5 Best Laptops for Computer Science: Buyer’s Guide

Not sure which laptop to choose for a computer science degree? We are here to help. No matter what you are keen on Programming, Games Development, Machine Learning, or Data Science, here you will find the best-suited laptop for years.

Students who decided to take a degree in Computer Science need a powerful laptop to pass all the assignments and coursework. The specs of a perfect laptop should meet your interests as computer science is a really wide field. So many laptops available on the market, but which one to choose? In our article, we provide you with the 5 best laptops and help you to choose the most suitable one following your preferences.

Our top picks

Model
Perfect for
Dell XPS 15
Best for Smooth Multitasking
For students who are going to run a lot of apps and windows simultaneously. If you need a quick and smooth switch between numerous apps, that’s the best option.
Why is it the best?

The most powerful processor;
The highest display resolution;
The highest storage capacity.
Jump to the detailed review
Acer Predator Helios 300
Best for Graphics Tasks on Windows OS
For students who like the graphics and plan to work in the fields of 3D simulation (VR or AR), Gaming Development, etc. But prefer Windows OS over Mac OS.
Why is it the best?

Powerful video card;
Fast processor;
Has IPS technology for perfect color rendering;
The best option for games.
Jump to the detailed review
Apple MacBook Pro
Best for Intensive Graphics Tasks on Mac OS
For students who are keen on graphics. If you plan to work in the fields of 3D simulation (VR and AR) or Gaming Development that’s the best investment in the long run.
Why is it the best?

The only model with 2 powerful video cards;
Big screen with perfect color rendering (due to IPS technology);
The highest storage capacity.
Jump to the detailed review
Microsoft Surface Book 2
Best 2-in-1 Laptop for Computer Science
For students who need a laptop to move easily around. Perfect for those who want to get both a laptop and tablet in one device.
Why is it the best?

You get 2 devices (laptop and tablet) in one machine;
Extremely powerful processor compared to other 2-in-1 laptops;
High display resolution.
Jump to the detailed review
Google Pixelbook Go
Best Chromebook for Computer Science
For students who are looking for a cheaper alternative. Perfect for those who need a lightweight laptop with long battery life.
Why is it the best?

The longest battery life;
The most lightweight;
Best value for a low price.
Jump to the detailed review

What to look for in a laptop for computer science?

Display

We put the display in the first place as you will be looking at the screen most of the time while writing code or performing some graphic tasks. It is important to take care of your eyes.

The screen should be at least 13 inches. Perfectly if the screen is 15 inches and more. You will be able to open multiple tabs at the same time and see the info on them clearly. 

The display resolution should be at least 1920 x 1080 pixels. The higher resolution the better as it will provide more viewing area for running a lot of apps and windows at the same time.

Besides, we recommend paying attention to matte displays; unlike glossy, matte ones will reduce eye strain after hours spent in front of the screen. If the laptop has no matte display, that’s not a problem, in most cases, you can take a matte protection screen.

Processor

The processor (CPU) is the part of a laptop that cannot be upgraded over time, so it is better to invest in the fastest processor you can afford. The powerful processor will prevent any problems with compiling programs. The best option in a long run is taking a laptop that has a clock speed up to 3.9 GHz but perfectly will be 4.5+ GHz.

Video Card

Along with the processor, the video card (GPU) cannot be upgraded. It will be essential for those who are keen on graphics-intensive tasks such as 3D simulation (VR and AR), gaming development, or working with video-editing tools.

3 key specs impact a video card’s performance:

  • Clock speed — shows the speed of video card cores, higher clock speed will provide faster graphics rendering. For computer science students, 1500 MHz will be enough.
  • Type (integrated or dedicated) — dedicated is better as it has its own memory, so it doesn’t use the system’s RAM. So, you won’t face any slow down while performing graphic tasks.
  • Memory size — the higher the memory size, the better texture rendering. Generally, 4 GB will be more than enough. However, if you need a laptop for heavy graphic tasks, it is better to take it with 6 GB.

Memory (RAM)

You will run a lot of apps and tabs simultaneously, so to prevent any lag, it is better to take laptops with more RAM. The bare minimum is 8 GB. For quicker performance, it is highly recommended to pick one with 16 GB.

Storage

Choosing between SSD and HDD, it is better to take a laptop with SSD due to several reasons. SSD will be faster than HDD, it will boost up just in a few seconds. Such a laptop will have less heat output and consume less energy because of an absence of moving parts. 

We recommend picking laptops with 256 GB – 512 GB for computer science students. You should be prepared to have enough space to download a lot of programs for studying. If you opt for Windows OS, you will probably need to install Linux, dual operating systems.

Operating System

Overall, there are 4 operating systems: Windows, Mac, Linux, and Chrome. The most popular among computer science students is Windows OS. However, other systems are also Unix-certified, so they will be compatible with all open-source developer tools, you will need to pass the classes.

A detailed review of each laptop

Dell XPS 15 — Best for Smooth Multitasking

Processor
Memory (RAM)
Storage
Video Card
Screen size
Display Resolution
Operating System
Battery Life
Intel Core i7 10th Gen (up to 5 GHz)
16 GB
512 GB
Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 Ti 4GB GDDR6
15 inches
3840 x 2400 pixels
Windows 10 Home OS
up to 9 hours

Who is it perfect for? The students need a powerful device to run a lot of apps at the same time with a quick switch between windows.

What do we like the most about this laptop? Surely, it is the laptop’s processor. Dell XPS 15 has the most powerful one on the list (Intel Core i7 10th Gen), that can run up to 5 GHz on turbo boost mode. It has a Hexa core processor (6 cores). Thanks to it, you will be able to run a lot of apps simultaneously without any performance drops.

Since this model has a big screen (15 inches), staring and switching between opened windows won’t be painful for your eyes. The screen resolution is the highest compared to other models (3840 x 2400 pixels) that will provide maximally clear text and photos displayed.

Dell XPS 15 has high storage capacity (512 GB) and a lot of memory (16 GB). If you want to invest in the laptop to write code for years, these specs will perfectly suit as a lot of programs complies and cashes to SSD, you won’t notice how storage space will creep away.

Pros:

  • The most powerful processor (up to 5 GHz);
  • The biggest number of cores (6 cores);
  • The highest display resolution;
  • Has a highly responsive touchscreen;
  • The highest storage capacity (512 GB);

⛔️ Cons:

  • The heaviest on the list (8.75 pounds);
  • Uncomfortable to use a trackpad, so it is better to choose a mouse.

Dell XPS 15 customer reviews

“I’m very pleased with the purchase. The display is perfect; it is on par or even better than the new MacBook Pro that I also own. Dell XPS 15 is a well-built device with an impressively fast processor and gorgeous UHD+ screen. The feature I appreciate is that it can be upgraded to 64GB of RAM over time.”

— Jessica, NJ

Acer Predator Helios 300 — Best for Graphics Tasks on Windows OS

Processor
Memory (RAM)
Storage
Video Card
Screen size
Display Resolution
Operating System
Battery Life
Intel i7-9750H (up to 4.5 GHz)
16 GB
256 GB
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1660Ti (6 GB memory)
15.6 inches
1920 x 1080 pixels
Windows 10 Professionals OS
up to 7 hours

Who is it perfect for? Students who are looking for a powerful device, don’t care a lot about lightweight and high portability. The best opinion if you like graphics and would like to play high-end games after classes.

What do we like the most about this laptop? Acer Predator Helios 300 has a decent processor that can run up to 4.5 GHz, just as MacBook Pro (review) but the price of this one is almost 2 times lower.

That’s the only gaming laptop on the list, as with any gaming laptop, it has its pros and cons. The video card is highly powerful and will easily deal with any graphic tasks. The con is that it has only one video card unlike MacBook Pro (review), so the laptop doesn’t switch between video cards for different tasks that result in lower battery life (just as with any gaming laptop).

That’s a great option if you need a powerful laptop for performing heavy graphics tasks (e.g. work in Image and Video processing libraries, 3D simulation, or Gaming Development) but prefer Windows OS over Mac OS. Acer Predator Helios 300 will be great if you plan to use it mostly from home or have access to the power supply at the university as the battery life is weaker than in other laptops on the list.

Pros:

  • Decent video card;
  • Fast processor;
  • A lot of memory (16 GB);
  • Has IPS technology for better color rendering;
  • Comfortable keyboard.

⛔️ Cons:

  • Low battery life;
  • Heavy (5.07 pounds).

Acer Predator Helios 300 customer reviews

“Compared to other gaming laptops, this one is much thinner, sleeker, and lighter. For me, performance matters more than the design what I can say is it was a tremendous value for the price. The Predator laptop comes with a wide, clear, and bright display that will be perfect not only for gamers but for anyone who deals a lot with visuals, like web design, any art, or photo/video editing.”

— Noil, TX

Apple MacBook Pro — Best for Intensive Graphics Tasks on Mac OS

Processor
Memory (RAM)
Storage
Video Cards

Screen size
Display Resolution
Operating System
Battery Life
Intel Core i-7 (up to 4.5 GHz)
16 GB
512 GB
AMD Radeon Pro 5300M Graphics (GDDR6 memory)
Intel UHD Graphics 630
16 inches
3072 x 1920 pixels
Mac OS
up to 9 hours

Who is it perfect for? Worth investment for students who are keen on fields such as Games Development, 3D simulation (VR and AR), or Image and Video processing libraries (e.g. OpenCV).

What do we like the most about this laptop? The most impressive feature of the MacBook Pro is that it has 2 video cards (AMD Radeon Pro 5300M Graphics (GDDR6 memory) and Intel UHD Graphics 630). The first one is more powerful than the second one; actually, AMD Radeon Pro 5300M is the most powerful on the list. It is used when you perform heavy graphics tasks (as 3D simulation, dealing with an image or video editing, etc.). Most of the time you don’t need such a powerful video card, so for taking notes on lectures, surfing the web, etc. the laptop will switch to a less powerful integrated video card (Intel UHD Graphics 630).

What does it mean for you? Such a switch will allow the laptop’s battery to last longer as a “weaker” video card consumes less energy to operate. That’s an essential feature when you take a laptop on lectures and have no constant access to the power supply.

Besides, the display resolution is high (3072 x 1920 pixels) along with IPS technology, you will get perfect color rendering. We highly recommend picking the MacBook model with the 16-inches screen size; compared to the 13-inches model, with this one you will be able to open a lot of windows simultaneously without high eye strain after hours spent in front of the screen.

MacBook Pro has a powerful processor (Intel Core i7) that on turbo boost mode can run up to 4.5 GHz. On our list, only Dell XPS 15 (review) is faster (up to 5 GHz). So, you won’t face any problems with running a lot of apps simultaneously and quickly switching between them.

Pros:

  • The most powerful video card;
  • Includes 2 video cards;
  • High storage capacity (512 GB);
  • Powerful processor;
  • Long battery life (up to 9 hours).

⛔️ Cons:

  • High price;
  • Limited ports (only 4 USB Type-C ports), so you will need an adapter.

Apple MacBook Pro customer reviews

“A very sexy machine. This laptop is so gorgeous. It feels so silk and has a modern look.

The screen is just delightful! The colors look so pure and crystal clear. I work as an animator, graphics designer, and writer, the laptop met all my expectations.”

— Paul, CA

Microsoft Surface Book 2 — Best 2-in-1 Laptop for Computer Science

Processor
Memory (RAM)
Storage
Video Card
Screen size
Display Resolution
Operating System
Battery Life
Intel Core i7 (up to 4.2 GHz)
16 GB
256 GB
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 (6 GB memory)
15 inches
3260 x 2160 pixels
Windows 10 Professionals OS
up to 7 hours

Who is it perfect for? Students who need a highly portable laptop without sacrifice screen size. The laptop can be easily transformed into a tablet, no need to pay extra for a few devices.

What do we like the most about this laptop? Microsoft Surface Book 2 is the best option for computer science students among 2-in-1 laptops. Compared to other popular 2-in-1 laptops like Microsoft Surface Pro 6, this model has a more powerful processor, more memory (RAM), and storage capacity. If you want to pick an excellent 2-in-1 laptop for years, we recommend paying attention to such things as RAM and storage as in most cases they cannot be upgraded with this type of laptop.

Compared to the Microsoft Surface Pro 7, Microsoft Surface Book 2 has 2 times higher screen resolution and a bigger screen size (15 inches). Thanks to these factors, you will be able to open a lot of windows simultaneously without much eye strain.

The keyboard in this model can be easily folded behind the screen or detached completely. So, you can bring it as a tablet for lectures for taking notes. A highly responsive screen along with a surface pen will suit perfectly for such a purpose. And at home, you can attach the keyboard and deal with assignments and coursework.

Pros:

  • Get 2 devices (laptop and tablet) in one;
  • The most powerful processor and video card compared to other 2-in-1 laptops;
  • High display resolution and a big screen to reduce eye strain;
  • Highly portable due to lightweight and thin design.

⛔️ Cons:

  • Cannot be upgraded (adding RAM and storage) over time;
  • The surface pen is sold separately.

Microsoft Surface Book 2 customer reviews

“Using the original Surface Book was a struggle for me.

Recently I saw the Surface Book 2. What I like about this model is that it has a 15″ screen option with very high resolution. Besides, the CPU is faster and more energy-efficient than on the Surface Book. The battery lasts much longer. A big plus, it is available with 16GB of RAM and 1TB storage. 

I am happy with the purchase. Finally, I see no low storage warnings. My CAD software runs just perfectly. Surface Book 2 is noticeably faster in every way. That’s a much better improvement.”

— Jack, AR

Google Pixelbook Go — Best Chromebook Laptop for Computer Science

Processor
Memory (RAM)
Storage
Video Card
Screen size
Display Resolution
Operating System
Battery Life
Intel Core i5 8200Y (up to 3.9 GHz)
8 GB
128 GB
Intel UHD 615 GPU
13.3 inches
1920 x 1080 pixels
Chrome OS
up to 10 hours

Who is it perfect for? Students who are on a tight budget. The best option for those who need a small, tiny laptop with long battery life to bring on classes for notes taking.

What do we like the most about this laptop? Google Pixelbook Go is the only laptop on the list that runs on Chrome OS. There are concerns that devices on Chrome OS won’t be suitable for classes. However, it is Unix-certified, so it will be compatible with all open-source developer tools needed for classes and coursework.

The only thing you should keep in mind before buying a Chromebook is that it is not as good a place for programming as other operating systems (Windows, Linux, or Mac). But this laptop on Chrome OS will be good if you are planning to work as an Android developer.

Google Pixelbook Go will be a perfect option if you need a lightweight laptop with long battery life to move around. This laptop is the most lightweight with the longest battery life (up to 10 hours). The con is its screen size (13.3 inches), which’s the smallest screen among others. But there is a solution; Google Pixelbook Go has 3 USB ports so that you can connect an additional monitor for some complex tasks.

Regarding other specs such as processor, video card, RAM, and storage, Chromebook is weaker compared to others on the list. However, this laptop is also the cheapest model. Taking its price into account, you get a pretty powerful processor (Intel Core i5 8200Y with boost speed up to 3.9 GHz). But if you need a laptop for heavy multitasking it is better to pay attention to Dell XPS 15 (review), it also has a bigger screen, so opening a lot of windows at the same time won’t be painful for the eyes.

Pros:

  • The best value for money;
  • The longest battery life;
  • The most lightweight laptop;
  • Excellent design;
  • Highly portable.

⛔️ Cons:

  • RAM and storage cannot be upgraded;
  • Slower processor compared to other laptops on the list;
  • Small screen.

Google Pixelbook Go customer reviews

“Amazing laptop! That’s a high-quality solid device; everything starting with the keyboard and trackpad up to the screen is delightful and gives a premium feel. Chrome OS is lightweight, the laptop has no performance issues with its configuration. The battery life is impressive, I can work for about 12 hours before having to charge. Besides, it has fast-charging capabilities you can use when needed.”

— Michael, OH

Compare tech specs

Model/
Specs
Dell XPS 15

Acer Predator Helios 300
Apple MacBook Pro

Microsoft Surface Book 2

Google Pixelbook Go
ProcessorIntel Core i7 10th GenIntel i7-9750HIntel Core i7Intel Core i7Intel Core i5 8200Y
Processor Speedup to 5 GHzup to 4.5 GHzup to 4.5 GHzup to 4.2 GHzup to 3.9 GHz
RAM16 GB16 GB16 GB16 GB8 GB
Drive TypeSSDSSDSSDSSDSSD
Storage512 GB256 GB512 GB256 GB128 GB
Video CardNvidia GeForce GTX 1650 Ti 4GB GDDR6NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1660Ti (6 GB memory)2 video cards
AMD Radeon Pro 5300M Graphics (GDDR6 memory) / Intel UHD Graphics 630
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 (6 GB memory)Intel UHD 615 GPU
Screen Size15 inches15.6 inches16 inches15 inches13.3 inches
Display Resolution3840 x 2400 pixels1920 x 1080 pixels3072 x 1920 pixels3260 x 2160 pixels1920 x 1080 pixels
Operating SystemWindows 10 HomeWindows 10 HomeMac OSWindows 10 ProfessionalChrome OS
Battery Lifeup to 9 hup to 7 hup to 9 hup to 7 hup to 10 h
Weight8.75 pounds5.07 pounds4.3 pounds2.38 pounds2.33 pounds
Dimensions16.65 x 12.01 x 4.37 inches14.23 x 10.01 x 0.9 inches9.68 x 14.09 x 0.64 inches13.5 x 9.87 x 0.9 inches0.57 x 12.25 x 8.12 inches

What you will study and what laptop to choose

Computer science will cover studying both computer hardware and software. That’s a very diverse field and you will need to pick sub-fields according to your interests. But the strict specialization happens in the graduate years.

You, as a computer science student, in the first years studying will use such software as MATLAB, Netbeans, DAQ Board Software and will study some programming languages like Java, C++, Python, etc.

If you are going to focus mostly on Programming or Web Development, you can choose any laptop from the list as they have fast processors (not lower than 3.9 GHz at turbo boost mode) and enough memory. If you are interested in developing software for Android, Google Pixelbook Go (review) will be a good option.

If you are mostly interested in graphics and would like to work in the fields of 3D simulation or Gaming Development, you will need a laptop with a powerful video card. The best option on Mac OS is Apple MacBook Pro (review) and on Windows OS — Acer Predator Helios 300 (review).

For Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence, Data Science and Deep Learning a powerful processor plays an important role. The most powerful processor has Dell XPS 15 (review). This laptop also has a lot of RAM and high storage capacity that will make simultaneous working in numerous windows smooth.

Summary

The best laptop for computer science students should have a powerful processor, video card, 8-16 GB of RAM, and 256-512 GB of storage capacity (preferably SSD). Such a device will serve you throughout the years of studying and even after graduation. For making the final (and the right) decision you should take into account your preferences in the field of computer science.

FAQs

❓ How important is GPU on laptops for computer science?

The role of GPU depends on the field you choose. Powerful GPU will be required for Gaming Development, 3D Simulation, work in Image and Video processing libraries. For such purposes, we recommend MacBook Pro (on Mac OS), and Acer Predator Helios 300 (on Windows OS). The detailed review with pros and cons you can read in our article.

👩‍🎓 What laptops are good for computer science students?

A good laptop for computer science should have a big screen (13+ inches) with high resolution, a powerful processor (at least 3.9 GHz at boost mode), enough RAM (8-16 GB), and storage (256-512GB). All the laptops in our article meet all these requirements.

🤔 How much RAM do I need for computer science?

The minimum requirement of RAM for computer science students is 8 GB but we highly recommend taking the laptop that has 16 GB of RAM. All the laptops from our article have 8-16 GB of memory.

🍏 Is MacBook good for computer science?

Yes, Mac OS is compatible with all the software you will need for studying. We highly recommend Apple MacBook Pro as it has a big, bright screen, powerful video cards, processor, and plenty of RAM and storage. A detailed review with pros and cons you can find in our article.

💻 Is a laptop necessary for computer science?

Having a laptop is not obligatory but it is highly recommended. Laptops are highly portable and you will be able to take them for notes taking and doing assignments outside the home. Besides, there are a lot of powerful laptops that will serve you for years.

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