The Best Laptops for School by Major in 2019
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The best laptops for school depend on a student’s major. Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) students don’t need the same kind of machine as a liberal arts major. This article picks the best laptops for students based on their academic interests.

So what laptops do students need for school? Let’s go by major.

Best Laptop for Science, Math, Programming:
Dell G3 15

The Dell G3 Gaming Laptop

While the Dell G3 is primarily a gaming laptop, the specifications make it suitable for students using software such as MATLAB. The laptop also can do a credible job with video production and other creator-related tasks.

On top of that, Graphics Processing Units (GPUs) are rapidly becoming useful for new fields such as deep-learning programming. The G3’s hardware means that it can keep up with your processing needs.

That said, most programming students don’t require beefy specs. Unless they are developing games that use Ray Tracing or heavy amounts of Tensorflow, any old laptop will do. The majority of programming students only need a reliable processor and a decent screen (any 15-inch model will do). If you do select a cheaper laptop, you will want a Solid State Drive (SSD) because it helps with compiling software faster. (The G3 includes an SSD.)

Overall, the Dell G3 15 is the lowest-priced 15-inch laptop that includes Nvidia’s cutting-edge Turing architecture. The new Turing GPUs have special hardware for a programming technique known as “ray tracing”. Ray tracing is becoming of increasing importance in the STEM and game development fields. Turing also includes something called Tensor cores, which assist artificial intelligence programming and other areas. Before buying, make sure your student is using software which takes advantage of these hardware features. While it’s highly unlikely that the G3 is incompatible with any of these softwares, it may be more powerful than you need.

Best Laptop for Designers:
Microsoft Surface Pro 6

Microsoft Surface Pro 6 Microsoft Surface Pro 6 Buy Now On Amazon $575.00

While the majority of designers will opt for an Apple device, the Microsoft Surface Pro 6 is a worthy alternative. It combines state-of-the-art processor technology with elegant, sophisticated design. While it’s not great for gaming, complex video-editing, or rendering graphics, it is one of the most versatile computers ever created.

The Surface Pro 6 comes equipped with Intel Core i5 CPU, 8GB of RAM, and a 128GB SSD. There’s even a choice of colors; platinum or black. Windows 10 Home is preinstalled on the device, and it has tight integration with Microsoft’s digital assistant, Cortana.

This laptop is a 2-in-1 device, so it can be used as a traditional laptop or detached from the keyboard in tablet mode. The battery can last up to 13.5 hours of moderate usage too. Unfortunately, the Surface Pro’s base price doesn’t include the stylus and keyboard. These items are integral to the Surface Pro 6, so are a worthwhile investment.

Best Value Laptop for Artists:
Microsoft Surface Go

Microsoft Surface Go Microsoft Surface Go Buy Now On Amazon $388.99

As good as it is, the Surface Pro 6 is an expensive device. If you’re looking for something more affordable, then the Microsoft Surface Go might be worth a look.

The Surface Go has lower hardware specs compared to the Surface Pro 6, but that doesn’t mean it’s bad. It comes with an entry-level Intel Pentium Gold processor, but it is still more than capable for schoolwork, handwriting notes, and sketching. However, you’re not likely to get great gaming performance.

There are other entry-level 2-in-1 products on the market. None of these are as good as the Surface Go for artists and designers who might otherwise want to invest in a Wacom tablet for stylus input. The Surface Go offers a high degree of pressure input sensitivity at 4,096 levels of pressure. This alone makes it the best value 2-in-1 laptop available today.

Best Cheap Laptop for School:
Asus C202SA Chromebook

Asus C202SA Chromebook Asus C202SA Chromebook Buy Now On Amazon $215.78

While the Asus C202SA Chromebook is not the best laptop on this list, it is easily among the best Chromebooks for younger children. Sure, it’s not a cutting-edge device, but it is affordable and easy to use.

Its sturdy design makes it perfect for carrying around in your bag. It even includes a degree of water resistance; although don’t expect it to survive more than a couple of spills. Chromebooks are a great choice for students who don’t need proprietary software.

These days, most of what we do is online, and accessible through a web browser, so you won’t be missing out. As Chrome OS is based on the Chrome web browser, it also offers the same protective security features, making it easy to secure and maintain.

Chrome OS is a lightweight operating system meaning that it can run on even the most under-powered of hardware. It can even install your favorite Android apps, and there is some Linux support too.

Best Laptop for Most Students:
Acer Aspire 5

Acer Aspire 5 Acer Aspire 5 Buy Now On Amazon $308.97

Acer has a reputation for affordability and value. The Acer Aspire 5 lives up to this well-earned reputation. Carrying a laptop around school means there’s a high chance that accidents will happen. You’ll be much happier replacing an affordable device than, say, a thousand-dollar MacBook Pro.

That said, the Aspire 5’s quality is among the best in its price range. It features a lightweight partial aluminum frame and slim profile. Its AMD Ryzen 3200U processor and integrated graphics make for a credible light-gaming system. The 2018 model received a 79 percent rating from NoteBookCheck. However, the 2019 model sports a lower price and newer hardware.

The Best Laptops for School

The laptop you need for school will depend on the type of discipline you study. Typically, science-based or STEM majors will need a powerful computer, capable of high processing speeds. However, that doesn’t have to break the bank. Most other students will find they have a lot more choice; in hardware and price.

Ultimately, the best laptop for school is the one that fits your needs and budget. The laptops we covered here mostly run Windows and Chrome OS. However, for a more affordable option, you may want to consider the best cheap Linux laptops The 5 Best Cheap Linux Laptops to Buy in 2019 The 5 Best Cheap Linux Laptops to Buy in 2019 High-quality, affordable Linux laptops can be hard to find. Here are the best cheap Linux laptops available right now. Read More instead.

Explore more about: Back to School, Chromebook, Laptop, Students.

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  1. Greenaum
    September 1, 2019 at 10:52 pm

    No it isn't! Raytracing isn't used in AI, or in anything at all beyond 3D graphics rendering! Are you getting your information off cereal boxes? Or, worse, Youtube videos? Why are there no web "journalists" who actually know, or have qualifications in, what they're talking about ?

    As far as programmers compiling code, computers are so fast now, with so much RAM, that anything short of an entire operating system is done by the time your hand leaves the Enter key.

    Did you receive any sort of compensation for recommending those specific models?

    • kannon
      September 2, 2019 at 7:53 am

      Thanks for the correction. That's a mistake, the 1660 Ti doesn't even have Turing Cores, although it's the lowest tier GPU for handling Turing code:

      https://www.anandtech.com/show/13973/nvidia-gtx-1660-ti-review-feat-evga-xc-gaming/2

      As a freelancer, I don't receive any percentage of income from products. There has been some liberty taken with my content by editors to make it shorter and easier for consumers to make purchases. I won't be writing these articles anymore though.

  2. Jonathan
    August 10, 2016 at 1:54 am

    For the stem laptop both the budget version and the best recommended you advise ones with i5 processors and the price was what you'd expect. They both seemed like reasonable choices.

    However for the computer science laptop you went on staying about how you don't need anything great just a decent processor to speed up compiling ("Rather, they just need a reliable processor and a decent screen"). The laptops for the most recommended and budget are night and day different. You choose the best processor (an i7) and about the lowest passable (an i3). You then started you don't needed an SSD drive, "an SSD helps with compiling software faster, although truthfully, it’s not needed to get by" yet choose one for the best recommended and not one for the other. The quality of these two laptops are way different while the STEM laptops are pretty comparable. So for a laptop you claim doesn't have to be that great on specs you find one 40% more expensive.

    If anything you could go 16GB on the RAM for the engineering laptop. Cad software works a lot better on 16 than 8 GB, my work computer has 8 and can start getting slow after a while with Solidworks. As for the programming computer if you say you don't needed anything great just stay with an i5 don't waste like $300 more on an i7.

    • Kannon Yamada
      August 22, 2016 at 4:33 pm

      Hey Jonathan, thanks for the comment. That's a good point. I should have pointed out that the Dell XPS 13 is a configurable system, with the entry model costing $800 (and less, I got one for $650 plus tax). On top of that, the model listed has Iris Pro graphics, so it's definitely overkill for a programmer. When I have a moment, I'll go back and swap in the base-model rather than the high-end model.

      The lowest end Core i3 Dell XPS 13 probably doesn't perform all that much worse than the highest end model with a Core i7. The reason is that both the Core i3 and Core i7 are physically the same processor. The Core i3 has turboboost disabled, a lower clockspeed, and a few other modifications. But it's the same silicon and in a tight chassis like a laptop, turboboost doesn't run for all that long and the higher clockspeed is almost unnoticeable. Basically, for sustained workloads, a Core i3 and Core i5 aren't that different from one another on the same architecture. Does a 10% performance difference substantiate $100 more?

      Regarding RAM, everything I've read online suggests that even for CAD 8GB of RAM is enough. The reason I preferred 8GB over 16GB is that most of these laptops either charge a fortune to jump a tier up, or they are simply not available. Users can also upgrade RAM themselves if they think 8GB isn't enough, although in my experience with Blender, 8GB seems to work fine. I will definitely mention that for large projects, more is better though.