The best laptops for engineering students 2022

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REASONS TO BUY
REASONS TO AVOID
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REASONS TO BUY
REASONS TO AVOID
One of the best laptops for engineering students against a purple TechRadar background
(Image credit: Future)

If you're an engineering student (or will soon become one!), it's vital to remember that not all laptops are created equal. While having the best laptop or tablet of some description has become a practical necessity for every student worldwide, many learners can get by on a cheap, low-powered Chromebook capable of word processing and web browsing. If you're in a STEM field, that likely isn't the case.

EDITOR'S NOTE: NOVEMBER 2022

We've shuffled the order a bit this month; the Google Pixelbook Go is still the best Chromebook available for any student, but it's been shunted down a few levels in our ranking due to its relatively high price. We've also still got the newest M2 MacBook Air - a fairly pricey option but the definitive choice of MacBook for anyone looking to buy an Apple laptop right now.

Elsewhere on this list, you'll see that we're championing discrete graphics cards, too; for any engineering undergrad looking to run complex software, access to an RTX-powered laptop is a huge boon.

Collin Probst, B2B Hardware Editor

After all, engineering students use programs like CAD and MATLAB are resource-intensive, demanding a more powerful laptop to run effectively. A more budget notebook or Chromebook won't necessarily fit the bill, but it's important to consider value versus performance when working with an often-limited student budget.

That’s already a hard balance to find, especially when you also have to consider battery life, portability, and display. The best laptops for engineering students should be able to last a whole day of study on a single charge and shouldn't be so bulky that they become a chore to lug between classes.

Fortunately, we've tested many student laptops over the years, so we know which will suit different disciplines without breaking the bank. We gathered the best laptops for engineering students here; some are great value, while some cost a bit more but tout a powerful graphics card. We’ve also included our price comparison tool to help you find the best cheap laptop deal.


What makes an laptop for engineering students special?

A laptop great for engineering students has a few areas that need to be a focus that might not matter as much for a laptop designed for journalism or business students, for example.

Engineering students' laptops must operate high-powered applications in many windows. This could be a CAD window, a large mapping service, and a large Excel sheet, all open and running simultaneously.

Because of this, the demand for high-end graphics cards, powerful processors, and increased RAM are higher than in the average laptop. Where most laptops focus on a lightweight frame, long battery life or other specifications, these laptops need to be able to perform advanced operations with ease even if it means that they don't have all day battery life.

How did we choose the best laptops for engineering students?

So, what exactly makes for the best laptops for engineering students? Since you're likely to be using complex programs like AutoCAD, MATLAB, and SolidWorks, you will need a laptop with sufficient power to run them smoothly and effectively.

We recommend a laptop with the latest Intel Core i5 or Core i7 chips as a minimum, and at the very least, 16GB of RAM – though 32GB is even better. Many of the programs engineering students rely on (like the ones we listed above) are also graphically intensive, performing tasks such as 3D modeling and video rendering. This means that it can be helpful to have a laptop with a dedicated graphics card - rather than an integrated one powered by the processor.

This is why the best gaming laptops can double as ideal choices for engineering students since they offer that kind of graphical oomph for games that can be easily repurposed for running demanding software. The fact that they can also run the latest triple-A titles for unwinding after a hard day's studying is just an added bonus.

A large screen with a good resolution is also advisable, but this comes down to personal preference. The bigger your laptop display, the more information can potentially be crammed onto it at once - but remember, a smaller laptop is easier to slip into a bag and carry around all day. Consider the weight and size before buying, especially if you know you will be darting around campus a lot.


The best laptops for engineering students 2022

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Laptop on a marble table with a cat in the background

Dell XPS 15 OLED (2021) (Image credit: Future)
The best laptop for engineering students overall

Specifications

CPU: Up to 12th-gen Intel Core i9
Graphics: Up to NVIDIA GeForce GTX 3050 Ti
RAM: Up to 32GB DDR5
Screen: 15.6-inch 3.5K OLED
Storage: Up to 2TB M.2 PCIe NVMe

Reasons to buy

+
RTX graphics card
+
Beautiful OLED display
+
Great keyboard and trackpad

Reasons to avoid

-
Fairly expensive
-
Battery life could be better

It's hard to deny that the Dell XPS 15 remains not just one of the best laptops for engineers but one of the best laptops on the market right now, full stop. Next-gen components are wrapped in a sleek and lightweight chassis, packing a gloriously bright and colorful display (our review model uses a 3.5K OLED panel that blew us away).

With a highly comfortable keyboard, solid speakers, and a wide, responsive trackpad, Dell has undeniably produced one of the most effective combatants against Apple's shiny new M2 MacBooks - and that's a good thing because the higher-spec models of the XPS 15 aren't exactly cheap.

Including an RTX 3050 Ti means that while it's not an absolute powerhouse, the XPS 15 will hugely outperform laptops running on integrated graphics regarding GPU-accelerated software. And it's proven itself capable of holding its own against the larger Dell XPS 17 (2021) during testing. Plus, the deep learning capabilities of the RTX line are a nifty addition too.

Read our full Dell XPS 15 review 

An HP Victus 15 sitting on a desk

HP Victus 15 (Image credit: Future)
The best budget option with Nvidia RTX graphics

Specifications

CPU: Up to AMD Ryzen 7 5800H
Graphics: Up to NVIDIA GeForce GTX 3050 Ti / AMD Radeon 6500M
RAM: Up to 16GB DDR4
Screen: 15.6-inch FHD IPS LED
Storage: Up to 1TB M.2 PCIe NVMe

Reasons to buy

+
Excellent value for money
+
Solid general performance
+
Good for both work and play

Reasons to avoid

-
Weak battery life

It might be marketed as a gaming laptop, but the HP Victus 15's simple design (free from the gaudy 'gamer aesthetic' of many powerful laptops) and RTX-equipped models make it a solid choice for any engineering student who will be running graphically-demanding programs.

It's also remarkably cheap for a laptop with a discrete GPU, likely to please any budding engineer on a budget. During testing, it performed below other gaming laptops in our standard benchmarks, but not by a huge margin, which is great news. We also found that it takes air circulation seriously, boasting a dual-fan setup and a large air vent at the bottom.

A bright 15.6-inch FHD display and generally robust build quality mean that while this isn't the most lightweight laptop in the business, it's comfortable pulling double duty as both a desktop replacement and a tool for on-the-go work. It's also a good choice for the environmentally conscious, with a chassis made partially from post-consumer-recycled plastic and eco-friendly water-based paint.

Read our full HP Victus 15 review

Apple MacBook Air (M2, 2022) on a white desk in an office

Apple MacBook Air (M2, 2022) (Image credit: Future)
The best MacBook for engineering students

Specifications

CPU: Apple M2
Graphics: Integrated 8 - 16-core GPU
RAM: 8GB – 16GB
Screen: 13.6-inch 2,560 x 1,664 LED-backlit display with IPS technology
Storage: 256GB – 2TB SSD

Reasons to buy

+
11-hour battery life
+
Lightweight for carrying
+
Silent to use

Reasons to avoid

-
Hardware refresh rather than new design

The Apple MacBook Air (M2, 2022) isn't just one of the best laptops Apple has ever made, it's one of the best laptops for engineering students. While it might not pack a powerful AI-assisted GPU, Apple's own silicon represents serious competition in the lightweight laptop space.

Thanks to the revolutionary ARM-based Apple M2 chip - an update from the previous M1 chip - that powers the new MacBook Air, this is a stunning achievement: a thin and light laptop that offers great performance while also offering incredible battery life. During our time with the MacBook Air, the laptop performed incredibly well, whether we were playing around with GarageBand or editing 4K home movies in iMovie.

Easily managing over 11 hours on a single charge, this is a laptop you can easily carry around with you in the office or outdoors. Its screen is gorgeous, and the new-and-improved keyboard means you can happily work away for hours.

Read our full MacBook Air (M2, 2022) review

ASUS Zephyrus G14 on a desk

ASUS Zephyrus G14  (Image credit: Future)
The best engineering student laptop for battery life

Specifications

CPU: AMD Ryzen 7 4800HS
Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1660 Ti — RTX 2060
RAM: Up to 32GB
Screen: 14-inch Non-glare Full HD (1920 x 1080) IPS-level panel, up to 120Hz – 14-inch Non-glare WQHD (2560 x 1440) IPS-level panel, 60Hz
Storage: 512GB / 1TB M.2 NVMe PCIe 3.0

Reasons to buy

+
Best battery life in a gaming laptop
+
Excellent performance
+
Thin and light

Reasons to avoid

-
No webcam
-
Fans can get loud

The Asus Zephyrus G14 may be designed like a gaming laptop, but it’s proven itself a more than capable all-around laptop. Whether you are serious about gaming or need a powerful laptop for productivity or content creation, this Asus laptop delivers incredible performance, amazing battery life, a fast screen, and a thin and light chassis that makes it super portable. 

In all of our CPU-heavy testing workloads, this laptop absolutely smashed it. Plus, thanks to the RTX 2060 Max-Q included here, it kills it in games too, giving us a 3DMark Time Spy score of 5,872 and allowing us to play Metro Exodus on Ultra settings with a decent 38 fps frame rate.

It’s not the cheapest option, but you have to pay a premium for quality. And, if you’re an AMD fan, you’ll certainly appreciate the processor under its hood.

Read our full Asus Zephyrus G14 review

HP Spectre x360 (2021) on a wooden desk with a dark grey background

HP Spectre x360 (2021) (Image credit: Future)
The best compact 2-in-1 for engineering students

Specifications

CPU: 11th-generation Intel Core i5 – i7
Graphics: Intel Iris Xe Graphics
RAM: 8GB – 16GB
Screen: 13.3" FHD (1920 x 1080) IPS BrightView micro-edge WLED-backlit multitouch – 13.3" diagonal 4K (3840 x 2160) UWVA BrightView micro-edge AMOLED multitouch
Storage: 512 GB – 2TB SSD

Reasons to buy

+
Powerful Intel Whiskey Lake processors
+
12-hour battery life
+
Thin, light, and portable

Reasons to avoid

-
More powerful than some users will need

The HP Spectre x360 (2021) 2-in-1 laptop had a big refresh, and the boost in specs, with 11th-generation Intel Core processors and Intel Iris Xe graphics, along with the impeccable 2-in-1 design and pristine gem-cut chassis, means that this version is at the top of our best laptops for programmers list.

The HP Spectre line has always consisted of stunning devices. So, when we say that the Spectre x360 takes things to another level, that should mean something. Not only is this one of the most beautiful laptops on the market right now – with its gem-cut design and sleek profile, but it’s tough on the inside. 

During our tests, we found that it also comes with an impressively long battery life, which means that you’re getting one of the best laptops on the market, hands down. As such, it’s also one of the best laptops for engineering students.

Read our full HP Spectre x360 (2021) review

Google Pixelbook Go

(Image credit: Future)
The best Chromebook for engineering students

Specifications

CPU: Up to Intel Core i7
Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics
RAM: Up to 16GB DDR4
Screen: Up to 13.3-inch 4K LCD touchscreen
Storage: Up to 256GB M.2 PCIe NVMe SSD

Reasons to buy

+
11-hour battery life
+
Amazing ‘Hush’ keyboard
+
The best Chromebook

Reasons to avoid

-
No biometric login
-
Chrome OS only

The Google Pixelbook Go is the best Chromebook money can buy right now without much room for debate. But it's also a fantastic laptop for engineering students. 

Coming with a more affordable price tag than its predecessor, the Pixelbook Go still packs plenty of the premium features the original Pixelbook came with, including amazing battery life and one of the best, quietest keyboards we've used on a laptop. Sure, it doesn't use Windows 10 - instead, it runs Chrome OS - but you can also install Linux on this thing, making it an even more versatile laptop.

It features some impressive specs for a Chromebook, which ensures that Chrome OS positively flies on this device and puts its general workload performance on par with many of the more expensive Windows laptops and MacBooks. One key thing to consider here is the lack of discrete graphics, which means that GPU-accelerated software might take longer to run.

Read our full Google Pixelbook Go review

Microsoft surface laptop 4 on a wooden table

(Image credit: Future)
An excellent engineering student laptop with a 3:2 display

Specifications

CPU: Up to Intel Core i7
Graphics: Intel Iris Xe
RAM: Up to 32GB LPDDR4x
Screen: Up to 15-inch 2496 x 1664 PixelSense Display
Storage: Up to 1TB SSD

Reasons to buy

+
Not too expensive
+
Lightweight and comfortable to use
+
3:2 PixelSense display is great

Reasons to avoid

-
Needs more ports
-
Alcantara fabric could get gross 

A great pick for students looking to take on a wide range of workloads, from design work to content creation, the Surface Laptop 4 is perhaps the best Surface device Microsoft has ever produced, coming in a broad range of configurations to suit every student. You can choose between a 13.5- or 15-inch screen as per your preference, and models packing both Intel and AMD processors are available depending on whether you pledge fealty to Team Blue or Team Red.

The Surface Laptop 4 is generally just a lovely product; the keyboard and trackpad are spacious and responsive, and the touchscreen supports the Surface Pen for creative endeavors. Our only real criticism is the relative dearth of physical ports, with just one USB-C and one USB-A - that and the Alcantara fabric found on the palm rest of the 13.5-inch model looks very difficult to clean.

Read our full Microsoft Surface Laptop 4 review

A Dell XPS 17 (2022) on a table

Dell XPS 17 (2022) (Image credit: Future)
The best engineering student laptop with a 17-inch display

Specifications

CPU: Up to 12th-gen Intel Core i9
Graphics: Up to Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060
RAM: Up to 64GB DDR4
Screen: Up to 17-inch UHD+ InfinityEdge touchscreen
Storage: Up to 2TB M.2 PCIe NVMe

Reasons to buy

+
Big, bright display
+
Long battery life for its size
+
Powerful CPU performance

Reasons to avoid

-
Not the most portable
-
Somewhat expensive

For a 17-inch laptop, the Dell XPS 17 (2022) is impressively thin and light, especially when you consider the fact that it boasts powerful specs for that top-notch performance that engineering students require. On test, it easily tore through demanding tasks like video encoding and 3D renders.

This is the whole package if you're looking for a laptop with a big screen. It boasts a 17-inch display in FHD+ and UHD+ flavors, fantastic battery life that will last you the entire day, and a generally gorgeous design on top of everything else. 

The higher-spec models aren't the cheapest laptops around, but they're not overpriced when you consider the performance. The 2022 model rocks either an RTX 3050 or 3060 GPU along with a 12th-gen Intel processor, delivering a speedy performance that should be able to handle anything you throw at it.

Read our full Dell XPS 17 (2022) review

A Razer Blade 15 (2022) on a wooden table

Razer Blade 15 (2022) (Image credit: Future)
The best laptop for engineering students with a flexible budget

Specifications

CPU: Up to 12th-gen Intel Core i9
Graphics: Up to Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 Ti
RAM: Up to 32GB DDR5
Screen: Up to 15.6" 4K 144Hz
Storage: Up to 1TB M.2 PCIe NVMe SSD

Reasons to buy

+
Seriously powerful hardware
+
Sturdy, stylish design
+
Amazing display options

Reasons to avoid

-
A very expensive laptop
-
Overkill for many people

If money is no object for you - or you just want an amazing gaming laptop that you can use for running AutoCAD on the side - then the Razer Blade 15 is the connoisseur's choice of laptop. Yes, we're talking a price point in the thousands rather than the hundreds here, but you get a lot of power for your cash. 

The Blade 15 comes equipped with a mighty RTX 3000-series graphics card, DDR5 memory, and a 12th-generation Alder Lake Intel CPU. Our tests have shown that it can easily power through the most demanding workloads. 

Of course, that iconic Razer Blade design hasn't changed much over the years; the exterior is durable brushed aluminum, with a precision glass trackpad and a gently illuminated RGB keyboard. The screen is excellent too, with various resolutions up to a glorious 4K panel with a 144Hz refresh rate and 100% DCI-P3 color gamut.

Read our full Razer Blade 15 (2022) review


Frequently asked questions

Which laptop is best for engineering students?

Right now, as of November 2022, our pick for the best overall laptop for engineering students is the Dell XPS 15. See the above list if you are interested in looking at other models and our other top laptops for engineering students.

Are Apple laptops good for engineering students?

Are MacBooks good for engineering students?

Apple MacBooks have always been a solid competitor in the world of laptops for engineers. With the recent jump to Apple's own silicon with the M1 and M2 chips, these laptops have gotten even more efficient and have gotten even better at multitasking while also powering through even the largest of programs and tasks.

Do engineering students need a powerful laptop?

As we explain further at the beginning of this article, Engineering students need a powerful laptop. These students need to be able to push their laptops far further than students in most other fields because of the programs they rely on. While both are vitally important to the student, a CAD or SolidWorks window pulls significantly more power than a text document or web search.


Collin Probst
B2B Hardware Editor, TechRadar Pro

Collin is the B2B Hardware Editor for TechRadar Pro. He has been in journalism for years with experience in both small and large markets including Gearadical, DailyBeast, FutureNet and more.


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