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If you’d like to get into the engineering field as a mechanical engineering student, this article is for you. As an aspiring aerospace engineer, automotive engineer, or a CAD technician, you need a laptop to take you through undergraduate and graduate school.
Since you’re going to encounter more than a dozen types of software in your engineering studies, you’ll need a laptop that can handle all the math and formulas. In engineering, you could directly be dealing with programs such as Computer-Aided Design (CAD), MathCad, Finite Element Analysis (FEA) software, Microsoft Excel, Visual Basic for Applications (VBA), MATLAB, and everything in between.
You’re probably going to learn a few programming languages like Python, C++, and Circuit Simulators (SPIC), among others. You can tell you’ll need a powerful laptop to handle all that. We’ve assembled the best laptops for mechanical engineering students. This should help you in choosing the right system for classwork tasks.
I’ll start the list with the most powerful and descend to the least. In addition, I’ll offer brief pros and cons on each laptop. That way you know what you’re getting.
Best Laptops for Mechanical Engineering Students
- Microsft Surface 6
- Dell XPS 15
- Apple MacBook Pro (2018)
- Lenovo Y700
- Acer Aspire E15
1. Best Overall for Mechanical Engineers – Microsoft Surface 6
Microsft Surface 6 is the most well-balanced laptop across the board for engineering students. My favorite aspects are its lightweight stature, budget price, and of course hardware. Yes, it packs an 8GB CPU, 256GB SSD and an 8th Gen Core i5 processor (1.3 GHz Core i5 8400T). Best of all, it can run any engineering software you throw at it. If you want a stronger or weaker option, you’ll always find a configuration available. Those could be an m3 core processor with 4GB RAM or a late i7 late generation combined with 16GB RAM and 1TB SSD.
Apart from being an engineering student platform, the Microsoft Surface 6 shines for being a light and portable 2-in-1 laptop. That alone makes it ideal for office work and streaming workloads. For that reason, you’re more likely to find people carrying the hybrid to work both for its lightweight nature and its long battery life.
Unlike other laptops in this list, the Microsft Surface 6 comes with a kickstand and keyboard dock that you’ll have to connect to the display (keyboard sold separately). The keyboard dock connects to the display section using a magnetic strip that enables it to snag and lock. The sides have an ample supply of ports. I won’t list them all, but you get a healthy amount of USB 3.0 ports, a Mini DisplayPort port, and a microSD card reader along with the 3.5mm headphone jack and power supply connection. But best of all, there is a USB Type-C port and HDMI port.
On to the display. The 12.3 inches screen flaunts a 2736 x 1824 resolution screen and 267 brightness. That translates to crisp and clear images with no washed-out pictures. But that’s not the best part yet. Surface Laptop 6 comes with a Style pen that enables writing on the touchscreen. That means it can pretty much replace all of your school supplies, including notebooks, textbooks, pens, erasers, highlighters, etc. if you want.
On the flip side, one of the wrinkles the Surface Pro has is it does not come with a dedicated graphics card. That limits its performance on software such as CAD. Regardless, try going for the model with an i5 core processor and plenty of SSD. If you can find it (I know you will) for less than $1,000, then you’ve got yourself a deal.
- Great screen
- Long battery life
- Solid performance
- Lightweight, portable modest design
- Can be expensive
- Keyboard dock might be too small for some
I recommend the Surface Laptop 6 for electrical, computer, chemical, and software engineers as well. It should work pretty impressively for mechanical engineering students save for some 3D projects. Otherwise, if you’re dealing with software such as *ANSYS, SolidWorks, Civil 3D, and Revit, it should perform with aplomb. For the most part, Surface Pro 6 is more suitable for undergraduates.
- A best in class laptop with the versatility of a studio and tablet
- More power now with the new 8th Generation Intel Core processor
- Ultra slim and light, starting at just 1.7 pounds. Sensors : Ambient light sensor, Accelerometer,...
2. Best Windows UltraBook for Mechanical Engineers: Dell XPS 15
If convertible laptops are not your style, the Dell XPS 15 is a pretty much one of the best Windows alternative you can opt for. Ideally, you can go for a Dell XPS 13 as well, but because mechanical engineering students deal with large 3D CAD/CAE software, the laptop needs a graphics card. Therefore, the Dell XPS 15 (Dell XPS9570-5632SLV-PUS Laptop) fits the bill here. However, if you’re an electrical, computer, chemical, or software engineer reading this article, the Dell XPS 13 could serve you well too.
The Dell XPS 15 offers impressive power and almost 12-hour battery, and it shines for an attractive chassis and overall excellent design. With a drop-dead gorgeous aluminum case, slim layout, incredibly thin bezels, and sharp display, it’s a premium laptop in the making. The laptop’s well-rounded corners, soft-touch black interior, and sleek look make it ideal for the office and mechanical engineering students. It’s slightly under-dressed for LAN parties, just in case you were wondering, but attractive nonetheless. For the display, there are two types available: a touchscreen 4K resolution display and a Full HD (1080p). Because of the nature of work and assignments, we recommend sticking to the 1080p configuration. It will go a long way in saving your battery. Other additional features I loved about the Dell XPS series is the fingerprint scanner and host of ports available. The laptop offers enough ports to connect to all your favorite devices.
Thankfully, despite the thin frame, Dell included a futuristic USB Type-C among other great things as Full-size HDMI 2.0 port. Other ports included are two USB 3.1 ports (one on either side of the chassis), Thunderbolt 3(for external video connections), an SD card slot and a 3.5mm jack.
In terms of size and weight, at 14.1 x 9.3 x 0.5-0.7 inches, the 4.2-pound XPS 15 is one of the slimmer notebooks in its class.
Before we get into performance, just like the Surface laptop, it can be configured depending on your budget. This particular configuration under review comes with a 4.0 GHz 8th Gen i5-8300H processor, 8GB memory, 256GB SSD, Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 and a Full HD (1920 x 1080) display.
The base model typically starts around $1,000 and drops the CPU down to a 2.3-GHz Intel Core i5-8300H chip with 8GB of RAM, a 1TB 5,400-rpm hard drive, an Intel UHD Graphics 630 GPU and a 1920 x 1080 display.
You can also opt for a 4K screen, but its a lot more expensive. We wouldn’t recommend it, however, for its price considering this list is meant for students, and also for the fact that it would eat into the laptop’s battery life. The 4K configuration gets you a 3840 x 1260 touch screen, 32GB of RAM, and 1TB M.2 PCIe SSD.
Overall, the Dell XPS 15 packs enough punch for mechanical engineering duty. It can run more than 15 tabs open on Google Chrome while handling most office and home tasks with flair. The hardware inside allows it to run most programs like CAD, MATLAB, and languages like Python and C++. It should also carry students through some online games and AAA titles with respectable frame rates. Gamers should be able to get decent frame rates on low-to-medium settings.
- Simple design
- Impressive performance
- Almost-perfect display
- Affordable price
- Excellent battery life
- Awkwardly placed camera
The bottom line, the Dell XPS 15, is a phenomenal laptop comparable only to Apple’s MacBook Pro. It is one of the only laptops in this list with an over $1000 price tag (but you can also get its base model for $999). I would say it’s worth it and has an attractive design to match. It passes the bar as a good business laptop. We also recommend it as a high-end mechanical engineering option with a great balance of performance, portability, and functionality.
- 8th Generation Intel Core i5-8300H Processor (8M Cache, up to 4.0 GHz, 4 Cores)
- 15.6-Inch FHD (1920 x 1080) InfinityEdge anti-glare, Non-Touch IPS 100% RGB 400-Nits Display
- 8GB 2666MHz DDR4, (2x4GB)
3. Best MacBook for Mechanical Engineering Students: Apple MacBook Pro (2018)
The MacBook Pro is the most prestigious MacBook you can have and certainly one with a great balance of features. It brags of a remarkably sleek design, 13.3 inch IPS panel screen, 2560 x1600 native resolution with 227 nits of brightness display, a healthy port system including two Thunderbolt 3 (USB Type-C with support for charging), 1.6GHz Intel Core i5 processor and Intel UHD Graphics 617 graphics card.
On top of that, the MacBook Pro a lightweight at 2.7 pounds so it won’t break your back while lugging it to class every day.
Despite other websites bashing the MacBook Pro, it still isn’t a wrong choice for engineering students, more especially mechanical engineers. It’s an excellent choice for electrical, chemical, software, and computer engineers because these courses don’t have as heavy software as mechanical. But it could also work for mechanical students, especially undergrad students using CAD for introductory classes.
Also, there have been complaints and concerns about compatibility, but it shouldn’t stop you from buying it. Remember, you can always install a Windows OS if there are programs incompatible with the Mac OS.
The MacBook Pro 13-inch has a design similar to its predecessor with a few tweaks here and there. If you’ve seen a 2016 or later version, then you know about the aluminum design. The MacBook Pro 13-inch flaunts a touch ID button, Touch Bar, attractive silver or space gray design, thin bezel, and comfortable keyboard.
One of our favorite aspects of the MacBook Pro is its display. As earlier mentioned the 13-inch display comes with a 2560 x 1600 pixel native resolution screen. Moreover, the True Tone technology makes all the difference and sets it apart from other laptops. Ideally, what it does is make the screen easier on your eyes by setting the display such that it matches the color temperature of the room. As a result, it becomes easier to handle Google Docs, spreadsheets, and other reading material.
Unlike most laptops, it won’t break you back. It has a smaller footprint and lighter weight at 3.02 pounds and 12 x 8.4 x 0.6 inches. The Dell XPS 13 is a bit more compact at 12 x 7.9 x 0.46 inches and significantly lighter at 2.65 pounds.
As far as performance goes, MacBooks have curved out there paths as powerful laptops leading the pack. The MacBook Pro also takes up the mantle with remarkable performance generally because of owning the fastest SSDs ever seen in a laptop. Like all other MacBooks, the SSD is PCIe-based SSD. One advantage of this is you can easily install and boot Windows to run all the other programs not available on the MacBook.
With its 8th Gen, dual-core processor, 8GB memory, and 128GB SSD storage, the system should be enough for most daily productivity tasks, and engineering applications. For the most part, 8GB is modest and considered the baseline in memory space. If you want to do more multitasking, upgrading to a 16GB memory would be a great idea, if you can afford it. Don’t worry if you can’t. The 8GB should work pretty well without any noticeable struggle or lag.
In real life performance, you shouldn’t have any trouble engaging 20 open tabs in your Chrome web browser. The laptop also handles transcoding a 4K video to 1080p without much struggle. Moving on, since SolidWorks, CATIA, ANSYS, Revit, Civil 3D are not available on a Mac, it would be wise to install a Windows OS to enable dual booting.
I opted not to delve into the configurations available here, but it’s easy to notice just how pricey the 15-inch Apple MacBook Pro lineup is.
- Sleek, attractive design
- Blazing overall performance
- Fast SSDs
- Comfortable keyboard
- Hey Siri support
- Retina display with True Tone
- Remarkable speakers
- Graphics performance is wanting
- Lacks full-size USB or SD card
To sum it all up, the 2018 Apple MacBook Pro with Touch Bar is a reliable laptop for engineering students as well as business users and professionals. It fits the bill for creative professionals, power users who demand powerful and lightweight laptops. It offers enough speed to cater for mechanical engineering tasks, quiet keyboard, respectable battery life, sleek and light design, among others. Generally, if you’re a Mac lover, the MacBook Pro 13-inch is a powerhouse laptop.
- 2.4 GHz 8th-Generation quad-core Intel Core i5 Processor
- Brilliant Retina Display with True Tone technology
- Touch Bar and Touch ID
4. Best Value Laptop for Engineers – Lenovo Y700
The Lenovo Y700 makes it to this list, first of all, for being a budget (under $1000) laptop, balanced features and performance perks. Mechanical engineers can rely on the Lenovo Y700 for running heavy programs and also some gaming. It also packs a handsome chassis, brightly lit display, and impressive performance. Inside it sports a 2.6-GHz Intel Core i7-6700 CPU, 16GB of RAM and an Nvidia GeForce GTX 960 GPU.
The build quality of the Lenovo Y700 reflects a sturdy laptop that doesn’t feel cheap. The case comes in black polished aluminum with a cross-hatch pattern on the back. Opening the lid reveals a black keyboard deck with soft-touch finish. The speakers are located on the top deck and are visible thanks to two thick aluminum speaker grilles on either side of the hinges.
The keyboard’s red accents and the decks’ black contrast create a gaming theme. If you’re into the black-and-red motif, you’ll love the Y700.
Lenovo improved on the Y700’s display after the previous Y series laptop we dinged for a lackluster display. This unit comes with a 15.6-inch 1080P display with 263 nits of brightness, which is more than the 244 nits mainstream average. The brightness brings to life darkly lit movie scenes making them vibrant. It should also make it easy to use when doing 3D models.
In terms of weight, the Y700 weighs 5.7 pounds (15.2 x 10.9 x 1-inch) which is slightly lighter than the Dell Inspiron 15 7000 (5.9 pounds, 15.1 x 10.4 x 1 inch). Ideally, this laptop is lighter than some gaming rigs we’ve come across, case in point the Alienware 15 (12.01 x 15.32 x 1 inch, 7.69 pounds), but is heavier than the Microsoft Surface 6 and Dell XPS 15 (4.2 pounds). You will have to get a sizeable laptop bag to haul this laptop around, and it might take a bit of getting used to it.
Just like the other laptops, Lenovo also offers a selection of configuration options. Our unit comes with a 2.6-GHz Intel Core i7-6700HQ processor with 16GB of RAM; a 1TB, 5,400-rpm hard drive with a 256GB SSD; an Intel HD Graphics 530 GPU; and an Nvidia GeForce GTX 960M GPU with 4GB of VRAM. (Lenovo Y700 80NV00W4US)
You can also opt for the NEW Lenovo Legion Y7000 option (for $799.99) with an Intel Quad-Core i5-8300H processor (2.3GHz up to 4GHz), 16GB DDR4 memory, 256GB PCIe SSD, and GeForce GTX 1050Ti Graphics card. This configuration should work past 3D programs without breaking a sweat.
Meanwhile, the base model has a 2.3-GHz Intel Core i5-6300HQ CPU; 8GB of RAM; a 500GB, 5,400-rpm hard drive; an Intel HD Graphics 530 GPU; and an Nvidia GeForce GTX 960M GPU with 2GB of VRAM.
In practical scenarios, the Lenovo Y700 gets its performance charm from its Nvidia GeForce GTX 960M GPU with 4GB VRAM. That means it should be capable of playing the most recent titles at the highest settings. The notebook can hold its own in games delivering more than the playability-threshold. It also can easily handle up to 12 open tabs open on Chrome browser while playing some audio on the JBL speakers.
Thanks to the graphics card, there should be fewer bugs and glitches when working with large/ complex projects.
- Strong, dependable performance
- Attractive starting price
- Great audio
- Modern beautiful chassis
- Below-average battery life
- Keyboard gets hot when gaming
If you long for a budget system that can handle its weight in productivity tasks, mechanical engineering projects, and gaming, the Lenovo Y700 is the right choice. While the laptop comes with a few quirks like below-average battery life (3-4 hours) and a warm keyboard, it offers more than a few advantages. It flaunts the performance of an excellent mid-range laptop and won’t put your wallet in traction, which makes it highly recommendable to entry-level gamers and even mechanical engineering students.
- 15.6" Full HD Display With 1920x1080p Resolution
- Intel Core i7 6th Gen 6700HQ Quad Core (2.60GHz Processor to 3.5GHz with Turbo Boost), Graphics Card...
- Storage 1TB HDD + 256GB SSD, 16 GB DDR4 RAM
5. Best Cheap Laptop for Mechanical Engineers – Acer Aspire E15
Every once in a while a laptop comes along that defies its low price. The Acer Aspire E 15 E5-576G-81GD defies all odds and manages to even be mentioned in the same line as other premium laptops such as the HP Envy and Dell XPS 13. It’s one of the best budget 15-inch laptops with sharp 1080p display, good performance and a wide variety of ports.
Also, the laptop comes with a comfortable keyboard, its battery life is decent, and it stays cool under a heavy workload. While there are a few drawbacks like a poor webcam, bulky design, and unwelcome bloatware, the Aspire is a great choice for students and for this case mechanical engineering students.
Design and Features
Most laptops on a budget compromise on design and focus more on performance and feature set. The Aspire E15 takes up its big and heavy characteristics from this budget category as well. However, Acer did try to lighten its simple otherwise plain design mood with the brushed metal texture to give it a deceivingly premium appearance.
At 15.02 x 10.2 x 1.19 inches and 5.27 pounds, the Acer Aspire E 15 E5-576G-81GD is larger than the Acer Spin 3 (13.2 x 9.1 x 0.8 inches) and the Asus VivoBook Flip 14 (12.9 x 8.9 x 0.6 inches). As one would expect, it is also heavier than the two
Acer included a 15-inch non-touch Full HD (1920 x 1080) display on the Aspire E15. While images on the display might not pop as they would on a Dell XPS 13, it is vivid enough to make out clear colors on the screen. Also, for the price, the display provides enough detail to view characters in scenes making it great especially for watching movies and multimedia.
Our unit on review sports an 8th Gen Intel Core i7-8550U processor, Nvidia GeForce MX150 graphics card, an 8GB RAM Memory, and 256GB SSD storage. There are a couple of configurations available. You also have the option of upgrading the memory and storage through an open SSD or HDD slot. We recommend going for another 250GB PCIe NVMe SSD which will cost you around $120 on Amazon.
The 8GB memory included here is plenty enough to handle most major tasks with aplomb. For the most part, 8GB is considered the baseline amount of memory required for any laptop. With 8GB the laptop has enough oomph to load 10 Firefox tabs with ease, even when I played a YouTube video at 1080p. Doubling the tabs opened stifled performance considerably meaning if you’re going to be doing heavy multitasking, an upgrade is essential. Acer allows the memory to be upgraded up to 32GB.
In real life performance, the Intel and the Geforce MX150 graphics card make an awesome team. The Intel Core i7-8550U is a higher-end processor that packs some serious power, without being a power-hog or producing too much-unneeded heat. That translates to a better and longer battery life for the laptop. As for the Geforce MX150, it’s not a high-end integrated graphics card.
However, it allows the Aspire E15 to play some eSports games such as Dota 2, CS: GO, LoL and World of Tanks at Full HD resolution at 60fps. While that means it doesn’t have the chops play the latest AAA games, it’s good news for mechanical engineering students. Thanks to the MX150, the Aspire E15 can handle engineering software without any problem.
As for the battery life, it won’t set or break any records. But at 8 hours 50 minutes, it is strong, resilient and dependable for a whole day at the office or school. You get a modest webcam too…nothing fancy, just a basic webcam for chatting on video calls. It has a bit of graininess but doesn’t lower the bar for budget laptops in its category.
- Modest low-toned design
- Great performance
- Plenty of ports
- Good battery life
- Affordable price
- Bulky design
To wraps this up, the Acer Aspire E 15 E5-576G-81GD gives you solid performance, long battery life, and a good range of ports for less than $500. It does have a few notable wrinkles, such as a dull display, and bulky, low-toned design. But these are not necessarily all bad and should not detract too much from the overall package. On the whole, it a laptop worth considering if you’re on a budget and one that should get you through the years as a student with ease.
- 8th Generation Intel Core i7-8550U Processor (Up to 4.0GHz)
- 15.6" Full HD (1920 x 1080) widescreen LED-lit IPS Display
- 8GB Dual Channel Memory & 256GB SSD. Adapter: 65 Watts
Important Considerations for Engineering Laptops
Since you’ll be hauling this laptop every day, commuting with it from home or dorm to class, you don’t want a back-breaking brick on your backpack. That means, the lighter you can find it, the better. Under this category, make sure the laptop doesn’t sacrifice performance to get the weight right. Most manufacturers trim the battery in notebooks to make the laptops sleeker and lightweight.
The more RAM you have, the better your laptop will handle multitasking workloads. I mean, it will be able to do more than a couple of things at the same time without being bogged down. All engineers should aim for 8GB RAM to ensure the laptop doesn’t hang or lag. If you can afford it, 16GB is even better. This is also true if you are planning to game with the computer.
It gives you comfort for the future. The 32GB is more or less overkill for casual school work like web browsing and software. If you’re not rendering video, editing photos, audio post-production, or gaming, you don’t need that much memory.
What can 8GB do for you? If you’re wondering, 8GB gives you plenty of breathing space for current and near-term future applications. Further, it should allow you to handle large documents, do heavy multitasking in office productivity tasks, web browse on 30+ tabs open, media stream, photo edit large 10+ photos, and do some gaming.
As far as engineering is concerned, I would recommend 8GB across civil, mechanical, and aeronautical engineering courses.
For engineers, Intel Core i5 is enough as it is capable of running 3D software smoothly without breaking a sweat.
Plenty of storage is excellent, especially for backing up your data, files, media, video, and games. Most laptops come with a standard 1TB hard drive, which is sufficient for bulk storage. However, if you can get an SSD, it will surely save you on speed. SSDs offer faster read/write speeds, which translates to faster data retrieval, boot times, and the launching of software.
Since you’re going to be spending most of your time facing your laptop screen, be kind to yourself. Don’t get anything below 13.3 inches. Also, while still on displays, avoid 4K display. They are pricey and drain your battery pretty fast. The 1080P is the way to go for engineers.
Most laptops offer at least two USB 2.0s and two USB 3.0 ports. If you can find one with a futuristic port like USB Type-C, then that’s a deal…go for it.
If you can afford it, keep the weight at around 3 pounds or less. Weight is another of the most crucial factors you have to keep an eye on. A lighter laptop will ease your commuting experience.