The life cycle of an engineering student regardless of his or her discipline revolves around making use of a computer to become proficient in certain areas of your course.
These areas could be in engineering design, systems analysis, artificial intelligence, control process analysis or programming and to get the best out of your participation in these classes, access to a more than adequate personal computer—which will serve as your workstation—is quite important.
Best Laptops for Engineering Students
After all has been said and done, here is our own list of the best laptops out there for engineering students. Read more below to find out why these laptops made it to the list
|Lenovo ThinkPad W541||4th generation i7 Extreme CPU (i7 4940MX)|
NVIDIA Quadra K2100M
resolution display of 2880 x 1620
|HP ZBook 15 and 17 G2 laptops||4th generation core i7-4940MX |
HDMI port, multiple USB ports
32 GB of RAM
|15 and 17 inches|
|Dell Precision M3800||NVIDIA GeForce GT 750M GPU|
Multiple USB ports, an HDMI port, an SD card slot
6GB RAM, Bluetooth 4.0
|Toshiba Satellite P50||2GB GDDR5 VRAM AMD Radeon TM graphic unit|
multiple USB ports, an SD card slot, HDMI port, and 4 cell battery capable of providing over 6 hours of power
Choosing between a Laptop and a Desktop
Since we have to determine the importance of a personal computer in engineering classes, the next logical step is to determine the type of computer which will be suitable for students who are always on the road moving from one class to the other. Now, it is important to note that each computer—the desktop and laptop—has its pros and cons which will be outlined below.
The Desktop: desktops are powerful workstations which can be customized and upgraded to meet a user’s specific requirement making it a powerful tool for engineering designs, programming and other functions. The pros include:
- The ability to modify its processing units
- The range of external components and devices it supports
- The possibility of using bigger screens especially for engineering designs
- The possibility of customizing every aspect of it from video cards to its core drives.
The cons include:
- Its static nature; it isn’t exactly an easy task to carry a desktop with you from class to class
- Its lack of a built-in power storage facility i.e batteries
The Laptop: Laptops are also powerful workstations which come in compactly built packages that dissuade tampering from external sources. But the average laptop already comes equipped with the necessary features—video card, drives and GUI’s—needed for engineering uses.
The pros include:
- A portable workstation that can be carried as personal luggage when moving between locations
- Adequate tools and features for engineering design and programming
- Although most laptops are adequately featured, customizing them isn’t exactly recommended
The Laptop fits best the needs of an engineering student due to a student’s hectic schedule and its portability therefore; it is time to look at the features to consider when choosing a laptop as well as the top 5 laptops available to engineering students on the market.
Things to consider when choosing a Laptop
When choosing a laptop which would serve all your engineering needs, there are certain features to be taken into consideration in order for you to make an educated choice and they include:
- Operating system—in this modern age of advanced computing and millions of app to choose from, the most important feature for a laptop is its operating system. For as we all know, some software applications are built to be compatible with certain operating systems and would not run on other operating systems that don’t meet its compatibility requirements. This makes operating systems such as Microsoft’s Windows a good choice because virtually all applications –Matlab, C#, CAD applications etc.—you will need as an engineer runs on its interface.
- Processing Unit—a laptops ability to process the projects as quickly as possible will sometimes determine how early its user finishes and submits an assignment. And as for students working with computer aided design applications, minimizing animation and rendering time is important to achieving success in every design project you handle.
- Display screen—everyone has his or her preferences when it comes to choosing the display screen size they are comfortable with. But it is important to note that certain types of project require either a larger screen or smaller screen to aid the viewing of what they entail. Engineers working with graphical designs cannot overlook the advantages a bigger screen offers while programmers can take advantage of the light-weight nature of smaller screens/laptops.
- Pricing—the size of your pocket definitely plays a part on whether you end up with a premium laptop or something mass-produced for users to get the job done. For those with limited options, all you need to know is that most new-age computers are actually equipped to handle heavy duty projects and it wouldn’t really hold you back.
Lenovo ThinkPad W541
If you belong to the group of those who place their focus solely on the 3 giants of the laptop industry—Apple, HP and Samsung—the idea of purchasing a Lenovo ThinkPad would definitely be difficult to swallow but bare with us as we outline its features. The ThinkPad W541 comes equipped with the following features; a 4th generation i7 Extreme CPU (i7 4940MX) which is one of the most advanced processing unit on the market, NVIDIA Quadra K2100M discrete graphic processing unit which makes this laptop a solid tool for assignments that require a good display unit such as graphic design/gaming, and a resolution display of 2880 x 1620 with a screen size of 15.6 inches.
Other features which are less important but you should know about are: over 6 hours of battery life, multiple USB portals around its sides, a fingerprint reader and a slot for SD cards. Unfortunately, the Lenovo ThinkPad W541 does not come with an HDMI port or a DisplayPort video output for external display purposes. Instead, it has both a VGA and thunderbolt ports. Also, if the lack of an HDMI port is a deal breaker for you, you should consider purchasing other versions of the Lenovo ThinkPad such as the W550s series.
In terms of pricing, the Lenovo ThinkPad series do not come cheap and at $1232, a few students will find it above their reach. That been said, the laptop is an awesome workstation for the average engineering student. Lenovo runs on Windows 7/8 operating systems which means almost every software application an engineering student will need to use would work on the ThinkPad 541.
HP ZBook 15 and 17 G2 laptops
The ever popular Hewlett Packard brand really know what it takes to build laptops for engineers and although it will be a misnomer to say they have out-did themselves with the release of the ZBook. Now to its specifications; the ZBook comes equipped with the 4th generation core i7-4940MX and the Windows 8.1 as its operating system.
This laptop comes in two sizes and they are the 15 and 17 inch screens which mean you could choose your screen size depending on your peculiar needs. And for those who have difficulties laptop taking care of a laptop for extended durations, purchasing this item should be on your shopping list form it is solidly built to handle whatever rugged terrain it finds itself. The ZBook spots the new HP DreamColour technology and a 1080p screen which makes its resolution good enough for graphic design and gaming Included in its feature list are; HDMI port, multiple USB ports, a VGA port, VPro and a finger print reader.
The ZBook is also a customizable laptop and its wide array of drive options which allows you mix hard drives and SSDs in order to get the best out of your laptop. HP also makes the ZBook available with 16 to 32 GB of RAM and provides support for Ubuntu Linix operating system which makes it one of the most versatile laptops out there. The ZBook doesn’t come cheap an at a price of $1900 you should be willing to burn some cash.
Dell Precision M3800
In other to catch up with the competition—Apple, HP, Samsung etc.—Dell undertook the task of developing newer versions of its laptops for the public and the Precision M3800 just happens to be Dell’s flagship laptop for engineers. Here are its specifications: as expected, the laptop comes with the 4th generation core i7 and runs with both Windows 8.1 and Linux operating systems depending on your requirements. Added to these are, NVIDIA Quadro discrete GPU which adds the quality to its displays.
Other features include storage options of up to 1 terabyte, a 16GB RAM and the popular Gorilla glass to protect its touch screen. This also makes the Precision M3800 a rugged laptop which can be used by students who spend much of their time on the road. Its sides spot multiple USB ports, an HDMI port and space for your SD cards. A 15 inch screen compliments these features making it suitable for engineering projects. As for its price, the flagship Dell Precision M3800 goes for approximately $2000 making it quite expensive for the average student.
Dell XPS 15 Model
Yes I know that having two Dell laptop models on this list feels like cheating but believe me, Dell has stepped up its game and the XPS 15 model is a testament to that fact as can be seen from its powerful specifications. The XPS 15 comes fully equipped with 4th generation core i7 processor, Windows 8.1 operating system and NVIDIA GeForce GT 750M GPU which makes it a powerful machine for engineering designs, programming and simulating projects in the artificial intelligence niche.
Its exterior is built to last due to Dells use of machined aluminum for its surface and edge to edge corning gorilla glass to protect the touch screen. Multiple USB ports, an HDMI port, an SD card slot and the Noble lock rounds up its external features. For its internal features, the XPS is fitted with a 16GB RAM, Bluetooth 4.0, a 15.6 inch screen and up to 1 terabyte of hard disk space. XPS models are customizable and its pricing is generally affected by the amount of features or extra features you put in it but a factory model goes for approximately $2,300 which is definitely quite a lot of money.
Toshiba Satellite P50
The P50 makes this list due to its support for customizing laptops to your specifications as well as the quality of its basic features. Here are its specifications; the laptop is built with the 4th generation core i7, windows 8.1 operating system and a 2GB GDDR5 VRAM AMD Radeon TM graphic unit. Its 15.6 inch screen and a screen resolution of 1920 x 1080 make it a solid gaming and design tool for engineers.
The P50 is equipped with multiple USB ports, an SD card slot, HDMI port, and 4 cell battery capable of providing over 6 hours of power for it. As for RAM size, an expandable 8GB does the trick for the P50 as well as a 750GB hard disk serving as its storage unit. Although the basic P50 might not measure up to the other laptops on this list, note that its features are customizable to meet your specification. Lastly, it makes this list due to its relative cheapness when compared to the features it has. At a price of $1,000, the P50 is definitely a bargain for students.
Finally, we come to the end of this list and I know some of you would be gasping in surprise that the MacBook Pro didn’t feature but we would like you to know that this was done for a reason. We stated earlier our criteria for choosing the laptops on this list and the MacBook pro doesn’t meet the criteria of an operating system that supports a multitude of software applications. Apple is a close knit community and a substantial number of apps an engineering student will need during his/her course of study will not run on its computers. We would like you to know that your input is appreciated so feel free to leave your laptop suggestions in our comment section.