As a computer science student, it is incredibly important that you are using the best laptop for computer science students.
Otherwise, how would you even be able to effectively study your discipline?
Computer science students will only be able to perform well with the right laptop. While there are definitely some excellent laptops on the market, opinions will differ as to what the perfect laptop is. That means, you will need to do some research before you can commit to one laptop over another.
After finding out what is recommended by your program, you will also need to think about what you might need. Here’s how you can decide.
Factors To Consider When Choosing A Laptop For Computer Science Students
One of the most important factors to consider when choosing the best laptop for computer science students is the CPU.
A faster CPU will improve the overall speed of your laptop, getting rid of any unnecessary frustration with load times. You should aim for an Intel core i5 CPU, or at the very least an Intel core i3.
If you are going to be looking at your laptop all day as you take your classes, you need to consider your display resolution. At the very least, you should be looking for a screen size of 13” to 15.” Any bigger than that and the laptop isn’t portable.
Any smaller, and it will be hard to program on your screen. Additionally, aim for a screen resolution of 1080p to get the level of clarity you need.
You might be thinking that as a computer science student, you do not need to think about GPU with your laptop. But, that may or may not be the case.
In general, the average computer science student might not care much about graphics, unless he/she is headed into game development. If you are a heavy gamer or designer, you might want the option of a graphics card, but if you do not, it is not going to be necessary.
Like CPU, you want to have as much RAM as you can get. RAM will increase the compile time of your computer.
The amount of RAM that you should be aiming for is 8GB. Coupled with a powerful processor, 8GB is ideal. You can still get by with 4GB of RAM with the i5 processor, but 8GB is the better choice. If you are gaming heavily, you might want to go for 16GB instead.
SSD or HDD
In terms of storage, you will be faced of the choice of an SSD or an HDD. If you are willing to pay for it, you will be better off with an SSD than an HDD.
SSDs are substantially faster than HDDs. SSDs also are lighter, more reliable, and use much less power than HDDs do. Capacity does not matter much as you can always get an external hard drive.
10 Best Laptops For Computer Science Students
1. Microsoft Surface 3
2. MackBook Pro
3. Acer Aspire 5
AMD Ryzen 5
4. MackBook Air
5. Lenovo Yoga 710
6. Asus VivoBook 15
7. Acer Aspire 3
AMD Ryzen 3
8. Lenovo ThinkPad X1
9. HP 15 Laptop
10. Dell Inspiron 3000
1. Microsoft Surface 3 Laptop
Best Laptop For Computer Science Students (Editor's Choice)
Our choice for the best laptop for computer science students is the Microsoft Surface 3.
This is an excellent all-around computer that will have all of the bells and whistles that you might be looking for in your laptop.
Starting with the design, the Surface 3 has a 13.5 inch touchscreen display. This means that it is a little bit smaller than some of the other laptops that we have looked at, but still in the size range for what you should be looking for in a laptop. The laptop has a few colour options to choose from as well, whether you prefer Cobalt Blue, Matte Black, New Sandstone, or even Platinum.
Looking at its ports, the Surface 3 has a USB Type-C port and USB Type-A ports as well. These will allow you to connect it to other displays, docking stations, or any kind of accessory that might need that connectivity. The device is very lightweight, only weight 2.79 pounds, making it incredibly easy to carry around.
The battery life of the Surface 3 is amazing, lasting up to 11.5 hours on one charge. Then, if you have killed the battery, you can go to a full charge in just over an hour. The trackpad on this laptop is also about 20 percent larger than the trackpad on the Surface 2, giving you more room to work with.
The Microsoft Surface 3 comes with 8 GB of RAM and a Windows 10 Home operating system. It does have an internal graphics coprocessor to help your laptop keep up with whatever visual effects that you are going for. The coprocessor is an Intel Iris Plus Graphics.
The CPU speed of the Surface 3 is 1.2 GHz with a hard disk size of 128 GB. It has four internal processors, so it should be able to handle anything that you throw at it in stride. The hard drive’s rotational speed is 7200 RPM, so it should be able to keep up.
The laptop comes with an adaptive brightness setting, where the display will automatically adjust depending on the lighting of the room that you are in. While it does work most of the time, occasionally the computer misreads the lighting and will not adjust correctly.
2. New Apple MacBook Pro Laptop
If you are a computer science major and looking for a laptop that is high performance, check out the New Apple MacBook Pro. As MacBooks are always impressive, this laptop is no exception and is an excellent choice for all computer science people.
Starting with its design, the Apple MacBook Pro is clean and elegant. It only weighs 2.79 pounds and is very thin as well, making it easy to carry anywhere that you would like to take it, whether to class, in a coffee shop, or even on a plane.
As an added bonus, you can choose a colour for your MacBook. The choices are New Sandstone, Matte Black, Cobalt Blue, and the more standard Platinum.
The battery life for the MacBook is amazing. It can easily handle 11.5 hours without needing a charge. When you do plug it in, it can go from dead to full charge in just over an hour. This will remove any concern that you might have had about sitting next to an outlet in class.
Looking at its ports, the MacBook Pro comes with a USB-A and a USB-C ports to allow you to connect displays, docking stations, or anything else. The screen itself is a 16-inche Retina display, which means that you will have plenty of room to work through your coding on one screen when you need to be in class.
Looking at its performance, the MacBook Pro has an Intel Core i5. It comes with up to 8-core processor, which will manage the most intensive workloads. The memory is up to 64 GB, making it easy to edit large files while also being able to multi-task without slowing down. Looking at its storage, there are some options, but you can get as much as 512 GB SSD with this laptop.
The MacBook Pro also has a graphics feature, which includes 13.5” Intel Iris Plus Graphics as well as a 15” AMD Radeon RX Vega 11. The AMD Radeon Pro 5000M series allows for fast rendering as well as seamless playback.
The laptop also comes with a six-speaker sound system as well as studio-quality mics that will create a more dramatic sound effect, but also will produce cleaner recordings.
3. Acer Aspire 5 Slim Laptop
So many students have to work within a budget in order to be able to afford supplies. It happens all of the time.
If you are a computer science student who is working within a budget, take a look at the Acer Aspire 5 Ryzen 5 laptop. Even though it is more affordable, this laptop still comes with a lot of great features that will make it an asset to your schooling.
The design of the AMD Ryzen 5 includes a 15.6” full HD widescreen, which is exactly the size of screen that you should want. The casing for this laptop is silver as well, which is pretty typical for a laptop. The laptop itself is a little on the heavy-side. It weighs 5.69 pounds. It might not seem like a lot, but if you are carting it around, that weight is going to add up.
Looking at the laptop’s ports, it has two USB 2.0 ports as well as one USB 3.0 port, so you should be able to plug in any attachments or devices that you have. Unfortunately, the battery life on this laptop is also not the best, lasting up to 5 hours. But, if you are not sitting in class for 5 hours at a time, it should still be able to make it through class without trouble.
The keyboard with this laptop is backlit, so you will be able to easily see the keys to code, even when you are sitting in a dark room. The speakers are Acer TrueHarmony speakers, which has a deeper bass and more volume included with its innovative speaker design.
The performance for the Aspire 5 AMD Ryzen 5 includes an AMD chipset brand with an integrated card description. The graphics card RAM size is 2 MB as well, so it should be able to keep up with what you might be doing when you are in class.
The laptop has a built-in 802.11ac router as well, so you should not have any trouble getting online when you want to. This is not the highest performing laptop out on the market, but it still should be able to do the job when it comes to having a laptop in class.
4. Apple MacBook Air Laptop
Sometimes, we need a laptop that is not going to weigh us down. This can be especially important if you are always on the go, taking your laptop to class, or even trying to get some work done on a commute.
Our recommendation for a super light laptop for computer science students is the Apple MacBook Air.
Since the design is really the best feature of this laptop, let’s start there. MacBook Air was specifically made to be the lightest laptop that you can get. This one is no exception. It weighs only 2.8 pounds, so transporting it will be a piece of cake.
Another design features with the MacBook Air is that it has a backlit Magic Keyboard that will allow you to adjust the brightness of the keys to better suit the needs of your eyes. The display itself is a 13.3 inch diagonal screen that is LED backlit. It also has Retina display, so it should still manage to be easy on the eyes.
Additionally, the laptop as the Touch ID fingerprint feature, which will allow you to lock and secure your laptop from outside hands that might try to touch it. The touchpad is 20 percent larger than other pads as well, giving you more room for multi-touch gestures.
Moving onto its performance, the MacBook Air has a 1.1 GHz dual-core 10th generation Intel Core i3 processor with Turbo Boost. It has up to twice the amount of CPU performance as competing laptops. The Intel Core i7 processor also has up to 4 cores as well with up to 80 percent faster graphics performance than competitors. With up to 2 TB SSD storage, the MacBook Air is made to perform well.
When you use the video feature with this laptop, you will see that the FaceTime camera is actually HD with a three-microphone array to capture your voice more accurately, making Zoom calls easier than ever before. The quality of the camera itself is not the best, however, so if you are doing a lot of video conferencing, you might want to invest in a separate webcam in order to have better overall quality. The speakers also have 25 percent more volume than its predecessors and double the amount of base.
5. Lenovo Yoga 710-15 Laptop
Hybrid Laptop & Tablet
If you are looking for the best of both tablets and laptops, we suggest the Lenovo Yoga 710-15 computer. It is a nice and flexible choice as a computer as you can always opt to use it as a tablet instead of a laptop, if you wanted to.
The design is probably the best part of this entire computer. Instead of only being a laptop, the Yoga is designed to move around. You can use it like a standard laptop if you want to, but it can also bend backward and be used as a tablet.
The keyboard can be tucked underneath it, hence the “yoga” name. It is called a 360-degree flip-and-fold design.
The screen itself is a 15.6 inch full HD multi-touch screen, so you can touch the screen instead of relying on a touchpad. The screen’s resolution is 1920 x 1080, so is should be able to get some great picture quality. The screen itself is backlit with LED as well.
Other added design features for this computer include a fingerprint reader, an HD webcam with two microphones, a USB 3.0 port, and Bluetooth 4.1 capabilities. It does have an 8-hour lifespan for its battery, which should be able to take you through your day’s classes without trouble.
The laptop weighs about 4.45 pounds, so it is not the lightest laptop on the market, but it is also not the heaviest, so it should be still easily portable.
Looking at its performance, the Yoga uses Windows 10 Home as its operating system. The hard disk size is 256 GB and it is an SSD. The graphics coprocessor is an Intel HD Graphics 620 and it is integrated as well.
The CPU speed for the Yoga is 2.5 GHz. It has an Intel Core i5 processor with a computer memory size of 8 GB, so it should still be able to get the job done like a regular laptop. The computer memory type is a DDR3 SDRAM. Its wireless communication standard is a 802.11a as well as a 802.11bgn.
The laptop will transition from tablet mode to laptop mode and then back again, but it does sometimes get confused about which mode that it should be in, especially if you are transitioning too quickly between them.
6. ASUS VivoBook 15 Laptop
Another great choice of laptop for computer science students is the ASUS VivoBook 15. This is a sleek laptop that manages to combine affordability with function and is a great choice for the classroom.
The design for the VivoBook 15 includes an innovative ErgoLift hinge that allows the screen to be positioned at a more comfortable angle for you. The display itself has a four-sided NanoEdge display with a compact chassis.
The NanoEdge display means that there is no frame around the screen, keeping the edge dimensions down to the smallest size possible. The bezel might be ultra-slim, but there is still an HD webcam located on the top bezel.
The design is meant to be sleek and comes in a slate grey colour that manages to make it look stylish and understated at the same time. The display is 15.6 FHD as well, so you will absolutely get more screen with this laptop without getting any more weight. In fact, it only weighs 3.75 pounds. It has a screen to body ratio of 88 percent.
The VivoBook also comes with three different types of USB: a USB 3.2 Type-C, a USB 3.2 Type-A, and a USB 2.0. The keyboard is also backlit for added functionality. The battery is fast-charging and can reach 60 percent from dead after only 49 minutes of charging. It does have an ASUS SonicMaster for a deeper bass sound, but the quality is still not great with this small device.
The performance for the VivoBook is great for the type of notebook it is. It comes set in Windows 10 S mode, but you can always convert to standard Windows 10 if you would prefer. It has 8 GB of RAM and 128 GB of storage.
Looking at its processor, the VivoBook has an Intel i3 CPU as well as an Intel UHD GPU. Really, the performance for a notebook like this is really meant for in-class work. This is a great companion to take to class with you, but you might want something a little more robust to do your homework. This does not come with all of the extra features that you might find with other laptops, but for a notebook, this is really the best one that you can get.
7. Acer Aspire 5 AMD Ryzen 3 Laptop
The Acer Aspire 5 AMD Ryzen 3 is another great laptop choice for computer science students. This is a little different than the Ryzen 5 that we looked at already, but there are enough differences that they deserve separate reviews.
The Ryzen 3 notebook has a 15.6 inches full HD widescreen display. The resolution is 1920 x 1080. It is an LED backlit IPS display as well with AMD Radeon Vega 3 mobile graphics. The keyboard itself also is backlit. It is a light laptop, coming in at 3.97 pounds. It has a pretty thin bezel, so you will have more space to work with.
Looking at its battery, you will get 7.5 hours of battery life, so it should easily be able to handle you being in class. It comes with a USB 3.1 gen 1 port and two USB 2.0 ports for connectivity. It also as a 10/100/1000 Gigabit Ethernet port, if you wanted to plug it into your modem or router directly. There is also a spot to hook up an HDMI cable. It does not have a USB-C port, however.
The performance of the Ryzen 3 should work well for students. It comes with Windows 10 in S mode, making it a nice notebook for doing class work on. You can always put it in standard Windows 10, of course. Its maximum supply wattage is 65.
Its memory speed is 3.5 GHz, so it is not the fastest, but it is also not too slow. The graphics coprocessor is the AMD Radeon Vega 3 with an integrated card. The computer is meant to support 802.11ac wireless connectivity as well. Overall the startups are quick with the Ryzen 3, and they should not slow down over time.
It also has some built-in security measures to help keep malware out of your computer, but still, you should ideally be hooked up to a modem or router that also has security features in place to keep malware out of your computer. As an added bonus, the computer is enabled to work with Amazon Alexa, so you will also get all of those added fun features, like creating lists, using a calendar, and other features.
8. Lenovo ThinkPad Ultrabook
If you are looking for the best laptop for computer science that is the best touchscreen as well, we suggest Lenovo ThinkPad Ultrabook. This is a great laptop if you really need one that has a reliable touchscreen. Otherwise, you might want a laptop that has better performance overall.
The design of the ThinkPad Ultrabook includes a 14 inch anti-glare LED backlit display, so it is really the perfect size for portability. The screen resolution is 1920 x 1080, making it excellent to look at for long periods of time.
It weighs 4.6 pounds, so it is in the weight range that you really want to have for a laptop. The keyboard is also backlit, so you will be able to see the keys, even in dim lighting. That can be ideal in college classes.
Another design element that you get with the ThinkPad is the Fingerprint reader, adding an extra layer of security and protection for you. The audio processing is an Array Dolby, so the sound quality should be pretty good. The integrated webcam has goo visual quality, making it easy to have meetings or classes online if you needed to.
Looking at its ports, the ThinkPad has two USB 3.1 ports and two USB Type-C. There is an HDMI port as well as a Mini RJ-45. The battery life on the laptop is reported to be pretty good as well, so you should not have to charge it all of the time.
The performance for the ThinkPad Ultrabook is decent. It includes an Intel Core i7 CPU. It comes with Windows 10 as well. The hard drive interface is a solid state with a rotational speed of 3 RPM. The Flash Memory size is 512 as well, though the modifier is unknown.
There is a graphics coprocessor with the ThinkPad as well. It is an Intel HD Graphics 620, so you will get pretty good graphics with this laptop. Its wireless capability is an 802.11ac. It also has a Bluetooth 5.0 as well as an integrated dual-microphone, so really the laptop should be able to do what you need it to.
This is a touchscreen, so you can easily tap on what you need with the screen instead of the trackpad.
9. HP 15 Touchscreen Laptop
If you are looking for a more middle-of-the-road laptop to take to your computer science classes, check out the 2020 HP 15. HP laptops are neither the most nor least expensive laptops on the market. So, you can expect decent performance, just maybe not the highest amount of quality.
Let’s start with its design. The HP 15 has a 15.6 inch touchscreen. They do market it as being “HD,” but its resolution is really 1366 x 768, which is simply not as good as other screens that are on the market. It is a touchscreen though, so you will still be able to touch the screen directly rather than needed to scroll with a trackpad.
The laptop comes with a USB Type-C port, which is what you will really be looking for as far as ports go. It comes with three USB 3.0 ports, so you will have plenty of places to plug in external hard drives or any other devices that might need that connection.
There is an internal fan, as there is with all computers, but you are more likely to hear this computer’s fan. Knowing ahead of time that the fan might make noise is important, so you don’t think that your CPU is becoming overwhelmed.
The laptop weighs 4.49 pounds, so it is in the weight range that you should be looking for.
Moving onto its performance, the HP 15 has an SSD, which will boot up in a matter of seconds, rather than minutes. When the computer starts, it will almost seem like you never turned it off. That kind of speed is hard to come by. The CPU in this computer is an Intel Core i5, so that is more middle of the road as far as processors go.
The HP 15 supports the 802.11ac wireless type as well as Bluetooth. It does have an Intel Graphics coprocessor, which will get the job done well. The RAM that you are looking at for this computer is 2666 MHz, which again is not the fastest, but it will still get the job done well.
The operating system for this computer is the Windows 10 Home, not the Windows 10 S, which might be a little surprising since it is a touchscreen.
10. Dell Inspiron 3000 15.6-inch Laptop
The last laptop that we will look at as the best laptop for computer science major is the Dell Inspiron 3000. This has an Intel 10th generation dual-core processor and all of the other essential features that a modern computer science student needs to be successful.
Looking at its design, the Inspiron 3000 is not the lightest laptop out on the market. It weighs 4.45 pounds, which is a little on the heavy-side as far as laptops go, but it is still slim and easy to carry around. It has a 15.6-inch touchscreen display. It is a 1366 x 768 display that has high definition. The keyboard does not have a backlighting option.
The design also includes 2 USB Type-A 3.0 ports as well as 1 USB Type-A 2.0 port, allowing you plenty of option to plug in the devices that need a USB connection.
There is also a port for headphones as well as a place for an RJ45 and HDMI cable. It also has a webcam, so you will not need to get a separate one if you need to video conference or have a class over Zoom.
This laptop is made to perform. To begin with, it has an Intel 10th generation dual-core i3-110005G1 processor. The CPU speed is 1.20GHz as well, which is not the fastest processor, but it will still get the job done. This will reach up to 3.4GHz with 4 MB cache and 2 cores. The laptop has an 8GB DD4 SDRAM as well as a 128GB solid state drive as well as a 1TB HDD.
While not all computer science students need a graphics card, this laptop comes with an Intel UHD graphics. It also accommodates Bluetooth 4.1 if that is something that you are looking to get. The battery is included with the laptop and it is a Lithium ion battery.
The operative system for the Inspiron 3000 uses the Microsoft Windows 10 Home 64 bit. It does support a wireless type of 802.11ac to go with your router, if that is a feature that you were looking for in your laptop. That will make it easy to hook your laptop to any router that is in your vicinity, with proper security precautions in place, of course.
Features To Look For In The Best Laptop For Computer Science Majors
While in an ideal classroom, you would easily find an outlet, the problem arises when you hope your seat is near one. We can’t all sit by a power outlet to keep our laptops up and going, so then it is important to look at battery life.
Ideally, you should be looking at a laptop that has at least 6 hours of battery life, but really, you need to have 8 hours to be safe. Lighter laptops can have batteries that last up to 13 hours without needing to be plugged in again.
The resolution of your screen, backlit features, and even the running of background applications can all negatively affect your battery life, so you also need to look at potential battery drains that might make you burn through it faster. You can also stick with battery saver mode and let your laptop adjust the settings for you.
Another feature to look for in the best laptop for computer science majors is the comfort-level of the keyboard. If you think about how much you will be using the keyboard, you should know that you need the keyboard to be incredibly comfortable.
You do not need a heavy or cheap keyboard to make things harder. You will want the keys to be responsive and quiet, so you will not fatigue your fingers or annoy anyone around you. Also look for a backlit feature on the keys so that you can code even when you are in the dark.
A touchpad can also make or break your experience with your computer. You do want a responsive touchpad that will scroll and move around as much as you would like it to. But, you also do not want a touchpad that jumps around whenever you try to use it.
You want a touchpad that has built-in accidental contact mitigation (ACM), which is where the touchpad is smart enough to determine whether a light stray movement is an accident rather than intentional. Some of the newer touchpads also allow you to decrease the size of the touchpad zone to remove that potential for error.
Laptop ports should also not be ignored when you are looking at laptop features. Most laptops will come with a USB Type-A port, as this was the standard USB. USB 3.0 are faster than their USB 2.0 counterpart.
There are also USB Type-C ports that are quickly becoming the norm. They are faster than USB Type-A or Type-B, slimmer, and can handle higher currents. As a computer science student, you will want both a Type-A and Type-C port.
Other ports to look for are HDMI ports that will allow you to hook your laptop up to a television or larger display if you wanted to. You should also look for an RJ-45 or Ethernet port that will allow your laptop to be plugged into a router directly.
You might also want to have a memory card reader in your laptop, but if it does not come with one, external readers are easy enough to buy.
Weight & Screen Size
Weight and screen size both matter a great deal when it comes to finding the best laptop for computer science major. The lighter the laptop, the easier it is to bring with you to lectures or take it to a coffee shop to get some work done.
Of course, if you are not carrying your laptop around so much, then it might not matter to you, but if you do, even a weight difference of 1 pound will be noticeable. It is tricky to find a laptop that is both lightweight and high performance, while still being affordable. Ultimately, look for a laptop that is 3 pounds or lighter.
As far as screen size goes, you should aim for a laptop that is between 13” and 15”. This range is big enough to see well, but not so big that it is hard to carry to class.
If budget is your main concern, getting the best refurbished laptop might be a good option for you.
What's The Best Operating System For Computer Science Students
The question of operating systems is an old one and everyone seems to have an opinion. When looking at Mac vs. Windows, you will first need to remember that Mac OS come with MacBooks while Windows 10 will be easier found in other makes.
The Mac OS is a UNIX-based operating system and most computer science courses will be taught in UNIX. Open source software, likewise, is often compatible with UNIX as well. If you do go for a Mac, you can download Windows onto it and it can still act like a PC.
That said, Windows has its advantages as well. Most programs are compatible with Windows and nearly everything is designed with Windows in mind. UNIX is better for developers, but Windows is more compatible in general.
If you would like a Windows machine, you should download a Linux operating system. Linux does not usually come with pre-built computers, but you can run both Windows and Linux and still wind up with a UNIX system. Windows can still be used by developers, it just might take an extra step or two in order to reach that level than it would have with a Mac. It is up to you.
Ultimately, the best laptop for computer science students can be more than one type. Computer science is a huge field and the area that you are studying might need a specific type of laptop.
Regardless, our overall choice for the best laptop is the Microsoft Surface 3. This laptop comes with the right size, right processor, and even the right types of ports to help you along in your academic journey.
If you need something higher performance, you might be happier with a MacBook Pro. Or, if you need a laptop that is not going to break the bank, perhaps the Acer Aspire 5 would be a better choice for you.
To get the right laptop, get the recommendations from your program, consider the type of computer scientist you want to be, and think about all of your personal preferences. Then, you can find the best one for you.
Hey, it’s James here. I’m the founder and editor here at RiverstoneNet.com. I’m a network engineer during the day and a blogger at night. Let me know if I can help you with choosing a new modem/router or troubleshooting your Internet connection.