards gamers and streamers.

But what does that mean for you as a grad student?

Gaming laptops tend to have powerful internals that allow them to handle running video games. That raw power also translates into other activities, such as productivity or multimedia use. You’ll likely be able to use the Razer Blade 15 as a portable workstation, especially since it can handle multitasking tasks with ease. The main issue you’d probably run into is the battery life — but that’s a tradeoff you might be willing to make for what this laptop can do.

Quite honestly, the Razer Blade 15 might be a bit overkill if you’re looking for the best laptop for doctoral students and just happen to want to game on the side, too. They’re configurable, so you can set yours up with the specifications you want, but Razer as a brand does add a premium to the price for their name. You can also consider purchasing a previous version of the Razer Blade 15 with the 20-series video cards rather than the 30-series, as you can save a significant amount of money this way. Alternatively, you can look to other brands that offer powerful gaming laptops.

  • Several configuration options allow you to customize the machine to your liking
  • Sleek and beautiful appearance for a gaming laptop
  • Doubles as an extra-powerful ultrabook
  • Powerful internals allow gaming and the ultimate in productivity and multimedia use
  • Very pricey — you pay a premium for the name
  • Razer doesn’t have the best reputation when it comes to its peripherals, though there aren’t as many complaints about its machines
  • Battery life is not as good as other portables

Buy the Razer Blade 15

What to Look For in a Laptop for Grad Students

If you’re not particularly tech-savvy, shopping around for a laptop can feel quite intimidating. You’ll see all sorts of words and numbers that will probably be nothing more than tech garble to you. So what exactly do the specifications mean?

In this guide, we break down what to look for as you hunt for the best laptop for grad school . Consider the criteria below:

Processor (CPU)

Think of it this way — an engine is what makes your car go. In your laptop, the engine is your CPU (central processing unit) or your processor. It’s the component that handles all of the tasks you need to do, from running the operating system to powering the apps and programs you use.

There are many different models of CPU, some more powerful than others. The kind you need will depend entirely on what sort of tasks you intend to do with your computer. If it’s just lighter tasks, general productivity, and word processing, you don’t need to have the most powerful CPU available. Gaming and creative work will, unfortunately, require you to have a more powerful (and more expensive) CPU.

There are far too many models to choose from to give you a full guide here, but it’s safe to say you should probably stay within the big three brands: Intel (for example, Core i3, i5, i7, and i9 each more powerful than the last), AMD (such as Ryzen 3, 5, 7, and 9), and Apple (M1, M2 chips).

Graphics (GPU)

Without a GPU or graphics processing unit, you won’t have a display — your monitor simply won’t have anything to show you. All laptops need a GPU.

In most laptops, you’ll find that the CPU handles graphical tasks with its integrated  graphics. An example of integrated graphics would be Intel Iris XE and Iris Plus,  which often come with Intel CPUs. Many Apple MacBooks use the M1 or M2’s integrated graphics, as well. Integrated graphics aren’t bad by any means — in most cases, they are more than capable of handling the tasks you need. It’s when you need to start using heavy graphics and video editing apps or when you want to start gaming that these integrated graphics start to buckle.

If you intend to use your laptop for creative-type work or gaming, you’ll likely want a discrete GPU. A discrete GPU is an entirely separate piece of hardware devoted solely to meeting your graphical needs. The most popular example of GPUs is the Nvidia GeForce video cards, which are now in the 30 series (with the 40 series on the horizon). You’ll see specifications like Nvidia GeForce 3050 or Nvidia GeForce 3070 Ti, and so on — those are discrete graphics. The series goes 3050, 3050 Ti, 3060, 3060 Ti, 3070, 3070 Ti, 3080, 3080Ti, 3090, and the most powerful, 3090 Ti. AMD has its own series of GPUs.

Laptops generally run a specifically designed version of the above cards so that they can be more power efficient and run less hot — both necessary features for a laptop (which has a battery and lacks the cooling capabilities of a larger desktop).

Choosing the GPU you want in your laptop comes down to what tasks you need to do now  and the tasks you foresee doing in the future. However, unless you’re doing heavy graphic design, video editing, or 3D rendering work, integrated graphics will probably do for you. If you intend to use your laptop as a gaming machine in your off time, opt for a discrete GPU.

Editor’s note:  The MacBook Air (M1 and M2)  are powerful laptops with integrated graphics, but both are quite capable of handling photo and video editing to a degree — they may suit you if you want a powerful machine without compromising ultra portability!

Memory (RAM)

RAM, or random access memory, is your computer’s short-term memory. It’s responsible for holding data for files and apps you are currently running, so if you don’t have enough RAM, you’ll find your laptop lagging and slowing down.

When it comes to RAM, the general rule is — the more, the better! However, you should aim for a minimum of 8GB, as this is the lowest amount you can get to be comfortable and not lag. You might  be able to squeeze by with 4GB if you only intend to do light tasks and general productivity, especially if you’re using a tablet hybrid (like the Microsoft Surface models). But you’ll still likely want more, especially if you have a habit of running a ton of browser tabs at once.

Storage (HDD or SSD)

Storage is your computer’s long-term memory. Back in the day, we only had hard disk drives. They functioned well and were cheap to buy, but could get unreliable and tended to be on the slow side. SSDs, or Solid State Drives, are becoming the norm — these drives are faster, more reliable, smaller profiles, and are getting more and more affordable. You’ll probably want an SSD over an HDD, though some machines have a small SSD for your operating system and other important programs and  an HDD for actual file storage.

Storage usually comes in different capacities, with the most common being 128 GB, 256 GB, 512 GB, 1TB, and 2 TB. 128GB and 256GB are likely not going to be enough for you unless you don’t do much more than word processing (and even then, you may run out). Aim for a minimum of 512GB. At worst, you can always get an external drive to give you extra storage.

Aesthetics are quite subjective as everyone has different tastes. You’ll probably want to choose a laptop that looks good to you since you’ll be looking at it practically every day. Unless, of course, you value function over form and simply don’t care.

Of course, there’s more than looks to consider when it comes to a laptop’s design.  You’ll probably still want to look at whether a machine meets your desire for portability — is it light enough, thin enough, or small enough? And what about the actual design decisions that the manufacturer made? How easy is the laptop to use? Will you have trouble with the webcam placement, the port locations, and so on?

Battery Life

People are lucky to be living in this decade — only a decade or so ago, laptops tended to have extremely disappointing battery life, with some topping out at barely over an hour. But now, thanks to the advancements that have been made not just in battery technology but also in the chips that go into a laptop’s internals, many machines sip energy. The result? You get laptops that can last you a solid workday and maybe even more.

Consider battery life as you hunt for the perfect laptop for grad school . Do you think you’ll be away from a power outlet often? Will you be using your laptop in the field more than not? Adequate battery life can make or break a laptop and your whole experience.

While you’re at it, consider whether you’d like to have the option of charging from a portable power pack or power bank. Some laptops that take USB-C charging, such as MacBooks, can be charged from a compatible power bank. Just make sure your power bank has the right wattage and PD (power delivery) and that you have a compatible cable rated to deliver the right amount of power.

Editor’s note: If you intend to do heavy graphics-intensive tasks with your laptop, expect to have lower battery life on any machine. Of course, some might have longer battery life than others, depending on the machine’s rated capacity.

Not everyone cares to have an amazing display, so if you’re not particularly bothered, just look for a bright enough display at a 1080p or Full HD minimum. Your laptop needs to have a bright enough screen if you intend to use it in any sort of bright room or outdoors. At a minimum, we’d suggest 250-300 nits of brightness. Otherwise, you’ll struggle to see your screen if the ambient light is too bright.

If you care about resolution, there are now many options out there. You have MacBooks with retina screens and some machines with UHD or QHD screens. There are even machines with 4K screens — but we advise you to stay away from those unless you have an express need for them. Choose the resolution that suits your needs best.

Hertz or Hz is the unit of measurement used to denote how responsive your display is, also known as the refresh rate. Higher refresh rates correspond to a higher frequency of times your display updates an image onscreen. You’ll see 60Hz, 120Hz, 144Hz, 240Hz, and even 360Hz, but unless you intend to game, you probably won’t really need much above 120Hz. The majority of machines have 60Hz screens, while more are now shifting towards 120Hz. Screens 144Hz and above tend to be on gaming laptops.

If you’d like to know more about refresh rates, you can see Intel’s article here .

Ports and Connectivity

You need to be able to do everything you need to do with your machine, which is why it only makes sense to ensure that it has the ports and connectivity you’ll need to use regularly.

Consider whether a machine has enough USB ports for you or if you’re willing to compromise by purchasing a dongle to add more ports. Ask yourself whether you need a built-in HDMI port for regular presentations or connecting to an external display. You might also want to see whether you care about having an ethernet port for a hardwired connection.

There are other things you can consider, such as if you want a 3.5mm (headphone/mic) jack or if you want an SD/microSD card slot. You’ll also want to consider whether you need WiFi and Bluetooth (both are generally standard in most machines these days) and if you’d like to have additional 4G/LTE/5G connectivity for mobile broadband solutions.

If a machine doesn’t have the ports and connectivity you need, you may need to move on to other options.

Additional Features

Beyond looking at the major criteria listed above, you can also consider things including but not limited to:

  • Trackpad – How intuitive is it to use? How responsive and accurate is it? Mediocre trackpads can really get frustrating.
  • Keyboard – Is it well designed and built enough to be comfortable to use for hours? You can also consider if you care about backlighting or not.
  • Webcam – Some webcams are only 720p, which can mean grainy, low-resolution images of you on conference calls. If you want a clearer cam feed, 1080p is your friend. You’ll also want to check where the camera is located — most are above your display, but some laptops have it on the bottom of your screen near the hinge for some reason. Not a very flattering angle, if you ask us.

Do You Need to Buy Additional Accessories?

In some cases, you may need to buy additional accessories if you want your device to function more like a laptop. This is true for devices like the Microsoft Surface Go 3 or the Microsoft Surface Pro X, which are both essentially tablets running on Windows 11. To use these Microsoft Devices as laptops, you’ll need to buy the keyboard attachment (or an alternative Bluetooth/wireless keyboard), which can bump up the cost.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do i need a laptop for a master’s.

Most likely, especially if you are earning an online master’s degree or if you are working on completing your thesis. Most grad students will probably need access to a computer at some point, especially if they need to do research or have to work assistantships. You won’t always need the best laptops for master students; sometimes, you can get by with a capable tablet or a powerful iPad — especially if your major or line of work doesn’t require too much work done on the computer.

What Is the Most Reliable Laptop for Students?

There are quite a few reliable laptop brands and laptops. Generally, Lenovo/ThinkPad laptops tend to be quite reliable, making them the choice of many companies and people working in the field of business. Many people also swear by Apple’s line of MacBooks, whether it’s the MacBook Air or the Pro. Apple’s most recent MacBook offerings have amazing battery life, capable internals, and sport sleek and beautiful designs — and they resell at decent prices if you ever decide to replace yours!

How Much Should I Spend on a Laptop for Graduate School?

Your budget will depend on what you need the laptop for. If you just need a basic laptop that has most of the functionalities but doesn’t need to be too powerful, you can spend $500 or less. If you need a bit more power to go with your purchase, expect to spend anywhere from $500 to $1,000. More powerful or niche laptops (ultrabooks, gaming laptops, 2-in-1 machines, etc.) will generally run you $1,000 to $2,000. Some laptops can cost upwards of $3,000, depending on the configuration you choose.

Also, consider setting your budget and adding a little wiggle room to help you “future-proof” your purchase. For example, buy the slightly more powerful configuration rather than the basic model, as this can help ensure your machine can continue to handle various tasks for the next few years.

Which Laptop is Best for Grad School?

The answer to this question is purely subjective, as what is best for others may not be best for you, and vice versa. What you need will depend on your intended use for the machine — will it be used mostly for word processing, emailing, and general productivity tasks? Or are you going to need to put your laptop through its paces with heavy multitasking and software use?

If you are just going to be using your machine for general productivity and word processing, you can probably get by with the MSI Modern 14 or Acer TravelMate P6. If you’re really on a budget, you can consider the Microsoft Surface Go 3.

For an ultraportable, try the MacBook Air M1 or M2 or the Dell XPS 13.

If you want the best laptop for a graduate student who does a lot of heavy multitasking, graphic design, video editing, and the like, you might want to check out the MacBook Pro 14/16 or the Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio.

In our opinion (and despite the hefty price tag), the best graduate laptop overall is the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 9 and 10. You can’t go wrong with one of these — they’ll last you for years if you can get past the initial financial outlay.

When it comes to shopping for the best laptops for graduate students, always remember to consider your needs first and foremost. Think of what you intend to use the laptop for, set your budget, and start looking for laptops within those parameters. Don’t forget to consider the battery life you need, especially if you have to be away from power outlets often.

You might also want to consider stretching your budget where possible to “future-proof” your purchase, so your grad school laptop can turn into your graduation laptop!

We hope that this list of the best laptops for graduate students has helped you find the right machine for your needs. Happy shopping!

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Our Top 5 Laptop Picks for Graduate Students

best phd laptops

  • Dell XPS 13 The Dell XPS 13 is a crowd favorite for a reason. With its lightweight design and powerful performance, it’s the perfect laptop for grad students. It comes equipped with an Intel Core i7 processor, 16GB of RAM, and a 512GB solid-state drive, making it ideal for multitasking and storing large amounts of data. Additionally, the XPS 13 has a long battery life, allowing you to work for hours on end without worrying about running out of power.
  • Apple MacBook Pro br The Apple MacBook Pro is a classic choice for students in general, and it’s no different for graduate students. It features a great looking Retina display, the powerful Apple M2 chip, and up to 16 GB of RAM. With its thin and lightweight design, it’s easy to carry around campus or take to coffee shops for study sessions. Additionally, the MacBook Pro has a long battery life and it operating system is, MacOS, is known for its smooth and efficient user experience.
  • Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon can be seen as a reliable tank for common graduate student mishaps. It has a durable carbon-fiber frame and spill-resistant keyboard, making it ideal for those who need to work in less-than-ideal conditions. It also features an Intel Core i7 processor, 16GB of RAM, and a 512GB solid-state drive, allowing for smooth multitasking and quick data access. Finally, the ThinkPad X1 Carbon has a long battery life, helping you stay productive all day long.
  • Microsoft Surface Book 3 The Microsoft Surface Book 3 is a versatile laptop that’s perfect for graduate students who need to switch between laptop and tablet mode. It features a detachable touchscreen display and stylus pen, which makes it easy to take notes and sketch out ideas. Additionally, it comes equipped with an Intel Core i7 processor, up to 32 GB of RAM, and a solid-state drive of up to 1TB, which makes it ideal for data-intensive tasks.
  • HP Spectre x360 The HP Spectre x360 is a stylish and powerful laptop that’s perfect for graduate students who want a device that’s both functional and aesthetically pleasing. With its 10th Gen Intel Core i7 processor, 16GB of RAM, and 512GB solid-state drive, it’s capable of handling demanding tasks. Additionally, it features a 360-degree hinge, which allows you to convert it into a tablet or tent mode for maximum versatility.

Choosing the right laptop for graduate school is important. You need a device that is reliable, powerful, and able to handle the demands of research, data analysis, and writing. A closing tip is to check out websites like NewEgg where you can find steep discounts and, if you need them, reasonable finance options. The laptops we’ve listed above are the best laptops for graduate students, combining power, versatility, and durability. No matter which one you choose, you’ll be well-equipped to tackle the challenges of graduate school and beyond.

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  • Electronics

The Best Laptops for College Students

An ASUS Zenbook open to a Kant essay sitting on a green background among textbooks, pen, and paper.

College is expensive—including tuition, housing, and textbooks, not to mention food and other miscellaneous costs. So students need a reliable laptop that’ll last for years of taking notes, writing papers at 3 in the morning, and editing slides for a group project. But choosing the right laptop can be more challenging than writing a thousand words on Proust.

We test dozens of laptops every year, and for this guide we’ve rounded up the picks from our other guides that are the best for students. A laptop’s price-to-performance ratio is the most important factor, followed by its battery life, its size and weight, and its keyboard and trackpad. Our top pick offers the best balance of all those factors for high school and college students, whether they’re attending classes remotely or schlepping it to a physical classroom.

We also have more-portable picks, if you’re able to spend more. And for anyone on a tighter budget, we have less expensive options that are also well suited for younger kids. To achieve their more-affordable price tags, these cheaper options all make serious trade-offs—in shorter battery life, bulkier size, or more-limited functionality—and they’re not likely to last as long as our picks. If you’re a film or photography student and you need a laptop for photo and video editing , or if you want a laptop that can also play games , we have picks for you, too.

The research

Our pick: asus zenbook 14 oled, a windows upgrade: hp spectre x360 13.5, mac options: macbook air, budget chromebook pick: lenovo ideapad flex 5i chromebook plus, budget windows pick: acer aspire 3 spin 14 (a3sp14-31pt), budget tablet pick: apple ipad.

best phd laptops

Asus Zenbook 14″ OLED (UM3402YA-WS51T)

The best value.

The Zenbook 14 is the best laptop you can get for the price. But its build quality isn’t as nice, and it won’t perform as well in a few years as our top picks.

Buying Options

best phd laptops

Asus Zenbook 14″ OLED (UM3402YA-WS74T)

This version of the Zenbook 14 performs just as well as our top pick, but it costs a couple hundred dollars more than the base model.

Recommended configuration

Who these are for: Budget ultrabooks—thin and light laptops with good performance and long battery life and a price tag in the $700 to $800 range—are ideal for high school and college students because they provide the best value. These cheaper ultrabooks tend to make minor trade-offs compared with ultrabooks over $1,000: They may be a bit larger and heavier, may not last quite as long on a charge, may feel less sturdy or solid, or may lack convenient features such as a fingerprint reader or USB-C charging. But even with those drawbacks, budget ultrabooks still provide far better performance and overall quality compared with $500 laptops.

Our top Ultrabook budget pick, the Asus Zenbook 14 OLED, shown open to a pink zebra pattern desktop.

Why we like this one: Most high school or college students shopping for a laptop to last through graduation should get the Asus Zenbook 14 OLED, either the base model with 8 GB of memory or the version with 16 GB of memory . It’s powerful and portable enough to use for a full day of classes, and it has a vivid screen and a solid keyboard and trackpad. Unlike most cheap ultrabooks, the Zenbook 14 is sturdy and equipped with a fingerprint reader, and it comes with a USB-C charger, which you can use to charge more devices and is generally cheaper to replace than specialty non–USB-C chargers. If you spend around $400 more for the HP Spectre x360 13.5, you get a sleeker, nicer laptop with a better webcam and potentially more memory. But for most students, those differences aren’t worth the $400.

You can read more about the Asus Zenbook 14 OLED and our other picks in our guide to Windows ultrabooks .

Upgrade pick

best phd laptops

HP Spectre x360 13.5″

The best ultrabook.

The Spectre x360 offers excellent battery life, a tall touchscreen, and a reliable keyboard and trackpad. It’s also thin and light enough to slip in a bag and take anywhere.

Who these are for: If you’re willing and able to pay more, get an ultrabook, which is a laptop with a great keyboard, screen, and battery life, as well as enough power to do everything most people need a computer for. It’s also thin, light, and portable. Because great ultrabooks provide a better experience and last longer than cheaper alternatives, they can cost more than many students are able to spend on a laptop—expect to pay between $1,100 and $1,300 for a great one that will last for years. But they lack the processing power to play high-end games or to handle demanding tasks like video editing or 3D modeling.

The HP Spectre x360 showing an abstract homescreen, sitting against a green background.

Why we like this one: The HP Spectre x360 13.5 has the best balance of what makes an ultrabook great: It offers fast performance, battery life for a full day of classes, a tall aspect ratio screen that’s ideal for browsing the web and writing papers, and a quality keyboard and trackpad. And if you take any classes remotely, the Spectre has the best webcam we tested this year. It also has a 360-degree hinge that lets you flip the touchscreen all the way around to use it as a tablet, and some models come with an active stylus for taking notes. The Spectre x360 13.5 isn’t as light or compact as some other Windows ultrabooks, but at 3 pounds it’s certainly not heavy, either. It ships with too much bloatware, but that’s easy to uninstall when the laptop arrives.

You can read more about the HP Spectre x360 13.5 and our other picks in our guide to Windows ultrabooks .

best phd laptops

Apple MacBook Air (M1, 2020)

Performance for a great price.

The M1 MacBook Air has a comfortable keyboard, good performance, and a reasonable amount of storage—things that haven’t always been true of previous MacBook Airs.

With clipped on-page coupon

best phd laptops

Apple MacBook Air (M2, 2022, 13″)

A sleek design and a nice webcam.

The 2022 M2 MacBook Air offers an updated design, a brighter screen, and a better webcam, and it restores the fan-favorite MagSafe port.

Use promo code APINSIDER (select colors)

Who these are for: If you prefer macOS or need exceptional tech support , a MacBook is a safe bet; the 13-inch models usually offer the best combination of size, weight, and speed. They’re great for most types of schoolwork, including writing, researching, and basic video and photo editing and coding. Once you factor in Apple’s education discount , you can get one with good enough specs and storage to last three to four years for less than $1,000. MacBooks are usually more expensive than Windows ultrabooks, especially if you want to upgrade the memory or storage; Apple’s SSD upgrade prices are so high that we usually recommend looking into cloud storage or an external SSD instead.

The 13-inch MacBook Air with Apple’s M1 processor, shown open to its desktop screen.

Why we liked this one: At $900 after an education discount, the 13-inch MacBook Air (M1, 2020) is Apple’s cheapest MacBook. If your budget can stretch another $100, we recommend the newer MacBook Air (M2, 2022, 13″) , which has a brighter screen, a superior webcam, and a MagSafe charging port. Both models are more than fast enough for web browsing, working on documents, and light photo and video editing, plus they can even handle professional work like 3D rendering or compiling code. They also have great keyboards and trackpads, as well as all-day battery life. Like Apple’s other laptops, the Air has only USB-C ports; you may need a USB-C hub for certain peripherals. But the Air’s light weight, solid construction, and industry-leading support make it a great laptop, especially if you also own an iPhone or other Apple devices.

For more details on our Mac picks, take a look at our full guide to MacBook models .

best phd laptops

Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 5i Chromebook Plus

The best chromebook.

Reliable performance, a spacious touch display, and long-enough battery life for a full workday make the Flex 5i the best Chromebook for the price. But it is a bit heavy.

Who these are for: Chromebooks are ideal for students who don’t need Windows or macOS for specific programs. A good Chromebook can do  almost anything a regular laptop can do , including document work, video calls, and streaming video—as long as it’s possible in a web browser or via Android apps. And $500 Chromebooks tend to be faster, lighter, and sleeker than similarly priced Windows laptops. Plus, Chromebooks are secure and easy to maintain . But Chromebooks may have trouble connecting to campus printers, and they can’t play Windows games. And they’re not good for people who need access to Mac or Windows apps for photo, video, or audio editing, or other specialized software.

The Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 5i Chromebook Plus open to an orange homescreen, sitting on a purple background.

Why we like this one: If you can complete all of your coursework on a Chromebook, we recommend the Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 5i Chromebook Plus because it has the best combination of features and price of all the models we tested. It has fast performance, a reliable keyboard and trackpad, a tall touchscreen, surprisingly good speakers, and enough battery life to last a full day of classes. But we wish it were lighter—at 3.6 pounds, it’s heavy for a 14-inch laptop.

For more options, you can read our full guide to Chromebooks .

Budget pick

best phd laptops

Acer Aspire 3 Spin 14 (A3SP14-31PT)

The best windows laptop under $500.

Unlike most cheap Windows laptops, the Aspire 3 Spin 14 is fast, compact, and light, and it has a decent 1080p touchscreen and good battery life.

Who these are for: If you need a Windows laptop for school and you can’t afford to spend a lot, you can find a decent one for less than $500, but you have to make some compromises. These models are best suited for grade-school or middle-school students, because most budget Windows laptops that are fast enough for school work tend to be bulky, heavy, and stuck with battery life that won’t last a full day of classes. You have to be extra-vigilant when shopping for a laptop in this price range to avoid slow or old processors, not enough memory, sluggish storage, and terrible, low-resolution displays.

A stock image of the Aspire 3 Spin 14 open to an abstract blue and green desktop wallpaper.

Why we like this one: The Acer Aspire 3 Spin 14 (A3SP14-31PT) in any of our recommended configurations ( 37NV , 38YA , or 32M6 ) is the best Windows laptop you can find for the price. But we strongly recommend saving up for our top pick if you can—it’s better in nearly every way.

The Aspire 3 Spin 14 is fast enough to meet most people’s computing needs, and its keyboard and trackpad are reliable. It also has a decent-looking 14-inch 1920×1200 touchscreen with a tall aspect ratio, as well as a 360-degree hinge that allows you to use the device as a tablet to take handwritten notes (if you have a stylus). Compared with most bulky Windows laptops in this price range, the Aspire 3 Spin 14 is also more compact, and it has long enough battery life to last a full day of classes.

The Aspire 3 Spin 14 ships with Windows 11 S mode, which allows only apps from the Microsoft Store and limits you to Microsoft Edge for web browsing. But you can switch it to Windows 11 Home for free to install any program you need. It also comes with a ton of bloatware; we recommend following these steps to get rid of it.

Choosing a budget laptop is tricky, because you can find hundreds of variations, their prices fluctuate constantly, and companies release and discontinue models with no warning. If our pick isn’t available, check our full guide for other available options and advice on how to shop for a budget laptop.

For additional details, you can read our full guide to budget laptops .

best phd laptops

Apple iPad (9th generation)

The best tablet for almost anyone.

With a large screen, a fast-enough processor, and Apple Pencil and Smart Keyboard support, the 9th-gen iPad offers the features most tablet users need.

Who these are for: Windows laptops and Chromebooks that cost around $300 are almost uniformly unpleasant to use—washed-out screens and crappy performance are the two biggest problems. A tablet isn’t good at all the things a laptop is good at, and if you’re taking programming classes or learning how to do high-end photo and video editing with apps such as Photoshop or Premiere, a tablet probably wouldn’t work for you. But if you mainly need to browse the internet, write papers, stream videos, draw, and take handwritten notes, an iPad can be a workable, inexpensive substitute for a traditional laptop. iPads feel faster than cheap laptops, they run the App Store’s huge selection of games (in addition to productivity apps), and their light weight makes them more convenient to use in bed or on a couch when your homework is done and you want to unwind.

an iPad (9th generation) with an Apple Pencil.

Why we like this one: The 10.2-inch Apple iPad (9th generation) isn’t as fast as the much-more-expensive iPad Pro models or the newer 10th-gen iPad, but it is responsive and pleasant to use, its screen is bright and colorful, it has good battery life, and the Apple Pencil is great for drawing or taking notes. And Apple has made big strides forward in keyboard and mouse support, which makes the iPad feel a lot more like a traditional laptop when you put it in a case and pair it to a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse (or one of Apple’s Magic Trackpads ). If you can afford it, and especially if your iPad will be your only computer, consider the 256 GB version instead of the 64 GB version; with that version, you’ll need to rely on cloud storage less, and you’ll have more space for apps and other files.

Head to our reviews of the best tablets and pro tablets to read more about our picks.

Meet your guide

best phd laptops

Kimber Streams

Kimber Streams is a senior staff writer and has been covering laptops, gaming gear, keyboards, storage, and more for Wirecutter since 2014. In that time they’ve tested hundreds of laptops and thousands of peripherals, and built way too many mechanical keyboards for their personal collection.

Further reading

Some of our picks for best laptop, placed around each other in a grid. Some of them are open and active while others are shut.

The Best Laptops

by Kimber Streams and Dave Gershgorn

From budget-friendly options to thin-and-light ultrabooks to powerful gaming laptops, we’ve spent hundreds of hours finding the best laptops for most people.

Our five picks for best backpack for college and high school students, shown in a row.

The Best Backpacks for College and High School Students

by Zoe Vanderweide

Our top backpack picks for the 2023-2024 school year include a sporty-looking ergonomic pack, a bag that’s nostalgic and timeless, and a polished workhorse.

A person sits upright on a bed, holding a coffee mug with a cat on it and smiling, close-lipped, at the camera

The Best College Dorm Essentials

by Wirecutter Staff

Our favorite durable-but-not-too-expensive bedding, accessories, kitchen gear, and tools for your dorm room.

Stack of laptops

What to Buy: A School Laptop Under $500 That Isn’t Junk

by Thorin Klosowski

To get a laptop that’s usable for most schoolwork, you need to spend at least $450 to $500. I’ve tested dozens of laptops, and here’s what I’d recommend.

The 15 Best Laptops For Grad Students

Find your perfect graduate degree.

best phd laptops

Students pursuing doctorate or master’s degrees deal with a truckload of paperwork! Professors require research papers, dissertations, or essays. These entail long hours of data gathering and a series of fact-checking methods. A laptop with high-quality performance that doesn’t give up any time of the day is what they need.

Regardless of the college student’s academic level, a portable electronic device, such as a laptop, is necessary to make learning a lot easier. About 90% of college students are in favor of using laptops in class because they find them useful for note-taking, researching, and other word processing.

A trusted laptop helps them accomplish all of these tasks. 

Key Features of a Good Laptop for Postgraduate Students

Postgraduate students, both in their studies and free time, will likely spend a ton of time looking at a computer screen, so with that in mind, getting the best screen you can afford will be key. Some people prefer a laptop with a matte screen, while others love glossy screens, but more important is the resolution and peak brightness of the screen.

You do not need to buy a 4K laptop! Screens between 13 and 17 inches don’t need to have a resolution better than 1440p to look amazing, but if you come across a laptop with less than a 1080p display, move on! So if you see 720p or a resolution where the second number is lower than 1000 pixels, then you know to stay away.

As for brightness, 250 nits of maximum brightness is the absolute minimum I’d recommend. Anything lower and in a bright room or outside, the screen will be totally washed out, so more is better here, and some machines come with screens that can go as high as 400 and 500 nits of brightness.

What is a Nit of Brightness?

A nit is a unit of measurement that equals one candela per square meter. So, what is a candela? A candela is the unit measurement for light intensity. So, a nit is how the eye interprets the brightness of a screen.

2. Keyboard

We recommend putting fingers to keys if possible and testing out the keyboard of the machine you are going to be using as you type pages and pages of documentation, messages, emails, and search for various articles; the last thing you want is to have your hands tire or endless spelling mistakes because the keys don’t feel quite right.

It is completely subjective, but most brands these days sell laptops with higher-end keyboards that will make an impact on your overall experience while using your laptop, especially over the course of the years of ownership.

3. Battery Life

Laptop manufacturers have been providing inflated battery life numbers for a very long time making it difficult to know if you are getting a good battery. However, typically buried somewhere in their technical specifications, you’ll find the capacity of the battery in Watt-hours.

I recommend not purchasing a laptop with less than 35 Wh of battery capacity, no matter how long they advertise it will last!

Don’t buy a laptop because it says it will last up to 20 hours because what they typically mean is that under ideal conditions, where you can barely see what’s on the screen, as well as many other compromises.

Battery life is one of the most frustrating purchasing metrics, but if you know you are going to need to be away from a power outlet for more than two or three hours at a time, it’s a feature to really take the time to research.

4. CPU and RAM

We are fortunate that computer processors, even laptops, have improved immensely over the last few years due to a high level of competition between the two key players, AMD and Intel, so choosing a processor is less stressful than ever.

If you are going to do difficult math calculations, physics simulations, or other complicated math, art, or video, then taking some time to make sure you have something from the higher end of the latest generation is key. Beyond that, almost any CPU will work well for typical workloads.

For RAM, you’ll want to stick to a very simple rule: more is better. I don’t recommend people get a laptop with less than 8GB of RAM. RAM is often not user upgradable, so what you buy today will likely be all the machine has. RAM often determines how many things you can run at one time and often comes in capacities between 4GB and 32GB. This is not storage on your machine, but there are tablets and some laptops with hard drives that are 32GB, even today, so make sure you are looking at the right specification.

The Best Laptops for Grad Students

Microsoft surface pro x.

best phd laptops

Microsoft Surface Pro is known for its versatility and has equipped this model with its own processor called the Microsoft SQ 1 and SQ 2.

Combined with a built-in GPU called the Adreno 685 or 690, depending on which model you choose, and either 8GB or 16GB of LPDDR4x.

The 13″ touchscreen display and high resolution of 2880 x 1920 pixels give you sharp text on a 3:2 aspect ratio, great for working on documents or viewing long web pages. For postgraduate students who require advanced digital-related reports, Microsoft Surface Pro X is something to consider.

The tablet-like form factor with a keyboard cover makes the Surface Pro X very portable, and the option to add a nan SIM to it provides cellular data connectivity options, even when you are out in the field.

The 38 Wh battery should provide enough for full-day use, and it’s advertised as being able to last around thirteen hours in ideal conditions.

Add a Surface Pen that allows you to draw, write, or sketch directly on the screen, providing versatility not found in many other devices on this list.

MacBook Pro 13″ – M1

best phd laptops

The MacBook Pro is being refreshed using their new Apple-built M1 processors, and the change is being highly regarded as a new golden age for Apple.

The 13″ MacBook Pro is the first to get this updated processor, but if you are reading this and the 15″ version now has an M1 or later Apple chip in it, pick up that one instead, as the better screen real estate will be beneficial.

Until then, the 13.3″ screen with its 2560 by 1600 resolution and 500 nits of peak brightness will have to do. You won’t feel hard done by with this well-designed, powerful machine. The 13″ MacBook Pro comes with a 58.2 Wh battery that provides full-day use and advertises up to 20 hours under ideal conditions. The base model comes with 8GB of RAM, but you can also get it in 16GB, which is what we’d recommend.

It comes with one of the best keyboards and trackpads in the market, and while people have mixed feelings about the touch bar, we think it could be useful for task switching as it’s a small touch screen with endless programmable buttons.

The MacBook Pro laptop comes with Wi-Fi 6, the latest in wireless networking standards, which will likely allow you to download or upload information faster than those using the more common standard wireless chips in most non-Apple laptops today.

Dell Precision 5750 Mobile Workstation

best phd laptops

Almost anything in Dell’s business or gaming line of laptops will work well for postgraduate students to do nearly any workload required of them. The advantage of their business line is that the build quality is better and protects the expensive components better than their consumer line.

The Dell Precision 5750 has a 17″ screen but doesn’t weigh you down like some other 17″ laptops on the market.

It comes in a wide variety of configurations from different CPUs, to different amounts of RAM and with integrated or discrete graphics, so what you get from this machine depends on the money you spend. But, even the lowest-end Precision 5750 is a great machine with 8GB of RAM, a 10th generation Intel i5 processor, and a high-quality 1920 x 1200 pixel screen.

The battery on the base model is a bit small for the size of the screen at “only” 56 Wh, so we’d recommend upgrading to get the 97 Wh battery of the more up-market configurations.

Did you know that the maximum battery size you can carry on a plane is 100 Wh? Most of Dell’s Precision 5750 models nearly touch that mark.

ASUS ZenBook ProDuo 15 OLED

best phd laptops

If you are looking for a laptop that feels more traditional than a Microsoft Surface but still manages to turn heads from time to time, then the ASUS ZenBook ProDuo 15 OLED will do just that with its secondary tilting touch-sensitive display.

We love the idea of having a touch screen that isn’t the primary display because when I’m in the zone working, the last thing I want is fingerprints all over my display.

Don’t let the potentially gimmicky second screen fool you, though; this is a potential powerhouse with models including up to an NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3070 GPU, making this a multi-tasking, gaming, productivity powerhouse.

The main screen provides a 4K OLED HD cinema-quality screen perfect for editing videos and photos for your presentations.

They are aiming the marketing of this machine at photographers, programmers, video editors, musicians, animators, and game streamers, but I think you’ll agree that sometimes, when working on your postgraduate school work, you need to take skills from all those industries to succeed.

HP ZBook Firefly

best phd laptops

Like Dell, HP has a whole range of systems for any and every budget, but that can also make it feel complicated to pick out the best machine for your needs.

I recommend looking at their ZBook Firefly line as they are well-built mobile workstations with specifications that can handle almost any kind of workload you throw at it and they still fit in a wide range of budgets.

A strong system comes with a 14″ touchscreen display, 16GB of RAM, 512 GB of NVMe SSD, and a 10th generation Intel CPU as well as an NVIDIA Quadro graphics card, which, while not great for gaming, can be super helpful for physics, engineering, math, and more.

The ZBook Firefly comes with fast charging that can get the machine back to around fifty percent of battery capacity in just thirty minutes.

best phd laptops

If weight is one of your biggest concerns, but you don’t want to give up any features or functionality, then LG’s Gram line-up of laptops is where you should look.

With a 16-inch laptop screen machine coming in under three pounds but including an 80 Wh battery that can provide up to 22 hours of battery life in ideal conditions, you won’t be giving up anything with the LG Gram.

The screen is 16:10 for a bit of extra document height real estate making the resolution a crisp 2560 x 1600 pixels, but don’t worry about the lightweight and large size, meaning it isn’t durable. LG has thought of that, too, and the Gram 16 is MIL-STD-810G, meaning it passed seven durability tests, including shock, vibration, pressure changes, and more.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon

best phd laptops

IBM ThinkPad used to be synonymous with durability when it came to laptops, and Lenovo is working hard to keep the ThinkPad brand on track, especially with their X1 Carbon series.

The ThinkPad X1 Carbon comes with a 14-inch 1080p screen with 400 nits of maximum brightness, a 10th-generation Intel processor, and either 8GB or 16GB of RAM.

It includes a fast-charging battery that can get back to 80% capacity in under an hour, and they advertise up to 19.5 hours of battery life in ideal situations. The X1 Carbon comes with the latest wireless connection option with a WiFi 6 card and has the option to add an LTE-A card so you can connect to cellular data.

The keyboard on the ThinkPad X1 Carbon is top of the line, and if you are typing a lot, you’ll want to test this keyboard before you decide which laptop you want to purchase like the LG Gram, the ThinkPad has its MIL-STD-810G certification meaning it is tough!

Acer TravelMate P6

best phd laptops

Sometimes, we overlook certain brands because they are known for inexpensive machines, but the Acer TravelMate P6 deserves a second look as a very balanced machine with nothing necessarily standing out that makes it best in class, but it also doesn’t lag behind anywhere.

It has high-quality components, a solid screen, good storage, RAM, and CPU options, and it is one of the less expensive options on this list. If you are looking for good value for performance, you won’t find anything better than most mid to high-tier Acer offerings.

The main TravelMate P6 worth considering ships with 8GB of RAM, a 14″ 1080p screen, 256GB of storage, and a battery that is rated for 16 hours under ideal circumstances with a weight under 2.5 pounds.

Microsoft Surface Pro 7

best phd laptops

One of the disadvantages of the Surface Pro X is that it uses an ARM processor, and this means that sometimes the fringe applications won’t work on the version of Windows that the Surface Pro X runs.

However, the Surface Pro 7 is just as capable and uses normal Intel processors, meaning that it runs the normal version of Windows and is compatible with all of the applications you might need to use to complete your postgraduate degree.

The Surface Pro 7 comes with a slightly smaller screen at 12.3″, but you won’t really notice the difference as the resolution of the screen at 2736 x 1824 pixels means it has the same number of pixels per inch as the Surface Pro X.

If you need more storage than the Surface Pro X provides, then the Surface Pro 7 also meets your needs here with up to 1TB of storage space.

The one downside of the Surface Pro 7 over the Surface Pro X, in our experience, is the battery life, which has a rated battery life of around 10.5 hours. The biggest advantage is that it is priced at a lower cost than the Surface Pro X, making it easier to afford the accessories that make this even more of a productivity system.

MSI Modern 15

best phd laptops

MSI makes some amazing high-value, high-performance laptops, and their Modern 15 line is no different.

With the latest Intel 11th generation processors, GeForce MX450 graphics cards, a slim and light design, and a high-quality screen, the MSI Modern 15 should be on your list to consider if you want a machine that can handle any workload thrown at it for your postgraduate work.

The Modern 15 comes with Wi-Fi 6 wireless cards, fast charging, and a 52 Wh battery for all-day use. Personally, I’m a big fan of the 3.5-pound weight, and like others on this list, the Modern 15 is MIL-STD-810G certified. Machines that are mil-spec deserve extra points!

Huawei MateBook X Pro 2020

best phd laptops

The Huawei Matebook X Pro has outstanding performance and portability. It has a 13.9″ touchscreen display with a high-resolution 3000 x 2000 feature.

Researching and multitasking with other programs all at once is feasible because its base model has a 10th-generation Intel i5-10210U processor, 8GB RAM, and 512GB SSD.

To keep it interesting, this has a built-in NVIDIA GeForce MX250 GPU, which won’t allow you to play the latest games, but it will help with some basic CAD or physics simulations. The battery capacity is 56 Wh, which should get you through a typical five to seven-hour day without plugging in, though they do advertise up to thirteen hours of battery life in ideal conditions.

Dell XPS 15

best phd laptops

Dell’s XPS line is upmarket from their Inspiron lineup, and as such, it provides a better build quality and a nicer fit and finish. Their latest machines offer tenth-generation Intel processors, up to 32GB of RAM, and up to 1TB of M.2 NVMe storage.

One area where Dell has fairly consistently been great is its displays, and in the XPS line, you get some of its best screens.

The XPS 15 line typically includes a 15.6″ display at 1920 x 1200 pixels with an anti-glare coating at 500 nits of peak brightness. You can upgrade to a 3840 x 2400 pixel screen if you feel so inclined, but for all but the most tightly focused pixel peepers, I don’t think it’s worth the upgrade.

The screen includes Gorilla Glass 6 on the touch panel version, which is fairly durable, and it’s set in a CNC-machined aluminum frame with some carbon fiber composite pieces. These are not words you typically hear with the budget-friendly Dell.

The base model comes with a 56 Wh battery, but you can get an 86 Wh battery, which I’d recommend so you can have it all day, worry-free, away from a plug if you need it. And like a few on this list, the Dell XPS 15 includes a Wi-Fi 6 wireless connection.

Razer Blade 15

best phd laptops

If you aren’t as concerned about battery life and want a machine that will work well for any multimedia or gaming options that you throw at it, then the Razer Blade 15 might be for you.

Gaming laptops might not seem like the right option, but many of the features that make gaming laptops great can also make them great productivity machines, especially if you are doing more than just writing or reading.

The Razer Blade 15 can come with a GeForce RTX 3080, a 360 Hz display, 1TB of storage, 32 GB of RAM, and a Razer Chroma keyboard built-in. This does mean that it typically weighs a ton and doesn’t have great battery life at all, but there are very few workloads this system won’t crush.

HP Spectre x360 15

best phd laptops

Communication is key and that’s the focus of the HP Spectre x360 15 with its webcam kill switch and mic mute buttons.

Beyond that, the x360 15 has a tenth-generation Intel processor, can include discrete graphics, has a display brightness of 340 nits, includes 8 or 16 GB of RAM, and up to 1TB of storage.

One fancy feature on the upper-end models is that it can also include 32 GB of Intel Optane memory, which can make your applications load even faster!

It can include a 72.9 Wh battery, which should provide all-day use, and is rated up to around 8 hours of video playback in ideal conditions. It supports fast charging to get you back to 50% battery in approximately 30 minutes and has great I/O ports, including Thunderbolt 3.

Lenovo ThinkPad T15g

best phd laptops

The ThinkPad T-series has been a staple in the business and higher academic world for decades, and the reason is simple: they are tanks! The T15g continues this with a tough exterior shell and MIL-STD-810G certification.

This iteration includes tenth-generation Intel CPUs, 8, 16 or 32 GB of RAM, and 256, 512 or 1000 GB of storage. The base model includes a screen with 300 nits of brightness, but if you go up a model, you’ll get 500 nits of peak brightness on the screen and Dolby Vision and HDR, which are fancy terms for great contrast, brightness, and clarity.

They all include Wi-Fi 6, which will make your wireless connection fast, and they offer discrete graphics cards that will allow you to render animations, test artificial intelligence, or play a game. If you are looking for a machine that will last beyond three to five years, over what most other laptops can handle, then a ThinkPad should be on your shortlist.

Need more grad school supplies? Check out these related articles!

  • Microscopes For Graduate Students In Chemistry And Biology
  • Laser Cutters For Grad Students
  • Graphing And Scientific Calculators For Algebra Grad Students
  • Financial Calculators For Finance And Accounting Grad School Students

Best laptops for engineering students in 2023

Start your academic year with best laptops for engineering students

The quick list

  • Best overall
  • Best budget laptop
  • Best MacBook

Best for gamers

  • Best 2-in-1
  • Best Chromebook
  • Best Microsoft Surface
  • Best 17-inch laptop

Best premium laptop

  • How to choose
  • How we test

1. The quick list 2. Best overall 3. Best budget laptop 4. Best Macbook 5. Best for gamers 6. Best 2-in-1 7. Best Chromebook 8. Best Microsoft Surface 9. Best 17in laptop 10. Best premium laptop 11. FAQs 12. How we test

Looking for the best laptops for engineering students? Our team of expert reviewers have gone hands-on with the top models, whether you're creating complex CAD designs, simulating algorithms, or analyzing datasets. 

Engineering students know how important it is to choose the best laptop for the job. They need to offer optimal performance without sacrificing too much portability (or breaking the bank). That's why so many opt for the best mobile workstations and the best gaming laptops , with their emphasis on raw power and graphical fidelity. 

Our team have benchmarked the best laptops for engineering students from top brands like Apple , HP , Dell , and Asus. As part of our extensive review process, we've dug into each one, comparing specs, speed, size, and weight. From aerospace to mechanical, electrical to software engineering, we've tested a diverse range of engineering laptops primed to enhance productivity, creativity, and success throughout your course.

  • In the UK? Get the Dell XPS 15 with 13th Gen Intel i7, down from £1749 to just £1499 at Dell
  • Best laptop for AutoCAD deals : We found the best AutoCAD laptop deals around right now

"Laptop perfection" is how we described the Dell XPS 15. A Windows laptop with a robust chassis, comfortable carbon fiber palm rests for prolonged use. The powerful performance is driven by impressive specs - the top model features a 12th-gen Intel Core i9 and 32GB RAM.  

Read more  

A great value gaming laptop whose RTX-equipped model effortlessly doubles as a laptop for engineering students running graphically-demanding programs. It’s not the lightest machine you can buy, but we found performance solid and the 15.6-inch FHD display bright and clear.

Feather-light and slimline, the MacBook Air is the ideal engineering laptop for those who prize portability. Don’t let the diminutive size fool you though - this M2-powered laptop delivers impressive performance that’s near-silent in use. A gorgeous screen and 11-hour battery life seal the deal. 

A laptop for engineering students and gamers alike, the Asus ROG Strix SCAR 18 is an absolute beast of a machine. Specced with a 13th Gen Intel Core i9, 32 GB RAM, and an Nvidia GeForce RTX 4090, our tests showed it delivered absolutely class-leading speed. 

Offering the best of both worlds, the HP Spectre x360 offers tablet and laptop mode for more flexibility. With i5 and i7 models, and up to 8GB RAM, it’s not a performance-driven device - and the lack of discrete GPU is disappointing. But a good choice if you need a two-in one.

With little power and storage, Chromebooks are rarely the right laptop for engineering students. But if ChromeOS is a must, opt for the HP Elite Dragonfly. With higher-end configurations, it proved to be one of the most powerful Chromebooks we’ve ever tested.

Load the next products...

When we first tested the Microsoft Surface Laptop 4, we called it “the best Surface laptop yet.” A comfortable keyboard makes for a pleasant typing experience. The 11th-Gen Intel processor is perfect for getting work done, although you’ll struggle to run games outside of your course. 

For more screen real estate to really zone in on the details, the Dell XPS 17 is tough to beat. Despite the size, the 17in laptop is incredibly thin and lightweight - ideal for carrying around campus. In our tests, it easily tore through even demanding tasks like video encoding and 3D rendering.

Performance, powerful, a beautiful design - the Razer Blade 15 has a lot going for it. It packs a RTX 3000-series GPU, DDR5 memory, and a 12th-generation Alder Lake Intel CPU - and in our testing process, it easily handled even the most demanding workloads. But all that power will cost you. 

The best laptops for engineering students of 2023 in full

Why you can trust TechRadar We spend hours testing every product or service we review, so you can be sure you’re buying the best. Find out more about how we test.

Best laptop for engineering students overall

1. dell xps 15 (2022).

Our expert review:


Reasons to buy, reasons to avoid.

"Laptop perfection" is how we described Dell's excellent XPS 15. Maintaining its outstanding classic design from previous generations, the 2022 model is a solidly built device. It's made with a brushed CNC aluminum chassis and carbon fiber palm rests we found comfortable for prolonged keyboard use. We were also impressed with the extended battery life. 

However, limiting portability (without the use of a laptop docking station at least) is the lack of available ports. You'll find three USB Type-C ports, which won't be ideal if you're using USB-A peripherals. 

It's a small complaint, perhaps, in an otherwise great laptop. Paired with a beautiful screen, a great keyboard, and plenty of storage space, you'll blaze through your latest project. Better still, this is a Windows laptop - and many engineering programs, particularly Autodesk's line-up, only run on Windows. 

Read our full Dell XPS 15 review

Best budget laptop for engineering students

2. hp victus 15.

It might be marketed as a gaming laptop. Still, the HP Victus 15's simple design (free from the gaudy 'gamer aesthetic' of many powerful laptops) and RTX-equipped models make it a solid choice for any engineering student who will be running graphically-demanding programs.

It's also remarkably cheap for a laptop with a discrete GPU, likely to please any budding engineer on a budget. During testing, it performed below other gaming laptops in our standard benchmarks, but not by a huge margin. We also found that it takes air circulation seriously, boasting a dual-fan setup and a large air vent at the bottom.

A bright 15.6-inch FHD display and generally robust build quality mean that while this isn't the most lightweight laptop in the business, it's comfortable pulling double duty as both a desktop replacement and a tool for on-the-go work. It's also a good choice for the environmentally conscious, with a chassis made partially from post-consumer-recycled plastic and eco-friendly water-based paint.

Read our full HP Victus 15 review

Best MacBook for engineering students

3. apple macbook air (m2, 2022).

The Apple MacBook Air (M2, 2022) isn't just one of the best laptops Apple has ever made. It's one of the best laptops for engineering students who value portability and power. While it might not pack a powerful AI-assisted GPU, Apple's own silicon represents serious competition in the lightweight laptop space.

Thanks to the revolutionary ARM -based Apple M2 chip - an update from the previous M1 chip - that powers the new MacBook Air, this is a stunning achievement: a thin and light laptop that offers great performance while offering incredible battery life. During our time with the MacBook Air, the laptop performed incredibly well, whether we were playing around with GarageBand or editing 4K home movies in iMovie. In fact, the fan was silent when in use - although we'd expect that to change under seriously heavy workloads, such as 8K editing. 

Easily managing over 11 hours on a single charge, this is a laptop you can easily carry around with you in the office or outdoors. Its screen is gorgeous, and the new-and-improved keyboard means you can happily work for hours.

Read our full MacBook Air (M2, 2022) review

4. Asus ROG Strix SCAR 18

The Asus ROG Strix SCAR G834JY boasts an incredible array of specs that promise to make this machine rocket to the top of wishlists for engineering students and gamers. While built with gamers in mind, the G834JY is built to effortlessly handle processor and GPU-intensive workloads on engineering courses.

The G834JY has a 13th Gen Intel Core i9-13980HX processor and an NVIDIA GeForce RTX 4090 Laptop GPU. RAM tops at 64 GB of DDR5-4800 MHz memory and comes equipped with 2 TB of PCIe 4x4 configured in RAID 0.

As if that’s not enough, you’re also getting an enormous 18-inch QHD+ 16:10 (2560 x 1600, WQXGA)  Dolby Vision HDR screen with 240 Hz refresh rate, 100% DCI-P3 color gamut, and Pantone Validation. Add the 4 speakers Dolby Atmos sound system, and you’ve got a system set up to game late into the night.

We did find the Asus ROG Strix SCAR G834JY lacking in its connectivity. There’s only 1 x Thunderbolt 4 port and 1 x USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C port. It offers 2 x USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-A ports, HDMI 2.1 FRL, 2.5G LAN, and a 3.5mm Combo Audio Jack. 

You have to pay for that speed and incredible viewing experience with portability. Weighing in at 6.83 lbs for the laptop and close to 2.5 lbs for the 330W power brick, this beast of a machine totals over 9 lbs when lugging around campus. If you’re leaving it at a desk, no problem, but some might find it unwieldy to port from class to class.

Read our full Asus ROG Strix Scar 18 review

Best 2-in-1 laptop for engineering students

5. hp spectre x360 (2022).

The HP Spectre x360 offers students a luxurious device beyond their typical 2-in-1 laptop. It provides a stunning multi-touch display, a beautifully designed chassis, and an excellent keyboard experience.

While equipped with powerful Intel i5 - i7 processors and up to 8 GB of RAM, the x360 lacks any discrete GPU option. And that may prove a serious limitation depending on your chosen software. We also found the trackpad to have sensitivity issues that prevent this from being a fantastic machine. 

On the other hand, if you're an engineering student in need of a laptop with a tablet mode, the Spectre x360 delivers. The multi-touch OLED is great, 2-in-1 form factor sleek and well-designed, and there's a solid battery life of over 8 hours. Put everything together, and you’ve got a machine at home doing moderate design work and at home after a long day of classes.

Read our full HP Spectre x360 (2022) review

Best Chromebook for engineering students

6. hp elite dragonfly chromebook.

Chromebooks aren’t usually the best choice for engineering students - they lack the powerful processors, the dedicated graphics card, the broad storage space. But if you absolutely want to run a ChromeOS laptop, then you’ll want to take a look at the HP Elite Dragonfly Chromebook. 

Effectively an enterprise-level device, with its additional security features and higher-end configurations, this proved this to be one of the most powerful Chromebooks we’ve ever tested. However, engineering students will best avoid the entry-level model with its 12th-gen Core i3 configuration. It’s also worth noting that many engineering programs only run on Windows machines. So, if your apps don’t play well with ChromeOS, then you’ll want to look elsewhere. 

For those happy to take engineering classes with a Chromebook, the HP Elite Dragonfly has plenty to offer. 

Read our full HP Elite Dragonfly review  

Best Microsoft Surface for engineering students

7. microsoft surface laptop 4.

A great pick for engineering students looking to take on a wide range of workloads, from design work to content creation, the Surface Laptop 4 is perhaps Microsoft's best laptop.

The Surface 4 comes in a broad range of configurations to suit every student. You can choose between a 13.5- or 15-inch screen. During our own testing on the 13.5in model, we found the laptop's 3:2 PixelSense display was gorgeous. Both models are available with either Intel or AMD processors depending on whether you pledge fealty to Team Blue or Team Red.

Generally speaking this is just a lovely product; the keyboard and trackpad are spacious and responsive, and the touchscreen supports the Surface Pen for creative endeavors. Our only real criticism is the relative dearth of physical ports, with just one USB-C and one USB-A. We also found the Alcantara fabric used on the palm rest of the 13.5-inch model gets dirty easily.

Read our full Microsoft Surface Laptop 4 review

Best 17-inch laptop for engineering students

8. dell xps 17.

For a 17-inch laptop, the Dell XPS 17 (2022) is impressively thin and light, especially when you consider the fact that it boasts powerful specs for that top-notch performance that engineering students require. It quickly tore through demanding tasks like video encoding and 3D renders on the test.

This is the whole package if you're looking for a laptop with a big screen. It boasts a 17-inch display in FHD+ and UHD+ flavors, fantastic battery life that will last you the entire day, and a gorgeous design on top of everything else. 

The higher-spec models aren't the cheapest laptops, but they're not overpriced when considering the performance. The 2022 model packs an RTX 3050 or 3060 GPU with a 12th-gen Intel processor, delivering a speedy performance that can handle complex projects.

Read our full Dell XPS 17 (2022) review

9. Razer Blade 15

If money is no object for you - or you want a great gaming laptop to run AutoCAD on the side - then the Razer Blade 15 is the connoisseur's choice. Yes, we're talking a price point in the thousands rather than the hundreds here, but you get a lot of power for your cash. 

The Blade 15 has a mighty RTX 3000-series graphics card, DDR5 memory, and a 12th-generation Alder Lake Intel CPU. Our tests have shown that it can easily power through the most demanding workloads. 

Of course, that iconic Razer Blade design hasn't changed much over the years; the exterior is durable brushed aluminum, with a precision glass trackpad and a gently illuminated RGB keyboard. The screen is excellent, too, with various resolutions up to a glorious 4K panel with a 144Hz refresh rate and 100% DCI-P3 color gamut.

Read our full Razer Blade 15 (2022) review

Best laptop for engineering students: FAQs

Are apple laptops good for engineering students.

Are MacBooks good for engineering students?

Apple MacBooks have always been a solid competitor in the world of laptops for engineers. With the recent jump to Apple's own silicon with the M1 and M2 chips, these laptops have gotten even more efficient and even better at multitasking while also powering through even the largest of programs and tasks.

However, the issue is that many engineering programs, like those from Autodesk, will only work on the Windows operating system. If in doubt, ask your school or college which software you'll be using on your course. 

Do engineering students need a powerful laptop?

Engineering students need a powerful laptop - although this need is balanced by the portability of the device and the type of software that's being run. 

Using engineering programs pushes devices far harder than, say, the best laptops for writers . Even the best laptops for programming won't work as hard as laptops for engineering students. 

Ultimately, a CAD or SolidWorks window pulls significantly more power than a text document or web search. As such, a dedicated GPU and plenty of RAM are key requirements, while CPU is more dependent on the chosen software.

How to choose the best engineering laptop for you

When chooisng the best laptop for an engineering student, there are a number of factors to consider. 

A great laptop for engineering students must operate high-powered applications simultaneously with many open program windows - a CAD window, a large mapping service, and a large Excel sheet. 

Since you will likely be using complex programs like AutoCAD, MATLAB, and SolidWorks, you will need a laptop with sufficient power to run them smoothly and effectively. It can be graphically intensive when using programs like the best graphic design software and the best 3D modeling software .

For that reason, and for an uninterrupted workflow, look for laptops spec'd with the best graphics cards , best processors , and best RAM . We recommend a laptop with the latest Intel Core i5 or Core i7 chips as a minimum, 1TB SSD storage, and 16GB of RAM – although 32GB is even better.

A clear display with a minimum 1080p resolution is advisable - although size will be a matter of preference, unless you need as much information on the screen as possible. 

Portability and ruggedness are key features - you should be able to carry your laptop around all day, wherever you need to work. And the device handle a few accidental bumps along the way. As part of this, check the battery life of each device. An all-day battery means you won't have to lug around a charger everywhere. But if you're mostly going to have your setup in one place, then a lower battery capacity will be acceptable too.

Typical laptops focus on a lightweight frame, long battery life, or other specifications for easy communication and media consumption (eg. webcams, WiFi, screens). Laptops for engineering students need to be able to perform advanced operations easily, even if they don't have all-day battery life.

It's also worth asking your school, college, or university if they have preferred machine, or minimum hardware specifications. In many instances, the engineering software you use will be restricted to a particular operating system - usually Windows - so it's best to get that information before committing. 

How we test the best laptops for engineering students

When we test the best laptops for engineering students, we're looking at a variety of aspects. The device needs to be powerful enough to effortlessly run engineering programs and portable to carry around campus, from dorms to libraries to labs. 

During our comprehensive review process, we assess the internal specs of each device - and how they compare with alternatives in the field. This includes CPU, GPU, portability, storage, and design.

Undergoing benchmark testing, we evaluate overall performance of the laptop and how users can specifically benefit from the features. 

With an eye on the portable nature of engineering laptops, we analyze battery life, connectivity ports, weight, and screen size - all of which are essential considerations for all the best student laptops . We also want to see a certain level of comfort from the device when used for extended periods.   

Finally, we consider the price - and value-for-money - of the machine in comparison to rival laptops for engineering students. 

You can find out more in our detailed guide How we test laptops and desktops: our reviewing process explained  

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Collin Probst

Collin is the B2B Hardware Editor for TechRadar Pro. He has been in journalism for years, with experience in small and large markets, including Gearadical, DailyBeast, FutureNet, and more.

Collin is an experienced individual who has an abundance of knowledge when it comes to all things professional hardware. He is the go-to subject matter expert for TechRadar Pro and focuses on standing desks, office chairs, business laptops, "pro" monitors, and other similar topics. With his in-depth understanding of these areas, Collin can provide invaluable insights and advice to readers looking to make informed decisions about their hardware investments.

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