5 Best Laptops for Computer Science Majors

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Laptops for Computer Science Majors

A laptop is critical for scholastic success.  A kick-butt notebook can serve you well even into the early stages of your professional career.  But buying any laptop can be daunting and it’s difficult to know where to start.  That’s why we’ve rounded up a list of the best laptops for Computer Science majors just for you.  And put together this handy guide with a laser focus on the crucial specs required to run the computer science software you’ll be using.  More than likely, you’ll find professional programmers, (like your professor) using these very same laptops.  So, if you’re ready, let’s begin.

IN A HURRY?  HERE’S OUR TOP PICKS…

   CPURAMStorage 
1.Acer Aspire E 15 (8th Gen)Intel Quad-Core i5-8250U CPU8GB256GB SSDView
2.Microsoft Surface Pro 7Intel Quad-Core i5-1035G1 CPU8GB128GB SSDView
3.Acer Predator Helios 300Intel Hexa-Core i7-8750H CPU 16GB256GBView
4.HP Pavilion 15Intel Quad-Core i5-8250U CPU8GB128GB SSD plus 2TB (MHD)View
5.Asus VivoBook SIntel Quad-Core i7-8550U CPU8GB256GB SSDView

Laptops for Computer Science Majors Reviews

1. Acer Aspire E 15 (8th Gen)

Acer Aspire E 15 Laptop, 15.6" Full HD, 8th Gen Intel Core i5-8250U, GeForce MX150, 8GB RAM Memory, 256GB SSD, E5-576G-5762
  • 8th Generation Intel Core i5-8250U Processor (Up to 3.4GHz)
  • 15.6" Full HD (1920 x 1080) widescreen LED-lit IPS Display
  • 8GB Dual Channel Memory & 256GB SSD
  • Up to 15-hours of battery life.Adapter: 65 W
  • Windows 10 Home

Last update on 2022-06-20 at 00:08 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

The 8th gen Acer Aspire E15 is our top choice for any student because it’s relatively inexpensive for what you get. 

Build:  It’s a budget laptop which means the chassis is big and heavy weighting in at 5-pounds.  The smooth black deck is a chunky slab of plastic with a faux brushed metal texture that gives it a premium appearance.

Display:  While the 15.6-inch non-touch display is sharp, it’s not particularly colorful.  The Full HD panel is only able to reproduce about 62% of the sRGB color gamut, which is less than half of the category average.  But the 227-nit brightness level is right on the mark.

Specs:  Under the hood is an Intel Quad-Core i5-8250U CPU, 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD and a dedicated NVIDIA GeForce MX150 graphics card putting out the power of a more expensive machine.

Keyboard:  You get a full-size backlit keyboard complete with a numberpad (which you don’t find often at this price-point).  The clickable touchpad also feels flimsy, especially near the bottom corners.

Ports:  The Acer Aspire E 15’s larger-than-the-competition profile gifts it with a DVD drive which makes installing computer science software convenient.  You get decent port selection that includes one USB Type-C connector, two USB 3.0 ports, one USB 2.0 port, a Kensington-style lock slot, VGA, HDMI, Ethernet, headphone jack, 802.11ac Wi-Fi radio support and Bluetooth. 

Battery Life:  When it comes to battery life, Asus claims 15-hours.  But real-life tests reveal an 8-hour performance time, which is still excellent.

Pros:

  • Full HD display
  • backlit keyboard
  • NVIDIA graphics

Cons:

  • flimsy touchpad
  • dim screen

2. Microsoft Surface Pro 7

Microsoft Surface Pro 7 – 12.3" Touch-Screen - 10th Gen Intel Core i5 - 8GB Memory - 128GB SSD – Platinum with Black Type Cover
  • Next-gen, best-in-class laptop with the versatility of a studio and tablet, so you can type, touch, draw, write, work, and play more naturally
  • Faster than surface pro 6, with a 10th gen intel core processor – redefining what’s possible in a thin and light computer.
  • More ways to connect, with both USB-c and USB-a ports for connecting to displays, docking stations and more, as well as accessory charging. Bluetooth: Bluetooth 5.0
  • Standout design that won’t weigh you down — ultra-slim and light surface pro 7 starts at just 1.70 pounds
  • All day battery life up to 10.5 hours, Plus the ability to go from empty to full faster — about 80 percent in just over an hour

Last update on 2022-06-20 at 03:36 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Maybe you’re a computer Science major looking for a laptop of the detachable 2 in 1 variety.  Microsoft has introduced many brilliant improvements into the Surface Pro line, which is carried into the 7th generation.  Even though the design remains the same, it’s hard to be disappointed. 

Build:  It’s made of magnesium and alloy which feels high quality.  A built-in rear kickstand has been the subject of copycats since the laptop’s debut.  Fully adjustable, it reclines 165-degrees, including nearly flat. 

Display:  It has a 12.3-inch screen with 2736 x 1824 resolution.  The bezels surrounding it, are becoming noticeably thick as almost every laptop in this segment has a razor thin design.

Specs:  Options include a 10th generation Intel Core i5-1035G4 CPU, 8GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD.  The machine feels responsive and can run most any task without delay.

Keyboard:  The adjustable keyboard easily attaches to the bottom magnetically.  The typing experience is comfortable with good travel and backlighting.  The touchpad tracks smoothly. 

Ports:  One major step into the future is the inclusion of the USB Type-C port which is next to the USB 3.1 Type-A port.  You also get Wifi 6 with Bluetooth 5.0.  If you use peripherals a lot, the lack of ports might be an issue.

Battery Life:  Depending on how power hungry you are, you should average around 8-hours of battery life using programs like Word and Pandora.  The Surface pro 7 has a quick resume and quick charge features.

Pros:

  • snappy Intel Ice Lake CPU
  • robust battery life
  • USB Type-C port

Cons:

  • the Type Cover is still sold separately
  • not enough ports

3. Acer Predator Helios 300

Acer Predator Helios 300 Gaming Laptop PC, 15.6" FHD IPS w/ 144Hz Refresh, Intel i7-8750H, GTX 1060 6GB, 16GB DDR4, 256GB NVMe SSD, Aeroblade Metal Fans PH315-51-78NP
  • 8th Generation Intel Core i7-8750H 6-Core Processor (Up to 4.1GHz) with Windows 10 Home 64 Bit
  • NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 Overclockable Graphics with 6 GB of dedicated GDDR5 VRAM
  • 15.6" Full HD (1920 x 1080) widescreen LED-backlit IPS display (144Hz Refresh Rate, 300nit Brightness & 72% NTSC )
  • 16GB DDR4 2666MHz DRAM Memory & 256GB PCIe NVMe SSD | Extra empty accessible slot for 2.5 inch hard drive or SSD.Maximum Power Supply Wattage:180 W
  • Gigabit Wi-Fi |Backlit Keyboard | USB 3.1 (Type C) | Dual All-Metal AeroBlade 3D Fan Cooling | Metal Chassis.Battery Capacity:3320 mAh

Last update on 2022-06-20 at 00:08 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

As an entry-level version of an upper midrange gaming laptop, the Acer Predator Helios 300 easily justifies its price-tag by delivering “a refreshing amount of bang for your buck.” 

BUILD:  Acer didn’t skimp on the build-quality.  The visual styling is restrained and physically solid with a metal lid and plastic under side lending it a quasi-premium laptop status for a machine you’ll be happy to use throughout your scholastic career and beyond.

Display:  Opening the sleek, brushed metal lid reveals a 15.6-inch display with Full HD resolution and IPS.  It’s sharp with wide viewing angles.  But its dimmer than rivals and some colors look washed-out.

Specs:  For performance, you get a six Core i7-8750H CPU found in rigs that cost 2 to 3x more.  That includes a large 16GB of memory and a small 256GB capacity SSD.  The list of goodies also includes a potent GeForce GTX 1060 graphics card with 6GB vRAM.  It’s a relatively powerful package that’ll get you through all your classes.

Keyboard:  The brushed metal treatment extends to the keyboard deck with backlit chiclet-style keys that feel comfortable and responsive with deep travel.  The clickpad-style touchpad is also very smooth and accurate.

Ports:  Port selection includes one USB 3.1 Type-C port, one USB 3.0 port, two USB 2.0 ports, an SD card reader, headphone jack, and lock slot.  For connectivity you get Ethernet and 802.11 Wi-Fi. 

Battery Life:  It’s got strong battery endurance for a gaming-centric laptop at around 6-hours.

Pros:

  • excellent keyboard and touchpad
  • easily upgradable
  • good selection of performance hardware

Cons:

  • cramped storage
  • dim, lackluster screen
  • no Thunderbolt 3

4. HP Pavilion 15

Last update on 2022-06-20 at 00:47 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

We think that the HP Pavilion 15 is a laptop that any computer science major should consider.  HP is apt at offering many iterations of its low-end Pavilion line at different price-points with something creatively new for budget-minded users almost every year. 

BUILD:  Although the chassis shares features with the upmarket Envy line, it’s heavier than most Ultrabooks.  Yet it’s lightweight enough to carry around easily.

DISPLAY:  HP cut corners when it comes to the the 15.6-inch LED backlit touchscreen.  Although you get an FHD 1080p resolution, brightness levels are low at only 233 nits, likewise the contrast and color reproduction.

SPECS:  It boasts a high-performance Intel Core i7-8550U CPU, 16GB DDR4 RAM, 512GB SSD and NVIDIA GeForce 940MX card with 4GB vRAM.  While not as powerful as other graphics cards on the list it’s still up for the task.

KEYBOARD:  The typing experience is easy with keys that deliver a good amount of travel compared to the average laptop with nice and snappy action.  The Clickpad on-the-other-hand is comparatively disappointing; we recommend turning up the sensitivity to use it with ease.

PORTS:  When you get down to the connectivity options, you’ll find the machine equipped with two USB Type-A 3.1 Gen 1 ports, Type-C USB 3.1 ports, a preferable full-sized SD card reader, an HDMI 1.4 port, a Gigabit Ethernet connection, headphone jack, 802.11ac Wifi and Bluetooth.

BATTERY LIFE:  The near 8-hour runtime helps you cruise through the workday without the need to plug into a power outlet.

Pros:

  • well stacked performance components
  • nice keyboard
  • okay value for the money

Cons:

  • the graphics card is starting to show its age

5. Asus VivoBook S

ASUS VivoBook S Thin & Light Laptop, 14" FHD, Intel Core i7-8550U, 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD, GeForce MX150, NanoEdge Display, Backlit Kbd, FP Sensor - S410UN-NS74
  • 8th Generation Intel Core i7 8550U (Turbo up to 4.0GHz) Quad Core processor and dedicated NVIDIA GeForce MX150 graphics 2GB
  • 8GB DDR4 RAM and 256GB SSD
  • 14 inches Full HD Wide view display with up to 178 degrees wide view and Asus NanoEdge bezel for a stunning 77% screen to body ratio
  • Slim 12.8 inches Wide, 0.7 inches Thin and portable footprint with metal cover and backlit keyboard with fingerprint sensor
  • Comprehensive connections including USB 3.1 Type C (Gen1), USB 3.0, USB 2.0, HDMI, & headphone/mic combo port (*usb transfer speed may vary. Learn more at Asus website)

Last update on 2022-06-20 at 00:08 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

If you’re a nomadic student that likes to make a mark while keeping things professional.  The Asus VivoBook S410UN stands out of the crowd with a sleek champagne gold finish and portable design that’s easy to tote around a backpack. 

Build:  The overall footprint is on the small side of the ultraportable spectrum.  With a brushed-aluminum lid and plastic keyboard it’s it lighter than the HP Pavilion at 3.2 pounds.

Display:  The NanoEdge display packs a 14-inch 1920 X 1080 resolution IPS screen into a 12-inch form factor for a nearly bezel-less design.  Brightness is spot-on with colors that look full and rich. 

Specs:  Spirited performance comes courtesy of Intel’s Coffee Lake series 1.8GHz Quad-Core i7-8550U CPU, 8GB of RAM, 256GB SSD and an NVIDIA GeForce MX150 graphics card.  Even with these improvements, don’t expect high frame rates. 

Keyboard:  Far from flimsy, you’ll notice some flex in the keyboard deck.  The backlit chiclet-style keys feel stiff with a shallow feel.  Below is a responsive, buttonless touchpad.  And there’s a fingerprint reader in the upper right corner that works well with Windows Hello gestures.

Ports:  Since the Asus VivoBook S is labeled for pro users.  You get comprehensive ports including one USB Type-C port, two USB 3.0 ports, two USB 2.0 ports, HDMI, an SD card slot, video output port, and audio combo jack. 

Battery Life:  So, what the battery life like for compact package that packs this much wallop?  It’s only a depressing 3-hours.

Pros:

  • very lightweight for a laptop with gaming specs
  • NanoEdge display
  • plenty of ports

Cons:

  • middling performance despite quality specs
  • shallow, cheap feeling keys
Our Top Choice
Acer Aspire E 15 Laptop, 15.6" Full HD, 8th Gen Intel Core i5-8250U, GeForce MX150, 8GB RAM Memory, 256GB SSD, E5-576G-5762
Microsoft Surface Pro 7 – 12.3" Touch-Screen - 10th Gen Intel Core i5 - 8GB Memory - 128GB SSD – Platinum with Black Type Cover
Acer Predator Helios 300 Gaming Laptop PC, 15.6" FHD IPS w/ 144Hz Refresh, Intel i7-8750H, GTX 1060 6GB, 16GB DDR4, 256GB NVMe SSD, Aeroblade Metal Fans PH315-51-78NP
Acer Aspire E 15 Laptop, 15.6" Full HD, 8th Gen Intel Core i5-8250U, GeForce MX150, 8GB RAM Memory, 256GB SSD, E5-576G-5762
Microsoft Surface Pro 7 – 12.3" Touch-Screen - 10th Gen Intel Core i5 - 8GB Memory - 128GB SSD – Platinum with Black Type Cover
Acer Predator Helios 300 Gaming Laptop PC, 15.6" FHD IPS w/ 144Hz Refresh, Intel i7-8750H, GTX 1060 6GB, 16GB DDR4, 256GB NVMe SSD, Aeroblade Metal Fans PH315-51-78NP
Our Top Choice
Acer Aspire E 15 Laptop, 15.6" Full HD, 8th Gen Intel Core i5-8250U, GeForce MX150, 8GB RAM Memory, 256GB SSD, E5-576G-5762
Acer Aspire E 15 Laptop, 15.6" Full HD, 8th Gen Intel Core i5-8250U, GeForce MX150, 8GB RAM Memory, 256GB SSD, E5-576G-5762
Microsoft Surface Pro 7 – 12.3" Touch-Screen - 10th Gen Intel Core i5 - 8GB Memory - 128GB SSD – Platinum with Black Type Cover
Microsoft Surface Pro 7 – 12.3" Touch-Screen - 10th Gen Intel Core i5 - 8GB Memory - 128GB SSD – Platinum with Black Type Cover
Acer Predator Helios 300 Gaming Laptop PC, 15.6" FHD IPS w/ 144Hz Refresh, Intel i7-8750H, GTX 1060 6GB, 16GB DDR4, 256GB NVMe SSD, Aeroblade Metal Fans PH315-51-78NP
Acer Predator Helios 300 Gaming Laptop PC, 15.6" FHD IPS w/ 144Hz Refresh, Intel i7-8750H, GTX 1060 6GB, 16GB DDR4, 256GB NVMe SSD, Aeroblade Metal Fans PH315-51-78NP

Last update on 2022-06-20 at 00:08 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Laptops for Computer Science Majors Buying Guide

We STRONGLY recommend getting in contact with your department to find out more about specific system requirements.  But if you want the basics.  Right off, you might expect that simply choosing a high-powered laptop will solve all your computer science conundrums.  But that’s not entirely accurate.  If you don’t want to end up feeling cheated by the laptop you decide to get, these are the factors you should keep in mind.

RAM

System memory is a big limiting factor when it comes to coding.  How much RAM you should get depends on the type of user you are.  You can run emulations with only 4GB of RAM.  But just in case you don’t enjoy being frustrated, we recommend going with at least 8GB. 

If you multitask with a bunch of tabs and windows open, you won’t regret going with 12GB of RAM.  But the amount of RAM your system comes with translates into a higher price for the laptop.  If you’re on a budget, but also a heavy user.  Go for the laptop that offers at least 8GB of system memory.  Just make sure you can upgrade it in the future. 

NOTE:  Also pay close attention to whether the type of RAM is in the laptop you’re getting is a DDR3 or DDR4.  DDR4 RAM modules are newer and tend to perform better than older DDR3.

RESOLUTION

As a computer science major, you’re going to be staring at your display a lot.  Be kind to your eyes.  When it comes to the display, you want to opt for a laptop that offers at least Full HD (Full High Definition) resolution.

Most laptops on the market offer a 1366 x 1768 resolution.  No Bueno.  It’s not very wide, which means you won’t be able to see the end of the code well.  There’s also not a ton of vertical viewing space, which means you can’t see multiple lines of code.  To compensate, you’ll have to do a lot of scrolling to see your work, which inevitability cuts into productivity.

KEYBOARD

The computer science major is also quite typing intensive.  Opt for a laptop with good keyboard reviews.  Lenovo makes some of the best laptop keyboards of any manufacturer out there.  The typing feel on these laptops have a good amount of depth with a snappy feedback to cut down on fatigue.  And the touchpad on the laptop you choose should be responsive to Windows 10 gesture controls.

CPU

Even the Skylake, Kaby Lake and Coffee Lake generation of the Core i3 CPU is good enough for IDEs, like Eclipse, Java, and XCode.  In fact, unless your degree program has you in some animation course, a Chromebook with lots of RAM might just be all you need.

But for program languages like:  Java, Python, PHP, Ruby, Prolog, Haskell, C, C++, and Objective – C, you really don’t need more than an Intel Core i5 laptop or AMD equivalent.  Most coding assignments won’t take up more than 1000 lines; a project may take up several thousand lines.  But most modern laptops should be able to handle it with no problem.

If you specialize in other areas, like 3D Modeling, Animation, and Parallel Computing you’ll need to step up to an Intel Core i7 or Core i9.  A powerful processor will increase your productivity and ultimately make you a better programmer.

NOTE:  In some laptops, the CPU is soldered onto the motherboard which means you won’t be able to upgrade it later… choose wisely.

STORAGE?

Again, you don’t need that much.

A 500GB MHD (mechanical hard drive) will do.

As a student, how much things cost matter A LOT right now. 

Even though an MHD will mean a slower laptop overall, one with an SSD (solid-state drive) will invariably be more expensive.  Most laptops with an MHD come with 1TB of space, standard.  If you go with a laptop that comes with an MHD, get one that spins at 7200RPM.  They’re up to 33% faster than the ones with only a 5400RPM rotational speed.

But if you need your laptop to be speedy without breaking the bank, look out for laptops that offer hybrid storage:  they come with a small SSD (usually with enough room for storing the operating system and files you use regularly) and an MHD where you can store your projects and media.

But if you’ve got the cash to splash, we highly recommend a laptop that offers an SSD.  The speed you get is unparalleled.  The only caveat is that – although prices are becoming cheaper – it still costs more per gigabyte to get a laptop with an SSD compared to one with an MHD.

OPERATING SYSTEM

Some schools and degree programs are all in with Microsoft.  Others are all about Linux.

Who knows, in your studies you might find that your just fine with Windows.  But the laptops for computer science majors will be compatible with Linux distros:  Ubuntu, Fedora, Mint, Arch, and Debian for example.  You may want to consider a dual boot setup environment

SIZE and WEIGHT

A laptop with a huge screen seems like the logical way to go.  But come on, you’re a student.  Which means you’re going to be lugging this thing around from class to class (even 1 pound will make a huge difference).

Size affects portability.

Lightweight laptops allow you the luxury of being able to throw some code anywhere, anytime.  But if you want a slim laptop that’ll easily slide into your book bag without sacrificing performance, be prepared to pay. 

Why? 

Because thin laptops usually cater to business professionals.  As such, they tend to have excellent performance, making them more expensive.

But you don’t want a laptop with a screen that’s too small:  it’ll make seeing what you’re working on difficult, leading to eye strain.  And cheaper lightweight laptops often suffer from airflow restriction.  Our recommendation is to get a laptop with a display size of 13- to 15-inches – you’ll be able to see what you’re working on clearly and you don’t have to suffer from a laptop that too heavy.

BATTERY LIFE

Even if your classroom has outlets for you to charge your laptop, they may not always be available to you.  Many laptops on our list provide enough juice for a full day of classes.  But more high-powered laptops like gaming notebooks zap power quickly.

You want a laptop that offers AT LEAST 6+ hours of battery endurance.

But don’t just trust how long the manufacturer says the battery should last.  Often, they achieve those illustrious numbers with cheats, like turning down the brightness of the display.  Instead, we recommend that you read independent reviews (like this one) to find out real world estimated battery run-down times.

FAQ

You didn’t mention graphics cards.  Is it important for computer Science majors?

This is where you’ll be able to save a lot of coin on your laptop.  Unless your degree program calls for something like the 3D modeling or Animation, you really don’t need more than integrated graphics.

Is a MacBook good for computer science majors?

Of course.  The Mac OS should be a good companion throughout your scholastic career.  The problem is the price.  MacBooks tend to be much more expensive than Windows laptops.  And usually once you purchase a MacBook your stuck in the Apple ecosystem.  This becomes a problem because more professional programs and software are developed for Windows systems compared to Macs.

Do I even need a laptop; can’t I just use the computers in my University’s lab?

Of course you can!  Ultimately, the decision to purchase a laptop of your own or not is yours.  All great computer science departments offer labs that are usually open 24 hours for students.  What’s awesome about these labs is that they’re designed to cater to you so you can work as much as you want.  The only problem is you’ll always have to come back to the lab instead of having the flexibility to code wherever you want.  For that reason, we still recommend that you have your own laptop that way you can also personalize things according to your taste.

Can I just buy a Chromebook?

This could wind up being the best option for you rather than buying a full-on laptop.  System requirements for much of the computer science software out there isn’t that intense.  Plus, you could use it to remotely access your University’s computer lab.

Checkout our article about the 10 Over-Looked Pros and Cons of Chromebooks for Students.

What do I need when it comes to the operating system?

Currently, computer science software is being developed to work with any kind of operating system, i.e., Windows, Linux and Mac.  But for more specifics on exactly what you need, we recommend getting in touch with your department for basic system requirements.  Don’t worry about purchasing any of the software on their list until the first day of class when the professor will let you know exactly what you need unless otherwise instructed.

Acer Aspire E 15 Laptop, 15.6" Full HD, 8th Gen Intel Core i5-8250U, GeForce MX150, 8GB RAM Memory, 256GB SSD, E5-576G-5762
  • 8th Generation Intel Core i5-8250U Processor (Up to 3.4GHz)
  • 15.6" Full HD (1920 x 1080) widescreen LED-lit IPS Display
  • 8GB Dual Channel Memory & 256GB SSD
  • Up to 15-hours of battery life.Adapter: 65 W
  • Windows 10 Home

Last update on 2022-06-20 at 00:08 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Final Words

If you’re taking a class with a strong focus in 3D animation, you’re going to need a laptop with a lot more power than the ones suggested above.  But as you can see, a laptop for computer science doesn’t have to be that powerful, which means it won’t be that expensive.  For our money our top choice is the 8th gen Acer Aspire E15 because along with being relatively inexpensive.  It houses a number of useful hardware for computer science programs.  The Microsoft Surface Pro 7 is our second choice for its ability to morph into just a tablet when that’s all you need. And third is the Acer Predator Helios 300 because as a gaming laptop, it’s got the chops for computer science.