I completed my CS degree with a pretty decent laptop, but I also think I would have done just fine with an average one. Unless you are planning on taking any AI classes then you should be okay with a mid-level laptop. Try to find something that falls in the recommended specs below and you should be fine.
|CPU||10th gen i5 or better||10th gen i7 or better|
|GPU||GTX Series||RTX Series|
|RAM||8 GB||16 GB or more|
|SSD||256 GB or more||512 GB or more|
If you want to get into thins such as machine learning, then you may want to lean more towards the high end in terms of specs. If you are just doing your BS and want a laptop that lasts for about 4 years at least then you will be find with more towards the minimum.
Below are three laptops that I think are very good choices.
Best Laptops for Computer Science
Below are the laptop that I think are the best options. These should be a great starting point for your research into what is the best laptop for you.
MSI GS66 Stealth
The MSI GS66 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 Core i9-10980HK. This is an 8 core CPU, and will do really well for things that require a lot of computational power. If you are planning on doing anything AI or machine learning related then this is the CPU you should be looking for.
The laptop comes with the Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Super. This is quite a good GPU if you want to take classes on machine learning, or if you play games in your spare time. If not, then you can go for an option with a weaker GPU. The same goes for the CPU, it is more than what a lot of people really need.
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. Although there are lots of options with 8 GB, 16 GB is the best option for a computer science major.
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 GS66 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 an Intel Core i7-10750H CPU. 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 10th generation i7.
A great feature of this laptop is the GPU. It has a Nvidia RTX 2060 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.
This years model has a 512 GB SSD which is an upgrade from the previous 256 GB. 512 GB is a decent amount and about what we would be looking for.
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 on Amazon.
ASUS ROG Strix Scar 15
The Strix Scar is another high end gaming laptop that comes in a few variations. The one I have picked for this list has a 10th gen Intel Core i7-10875H. This is a great CPU and has 8 cores, making it well suited for resource intensive tasks.
The laptop also comes with the Nvidia GeForce RTX 2070 Super GPU. This is quite good, and more than what a lot of CS students will need. Even if you want to play games this is a quite good set up. Especially considering that the screen is a 240Hz refresh rate one. Good CPU, GPU, and Screen.
There is 16 GB of RAM on board. This is quite good, and 16 GB is what we would want in a CS laptop.
There is also a 1TB SSD. This a great size as you can install most of what you would want on it. For datasets in ML you may want to get an external drive to store them, but definitely not needed.
See the ASUS ROX Strix Scar on Amazon.
Dell XPS 13
A great laptop for computer science is the Dell XPS. This laptop looks great and it has very good parts.
The CPU on this laptop is an Intel Core i7-1065G7. This is not the most powerful i7, but for most people it will be a great choice.
This laptop does not have a dedicated GPU, so it is not for those who want to dabble in ML or play games. This machine is for someone who want great looking laptop that is easy to bring to school, for a pretty good price.
The XPS line of laptops have good screens. This screen gets up to 500 nits bright so it is good for places where you cant control the light, like a bright lecture hall.
The laptop has 16 GB of DDR4 RAM. This is a great amount and about what we would expect.
There is a 512 GB SSD on board. This is an OK size, and since you wont be using this as a gaming laptop for storing large data sets on it, it should be just fine.
See the Dell XPS on Amazon.
Acer Aspire 5
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 i5-1065G1. 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.
The Acer also has an good size SSD, 512 GB. 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 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.
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