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You will be spending a significant time on your computer while studying computer science. You want to make sure you get a laptop that can handle the workload that some of the classes you will be taking demand. If you are interested in taking any AI or data science classes, then you are better off with a more powerful laptop. See a list of the best laptops for computer science below.
For computer science you should also read post on machine learning laptops.
Best Laptops for Computer Science
Our pick as the best laptop for computer science is the MSI GS65 Stealth-430 (#ad).
MSI GS65 Stealth-430
The MSI GS65 Stealth-430 is a great laptop for computer science. It has all the things that we would want and then some. For starters it has the Intel i7-9750H CPU. This is one of the best laptops CPUs you can get your hands on. It has 6 cores and will do really well for things that require a lot of computational power. It is not as good as desktop CPUs but it will get the job done. If you are planning on doing anything AI or machine learning related then this is the CPU you should be looking for.
Another Amazing aspec of this laptop is that it comes with the Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Max-Q. This is the smaller version of the RTX 2080. This version is used because this is a thin and sleek laptop. This laptop will be easy to bring around campus and to lecture halls while still delivering enough power to do complex programming tasks. If you are serious about getting the best laptop then this is the GPU you should be thinking about getting. There are many other good options as well but this is the better one.
As far as RAM goes this laptop comes with 32 GB. This is a massive amount, but if you do like to play video games or plan on taking those heavy duty classes, then you will be happy that you have it. 16 GB should be the minimum in a laptop that would be excellent, but you will see that some options on this list do go as low as 8 GB. The reason for this is that you can quite easily upgrade this yourself, so the fact that this laptop has 32 GB is not such a big selling point.
Overall this laptop is the top pick because it is the most powerful and it is from a manufacturer with a great reputation for making high end laptops. There are also a lot of other apsects of the computer that you might like so you should check out their product page.
See the MSI GS65 Stealth-430 (#ad) on Amazon.
Acer Predator Helios 300
The Acer Predator Helios 300 is a gaming laptop. It so happens that a lot of the features that we are looking in a laptop for computer science are the same that are in gaming laptops. The one negative of this laptop is that it really does look like a gaming laptop. If you are okay with that, then this is a good option.
The laptop comes with a 9th generation i7-9750H CPU. This is a standard CPU on good laptops. You will be hard pressed to find a laptop in this price range with a better CPU. This one should be able to handle everything you can throw at it in computer science. It should also last you for many years as it is a 9th generation i7. An 8th generation would be good enough for a computer science laptop but this is better.
A great feature of this laptop is the GPU. It has a Nvidia GTX 1660 with 6GB of GDDR6 VRAM. This is a really good option for a laptop of this price. This is actually quite a good deal, and having a GPU makes the laptop suitable for playing video games. It is also good if you plan on doing artificial intelligence classes when studying computer science.
The screen is full HD with 144Hz. This is a standard on gaming laptops and will be great for most things in computer science.
One thing that is not so great is that the storage is a little low. It is only has a 256 GB SSD. Both for playing games and doing things such as machine learning you want something larger than this. You can easily get external storage though so you can mitigate the issue quite cheaply.
Overall the Acer Predator is a great option for computer science. It packs a lot of power for its price, and it will certainly last you the duration of your college career.
See the Acer Predator (#ad) on Amazon.
One laptop that does well in all the categories we are looking for is the Dell Inspiron. Not only does this laptop look very good, it also has very powerful parts. It has a 9th generation i7-9750H which is really good for this price point. This is the same CPU that is in a lot of gaming laptops that are a lot more expensive than this one. The fact that it has a 9th gen i7 makes this laptop capable of performing high intensive tasks, just what we are looking for in a laptop for computer science. Since it is so new the CPU will also last a long time. 8th generation Intel CPUs are great, but they are older, meaning they will of course feel worse faster. It does not get much better than the CPU that comes with this laptop.
Another great feature of this laptop is that it comes with a GPU. Since it has a GPU this also makes the laptop usable for playing video games, something that a lot of people studying computer science do. If you want to take any data science or artificial intelligence classes this will also come in handy. GPUs are well suited for performing parallel calculations and you can take advantage of this in AI. Using a GPU you can significantly speed up the running time of the machine learning algorithms. Many people rent computer resources on something like AWS to be able to use a GPU for AI, but if you already have one on your laptop you can save that money. The GPU on the laptop is the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 with 3 GB of GDDR5. This is a good GPU for a laptop in this price range. Of course, you could get a better GPU but you would have to spend more money.
There is 8 GB of DDR4 RAM in the laptop. It is great that the RAM type is DDR4 because you cant upgrade from DDR3 to DDR4 because the chips are different formats and don’t fit in the slot for the other one. That means that if you get a laptop with DDR3 you will be stuck with that type, and visa versa. It is of course better to be stuck with the better kind. According to the manufacturer this laptop has been tested with up to 32 GB of DDR4 RAM, so you will be able to upgrade the amount in the future if you want. 16 GB would be optimal for computer science, but in the first few years of college 8 GB should be okay. If you are in grad school you might want to consider a 16 GB option.
See the Dell Inspiron (#ad) on Amazon.
Dell XPS 15 Inch
A great laptop for computer science is the Dell XPS 15 inch. This laptop looks great and it has very good parts. It is a little more on the expensive side but if you are looking for a laptop in this price range then it is a good option.
The CPU on this laptop is a 9th generation i7-9750H. Once you get over a certain price this seems to be the standard CPU as it is one of the best ones. The CPU is powerful and can certainly handle everything that you can throw at it in school. Having a newer CPU will make this laptop last a couple of more years too
This laptop also comes with a GPU. It comes with an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 with 4 GB of GDDR5. As with other laptops with a GPU, this makes the laptop suitable for playing games. This laptop will also be good for more advanced classes such as those focusing on machine learning. GPUs are great for parallel computations, and there is a lot of that in artificial intelligence.
Another great feature on this laptop is the screen. It has an ultra HD screen with a resolution of 3840 x 2160. The screen is anti-reflective which is really good for situations when you can’t control the light, something which will be the case if you bring the laptop to campus. The screen is also touch friendly if you like that on laptops. Having a good screen is nice for relaxing with a video game or two, and also if you do things such as video editing. A good screen is also beneficial if you plan on taking any game development classes.
The laptop has 16 GB of DDR4 RAM. For a laptop of this price you would expect nothing less than 16 GB of the best kind of RAM. Although some laptops do come with more than 16 GB, you really don’t need it. Perhaps in a few years when you are nearing the end of your degree you can find the need for more.
There is a 1 TB SSD on the laptop. 1 TB is probably more than enough for computer science. You will be installing a lot of large programs, and perhaps a game or two. Also, if you do plan on doing artificial intelligence or data science, the data sets that you work with are often huge. You could use an external hard drive to keep that data, as it can often be in the hundreds of gigabytes.
See the Dell XPS (#ad) on Amazon.
Acer Aspire 5 – Budget Option
A great budget option if all you are looking for is a laptop is the Acer Aspire. It is not the most powerful laptop out there, but it does come with an Intel Core i5-8265U. An i5 should be more than enough for any non-machine learning tasks. If you are looking to get into machine learning you can also look at using online computation resources, such as Google or Amazon.
The laptop also comes with 8 GB of DDR4 RAM which is great. 8 GB should be your minimum target, as it is quite important for how many programs you will be able to run at once. Having DDR4 is also nice as it is both faster than DDR3 and it uses less power.
The Acer also has an OK size SSD, 256 GB. This can be a little small in some cases, but you can easily compensate with cloud storage or external storage.
The laptop also has other nice features that wont directly affect how good it is for computer science, but they are nice to have. First, it has quite good battery life. 9.5 hours is very decent, but less powerful parts often lead to longer battery life.
There is also a back-lit keyboard which can be nice for when you are working on your projects late at night. There is also a built in fingerprint reader which is convenient so that you don’t have to type in your password every time.
If you are looking for a cheaper option then you will get a lot for your money in the Acer.
See the Acer Aspire 5 (#ad) on Amazon.
What to look for in the best laptop for computer science
For most people a decent laptop is enough, and for computer science that is true as well. That being said, while studying computer science you will have the opportunity to take some classes that can push a laptop to its limits in terms of performance. Especially artificial intelligence classes can take advantage of having a laptop that has a lot of processing power.
Many people who study computer science also like to relax with a game or two so the best laptop for computer science should also be capable of running games without any hiccups. For that we will be looking for a laptop with a good CPU and a GPU. These two items have a big impact on the price of the laptop but you will get a few different price points that you can consider.
For CPUs you find that most laptops have either an 8th or 9th generation CPU. For most mid range laptops they will most often be an i7, but you could potentially find i5s too. For computer science you should get an i7. It should not matter too much if you have an 8th or 9th generation CPU, but of course a 9th generation one would be better. You have to take your price point into consideration here. An 8th generation i7 is good enough for computer science, but the 9th generation one might last you a couple of more extra years. This is an important point if you are just starting college. Many of the more demanding classes will be closer to your senior year, and an 8th generation CPU might not be as great at that point. That being said, I think you can make due with an older 8th generation version.
The GPU you will get in a laptop very much correlates with the price of the laptop. Some mid range laptops have GPUs, but it would be very rare to see a cheaper laptop have one. The more expensive the better the GPU will be. They all mostly have the same CPU and RAM so the GPU really does add to the price of the laptop. I think as long as you get a GPU you should be good. If you really want the most bang for your buck you might want to build a stationary machine, but that you can’t bring with you to campus of course.
Machine learning computers could take advantage of a really good GPU and CPU. If you want to do machine learning for your studies then you might want to check them out.
Another important factor you should keep in mind is the type and amount of RAM. Ideally you will be looking for 16 GB of DDR4 RAM. Many laptops come with 8 GB, but that seems to be the new minimum for a decent laptop. You really don’t need an amazing laptop for computer science but a little more than minimum would be good. There are two types of RAM that you will see in most decent laptops these days. They are DDR3 and DDR4. DDR4 is the newer version, and it is both faster and uses less power. Because of this it is more desirable but also more expensive. The best laptop for computer science will have the DDR4 RAM. RAM is important for the computer to be able to operate quickly, and you will be running a lot of resource demanding programs as you learn to program.
There are lots of operating systems available, and they all have different use cases. Read more about what operating system is best for computer science.
Final comments on the best laptop for Computer Science
As with most other things, you will be able to get though your degree with just about any laptop. You don’t need the latest parts, or the most expensive laptop. For the most part it is a quality of life question when choosing between the different options. More powerful laptops will work better for CS, but you don’t need them.