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As an IT student you need a somewhat decent laptop. You don’t need the latest and greatest, but something that can get you through your upper division courses, and handle any non curricular activities you might want to partake in. We have spent a lot of time looking at the various options to help you find the best laptop for information technology students.
We have taken into the account that you need to be able to do some programming, set up different networks using virtualization technology, and write lots of papers. There will be other laptops out there in addition to the ones we have found, but this should be a good starting point for you. We have a lot of experience with what are good deals and what are not.
In this guide we focus mostly on what we think are the core features that make up a good IT laptop, but we also encourage you to look more into the laptops as there are other features that might interest you. For example, some laptops have fingerprint readers which make it very convenient to unlock the laptop, but it does not necessarily make it better for you as an information technology student.
The core features, which we will talk more about below our recommendations are CPU, GPU, memory, and RAM. These things are in general the most important hardware components. For many, the screen and keyboard will also make a difference. As you do your own research you should keep an eye on these components.
Best Laptops for IT students
Based on our research, our pick as the best laptop for information technology students is the MSI GS66. (#ad).
1. Best Overall – MSI GS66 Stealth
The MSI GS66 comes in a few different variations. You can explore the different models to see if there is something you feel fit your needs better, but the one we have chosen is one that comes with the brand new Intel i9-10980HK CPU. This is an incredibly powerful CPU and is one of the best laptop CPUs on the market right now. This is the best you will find, but not the cheapest. This CPU has 8 cores and 16 threads, which is really good for playing video games, machine learning, or running multiple virtual machines using something like virtualbox. If you are looking for the best option then this is it. It is quite a bit better than what most people will need, but if you are looking for something with a little extra power then this is your choice.
Although not the most important thing for strictly IT, the laptop comes with the RTX 2070 Super Max-q. This is a new version of the RTX 2070 Max-Q, and will be one of the best options for gaming. As many information technology students also play video games, this is one of the reasons why this laptop makes it to the top of the list. It might be too powerful for some, but for others it is the perfect fit. If you are looking for something on a budget, then you can sacrifice the GPU and have a look at the best budget option below.
As with the previous GS65 model, this laptop comes with a whopping 32 GB of RAM. This is well above our recommendation of 16 GB. 32 GB should be more than enough for you. Coupled with the 8 cores from the CPU, this is enough to run several virtual machines, which you can use to practice various IT tasks.
In terms of storage there is a 1 TB SSD. This is a great size and should be more than enough for you. This laptop has everything that is important for an IT student and then some.
See the MSI GS66 Stealth (#ad) on Amazon.
2. Best Budget – Acer Aspire
The Acer Aspire is a great laptop. Although not the absolute cheapest you can find, the parts that you get makes this laptop a really good bang for your buck buy. This laptop has a great reputation and is a very good option for most IT students. It will not be the best for things such as gaming, but you will be able to play most games just not on a high quality setting.
The laptop has a newer 10th generation Intel Core i5-10210U. This CPU is quite good. It only has four cores so if you want to run virtual machines you will be a bit limited as you have to assign one or more cores to the virtual machine. Despite that, 4 cores is enough for most of the things you will do. You will be able to run most things quite smoothly, and should not have many problems.
There are quite a few configuration options on the product page, and the model we recommend is the one that comes with the Nvidia GeForce MX250 GPU. Although a GPU is not too important for IT, there are so many things that can take advantage of a GPU these days that not having one can be a negative. If you are just going to read emails and surf the web then you certainly don’t need one, but as an information technology student you will be running a lot of power demanding programs, and you are likely to want to relax with a game or two at some point. If you want so save a little more then you can opt for the model that does not have the GPU as well.
The laptop comes with 8 GB of RAM. This is a little more on the low side, we do not recommend you go below 8 GB. The great thing is that you can always upgrade this at a later point if you feel like you need more. You are not stuck with 8 GB. It is also the DDR4 kind so you can upgrade to more DDR4 in the future.
There is a 512 GB SSD which is a great amount. You will find plenty of more expensive laptops that come with less storage.
See the Acer Aspire 5 (#ad) on Amazon.
Best Runner Up – MSI GF63
The runner up winner is another MSI Laptop. The MSI GF63 is a mid-level gaming laptop which offers you a lot of good hardware for its price. The laptop has an Intel Core i7-9750H. Aside from the new 10th gen versions, this is one of the better CPUs on the market. You will find this CPU is a lot of the high end gaming laptops. Even though the new 10th gen ones are rolling out, this CPU will be available in laptops for years to come.
This laptop comes with the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 TI. This GPU is more than good enough for IT, it is even good enough to play various games at an OK setting. It is not as powerful as the one you find in the MSI GS66 above, but for most people it is a good compromise between cost and performance. This is probably the GPU power/cost range that is most suitable for most information technology students.
This laptop also comes with 8 GB, just like the Acer Aspire. 8 GB is not that much, but you are able to upgrade this easily in the future if you feel like you need more for what you are doing. If your laptop feels sluggish when trying to multitask, this is an easy way to improve that.
This laptop only has 256 GB of SSD storage, but you should be able to pair this with an external storage or some online storage.
See the MSI GF63 (#ad) on Amazon.
What to Look for in the Best Laptop for an Information Technology Student
You should be aware of what are the most important components of a laptop. In this section of the guide we will get into what we think you should be looking for, as well as some recommendations for minimum specs you should get.
Depending on the laptop, not all of the recommendations below will be fully met. For example, if you are looking for something a little more budget friendly, then you will have to sacrifice something in most cases. The good thing though is that unless you are looking for something that is very good for gaming and something like machine learning, then you will do okay with most laptops.
Laptops have gotten so good these days that even cheaper ones can offer you a lot of bang for your buck. Try to get a laptop from a reputable manufacturer and you should be good in most cases.
That being said, here are what we consider to be the most important components for an IT student.
RAM is a very important part of a laptop, and luckily this is also the part that is most easily upgraded. RAM is what holds information that will be loaded to the CPU. Each time the CPU needs something that is not located in your RAM, it needs to be loaded from secondary storage (your HDD or SSD) into RAM. As a result, you might see how having more RAM is usually better. There are limits to how much will make a difference, but usually we recommend getting at least 8 GB.
8 GB is the most common amount in mid-level laptops these days. If your budget allows for it, getting 16 GB would be even better. A lot of programs are very RAM hungry these days, and even Chrome can eat up quite a bit. Also, if you want to use virtualization technology to set up a small network to work with networking tools, then you have to allocate a certain amount of RAM to the guest operating system. Being able to set up a few hosts without giving away all your RAM would be beneficial.
You also have to consider the type of RAM that you get. There is currently both DDR3 and DDR4 RAM on the market. DDR4 is both faster and uses less power, and therefore better. You can also not fit DDR3 chips in a DDR4 slot. So for being able to upgrade in the future we recommend that you get a laptop with DDR4.
A GPU is great, but for IT you don’t really need it. If you want to save some money then you can get a laptop that has a weaker model. You will find that most laptops that are good have a GPU. The reason is that they are becoming more and more useful as other programs can take advantage of them. Even Chrome is able to use a GPU to render things.
If you want to play video games, or try things such as machine learning, then getting a GPU is a must. We think that for IT any GPU will do. If you want to play games, then get the best one that fits in your budget. The RTX series is currently the best GPUs that you will find in laptops.
You will see a lot of different storage options as you do your research. We strongly recommend that you get an SSD. Because of the significant performance difference between a regular hard drive and SSD, most laptops actually come with SSDs these days, even the cheaper ones. But, some still have slower HDDs.
The more important thing regarding storage is how much you get. The cheaper the laptop, the less storage you usually get. We recommend that you do not go below 256 GB, but 512 GB is even better. There are a lot of laptops that only have 128 GB, and we don’t really recommend that unless you are able to supplement it with online storage. With only 128 GB you will quickly run out of space. Installing Windows takes up several GB, and games can easily take up tens of GB for a single game.
The CPU is perhaps the single most important part of the laptop. You might have heard the saying that it is the brain of the computer, and it has an impact on how well all the other components perform.
Intel is currently rolling out their 10th generation of CPUs. We recommend that you get something that is no older than an 8th generation. You should be fine with an i5, but an i7 or above is better.
In general we recommend that you get the best CPU that fits your budget. It is better to skimp on other parts and get the best CPU you can. Both RAM and storage you can upgrade, the GPU you don’t really need, so the CPU is where you need to make sure you get a good one. That being said, it is difficult to find a laptop that has a good CPU and all the other parts are bad. They usually go hand in hand.
We hope you have found this guide helpful, and that it helps you find the best laptop for you. The best laptop for information technology students is one that will get you through your studies, and can support you in any other activities you want to pursue in your learning.