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5 Best Laptop for Computer Science Students in 2020 [Reviews and Buying Guide]

As a computer science student you need to understand and write tons of codes, develop programs, design apps and work on different software. You need to learn an array of programming languages including JavaScript, Python, Java, Ruby, PHP, C++, JQuery, and more. You also need to learn networking, database management etc. So, a laptop is a necessity for you.

However, it is fair to say that you don’t need a high-end device. You don’t need tons of graphics capability in the laptop. You also don’t need high-definition display. So, what are the features that are essential in a laptop for a computer science student? Let us discuss in the buying guide.

Laptop Buying Guide For A Computer Science Student

Here are the features that you must look for while buying a laptop for your computer science academic programme.

1. RAM
RAM is the limiting factor for almost everything you do with the laptop. It is one of the most significant factors to consider while buying a laptop. As a student of computer science you may need to write large programs. You may also need to run virtual machines and heavy IDEs. These applications take up huge space in memory.

If you ever need to run these simultaneously you would certainly feel the need for infinite RAM. So, make sure to get a laptop with at least 4 GB RAM, if you are buying it for simple coding. If you ever need to run IDEs such as Visual Studio, Eclipse, Xcode etc, you need at least an 8GB RAM. If you also need to run Virtual Machines, a 16GB can be a very good bet. It is also a good idea to go for upgradeable RAM.

2. Display

  • Resolution

You definitely need a display that hurts your eyes less than others. As a computer science student you are definitely going to stare at the screen for most parts of the day. You need to do a lot of coding and learn a number of programming languages.

So, you are definitely going to stare at the screen for a long time. So, you need a high resolution display. So an HD+ or FHD resolution is a good one to go for.

  • Screen Size

You may need to use split screen in order to see chunks of code simultaneously and follow the code logic. So, along with resolution you also need to have a big screen. You can go for a 13” screen since a bigger one would make it less portabile.

3. KeyBoard
What’s there in a keyboard! Did you say so? Well, for a student a lousy keyboard is a bane. There are laptop reviews out there that scream about the problems of a lousy keyboard. If you give the keyboard a miss, you are going to suffer big time, even if every other spec is excellent.

The keyboard is important since you have got to type in every single code. So, don’t go for a messy keyboard; it may just mess up your productivity. Get a keyboard that comes with just the basic alphanumeric keys. This will help you get familiar with the keys in less time and enhance your productivity.

4. Storage
While selecting the hard disc you need to choose SSD over HDD. SSDs are way faster than HDDs. So, if you are thinking about getting a 1TB HDD, you can actually go for a 256 GB SSD.

It is going to do a much better job at loading & running apps & IDEs. If you buy a 1TB HDD, you may never put the extra space to good use, but still get stuck while running apps and IDEs simultaneously.

5. CPU
Modern processors come with the latest architecture. It may be 6th, 7th or 8th generation architecture. For simple coding/programming a Core i3 processor is sufficient. However, you may need to run IDEs/Virtual Machines like Eclipse/Java/XCode etc. So, a core i5 processor is the best bet for you.

6. Battery life

This is very important. The laptop needs to have a good battery life. Otherwise, it would become difficult for you to keep up with the pressure of coding and learning programming languages. The laptop needs to offer at least 8 hours of battery life in order to sustain the rigours of your academic program,

7. GPU
In all probability, you don’t need a GPU. This is only for high end-gaming.

8. Brand

Brands don’t matter as long as the device meets your requirements for the lowest possible budget. However, it is a good idea to stick to popular brands.

Here are some hand-picked models for you to choose the best laptop for Computer Science. So, go ahead and check them out.

5 Best Laptop for Computer Science Students

1. Apple MacBook Air

When it comes to portability, Apple’s MacBook Air may just win the challenge hands down. However, it is not just its portability that should beckon your senses while selecting from an array of gleaming laptops.

It’s the specifications and the price that make it a compelling buy for any student of computer science. The essence of the laptop is lightweight, superfast response, no process lag, and long battery life.

Performance

The Intel core i5 processor, 128 GB SSD and 8GB RAM is quite a power packed combo in so far as performance for an undergraduate in computer science is concerned. You can go one step higher with a 256 GB SSD while sticking to 8GB RAM.

However, going for a 16 GB RAM can be better idea if you need to use third party software. So, you have the option to enhance your storage and memory from 128 GB SSD and 8 GB RAM to 1TB SSD and 16 GB RAM.

Since it is difficult to upgrade MacBooks make sure to get whatever you need while making the purchase. However, for a student of computer science the combination of a 256 GB SSD and 8 GB RAM can provide enough juice.

The model boasts of the latest SSD technology, which can power up your task as a computer science undergrad. So, looking up for codes, loading simulations and booting up time are no more a concern.

A clutter free and facile keyboard with butterfly mechanism that gives more stability to the keys. This translates to better responsiveness of the keys and comfort of the user while keying in lines of coding. Keys are individually backlit with LED; this is indeed a great facility while using in low light.

With a weight of 2.75 pounds and a battery life of 12 hours, this is as good as it gets for a computer science student. This implies that it is not just highly portable, but can also go without charging for 12 hours if it is fully charged.

This is important since you may need to do or feel like doing coding pretty much anywhere such as while commuting. Just pull out your MacBook Air and start coding, literally anywhere.

Display and Design

This laptop has a 13 inch screen with retina display resolution with true tone technology. Owing to the retinal display resolution the text appears sharp and clear. True Tone technology adjusts the display to match the environment and render even better resolution. This can really be beneficial when you need to work with multiple windows.

SPECIFICATIONS

Dual-core 8th Generation Intel Core i5 processor
Intel UHD Graphics 617
Fast SSD storage. It is available in 128 GB as well as 256 GB SSD storage. 128 GB can take care of most of your computational needs.
8GB RAM
Thunderbolt 2 port
There are two Thunderbolt 2 ports for connecting multiple devices to the laptop and transfer data @ 20 GBPS
13.3 inch screen
Touch ID technology to quickly unlock the laptop with your fingerprint.
Spacious Force Touch trackpad for more control.
Up to 12 hours of battery life
Low price
Made from 100% recycled aluminium

PROS

You can use Windows, OSX as well as Linux. Ability to use Linux packages is an additional benefit. For an IDE not compatible with Mac or Linux simple get a quick dual boot and launch Windows.
A number of languages like C, C++, Python, Java etc are natively installed. So, you don’t need to install them.

CONS

Does not have a USB drive
Due to lack of dedicated graphics memory the UHD 617 uses the main memory which may be a slight drag at times.

Final Verdict

The Apple MacBook Air is an excellent slim-and-portable laptop, and the price makes it great value.

2. Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon

This is one of the most lightweight, attractive and sturdy laptops around. Coupled with this a good battery life and this easily becomes one of the most sought after laptops for computer science students.

Performance

You may fall for the Carbon’s attractive contours, but what makes it a great company for a CS student is its carbon fibre reinforced durable chassis, extreme portability, good battery life and powerful 8th Gen CPUs. It offers over 6 hours of battery life.

The Carbon comes with a combination of 256 GB SSD storage, 8 GB memory and i5 processor with 1.7 GHz frequency. It offers wonderful performance be it in database operation or cached or uncached reads/write. It also has very low latency, the superbug that afflicts laptops of different makes.

You can easily run multiple applications at a time without any problem. The PCIe NVMe Opal M.2 SSD offers much more juice than the SATA SSD of older models. Combine these specs with the speed and versatility of Windows 10 and you get a perfect companion for your CS Major program.

The keyboard is easy to type on, and the model has a very decent battery life. You can get over 6 hours of battery on a single charge no matter how you operate it. It weighs just 2.49 pounds which is quite portable.

Display and Design

This laptop has a 14 inch screen with 1920 x 1080 resolution and LCD display. The Intel UHD Graphics 620 is an integrated graphic unit that accesses the main memory. This offers enough clarity to text and semantics.

SPECIFICATIONS

Intel Core i5, 1.7 GHz processor
8GB RAM
256GB PCIe NVMe Opal M.2 SSD
14-inch Full HD Display in 1920 x 1080 resolution with IPS anti-glare technology
2.49 pounds

PROS

Fast and responsive
Highly portable and durable

CONS

Battery life is insufficient
Cannot add a different module of RAM

Final Verdict

The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon is a portable, slim and durable laptop with a great performance. The only drag is a below par battery performance.

3.  HP Envy 13

The HP Envy 13 is an attractive looking laptop with a portable chassis and Full HD display. Ultra long battery life, portability, bright display and fast performance are the hallmark of this laptop.

Performance

The laptop comes with an enviable array of performance indicators. With an Intel Core i5 processor, 8GB of RAM, and 256GB SSD storage, the base model can be quite handy for any undergrad student of CS Major. If you want to shell some more bucks you can go for 16 GB RAM and 512 GB SSD storage.

However, as an undergrad student of CS you may be quite well off with i5 processor, 8 GB of RAM and 256 GB of SSD storage. That can give you a lightning performance for a budget price of below $1000.

It also boasts of an ultra long battery life of about 14 hours in the base FHD model. As a student of CS Major you may need to engage in long lines of coding for hours. This is where the ultra long battery life of the laptop helps. In fact, this is the clincher for this laptop. However, if you go for the 4K model, the battery life comes down.

The keyboard is quite comfortable to type on. The island style keys come in generous size, and there is enough spacing between them. This makes even a novice type in his codes smoothly and not getting his keys wrong.

The touchpad comes with precision drivers. This makes it is easy to use and control. You can easily execute Windows 10 gestures like pinch-to-zoom etc on the touchpad.

There are USB 3.1 Type-A ports on each side of the laptop. So, you can easily connect stuff like keyboards, mouse etc.

Display And Resolution

It has a built-in Intel UHD Graphics 620 and 1920 x 1080 resolution which renders bright and vivid display. You would have no difficult viewing the lines of coding and avoiding typos.

SPECIFICATIONS

Intel Core i5 processor
Intel UHD Graphics 620
8GB RAM
256GB SSD
13.3-inch screen
1920 x 1080 resolution
Three USB 3.0 Ports
3.31 pounds

PROS

Ultra long battery life of about 14 hours
Fast performance

CONS

Somewhat bulky compared to other laptops
No thunderbolt 3 port

Final Verdict

The HP Envy 13 boasts of full HD display, ultra long battery life, fast performance and low cost. On the downside, it is not so portable as some other laptops.

4. Asus ZenBook UX330

If sleek design is in your mind apart from long battery life and portability, you can go with this laptop from Asus. Couple all these features with its durability and sub $1000 price, this may well be a compelling buy. It also comes with a neat black sleeve for easy carrying.

Performance

The Asus ZenBook UX330 is a sleek, aluminium body laptop with Intel Core i5 processor, 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD storage and integrated NVIDIA GeForce MX150 integrated graphics. The configuration is enough for all the jobs that a student of CS Major may need to undertake.

However, what make it especially attractive are its durability and long battery life. It can offer an outstanding battery life of about 12 hours. The most sought after qualities of a laptop meant for a student are durability, portability, fast performance and long battery life.

This laptop ticks all these required parameters. This can make it one of the most sought after laptops, especially when you look at the price tag of below $1000.

It has an ergonomic and comfortable backlit keyboard featuring optimal 1.5-millimeter key travel. There is a rubber palm rest and an easy-to-work on wide touchpad where you can effortlessly do all the Windows 10 gesture controls. The touchpad also contains an integrated fingerprint sensor and Windows Hello, which lets you log in with a single touch.

There are a number of ports. You can get two USB 3.0 ports and one USB 3.1 Type C port. So, connecting your peripherals and external devices is not a problem.

Display and Resolution

It has a 13.3 inch display with a glossy panel. However, the display seems to be somewhat dim compared to many laptops in this range. It has a bezel-free display. However, it is enough to make out the typos in your coding lines.

SPECIFICATIONS

Intel Core i5 processor
NVIDIA GeForce MX150 integrated graphics
8GB RAM
256GB SSD Storage
13.3-inch display
1920 x 1080 resolution
Two USB 3.0 ports, one USB 3.1 Type C port
Micro SD card slot
Micro HDMI 1.4 port
2.6 pounds

PROS

Long battery life
Durable and portable

CONS

Does not have a bezel-less display
Not many native apps

Final Verdict

The Asus ZenBook UX330 is a durable and portable, low cost laptop with a very good battery life. If a bezel-less display is not so much in your scheme of things, this can well be your pick.

5. Dell XPS 13

An outstanding 4k display, excellent performance, portable and super slim; these are some of the adjectives that perfectly describe the Dell XPS 13 laptop.

Performance

This model comes with a core i7 processor, an 8GB RAM and a 256 GB SSD storage. This spec is exactly fine for programming including those in IDEs like Visual Studio. A combo of core i7 processor, 8 GB of RAM and 256 GB of SSD storage can give you a superlative performance.

This is a great performing laptop. What makes this an adorable piece of laptop is that the battery of this ultraportable device can last for about 8 hours even with a 4k display. So, it kind of ends the long wait of consumers for a laptop with 4k display and long battery life.

The keyboard is backlit which makes it comfortable to type on in low light. The keys offer a softer landing compared to many other laptops. It has got a Precision touchpad which is quite easy to work with and execute all windows 10 gestures.

It has got three USB 3.0 ports. So, connecting peripherals is not a problem.

Display and Resolution

The display is a clincher for this device. It has got a 4K UHD InfinityEdge display in a gorgeous 13.3-inch bezel-free screen.

SPECIFICATIONS

Intel Core i7 processor
Built-in Intel UHD 620 graphics
8GB RAM
256GB SSD storage
13.3-inch Display
4K resolution
Three USB 3.0 ports
5.45 pounds

PROS

Excellent performance
4k resolution

CONS

Comparatively lower battery life with the 4k display
Somewhat heavy

Final Verdict

This is a somewhat bulky laptop with an excellent performance, a 4K resolution and good battery life for such a vivid display. This can be a very good pick for a below $1000 price.

Buying A Laptop for Your Undergrad Course In Computer Science

To buy a laptop for your undergraduate course in computer science, you need to understand your CS curriculum, software and the classes that you need to encounter. This will give you a good idea about what kind of laptop you need to purchase.

Even after having a thorough idea about the likely configuration you need to hunt for your departmental inputs about the configuration. Your department may have specific requirements. So, keep that in mind.

Here is a countdown on aspects of the laptop that you need to consider depending on the specific requirements of your Computer Science Department.

  • Laboratory

All reputed schools conducting CS Major programs offer awesome 24/7 labs. Does your school too offer 24/7 lab facility? If it does, is there a point in spending close to a thousand dollar for a laptop? You need to question this. In a 24×7 laboratory, you can work as much as you need to and that may include working on your homework assignments, watching YouTube videos etc.

Being entrenched in the school laboratory for hours may even be a better idea since you can focus on your work. This would also save you some money. Yet, do you have it in you to spend the entire day in a lab? Moreover, being an undergrad student of computer science you need to have the means to code anywhere, anytime. This is what necessitates a laptop.

  • Operating System and software

This is one of the fundamental questions to ask in your department. Is there any specific OS that they use or recommend? Some schools may use and recommend Microsoft while some others may favour Linux. You need to check with the department if you need to use any specific compiler, code editor or IDE.

The idea is to check its compatibility with the OS of preference. Nevertheless, if you have decided to go for a MacBook, you need not check this aspect any more. MacBooks can be run on Windows as well as Linux. In fact, dual booting is the icing on the cake for these devices.  However, it is fair to say that almost all Computer Science software run in any modern laptop without any problem.

  • Assignments

Don’t live under the impression that you need to do some heavy programming in your final semester senior year. You are not going to compile the next Windows or Firefox. You are not going to compile something that will take time to run. Even if you need to compile heavy coding as a part of independent research, it may be a one-off thing. This you can very well do in the institute lab.

Don’t fall for free software with laptop. Having a bunch of extra native software is an USP for many brands or models. However, before considering them you need to consider if your school is going to provide them or not. In most cases, schools provide all the required software after admission.

Does the school allow remote access to the laboratory?

Does the school allow students to use their laptops or desktops to remotely connect to the school’s lab computers and use them? If it does, it means that you don’t need heavy configuration in your laptop to run heavy software that otherwise wouldn’t run on your desktop or laptop.

How are classes held in the Department?

This is needed to determine whether you need to take the laptop all the way to the school just to attend classes or not. In most places, classes are held in the old fashioned way. So, a pen and paper is more comfortable and necessary. However, depending on your specialization for 2nd or 3rd year you may need to bring the laptop to the school.

So, be sure about that. However, you may be given assignments to complete within lab hours. If you are not allowed to use the lab beyond fixed hours, your assignment would be in utter chaos. This is the time that you would feel the need of a good laptop.

Conclusion

Buying a laptop for your CS Major program need not be your first option. If the school allows 24×7 access to the lab and if you don’t need to take the laptop to school, you may well go for any laptop. However, for a student like you who loves to code, and you may need to get the lines of coding right at any point of time.

So, portability and durability along with good performance and long battery life must be in your scheme of things while purchasing a laptop. If you can spend some more, a 4K resolution, a bezel-less display or slim design is always a good add on. So, the one which suits all your requirements and fits under your budget will be the best laptop for Computer Science education of yours.